by Olivia Shoemaker
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune
On Inauguration Day, I’ll turn on the TV and put up with the inevitable reports describing the deep rift in our society and the tear in the fabric of our nation. I should view these revelations with despair, but I am surprised by my hope.
I live in a community where unity is a priority (#lakevillestrong), and I am encouraged by our elected officials who continue to treat citizens with respect.
After interviewing state and local politicians from various sides of the aisle, here’s a couple of reasons why I’m excited about the future of my city, Lakeville:
1) Our elected officials are creating community spaces for open discussion
Throughout the campaign cycle, candidates on the local and state level spent plenty of time connecting with voters and treating their campaigns as incubators for their platforms. During his campaign, Terry Lind (Lakeville Area School Board) held discussions at local coffee shops regarding controversial issues like class size and investment in school athletic fields. Since the election, politicians like Luke Hellier (Lakeville City Council) have continued communication with their constituencies. Through bi-monthly newsletters and “Coffee with Your Councilman” events, Hellier invites citizen engagement in local politics. Embracing controversy and diversity of opinion reduces the power of echo chambers and elevates the public voice.
2) They’re seeking to foster inclusive understanding
Our politicians are beginning to recognize that equality of representation shouldn’t be a goal, but a reality. When I spoke with Sen. Matt Little, DFL-Lakeville, about his plans to serve each member of his constituency equally, he acknowledged that, “It’s all about listening without pretense,” and, “hearing people out no matter what you think of their beliefs.” Others are pushing for equality as well. Lind, for example, has supported cultural literacy training in our school district. It’s important that our politicians are willing to speak up for every member of their constituents, even minorities. As Rep. Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville, put it, “If you live in my district, I can be your voice.”
3) They’re pursuing work across the aisle
When I asked Koznick to speak to his proudest accomplishment during his first term, he talked about his role in balancing competing priorities on the House Transportation and Regional Governance Policy Committee. Recognizing the power of bridge-building (pun unintended!) at the Capitol, he acknowledged that he works closely with his colleagues from the DFL Party and that “we can actually get along even though we might disagree on a specific issue.” This collaborative attitude aided him in being named vice-chair of the committee this year, but more importantly, communicated that cooperation and compromise is a necessity. Little agreed, advocating that priority should be placed on ending political gridlock on the state level.
In 2017, that kind of cross-aisle collaboration is something to celebrate.
I’ll be honest, I felt like I was on the losing side of this election cycle, but Inauguration Day isn’t the end; my city can be stronger than ever.
Olivia Shoemaker is a Lakeville North High School student. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.