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Sensible Communities

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

nfieldImagine a community that gives its citizens more choices about where they live and how they get around. Instead of policies that promote urban sprawl, how about a community that encourages more compact development, saving infrastructure costs and accessibility. Why not consider a town built around jobs, schools, and services supporting walking and biking in daily life, reducing obesity and other health risks.
This past week in the Energy committee I heard a bill introduced by Senator Scott Dibble (SF 657) which recommends “improved land use planning and development strategies as an essential step to ensure that we protect our natural resources and quality of life.” The bill is based on a recommendation by the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory (MCCAG) in its final report.
Employees, residents, and students in cities like Northfield want commuter rail or transportation that makes sense. That means transportation options that include proximity to housing, jobs, and schools connected with bike trails, footpaths, and pedestrian friendly routes. Development is springing up around current light rail and commuter rail projects. Sensible communities allow resident to drive less – saving more on gas, parking, and automobile purchases and repairs.
Among other things, the proposal creates incentives for metro and greater Minnesota communities to implement land use planning practices that would achieve global warming reduction goals. It would require both the Met Council and MnDOT to plan for pollution reduction and a transportation system to help achieve these goals as well as preserve more farmland and open spaces.
Building sensible communities makes sense if it indeed helps lower costs, offers more transit choices, promotes healthy lifestyles, and protects Minnesota’s great outdoors for future generations by reducing global warming and air pollution. Cities, in cooperation with Counties and state government, should pursue these types of policies as they consider long range planning.

Weighing In

Monday, February 16th, 2009

The Mayor of Elysian was overhead leaving one of the many town meetings held in District 25 over the weekend, “That was kind of fun.” I couldn’t agree more. It is not every Saturday that local citizens get a chance to gather to discuss the issues of the day. We discussed a variety of issues and I was impressed with the level of discussion, the interest and knowledge of the participants and the respectful tone of the meetings….even when participants took opposing views. So what did the citizens of District 25 bring to the table?
Two weeks ago, I visited Waterville, Elysian, LeCenter and Cleveland. Last Saturday, I held town meetings in Belle Plaine, LeSueur, Montgomery, and New Prague. Foremost on everyone’s mind was the budget deficit and the economy. Several expressed concerns about proposed cuts and the long term effects of such cuts. Specifically, cuts to Local Government Aid, Education, and Health and Human Services seemed to garner the most attention. Most agreed that cuts will be necessary and as we move forward, prioritizing and determining the level of cuts will need to be decided. But other residents said that Minnesota may need to look at new sources of revenue to maintain basic government services and ensure a quality of life we have come to expect in Minnesota.
npragueSeveral constituents in the New Prague and Belle Plaine area have concerns about the CapX2020 project. CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region to expand the electric transmission grid. The transmission lines will be built in phases and several residents have concerns about the line’s route and the impact this project will have on their lives. Representative David Bly and I have introduced legislation to address some of their concerns.
Casinos, Unemployment, Nuclear power, parks and trails, pensions, and the Minnesota Health Plan were part of the agenda in several of the towns. The Green Acres legislation in 2008 also garnered much discussion. I am a co-author on a bill in the legislature that would repeal many of those changes to make sure farmland is valued for tax purposes on its agricultural value, rather than its future development potential or highest and best use value.
Many citizens shared their real life experiences at these meetings. They have expertise in farming, health care, local government, energy, education, and the environment. Dropping two fishing lines in the lake may not seem like a big deal to many, but a proposed law on that very matter prompted one resident fisherman to voice his opposition. I was happy to listen. And if this comes up for a vote on the floor of the Senate, I will consider myself a more informed legislator. Thank you, constituents, for sharing your thoughts and concerns these past few weekends. That was kind of fun.

