Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Monday, December 15, 2008

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

It is definitely not business as usual at meetings and conferences these days. The Association of Minnesota Counties recently held their annual conference in Duluth. There were suttle changes to be seen everywhere. As we listened to speaker after speaker tell us about the “big mess” in which the state of Minnesota finds itself, signs of austerity were all over. It was obvious that the planners of the conference in cooperation with the Decc convention center were intent on trimming expenses. The “at the table” service during some meals had been eliminated. Beverage service was “self serve” using recyclable paper cups and even condiments like salt and pepper were absent from the tables. Desserts were sparse and the meals were adequate, but spartan.

When it came to break out sessions, one presenter stated, “The department of revenue cannot afford postage or paper. Your material is available on line.” Another session featured two speakers: one was in the room, the other presented via phone from St. Paul. He sent his power point to the workshop facilitator and it was shown in the room as he talked over the phone into a mike that projected to everyone. This worked very well and saved a lot of money.

“You can find it on our website,” is the buzz phrase of almost every presentation these days and, in some cases, in reply to questions that can’t be answered. This, in some cases, is an end run for a poorly prepared presentation or just plain laziness. A few years ago, almost every presenter would reply something like, “give me your name and number and I will see that you get the information.” There is a lot of information on the web, but many times – even though the home page is right in front of you, the information needed is difficult, if not impossible to find. I am a bit perturbed by the constant references to “find it on our website”.

The last I heard there are still at least 25% of the households in rural Minnesota who do not have access to high speed Internet services. This is a very limiting situation and some tasks are virtually impossible unless high- speed services are available. It might be well for our “big city” neighbors to keep this in mind. end

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