Forced to Choose, writ nationally

MPR News spent several months last fall exploring the dilemma many Minnesota communities face over their budgets, a project we called Forced to Choose.

Confronted with a tougher economy, less state aid and other forces, many cities, counties and school districts are having to decide between curtailing services and raising taxes. SOME ARE DOING both. In several places the conversation revolved around how much public safety a community could afford; elsewhere it was street improvements or library hours. Or all of the above and more.

Obviously, this isn’t unique to Minnesota. This weekend, the syndicated show This American Life is taking a crack at the subject nationally with a program called “What Kind of Country.”

Here’s how the show is promoting it on its website:

All across the country right now, local and state governments are finding they can’t pay their bills. Schools are losing teachers, street lights are going dark, garbage is piling up in public parks, and cops are suddenly an optional expense.

Colorado Springs has become something of a poster child for the topic and apparently will be part of the show. So will tiny Nowthen in Anoka County, where, as reporter Curtis Gilbert chronicled, residents talked long and hard about how much to pay for police protection.

Tune in on MPR News stations at 1 p.m. Saturday or at 10 p.m. Sunday.

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