Pioneer Editorial: Bemidji's day in St. Paul a special event
For the second time in 13 months, a group of Bemidji citizens mounted buses to take community issues directly to members of the Legislature in St. Paul. Was the effort worth it?...
For the second time in 13 months, a group of Bemidji citizens mounted buses to take community issues directly to members of the Legislature in St. Paul. Was the effort worth it?
We think it was, in a number of ways.
First, the impetus for the first trip last March was to solicit support for Bemidji's $3 million request for planning and design bonding funds for a regional events center. It seemed to have worked, as the money was granted.
This year's trip, with 90 people on two buses hitting the Capitol and State Office Building halls on Tuesday, also talked up the regional events center, for support in extending the city's half-cent sales tax to pay for a large portion of events center construction costs. That, too, appears successful as both DFL and Republican leaders in the House and Senate said Tuesday and at a special breakfast Wednesday that the measure would pass.
But more than that, the community went to St. Paul this year with a thoughtful agenda, charting out ways to help the local economy through forestry measures, aiding local health care providers with reimbursement relief, building stronger communities with better housing, strengthening state and tribal relations in the provision of social services, and in provisions to help K-12 and higher education in Bemidji.
Many of the issues, if supported by legis-lators, will not only help Bemidji but also other communities with similar problems in education, health care and forestry.
While the Bemidji Day at the Capitol event provides a forum to lobby for issues that affect this community, there are also global benefits. Regardless of the issue, the fact that citizens from Bemidji have traveled that far to spend 15 minutes with a legislator from southern Minnesota, or urban Minneapolis, means a lot in having those legislators remember Bemidji when issues arise that affect northern Minnesota. It is a face-to-face contact that shows to these legislators that the community at large involving average citizens is interested in their work for the betterment of Minnesota, and not just one of a cast of thousands of lobbyists whose special interests frame their meetings with legislators.
An added touch appears to be the red-and-black plaid sweaters which now, in their second year, have become a signature mark for a Bemidji delegation that may not number as many as Duluth or Rochester, but will linger on legislators' minds long after Bemidjians return to Paul Bunyanland.
It also presents a Civics 101 opportunity, as a host of Bemidjians representing all ages, starting with students, and from business, government and non-profits, actively practice participatory government and build camaraderie for our community.
"My hats off to you, for taking the time to be here and to really build on this tradition," House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, told the Bemidji delegation Tuesday. "There's nothing like a personal visit to a legislator, face to face, to really connect these issues."
While only in its second year, it does appear that a tradition is in the making.