St. Cloud Times. October 1, 2021.
Editorial: Find a way to support what matters
The news came Friday that three Central Minnesota arts organizations will be requiring audiences to not only mask up, but prove their vaccination status or provide a recent negative COVID-19 test (within 72 hours of the event).
Certainly, many patrons of the Paramount Center for the Arts, the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University Fine Arts Series and the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra will welcome the move as a gesture of care for the people who support their programs by buying tickets.
Other patrons, to be sure, will not welcome it. Some will stand on their conviction that such requirements infringe on their freedoms. Other would-be members of the audience will just decide it’s a hassle they can’t be bothered by — they’ll go back when things are “normal.”
We encourage those in the latter group to think again. Arts organizations, entertainment businesses, concert venues and all of those amenities that are vital to our quality of life but optional during a lockdown need us right now. Or they might not be there when things get “back to normal.”
They were among the entities that, like bars and restaurants, lost an entire season of revenue and support. Now that they are reopened, even with restrictions, the shows must go on if they are to remain fixtures on the Central Minnesota scene for the future.
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Please consider taking the extra steps requested by these local arts organizations as well as any made by the orchards, Christmas tree farms, zoos, breweries, bars, restaurants, gyms and studios we all enjoy.
Please consider putting on the mask or getting tested or vaccinated so you can see a show, go out for dinner and a movie, hear the concert, take the kids to the pumpkin patch.
The hard-core deniers will not comply and thus can’t help support these local treasures right now. The true believers already have taken the necessary steps. So it’s the people in the middle of this debate who need to hear this call: Get the shot, or get the tests, and then get back out there, mask in place when recommended by the business or venue and with a healthy distance from one another.
A hassle? Maybe. But worth it so that the lifeblood of these organizations — your financial support — can continue to flow.
Which bring us to one more option for people who won’t be vaccinated, tested or masked but who want to support small businesses and civic and arts groups: donations in lieu of your ticket purchases or the spending you would do in “normal” times probably wouldn’t be unwelcome.
That strategy keeps your convictions in place, respects the organization’s efforts to support safety, and keeps them around for all of us when things go “back to normal.”
Mankato Free Press. October 6, 2021.
Editorial: Indigenous People’s Day educates
Mankato area residents have an opportunity to learn about the area’s rich Native American culture and history with several events that will celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.
This year’s theme is particularly relevant today: “Belonging together: Our place in the world and our environment.” With natural disasters and severe weather events, to the growing culture wars, the topic seems useful for beginning a discussion of how we can coexist. Part of that comes from understanding. And understanding comes from education.
The celebration will host numerous showings (the first on Thursday) of “Dakota 38,” a documentary about the hanging of Dakota men at the culmination of the U.S.-Dakota War. It is told through the eyes of Jim Miller, a Native American and Vietnam veteran, who in 2005, awoke from a dream about 38 of his ancestors who were hung.
Miller knew nothing about the actual events of 1862 when he had his dream. Four year later he organized a 330-mile ride by horseback of Native Americans from South Dakota to the hanging site in Mankato on Dec. 26, an event that still endures today.
The Indigenous Day event also includes music and entertainment by Bluedog Band, a Native blues band, at the Mankato Hub Food Park on Friday, and concludes on Monday with a panel discussion featuring Minnesota State University professor Gwen Westerman, the first Native American woman named the state’s poet laureate.
The Mankato City Council in 2018 designated the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day, following Minneapolis, St. Paul, Red Wing and Two Harbors in Minnesota and other cities nationally. It was approved to replace Columbus Day.
While Mankato’s Native American history began in a dark chapter in 1862, the reconciliation that has taken place, starting in the 1970s, has given birth to one of the largest Native American powwows in the country.
Indigenous People’s Day has become a significant occasion for reckoning the past and present and offers positive paths forward with opportunities for all to be educated and come together to understand our history and what it means to us going forward.
We urge all to attend the Indigenous People’s Day events and think about what it means to “belong together.”
A full list of Indigenous People’s Day events can be found at www.facebook.com/IPDMankato.
Minneapolis Star Tribune. October 2, 2021.
Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ on ‘strong mayor’ question
City Question 1 offers Minneapolis a chance to fix broken City Hall structure.
Minneapolis’ peculiar form of weak mayor/strong City Council governance is not found in other cities in Minnesota. In fact, it cannot be found in any comparable city anywhere in the country.
