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To DEED: Please keep politics out of the process

July 12, 2012
Marshall Independent

It's anybody's guess as to how the $47.5 million in DEED grant money will be divvied up, but we hope rural Minnesota isn't left in the dark.

The money was made available after Gov. Mark Dayton and the state Legislature this year essentially passed the buck and gave bureaucrats the authority to determine financial winners and losers between the cities looking for funding to help pay for their respective projects.

In all, there are 90 communities collectively seeking more than $280 million. You can do the math, but it won't be pretty if the big boys get what they want.

Let's run a hypothetical.

We can only assume the city of St. Paul will get a major chunk of change (it wants more than half of the $47.5 million for a new St. Paul Saints ballpark). Let's say St. Paul is granted the $27 million it desires. Gulp. That leaves $20.5 million. Rochester is likely to get its share for Mayo Civic Center expansion - the city wants $25 million. There's not even enough left after St. Paul to honor that request. Maybe it gets half, leaving roughly $8 million for the next tier of cities - the Marshalls, St. Clouds and Mankatos, and dozens more proposals - far more than $8 million can cover.

Then there are even smaller cities like Canby and Cottonwood that made requests, albeit for far less than their much larger counterparts.

This is like throwing a chunk of meat into a den of hungry wolves. Many will be left out.

For rural communities, the above distribution example is a worst-case scenario, of course, but at this point, we're oblivious to how the money will be divided up. All cities can do is keep their collective fingers crossed and pray politics is left out of the decision-making process. What we do know is that if St. Paul gets its $27 million wish, plenty of smaller cities and their respective projects will walk away hungry and will likely be going back to the Legislature again in 2013.

We also know that local projects, especially rural ones, have become a tough sell at the Capitol, and that $47.5 million really doesn't go very far these days. With the size of bonding bills trending to the conservative side, it's looking more and more like cities and towns that have projects they want to get off the ground will have no choice but to go to the taxpayers in the future to help pay for them.

The city of Marshall has already been denied twice by the Legislature for funding for the proposed sports complex; not getting any DEED money will be akin to a third strike, and unless Marshall comes out a winner on the local sales tax vote in November, its odds of getting funding from the Legislature in 2013 don't appear to be any better than they were this year.

So perhaps we should consider this Marshall's best shot at some dough - the city can't fare any worse than it has at the Capitol - and although we all know you can't please everybody all the time, we hold out hope that this process does work. But it will only if the DEED decision makers manage to lock politics out of the room.



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