St. Paul gang slow learners

/ 24 April 2012 / jennifer

Fargo-Moorhead InForum Editorial, April 24, 2012 –

When it comes to North Dakota, too many Minnesotans – especially those in elected and appointed state offices – have their noses quite high in the air.

Minnesota state Rep. Matt Dean has apologized – sort of – for his unkind remarks about the unique architecture of the North Dakota state Capitol building in Bismarck. Apology accepted, but the attitude was out of the bag.

During a debate about funding repairs for Minnesota’s crumbling Capitol building, Dean said the Bismarck building was “embarrassing.” He likened its style to a dull insurance building. Within hours he was issuing an apology that included this non-apology: “I’m sure it’s a very nice building … I would love the opportunity to tour it and admit that I am wrong.”(emphasis added)

Well, no surprise. When it comes to North Dakota, too many Minnesotans – especially those in elected and appointed state offices – have their noses quite high in the air. Dean’s remarks might be mildly insulting to North Dakotans, but among many Minnesotans they would bring snide snickering and snooty nods of approval. There is nothing new in that view from St. Paul.

Still, give ’em a break. It’s been especially difficult for Minnesota lawmakers in the last few years, as the state budget drowned in red ink while their neighbors west of the Red River were piling up budget surpluses of historic proportions. And more indications of Minnesota legislative failures:

• The good folks in St. Paul can’t seem to find a way to accommodate the state’s most visible, most important sports team, the NFL Vikings.

• Legislators and the governor have relied on the fast shuffle to balance the budget, mostly on the backs of local governments and schools.

• Minnesotans like to crow about how “green” their state is, but they are curiously reluctant to concede much of their economic success depends on cheap electricity from North Dakota coal-fired generating plants.

• The state is justifiably proud of its state parks, but fees are up, maintenance is down and hours have been reduced. How’s that for taking care of parklands?

The Capitol tiff is a microcosm of the dysfunction that has plagued Minnesota government for at least five years. The St. Paul Capitol is a marvelous structure of historic significance, despite a crumbling façade, water-stained ceilings and a general shabbiness borne of neglect. It’s been deteriorating for a long time. Yet lawmakers and the governor have been unable to agree on a relatively simple solution: an effective and ongoing maintenance and repair funding program. Now that – not North Dakota’s Capitol architecture – should be embarrassing.



Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.



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