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Greater Minnesota mayors pledge leadership

ST. PAUL -- City leaders from around Minnesota say they will not allow state financial problems stop their communities from growing.

And they hope to avoid taking money out of reserve funds, as Minneapolis likely will do, to keep firefighters and police officers on duty.

Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloch, incoming Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities president said after a recent coalition meeting in Grand Rapids that cities must step up and not leave economic development to the state.

"The inaction and unwillingness of the Legislature to provide long-term budget solutions and long-term planning in their policy making has prompted local leaders to take charge and force these conversations." Oberloch said. "We will not sit by and hope greater Minnesota is positioned for growth; we are going to engage the public, our businesses and our fellow local leaders in developing strategies so our kids and grandkids inherit communities filled with opportunity and a future."

The mayor offered no specific explanation about how cities will lead on the economic development front.

The 75-city coalition complained, as it often has in the past, that the state cut the promised amount of Local Government Aid, although the amount will be about the same as in the last year.

Lower-than-expected state aid will force many cities to raise property taxes, mayors say.

But the size of the payments are not the main problem, mayors said.

"The public is begging for politicians to quit bickering, and quit putting short-term Band Aids on problems; they want a long-term vision and a strategic plan that will position us for growth," Oberloch said. "It is long overdue that Minnesota had that conversation, and we intend to get it started."

The aid cut apparently will force Minneapolis to draw money from a reserve account to keep firefighters and police officers on the street, Mayor R.T. Rybak said.

Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson propose transferring $1.75 million from the Minneapolis Contingency Account to the Fire and Police departments because state aid will be $23.5 million less than expected. The move is expected to temporarily save 31 firefighter jobs and help avoid police layoffs.

Walker to Minnesota

Republican hero Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, fresh off state Senate recall elections that left the GOP in power, crosses the state line in October to speak to a GOP Midwestern conference.

Walker joins some of the party's presidential candidates in the GOP Midwest Leadership Conference Oct. 7-8 in Bloomington.

"Despite millions of dollars and man hours spent by the Democrat Party and its allies on the Wisconsin recall elections, Republicans maintained their majority status in the Wisconsin Senate," Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said.

The Tuesday election showed that Wisconsinites support Walker, Sutton added. "Like our own Republican legislators, Gov. Walker and Wisconsin Republicans are not just talking the talk when it comes to reducing the cost, size and scope of state government; they're walking the walk."

Many Minnesota Republicans crossed the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers to help western Wisconsin Republicans in the recall fights.

The Midwest conference is expected to attract 1,500 Republican leaders and activists, coming from Ohio to North Dakota.

Early learning council

Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a group to advise his administration and the Legislature on early childhood education issues.

The 22-member council is part of Dayton's effort between legislative sessions to concentrate on education matters.

Helping children early will help the state reach its goal of all third graders knowing how to read, the governor said.

The council includes seven people who could be considered from rural areas. There are five members from Minneapolis and three from St. Paul.

Walnut imports limited

Walnut wood is no longer allowed into Minnesota if it comes from 11 states with thousand cankers disease.

Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson announced the quarantine to prevent the disease from entering Minnesota. It is caused by a fungus carried by the walnut twig beetle.

The disease has been found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Utah.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.