A group of state legislators that serve on the Transportation Committees went to St. Cloud and Willmar today to listen to the residents voice their thoughts and concerns on transportation issues.
First we stopped at the James W. Miller Learning Resources Center at St Cloud University. There we met with people from the University and St. Cloud Metro Bus authority. They have formed a strong partnership and students account for 50% of the ridership. One student said it was a lot easier and cheaper to ride the bus than spending money on car repairs and other expenses. We were told that having the bus routes also increases student safety.
We rode on one of their buses that uses compressed natural gas. The use of this fuel is a substantial cost savings and they are planning on buying more of these buses for their fleet. The buses are made in St. Cloud at the New Flyer plant. We drove over to view the Metro Bus transit hub and then over to the Mobility Center. The Mobility Center has a mockup of a bus as well as ramps. The Center gives staff the opportunity to help gage the types of help an individual needs as well as helping the visitor become accustomed to using public transit.
Next we went to the St. Cloud City Hall where Senator Scott Dibble convened the listening session. Commissioner Zelle led off with some general comments on Minnesota’s transportation situation. Then over thirty local officials and residents commented on the need to improve our transportation system and some shared thoughts on financing. Ryan Daniel, the Executive Director of Metro Bus said “Where transportation goes, the community grows.”
Our last stop was at Northern States Supply in Willmar. Here again were a number of residents and local officials that expressed their needs and the benefits of improving transportation infrastructure in that region. A priority is getting all of Highway 23 to four lanes.
The 2015 Legislative Session officially began on January 6. In addition to the newly elected officials taking the oath of office, a number of operating procedures are approved. The highlight was the installation of the new Chief Clerk, Patrick D. Murphy. Pat has been part of the Chief Clerk’s Office for quite a while and will do a great job.
After session on January 15th, the House held a ceremony and reception to honor the former Chief Clerk, Albin A. Mathiowetz, for 43 years of service. We are extremely fortunate to have such dedicated and knowledgeable individuals help us carry out the duties of the House of Representatives.
On the second day, January 7, legislators gather at the Humphrey Institute for One Minnesota. This gives us a chance to hear from our State Demographer, our State Economist and other resources on issues that will be important during the next couple of years and beyond. The changing of our demographics is particularly important as we plan for the future.
The majority of committee work this month has been getting overviews from various agencies and organizations, but the bills are now starting to come through. I have met with constituents, advocates from numerous organizations, and the Eagan City Council.
I will be serving on the following committees: Aging and Long-Term Care, Health and Human Service Reform, and Transportation Policy and Finance.
I spent the morning at Burnsville High School watching the Robotics Team work on their project, a robot that can stack recycle containers. The students use some sophisticated equipment to accomplish this task. I was fascinated by the 3-D printer. They make many of the parts they need with this machine, parts that they designed. In addition to building the robot, the team is also developing a presentation and a display about their work.
The project has to be done in six weeks, so the students and their adult mentors spend extensive time working on it. It means all day Saturday as well as many hours during the week.
Organist Aaron David Miller played the music to the silent movie “City Lights” at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church this afternoon. Mr. Miller did an impressive job of accompanying the action on the screen.
“City Lights” is said to be one on the best of Charlie Chaplin’s movies. He wrote, directed and starred in the masterpiece. He also composed the music. The movie dates back to 1931 and is one of the last of the silent era. It is amazing to see how how involved you can be even though there are no words to hear. Really great family entertainment.
The Memorial Service for Richard Jensen was held on January 3rd at Easter Lutheran Church by the Lake. It was an incredible tribute to a man who touched so many lives around the world and left a very strong legacy.
The offciants were Reverend Kristen Capel, his niece, of Easter Lutheran Church and Reverend David Berg, a former student and colleague, of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Rochester, MN.
The service included the singing of “Borning Cry,” a song John Ulvisaker wrote and composed while collaborating with Dick for the video series, Waterlife. The composer played the guitar for the service.
An impressive host of people participated in the celebration of this man’s life. Among them were Bishop Patricia Lull of the St. Paul Area Synod who delivered greetings from the ECLA and Dr. Mihreteab Gebrehiiiwet who talked about his recollections of his teacher at the Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The blessing at the end was a recording of Richard Jensen singing “As You Go On Your Way,” a tune composed by John Ylvisaker for him to sing at the closing of each Lutheran Vespers program.
He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, their three children, Doron, Dodi, Derek, and grandchildren.
I attended the matinee performance of It’s A Wonderful Life A LIVE RADIO PLAY at the St. Paul Hotel on Wednesday and thoroughly enjoyed this event. The afternoon begins with a delicious lunch. Then the cast starts singing a host of familar Christmas songs before getting into the story of It’s A Wonderful Life done as a radio presentation.
You can hear it on WCCO Radio (830 AM) this Saturday at 7:00 with a rebroadcast at 5:00 on December 24 at 5:00.
A wonderful activity for the holiday season.
I attended the second day of the the three day Hmong New Year Celebration in St. Paul today. It was a nice day and one estimate had around 50,000 people in attendance. Many of them wore the traditional clothing and jewelry, which is ornate and very beautiful.
I was privileged to particpate in the Opening Ceremony.
After that, there were speeches, singing, dancing, and the Miss Hmong MN 2015 program in one area. Another had food, games, and more entertainment. A third section had lots of vendors.
The representative from the Minnesota Historical Society said that there are 66,000 Hmong living in Minnesota, this is the largest concentration of Hmong in the world. Next year will be the fortieth anniversary of the Hmong people coming to Minnesota. MHS will open an exhibit in March that will highlight the Hmong experience.
A great way to start the New Year!
Keystone Communities in Eagan held a very special observance of Veterans’s Day. Their featured speaker was a Korean War Veteran who gave a detailed talk on that confrontation.
Then each resident who was a veteran was recognized and some background on their military experience was provided. Every veteran received a flower after the reading. Their names were called according to the branch in which they served. First, the Army veterans were identified and then the Eagan Men’s Chorus sang the their song. Next the Navy veterans were recognized and then the chorus sang the Navy theme. And so the program continued until all branches were covered. There were quite a few veterans in the group.
The event concluded with pie, coffee and a lot of socializing.
This past Tuesday, I participated in a forum sponsored by the Intergenerational Working Group at DARTS. Members includes the Children’s Defense Fund, AARP and several other organizations . Here is the link:
On Tuesday morning, a joint meeting of the House Transportation Policy, Transportation Finance, Commerce and Consumer Protection , and Agriculture Committees along with the Senate Transportation and Public Safety,Commerce, and the Jobs,Agriculture and Rural Develpment Committees met in the State Office Building. The meeting started at 10:00 in the morning and adjourned about 2:30 in the afternoon.
We heard from every perpective on the state of the railroads, particularly those that run in Minnesota. Commission Zelle and Dave Christiansen of the Minnesota Department of Transportation started off with their report on railroads. Businesses impacted by the railroads talked about their experiences and expectations. Representatives of the employees talked about their experiences and challenges. An Amtrak official explained that almost all their routes are coming in behind schedule because of the huge problems caused by the trains carrying oil. They are seeing a reduction in passengers as a result. Last were the officials from the railroads who explained their operations.
It appears that that the main problem centers on train operations in North Dakota. While the railroads are expanding their rail infrastructure, ordering new equipment and hiring new personnel, all that will take a few years to accomplish and not much improvement is seen until then. That means the crisis will continue unless some extraordinary measures are taken.