Gary DeCramer on the role of government in Minnesota


Where do ordinary citizens feel most comfortable
in engaging in the work that truly affects their lives? The more you expand into larger
and larger entities, the more I think people lose that sense of belonging to the process.
Now, boy, on the other side, there’s a crying need for greater integration of the efforts
across those entities. But, I think the expectation that we might do away with some of these entities
such as counties joining together, where we only have one county, I don’t think that’s
going to happen. I don’t think there’s a tsunami of cooperation coming. I used to have a map on the wall in my office
in the Senate that had the watershed districts of Minnesota, and I loved the colors of it
and I loved thinking about this incredible diversity that we have. And it led me, in
fact, to authoring legislation that forced together some of the entities that dealt with
the water and soil resources of this state. It’s now called Board of Water and Soil Resources
(BOWSR). That was a bloody fight; I think it’s possible. Those entities still remained
as having their own autonomy, but what we did was to get them all together at the table
because they’d been fighting against each other for the same resources. I don’t think we’re going to see a realignment
of political boundaries around watershed districts. I think there could be more alignment, but
I don’t think there’s going to be a realignment of governing. You’d have to reverse decades,
centuries, of the way people have done business. I think it’s smarter to try and get efficiencies
out of what you’ve got. You’re seeing it now with ND and MN with impending
floods–here we go. We’ve really got to speed up this work together to figure out what’s
contributing to this besides the amount of precipitation. Because a lot of it could’ve
been prevented by having retaining wetlands, having structures in place that would slow
down the rapid flow of water. Because everyone wants to get the water off the land, so they
can farm it, as quick as possible. But, we’re seeing the consequences of that. And there
needs to be some kind of compensation
from those who would benefit to those who are going to suffer, because if we start holding
more water back, someone’s going to be hurting. So, that kind of governing can, I think, come
about, and it will, but too often it’s because we just can’t bear the price of these gigantic
floods that we’re seeing. Rural Minnesota after this next reapportionment
of legislative districts is going to lose even more representation and those rural legislators
by and large come from a caucus that doesn’t really believe in raising revenues, and so
you’re going to have that conflict of diminishing revenues and the fight over what’s left, and
then the voices of those people in the metro area saying, “We don’t have enough here. What
are we doing subsidizing those folks?” I think, so that, that’s on the horizon as a real
challenge. The budget, for all of us–the amount of financial
resources that are available–I think that’s what’s going to trigger more and more cooperation.
If people want the service, they’re going to have to work with each other and find efficiencies. Leadership ought not to have to just come
from the top; it’s got to come from us.

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