On a scale of (0) least appealing, to (5) neutral, to (10) most
appealing, what is your view on each of the following ways to redesign
1. _2.6 average response_____Leave local
government structure as it is.
2. _5.5 average response_____Distribute
state aids as a block grant to local geographic areas, allowing local
areas to set priorities among their local units of government.
3. _7.6 average response_____Combine
counties in various regions of the state.
4. _6.6 average response_____Combine
cities and counties in urban areas.
5. Your suggestions? See comments below.
Peter Heegaard (8)(3) (2) (10)
Babak Armajani (5) (6) (5) (5)
Combine counties in various regions of the state.
Joe Mansky (0) (7) (7) (8)
Concerning #s 3 and 4, even if there was no consolidation of political
subdivisions, there could be more consolidated services provided, such
as police, fire, emergency, library, etc. Going a step further for #4,
if the Met Council is to become an elected body, the opportunity would
then exist for elimination of one or both of the layers of government
John Crosby (0) (7) (7) (10)
Very interesting report. Massive consolidation of local governments is
Dennis L. Johnson (1) (5) (8) (9)
Place emphasis on merging municipal and other local governments into
counties. Start with the most “obvious”:
--Merge Soil & Water Conservation Districts into counties.
--Merge city-county overlapping functions: law enforcement, libraries,
parks, et al.
Ray Schmitz (0) (2) (10) (10)
The continuing issue of state control of county efforts, mandates that
is, is a red herring, since the counties are in fact the local
operating arm of the state that is the role they should perform.
Efforts to make counties independent, city like, entities should
either happen through charter type authority or not, the current blend
does not work.
Frankly a good deal of what happens at the county level could be done
regionally by a state office. Rochester and Olmsted County currently
are fighting over emergency management, the reality is that this
should be a state or regional operating agency, after all how many
times in a career will an official actually have to deal with a
tornado or flood but we pay highly for someone to be available when
one of a small group of experts could drop in to do the management and
also would have supervised the planning in advance.
Donald H. Anderson (3) (6) (8) (8)
How do we get people to show interest in their local governments, for
example, the turnout for voting is usually the lightest on school,
city and county elections, yet they represent the closest to the
people? Unfortunately, we look to the federal and state governments
for our answers.
Bill Frenzel (0) (7) (10) (8)
Counties absorb special purpose districts (Mulder’s Soil & Water
Districts); ditto townships; mandate consolidation of counties under
specified population levels.
The Commonwealth of VA has only a dozen or two cities, I am told. In
my county of Fairfax, the county provides all municipal, and education
(there is a school board, but the county must approve the Budget)
services for about a million people. The bureaucracy is enormous; its
spending is terrifying; but (1) education is well served (a step ahead
of Golden Valley, MN for our kids), (2) law enforcement seems adequate
(no different than Golden Valley, MN); (3) election systems work OK
(except Obama carries the country).
The system is not a model of efficiency, but it functions well enough.
It wastes money because it is so big that it can do so, but it
eliminates a whole level of local government.
Vici Oshiro (10) (0) (10) (10)
But, facilitate changes rather than mandating them. Points below are
well taken and encouraging. Mulder cited many instances in which
legislature is causing duplication and inefficiency. Change these.
Interesting session and worth pursuing his suggestions in detail.
Jackie Underferth (0) (5) (10) (5)
Wayne Jennings (2) (8) (10) (10)
Good session with provocative cost savings without losing services
Bert Press (5) (5) (10) (10)
John S. Adams (5) (7) (5) (_)
Make it easier for counties to share personnel and sell services to
one another. It might be easier to combine cities and counties in
Rick Bishop (2) (10) (7) (2)
Design taxing/levying authority for certain entities based upon
service and need as determined by voters.
Kent Eklund (1) (2) (8) (8)
Though structural changes are appealing, the political capital they
take to push through is daunting. Yet, I think in the day likely to be
a more popular alternative. We simply have a structure of local
government well positioned for the middle of the last century and even
that is questionable if it ever really served us well.
Charles Lutz (0) (7) (9) (9)
Eugene Piccolo (0) (3) (10) (8)
Clarence Shallbetter (0) (4) (8) (6)
Scott Halstead (0) (10) (10) (10)
Question 4: Combine school districts with communities. Ramsey County
should be 2 -4 cities including St. Paul. Many of the current
communities don't have the capabilities to provide the needed services
and they contract for them. Cut to the chase and have communities
large enough to effectively and efficiently provide the needed
services. The school district and the city should be a single
geographic area so that publications can report and distribute what is
Bill Hamm (8.5) (0) (1.5) (1.5)
Question 1: While I can tolerate an evolutionary common sense
transition, I strongly oppose any effort at forced capitulation.
