Stone Arch Discussion welcomed minted Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins this January. Commissioner Higgins was elected in a special election to complete the term for former Commissioner Stenglein in District 2, which includes the Northern Half of Minneapolis, Golden Valley and Plymouth.
Issues that Commissioner Higgins jumped right into included transit issues. There are two light rail lines on the books impacting her district; the Southwest Light Rail and the Bottineau line that would run North and West. This latter line is facing much less trouble than the newsworthy Southwest Line. In fact, all of the municipalities impacted by the Bottineau line have given consent for the proposed path. Southwest Light Rail is facing more trouble as Minneapolis and St. Louis Park have no agreement on the alignment or execution. Southwest is troubled.
In addition to the Bottineau Light Rail proposal there is also a proposal for Bus Rapid Transit that would run North and South along Penn Avenue through North Minneapolis. The true value of such a line would be connecting residents of North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center to the large number of high wage jobs in the southwestern suburbs. Connecting jobs to labor is just one more benefit of developing more mass transit.
Bus Rapid Transit won't be the only benefit for Penn Avenue. Both Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis and Lowry Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis are designated Community Work Projects. They'll see considerable upgrades in the coming future through economic development and improved planning.
Of course one can't talk about county level government without talking about Human Services. Hennepin County will be regionalizing its Human Services locations. Presently anyone who needs to rely on public assistance needs to travel to a single location in downtown Minneapolis. This will change in 2014. Regional offices will be opening across the county to improve access for people requiring public assistance. The offices in Minneapolis will remain to serve the city, but suburban locations will improve the number of access points for residents, eliminating the requirement to travel downtown.
In an effort to help residents of the county presently on welfare, Hennepin County had launched the WIN program. The Workforce Incentive Network program is presently small. The goal is to train recipients in higher wage skills and then provide placement services. To ensure that the county is successful in this program, a control group has also been established. This may seem unkind, but it's a considerable investment to provide training and placement. Comparing outcomes for the trained group to the untrained group is the only way to quantify the program's results.
Hennepin county is also becoming involved in education. Though the county doesn't provide any direct funding or supervision, it can be helpful. Hennepin is looking to establish stable housing for children in poverty and at risk of falling into the criminal justice system. Anyone attending our various Achievement Gap Committee meetings understands that unstable housing negatively impacts educational outcomes. Stability is helpful.
So check out your County Commissioners.