2009 Session Preview

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Addressing the budget deficit will be the main issue for 2009, but what are some of the other areas that the Minnesota Senate will be focusing on as the session gets under way January 6?
• Rebuilding Minnesota’s economy and protecting workers impacted by the recession
• Tax Reform and tax fairness
• Adopting Mn/DOT Bridge Reforms
• Review the costs and benefits of No Fault Auto Insurance
• Green JOBZ program
• Growing Minnesota’s Bioscience industry
• Addressing Foreclosures/Neighborhood Stabilization Programs
• Meeting Long term care challenges
• Allocation of funds from Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment
• GRAD Test/Testing Reform/ Stabilize education funding
• Implement Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group recommendations/Renewable Energy Standards
• Stranger Oriented Life Insurance
• Farmer-Lender Mediation Act Authorization extension
• Small Bonding bill
• College Affordability/College Readiness and Retention
• Juvenile Justice Initiatives/Data Privacy Issues
• Elections Law
• Role of Nuclear Energy in Minnesota’s energy portfolio/Greenhouse Gas reductions
• Health Care Reform/Pharmaceutical Reform/Children’s health insurance
• Minimum Wage/Consumer cost savings measures
• Pensions
• Local Government Aid reform
While this list is a partial glimpse at the range and scope of issues and topics that may be discussed this session, it is by no means an exclusive list. I am sure to be writing about the specifics of these and other policy issues as we begin our work next week.

Looking Ahead

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Solving the near and long-term state budget deficits will be the primary focus of the 2009 Legislative session.  State economists warn this is the longest recession since WWII and it likely will take longer for the state to emerge successfully than in past recessions.  Therefore, the legislature will be focused on long-term, fiscally responsible policies that set up the state for future success.  That will require a combination of government reforms, reasonable spending reductions, and a commitment to preserve the things that have made Minnesota a national leader in the past.

The state’s economists attribute the steep decline to overall economic performance and the current recession, which began in December 2007.  Minnesota lost more than 42,000 jobs from October 2007 to October 2008, and the state is expected to lose as many as 77,000 jobs in 2009.  The key to emerging from the recession will be job creating policies that will attract new economic activity to Minnesota.  Growing opportunities and jobs in the biosciences, renewable energy, and rural economic development should be a high priority.  Improving the business climate and targeted investments toward job creation, such as “angel” tax credits or support for local economic development programs like the MN Investment fund can help us reach some of those goals.

Obviously, the state will need to take a close look at existing program, agencies, and expenditures, and review them using the following 3 questions:

1.  Is this expenditure an appropriate governmental purpose authorized by our laws and Constitution?

2. Is this expenditure necessary, especially in difficult economic times?

3.  Is this expenditure actually producing the intended result, or is there a more efficient and economical way to accomplish this legitimate state purpose?

We need to look at ways to give relief to local governments and school districts.  This means taking a hard look at existing mandates and allowing those local units of government more autonomy in moving existing resources to meet existing and essential needs.  We need to collaborate and coordinate for more efficient public services in areas of transportation, buying power, combined billing, delivery of service, and administration.

This will be a difficult session, but it is imperative that the Senate, House, Governor, Republicans, and Democrats all get on the same page to come up with solutions that will help lead Minnesota out of this recession.  I will continue to lay out some ideas as to how we can do that in the next several weeks leading up to the January 6 session. Please feel to contact me with your ideas as well.

Mill Towns Trail

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

The Friends of the Mill Towns Trail are excited about projects that may come to fruition by this time next year. I attended a meeting last night in Dundas with some of the Trails faithful describing what’s next for the trail.

There are 3 projects on the horizon. A bridge will be erected across the Cannon River in Northfield near Walgreen’s connecting to an underpass of Hwy 3. Some additional trail will be built west of Cannon Falls and another bridge will be built in Faribault which will include underpass access for both Hwys. 21 and Hwy 3 north of town. This is exciting stuff for trail enthusiasts. They have worked tirelessly to raise money to complete a trail providing the missing link between Mankato and Red Wing.

Money has come from several sources. The Northfield Bike tour this past weekend, as part of the Defeat of Jesse James Day celebration, netted nearly $16,000, two thirds of which will go to the Mill Towns trail.   Over 1300 riders took part.  Hats off to the Northfield Rotary club for organizing the event and for their generous donations over the years to the trail group. Local initiatives and cooperation are very effective in leveraging federal dollars and grant money. The trail received a federal grant several years ago. State money from the capital bonding bill brought in about $650,000 from the last session. And the DNR, an advocate for completion of the trail, has recently come through with lottery money for the trail.

There is still much to be done. Accessing right of ways, purchasing abandoned rail, completing trail heads and facilities, and maintaining existing trail is costly and involves long term commitment. The economic and recreational benefits for towns like Dundas and Northfield are worth the effort. We should all get behind these types of partnerships.

For more info about the trail: http://www.milltownstrail.org/

Vote Kevin Dahle 2012