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.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


The August 29 issue of the Mankato “Free Press” contained a small article about the Caledonia County Fair in Vermont. The fair folks admit there is a lot of misunderstanding about the H1N1 virus. But they decided to ban swine stating, “they want to protect themselves from bad publicity or frivolous lawsuit if someone gets sick and blames it on a pig.”

This seems to be unfair discrimination against the swine industry and that would be a good basis for the swine industry to bring a legitimate discrimination charge.I would venture to guess that when a bout of chickenpox is going around during the fair, the officials do not ban chicken exhibits. end

Monday, August 24, 2009


A few years ago I read a news report about the actions of some council members of one of our state’s larger cities. Evidently individual members were taking actions that resulted in the council being unable to function in an orderly manner. The end result was that the council adopted a few guidelines on “how to behave in a civil manner.”
The necessity for elected bodies to have to set up standards and guidelines on how to behave is becoming more common. Some of us just scratch our heads and wonder, “how did this happen?” The actions by citizens at some of the Congressional town hall meetings seem to answer this question to some extent.
Some governmental units have undertaken what they call a “Choose Civility” model. It is an initiative inspired by Dr. P.M. Forni in his book, “Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct.” Our world would be a better place if this was required reading for all high school graduates.
The following is a list of Civility Principles that have been adopted by Howard County in Maryland.
Pay attention
Speak kindly
Assume the best
Respect others’ opinions
Respect other people’s time and space
Be inclusive
Acknowledge others
Accept and give praise
Apologize earnestly
Assert yourself
Take responsibility
Accept and give constructive criticism
Refrain from idle complaints
Be a considerate guest

Didn’t we all learn these things in kindergarten? And if not, why not? end

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy to Pay Taxes

There was a tornado in South Minneapolis last Wednesday. Thankfully, no one was injured, but there was tremendous property damage. The television crews were out talking to those affected. “I was never so happy to pay taxes,” stated one of the affected property owners. City records show that city crews were dispatched within five minutes of the first 911 call. They were on hand immediately to start with the clean up. Other property owners shared that city police were on the scene and challenged people who were on roofs and on private property. They asked them, “do you have permission to be here?” Since many property owners were away from home at the time of the storm, it was refreshing to see “the government” was in place to protect their interests.

This is all in a day’s work for local government employees. These people do not work for free. This is the service bought with our tax dollars. Local government is often times called “hidden government” for good reason. Most of us do not get hit with a tornado and the good work these people do is “hidden”. We don’t need them very often, but when we do, we are “happy to pay taxes” so we can enjoy the service. end

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Like the Congress

During the recent debate, discussion, and arguments centered on reforming health care; many citizens have stated that they do not want the government running their health care. Other citizens have commented that if we all had coverage like our Congressional representatives, we would not have to worry because “those people in Congress will look out for number one”.
According to Senator Amy Klobuchar, her health care is provided by a program called Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Do you suppose the government runs this program?
Senator Klobuchar is advocating for a similar option to cover the rest of us. If it is good enough for Congress, it should be good enough for the rest of us. end

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GAMC funding and hospitals

From June 29 to July 6, hospitals around the state hosted roundtable discussions for members of the Minnesota House of Representatives Health Care and Human Services Policy Committee and others. The following is information gleaned from hospitals involved in these discussions.
  1. GAMC population is diverse and has varied abilities to make and keep appointments. The population has varied abilities to enroll in health care coverage, manage chronic conditions and maintain stable housing. Many are Iraq war veterans and suffer from traumatic brain injury.
  2. Minnesota Care is an option for some, but not all GAMC. Some lack medical records, some are transient, some lack transportation.
  3. Loss of GAMC funding can mean layoffs at hospitals - many of which are the largest employers in their communities.

One comment at these discussions was: "people need to realize that the line-item veto isn't creating a crack in the system, but a gulf."

What are the possible solutions?

  1. Insurance first. An alternative insurance model could redesign the benefit set and also should include benefits such as prevention.
  2. Health Care Homes: a situation that could tie medical services and housing together
  3. Integrated care: links hospitals and on-site clinics. This can be used to divert patients from emergency rooms.
  4. Better prevention and discharge planning
  5. Primary care workforce development.
  6. Stab;e. consistent funding to programs serving these populations.
  7. Administrative simplification


Sunday, August 02, 2009


Because I am a local official, I have been notified that the H1N1 flu virus has now formally been labeled a “global pandemic”. As a result an international conference will be held in Washington D.C. August 19-20. The conference will bring together world leaders in public health, business, science, first response, and non-profits. The purpose will be to focus on a response to a pandemic and prepare for a second wave of H1N1 virus this fall.
This is all well and good. The problem is they are labeling the conference the International Swine Flu Conference. My response to the Project Manager of the conference, Ms. Virginia Blanco is as follows.
I am in receipt of your communication of July 30 regarding the International H1N1 Flu Conference. In case you do not recognize the title I am using, please forgive me. However, this is the title YOU SHOULD BE USING. Swine have little to do with this influenza outbreak. The miss labeling of this influenza is causing untold damage to the hog industry of America. America's pork producers are in a world of hurt because of the economic downturn in the hog cycle. Then when our leaders, the officials at CDC, and the media continue to mislabel this influenza - it hurts us even more.

The Public Health officials and our state leaders in Minnesota have recognized this mistake. Our media have made a correction and are using the H1N1 label. The national media, Washington DC leaders, and Centers for Disease control have not recognized this error and they continue to do us harm.

I wish for you a very successful H1N1 Flu Conference. America's hog farmers will measure the success of it - by determining if an outcome will be the end of using the term "swine" when you are referring to the H1N1 virus.

Judy D. Hanson, Nicollet County Commissioner and pork producer end.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

FOOD SAFETY at Schools

The Brown/Nicollet Environmental Health board met recently and Director Karen Swenson informed the board of new rules concerning food concession stands. Brown/Nicollet Environmental Health Agency operates as a delegated authority from the Minnesota Department of Public Health. The agency covers both Brown and Nicollet Counties and contracts to provide inspection services to Cottonwood and Watonwan counties.
New rules from the State Department of Health require all school concession stands to be licensed and inspected. The schools have received notification and either state or local food inspectors will be making contacts soon to make sure the schools are in compliance and that all food served is safe for public consumption.
School cafeterias are already licensed and inspected and schools will be able to license the concession stands as an “additional food service” to the school’s main kitchen. Doing this will make the school responsible for assuring that compliance is met and will give the school more direct control over the activities of the stands.
A second option is that each stand would have a separate license. This would mean that each booster group or club that may be operating a concession stand would apply for and maintain licensure as required. The type of licensure required would vary depending on the menu and operational information.
Under either option no home prepared or stored food can be offered to the general public at a licensed establishment. While this may seem onerous to schools and booster clubs etc., it will insure that food served is safe. We all like to support the schools and the booster clubs; but the facts show that most food born illnesses result from home prepared foods or foods handled in an improper manner by well meaning but often untrained individuals. end