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, August 30, 2010

Deep Fried in Big "D"

Many of us are attending the big "Minnesota Get Together" also known as the Minnesota State Fair. While we are at the fair we are tempted to try the latest deep fried food to be offered. Meanwhile a few states straight south of us in Dallas, Texas, the Texas State Fair is gearing up for another year of deep fried concoctions. That fair will not start until the last week end of September.

Every year the Big Texas Fair holds a competition to allow a new deep fried food to be sold at the fair. This year they started out with 62 entries and narrowed the field down to eight. The two that make the final cut will be chosen over Labor Day week end. The eight finalists are: deep fried smores pop tart, deep fried margarita, Fernies fried club salad, fried beer T, fried chocolate, fried lemonade, fried Texas caviar, and Tex Frito Pie.

Stay tuned and I will let you know who the winners are. This writer and her fair-going maniac husband will be attending the Texas State Fair on September 26. I will write a report and critique when we get home. end

Friday, August 27, 2010

Governor's Race presents extremes

I have tried to analyze the governor candidates with an open mind. I have done the best that any one person can do, because we all have our biases. We are being served up with two of the most extreme choices (Emmer and Dayton) and an Independent Candidate who falls somewhere in the middle.

Frankly, I was surprised that Emmer got the Republican nomination. It appeared that some of his own party were not happy eithter. Following the convention, a former Republican Minnesota House member stated, "it is hard for rural Minnesota to support Emmer when he is against local government aid, ethanol and jobz.

Recently he has dug himself into a deeper hole by downplaying the importance of high speed internet. For many years, anytime the subject of economic development for rural Minnesota has come up. the availability of reliable high speed internet for ALL of Minnesota has been the number one issue. I just wonder, "what is this guy thinking?" He seems to continuously give us reasons to not vote for him.

I have never been impressed with Mark Dayton. He has so much baggage that he is almost like Emmer in that I can find no good reason to support him. The fact that he has joined a number of wealthy candidates from all over the nation and spent their own money to buy the election is very bothersome. This is another example of how the middle class that has built this country is losing strength.

Tom Horner is increasingly looking like the best candidate. While, I did not vote for Jesse Ventura, I have voted for the Independent candidate a couple of times. Voting for the person who is best for the job, sometimes results in electing the person who is worst for the job. This is disturbing, but the decisions made in the voting booth are hard to explain. So far, Tom Horner is the only candidate that has explained what he will do to balance the budget and how he will do it. This is a plus for him and his campaign. He needs to ramp up his positive plans, explain them in more detail and cool down the negative slams at the other two candidates. He has the stuff that voters need to hear, now he must articulate it in a manner that will compel voters to listen and then act. END


Yes, many good citizens have been calling for less government. According to a recent Charles Osgood piece, citizens in many cities will have exactly that as cities continue to downsize their police departments. One California city has advised their citizens that they are to dial 911 ONLY under defined conditions.

Example. If you arrive at your home and interrupt a burglary, you are advised to call 911 immediately for police response to this on-going crime. This is called an active case and there are police available to deal with it. However, if your home is burglarized or vandalized and when you come upon the premises, the intruders are not there and are long gone, it is your duty to survey the situation and then go on line and fill our your own police report. This is called an inactive or cold case.

What is wrong with this picture? It is discrimination. By placing this policy in place, the assumption is made that all people have internet connections and know how to use them. It is quite likely the people most subject to crimes do not fit this description. They are probably poor or elderly or both. The folks who are able to do their own report are expected to be thorough and accurate. This might open some doors also. The idea of self reporting is encouraging fraud and making false insurance claims. In my mind the biggest issue is that this practice continues to make the divide between the haves and the have nots in this country greater. END

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Listen Up Governor!

