Thursday, June 30, 2011

Minnesota Government Shutdown Affects Many

July 1 is a Friday, and it's supposed to signal the start of a festive summer weekend. The Fourth of July is a wonderful holiday, where we celebrate our nation's independence by lighting fuses that lead to small explosions and pretty colors in the sky.

In Minnesota, however, things will be tempered a bit. Come Friday, the state's government will cease operations, barring a last-minute agreement on a state budget.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but the people most affected by the potential shutdown share exactly zero percent of the blame.

Those people are the ones who suffer, because they lose their jobs. Even if it's only temporary, it's lost income for people who don't deserve to lose their income.

The sports world isn't immune to these problems. Canterbury Park in Shakopee is facing the prospect of shutting down on its busiest weekend of the year.

While entries were being taken for Saturday's nine-race card, Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled that oversight of horse racing is not a core government function, meaning Canterbury would have to close after Thursday night's races if the government shuts down.

But Canterbury and its horsemen have not given up, and they will get a hearing in Scott County District Court on Thursday for a temporary injunction that would keep the track open.

... In Canterbury's track kitchen, on the clocker's stand and at the racing office, most conversations Wednesday revolved around the shutdown. If it happens, Canterbury could not continue racing, because the Minnesota Racing Commission -- which regulates the sport -- would close. But the commission is fully funded by the track and its horsemen, who have paid for its services through July.

Their attorneys argue that because no public funds are involved, the track should be allowed to stay open. Canterbury President Randy Sampson said he was shocked by Gearin's decision, which stated that her authority was limited to core government functions -- and declared racing was not among those. But the ruling grants the horsemen the right to appeal, which they will do.

The reality of this situation is that our politicians continue to pass the buck, refusing to hold themselves accountable for this mess. It's a mess that's been predicted by many for months, largely because we all knew these people couldn't be trusted to provide the leadership necessary to avoid it.

While the politicians pass the buck, real people are being affected. Naturally, our politicians won't lose their jobs. They won't have to give back any of the salaries they've been stealing.

(Why do I say that? Because their primary job this year -- and they've known this since the legislative session began in January -- was to avoid a government shutdown. That was the only thing they had to do. They not only failed, but they have been half-assing the effort to avoid this shutdown. In any other line of work, such a failure to perform the very basic function of the job would result in a nearly-immediate termination. In politics, these people will actually think they're doing a good job and should be re-elected when the time comes.)

It's wholly disappointing to think about all the services that will go away for the Fourth of July weekend.

Of course, it was completely avoidable. Too bad no one was able to look beyond their own interests to actually make the effort.

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