My Point of View: Minnesota must consider rural needs in its decisions
Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022
My Point of View by Joe Pacovsky
Minnesota’s outstate residents have unique challenges compared to metro area residents. These differences require innovative approaches. Rural areas need to be treated as partners and the state must consider our contrasts to urban areas when developing programs and considering policy changes.
Rural residents are dependent on good quality highways to travel long distances. These highways are constructed and maintained by townships, counties and cities and include gravel and paved roads. The state must increase its assistance for rural highway construction and maintenance. The state highways should also be on a robust improvement schedule in rural areas.
Electric vehicles will become dominant nationally quite quickly. Their acceptance locally will depend on vehicle owners being as confident with a fully charged battery as a full tank of gas when stranded in a Minnesota blizzard.
Farmers were the original conservationists. They practiced crop rotation, planted shelter belts and maintained pastures and woodlots. Now they are using minimum tillage, cover crops, and many are adopting organic practices. Their contributions must be recognized by state government.
Former Gov. Dayton’s drainage ditch buffer mandate as originally proposed was ill-conceived. Many of the original ditches were constructed a hundred years ago with horse-pulled implements. The excavated soil was left next to the ditch. The resulting dike made the previous buffer requirement more than adequate for safety and erosion control. There may be isolated instances where the geography would require additional protection for ditch banks. These locations could be studied on an individual basis and be candidates for USDA and other conservation programs that compensate landowners for restrictions and conservation practices on their land. The reduced value of the land due to these restrictions needs to be recognized in some manner.
Rural areas need to maintain access to comprehensive medical services. The metro area has numerous providers and a wide variety of services available in a relatively compact area. The distances and weather uncertainties require that local rural communities have the flexibility to determine needs and provide the necessary medical services for the safety of residents. There are numerous state policies that restrict the flexibility of rural residents and their medical service providers. For example, the state moratorium on ICU beds needs to be repealed. Local assessments and the market will determine the need for beds and other services. The current limits are encouraging the monopolistic abuses they were meant to prevent.
The metro area has a multitude of educational options. Rural areas must have access to appropriate educational facilities. The state needs to provide local educational institutions such as Riverland Community College the resources for local programs that will prepare area students and workers for improved job opportunities.
It is imperative for Minnesota to restore the historic level of local government aids(LGA) and county program aid. The state has reduced aids to local governmental units as an easy way to balance the state budget during lean times, pushing the tough decisions to local officials. This has resulted in our high property taxes. Local officials are in the best position to determine local needs and effectively spend the money as opposed to remote bureaucrats. Increased state aid is the most effective way to improve the quality of our schools, roads and emergency services. Another benefit is reducing the burden of local property taxes which would also enhance economic development.
Incentives for economic development and the related job opportunities are essential to keep rural areas viable. Internet connectivity is necessary for rural economic progress. Whether used for business, educational or recreational purposes, access to the internet is critical for making rural areas appealing places to live and work. State assistance for extending fiber to rural areas is crucial for outstate progress.
If you want to be a part of moving our rural area forward, please participate in the DFL caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 1. Due to the rapid rise in local COVID cases, the county DFL is holding a “contactless” caucus. To find out more information on how to participate, please send an email to email@example.com or call Mary at 377-2853. Caucus “non-attendee” and resolution forms are available at https://www.dfl.org/partydocuments/.
Joe Pacovsky of Hayward is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.