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ENEWS: Welcoming Austin, Inflation Inclusion, & Clean Cars Work for Rural

Date Published: 03/10/2020

Author: Dane Smith

Welcoming Spirit Reflected in Polls, Headlines

A recent feature story (“Austin’s True Colors”) in the Star Tribune describes how the meatpacking town of Austin has embraced its immigrants  and created a new spirit of community vibrance.  The article focuses on the success of the local high school basketball team and some star performers who are children of immigrants from East Africa.  But reporter Chip Scoggins expands the tale skillfully to explain how the community has welcomed and benefitted from all its newcomers of color.   Austin’s non-white population increased from 1 percent in 1980 to more than 30 percent, and now comprise a majority in public schools, typical of a growing number of Greater Minnesota cities. This welcoming spirit is no aberration in Greater Minnesota.    A similarly inspiring story   (“How Lyon County Rose Up for Refugees”) on the Minnesota Reformer news site documents how local employers and friends of immigrants successfully  pushed  back against proposed anti-refugee policy.    Despite all the efforts to incite racial and xenophobic resentment, a recent statewide Minnesota Poll found that about 60 percent of state residents favor refugee resettlement.  About 60 percent also believe that immigration is generally good for the state economy.   Although support for those positions was highest in the Twin Cities area (where immigration has been more concentrated), more than half of those polled in Greater Minnesota agreed that immigration was mostly a positive thing.   Policies and local practices that help realize the potential of our fellow immigrants are a key feature of the recently released Minnesota Equity Blueprint.

Figuring for Inflation in State Budgets

Growth & Justice President Jane Leonard was quoted in a recent MinnPost article about efforts in the Legislature to restore inflation estimates to the state government budget forecasts.   Leonard testified before a Minnesota House committee in favor of a bill to restore inflation and cited from a recent joint statement made by five former Department of Finance commissioners who worked for  Republican, DFL and Independence Party governors.   Arbitrarily ignoring inflation, Leonard said, “enables both those who want to spend more and those who want to cut taxes to falsely claim there are more than enough resources to do so.” 

Rural Support for Clean Cars

A compelling case for electric and hybrid vehicles in rural Minnesota was published in a Minnesota Reformer commentary by Anne Borgendale, a rural environmentalist and cheesemaker.  Reacting to rural state senators who have raised objections to new “Clean Cars’’ legislation,  Borgendale cites the example of a rural commuter’s embrace of the new technology.  From the article:  “Pete Kennedy, an engineer who lives in Murdock, lives this reality every day. He has a 70-mile round trip daily commute that he makes in his plug-in 2017 Chevy Volt.’’  And quoting Kennedy:   “‘It only makes sense to put the highest mileage vehicles where we drive the most miles — rural Minnesota…TheVolt is not an expensive luxury car.  We bought it because it was affordable, and we needed a dependable car that gets us where we need to go at a very low cost.”   Transitioning to electrification of vehicular transportation is one of many recommendations of the Minnesota Equity Blueprint.


 “The people who have in this town really do a wonderful job of taking care of the people who don’t have” – Kris Fadness, Austin High School  basketball coach, in Star Tribune article above.

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