Since you are in the last inning of your game with the state of Minnesota and are soon to move on up to the "big show", it is time for you to learn the difference between a fee and a tax. According to Joseph Henchman, tax counsel and director of state projects for the Tax Federation, "taxes are charges to pay for general government services." "Fees defray the cost of a service provided to a particular individual." END

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I read that North Dakota is one of the very few states that is not struggling with a budget deficit. Could one of the reasons be that it is not spending money on roads? A Wall Street Journal article tells about a Stutsman County North Dakota road project where instead of doing an overlay of new asphalt, the county is using a machine to grind the asphalt into bits as they turn the road back to gravel. Instead of progress, the county is going backward because there is no money to do maintenance and repairs on asphalt roads.

There is always another side of these stories and the other side is a question that only the citizens of that county can answer. How much traffic or how many vehicle trips does it take to make a road worthy of spending more to assure a safer and faster means of transportation? How many people live along the road and is it a main artery that carries goods and services to places of industry, rail heads, or even ports? No matter what the answer to the above question, it is good to note that a gravel road is not a "free road". Gravel roads mean more hours of maintenance and use of equipment and man hours to keep them smooth.

Nicollet County has an excellent system of 10-ton asphalt farm to market roads. We must be diligent, in spite of tight budgets, to keep these economic development tools in good repair. end

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cost of Dieing

The Nicollet County Social Services department has budgeted around $20,000 to cover the costs of county paid funerals for the year 2010. So far we have spent around $18,000. This seems to be an increase over previous years. These dollars are spent to lay to rest indigent people who live in Nicollet County. end

We See It Now

Citizens are starting to see the effects of decreased spending on the part of governmental units. Libraries are open fewer hours. In Nicollet County, our government center is open fewer hours. American City and County magazine reports that one Minnesota city public works director could choose just two jobs out of a list of twenty-five that needed to be done. I believe that translates to city streets in disrepair. Local officials are looking at many ways to cut spending. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has created a plan to cap property taxes to an annual 2.5 percent increase in order to force consolidation of the state's 566 municipalities. END.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


I recently heard Jay Kiedrowski, Senior Fellow, Humphrey Institute speak on the economy of Minnesota. He comes with high credentials, not the least of which is being a member of the Minnesota State Budget Trends Study Commission. This group reports to the legislature about the state of the state. His news is sober, his news is simple, our economy-hence our citizens are going to have to come to grips with a "reset". The reasons are many.
  • Many jobs have been lost forever and will never come back.
  • In addition to losing jobs, the state has experienced a drop in the total wages and salaries paid which means less income for the state to use to support state and local programs. (This is the first time this has happened since the 1930's.)
  • In the past, the state has grown by adding more bodies to the work force. In the future out growth will depend on the increase of productivity of each worker.
  • The volatility of the income tax will make long term planning difficult. Revenue growth will not keep up with demands. The tax system needs to be overhauled.
  • A high school education is not enough to support a family and too many of our youth have not completed high school.
  • Folks who are over 65 are making up the larger/soon largest portion of our population.
  • As the over 65 group increases in numbers there are fewer and fewer to take their place in the workforce. And fewer yet who are qualified and are trained.
  • There are fewer people working who must support the needs of people who are not working.
  • The work force will become dependent on immigrants.
  • The housing and foreclosure problems lead to a smaller tax capacity. Local units of government are challenged to deliver the services citizens demand depending on a diminishing property tax base.
  • The population is becoming older and more diverse.
  • The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
  • The middle class (which built America) is suffering.
  • The state government will continue to struggle, even though the price of government has diminished. (The price of government today is 15.5 cents. That means that 15.5 cents of every dollar earned goes for government. In 1991 it was 18 cents out of every dollar.)
  • The United States is the second lowest nation in the world (Korea is lowest) when you look at the percent of gross domestic product used to support government. Denmark is the highest.

Following his presentation, audience members asked Kiedrowski for his suggestions. He indicated that the state must take a balanced approach to deal with this reset. The first thing would be to reverse the state income tax reductions made in 1998. I often recall the good advice shared by our late County Auditor, Bob Bruns. He always talked about the day the bubble will burst and that the county needs to be prepared with a rainy day fund. The county is doing the best we can, however, we all could use lots of sunny days. end