From the Lefthand Corner: There is good government all around us


There is good government all around us. We are surrounded with good government, no matter how much we complain about it.

I believe that our best present-day governmental units are local, starting at the township level and continuing with our city council and school board levels. We live in the midst of our best examples of government.

Hopefully, this column will stay focused on the good government that surrounds us and one subject matter that is generally agreed to be within the proper role of government, i.e. transportation.

This writer will recognize and freely quote from our own Echo Journal and the nearby Brainerd Dispatch, both welcome exceptions to the present national media practice of reporting. The Echo and Dispatch tend to limit reporting of "facts" to actual facts that the reporters observe. They send live reporters (and editors and even publishers) to area events and don't just rely on phone calls or emails. Thus, they avoid the national pattern of making news, instead of just reporting news.

The Echo and Dispatch also avoid the practice of jumbling together their reported facts and opinions.

This column will focus mostly on recent local, county and state (with federal subsidy) highway projects.

As acknowledged before, the best example of good government that I have known is right here in the middle of Loon Lake Township. It has a long history of its most interested citizens providing public service to their neighbors residing within their 18-square mile area.

In my lifetime, Loon Lake has been a prime example of Democrats and Republicans working together, with very limited money resources, in quiet, civil, unassuming and cooperative fashion to reach compromise decisions, spend responsibly and plan ahead for future township needs.

This township government was built on trust. Partisans and nonpartisans, town board members and constituent neighbors all trusted each other.

In the "old days," three town board members also served as election judges. When the two Democrats and one Republican took their turns going home for supper, each took a ballot for their stay-at-home spouse, then brought it back and put it in the ballot box. That conveniently answered the family problem of the then-standard of single-car families. No one even questioned the quite unorthodox "process."

It did have consequences in our family. In 1948, Mom voted for a Republican, Luther Youngdahl, who was from a long line of Lutheran ministers and who promised to get rid of slot machines, in spite of the fact that Dad was strongly in support of Charley Halsted. A few months later, she fessed up and told him whom she had voted for, and he said, "Then get your own damn ride to vote."

In very recent months, a county highway surface improvement project was started, accomplished and completed with surprising speed. I believe that was due to good governmental action involving the township to some degree, mostly the Cass County Highway Department and Cass County Board in advance planning, financing and performance, in coordination with affected utilities. There was probably also some state aid involved.

An even more recent example of multi-government unit cooperation was finally brought to virtual completion and public grand opening. It exemplified and tested the patience in good government as endured by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The belabored dispute between "through town" folks and "bypass" folks lasted through several city elections and administration upheavals as MnDOT awaited a "final" final local government majority expression.

On Oct. 12, our Echo Journal front page headlined, "All lanes open from Nisswa to Jenkins" in the lead article by Nancy Vogt, editor. "As crews removed the remaining orange and white traffic barricades and barrels Monday, Oct 9, motorists sailed along four lanes of Highway 371 from Nisswa to Jenkins."

"All lanes of the $50 million highway expansion project that's been talked about and debated for years have been open since noon Friday, Oct. 6." "Now it's reality." "The project is all about safety and traffic mobility."

$45 million of the total cost came from the responsible financing and cooperation of state and county under the state-legislated Corridors of Commerce funds authorizing bonding for construction, reconstruction and improvement of trunk highway, according to MnDOT.

The prime contractor and MnDOT worked together in a design-build fashion. That innovative, cooperative effort was successful. This led to the project moving along faster.

Just another good example of the good government all around us.

This was further reported the Brainerd Dispatch in a front page headline, "Highway expansion a big deal in Pequot Lakes, Nisswa and Jenkins."

The opening line was, "If you build it they will come - at least that's the hope."

It was built without a hitch, other than expected, but numerous brief weather interruptions. Work proceeded in close cooperation with affected utilities. The work was performed by skilled and experienced workers. The whole project was completed within budget and "weeks ahead of schedule."

Let's be happy with what we have and complain a lot less.