FFM Bulletin 6/23/10

The public library, coming soon to a parking lot near you

The city of Rochester is currently searching to fill “an advanced paraprofessional public service position with major responsibility…for a complex set of tasks, which requires exercise of individual judgment, using skills and knowledge gained through training and experience.”  The job pays up to $55,000 a year, not including benefits, and includes some travel both around the state and nationally.  What's the job?  Bookmobile driver.

If this sounds unusual, that’s only because it is, but it’s not the only one.  Several cities and counties finance public bookmobiles.  In northeast Minnesota, the Arrowhead Library System runs a bookmobile that services four counties with stops spanning an area 13,817 square miles.  St. Paul Public Library provides approximately 40 stops for their bookmobile, many of which are located within easy distance of one of their 13 library locations.  Yet the Hennepin County Library, among the best-funded in the state, discontinued their Children’s Readmobile “in response to the challenging economic environment we are all facing.” With easy access to libraries through convenient locations, public transportation, and other services, Hennepin County would seem to have the right idea in deeming the Bookmobile an unnecessary service. 

Economic development opportunity thwarted

While most local governments are attempting to manage budget woes either through cuts and reduction of services, or by trying the same failed methods of fundraising, some cities and counties are looking for new and alternative ways to increase revenue.  Unfortunately, even when local governments find ways to increase revenue without increasing the burden on taxpayers, the decision can still be taken out of their hands. 

In one recent action, the state decided that it was more important to spend money it doesn’t have than it is to allow local governments to generate money that they need.  Earlier this month in Otter Tail County, the Department of Natural Resources recently purchased a 200 acre parcel of land on Dead Lake, effectively ending plans that have been in place for eight years for the Blue Heron development community.  The $2.21 million purchases, provided by the publicly-funded Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment and Reinvest in Minnesota, robs Fergus Falls and Otter Tail County of revenue that would have otherwise resulted from a development that would have included 56 single-family residences, 95 duplexes, two outdoor swimming pools, a grocery store, a marina, and a clubhouse.

Given the current economic conditions, perhaps the state should focus on ways to encourage economic development, not prevent it.

Rochester watchdog training reminder

The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota will hold a watchdog training session Tuesday, June 29th in Rochester.  The goal of this session is to train concerned citizens from across the state to become local watchdogs who track local government activities in their own backyard. 

The event will feature instruction and panel discussions on:

  • Legal issues involving the Freedom of Information Act, Minnesota Data Practices Act, and Minnesota Open Meeting Law
  • How to work with traditional and new media
  • How to analyze local government documents and financial data

The Rochester training session will be held at the Clarion Inn (1630 South Broadway) with registration beginning at 5:30 pm and the conference concluding at 9:00 pm. 

Speakers, complete agenda, and directions to the event will be emailed to participants.  Space is limited and is filling up rapidly.  Registration is free and a box dinner is provided.  However, you must register in advance. 

To register for this session, or if you have any questions, please email info@freedomfoundationofminnesota.com or call 612.354.2192.


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