Little fish, dried-up pond

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November 5, 2002 // UPDATED 1:33 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Sam Grabarski
Sam Grabarski

Fish don\'t come to mind as the most intelligent

creatures on the planet, but they

think well enough so that anglers believe

every fishing pole has a hook on one end and

an idiot on the other.

Fish have their

own psychology.

They\'re affected

by something

called \"The Big

Fish-Little Fish

Syndrome.\" If a big

fish is placed into

a tank with smaller

fish, it often

eats them, because

it sees them as small. But, when placed as a fingerling

into a tank with bigger fish, it appears

to remember itself as smaller while growing to

full size, and is less aggressive. In the big lake,

where hunger and competition are severe, fish

learn quickly to perceive size and danger with

accuracy.

Fish logic often applies to politics. Minnesota\'s

voters have restocked the State Capitol with

many new faces, a new administration, and an

invigorated Republican Party. To figure out

how Minneapolis will do in this new environment

going forward, someone needs to determine

if the 2003 State Capitol is a lake or a

tank, and if Minneapolis will be treated like a

big fish or a little fish.

A GOP Governor, and additional Republicans

in the House and Senate, will find ways to

face a projected $3 billion budget deficit

without first raising taxes. The theme that

unites these leaders is to find creative

ways to provide services, doing more with less,

downsizing government and imposing new concepts

of accountability in key departments.

This might not be a good time to be a senior

staff officer of the Department of Transportation,

which has seen sharp criticism by Republican

leaders in recent years.

Many of the new legislators avoided taking a

no-new-taxes pledge, which gives them the

flexibility to do what\'s necessary to avoid an

unbalanced budget, a condition prohibited by

the Minnesota State Constitution. Governments

in Minnesota behave like fish, taking a bite out

of smaller levels that swim by in a time of need.

It seems likely that some reductions in state

aids to local governments are ahead, which hits

Minneapolis at a bad time, already trying to

cope with its own budgetary shortfall. How

much of a bite Minneapolis will in turn take out

of your tail or dorsal fins is unknown at this

point, so stay alert.

Business representatives from around the state

tell us that transportation funding came up frequently

during local elections. During the six

years I\'ve followed this issue closely at the

Capitol, I\'ve seen transportation, including

roads and transit, grow from a small fish to a

large one, with teeth. Eventually, transportation

will eat every priority in the tank.

I\'m hoping that Governor Pawlenty will be a

force for reason on transportation issues. In

2002, any inclusion of money to study rail lines

could scuttle bills for transportation. Pawlenty

said after the election that he knows \"we cannot

build our way out of congestion.\" He

intends to hold anything from rickshaws to

rocket ships to a test of how many people are

moved, what it costs to build and subsidize and

who pays for it. If the playing field is that honest,

all options have a chance.

Minneapolis voters have again sent an all-DFL

delegation to the Capitol, which means that no

one may press for City of Lakes priorities in the

GOP caucuses. Governor Ventura cut many

projects from the 2002 bonding bill, including

every Minneapolis project. Bonding requests

for the Guthrie Theater, Children\'s Theater,

planetarium and federally designated Enterprise

Zones may be recycled in 2003. Unless

Minneapolis is viewed as a trophy class lunker,

that group of priorities won\'t survive as a set.

Hennepin County will almost certainly be

allowed to participate in a ballpark financing

proposal in 2003. The proposal will have similarities

to the 2002 package approved by legislators,

but some key differences. Hennepin

County is perceived as a bigger fish than Minneapolis

these days and needs to carry this priority

for both. As for me, I\'m one of those bottom

feeders that try to keep out of the way.

Sam

Grabarski is

president and

CEO of the

Minneapolis

Downtown

Council, a

group of

business

leaders.