When we left for Grand Rapids last Friday, I think the three of us weren’t quite sure what to expect. We wanted to talk to locals about what they were thinking, how they viewed St. Paul and the issues that were on the top of their minds.
On Saturday morning we took a tour of the city, where we learned about the Blandin Paper Mill, 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 issues, but were intertwined.
At the listening session itself, we were pleasantly surprised by the positivity, and humbled by the comments made from the dozens of locals who gave up their Saturday to come listen and talk with us.
The topics that kept coming up included the following:
- Residents expressed being perfectly fine with their current level of taxation; they strong suggested we reinvest that money into roads and schools.
- Many people are concerned about the condition of their local roads and wanted greater transportation investment – a concern we shared with them.
- Quality public education is very important, but locals were nuanced – they also wanted greater vocational and tech ed training opportunities.
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 areas – 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, we will be more cognizant and respectful of that nuance as we work to build a stronger Minnesota for everyone.