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New year, new way of governing? (01/09/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

Itís a tad early in the year to be making predictions, but how about some observations? It isnít often that so many new players appear on the local government scene at the beginning of the year. But here we are with a new Winona County Attorney, a new Winona City Manager, an interim Superintendent of Winona Public Schools, and a fairly new Winona County Administrator, as well as several new faces among elected officials on all three boards.

All this change gives us an opportunity for positive action leading to a better community. Past behavior by some local government figures, which in a very few but notable instances ranged from dictatorial to downright rude and obnoxious, we hope is behind us. To those officials who did their jobs well and with decency, we say farewell.

Governing well is not an easy job, especially in a democracy. The job requires patience, an ability to see issues from different perspectives, understanding and respect for others ó those you govern, those you govern with, and those who oppose you.

Unfortunately, during the last several years Winona has seen more than its share of bad governing from a few bad apples. Such behavior tends to spread rot throughout, and we find ourselves in a situation where nearly everyone ó government workers and taxpayers alike ó is unhappy, stressed, and feels misused.

But I have already seen glimmers of hope, most notably at the county, where the commissioners and administrator have taken steps to make government more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers and to county workers. An election in the County Attorneyís office, with two challengers and the consequent resignation of the former county attorney, followed by an interim leader and outside review of the office, may well signal massive (and sorely needed) changes in the county court system.

What will happen at City Hall and the public school system is yet to be seen. But the new players there would be wise to take a caution from the recent history of city and school politics.

We at the Winona Post are in a unique position to watch local government and track its methods of doing business, its successes and failures. We attend the public meetings, we read the data, we listen to the arguments of the various players on each side of a question, and we follow stories from the beginning to the end (some never seem to end!). We often are maligned for our tenaciousness and attention to detail, but thatís our job ó to try to tell our readers exactly what is going on in local government, how their tax dollars are being used, and the results of various actions in the historic scheme of things.

We look forward to a new year and to so many new faces in local government, and hope all the news coming out of City Hall, the County Government Center, the Courthouse and the school district offices is not just good news, but news that will do good for the community.

Still time to join the Follies!

I went to the first rehearsal for the Winona Health Auxiliary Follies. Director Sue Degallier led the group in practicing songs for the production, Topsy Turvy Television Follies, which, as you might have guessed, is a series of skits based on some of our favorite television shows of the past and present.

Except for one member of the troupe, who is originally from Italy, most of us knew the various television theme songs. I am more of a tune person than a word person, so I had to look at the song sheet a fair amount. I figured for some of them, like Sesame Street, I lammed out of the room the minute the theme song came on so I could get a little bit of housework done while the kids counted with the Count or learned their ABCs with Bert and Ernie. But I knew the Mickey Mouse Club theme song by heart, as did a fair number of the other cast members.

There are a lot of new members of the cast, including lots of men, which is great. One woman we sat next to said sheís always wanted to be part of the Follies, but always had conflicts until this year. There are many return members, too. If you are one of those who has always wanted to be in the Follies and love to sing, dance, act, or work backstage, there is still time. Call the Winona Health Auxiliary Volunteer Director Autumn Herber at 507-457-4394 to find out where and when to show up.

Franís Book Club

Mary Zimmerman suggests The Other Side by Michael Brown, and books and poems by Mattie Stepanek and his mother, Jeni.

Ann Lavine says give Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley, and The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow a try. 


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