Respecting the nuances that make us unique
We want to begin by saying thank you. We spent last weekend visiting Grand Rapids and learning about what makes your community unique. We hail from Shoreview, Edina and Duluth and we embarked on a listening tour to help us connect with and better understand residents that don’t live in the communities we represent. What we learned was at equal turns, positive, surprising and humbling.
We kicked off our weekend with a tour from a lifelong resident of the city. We learned about the Blandin Paper Mill and the Blandin Foundation. We visited the high school and the Reif Center as well as Minnesota Power and even the local ski jump. During this tour we learned about how important tourism is to the locals, and about the jobs people have. We also heard about how the environment and mining were not singular, binary issues, but were intertwined.
This nuance of issues was just the first of many topics in which we learned that the people of Itasca, Cass and St. Louis counties shared many of the same values we did. We heard several times that residents are not troubled by paying their taxes, they just wanted us to share more about how their tax dollars are invested.
We heard from the local union representatives for the boilermakers, from government workers, teachers – and even a teenager. Their concerns ranged from trying to clean up power plants, to a need for more technical training and education opportunities. We also heard concerns about local roads, how some were so dangerous, people drive out of the way to avoid them. Is state money coming into our area to fix the highways, others asked.
As we mulled over what we heard we kept returning to the idea that one size doesn’t fit all. We walked away with the feeling that we are united with the people of Grand Rapids in many ways – our values on transportation, education and health care are aligned. Where we differ is the nuance – and remembering that communities across Minnesota are full of individual concerns. As we move forward and take these lessons back to our colleagues, we will strive to be more cognizant and respectful of that nuance.