"Love is Bigger than Government"

A profound insight or an empty Ventura-ism?

I emailed my mom the day after the election to give her my condolences: George W. Bush would again be calling the shots of her beloved state of Texas (my parents recently moved back to their home territory). I figured she'd heard about Minnesota's new Governor-elect but she hadn't, so I told her. "Are the people of Minnesota snoring away? What are they thinking? What a joke. Those wrestlers are clowns." There was absolutely NO WAY I was going to inform her that her daughter had cast her vote for him.

Perhaps the choice I made wasn't a sound one. It's only a matter of time before I--and the rest of the state--find out. But I unequivocally believe if I ever run into Governor Ventura--while I'm out jogging down Summit Avenue (the Governor's mansion is only five blocks from where I live)--I'd feel very comfortable going up to him to ask, "dude, what's the deal with this ludicrous idea that there shouldn't be any government help/funding for college students? Let me tell you something." I've never before felt I'd want to "confront" any political figure. I've never felt they'd listen or care. I've never felt they were a "regular Joe." I do now. And maybe that's what I voted for.

Why I Didn't
His plans for the state ain't great
by A.A. LaBrec "The state of the State is great," says Jesse Ventura, reflecting an overall image of Minnesota as a prosperous, safe environment with great public schools: a wonderful place to settle down and raise a family. For many of us, it still is. Yet, rattling off that list of family-friendly amenities may be more self-comfort than reality in a state where over 9,000 children will be homeless tonight. But wait, I forgot: according to Ventura logic, shouldn't those youngsters simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps? So much for the wisdom of electing an unqualified third-party candidate. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the demolition of the two-party system. Like many of my progressive peers, I celebrate the notion of a major election being won by a third-party candidate. But not any third-party candidate! Just like most of the electorate, I'm fed up with the political status-quo. But not so fed up that I would resort to supporting a gubernatorial candidate who blames a woman who gets deserted by her child's father "for marrying a loser." It's true that Jesse made those offensive remarks about single mothers (and the Irish and Native American treaty rights) after he was already in office, so I can't rightly claim them as the reason I didn't help elect him--although his campaign rhetoric certainly foretold his core attitudes. But ultimately, the reason I could never, ever have voted for Ventura is simple: he has the audacity to be against gun control in a country where every day, fifteen children aged 0 to 19 are killed with guns, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Easier access to guns in a country that is by far the most violent of all of the Western democracies? No amount of NRA spin-doctor jargon can change the fact that when you put some reasonable limits on who can pack heat, fewer people are going to die needless, violent deaths. As Lonnie Bristow, M.D., president of the American Medical Association put it, "Kids tell us that it's easy to buy a gun, but it's cheaper to rent one by the hour. When it is easier to get a gun in this country than it is to get a library card, we know we are heading in the wrong direction." Yet, we do as a nation and a state have certain incredible strengths and privileges, and with those comes the responsibility of appropriate stewardship of resources. If we want to live in a safe, prosperous society, we're going to have to address the widening gap between rich and poor, and it ain't about bootstraps. The metro area's troubles are quite severe: the concentration of poverty in Minneapolis and the degree of income disparity between the center city and its suburbs are among the highest in the nation, according to the 1997 report, Keeping the Twin Cities Vital, published by the Metropolitan Council. The poverty rates for families living within the city of Minneapolis is more than double the comparable rates for the seven-county metro area, and there has been a nine-fold increase in homeless children in the metro area in this decade alone. Regardless of the booming economy and low unemployment rates many of us in Minnesota are enjoying, this level of poverty among a significant number of people in our inner cities is cause for alarm. Because in tandem with poverty comes a host of other societal ills that affect all of our daily lives. Crime is one established poverty-related concern: over the past decade, arrest rates for homicides committed by fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds have more than tripled at the national level, and Minneapolis and St. Paul are no exception to that trend. In The Juvenile Crime Challenge: Making Prevention a Priority, leading juvenile justice expert Dr. Peter W. Greenwood calls the risk factors contributing to juvenile delinquency and violence "fairly well known," and says, "Deviant behavior is too often the result of an unstable and unloving home life; alienation from social groups such as school, church, and the community; economic inequities; and cultural and racial discrimination--all crucial to building self-esteem. . . ." According to the AMA's Annual Report Card on Violence, the total number of teens is projected to increase by twenty percent over the next decade, and many criminologists expect a continuing surge in crime. Where is the governor's comprehensive plan for alleviating the growing poverty in our cities and preventing continued escalation of the juvenile crime rate? But crime isn't the only or first outcome of keeping children in poverty. When children don't get their basic needs met, they can't learn. Last June, results of the first administration of Minnesota's Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), the statewide third- and fifth-grade tests, were released by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning: "They show that, on most of the tests, nearly forty percent of the state's public school third- and fifth-graders are already on track for successful achievement of Minnesota's new Graduation Standards . . ." I'm well-aquainted with many of the good people who work long and hard to keep Minnesota's schools among the best in the nation, and I mean them no disrespect when I suggest that "nearly forty percent" is pretty dismal when you're talking about the total number of students in the state who are "on track" to achieve the state's graduation standards. Of course, when you recall that sixty-six percent of the Minneapolis Public School's students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and this group is statistically more than twice as likely to fail the Minnesota eighth-grade Basic Standard's Tests in reading and math, the overall grim performance statistics are less surprising. I realize Governor Ventura has supported budget increases for education, but without a more comprehensive plan to address poverty than his tiresome tug-on-the-bootstraps advice, budget increases alone will not make a dent in the downward spiral of achievement in the two largest public school districts in the state of Minnesota. Unless our new governor gets wise fast and decides to take seriously the very real threats related to the growing "economic inequities" in our state, we're all going to sacrifice more than he knows.

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