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, May 30, 2011

This is Leadership

Recently we had the pleasure of watching our youngest daughter receive her Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota. Former Vice President Walter Mondale was the speaker and he departed from the usual format for commencement speeches. In addition to the pat messages on changing the world etc. he took this opportunity to make an apology to the 230 plus graduates. He apologized for his generation and the generation of most of the parents for not doing enough to make our world a better place.

His first apology was for the country's financial mess left to these young people.

His second apology was for not doing enough in the area of climate change.

While some graduates felt this was a 'downer' which is certainly was; I feel that Mondale showed real leadership. Instead of ignoring the issue or blaming unknown obstacles for these problems, he took responsibility for what might be called failures of today's leaders. end

Saturday, May 28, 2011

They Aren't Candidates Anymore!

In regard to the current stalemate in our state government, one statement keeps coming from the Republican majority. "We are doing what the people who elected us want us to do." This is the crux of the problem. The newly elected Republicans are still thinking like candidates and have not made the transition to being elected officials.

When you are a candidate, you are very concerned with pleasing the voters and doing what they want; because you want their vote. After you get elected, your charge is to do what is good for everyone. Allegiance to certain groups and special interests must be balanced with doing what is good for every citizen. Rich, poor, young, old, working, retired, unemployed, disadvantaged-all of these citizens deserve fair treatment in your actions. An elected person must make decisions that favor all citizens of the state, not just those who elected him/her. Once elected you are a STATE representative or a STATE senator and must consider the whole state, not just your district.

Once you are elected you must take off your candidate hat and put on your governing hat. Candidates are concerned about their districts, but when you govern, you must consider your district in conjunction with all citizens of the state. end

Friday, May 20, 2011

Steve Said It

This morning former Speaker of the House Steve Swiggum and former Senate Majority Leader, Roger Moe discussed the Minnesota Legislative stalemate and what is happening in St. Paul.

In my mind Steve Swiggum hit the nail on the head. He talked about the freshman legislators and how they are committed to their campaign promises. He said (and I paraphrase), "these new legislators were elected and are serving in office. Unlike me who said one thing and then changed my mind, they remain committed to what they campaigned on."

There are a couple of ways this statement can be taken. On one hand, it is refreshing to hear about people who will actually carry through on promises. On the other hand, good government and good policy will never happen this way. Much of the impasse at the capital is because these new people do not know the process or want to change the process. There is a skill to governing and it has worked very well in this state. Many of the veteran legislators who know how to govern are gone. Changes probably need to be made, but productive changes will be slow, incremental changes.

The other points made were that the newly elected, including Governor Dayton, seem to feel they have been given a mandate by the voters. In fact many of these people are in office by slim margins. As a result, they need to look at those who did not vote for them as they make decisions and not assume that all people in their districts are of their party's mindset. end

Future funny story

The Norwegian farmers who toil on the Hanson farm got finished planting corn early this morning. (Perhaps one of the later finish dates in the modern era. More on that another time.) To make a long story short, the bachelor farmer who lives in the second house on the farm got locked out of his house and it was 2:30 am.

Wise folks always have a plan in place to cover these kinds of situations. Our plan is two sets of keys for locks and (of course) the stand by set of keys is always kept in an off site location. When senior citizens are routed out of bed at 2:30 am. the old gray matter takes awhile to get in gear.

"Okay, what is the plan? Clear the cobwebs and recall the off site location! Get dressed, get the flashlights, search high and low. Bingo! Found the keys! Oh no, remember we did have to change the lock! Oh no, the key is for former lock! Go back, look again. Look in every possible place! Bingo! we find the key. All is well - except getting back to sleep."

Lying in bed, trying to get back to sleep at 3 am. I thank God in his infinite wisdom that he made women unable to have babies at my age. He really knew what he was doing!

Not a total loss. I got another chapter finished in Carl Sandberg's biography of Abraham Lincoln. P.S. Right now, there is some talk about what it takes to be President and who is qualified and who is not. There is no argument that Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents. His qualifications? He was an attorney and he served in Illinois legislature, and two years in U.S. House of Representative before being elected President. end

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Are they Chickens?

One regional newspaper accused the Republican majorities who are running the Minnesota House and Senate of being chicken. The supposedly cowardly act being discussed was the number of DECISIONS that the legislators will not, cannot, or are fearful of DECIDING on their own. So a nice alternative is to pass a law that will put the question in the form of an amendment to the state Constitution and the ultimate DECISION would be made by voters at the next general election. This action would be in lieu of discussing, taking testimony, debating on issues- the DECISION is being pushed on to those who vote at the next general election. (Nov. 2012). Then the people will make the DECISION and it will be forever in stone in the Constitution of the State of Minnesota.

Are they being chicken? I would suggest that they are misguided and not understanding how our country is supposed to run. We are a Republic, we are not a Democracy. In a republican form of government, we elect people to make decisions in our stead. A democracy would mean that all citizens vote on every decision. This would make for a very long ballot and elections every three months or so. It would be costly, inefficient, and certainly would not be the "getter done" American way.

When our elected representatives don't have the guts to do what we elected them to do, they usurp their duties and pass the tough decisions on to someone else. This is dereliction of duty and a very poor way to govern. If these issues ie. gay marriage, voter i.d., super majority to pass budget bills, etc. are of high importance; they certainly deserve the advantages of public discussion, testimony in hearings, votes up or down in both House and Senate and perusal by the Governor.

Putting the importance of the issues aside, of more importance is our Constitution which is the bases of how our state operates. It should not be amended willy nilly each time some thorny issue comes before our elected leaders. And I would hope that our elected people have a higher moral and ethical ground for these actions other than garnering their base to "get out and vote" at the next election. END