Question 2: This is effectively a diversionary tactic that will
undermine local cohesion thereby allowing government to come in later
with a forced solution.
Question 3: Only if it is the wish of the residence of both said
Question 4 Again only if it is the wish of said citizens, but I am
less tied to the need for counties contained within a city limits.
Suggestions: You citidiots need to keep your meddling hands and over
ripe ideas out of the rural aspects of this issue and give us the room
to change in our own way.
Bob White (0) (8) (2) (2)
Mulder and his association have dozens of excellent ideas for redesign
of local services. What's needed is a concerted effort by civic NGOs
or ad hoc groups to get the proposals into and through the
Legislature, and to convince the governor -- current and next -- to
Roger Heegaard (0) (7) (7) (9)
Bright Dornblaser (0) (5) (10) (7)
Roy Thompson (3) (5) (8) (7)
Tim Olson (10) (8) (5) (0)
As a Met Council employee who views the '96 merger as an abject
failure, this is a great conversation! I've always said the counties
are well kept secrets. Why do we have a county and a regional rail
authority? An appointed Met Council with taxing authority is an
abomination. Checks and balances need to be maintained and improved
with all units of government. A board of governance is better than an
elected Met Council and either is better than what we have today. The
council does not come under the jurisdiction of the State Auditor or
Attorney General...this is opaque government. I sound like a broken
record, don't I? Housing and planning decisions need to be removed
from the council and returned to the city/county level, sewage and
Ray Cox (0) (10) (10) (10)
We have to peel back the layers and let counties and cities do what
each are good at, and eliminate the overlap between them. We also need
a complete and total reform of local government aid, directing the aid
to cities that are truly in need of funds for basic services. We have
too many examples, such as those Jim Mulder gave, of governments
spending far too much to deliver a service (his book example). With
the changing demographics of Minnesota and our nation we simply cannot
continue on with 'business as usual' in any area.
Glenn Dorfman (0) (2) (10) (10)
Make local governments more dependent on property taxes and less
dependent on state aid. This assures total local control without state
largesse and denies finger pointing by state or local officials. Small
town Minnesota must be annexed to adjacent Regional Centers to
increase efficiency and effectiveness of public services. Homestead
property taxes remain modest in Minnesota. I believe they would become
even more modest if what local taxpayers say they want, or what local
governments decide their citizens want, were paid for transparently.
The new Minnesota Miracle could be making Minnesotans pay for what
they desire. I believe this would produce less government and taxes in
Carolyn Ring (3) (2) (8) (_)
Question 3: In the metro area cities should be encouraged to combine
services for efficiency, cost, and better outcomes.
Dick Angevine (3) (5) (5) (8)
I've listened to Mulder before and every time I have felt he is simply
shilling for a county take over of smaller units of government. No
different than the State or Federal Governments trying to seize powers
best left to more local control. I'm not buying in to any of it.
Chris Etzler (5) (0) (10) (10)
The current LGA structure is obsolete. It should be restructured for
it to serve its original intent & purpose.
David Broden (0)(10) (0) (0)
Question 1: This is scored as "0" only because of the need to change
the way local government is operated. Local structural identity of the
individual units of government should not need to be changed unless
fully supported by the local citizens. The structure however should be
required to be adjusted not for just efficiency but based on how
services can best be delivered to the unit of government. This will
result in sharing of resources, facilities etc. The result will be
that structure of operation changes but local decisions and identity
will remain basically unchanged. If this approach is applied the
population will be ready to support without being defensive. What is
needed is a "smart" approach to how units are organized, operate, and
Question 2: This approach can be a keystone of "smart" restructuring
defined in 1 above. With this in mind citizens will cooperate in new
and innovative ways.
Question 3: Combine county functions in a "smart" way do not combine
the names and boundaries to remove identity.
Question 4: Combined city and county functions in a smart way but do
not remove identify.
Question 5: Some of us the grew up in the small town rural Minnesota
remember the days of school consolidation and how poorly that
rationale was sold. The message was that consolidation was mandated
and dictated by big city ideas rather than to let the citizens decide.
The issue became more who was telling who to do what than the merits
of the topic. The need to maintain the word community and identity and
recognize that people relate to community and when community works so
does government. Thus we need to build change in governance around the
idea of community and it will sell and be effective.
David Detert (0) (8) (10) (8)
Bill Kuisle (6) (3) (3) (2)
Question 1: There is always room for improvement.
