Editorial Roundup: Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune. November 25, 2022.

Editorial: Big wins for diversity

The 2023 Minnesota Legislature will better reflect the state’s population.

Though some statewide races were hotly contested, on Nov. 8 Minnesota voters re-elected all incumbent, DFL constitutional officers and gave their party control of both the state House and Senate.

Voters also elected the most diverse Legislature in state history.

A total of 35 of next year’s 201-member Legislature (17%) will be people of color — a percentage closer to reflecting the state’s population. About 20% of Minnesotans are people of color, according to the Minnesota State Demographic Center.

That change is worth lauding because of what it says about the future of lawmaking in the state. A wider variety of perspectives and life experiences will be at the table contributing to discussions and setting budget priorities for the state. Research from the past two decades shows that increased diversity results in more innovative problem-solving.

The majority of the incoming members of color — 30 — are DFLers. However, five are Republicans, including one who was selected for a caucus leadership position.

But it’s not only racial diversity that will make the 2023 Legislature more inclusive than its predecessors. A total of 11 members of next year’s class of legislators are part of the LGBTQ community, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund. That will be more than double the current representation.

The freshman 2023 class of lawmakers will include the state’s first Black female senators, first Japanese American legislator, the first nonbinary lawmaker, and the first transgender representative.

In addition, the Legislature’s leadership will reflect the increased diversity. Sen. Bobby Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, will be president of the Senate. And the Republican caucus elected Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, as House minority leader. Both will be the first African Americans to hold those positions.

Representation from more women, people of color and other unrepresented groups can improve public confidence in government. And when young people have role models who look like them in government, they are more likely to believe in civic participation and aspire to elected office themselves.

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Mankato Free Press. November 23, 2022.

Editorial: Homeless: Hennepin County program a model

A Hennepin County program to help the homeless find permanent housing offers a blueprint for other cities and counties dealing with this persistent problem that erodes human dignity.

The program deploys professional case managers, case aids and case workers who have various levels of expertise on issues that affect homelessness. Some know how to overcome barriers posed by criminal records, some know the subsidized housing programs, and others have expertise in substance abuse and youth homelessness.

A cohesive team of 30 case workers has helped 331 people find permanent housing in the past year, according to a report in the Star Tribune. They’ve offered services to 868 people. Caseworkers work one-on-one with homeless people, and every person is assigned a caseworker who assists them even after they find housing.

This is completed with a budget of $10.5 million over four years, so about $2.5 million per year.

The team knocks down barriers one by one,” said Lynn Shafer, the program’s manager. “It’s a well-trained and cohesive team that shares resources with each other and the community,” she told the Star Tribune.

And the county doesn’t own the housing where people are placed, Shafer says. The team just breaks down barriers one by one and sticks to the basics. The team works with government subsidized Section 8 housing, market rate housing, and housing in complexes designed to be affordable.

There is a coordinated homeless effort in Mankato and the surrounding area and a Free Press in-depth report in 2019 showed some progress, but homeless shelters in the Mankato area and transitional housing continue to have waiting lists.

The Hennepin County plan should give homeless advocates some insights into programs that work and should give state and local elected officials reasons to invest in solving the homeless problem.

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