Collateral damage of a state shutdown (5×8 – 7/8/11)

Could the shutdown last into January, why are we so fat, where to draw the line on presidential letters, Field of Dreams 2, and there’s something about band directors.


One reason there may not be a bigger outcry against the current state shutdown is its immediate impact has mostly affected people in the margins, people who have been ignored even in the best of times. It may still affect Main Street in big ways, but it’s only been a week and these things tend to creep along.

Close a state park and ruin a July 4th weekend, and there’s a good chance people will have something to say about it. But there’s only one July 4th weekend and after it passes, and people generally survive, people move on. Yesterday’s big news was an open-air concert in Minneapolis would be cancelled because of the shutdown. Annoying, disappointing, but hardly life and death.

People in need of mental health treatment have been generally ignored even in the best of times. Madeleine Baran reports that Bridge House, a crisis facility in Duluth, has closed even though a judge ordered the state to spend money on state programs for the mentally ill, but this one apparently didn’t qualify for reasons that nobody is giving.

“Being routed to a state agency by an automated machine might be enough to put (some people) over the edge,” a woman with a traumatic brain injury said. “I mean it’s possible people could die because of this, and I think it’s very serious.”

Another group that’s already bearing a noticeable burden: prisoners.

We heard from a state worker in the Department of Corrections yesterday about the impact of the shutdown: “No visiting, no library, no closed-circuit movies, severely reduced religious services, outside recreation only (no gym),etc.” But who expects sympathy for prisoners? Still, cooped-up prisoners is a bad thing for people who work in prisons, too.

Of course, it would be easy to blame one side or the other for this collateral damage, but the reality is that even if both sides got exactly what they wanted today, many of them would still be hurt because both sides in this mess are proposing cutting services, and they’re not saying — yet — what that will look like for the people who need them.

After the shutdown is over, we may get around to asking what is to happen to them in the new reality of Minnesota and its unsustainable — under the current system — spending. It’s more than an economic and political discussion. It’s also a discussion on what — if any — is the impact of not immediately caring what the answer is.

Meanwhile, reader Doreen Clark, who wrote a letter “firing” the state of Minnesota a week ago, has written the great state another letter:

Dear “State Leaders,”

Last week, before the shut-down, I fired you. I had asked you to “play nice on the playground, do the job you were hired to do and apologize to the state of Minnesota for having to listen to your childish squabbles at our expense” – yet, I still see the aftermath of your mess and I am currently thinking about possibilities for your replacement.

I am frustrated by your disregard for our state, for your lack of interest in our workers and their family and I am sick and tired of the utter immaturity you have shown during this time. I feel sorry for those that voted for you. You pretend like you understand us and even worse yet, you pretend like you are us. I am sure your replacement will be coming.

Today, in the midst of this shut-down, I see your true colors. You must believe that you are superior – you are not. You created this situation and the people of Minnesota should not have to clean up your mess or pay for your mess. Your replacement will be coming.

Do you think about the workers that are afraid? Afraid of how long you will continue this childish behavior, how long they will have to shuffle their budget to pay their bills and the fear that they feel when they go to sleep at night? Have you no compassion for the people of this state? I am sure you will be replaced.

There is no political speech that will make me believe that this is about the budget. It is Minnesota Chess – What I now call “Mess.” The game needs to be over, as I do not want to be your political pawn. Your actions are leaving a negative footprint on this state that will be hard to forget – but I will move on.

You have failed at your job, leaving Minnesotans to wait and wonder… Even the basics have not been met, things that we all have to do every day: good work ethic, determination, perseverance and playing nicely with others. You missed the mark on these things – I am sure your replacement will not.

You already left us when we needed you. So, just keep walking…. I hope your replacement will be here soon.

In the letters section of the Star Tribune today, Sean Novack of Coon Rapids writes his own letter to Minnesota:

Some of you seem to have a hard time understanding what is going on with the government shutdown. You see, it is the job of a representative to vote according to the desires of the majority of those who put him or her in office. That’s the point of a representative democracy, or “republic,” as it is properly known.

Here in District 49, we had a senator who was not voting the way we were asking her to, and because of this she did not receive the primary nomination. We nominated a new candidate with a specific mandate (do not raise taxes, stop the spending). She won the election, and she is doing precisely what we have asked.

Many other districts did exactly the same thing we did, and their representatives are also doing what they were told to do by their constituents. Because we have a governor who is determined to raise taxes, they cannot come to an agreement.

How long will this last?

“If it (the shutdown) goes another two weeks it will be tough,” Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker tells the Brainerd Dispatch. “If it goes to State Fair time, I see it going to January.”

It seems entirely possible that the shutdown will extend into fair season. If services to the mentally ill and the treatment of prisoners isn’t enough to get people stirred up, the inability to buy a corn dog may be.


It’s official. Again. Wisconsin is more obese than Minnesota. Yesterday, the Trust for America’s Health released its 8th annual assessment of obesity in the country. Minnesota ranked 38th. Wisconsin ranked 25th. That’s a fairly wide — no pun intended, really — disparity between two states so geographically close, and culturally similar.

But Minnesota is getting fatter, too. The report found the state’s combined obesity and overweight rate is 63 percent. Fifteen years ago, the rate was 50 percent. It’s diabetes rate has risen from 4.5 percent in 1995 to 6.3 percent today.

Wisconsin’s combined rate is 64 percent.

How bad is it getting. Today, the state with the lowest adult obesity rate — Colorado — would have had the highest rate in 1995. Mississippi is the most obese state now.

Here’s the full report.