The year ahead: From politics to the arts, what to expect in 2015

MinnPost has spent the last week looking back at the events and trends of 2014. Today it’s time for a pivot: What do we think 2015 may hold? As the new year begins to unfold, MinnPost writers share the people, ideas and stories they expect to be following in the coming year:

Peter Callaghan, on local and regional government: Will Light Rail Derail? (Yeah, we went there.) Next year will see several key decision points in the development of the next section of the Twin Cities’ light rail system — the extension of the Green Line from Target Field Station to Eden Prairie. A draft supplemental environmental impact statement will be released in the first quarter that will either answer questions about impacts of the controversial alignment or reinvigorate opposition. The Met Council is hoping for the final appropriation from the state of $120 million, which is now at risk because of GOP control of the state House. And by year’s end, Ramsey County will decide on a locally approved alternative — both mode and route — for the Riverview Corridor route between downtown St. Paul and the Mall of America.

Briana Bierschbach, on state politics: Getting to know Kurt Daudt. No one will blame readers for not being familiar with Daudt, the new Speaker-elect of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Just five years ago he was living on a farm in Crown, Minnesota and working at a car dealership. In 2010 he decided to run for a seat in the Minnesota House, and since then his political career has been on a slingshot trajectory to his current position — the single most powerful Republican negotiator in the state. When he is sworn in as speaker, Daudt will be the greenest legislator to serve in the job since the 1930s, and how he operates in his new role will determine much of the political landscape in 2015. Will he and Democrats work together to end the session with a budget on time? Will Daudt, a Republican moderate, run his caucus — or will the caucus run Daudt? 

Beth Hawkins, on education: I look forward to seeing whether the final years of Barack Obama’s administration deliver on the ground he staked out in education in 2014. After five years of failing to articulate a compelling or cogent vision for the nation’s schools, Obama just might be charging into 2015 with badly needed initiatives in teacher prep program quality, educational rights for immigrant children, the school-to-prison pipeline and race equity issues. If he walks his talk, he could create a popular groundswell that would push his successor to continue the work.

Pamela Espeland, on the arts: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts turns 100 in 2015, but it’s not using the fusty word “centennial” to describe the coming year. Instead, MIA will treat us to blockbuster exhibitions including “The Habsburgs,” complete with gilded carriage. Paintings we have never seen here — by Caravaggio, Rubens, Velázquez, and others — will be shipped to Minneapolis so we can ooh and aah at them in person. We’re promised a series of weekly surprises: live music in the galleries, pop-up reproductions of famous paintings throughout the Twin Cities, art-wrapped watertowers, and three more masterpieces from great museums in Europe. Plus we’ll see a show of art by Mark Mothersbaugh, founding member of the punk-rock band Devo, something that would have been inconceivable before the arrival of Liz Armstrong. She served as the MIA’s first contemporary art curator from 2008 until last month, when she left for a position in balmy Palm Springs. So another thing we’re anticipating is news of who will succeed her. Here’s the job posting, in case you know someone.

Ron Meador, on the environment: As 2015 gets under way I will be reading “The Big Ratchet,” by Ruth DeFries. This “biography of an ingenious species,” published this year and highly recommended by the University of Minnesota’s Marla Spivak (a fellow MacArthur Fellow of DeFries), traces a series of environmental crises and responses as cycles of crisis and growth, and purports to demonstrate that humanity can thrive in the face of natural crisis. I rather hope she persuades me, and points me to new areas of inquiry for the benefit of Earth Journal readers.

Brian Lambert, on local media: While there are no doubt some reality TV viewers hotly anticipating the Weather Channel spin-off, “(Naked) Fat Guys in the Woods”, the quantum leap on the Minnesota media landscape this coming year will be the rapid expansion of high speed internet access across the state. Last year, the Legislature, led by DFL Sen. Matt Schmit, approved a $20 million starter program to spur the build-out of high-speed broadband out-state. This session, with Gov. Dayton already citing more broadband funding as a productive use of the state’s surplus and the GOP talking about boosting the fortunes of outstate communities, the program appears primed for a substantial increase. At the same time, two companies —  CenturyLink and US Internet — are already constructing residential fiber optic networks in the metro that will bring internet speeds 25 to 30 times faster than what’s currently available. With higher speeds come long-anticipated possibilities for interactive educational, medical and commercial activity, as well as an even more vast array of streaming entertainment.

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