Every winter we make a trip or two to the state capitol, looking out for the fine print that could affect the best interests of greater Minnesota cities. It is always a busy time with several scheduled meetings and some chance meetings, too. The first of those trips was last week and it had a couple of surprises.
While there is plenty to like in the Governor’s budget proposal there is also plenty of concern about how the Governor’s proposed budget treats greater Minnesota cities.
To hear those concerns out, Governor Mark Dayton met with us for a lively discussion about Local Government Aid and property tax relief as well as several other programs. This is the third or fourth time that Mark Dayton has met with our group. the Coaliton of Greater Minnesota Cities. That’s a welcome change from the 12 years when Governor Jesse Ventura and Governor Tim Pawlenty turned down twice a year requests to meet with our group.
Getting a chance to offer suggestions and ideas, even to the Governor, doesn’t bring instant solutions. There are plenty of senators and representatives that have great sway over the direction of Minnesota’s public policy and you have no choice but to spend time meeting with them.
Of course, a lot of other folks have that same idea which makes the Capitol and the State Office Building (affectionately known as the SOB) a couple of very busy places. Even with the whir of activity and the flow of people in those corridors, it isn’t hard to find a familiar face.
Nearly right away, a familiar looking face came up to me, introducing himself as Kevin Raney. He is a 1979 Granite Falls High School graduate and was recently elected to the Owatonna City Council. He was getting his first taste of meeting with other city officials and with members of the legislature.
During our visit he mentioned that one of his high school classmates was newly elected Representative Mary (Richter) Sawatzky, of Willmar. We met up with Mary later in the day and managed to have a “back-home” visit and shared some thoughts about their new experience in public service.
The back-home reunion continued the next day too. During the Minnesota Transportation Alliance’s Day at the Capitol, a few of us from along Highway 212 visited with several legislators of all stripes, trying to impress on them the importance of increased funding for transportation and the need to upgrade those two-lane segments on each side of Cologne. Improving those two segments of the 1930 design two-lane road to a full four-lane expressway design from west of Glencoe all the way into the Twin Cities freeway system would make our trip to the Twin Cities a bit faster and a whole lot safer. It is something that we have no choice but to keep working on.
Page 2 of 2 - One of the mainstays of that effort is former Chaska City Council member Bob Lindahl. Bob’s son is married to Bob Lecy’s daughter Susan so we have a good Granite Falls connection with him. He has a calm and deliberate delivery that, when talking to those busy legislators, seems to calm them down and tell them that we have a good plan and that they should support our efforts. You just know that he is right.
While we were walking through the SOB, I ran into Clarkfield native and YME graduate Anita Patel. Anita is the Vice President of Racial Justice and Public Policy for the Minneapolis YMCA and was at the capitol working on a number of legislative initiatives.
I hadn’t seen her in a while but I’ve gotten to know her husband Steve Peterson quite well, spending time with him at the capitol when he worked on behalf of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. He recenty started working as a property tax policy analyst at the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
It was a very busy couple of days and that’s the way it always is at the capitol. There are many changes with new faces and new assignments. One other thing that’s changed and takes some getting used to is that there is no longer the chance for a calming and reflective visit with Sen. Gary Kubly in his office or in the lobby just outside of the Senate chamber.
I really miss that and so do many of his colleagues.