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Virtually all skilled and experienced observers of state budgets recommend budget reserves of around 5 percent. This comment from a 2007 publication of the Minnesota Budget Project says it all: “A healthy level of reserves allows policymakers time to make good budget decisions in the face of challenging economic circumstances. Instead of making quick and drastic choices to balance the state’s budget, policymakers can use reserves to buy time to respond to the situation in a more thoughtful and deliberative way. Time to consider the consequences of making cuts to services at a point when they may be most needed, or time to consider the impact of raising additional revenues.”
State government didn’t heed that sound advice back then; let’s hope it learns from what happened.
JOHN HOTTINGER, St. Paul
The writer is a former state senator and Senate majority leader.
Steamrolled — both literally and figuratively
In Dakota County, just minutes from the Twin Cities, there’s a place to get away from it all. Lebanon Hills is a 2,000-acre park that lives up to its motto: “Forever Wild.” Visitors may see fox, beaver, muskrat, coyotes and tundra swans while hiking or skiing over wooded hills descending to small, pristine lakes.
Sadly the park motto may need to change to “Forever Paved.” Commissioners are poised to approve a 12-foot-wide, paved multiuse trail going seven miles right through the heart of the wild. The public was not invited to participate in the planning process, and heated opposition is being ignored.
The trail is meant to serve as a central hub connecting many other county and city bike trails, thus destroying the unique wilderness nature of this metro gem. Another paradise paved.
LAUREL REGAN, Apple Valley
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The more I learn about the new Lebanon Hills master plan, the more concerned I become. While the paved trail that will cut through the center of the park is not the only problem, it is the most glaring. The trail, which would be built to a maximum grade of 5 percent, would deface a park named after its hilly terrain. Hills through the center of the park would be leveled and low areas filled in.
The master plan’s flaw is the assumption that concentrating outdoor activities in this single location would be desirable somehow. This conflicts with what a survey found is the park’s greatest asset, “the natural character of the Lebanon Hills,” as reported in the master plan itself. The county is creating a conflict that doesn’t need to be. We can have both. We should expect Lebanon Hills to remain the wild gem that prompted the Star Tribune to name it as its 2013 “Best Park in the Twin Cities.” And we should expect new greenways. We can have both as long as they are separate.
JEFF LITTLE, Apple Valley
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.