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Gov. Mark Dayton and his commissioners are fanning out across Minnesota.
Education, revenue, pollution control and agency heads are following their boss' lead by hitting the road to take the pulse of the people.
"I think it makes a better relationship between Minnesota citizens and their government," Dayton said. It is essential, he said, for administration officials to "get out from behind the desk and the office and really see firsthand what's going on there in the real world and get the dialogue going. I really encourage commissioners to do that. I am very proud of them for doing so."
As a candidate, Dayton toured Minnesota's 87 counties in 87 days, covering 9,000 miles in less than three months. At the tour's conclusion, he bragged that he'd probably been to more counties more often, "than all the other candidates combined."
Since taking office, Dayton has kept up the itinerant pattern. This summer he visited various cities on a multi-stop jobs tour, then launched into a statewide jobs summit.
Last week, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said she would travel to Rochester and St. Cloud to talk about the state's waiver request from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"These meetings will provide the public an opportunity to hear about Minnesota's waiver request, ask questions and offer feedback," Cassellius said in a statement.
Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans has planned one of the more ambitious itineraries: a tax reform tour with stops planned over eight months. He's asking people how they define a good, fair tax system and what could be done to simplify the state's tax code. Frans is charged with devising a tax reform plan by next year.
Such tours often allow administration officials to get favorable local coverage from media outlets who don't often come to St. Paul, but the reception isn't always friendly. A Mankato Free Press report about Frans' visit to North Mankato last month said that anger about steadily rising local property taxes bubbled into the commissioner's presentation. According to the newspaper, a local resident said that cutting state aid to cities was "stupid because it kicked the can right into my back yard."
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Paul Aasen may win the prize for smelliest tour. Besides mining operations, Aasen also visited garbage facilities and toured feedlots last week.
"Contrary to rumor, there are occasions when they let us out of St. Paul," Aasen said in the midst of his expedition. "The governor has been very, very interested in having us out and about."