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Community members discuss 'Redesigning MN'

WORTHINGTON -- A diverse group of community members gathered at the Worthington Senior High library Wednesday to explore avenues of change as the state embraces the "new normal."

The "new normal" refers to the change in demographics -- particularly our aging population and the shift in diversity -- and the evolving economy. Wednesday's event "Redesigning MN" was to kick start problem-solving for government budgets as the 1.3 million baby boomers in the state retire within the next 20 years.

"Redesigning MN" is one of the three statewide discussions organized by InCommons, a community-based organization and initiative of the Bush Foundation. A similar discussion was organized in Brainerd earlier this month, and another will take place in Eagan.

"We chose Worthington because there's a lot of great work being done around (here) with redesign," said InCommons project manager Mandy Ellerton. "We're becoming more of an entitlement economy than we are a working economy."

Local organizer Cheryl Avenel-Navara further said work from the now disbanded Nobles-Rock Community Health Services successfully placed the counties on the forefront of cooperation among government entities.

Participants, facilitated by Tim Reardon of InCommons, engaged in small group discussions, addressed questions ranging from their satisfaction in the manner current tax dollars are spent to how public services can be redesigned.

They were in agreement that they were not receiving satisfactory results from tax dollars.

"There is duplication of services but if we could combine some of them, there may be more efficiency," said attendee Victoria Blanchette.

She noted that in terms of the distribution of services, Nobles County has a particularly large group of an aging population and children.

"If we could put those two together in a creative way, it would be synergistic," said fellow participant, Jerry Perkins.

Throughout the session, attendees rotated among groups, each time discussing a new question with different members in attendance.

In exploring the obstacles of redesign, Mayor Alan Oberloh stressed that legislative bodies remain a major obstacle.

"Does it go down to the local level?" Oberloh asked. "Absolutely. Case in point, Nobles County."

Avenel-Navara explained while she was pleased with the community engagement, she is hopeful that Wednesday's event will spur further interest among more residents.

"I hope that we can join the other communities in health and human services because we have lost so much in terms of grants and people," she said in reference to Southwest Health and Human Services, which is the consortium of Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone, and Rock counties.

Wednesday's discussion was filmed by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) and will be used in the second segment of a recently released "Redesigning MN" documentary. The eight-part documentary is collaboration between TPT and the Bush Foundation.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321.