There is good reason for that. It doesn’t work — at least not well. And this year, voters have an opportunity to fix a broken City Hall.
For nearly a century, Minneapolis has lurched along under an antiquated system of government by committee that actually dates back to the late 1800s, codified into a city charter in 1920. Under it, lines of authority are blurred and the mayor and council members can wind up competing with one another on day-to-day operations.
That has been true for years now, but the stress test of the last year and a half has exposed the real failings of this archaic system. Sharon Sayles Belton, a former council president and the city’s first Black and female mayor, knows the workings of this city as well as anyone and better than most.
“Right now you have dysfunction,” she told an editorial writer. “Citizens are looking for clarity.” Sayles Belton added that “we’ve seen council members treat department heads and staff as if they have individual domain over them. When they didn’t go along, their jobs were threatened for not responding to individual requests.” The result, she said, has been an unprecedented string of departures by department heads and even interims in a city once known for the stability of its staff.
The Charter Commission, in investigating city structure, found that the current form “is not recognized as a model or best practice. It is not taught in schools of public policy ... it is not found in any other city in Minnesota nor in any comparable city in the nation.”
Explicit prohibitions against legislative (council) interference in administrative operations are built into Minnesota’s other first-class cities: St. Paul, Duluth and Rochester. The National Civic League, in developing a model city charter, features such a prohibition as a “core principle.”
This is one of those slightly wonky, good government proposals that has no clear constituency. But it also is a foundational principle that fosters clearer, more effective governance.
At its heart, the change being requested in City Question 1 is simple: Give the mayor clear authority over day-to-day operations of the city’s departments. The council would retain the power of the purse —which is formidable — and would develop policy and deliver constituent services in their wards. But, and this is crucial, council members would be prohibited from “publicly or privately, directly or indirectly” attempting to direct or supervise city employees.
Jay Kiedrowski, a former Minneapolis budget director and former state finance commissioner, noted in a Star Tribune Opinion commentary that during 2020′s civil unrest, some council members gave direct orders to police and, as others have noted, said council members “routinely give orders to department heads and staff that conflict with city policy.” That kind of disorder is unacceptable.
The amendment adds another important safeguard: creation of an independent auditor’s office by the council that could investigate waste and abuse, assess risk and monitor compliance across city departments. Such oversight would provide a checks and balances approach that has been missing from city government.
These are sensible changes that would move the city forward. They are not, as some opponents have suggested, a power grab. The ballot question was proposed by the Charter Commission after thorough research. It is, quite simply, the way most larger cities govern themselves, and a change that has been advocated for decades — including by the Star Tribune Editorial Board.
Should this proposal fail and a separate ballot question that would expand the “14 bosses” approach to public safety pass, an unhealthy amount of power would be concentrated in the hands of the council. The mayor would be reduced to a virtual figurehead.
Peter Hutchinson started in the mayor’s office in 1975, served as deputy mayor and went on to serve as state finance commissioner, superintendent of Minneapolis schools and now is a national management consultant specializing in the public sector. And he is is supporting the ballot question. “Every big city in America has a chief executive and a city council that functions as a legislative body — except Minneapolis,” he told an editorial writer.
Hutchinson, Sayles Belton and scores of others have come together in “Charter for Change,” an organization promoting City Question 1. “As we all talk to voters,” Hutchinson said, “the one thing that comes through loud and clear is that people can’t believe this is actually how things are run. There is a persistent chaos here. When you make it impossible for, say, the public works director to do what’s right because they’re trying to meet the expectations of an individual council member, you have really undermined the power of the city to be effective.”
Kathy O’Brien, a former City Council member, city coordinator and a former vice president at the University of Minnesota, also supports the measure. “Everything takes longer, is more costly under the current system,” she told an editorial writer. “Sometimes, nothing happens.”
Sayles Belton noted that the mayor is the only official who runs citywide, elected by and answerable to all Minneapolis voters. “That is the person who must develop a vision that reflects all the different parts of the city,” she said.
Minneapolis needs to join the rest of the nation with a more modern, effective form of government that provides clear lines of responsibility and authority.
“Maybe after a hundred years,” Sayles Belton said, “we can finally get this right.”
CITY QUESTION 1
Government Structure: Executive Mayor – Legislative Council
Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to adopt a change in its form of government to an Executive Mayor-Legislative Council structure to shift certain powers to the Mayor, consolidating administrative authority over all operating departments under the Mayor, and eliminating the Executive Committee?
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