Ventura-on a two-day tour of central Minnesota-visited Elk River, Big Lake, Becker, Foley, Royalton, Long Prairie, and Alexandria on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, he started at Minnewaska High School near Glenwood and made a stop in Belgrade before arriving in Paynesville.
The governor's bus arrived around noon, about a half hour later than scheduled. He was greeted by a crowd of close to 400 people. At least 250 people came for the buffet lunch, and more people jammed into the banquet room to hear from the popular governor.
After an introduction by Jeff Thompson, mayor of the city of Paynesville, and his daughter, Miss Paynesville, Allison Thompson, a senior at Paynesville Area High School, Gov. Ventura was presented with some local gifts by Sue Brauchler, president of the Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce. From Brauchler, the governor received an artist's proof print of an eagle painted by local artist, Ron Iverson; fresh cheese curds from the Associated Milk Producer's Inc. plant in town; and a Paynesville Bulldog wrestling singlet.
The governor started his prepared remarks by saying how thankful he was to be in Paynesville...especially after the busy schedule on the tour.
"When I introduced my Big Plan for the state of Minnesota, I said that future success in Minnesota will depend heavily on our ability to strengthen cities like Paynesville," Ventura told the audience, as his remarks turned serious. "I said that we need healthy and vital communities in greater Minnesota in order to provide opportunity and hope for families that want to live and work in the comfort and beauty of rural Minnesota."
"In my conversations with mayors, community leaders, and citizens on this trip, I have been emphasizing how important it is for us to work together to build those healthy and vital communities," he continued.
Four points of emphasis made by the governor were the need for good roads, high-speed telecommunications, good health care, and affordable housing in rural Minnesota.
For the upcoming legislative session, Gov. Ventura said he has three priorities: telecommunications reform, transportation reform, and government reform.
"Like it or not," he said of the need for telecommunication infrastructure, "we are in a global economy."
"Access to high-speed telecommunications is an absolute need for rural Minnesota," he added later.
For transportation reform, Gov. Ventura touted his plan for a reduced rates on license tabs for automobiles. He said the minimum should be $37.50 and the maximum $75. He likened his proposal to the way the state does fishing and hunting licenses: for the privilege of fishing or hunting, not on the value of your fishing pole or rifle.
"It should be a flat rate," he said of vehicle tabs, "regardless of whether you're driving a beater or a Mercedes Benz."
Gov. Ventura said the state collects for the value of each automobile anyway. "You've already paid for that expensive car," he said. "It's called sales tax."
By government reform, Gov. Ventura was referring to his idea to change the state government to a unicameral, or one-house system. One of the reasons Gov. Ventura supports a unicameral legislature, which only Nebraska has currently, is because he feels conference committees, formed to make agreements between varying bills passed by the House and the Senate, have too much power.
According to Gov. Ventura, rural Minnesota won't lose representation in a unicameral system. After redistricting brought on by the upcoming census, he said rural Minnesota is expected to lose 17 seats in a bicameral system, but would lose only 11 in a unicameral system.
"Don't buy that," he said of critics who argue that rural Minnesota will lose more power to the metro area. "Don't be afraid. After all, you weren't afraid to elect me. Change isn't necessarily bad."
Gov. Ventura asked supporters of a bicameral legislature to raise their hands, then asked supporters of a unicameral legislature to raise their hands, and finally asked anyone who felt they shouldn't get to vote on the matter to raise their hands. When no one did, Gov. Ventura said he believed Minnesotans deserved the right to decide and asked people to call their legislators to get the issue on the ballot next November. "I believe in you," he said. "I believe you will make the right decision."
Minnesota, he noted, led the nation in voter turnout in 1998, but with only 60 percent casting votes. "That's pathetic," he said.
"That's barely above average," he added. "Four out of ten chose not to vote." He predicted voter turnout could hit 80 percent if the unicameral legislature were on the ballot this fall.
Traveling with the governor on his tour were five of his commissioners: El Tinklenberg, Department of Transport-ation; Kit Hadley, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency; Gene Hugoson, Department of Agriculture; David Fischer, Department of Administration; and Jan Malcolm, Department of Health.
Gov. Ventura said his selection process for filing state posts differed from all his predecessors because he wasn't concerned with party affiliations. "I'm not successful without these people," he said. "My style of leadership is to hire the best people available and then get out of their way. If they shine, guess what, I shine."
He criticized the legislature for failing to confirm his nomination of Steve Minn as commissioner for the combined departments of commerce and public safety.
After his stop in Paynesville, which lasted about an hour, Gov. Ventura and his bus headed to Cold Spring, where they toured the brewery. Their last stop was in St. Augusta Township, which has requested and received permission to call itself the city of Ventura when it incorporates.
Gov. Ventura saved his big news, the fact that he is leaving the Reform Party, for a press conference in St. Paul on Friday.
Johnnie Olson, chairman of the Paynesville Township Board, said it was about what he expected. "I don't know about the unicameral legislature," Olson added. "Despite what the Gov. Ventura said, percentage wise the rural areas would have less representation. I think the Legislature needs to change the way they do business. I'm glad Ventura is stirring things up, though."
Former mayor of Paynesville, Joe Voss, thought Gov. Ventura presented himself well. "The time wasn't long enough to hear everything," he said. "I thought his initiatives were reasonable. Let the people decide about the unicameral legislature."
Tom Kooiman, director of the Good Samaritan Care Center, hoped Gov. Ventura would talk about helping nursing homes in the state. "The problem with Jesse," he said, "is that he plans nothing for the rural areas."
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