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 Response Page - Terry Stone  Interview on Minnesota state budget, and outstate issues.     


These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Terry Stone Interview of
01-09-09.

The Questions:
 

_5.7 average __ 1.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether sparsely-populated counties in Minnesota should be merged. 

_6.4 average __ 2.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement,  what is your view that the Legislature, in solving a $4.8 billion budget shortfall, should concentrate mainly on how funds are distributed to agencies and units of government, because that's where the vast majority of state dollars are spent, not on state government operations.  

David Broden (0) (8)

Question 1:  There is no need to merge the counties but there is a need to merge the functions of the counties.  If merging the counties becomes a theme--there will be resistance to protect the identity--if function are merged that issue will not be present and the results will be the same. Local people are identity focused and appropriately so--there is no need for "big Brother" to tell them that they really no longer exist --lets help each area retain their pride and have them join in creative ways to save dollars. 

Question 2:  Government operations must share in the update and budget tightening. How the state operates although perhaps a smaller percentage is one way for all of government to share the pain and it is a good way to sell the overall plan to the public. Also there is not often a chance to relook at how the state employees are organized and what they do--the so called civil service system need  a good hard long term look including pensions etc.

Bill Jungbauer (3) (8)

I enjoyed reading the recent remarks and input from Terry Stone. I do have to comment on a couple of things.

"State government should respond to the choices we makeónot 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."

I decided that I liked this person as soon as I read this. Too often government is trying to make decisions for us and I think this is wrong. I have witnessed attempts at social engineering within my own city government. Our officials are elected to represent us, not rule over us and pass laws designed for what they deem to be for our own good. They are elected to represent us. Period.

I agree totally with lifting the ban on nuclear power plants.  Beside the facts stated by Mr. Stone, fast neutron reaction does not require the long term storage of spent fuel rods. This is reduced to as little as several hundred years rather than thousands of years.

Paul Hauge (8.5) (8)

Donald H. Anderson (6) (6)

Robert J. Brown (1) (9)
Question 1: If some counties want to merge let them, but services can be delivered by joint powers agreements if some counties canít efficiently deliver some services.

Question 2: While this is where most of the money goes there should also be concern for making the state agencies more efficient, too.

Mr. Stone was very interesting and thoughtful. He had better insights than some of the politicians you have met with.

William Kuisle (3) (8)

Question 1:  We have proven that big government is not better government. These counties are and should be encouraged to work together through joint powers. State functions such as courts and social services should be combined.

Rick Bishop (1) (5)

Dennis L. Johnson (0) (10)

Good interview, Stone makes a lot of sense. Mergers of counties should only be with the consent of both counties.

Bill Hamm (0)(_)

Question 1:  5. except at the request of the smaller county I would call this forced annexation of the wrong kind and vote 0. This would only further reduce voice, input, identity, and opportunity for local control. I wish to see greater not less opportunities for my neighbors to participate. We live in a time when it is all to easy to let someone else do it for us, we need to promote and increase public involvement through real local decision making, pushing back against continuing centralization efforts.

Carolyn Ring (8) (9)

Question 1:   With modern transportation we no longer need a county seat within a day trip by horse for everyone. Many counties already are sharing services, but more savings could be accomplished by combining counties as they have school districts.
 
Question 2:   Every board, commission, agency and unit of government should be analyzed for need and cost.  There probably would be a great cry if some of the boards and commissions were eliminated or scaled down, but the cumulative savings could be very effective in cutting government expenses.

Bill Frenzel (10) (5)

Question 2:    I seem to recall that the Legislature does fully control all the flow-thru spending.  The Legislature should concentrate on discretionary spending of all kinds. This is a splendid opportunity to get rid of unnecessary programs, functions and employees.   

Eugene Piccolo (8) (7)

Charles Lutz (10) (8)

Joe Mansky (8) (10)
Question 1:  The option of merging political subdivisions should at least be an option for legislative consideration, even though the costs to be saved long-term is likely to be pretty small.

Question 2:    Yes, the transfer payments, whether to individuals or to the political subdivisions, is where the money is. The operation of the state government is essentially an irrelevant part of the budget.

