Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Progressive Rail in Lakeville. This is a regional railroad that hauls freight. Our tour included a short train ride in the Lakeville Industrial Park. We were able to ride in both the engine and an old-style caboose.
Progressive not only hauls freight, it has a large warehouse so it can provide flexibility for its customers. The Progressive building has an impressive display of railroad photos and artifacts.
One advantage of railroads is that diesel engines cause less pollution that trucks.
For more details, see: www.progressiverail.com
The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) held a Disability Policy Summit session today for advocates and legislators.
Part of the agenda included a discussion on current policies and some problems. One issue is that current limits to qualify for Medical Assistance are too low and forces many adults with disabilities deep into poverty to get services. The asset limit was set in 1983 and should be raised. The problem with the current asset limit is that it makes impossible for people with disabilities to get out of poverty.
The conclusion was a town hall forum in which we heard stories from some of the people in attendance. One woman who testified has been providing foster care for children with disabilities for forty years. Her concern was the backlog in processing paperwork which could mean the child would lose certification. She would like to see paperwork processed in a timely manner. Another person discussed the lack of oversight for children whose parents are dealing with brain injuries and similar issues. Her concern is that that while the parent is not in a position to truly watch out for the welfare of the child, there is no provision made to provide that oversight and help. The child/children are pretty much left to fend for themselves and the outcomes can be detrimental to the health and well being of the child/children. One man relayed the marked improvement shown by a brain injury patient once placed in a group home with stable staffing. He said we need to pay adequate wages so all people can have consistent staffing and relationships. Another person manages staff to help people with brain injuries and said it is quite challenging to maintain stable staffing because of the low wages that are being paid. This reinforces what we already know, wages need to be raised for people in this line of work.
The stories were very moving and once again show the strides that we need to make in properly caring for people with very serious conditions.
I attended another briefing by MnDot on the Statewide Planning Overview today. MnDOT has a twenty-year plan that is updated every four years. The current plan was adopted in 2012 and the next update will be in 2016. There are a number of opportunities to obtain information and get involved.
For more details, see: www.minnesotago.org
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency held an informational meeting on November 12 at the Burnsville City Hall to go over the status of the Freeway Landfill property.
The problem is that monitoring shows there are toxic levels above the safe standards. This property is close to the Minnesota River and a municipal drinking water supply. The site would not be able to get a landfill permit today. The property is privately-owned and the owner seems to be unwilling to help pay for the cleanup nor does he want to make arrangements to give the property over to the state as has happened in some instances. As of right now, if the state and the owner do not come to some resolution by December 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will take over They would identify the primary groups responsible for the contamination and make them pay for the cleanup. That could mean numerous lawsuits and take years.
The recommended action by the MPCA is estimated to take five years and cost about $64 million.
I attended the grand opening of the FAB LAB at the Apple Valley High School yesterday. Students are able to take 3D pictures, use 3D printers and use other high-tech equipment. One student showed me how to move a robotic ball around the room. Another student explained how they designed the tables they use in the lab. Teachers explained how the curriculum is designed to encourage students to ask questions and then solve the problems.
“The Fabrication Laboratory is a designated space where students have access to computer-aided design software.” It is a partnership between community, education, and industry.
I can see where it would be exciting place to learn!
For more info, see the website: http:avhsstem.blogspot.com/
Barbara Gault of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research gave a presentation this afternoon on the status of women. One very disturbing point is that women are still earning less than men across the board. At the rate we are progressing, it will take until 2059 to close the gap. If we could close the gap, our poverty rate might be cut in half. That seems believable, since the majority of people living in poverty are women and children.
On the positive side, Minnesota is one other best states for women to live in.
I always find railroads to be exciting, perhaps because of the large railroad operation that bordered the back yard where I grew up. It was fun to stand by the back fence and wave to the engineers on the trains going by.
Today, some of my House colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit the Union Pacific office in St. Paul where we heard from some of their staff on current operation procedures. Of particular interest was the various resources they use to monitor the condition of the railroad tracks. In addition to the inspectors, they have a Track Evaluation Car, and there is a vehicle that uses ultra-sound to find imperfections in the tracks. Lots of technology is in used to accomplish the oversight of the equipment. In some cases, they are replacing wooded ties with cement ties.
Then we went to the Union Pacific South Saint Paul Yard where we got to see a locomotive as well as a UP HAZMAT RESPONSE vehicle.
I attended a very interesting meeting today on the food system in Dakota County. It was sponsored by Homegrown South and the Public Health Law Center at William Mitchell College of Law.
Homegrown South is a network that “that seeks to positively impact the local food economy and community health of the Southern Twin Cities metro” area. For information, check out www.homegrownsouth.org.
The presenters from the Law Center went over a study that illustrated local ordinances or regulations that may impact access to healthy, affordable food. The goal of the policy brief is to identify existing local ordinances which may impact the growing, processing, selling and distribution of healthy food. Some of the topics researched include: beekeeping, gardening activities, and grocery store locations. For more information, see www.publichealthlawcenter.org
The goal is to encourage people to become more involved in planning processes and to make sure that planning for zoning, transportation, and other related topics take access to healthy foods into consideration.
Steamfitters Pipefitters Local 455 held an open house at their new Union Hall and Apprentice Training Center in St. Paul today. It is an impressive facility! The red flooring sets the tone as you enter the building. There are sixty individual training booths for welding, numerous classrooms and spaces for other training opportunities.
I had a very knowledgeable member guide me around the new building. This new training center is much bigger than previous centers and has potential for other services as well.
I recently attended an open house held by a new business in Burnsville, 75F. The company designs systems that enable buildings to have consistent and comfortable environments.
This is an award-winning company that is helping with energy efficiency. The office decor itself is impressive because it uses bold colors and interesting artifacts. I particularly like the title of Bob French, Chief Evangelist. See www.75f.io for more information.
Looks like this company will be a real asset to our community.