Monthly Archives

December 2009

Working for Downtown

By | Economy, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20, Rice County | No Comments

From the NDDC Website by Ross Currier: The Northfield Downtown Development Corportation E R Team (Economic Restructuring Committee) met with State Senator Kevin Dahle yesterday to talk about commercial property taxes. Our discussion focused on legislative action for 2010.

Commercial property taxes in downtown Northfield have risen over 300% in the past decade. At their current levels, they are literally threatening the economic viability of our historic commercial district as well as undermining small business retention, expansion, and recruitment.

Last year, working with Senator Dahle and Representative David Bly, the NDDC saw legislation to help address the commercial property tax issue in older commercial districts throughout Greater Minnesota introduced in both the Senate and House. With the challenge of balancing State revenues with expenditures during the session, the bills were not implemented.

There was another bill addressing commercial property taxes drafted in the Senate last year. This bill differed somewhat from our proposal, however, it would also have helped downtown Northfield.

At yesterday’s meeting, we decided to work with the other group of senators to draft and support a single bill to address commercial property taxes in both the Senate and House. Although the State continues to face financial challenges, we are hopeful that our unified efforts will achieve success in 2010.

Someday at Christmas

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20 | No Comments

“Someday At Christmas”

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a land
With no hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
Our world where people care

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no men have fears
One shinning moment my heart ran away
From our world today

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Take hope because your love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmastime

– Stevie Wonder

Compromising on Justice

By | Sibley County | No Comments

SibleyThe young man stood before the judge with his orange prison jump suit, looking uncomfortable in handcuffs and shackles. The prosecutor read off a list of 20 or so prior offenses including burglary, theft, assault, and an earlier escape. When bail was set at $20,000 cash the young man cried and pleaded with the judge and anyone else who would listen, obviously distressed at the prospect of spending Christmas in jail. The public defenders in that case, overworked and underpaid, spent the day with other defendants, facing a variety of issues including child custody, child support, and drug use. Juveniles faced restitution, treatment, probation, and community service.
Yesterday I spent the day at the Sibley County Court House. Less noticeable was the scrambling by the hard working Court Administrator and her staff, down several workers, due to last year’s budget cuts. Minnesota and the courts face another budget cutting year. The November 2009 State Budget forecast, released December 2, projects a further deterioration of general fund budget conditions despite the budget reductions made to the enacted budget for FY 2010-11, the governor’s unallotments, and other actions following session. Since the February 2008 state budget forecast – the last forecast to precede the change in budget trend lines due to the recession that began in December 2007 – revenue projections for FY 2010-11 have fallen $5.0 billion from $35.0 billion to $30.0 billion; spending has declined from $36.1 billion to $31.3 billion. The projected shortfall for FY 2010-11 is now $1.2 billion.
I worry about our ability as a state to provide a judicial system that meets our needs as a society. While criminal matters will eventually get processed, the courts will be left with fewer resources for rehabilitation, juvenile supervision, probation, social workers, and public defenders able to properly give time and attention to those who need representation. Civil matters will be pushed aside. If you plan on getting a divorce, you should plan to live with your future ex for years to come. Personal injury, probate, housing, and domestic relations cases become less of a priority.
I was impressed with the reforms already in place in this rural county courthouse, but like other counties across Minnesota, our justice system is at a tipping point. Do we really want to handcuff our court system with further cuts? The courts are pleading. Is anyone listening?

$10,000 Energy Saver Rebate available for Energy Improvements

By | Energy | No Comments

Last week, Minnesota Housing announced the creation of the Energy Saver Rebate program. These rebates are available for homeowners that do energy-saving home improvements using funds from a Minnesota Housing Fix-up loan. The rebates are funded with money given to Minnesota as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on 2009.
Interested homeowners should act quickly though, because these rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Energy Saver Rebates can be used for:
• Replacement furnaces, boilers, and central air conditioners that are eligible for Federal Energy Tax Credit;
• Replacement exterior doors that are eligible for Federal Energy Tax Credit;
• Energy Star replacement windows;
• Energy Star light fixtures;
• Attic air sealing;
• Wall and attic insulation in conjunction with attic air sealing; and
• Water heaters if they are “orphaned” due to furnace replacement.
Energy Saver Rebates can be for up to $10,000 and can equal 35 percent of the cost of the improvements. Improvements must be done by a licensed contractor, and the homeowner must submit the Energy Saver Rebate Application for the completed improvements to their lender within 120 days of the Fix-up Fund loan’s closing. Fix-Up Fund loans are available to households with an income of less than $96,500. Homeowners should also check if they are eligible for the Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficiency or a rebate from their utility company when doing energy efficiency improvements. The Energy Saver Rebate cannot be used in conjunction with the Builders Association of Minnesota’s Project ReEnergize rebate or Fix-up Fund Loans made prior to December 7, 2009.
For a list of authorized lenders, or for more information, go to www.mnhousing.gov

Bowling Alone

By | Economy, Education | No Comments

A few weeks ago, I had my AP Students read an essay entitled “Bowling Alone,” by Robert Putnam. The premise of the essay is the idea that America is losing its social capital and that it has been on the decline for several years. Social capital refers to connections among individuals. It is the foundation for social communities.

Left intact, social capital has a stream of benefits, including safety and security, friendship and community, and a sense of civic identity. Putnam uses the analogy that even though more and more people are heading to the bowling alley these days, there is a decline in bowling leagues.

Politically speaking…voting, political knowledge, and grassroots political activism are all down. Americans sign 30 per cent fewer petitions and are 40 per cent less likely to join a consumer boycott, as compared to just a decade or two ago. Other social get-togethers have experienced a decline over the last 25 years. Attendance at club meetings have dropped 58 percent, family dinners are down 43 percent, and having friends over is down 35 percent since 1985 (Putnam 2000).
How far are we willing to go it alone? Have we lost our civic virtue? Have we lost our sense of community? As the state budget faces even more cuts, are cities and communities willing to let our hospitals and nursing homes close? Will we continue to invest in our schools, our main street, and our local food shelf? Do we care about our neighbors as fellow citizens? Is the mentality, “as long as I have mine” (insert job or health insurance here) the social norm?

Putnam states “a society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital.” As a matter of fact, there is a range of evidence that communities with a good ‘stock’ of such ‘social capital’ are more likely to benefit from lower crime figures, better health, higher educational achievement, and better economic growth.

Yes, we can blame television, suburban sprawl, and the time constraints brought on with a two career family. However, generational change came out as a very significant factor. A “long civic generation,” born in the first third of the twentieth century, is passing from the American scene. Their children and grandchildren (baby boomers and Generation X-ers) are much less engaged in most forms of community life. For example, the growth in volunteering over the last ten years is due almost entirely to increased volunteering by retirees from the long civic generation.

As the New Year approaches, let’s consider what’s important to Minnesota: a state that embraces the importance of “the common good” and the virtues of civic responsibility and participation. This holiday season let’s not lose sight of our need to invest in social capital. Make time for the family meal, invite the neighbors over for some eggnog, attend a Holiday Concert, or make time to volunteer. And perhaps you can even find time to go bowling. Better yet, start a league.