In the last month-plus, Democratic State Representative Andrew Falk has shown how legislators can make a difference, or at least try - for the better and for the worse, as we've also seen how those efforts, as well-intended as they might be, can backfire.
First, the better: Falk proposed a bill Monday that would provide public ownership of the Minnesota Vikings - an arrangement similar to that of the Green Bay Packers and their fans. The bill is a bit idealistic, the NFL doesn't want to touch it, and it is pretty late in the game, but at least he's offered up his version of a solution that could potentially benefit everyone. For that, he deserves some credit. Besides, what Vikings fan isn't envious of the set-up they have in Wisconsin?
Then there's the worse: In bomb-shell fashion, Falk in March introduced a bill that would dissolve the Hendricks School District - a bill he says he would prefer not advance. In fact, he said, he had no intention of even moving the bill forward. In that respect, he said he offered up the bill to "start a discussion."
That's great, but it's no wonder a few eyebrows were raised, a few feathers ruffled in Hendricks - the Hendricks School Board chairman said the board was "kind of shocked" upon hearing of the bill.
Worse yet, the board apparently first heard about the bill through the grapevine. Coming out of nowhere with a surprise bill that suggests the school should be dissolved is akin to a surprise attack.
"I probably could've done more to notify the people, but process-wise (at the Capitol) we don't know exactly when things get filed," Falk said. "I want the local people to figure out what to do. If they are unwilling to come together, someone else is going to have to fix it for them."
We don't feel it's our legislators' place to do that, at least not in that fashion. Falk thinks otherwise, saying the Legislature has a right to get involved because the state is where most of the money for schools comes from - a weak argument in our view, considering how much money the state owes our schools from past funding shifts that have financially handcuffed most schools.
"We give the authority to school boards to make the best judgements possible," Falk said, "but sometimes when they fail in their ability to do that we have to move forward with alternative plans. Hopefully they will get this resolved. I don't know how many years Hendricks can exist as a stand-alone school, but they have problems. My ultimate concern is what is being done to these kids. I don't want to see these kids used as guinea pigs anymore. They need to sit down and figure out a compromise that works. I offered a solution to the problem, which nobody likes - me included."
If elected officials are sought out for discussion, that's one thing, but they shouldn't stick their foot in the door without an invitation. With his bill, Falk lowered his shoulder and broke that door down. Falk's bill was introduced Feb. 29 in the Education Reform Committee, and that's where it should stay. It rubbed people the wrong way to say the least and sent the wrong message to the people of Hendricks.
We agree with Falk that the school district needs to work out its problems, and we respect him and the work he's done at the Capitol, but this is one issue that didn't need a political twist.