Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been touring the state soliciting ideas for ways to stimulate our careening economy; she will then share these ideas with the Obama team. I’d like to present one set of ideas from the Iron Range.
I am very hopeful that the message of change will underlie this new administration. Change means facing the problems of global climate change, as well as the restructuring of the world’s economy, and rethinking our international relationships.
On the local/national level, I believe there is a bottom line; there is no point in throwing money at problems unless that money is earmarked toward building a sustainable future.
I’ve just finished reading “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” by Thomas Friedman, a book that gives a worldview of global problems. The potential for human and ecological catastrophe is huge; we are at a crossroads that is going to demand much of us.
Following is a compilation of some of my ideas for the kinds of changes needed. I encourage others to help me expand our “Range” of thinking.
• Rebates to insulate houses and buildings.
• Assistance for colleges and industries that develop programs to discover new sources of energy not yet in the current mix, for urban planning and design studies, and for the engineering of energy efficiencies.
• Money for mass transportation.
• Money toward the development of a “smart energy grid.”
• Money to convert foreclosed McMansions into apartment housing, into preventive-health-care centers, group homes, learning centers, etc.
• A transfer of subsidies from agribusiness to Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) and to farmers who are committed to rebuilding the soil.
• Money for better senior housing and assisted-living facilities. This should include subsidizing living wages for health-care workers, along with assistance in training workers about psychological and emotional, as well as physical, needs of the elderly. This would improve elder care while also providing a stable local economy.
• Full monetary support of federal mandates regarding public schools. This should include an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act, with equal funding for both academic and creative skills.
• Funding for intramural school athletic programs, so that all children have access to adequate physical activity.
• Guidelines to establish new industrial programs that would lease, rather than sell, major appliances and electronic equipment. Customers could then return leased purchases for recycling.
• Funding to clean up our water, air, and Superfund sites, thus providing a healthier future.
• Money, such as tax breaks, to support small local businesses that fill local niches. This could include helping employers cover health-care costs for employees.
• Public-works money that would provide jobs to tear down outdated buildings and houses while salvaging reusable materials. On the Iron Range, many of the immigrant houses could be removed or restored, while redesigning neighborhoods for mixed housing and open space. Range communities could be rejuvenated while still retaining local character.
• Add funding for convenient public transportation connecting small towns to urban hubs.
One thing is certain: We cannot expect to come out of this recession and return to business as usual. We need a new kind of entrepreneur — young men and women who will create out of their inner integrity, with a purpose of serving the community and leaving a sustainable planet for the generations to come.
When I read “The Audacity of Hope” a few years back, I was most impressed by Barack Obama’s common-sense thinking. As Sen. Klobuchar works with the Obama administration, I hope she looks ahead with the urgency of hope balanced by the wisdom of common sense.
Elanne Palcich, a retired elementary school teacher, lives in Chisholm, Minn. This article is adapted from a piece published in the Hometown Focus.
Want to add your voice?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion by writing a Community Voices article, email Susan Albright at salbright [at] minnpost [dot] com.