Question 2: Every time we do something like this it just sets up
another level of government and ends up costing more.
Question 3: Big government is not more efficient.
Question 4: How about dictating to them what their roles are and what
each should do? Both shouldn't be in the business of parks, libraries
and the list goes on.
Paul Hauge (5) (8) (10) (7)
The Legislature needs to give incentives to local units of government
to merge, combine services.
Ray Ayotte (0) (8) (10) (10)
Terry Stone and John Carlson (7) (7) (7) (0)
Question 1: The problem with doing nothing with local government
structure is that not all local units of government function properly.
Local units of government are the backbone of our representative
democracy. Properly functioning local units of government diminish the
need for higher levels of centralized government that stray from the
will of people at the local level.
After years of federalism on the march, both local government and
state government are surrendering vast power to the federal government
in multiple arenas of governance. Political scientists teach that
local government is more efficient and accountable than government
higher up the food chain.
Question 2: The best, but unlikely, solution would be the elimination
of unfunded legislative mandates. The best doable system is the
capitation or block grant method of state aid distribution.
Currently, the state emphasizes the tracking of delivery; a system
less than ideal for block grants. Block grants are appropriate when
the State changes this emphasis to judging outcomes of services
relative to the desired outcomes that have been accepted by both the
state and the local unit of government.
It should be noted that block grants attend a greater level of
fiduciary oversight responsibility. The Office of the State Auditor is
currently inadequately organized to provide sufficient timely
accounting of current funding. This accountability crisis would be
exacerbated by the increased use of block grants. The last audit done
by the OSA for Pine County wasn’t completed until sixteen months past
the end-of-year. Due to staffing deficiencies, the OSA presently
defaults on Single Audit deadlines quite routinely. Current federal
legislation is scheduled to shorten the Single Audit deadline to six
months making the OSA problem more acute.
The OSA problem could be overcome by adopting the model designed by
Jeff Wiita, CPA. (The plan design can be found at
www.jeffforstateauditor.com) Jeff is a 26 year veteran of the Office
of the State Auditor and has designed an efficient and effective model
that would allow the OSA to take on more functional fiduciary
Question 3: The issue of dilution of representation should be
discussed. When counties combine, there is typically dilution of
representation. The history of Minnesota is replete with counties
splitting from larger counties for the purpose of increased autonomy
The representation disparity resulting from the merging or combining
of counties should not be a cause for concern; even among political
scientists (who tend to worry about such things). We currently have
county representation ratios in Minnesota that range over three orders
The people of Lake of the Woods County (pop. 3,985) have one
Commissioner (5) for every 787 citizens. The people of Hennepin County
(pop. 1,116,037) have one Commissioner (7) for every 159,434 citizens.
The disparity in accountability is almost laughable. The disparity of
representation is 200:1.
Combining or merging may, coincidently, be the salvation of Lake of
the Woods County. With 3.985 people, LOW is the first and only county
to have fallen below the statutory requirement of 4,000 citizens to
organize a county in our state.
Finally, an underutilized and little appreciated tool of combining
local government is the Joint Powers Agreement. (The MN statute is
here http://tiny.cc/Jqkll) Each of the three local political isotopes
has unique authorities. The magic of the Joint Powers Agreement is
that the resulting entity of two or more like or unlike variants can
exercise the collective power of all types of government within it.
In other words, a county, a city and a township forming a Joint Powers
Agreement have the authorities of all three types of Minnesota
government. More typically, these agreements are between counties,
e.g., Joint Powers Agreement for the Southeast Minnesota Recyclers’
Joint Powers Agreements were used effectively by various governmental
entities to provide adequate police security during the 2008
Republican National Convention. A Joint Powers Agreement between the
City of Grand Rapids and Itasca County saves $140,000 per year by
permitting airport staff to be utilized by Grand Rapids. Seven school
districts use a Joint Powers Agreement to operate a regional learning
Joint Powers Agreements have nearly untapped potential to deal with
the costly complexities of wetlands offsets and other environmental
predicaments that challenge, in particular, northern counties.
Presently eight northern counties (Aitkin County, Cook County,
Koochiching County, Lake County, Lake of the Woods, Pennington County,
Roseau County, St. Louis County) are jointly addressing limited land
use and environmental regulations.
One of the reasons that Joint Powers Agreements are not more
creatively utilized is that they lack a lobby. While townships,
cities, school districts and counties all have their statewide
organizations and attendant lobbying operations, no one speaks for the
Joint Powers Agreement. Creativity, leadership and motivation are
required to implement such agreements.
