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Minnesota Shutdown Forum Morphs into Budget-Deal Dissection

With details scant, discussion returned to broad themes.

More than 60 people packed a union hall in Blaine Thursday evening to discuss the Minnesota government shutdown—just as legislative leaders and Gov. Dayton were vowing in St. Paul to end the shutdown within days.

So the community forum hosted by the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation at the Roofers Local 96 meeting room turned to the newly struck deal.

Not Edina
State Rep. Tim Sanders (R-51A) fielded sometimes combative questions for an hour but didn't know many more details of the emerging budget than those in the audience.

"I'm missing the detail phone call to be with you all," Sanders said.

Tim Gella, a Blaine resident and retired member of the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), told Sanders people in his district support a progressive tax structure.

"I don't think we have a whole lot of millionaires in this district," Gella said. "This is not Edina."

Sanders acknowledged "a disagreement in how we see things."

Fridley Teacher
At least one member of the audience had effects of the budget on Fridley on her mind: Callie Bush, a science teacher at , who also serves on the governing board of Education Minnesota, the state teachers union.

She said she attended out of concern with school- and teacher-related legislation and how a broader shift of school funds to state coffers might impact Fridley schools already feeling pinched budgets.

Bush said a 25 percent cut to her department's budget has meant no classroom Kleenex and larger groups for lab experiments, from two or three students to four or five in lab groups.

"I teach anatomy and to have four to five kids around one dissection specimen is not as beneficial," Bush said. She added that she appreciated that the forum gave people a chance to talk to their representative at the Capitol.

Anoka-Hennepin Perspective
Another teacher in the audience was Julie Blaha, president of Education Minnesota's local in the Anoka-Hennepin district, which includes the far northeastern corner of Fridley, north of 79th Avenue NE.

Blaha said forums like the one in Blaine were useful in helping elected officials keep their promises. Most events in the series put on by unions saw 60-100 attendees.

As opposed to rallies like those seen in Wisconsin—where she said protesters can be dismissed as "they" or "those people," Blaha said meetings at which constitutents make their case and speak their piece to representatives accomplish something.

"That works," she said.

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