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home : opinion : editorial August 16, 2017

4/19/2017 2:47:00 PM
The power of optimism

We live in a society where the growing focus seems to lean toward complaints, rather than optimism.
When something positive happens in our community, there is always a group out there that is eager to say, "yeah, but..." If a city council, school board, or legislator steps up and makes a tough decision, residents often focus on the pitfalls, rather than the long range positives.

A good example of this occurred in 2008, when Rep. Rod Hamilton crossed party lines to make a crucial vote overriding Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the transportation bill. At the time, it was clear that Hamilton's vote came at a price for his political career. He lost standing and power within his party.

However, Hamilton was offered a big carrot in return for his vote - completion of the Highway 60 four-lane expansion project. That 2008 transportation bill, which contained language related to Highway 60, is the reason work began Monday on the final leg of the four-lane expansion project.

Nonetheless, in the days after Hamilton's vote, the naysayers found reason to sulk.

"It will never happen," they said in their deep grumbles. "Somehow, it will fall apart and Highway 60 will always be two-lane around here."

Meanwhile, Rep. Hamilton and Sen. Jim Vickerman continued to push the project forward, urging MnDOT leaders to not lose sight of their duty. There was a hiccup a few weeks later, when plans for the expansion seemed to stall.

The reaction to that little hesitation regarding the Highway 60 project could serve as a case study on what it means to be a do-nothing grumbler and what it means to be positive and active.

The immediate reaction of many grumblers was to duck their heads and go right into, "I told you so," mode. Right on cue, they said to anyone within earshot, "See, we knew the Highway 60 project wouldn't happen."

Meanwhile, the active and positive crowd confidently went to work. A special town meeting was organized by Hamilton, Vickerman and Windom leaders. To their great credit, state and district MnDOT leaders agreed to come to Windom and hear the concerns, firsthand.

That July night in 2008, at the Windom Community Center, our legislators, council members, commissioners and 400 residents appeared and told stories of tragedies and near tragedies along the two-lane portions of Highway 60. Several MnDOT leaders said that meeting had an impact on them. There is no doubt that the event solidified MnDOT's support for the four-lane expansion.

In two years, the long overdue Highway 60 expansion project will be finished. Our critical link to the Twin Cities and the Interstate highway system will be safer and more efficient. Countless lives will be saved.

Why? Because positive and active people refused to give up.

 - Rahn Larson

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