The Minnesota Asset Building Coalition, one of our partners in the One Minnesota Rural Equity Project, have developed a practical and specific 2018 legislative agenda aimed at providing more opportunity for financially fragile Minnesotans to build their own assets, avoid debt, and climb the economic ladder. Key asks in the MABC agenda include: minimizing the burdensome fines and fees that create a “debt trap’’ for many low-income families; making auto insurance more affordable; promoting increased access to capital for low-income entrepreneurs and small business owners; and providing increased financial capability services on-site at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. These sites help clients open bank accounts for direct deposit of their tax refund, set budgeting and savings goals, review their credit report, deal with debt, or participate in a matched savings incentive program. Comprised of 140 member organizations from rural, suburban, and urban communities across Minnesota, MABC operates under the shared principle of embedding racial, ethnic, and geographical equity and inclusion into organizational development, issue development and policy advocacy.
MinnPost reporter Greta Kaul recently authored an important primer and refresher on Minnesota regionalism, showing how Greater Minnesota is really made up of at least six highly differentiated regions, each with distinctive biospheres, economic foundations and political and cultural orientations. The article draws from data in a report compiled by Minnesota Compass. For our followers who are concerned about public policy and regional divides, the article provides foundational understanding. Among important counter-intuitive data are the numbers showing that every region but one (southwest) has actually gained in population since 2000, contrary to popular notion that the state’s non-metro population is dwindling. Kaul followed up with another piece exploring the phenomenal growth in central Minnesota since 2000, showing how that has been fueled by metro exurban growth north of the Twin Cities, in the greater St. Cloud area, and in the attractive north-central lakes-and-woods region. It’s important to note, too, that there are sub-regions and subtleties within each of the six regions in the above configuration, which was drawn up in the 1980s when the McKnight Foundation and state officials helped create six rural Minnesota Initiative Foundations, established amid the farm crisis and mass mining layoffs to boost regional economies. Another configuration of 10 Greater Minnesota regions is represented by the Minnesota Association of Development Organizations. MADO recently produced DevelopMN, a comprehensive new statewide framework for community and economic development to help identify needed alignment and document a broadly supported strategy for creating shared prosperity across Minnesota.
Our e-news is adding a new feature each month with linkage to Minnesota Rural Partners and its monthly Rural Round-Up. Minnesota Rural Partners was founded 22 years ago as one of the nearly 50 state rural development partnerships across the nation. Growth & Justice President Jane Leonard is a past board chair and past-president. The organization in previous years has helped form initiatives to strengthen rural-urban partnering, internet expansion across Minnesota and rural America, and increase community entrepreneurship as a statewide economic development strategy. Currently it organizes and publishes a monthly compilation of funding opportunities, events, and links to rural resources via the MRP Rural Round Up enewsletter.
“It’s expensive to run the criminal justice system, and now we’re going to use its subjects—arguably, the population that is least able to afford paying for these processes—to fund the machinery. I would locate fines and fees as part of that sort of vicious cycle, a regressive burden imposed on individuals who come into contact with the criminal system.’’ -- Professor Alexandra Natapoff, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, from a Policy Link report on the “fine-and-fees debt trap’’ noted above.