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Stone Arch Recap: Linda Higgins

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.

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In June 2012, Think Again MN launched a history series that examines politics and policy-making in Minnesota during the last century from the immediate post World War II years up through the 1990s. That era witnessed fierce legislative battles at the State Capitol but it was also a time of shared values that cut across partisan lines. 

Read about it here

MN's Leading Election System

MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon


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Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

Get details on how to vote at

Oregon's Automatic Voter Registration

How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016

In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

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