Our commentary on the cover of the Star Tribune Op-Ex section Sunday offers incisive and constructive analysis, outlining the public policies that Greater Minnesota needs for a thriving and more equitable future. We make our case by revisiting the town of Olivia, 15 years after the Star Tribune published an in-depth series that captured the hopes and fears of a fragile community at a time of crisis in the ag economy. We interviewed folks who were in the original series, and who told us that these are the vital ingredients for competitiveness and quality of life: embracing racial diversity, investing in local human capital and health care, and “place-making’’ by providing attractive local amenities. Watch for more story-telling in 2018 as we expand our research and advocacy around a “One Minnesota” theme and policy framework in connection with our One Minnesota Rural Equity Project.
With growing bipartisan support, Minnesota has made significant progress in investing in our state’s earliest learners, but much work remains. The new governor elected in 2018 will play a pivotal role in deciding the direction and priority level for early childhood education and child care. Growth & Justice is co-sponsoring gubernatorial candidate forums focused on this crucial long-term economic investment. The forum for DFL candidates was held in October and a second forum for Republican candidates will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 6, at the People Serving People’s Center of Excellence, at 2400 Park Ave. South, Minneapolis. For an encouraging national overview showing how broad and bi-partisan the early childhood education movement has become, we recommend an outstanding report issued this fall by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C.
In a persuasive article focusing on Greater Minnesota infrastructure, Star Tribune reporter Pam Louwagie cites authoritative estimates that Minnesota needs to re-invest almost $12 billion over the next 20 years in its aging wastewater and drinking water systems. Growth & Justice was consulted for this article, as we are among the state’s leading advocates for ample investment in public and private infrastructure, from broadband capacity to highways to mass transit in urban areas and mobility for rural regions. We helped achieve some success in boosting investment in water infrastructure in the 2017 Legislature. Our partner in this effort is the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC), and we like how CGMC Senior Lobbyist Bradley Peterson, made the case for much larger and more frequent bonding bills in 2018 and beyond. “You need to pass several years worth of bonding bills with that (2017) level of funding in order to begin to meet these needs.’’
“We can’t wait. It’ll just cost us more. Materials go up. Labor costs go up. Standards change.’’ Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, making the case in the Star Tribune article cited above for much more reinvestment in water and wastewater systems in Greater Minnesota.