Yesterday, we posted about the fascinating long article from the Fillmore County Journal about Pawlenty's childish behavior in Rushford last week. In today's Winona Daily News, the editor of the Rushford Tri-County News is far more forceful in guest column: .
Myron Schober, who has heroically published the local paper after losing its office to the flood, writes about the need for a special session [emphasis added]:
. . . Improved figures corroborated from several sources now indicate $35 million losses in residences, $27 million in businesses, and $15 million in public costs for a current total of $77 million. A preliminary judgment ranks it a
200- to 500-year flood that damaged 490 of 766 homes and businesses with 60 homes likely lost; 58 of 70 businesses impacted and 463 of 600 jobs affected. No business receives any form of FEMA grant.
The staggering losses have impressed the most veteran Red Cross, FEMA, Salvation Army workers on site. Yet one Red Cross worker said Rushford is a model of recovery and how it should be done. You are so resilient said another worker from Tennessee in his 17th Red Cross disaster. Rushford has never begged; it is used to being independent and self-sufficient.
“We have done all we can and now we need help,” said Ted Roberton the head of one of the two banks that flooded. Banks are ineligible for SBA loans.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Services is a 40-year-old multi-service agency, including a nursing home. While above floodwater, it became an evacuee center and still doesn’t have drinkable water; no one in the city does because there is e-coli in the water system. Administrator Dennis Reiman says there were many costs and damages as a result of the flood, and people came to work in their pajamas because 17 employees were victims of the flood.
To legislators he said, “We need you to do everything you can to help us because we are the largest employer, and if we don’t exist, it will affect a lot of people.”
Rushford has become a pawn in the political in-fighting of St. Paul, a kicking under the table we do not understand and do not want to understand. What southeast Minnesota and particularly Rushford needs is action that leads to genuine pump-priming of an economy which is at a standstill.
“I have grave concerns about the survival of our business community,” said Lee Humble, president of the local Chamber of Commerce as he addressed the legislators. “I hope you carry these words to the governor. We will be watching what you do and we will spread the word around the state through our chambers of commerce so they can know what to expect if it ever happens to them.” . . .
It's time that Governor Pawlenty quit listening to the likes of Grover Norquist and Margaret Martin, and start listening to local officials, business people and citizens in Southeastern Minnesota. This isn't about public relations or ideology, but the need for real help.
Schober is direct:
. . .Rushford is in crisis.
“Without help, this could be another Katrina, people will walk away,” said Chuck Ness, a new employee in the area.
Thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars of goods and services have helped cleanup, but funding is needed for recovery.
“We need money,” said a county commissioner. . . .
Myron Schober knows what he’s talking about. For the past three weeks, he’s relived the floods personally and professionally.
In addition to the floodwaters wiping out his newspaper office, the editor/publisher has heard the tales time and time again from the community he’s covered for nearly three decades. And after three weeks of waiting, and as he sees neighbors and businesses leave Rushford without coming back, he’s calling this Pawlenty’s Katrina. . . .
. . .There is but one man who could make a difference and that’s Gov. Tim Pawlenty. And as hundreds of Minnesotans’ suffering slowly boils into rage, Pawlenty has been doubly bad.
His trips to the affected areas now number in the double digits. He’s talked to those who have lost everything. He’s seen the tears, promised a special session. And it seems like every time he wanders back to St. Paul, he intimates that a special session will not have to be called.
We have to wonder what beyond petty political motives is going on here. Is it because of some worry he might be forced into signing a tax increase? Well, if it’s an increase in taxes to help our fellow Minnesotans rebuild their lives, it’s money well spent. It seems like Pawlenty cares more about political ideology than people. . . .
Unless those people are ideologues; they seem to have the governor's ear when it comes to action. And the paper metaphorically horsewhips the governor for his latest "help" on Friday:
This leaves us with only one conclusion: It is cruel and heartless not to help those who need it. Pawlenty should borrow an idea championed by his own party and put a little compassion into his conservative beliefs.
Yet what may be the most amazing part of the conspicuous absence of state money is what Pawlenty did Friday. By administrative order, he reshuffled funding of different agencies, something he, as the chief executive of the state, has the right to do.
While $32 million will come to southern Minnesota, this isn’t new money. It’s just taking it from already cash-strapped state agencies. It’s robbing other Minnesotans and playing politics in St. Paul.
It won’t be long before these agencies, some of which will have millions shifted around, will report their inability to provide essential services to other residents. That’s more than unfortunate; it’s unfair.
The board concludes:
Since Pawlenty seems impervious to the tearful residents who have lost everything, since he’s been unwilling to listen to local leaders, maybe the message needs to be sent a little more clearly: Money talks, governor. We trust you know what walks.
Please go over to the Winona Daily News and read the full text of both columns. We're starting to be reminded of 2006, when SE Minnesota's newspapers led the way in calling a spade a spade, while the Twin Cities media was clueless about public sentiment in southern Minnesota.