The end of Daniel’s journey (5×8 – 3/11/13)

Minnesota to Key West, why do people keep building in flood zones, more money for Minnesota elected officials, the people who dump their trash wherever they want, and how letters from strangers saved a kid’s life.

First: the Monday Morning Rouser:

1) MINNESOTA TO KEY WEST

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We are all on some sort of journey; some of us make it to where we want to go. Some of us don’t.

Daniel Alvarez, whom I profiled last fall after he’d started his kayak trip from Minnesota’s Northwest Angle — the northernmost point of the lower 48 — all the way to Key West the southernmost point — now falls into the category that made it. He did so over the weekend, about nine months after he started.


I just wanted to let you know that I made it to Key West. I landed on a crowded beach near the supposed “Southernmost Point” and then rolled the kayak over to the monument there. There were tons of people there and even some cheering and I only wish that I could have had everyone who has helped me along the way with me so that they could have gotten all the cheers. It’s the least solo solo trip ever. I was thinking about how many people have helped me along the way and felt truly lucky to have been able to meet so many great people.

You are one of them for sure. Ever since I met you your encouraging emails here or there helped keep my spirits afloat! Thank you so much. I’m not sure what I will do next, but I will let you know for sure. Keep me in the loop when you end up flying that Bob-built plane of yours across the country so I can cheer you on!

His blog, Predictably Lost, was notable (aside from its brilliant writing) for themes that cannot be diminished: the interest others took in his journey, the willingness of strangers to open their doors and hearts, and the grace with which Alvarez faced a daily struggle, often to the point where many would quit.

Oh, and one other theme: the things we’ve done to the treasures we were given.

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(Photo: Associated Press)

Good luck on your own journey today.

Related: Grand Marais couple nears end of 11,700-mile expedition

2) GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD?

From the sound of things, it’s going to be another high-probability flood season in parts of Minnesota. But give some communities in the Red River Valley credit; cities have prevented homeowners from rebuilding where the water is just as likely to threaten to wash things away again.

That’s not the case with Hurricane Sandy, ProPublica and WNYC Radio have teamed up to reveal. Homeowners and businesses are getting millions of dollars to rebuild in flood zones the federal government has said people should no longer build.

“Our mission is to help these homeowners and business become whole again,” said Carol Chastang, an SBA spokeswoman. “We really aren’t in a position to tell people where or where not to rebuild.”

3) MORE PAY FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS?

Minnesota lawmakers, who apparently haven’t had a raise since 1999, have a revenue problem. They make only $31,140 a year but the Compensation Council, a committee of all branches of government, will bump that to $40,890 in 2015 if the plan is approved. That’s still less than the 1999 amount adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars ($42,849, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

“I wish we could have the conversation without it becoming a political football. Inevitably, it does,” House Republican leader Kurt Daudt tells the Associated Press. The governor’s salary would rise to almost $124,000.

Should Minnesota lawmakers, governor, and other top state officials get the raise?

Related: Poll shows majority supports minimum wage increase.

4) TRASHVILLE

Among the many mysteries of life in 2013 is why people still use the great outdoors as their personal dump. It’s not like there aren’t trash barrels scattered around civilization. Why, I’ve even heard that there are companies that will actually come to your house and pick up your trash.

So why do people use Duluth’s Skyline Trail as a landfill (photo: Perfect Duluth Day)?

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On PDD, “wskyline” writes:


I can’t tell you how often people throw things off this outlook, and usually it is electronics like TVs, microwaves, mini fridges, etc. Every time I walk by there’s something new. I really wish there was something we could do shake some sense into people to just pay the $5 to legally dispose of that kind of stuff, but I really don’t know how. Any ideas?

5) HOW LETTERS FROM STRANGERS SAVED A KID’S LIFE

Words have power.

Bonus I: I can see your house from here. Minneapolis-St. Paul and environs on March 2. Click image for the full effect. (h/t: Peter Caltner, Austria)

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Bonus II: You’re a runner? Anyone can be a runner. But only Cedric Givens has been a runner running backwards… since Ronald Reagan was in office. Great video here. (Washington Post)

TODAY’S QUESTION

Today’s Question: Should the governor and state lawmakers get a raise?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: House Taxes Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski and Senate Taxes Committee Ranking Minority Member Julianne Ortman talk about the governor’s tax-reform proposals including raising income taxes on the state’s highest earners and extending the sales tax to include clothing and business services.

Second hour: Dictionaries in the digital age and other topics in lexicography.

