Editorial: Greater Minn. leads the way

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, December 27, 2011


There’s a movement afoot in Minnesota to redesign government services to be less costly, more efficient and more collaborative.

All such efforts should be put on the fast track. Taxpayers will benefit.

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One might be surprised to find out redesign has been happening with rural Minnesota governments for some time. Traverse County along Minnesota’s western border has been sharing services with neighboring counties and governments for years, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio.

Traverse County has been sharing staff and information services, a public health director, probation services and veterans services. The county gets together with others to get better prices on bulk purchases of boots and road salt. Officials there almost chuckle at the redesign movement at the state Capitol, saying they’ve been working together in some cases since the 1960s.

That shows this doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Various associations, nonprofit groups and private foundations have been sponsoring forums across the state in the last year to engage citizens in redesign ideas. Legislative leaders from both parties have championed an effort at encouraging redesign.

Rep. Carol McFarlane, R-White Bear Lake, and Rep. Diane Loeffler, D-Minneapolis, have authored a bill called the MAGIC act that is designed to remove barriers to change in government and authorize pilot programs to see how change can work.

And the Minnesota House of Representatives Government Services Committee recently heard a report on the ideas generated across the state for redesign.

In Beltrami County, the focus has turned away from just running departments like social services, but by trying to fashion programs that produce broader-based outcomes. They’ve asked the state for certain exemptions to state mandates, and in some cases, have been able to get those exemptions to help reduce long-term costs.

There appear to be several examples, pilot programs and models for some redesign right now. The Legislature needs to figure out ways to encourage more counties and cities to adopt new ways of doing business. Financial incentives may be needed.

Because many county and government structures have been in place for long periods of time, there will surely be resistance to change. But with precarious state funding for almost any program, now would be a good time to do things differently.

— Mankato Free Press, Dec. 18

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