Pownell offers a “strong” city state; Elliott watches the legislature; Lippert discusses priorities at St. Paul
Last night Mayor Rhonda Pownell delivered her annual State of the City Address to a small but grateful audience at Kracum Performance Hall at the Weitz Center for the Performing Arts on the Carleton College campus.
Thanks to Covid-19, this was the first in-person address since 2019 and it has evolved over time into a virtual world. What was once a lunchtime affair is now a full multimedia presentation with video interludes and participation from city staff, council commissioners and many city council members.
After two years of the pandemic, Mayor Pownell said the town of Northfield is an “even better, stronger and more resilient community.”
“The state of the city is strong, she said, “because the people of Northfield are asking, ‘What can we do better?'”
As is tradition, members of the community were honored during the presentation. Wastewater Maintenance Planner/Scheduler Steve Noreen received the City Employee Excellence Award, Northfield High School student Amira Haileab received the Ethical Leadership Award, Matt Hillmann was recognized as a recipient of the Northfield Human Rights Award and Joe Gasior, the outgoing President. of the Planning Commission was honored as the recipient of the Council and Commission Member Achievement Award. The Mayor and City Council also honored the six fourth and fifth graders who won the Mayor’s Essay Contest for a Day.
After the debates, the mayor said she was pleased with how things had gone and said that several city staff had worked very hard on the program.
The presentation will soon be available on Northfield Public Broadcasting and the city’s YouTube channel.
Elliott hopes legislature offers help with law enforcement issues
Like all other civic and municipal leaders, Northfield Police Chief Mark Elliott is keeping tabs on what’s happening this
session in the state legislature, in hopes that police across the state will get more help which he says is badly needed.
Chief Elliott has often spoken about the hiring and retention issues in law enforcement today. Despite the fact that the Northfield Police Department is now fully staffed for the first time in years, he said there are other rural areas around that state that are having real difficulty hiring police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
“We’re at a crisis level right now for hiring,” he said. “I hear of some remote areas that have one opening and get no applicants, or they have four openings and they get four applicants. Any business owner knows that won’t work.
Elliott said he hopes the legislature will help fund the retention of officers and encourage the hiring process. More so, he said he would like to see the state provide aid for education. Minnesota requires all police officers to have at least a two-year law enforcement degree, but it points out that can be a significant hurdle to overcome, especially for people of color, when departments try to diversify their ranks. . Programs that would help traditionally marginalized communities, and women in particular, get the education they need to become a police officer would be very helpful, he said.
One area he said he appreciates the legislature recognizing is mental health, which he sees as an example of a greater awakening in society to an understanding of the need for more help in this area.
“We even hear about it in discussions around the Minneapolis teachers’ strike. They realize the importance of mental health care, even for children, and the importance of intervening early and providing people with the resources they need. So I’m glad the legislature sees that, and society realizes more of it so we can try to fix it.
The chief said the programs in place to integrate social workers into police services for mental health calls are what they need. He would like to see these programs now fully funded so that they have both the tools and the resources they need to do their job.
Jeff Johnson’s full conversation with Northfield Police Chief Mark Elliott can be heard here
Lippert says DFL focused on helping ‘all’ Minnesotans
As the 2022 legislative session progresses, the positions of the Republican-led Senate, the DFL-led House of Representatives and
Governor on what to do with the state’s record $9.9 billion budget surplus become crystal clear. All three parties are putting down roots, and none of the three parties seem to have much agreement on what to do.
State Rep. Todd Lippert said his party focused on unfinished business from the 2021 legislative session of offering bonuses to frontline workers during the pandemic. A month ago, the DFL-run House passed an additional $750,000 to expand the pool of those receiving $1,500 checks to 770,000 people in the state. The DFL would also like to contribute $1 billion to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which is deeply in debt and has caused an employment tax hike in Minnesota.
Republicans unveiled a massive $8.5 billion tax cut to be rolled out over the next 3 years, of which $3.5 billion would be paid this year from the budget surplus. Additionally, the GOP-led Senate has already passed $2.7 billion to replenish and build the unemployment fund.
Finally, last week Governor Tim Walz introduced an increase in the amount of money he says should be returned to taxpayers from the surplus. Calling his program Walz Checks, the governor is offering rebates of $1,000 to married couples with incomes under $273, $470 and $500 to single filers with incomes under $164,400.
Lippert said the reimbursement program is not something the House or Senate are considering at this time because the country’s only divided legislature is more focused on its own priorities. The two camps within the legislature do not seem to agree at all. Lippert said his party wants to focus on helping the MInnesotans who need it the most.
“I think the Senate is focused on permanent tax cuts, and our concern is that with the way they’re going to structure those cuts, you’ll have more money for those who make more money. We know in the House and at the DFL that we are concerned about affordable housing, child care, support for our schools and there are significant needs that we need to address at the state level.
Lippert said any discussion of Walz’s repayment plan will have to come later in the session.
Jeff Johnson’s full conversation with Rep. Todd Lippert can be heard here
Rich Larson is KYMN’s News Director. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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