Question 4: The inevitable outcome of such a combination would be the
loss of a city’s autonomy and the erosion of accountability.
Centralizing government takes control away from the citizens. We need
to empower our citizens to take more of an active role in their
government and hold their elected official accountable. That won’t
happen with centralization.
The idea of city combinations makes more sense for cities with
Legislative Charters than for cities with Home Rule Charters.
Legislative Charters are essentially local government on autopilot.
Cities with a long history and culture flourish under the hands-on
authority of a Home Rule Charter. On the other hand, cities that were
cornfields twenty years ago (cities that may even lack a downtown or a
main street) tend to find their bedroom community lacks any driving
commonality of culture or history that would compel them toward a Home
Rule Charter. Such cities typically lack a natural local leadership
structure and benefit from the autopilot features of the Legislative
Question 5: The State Legislature needs to take the AMC’s Redesign
Project seriously and have a vigorous debate about its merits and
shortcomings. It provides an excellent starting point for fresh new
thinking about how best to serve the citizens of the State effectively
while utilizing its resources efficiently. The AMC Design Project is
available at: http://bit.ly/41Bf7O
1. Redraw voting districts at all levels (city council, Assembly,
Congress, etc.) to eliminate all hint of gerrymandering.
2. Reduce all "public servant" salaries and eliminate all retirement
benefits, to make it clear that political office is truly public
service, temporary, and in no way to be undertaken as a lifelong
3. No "executive" sessions; all debates to be held in public and all
decisions to be made in public, at times and locations chosen to
maximize participation by the public.
4. Clearly define the programs to be run by government at each level,
the budget for each program, and the funding for the program, along
with public accounting of all expenditures.
5. Absolutely prohibit spending beyond actual income. Expenditures
next year are to be paid from income this year.
6. No borrowing, no bond measures to be paid from additional levies on
tax payers at any level at any form (such as additions to your
property taxes) unless the additional levies are approved by a
supermajority of the popular vote. "Supermajority" to be defined as
something like 50%+1 of all registered voters (NOT the actual turnout
in an election), and in the case of levies to be added to the property
tax bill, specifically including only owners and excluding renters.
I could go on like this but the basic idea is to be mindful of a
warning by Thomas Jefferson, whereby he warned that we'll retain our
freedoms until the moment the majority realizes they can vote
themselves benefits to be paid for by the minority. We have an
excellent example of that going on in Congress right now, as proposal
after proposal is presented in response to some dire need and will be
paid for by yet another 5% surcharge on "the rich." Let's say the top
bracket is already at 40% (I think) and we have already heard at least
6 of these proposals, so now we are up to 70% even before State and
local taxes. How long before Atlas Shrugs and there is no one left to
In the few hundred years of the American experiment with direct and
representative democracy, we have developed many outstanding ways of
running government, both outstandingly bad and reasonably good. I am
not a good enough historian to point to any of them off the top of my
head (big city "machines" and "community activism" come to mind as bad
examples), and I don't personally know anyone both versed in history
and possessed by a dedication to intellectual honesty to help me find
examples without political bias. You can't do New England style direct
democracy in a big city -- unless you break it up into small enough
pieces to encourage actual participation by its residents. Maybe not
all cities are like San Francisco which at times seems to be a
collection of distinct villages jammed together like sardines in a
can, but most cities have their neighborhoods that can be the basis
for natural voting and administrative boundaries regardless of
Larry Schluter (0) (3) (9) (2)
Question 5: Need to do more comparisons among counties, such as ratios
based on populations or other benchmarks to see if it areas are
getting too much or even if it is worthwhile to continue with a city
Chris Brazelton (0) (5) (10) (5)
Question 2: This option would be more appealing if we think through
and outline the process, how the deciders are chosen, and how
transparent the process is for making decisions.
Question 3: As long as there are branch offices for providing vital
services spread out in the region. Many people have difficulty with
transportation in getting access to services
that must be provided in person, and being forced to travel further to
regional offices effectively denies services to these individuals.
Question 4: Certainly combine overlapping services to avoid
Question 5: I had occasion to attend a series of trainings put on by
AMC and other partners, run by Jim Mulder, and appreciate his ability
to encourage people to think outside the box, or outside the silos.
Those who run the silos and those within the silos are often
entrenched in maintaining the status quo, so it is crucial for them to
attend sessions where the silo walls can be
safely removed long enough for them to imagine the options and see the
necessity and urgency for embracing needed changes. Not so easy when
their incomes are threatened by reductions and mergers!