Jackie Underferth (10) (2)

Tom Abeles (10) (_)

Terry's comments and the discussion on transportation are of particular interest. First, it should be noted that throughout history, population growth has followed transportation routes. That is why exchanges on interstates became a hot political topic or the number of stops for the LRT and whether or not there is a local airport. Most of these trends have been seen in models of historic data. The issue came home in MN with the collapse of the 35W bridge and the statewide response even in the short term around the replacement as well as inspection of other bridges and the problems with the crosstown/35 construction.

As many others have noted, just with the change in transport from horse trails to corduroy roads, to canals, railroads and interstates. Many towns are really only transitional but seemingly permanent in the eyes of residents- towns have come and gone as resources have been discovered and then disappeared, factories thrived and then faded, etc  Birth and death are as natural for humans and their artifacts. Shelly's poem, Ozymandias speaks well to this.  Consolidation is a natural phenomenon and to try to "sustain" a community may be a costly proposition like keeping a person, indefinitely, on life support- government, schools, infrastructure, etc

Malcolm McLean (8) (5)

Question 1:  I am sure we have more governmental entities, including counties, than we need.  That is a rational idea.  However, I believe there is an emotional commitment to counties like a commitment to schools. Eliminating the existence of a county might seem like a death knell to some of the citizens who live there. I think Stone's idea of having the affected counties help determine mergers is well taken.

Question 2:  I am not sure I understand this question.  Does this mean, for example, that the Department of Education is a state operation and would not be affected while funds for U of MN and MNSCU, as we have just seen, are to cut a lot?  I should think that all state expenditures, whether state operations or hand-offs to other government levels or the U, etc, should be reviewed and prioritized.

Clarence Shallbetter (5) (8)

Al Quie (0) (9.5)

Mary Tambornino (5) (0)

Vici Oshiro

As a resident of one of the largest counties in MN, I'm not prepared to comment on whether others should merge.  The smaller counties need to decide that.  Are there ways state should facilitate this?  Are there additional ways in which state can facilitate cooperation?  I think talk with Assn of Counties is a good suggestion.

Budget shortfall:  Concentrating on state government operations will not yield enough savings, but it too has to be examined for possible efficiencies.  I have not been impressed with public sector ability to reinvent the way they do things.  Probably some of this because of ignorance.  

I've learned enough about fast neutron reactors to think we should re-examine possibilities of nuclear power and consider permitting fast neutron reactors.  Not yet ready to allow permits, only to consider possibility.  Latest information I've seen was that some proponents think US is ready for a pilot project - that's not enough to allow additional plants yet.

Robert P. Mairs (10) (5)

Scott Halstead (5) )(5)

Question 1:  I think there could be greater savings in merging small communities in the metro area.  The northern suburbs have numerous cities with small populations and small geographic areas.  They have little bargaining power in the metro area food fights.

Question 2:  We need to address the many problems with medical care in this country.  We have the worst system that money will buy.

John Nowicki (10) (7)

Larry and Ann Schluter (0) (0)

Question 1:  If the word merged is taken literally, the likelihood of counties doing that is very remote.  Counties are not going to give up governing their own county.  However, if the idea is shared services, there is great opportunity for dollar savings and well as effective and efficient delivery of services.

Question 2:   This statement is very confusing.  I am assuming that it is understood that funding for state government agencies and related councils and boards is a very small part of the total budget.  That being a given, it is unclear to me what is meant by "how funds are distributed."  Is the focus on a process or on policy, i.e. how do you go about getting the funds distributed vs. the policies that govern goals and measures related to the purpose and the constituencies the funds are to serve?  The Legislature's job is program policy and appropriating the funds for those programs that effectively implement their policy.  And if that is the question, I agree. 

Andy Driscoll (4) (_)

Question 1:  Unless it can be shown that citizens will receive the same level of services in a merged county and that any merger will consider citizen needs Ė including the same number of hospitals, health agencies and community correctional facilities - and not make it more difficult to access those services after a merger, I suppose it could be worse. Some counties are wards of the state as is: unincorporated. Merging them with incorporated counties could probably help them receive county services as well.

Question 2:  I'd like to know the difference between "agencies and units of government" and "state government operations." I don't believe there are any, unless he means cities and counties. I also think someone doesn't understand governance structures very well.

Tom Swain (10) (5)

Shirley Heaton

Merging sparsely-populated counties requires a thorough understanding of why the boundaries were drawn the way they were in the first place.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (9) (10)

Roger Scherer (6) (3)

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  


©
The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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