My Point of View: Let’s keep the area moving forward in the next session

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

First, I want to say what a great DFL candidate Mary Hinnenkamp was for Minnesota House 23A. She knocked on 17,000 doors, wore out three pairs of shoes and sustained a level of enthusiasm that few could eclipse. She is so smart, quick-witted and compassionate, and it was a joy to volunteer for her campaign.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

I also gained a new appreciation for how much Mary contributed to this community with her previous work in education, particularly at the Area Learning Center. She helped hundreds of students earn their high school diplomas when they were at risk of dropping out, and a higher percentage of them stayed in Albert Lea compared to our school’s graduates overall. Mary was buoyed again and again by positive encounters with former students as she was out door knocking. Albert Lea has a more educated workforce today because of Mary’s tenacity as an educator. 

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We didn’t get the outcome we hoped for in Mary’s race, but I hope the people who voted for her are as proud of her effort as I am. 

Overall, the DFL held all statewide seats, kept control of the state House, and gained control of the state Senate. Despite still being represented locally by Republicans in the Legislature, this puts Albert Lea in a better position to obtain funding for major projects like the new wastewater treatment plant, lake dredging and bike trails. Democrats will use their majorities to make wise long-term investments with the budget surplus.

State funding for the wastewater treatment plant would help keep our local property taxes lower, and funding for the dredging and trails would improve our healthy recreation opportunities and attract more tourism. Let’s make the most of this opportunity. If you support these major items, please contact Rep. Peggy Bennett and Sen. Gene Dornink to let them know you want them to pursue this funding.

Geographically, the state may be more divided than ever between rural and urban voters, and that’s concerning. The suburbs and cities like Rochester are turning bluer. The least populated parts of the state are turning redder as they simultaneously recede as a percentage of the state’s overall population. 

Republicans haven’t won a single statewide election since Tim Pawlenty won the governor’s race in 2006. Sixteen years is a long drought. Failing to expand their appeal beyond a shrinking base will continue to yield diminishing returns, even if Republicans maintain the advantage they’ve gained in rural legislative districts like ours.

Democrats on the ground here will keep working for issues like public education funding, rural broadband access, roads and bridges, affordable health care, affordable daycare, paid sick leave, fair wages, nursing home funding, women’s reproductive rights, renewable energy and affordable housing. These are all things that will help families and will revitalize and grow our economy. 

Our state needs both urban and rural economies, and our entire state is better off when all parts of it are healthy and thriving. We are diversifying, we are changing and we will be better off if we work together to solve our problems that affect us all. If we are scared of change and hunker down and try to insulate ourselves in a bubble where time stands still, we will get left further and further behind. 

Albert Lea has gone through a lot of hard hits already this century — the Farmstead fire, the mortgage crisis, Mayo closing the hospital, COVID, numerous corporate headquarters pulling the plug on local medium-sized manufacturers and retailers — but this postcard-pretty city is tough as nails and keeps getting back up. Let’s keep moving forward, too.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.