Third hour: Author and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams discusses her book “When Women Were Birds,” a meditation on the journals her mother left her when she died.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Former Florida Gov.Jeb Bush, who spoke Friday at the Reagan Presidential Library about his new book “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution.” He also talks about ways to improve education, energy policy and the economy.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Rebuilding the Japanese coast. Two years ago, a massive tsunami barreled over sea walls in Japan killing nearly 19,000 and wiping out entire communities. Now, tens of thousands of people are still living in temporary housing, wondering when they’ll ever have a home again.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Nano particles are in a growing number of common products. The virus-sized man made particles change the properties of common materials. But some of those nano particles might pose a risk to the environment. Government regulators and scientists are trying to understand the risk. But they still have more questions than answers. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.

  • Robert Moffitt

    2) I had the same thought while you recently waxed nostalgic about your family’s old lot on Plum Island. The North Dakota solution seems to make more sense in the long run.

    3) If they vote to give themselves a pay raise, it would send the message that they are tone-deaf to what most Minnesotans are going through. When they state has a surplus, then raise the salaries.

  • jon

    @#3 I have to admit that $31,140 a year isn’t much.

    BUT Here is the good news… They only work 5 months out of the year (baring special sessions, which wouldn’t happen (mostly) if they did their job right the first time)

    Do the math quick, and they’d be making $74K if they were working 12 months a year.

    (hey if we can apply this logic to pay teachers next to nothing, then we can apply it for legislatures too right?)

    @ Bonus I: I can see my house from there… it’s the one covered in snow.

  • BJ

    3) MORE PAY FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS?

    So wish this could be set some other way.

    //Do the math quick, and they’d be making $74K if they were working 12 months a year.

    No they would still be paid the same amount, unless they changed the law (it’s not a pay for hours or days worked kind of job).

    Because they are not paid for working 12 months, we end up with people that can take 5+ months off of their regular jobs to do this job. (IE lawyers, teachers in unions, union bosses, self employed businessmen, campaign staffers or government employees)

    Plus it’s not just 5+ months, they have emails and calls from the people of their districts (and sometimes from other parts of the state and country) year round. Plus committee meetings and community events throughout the year. The last 3 weeks or so of the session every year ends up being 12+ hour days.

  • Kassie

    The legislature is only in session 5 months a year, but legislators work all year round. I think it makes sense to pay a wage that people can live on so we don’t only have the independently wealthy run for office. I think a lot more people would consider running for office if the job paid $70k.

    As for governor, I’m 100% behind increasing his salary. Throughout the state, most government job have a salary cap that’s tied to the governor’s salary. We need to pay more for many positions, which means paying the governor more, or changing the law. Recruitment for a lot of jobs, like Chief Information Officers and other IT related jobs, would be much easier if we could offer closer to the going market rate.

  • Bob Collins

    In a way, though, elected government gigs are a little like owning sports teams, aren’t they. The payoff isn’t the operating profit, it’s the cashout. Having the elected office on the resume has some value post-career, doesn’t it? Should that be considered?

    and while we’re talking about salary, there’s also the benefits which include a halfway decent benefits package.

    At the end of the session, it always seems to me there’s only about a dozen or so lawmakers who actually call the shots.

    and whatever happened to that blue ribbon panel’s recommendations (made up of ex-legislators, I believe) that proposed cutting the size of the legislature?

  • Kassie

    I don’t think State Representative is a great resume builder, unless you’ve been there for 20 years and were head of good committees.

    If a State Rep had a household of five and no other income, they would be eligible for food stamps.

  • David

    I’m ok with people building on flood plains or hurricane hit areas, but there are building standards that could be applied so it wasn’t a constant rebuild process. It might cost more upfront, but I have to imagine there’d be an immense long-run savings.

  • Kevin Watterson

    We still have in theory a “part-time Legislature,” I can tell you from first-hand experience that being a legislator is not a “part-time job” in a traditional sense. It works out to be more like this for a two-year term:

    Jan-April: 15+ hour per day job, 5-6 days/wk

    May: 15+ hour job, 7 days/wk

    May-November: Part-time job

    December – April: 15+ hour per day job, 5-6 days/wk

    May: 15+ hour job, 7 days/wk

    June – Election Day: 10 hours/day, 6-7 days/wk.

    That’s not accounting for rural legislators who have to spend about half the year living in an apartment in St. Paul, or lead committee members who have a heavier off-session schedule. That’s a difficult thing to take to an employer or potential employer. Or, if you want to run for office, getting an employer to agree to.

    Whether or not it means they should be paid more, I don’t know. Pay them too much and risk them jettisoning any sense that they should have an outside job, pay them too little and watch the best ones leave for jobs that pay the true value of their talents or watch quality candidates decide against running. I tend to like the idea of tying their salary to the average salary for a similarly situated person in their district, or comparable state averages if there’s a need to pay them all the same. It’s largely symbolic, but I think a good symbolizm, and it takes the issue largely out of their hands in regards to changes up or down.

    What will probably happen is what always happens: The public goes “Raise their pay?!? Oh h**** no! Throw the bums out!” and nothing happens.