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Pioneer Editorial: Capitol trip a two-way experience

On Tuesday a number of Bemidjians embarked to St. Paul by bus to lobby for local issues at the State Capitol. Was the trip worth it? We may never know in terms of tangible evidence, but yes, it was worth it.

About 50 people, clad in Paul Bunyan red and black plaid sweaters or sweater vests, descended upon the Capitol in what is becoming a recognizable day for Bemidji.

Initially begun by the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce to help lobby for bonding for the Bemidji Regional Event Center (now The Sanford Center), the trip has grown in the variety of issues that Bemidji officials want legislators to know about Bemidji.

From state help to put more public forests up for harvest to changing the school transportation formula to helping business growth with a streamlined state permit process, Bemidji Day at the Capitol is a good way to let lawmakers know how we feel.

Oh ya, we want some money, too. We're seeking an unique regional science and technology center that will eventually need $25 million and we want to complete the Paul Bunyan Trail with a bridge overpass over Highway 197. We know this isn't a bonding year, but we want to make lawmakers aware anyway.

This year was also unique in allowing Bemidjians to see how government works, sitting in committee rooms and discussing issues with leaders. And it goes across party lines, as new Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, was able to secure Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, to spend some time with the delegation.

The highlight was some personal time with new Gov. Mark Dayton, a first for the Bemidji Day event. Gov. Dayton was a gracious host, answering all questions and staying for photographs with nearly everyone in the group.

Bemidji Day at the Capitol has become a worthwhile event, awaited with anticipation by lawmakers in St. Paul for the invasion of the plaid and providing an excellent opportunity for people from Bemidji to explore the Capitol and learn first-hand how the sausage is made.