For more information contact: Peter Grafstrom 651-296-5524
I wanted to thank all of you who made it to my town hall meeting with State Senator Sandy Pappas at the end of February. We had an engaging, thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion on issues important to our community. If you didn’t make it, I wanted to recap what we talked about and provide the opportunity to add to the discussion. We have about two months left before we adjourn and we’re going to set a two-year state budget before we leave the Capitol.
This is one of the most significant issues this year, and many talked about the need to increase transit options and availability. Currently, the Governor and Senate are proposing expansions in transit while leaders in the house have proposed a package that in my opinion, will really hurt transit in the metro area. Regarding roads and bridges, people talked about how they see roads crumbling all over our community and our state. Specifically, a lot of us talked about the need for improvements to Robert Street. Whether they are county roads, state highways, or city streets, most agreed they are underfunded and that we needed more resources for them.
Some asked if the projected budget surplus could be used to inject money into our roads. The House package does take money from the projected surplus and shifts it into roads. Dayton and the Senate haven’t proposed to do this since, historically so-called “general fund” money hasn’t been used for roads and instead funds schools, public safety, nursing homes, and services for people with disabilities.
Programs for youth and the aging
We also discussed the needs of people who are both younger and older in our district. Families talked about needed afterschool and enrichment programs for children and teenagers, and also the need for infrastructure and programing that allows people to “age in place” – in other words, stay in their neighborhood when they grow older. This means housing that is smaller, more accessible, and easier to maintain – as well as neighborhoods that are more walkable with more amenities and greater transit options. I think we’re seeing more of this infrastructure being built, but we need to push harder for the services that should to accompany it.
True to Minnesotan form, we talked a lot about education. We discussed lots of ideas for closing the opportunity gap. This is a good thing too, because I believe that there isn’t going to be one silver bullet that brings equity to our educational system. We need systemic reforms that make equity a goal in every aspect of education. I often struggle to communicate this to my colleagues when we have education debates that get mired in partisanship. There are some clear needs we have like creating a more diversified and culturally trained teaching corps, pathways to become a teacher mid-career, and increasing pre-kindergarten programming for our children. Importantly, we were unified in our desire to not go back to the days of laying off teachers and increasing class sizes.
The Town Hall was a great example of active citizenship. It’s so encouraging for me to know that there are so many people in our district working for change, doing the research, building support, and finding the levers of power to move our state in a better direction for everyone. I’m always here to listen, learn, and help. Contact me any time by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 651-296-9714.
Thanks again to all of you,