here for PDF format
for participants' responses to this summary.
of Meeting with Terry Stone
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, January 9,
Guest speaker: Terry
International Falls business owner and frequent responder to Civic Caucus
Verne C. Johnson,
chair; David Broden, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje,
Jim Hetland (by phone), Dan Loritz, and Wayne Popham (by phone)
A. Context of the
the last few months, Terry Stone, a business owner in International
Falls, became a participant in the Civic Caucus, having heard about the
organization from an acquaintance. Stone began offering commentary, often
accompanied by detailed information that seemed to reveal considerable
knowledge on a host of topics. In addition Stone expressed interest in
how the Civic Caucus conducts its work. In response to an inquiry about a
possible conference call with the Civic Caucus, Stone said he'd prefer to
make the 10-hour round trip from International Falls at his own expense,
to visit in person. For today's meeting he said he left home around
midnight and had breakfast with Verne Johnson and Paul Gilje before the 8
B. Welcome and
and Paul welcomed and introduced Terry Stone, owner, Soundnorth
Electronics, International Falls. He is the current chair of the
Gateway City Corridor Taskforce, a group of federal, state, county, city
and citizen representatives in International Falls. He previously served
as chair of the International Falls Chamber of Commerce. He has served
as consultant, speech and letter writer, debate preparation specialist,
policy writer and analyst for several candidates for political
office. He was born and raised in International Falls. He attended
Bemidji State University and the University of Minnesota, Duluth. For a
time he was a stockbroker in the Twin Cities area.
C. Comments and
Stone's comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following
points were raised:
Possibility of too much emphasis on LRT--Stone was asked, as a
resident of International Falls, for observations on the state's
discussion of transportation needs. The debate over Light Rail Transit (LRT)
seems to be "sucking the oxygen out of statewide objectives" for
transportation, he said. He harkened back to 1922 when the state enacted
a constitutional amendment that created 70 constitutional routes for
highways. That was during the heyday of trolley cars, which were the
responsibility of the city, not the state, he said, and they were financed
privately without subsidy. Clearly the Minnesota Constitution makes an
informed exclusion of state-financed light rail. When he drives to the
Twin Cities area, he said, he always times his trips in and out to avoid
the rush hour pileups on freeways, with idling cars adding to pollution
and subtracting from productivity.
Using transportation to guide development--Stone isn't a fan of using
roads and rails to guide new growth. One of the attractive aspects of
living in Minnesota is the ability to select a wide range of lifestyle
options. State government should respond to the choices we make—not
endeavor to make those choices for us, he said. He doesn't like the idea
of social planners getting into the game of guiding development.
Place improvements where the jobs are--Stone said he has read in our
previous summaries about whether LRT and other transportation improvements
should be primarily oriented to the downtowns. He favors transportation
infrastructure development that both connects residents with their jobs
and connects goods and services with their markets. Frequently, this means
infrastructure outside the core city environment. Driving from
International Falls to the Twin Cities, Stone said he now finds peak
period traffic backing up at the North Branch exit, a far cry from 20
years ago when he worked in the Cities.
Transportation working well in International Falls--Stone is satisfied
with city, county, and state highways in the International Falls area.
All governmental entities do an excellent job in clearing snow. He sees
no conflict or duplication among crew on city, county and state
highways. Because of the 1922 constitutional amendment that specified 70
constitutional highway routes, Stone said the state should continue to
give top priority to state highways until there is a constitutional
statement to the contrary.
Question of merger of adjacent low population counties—Due to the
economies of scale, there may be an argument for some counties with
chronic population loss to merge. Lake of the Woods
County (2010 population probably 4,000)
and Koochiching County (2010 population probably 13,200) seem likely
candidates for such a merger, Stone said. The people of these counties
should be the ones to decide any merger. A Civic Caucus member noted
that the state has 11 regional development commissions, through which
counties might perform some functions cooperatively without removing their
autonomy. Another member noted that cities, school districts and
counties throughout the state have used a joint powers act for years for
handling functions together.
of rail to move goods--Stone noted that rail rights-of-way are located
throughout the state and have great, and
probably under-developed, potential for
moving raw materials to producers and finished goods to market. Trucks
are pounding the freeways to death, he said.
Comment on "shovel ready" projects--The group moved to a discussion of
a likely major infusion to Minnesota of federal economic stimulus
dollars. One member noted that funds would likely be used for projects
that are ready to go, that is, "shovel ready". The member wondered
whether such projects haven't been able to garner sufficient support
within the state.
The member said that
the history of federal public works for recession fighting is slow,
fraught with earmarks, and tends to make overtime rather than new jobs
because new jobs require training time. Moreover, the member said, much
of the work is seasonal, which defies speedy scheduling.
Future of precinct caucuses--Stone said he went to his first precinct
caucus last February, hoping to find lots of people with good ideas for
the state. But the meeting was a "zoo" because of all the attention to a
presidential straw vote. For the benefit of both events,
the straw poll needs to be removed as far as possible from the party-run
precinct caucuses, he said.
Discussion of other economic stimulus strategies--As the discussion
continued, a Civic Caucus member suggested that public works are not as
good as tax cuts, but neither is highly efficient. The member felt that
buying of securities to loosen the money markets is a better strategy.
Some spending is also needed, the member said, but the national government
doesn't do a very good job of managing Social Security or defense
spending. Stone interjected that changes should be made at the federal
level to improve efficiency. For example, he said, as a business owner in
electronics, he sees no more need for a federal department of electronics
than a federal department of agriculture. Too many subsidies are provided
in agriculture, he contended.
Dealing with the state's $4.8 billion budget shortfall--Minnesota's
$4.8 billion shortfall for the biennium is much more modest than
California's, a member noted. Some members agreed that the state should
use the shortfall as an occasion to accomplish significant structural
changes in such areas as transportation and education. A member suggested
we should make sure the non-metro parts of Minnesota are strengthened.
business of state government is distribution of money to units of
government within the state, a member observed. Running state government
only involves about 1.2 percent of all expenditures. Thus, the state
ought to look how to make the system of distribution of funds more
efficient. Another suggestion was that the civil service system should
be evaluated. Broadening the sales tax is another possibility.
Watch what's going on in Minnesota counties--Members noted that
Minnesota counties are suggesting ways to cooperate on delivery of human
services. Perhaps we should invite Jim Mulder, executive director of the
Association of Minnesota Counties, to meet with us, a member said.
Direction on nuclear power--In light of the fact that Stone offered
his first input to the Civic Caucus by commenting a few months ago on
nuclear power, he was asked if he had further observations. Stone said he
is optimistic about the potential of fast neutron reactors. Major parts
of these reactors are modular, he said, which makes the reactors much
easier to build and maintain. The federal permitting process has been
streamlined. The construction permit and the operating permit are now
granted concurrently. At a minimum
Minnesota should lift a ban on new nuclear plant construction that has
been in existence since 1990, Stone said.
Thanks--On behalf of the Civic Caucus, Verne thanked Stone for meeting
with us today.