#836 – Dick Bernard: A Community Meeting

Tonight President Obama presents his State of the Union message to Congress. I will watch it. Here’s a preview.
Sunday night my favorite blogger, a retired guy in Los Angeles, Alan, succinctly described the history of the State of the Union in the first few paragraphs of his six-days-a-week blog, Just Above Sunset. You can read that here.
A week from tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 4, here in Minnesota, is a far more important meeting in every community, the Precinct Caucuses. I urge you to attend yours. I wrote about this last week, here. Most every state, I reckon, has something similar, albeit called something else or at different times.
Do attend yours. It is at these meetings that citizens begin the future, for good or ill, through becoming political party delegates, passing resolutions, etc.

In between the caucus and the State of the Union comes the very difficult job of managing our complex society, through numerous democratically selected entities: legislatures, school boards, city councils, etc….
Three days ago, I attended a meeting in suburban Oakdale, where four local legislators, Senators Kent and Wiger and Representatives Ward and Lillie met with interested constituents to report on what they were doing. About 40 of us answered the invitation and attended.
(click to enlarge photo)

Rep JoAnn Ward addresses a question at the Community gathering Jan. 25, 2014

Rep JoAnn Ward addresses a question at the Community gathering Jan. 25, 2014


from left: Rep. JoAnn Ward and Sen. Susan Kent, Minnesota Senate Dist (SD) 53; Rep. Leon Lillie and Sen. Chuck Wiger, SD 43 Jan 25, 2014

from left: Rep. JoAnn Ward and Sen. Susan Kent, Minnesota Senate Dist (SD) 53; Rep. Leon Lillie and Sen. Chuck Wiger, SD 43 Jan 25, 2014


These meetings happen periodically everywhere. I found out about this one through being on an constituent e-contact list for my state Representative.
At this 1 1/2 hour meeting, we were invited to submit questions in writing to which any or all of the legislators could respond. You didn’t even have to listen carefully to discern that administrating an entity, in this case a state with over 5 million citizens, is not easy, though the tendency in our media saturated society is to describe problems and solutions in sound-bite certainty.
Not so.
As I remember, here are the issues brought up, briefly, on Saturday. And this was just in 1 12 hours. Just this list gives an idea of the multitude of issues “on the table” at our state legislature:
1. A proposed re-purpose of a Benedictine Nun facility in Maplewood for use as housing for women transitioning from desperate situations. This Tubman Center project is a major proposal before the 2014 legislature and is in our area. As described in one source I read: “Transitional housing is supportive housing that helps fight the homeless problem in todays society. Transitional housing is generally for a limited time period. Stays can be from two weeks to twenty four months. Transitional housing provides people with help after a crisis such as homelessness or domestic violence.”
2. The crucial issue of early literacy education for youngsters.
3. A need to increase the Minimum Wage.
4. Discussion of the recent roll-out problems of MnSure.
5. The always-issue of Transit, with discussion of the Gateway Corridor Study. Our District is between Wisconsin and St. Paul, and I-94 runs through it, so this is a crucial issue in this area, with lots of ideas of how best to address the need. This issue is a good example of the need/requirement for cooperation between government entities at all level, from the local to the national government. In a complex society, we cannot be free agents, though some would like this “freedom” to be so.
6. Partnership and assistance with a new Research and Development facility or 3M, whose corporate headquarters is in our legislative district.
7. The Bullying Bill. This is a column in itself, and Sen. Wiger, a legislator for 19 years, and before that a school board member, was particularly passionate: “there will be a bullying bill”, I recall him saying. The present law is only 37 words and badly needs redefining in many ways. Bullying is destructive behavior, and while it adversely affects only 2% of students, nonetheless that is a huge and unacceptable number. I wrote about this issue in June, 2012 for the Journal of the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA). If interested, here it is: Bullied MSBA Journal001.
8. Making legislators aware of concerns about the Minnesota Orchestra 488 day long Lockout which ends Feb. 1.
9. Exempting retired military pay from State Taxes
10. Labeling of Genetically Modified products.
11. Judicial Retention election procedures
12. Changing the Electoral College
13. The 5% Campaign related to disabled persons.
14. Addressing the problem of insurance coverage for persons with chronic Lyme Disease. Some people don’t just get over Lyme Disease, but insurance limits are sometimes a problem.
In addition, there were several strictly local issues: sidewalks in Maplewood; redevelopment at Tanners Lake and the old Oakdale Mall, etc., etc.
All of this in an hour and a half….
Get on your legislators communications list, thank them, help in whatever ways you can.
They are, like their colleagues at other levels of government, representing all of our interests as a society.

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