One thing about kicking the can down the road, it’s a public occurrence and it’s noisy. So I’m thinking the Minnesota Legislature is not really kicking the can down any road. That’s a diversionary metaphor constructed to keep our eye on the can and definitely not the true game plan.
Word on the streets is this: one of the reform bills in the legislative hopper creates a Commission to review all state programs to determine if they should continue to exist. This Commission is to be exempt from both the Open Meeting Law and the Data Practices Act.
No attribution at this point so it’s conjecture based on keen observation and long experience. Still, after the closed sessions – and buildings – of the past few days, Minnesotans should be afraid, be very afraid.
The Data Practices Act and Open Meeting Law of the State of Minnesota are models based on and reflective of Minnesotans’ deep held conviction over time that elected officials are representatives of the people – all the people. Laws and regulations are not arbitrary, capricious or whimsical. relics of another time that can be disposed at will by political powers and/or pawns. Laws are laws that apply across the board, even to those who find them onerous and annoying….
Though some lament that the public doesn’t speak up, the reasons are obvious. The public is angry – an intense, deep anger that eats away rather than inciting to action. The public is weary – literally. Working 2-3 jobs, bearing the brunt of increased productivity, commuting through insane traffic, lack of control over today, much less tomorrow, worry about kids not getting an education, living to old age with no income, losing a house or a car or a job – these things make mere mortals weary. The fact that there is nowhere to turn, makes us feeling powerless – the vacuum invites anger..
The public is also hurt, betrayed by individuals and a system in whom we had put our trust – not just elected officials but the press, education, the over-reaching conquest of big business. Hurt leads to anger. Repressed anger breeds lethargy. We grasp at ways to escape the overwhelmingness of our lack of power. Pain thwarts positive action necessary to alter what seems inexorable.
Anger, hurt, betrayal; loss of hope, weariness, worry – all lead to apathy. Powerlessness and lack of hope render Minnesotans ill-equipped to “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.” Individuals feel like Davids against the impervious Goliath(s). Collaborative efforts crumble as organizations themselves experience the impotence of funding cuts coupled with stony silence from decision makers – fueled by dread fear of political retribution that quells any inclination to advance a controversial position.
The first step is to admit there is a problem. Incontrovertible evidence abounds. Individuals and organizations – nonprofits, advocates, communities of faith, the press, small business, farmers, local officials and a host of others need to admit a shared problem: lack of access to know, much less get involved with, what’s going on.
The next step is to claim the common ground – including a legacy of good government – develop common language, strategies and a united front that serves not special interests but Minnesotans.
Open government is the sine qua non – a manageable and immediate priority. Minnesotans have experienced and assume the open government model; we have laws on the books; transparency transcends borders whether they be based on political party, geography, income, ethnicity, citizen status, gender or creed.
Maybe we should let the short-sighted politicos kick the life out of their little can. The committed will take the higher road – they will not kick but will recycle that can, extract its true worth, reclaim the inherent value in the principle of open government. Kick the Can should go back to being a game played by idle juveniles while the public moves on to behaving like grown-ups with the will and spirit to claim our rights, beginning with the right to know.