County Requests $600,000 to Teach Kids how to Garden
Last week, the county board voted 6-1 (I was the “no” vote) in support of a county request to the Legislative -Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (“LCCMR”) to fund a proposed $700,000 county program called UrbanWatch. The program purportedly would support environmental education for at-risk kids in North Minneapolis and at the Hennepin County Home School, a facility for juveniles who have committed crimes.
The kicker: $600,000 of this public money would be spent to help kids plant and maintain 40 gardens in the urban core of Minneapolis and at the Home School. In other words, we would be spending $15,000 each for 40 “community gardens” in the name of environmental education.
As background, the LCCMR is a group of legislators and private citizens appointed to distribute money from the Minnesota State Lottery that constitutionally must be directed to projects that “maintain and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.”
I am not denigrating the work of the LCCMR. I was actually a member of this group (when it existed in a somewhat different format) before I was elected to the Minnesota House in 2000. The LCCMR funds many great environmental programs.
This program, however, would not be one of them. At least not the portion of the program dedicated to $15K community gardens.
There simply must be better ways to spend $600,000 in furtherance of the environment.
In the end, the LCCMR might not fund this particular program, but our decision to even make the request is evidence of the fact that we in government need to be constantly reminded of the following principle: The money we spend does not fall from heaven like manna but is taken from our constituents through the power of government. We should spend every dollar as carefully as though it was coming from our own pockets – in which case I suspect that most of us would find the prospect of a $15,000 garden absurd.