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MN2020 Journal: Who's Working Tonight

December 24, 2009 By John R. Van Hecke, Executive Director & Fellow
Tonight, in the middle of a snow storm, some guy you don't know is going to leave his family, climb into a huge orange snow plow and keep the roads open.

He's not going to ask about your politics and whether you're a small government conservative railing against out-of-control spending. He's not going to skip your block, street, highway or gravel road because you can't find anything good to say about the women and men who deliver Minnesota's public services.

Instead, he's thinking about snow fall rate, the ambient temperature's impact on road icing, how long his ton of salt will hold out at present dispersal rates and whether the impatient driver following too close behind him will really try to pass without being able to see around his truck.

This is the very necessary but decidedly unsexy part of government service delivery. Despite the impassioned rhetoric slung around by conservative protestors insisting on liberty's compromise at every turn, thousands of hard working men and women will tune it out, focusing on the job at hand. They work for every level of government, from state to township because nearly every level of government is responsible for some type of road.

I hope this doesn't happen to you but somebody's father is going to have a heart attack tonight. An ambulance crew will race to his house or apartment. Snowy roads won't make it easy. In rural, exurban and even many suburban areas, fire and ambulance services are entirely volunteer. When the call comes in Walnut Grove, Oak Grove or Spring Grove, four, five or six men and women will respond.

If they aren't hampered by the weather or bad road, they'll stabilize your father and transport him to the nearest hospital. That hospital is supported by public resources and we don't want to think about it closing because that means the trauma center trip grows longer.

Law enforcement will be working tonight. Cops, deputy sheriffs and state troopers will respond to scenarios as varied as drivers sliding into the ditch on the way to grandma's house or calming the guy who's gone off his meds. When the Trooper wades to your snow bound car, she doesn't ask who you're supporting for governor in the next election. Instead, she's trying to keep you safe. She's not thinking about her family, at home without her; she's thinking about how long it's going to take the tow truck to arrive and what happens if other cars start sliding off the road.

If we want the public services that employ peace officers and snow plow drivers, Minnesotans need to take that next step. We need to create and support public policy values community. We need to stay focused on what really matters, education, health care, transportation and economic development. We can't be distracted by divisive conservative arguments and policy that pits us against each other.

Snow plow drivers, focused on opening roads tonight, may not be debating government's value but the rest of us should be. We owe it to the women and men who make government do what we ask. We owe it to ourselves because we're stronger together than we are alone.

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