Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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Tales from Normal, Mn. Headline News---FICTION

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Public-Private Partnership Explained"----FICTION

Recently in our fair city, almost 8 months has been spent reviewing our economic development plan. It has been a little bewildering. One major employer has closed. Many small businesses have been forced out of business due to reconstruction of our downtown. Home prices have been falling. Home construction has been plumetting. Prices on everything have been skyrocketing. It has seemed to me that the more meetings I attend about economic development....the worse things get. How could this be? There appeared to be a reverse equation between the legal mumbo jumbo and the economic progress. I just began to wonder.

I knew just what to do. Whenever I get in a funk of sorts, I just head up Hwy 94 to the Twin Cities and then up north to my favorite getaway fishing town, Normal, Mn. Something about the clean fresh air. The quiet sound of the loons. Well. Sometimes even in our fair city, I think I hear the loons, but somehow up in Normal, the sound is so much stronger. Anyway, I checked in to my favorite motel, the Spruce Goose Motel, the one with the large 30 point bucks on the wall, and with the single king size pull down bed....and yes the small mini-dove bars in the ash tray to add just a hint of "upscale cashe" as my brother calls it. Something about those mini-dove bars that with just one mouthful, all my cares were gone---presto. Even before a manhatten at the Hideaway Lounge...imagine.

Anyway, after a long drive, I met my old freind Herman, the countryboy lawyer, at the Hideaway Lounge-----it was a special night. The Tex-mex band, the "Longhorns" were playing and the place was packed.

It was just the first set, and I knew that if I had any questions for my buddy that they would have to be asked quickly----once the last set started, the place went wild.

I have to admit. The question just jumbled out of my mouth:

"Herman, What's the deal with the "public-private partnerships" that all the head honchos are talking about? They all seem to know. Few of the regular folks even attend the meetings. They seem to care less. What is this all about? I am trying to be a reporter on the subject and cannot seem to make sense of it all. Can you help me?"

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

"Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me) this is real simple stuff. Up here in Normal,Mn. we keep it real simple---and I think our approach will help your understanding."

Then in one deft move, he whipped out one of those long yellow legal pads out of his satchel and called to the bartender to bring two double manhattens---and with the special whiskey.

Then Herman drew a long line right down the center of the legal pad. After pausing to compose himself like a river about to burst, Herman launched on his topic. I could tell it was one he had made a lifetime of exploring.

"Think of this legal pad as "Civics". We will put that right at the top. On the left side of the legal pad, he wrote the words, "Regular folks", and then on the right side of the ledger he wrote the words or Letters "PPP" Public, Private, Partnership. "

"Ya got to understand, Wolfman, that the regular folks on the left side of this ledger cannot afford to to go to all those meetings---they have jobs to do, kids to raise, wives to be husbands to...and real life to live.. etc. etc. Ya cannot be frustrated with these folks. They will watch the news. They will respond to an emergency. However....they have no time for billybob. They have a life. That's why they are called "regular" folk. These are the people that go to the "windows" at city hall--to pay fines, to get building permits, to pay water bills....in short, to take care of paying the bills. That is what they do."

On the other side of the ledger are the "PPP" or the Public Private Partnership." These are the folks that go to the meetings. Their primary mission is to convince the leaders of your community that they are so special that they deserve to have some of the money that the folks on the left side of the ledger have left at city hall in those windows downstairs.

"Sometimes these PPP folks are called "special." Sometimes these folks are called the pillars of the community. Sometimes they are called those who just "want to give back to the community in appreciation for all that the community has given them." The bottom line is that they want money from the folks on the left side of the ledger----and they do not care what they have to say....or do....to get it. Back in the days of the famous "Trust busters" and Teddy Roosevelt, the term "sucking at the public trough" was the phrase. Each generation has to choose the phrase that fits them-----and this generation has chosen the phrase "Public--Private--Prtnership."

Wow. What a shock. "Are you sure that it is all that SIMPLE?" I asked Herman.

"YUP", herman replied. The "suits" will try to make you think it is just very complicated, kinda like a bundled mortgage security or a fancy traded option in the stock market---do not believe it. It's SIMPLE."

Just then the band started the third set......and that double manhatten started to kick in. Herman put away the legal pad. The party was about to begin.

Well....Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do not have such a simple life as the peaceful fishing life of Normal. ...Where we have plenty of "suits" that go over and over how complicated things are and how much we all need their services to deliver the money from the regular folks to the "PPP".

It sure is good to be back home.