Tuesday, October 02, 2007

When government works - the Twin Cities

It's hard to remember a time when government was good in America. Clinton, whatever his other foibles [1], was a very good president -- but he was saddled for much of his presidency with the Gingrich House. About ten years ago Minnesota had a good (republican!) governor with a decent legislature, but then we got Ventura [2] and Pawlenty, and, for much of that time, a miserable GOP dominated House.

Politics and government in America has been dysfunctional for a surprisingly long time. I've grown accustomed to it.

So it was a bit of a surprise to me today when I noted that we have good local government in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis. In the case of Saint Paul, we dumped a traitorous Bush flunky and brought in a surprise winner who's turned out to be a good mayor.

My enlightenment came when I read a whiny editorial in a community newspaper (The Villager). The details don't matter, the key is that the complaints were so petty. The government is good enough, and rational enough, that they're arguing about issues that reasonable, rational, people can disagree on.

The ice rinks are one example. Inflation (3.5%) and cuts in state funding (Pawlenty!) mean more property taxes and a need to cut budgets. At the same time, it's pretty obvious we're losing our winters in Saint Paul. Outdoor ice just isn't working. The mayor wants to shut about nine outdoor rinks (they're mostly puddles these winters) and open 3 refrigerated rinks. Rational objectors worry about loss of summer fields (refrigerated rinks are fixed structures) or feel we should shut the outdoor rinks but not buy the refrigerated rinks -- which would mean saying good-bye to hockey and skating for most kids. A minority of loons seem to think winter is going to return any day now, which would be nice but is rather unlikely.

There are other small examples. I complained to my city counselor about scary intersection and the city took a serious look at it -- they'll even try to fix a few things. I was worried about a change to a busy street that seemed to promise more traffic, but it's a traffic calming measure.

This is good politics. It can happen, even if it's only at the level of a city ...

[1] Anyone who has what it takes to become President in the modern era is going to be a bit twisted. Clinton was twisted and competent, Bush is twisted and incompetent.
[2] Ventura was actually an improvement on the legislature of his day; he vetoed a lot of bad stuff.

Update 10/4/07: There's a great comment on my post about the refrigerated rinks; the commenter tells us those rinks are pretty loud at night. That sounds like something worthy of discussion! Should the rinks have mandatory noise abatement measures? Do the coolers need to run at night (probably not)? What's the experience where they've been put in -- do the neighbors find them as bad as feared? All good discussions -- that's what politics should be about. I can't say if these were discussed in the city council or not, but they should have been.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found out last night that I live across the street from one of the proposed new refrigerated outdoor rinks (it's a done deal, with no notice to neighbors).

The City admits the chiller unit will produce 100 decibels of noise. That's louder than the straight pipes on my bike. That's rock band loud, jackhammer loud.

And they intend to run it in our residential neighborhood "whenever the temperature of the ice rises above freezing level" which means day and night, noise ordinance be damned.

3-bedroom rambler for sale. Near park.

Nate Bissonette
Cottage Avenue