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A Junkyard Dog Finds Support from the Strib

The Red Phone Line Between Morrill Hall
And the Strib Editorial Office Still Works

Back for a third time [!] will be a proposal to give the university preliminary approval and create a greased-skids [!] bonding process for the construction of four major bioscience research buildings, to be built in a cluster near the new Gophers football stadium over the next decade. The total price tag: $233 million, over eight to 10 years.

Why create a separate bond authorization process to fund the buildings that would house biosciences research? For two good reasons:

Hiring the dozens of research superstars the university hopes to attract with new facilities takes more time than recruiting other faculty -- often three to five years. Being able to say now that the state is committed to building a new laboratory in 2012 or 2014 is an important recruiting tool.

And where is the money going to come from to pay for hiring these dozens of superstars?
Please see an earlier discussion of this shell game: “If You Build It, Grants Will Come.?

And what evidence is there that superstars (whatever that means) are lined up to come to Minnesota?
We can’t even keep our own stars, let alone superstars. Let's see: Jonathan Ravdin, Chip Bolman, Nigel Key, Mike Ward, Ben Liu, Jim Chelikowsky, Ed Prescott, Karin Musier-Forsythe, Ed Egelman, Paul Barbara, David Sherman, just off the top of my head. All stars or superstars; all gone.

If the legislature bites on this honeycrisp, they had better be prepared to follow up with additional big bucks. Otherwise they can expect to hear: “You built us the buildings, so it is only fair that you give us the money to hire people to put in those buildings. Oh, and by the way, we are also going to need more money for expensive equipment to go in the buildings."

Some years ago the University of Wisconsin deliberately contracted in size. They appear to be about 25% smaller than we are. And yet they bring in a remarkable amount of external research funding and do a demonstrably better job for their undergraduates. Maybe it is time for Minnesota to take a good look at this possibility?

In the next ten years or so we are going to have a lot of retirements. The college age population in the state will also be shrinking. To use adminspeak, why don't we have a conversation about this? Of course administrators would rather not preside over shrinkage. There is more glory in expansion.

Maybe their names can some day go on a new building? Possible snappy names include: The Frank Cerra Hall for Holistic Biosciences, The Bob Bruininks Biosciences Tower II, The Powell-Sullivan Interdisciplinary Biosciences Building, The Paller-Moldau-Furcht Center for Virtual Reality in Business and Medicine. The mind reels. Of course well-heeled donors would have first dibs on naming rights. A silent auction could be held. Maybe Coke and Pepsi would duke it out?

Wherein OurLeader Ventilates
Decries Tin Cup Approach
Offers Tax Advice
Threatens State With Junkyard Dog Behavior

Say It Ain't So, Bob
Don't Take Off the Gloves

It is better today than it was some years ago; we have the right plan and the right ideas in place to make it much better.

There are states all around us who looked at our biomedical sciences idea [see editorial on facing page] and adopted it, and have put hundreds of millions of dollars on the table (to support it), and they do not have the life sciences/biosciences industry in their back yard the way we do.

For the first time in modern history, Minnesota's economic indicators are lagging the national ones. I think it's a real problem.

In the Big Ten, we are slightly below average. Some of the places above us are proximate to some nice cornfields. We are in an unbelievable business culture here. What's keeping us from moving up?

Ohio State's private-funded research more than doubled in two years, and they went from roughly our position to the top of the Big Ten.

Our approach to that in Minnesota was, we passed a $2.5 million bill which required a special entity to go out and raise more money. It was the tin cup model. It didn't work.

If you want to say "no new taxes," that's fine. I don't believe in it. I think it's bad public policy to take options off the table that can be used to solve a problem.

But then at least, stick your neck out and reform the (tax) system.... We have a flawed sales tax system. I've said since 1990, we ought to put the sales tax on clothing...

Question: The state budget is in trouble again. When that happened in 2003, your response seemed to be, "We'll take our share of the cuts." Will you do that again?

Answer: No. I'm going to be meaner than a junkyard dog if that happens again. It should not happen again. That would be a lack of leadership on the part of our state....

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