2007 State of the County Address

Hennepin County Board Chair Randy Johnson

University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis Campus
March 29, 2007


Thank you, Dave.

We are honored to have you with us today...and thanks to the University of St. Thomas staff for your help in making arrangements for Hennepin’s 13th annual State of the County address.

We are pleased to see people from education, health care, business, labor, county staff and everyone who is concerned about our community.

We especially recognize those who have run for and hold elected office. Would all of the elected officials please stand so we can express our appreciation for your service.

Many of you know that I am an avid student of history, with a special interest in Minnesota and our institutions that make us unique on the planet. The University of St. Thomas is one of our most interesting organizations. Today, it is the largest independent university in the state ...with nearly 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

St. Thomas has long-standing traditions of service to the public... and values-based, community-driven leadership.

The school began in 1885 as an all-male, Roman Catholic seminary in St. Paul. (You know, St. Paul, it’s that small Hennepin County suburb to the east of us!) ... and it became a liberal arts college nine years later. Women started regularly attending classes at St. Thomas for the first time in 1977. Today, the undergraduate student body is 51 percent women and 49 percent men.


One reason we are here at the downtown Minneapolis campus of the University of St. Thomas today because it is home to the National Institute of Health Policy... of which Hennepin County is a member.

The National Institute of Health Policy was established in 1998 through a unique partnership of St. Thomas and Dave Durenberger... who ably served the people of Minnesota as U.S. Senator from 1978 to 1995.

Without doubt, Dave Durenberger is recognized as one of the nation’s most knowledgeable and thoughtful leaders on health care policy issues. The mission of the Institute is to provide a neutral forum for collaboration on complex health care policy issues... explore those issues... and find common-ground solutions.

The Institute has more than 35 members from organizations throughout the Upper Midwest, including hospitals, clinics, doctors, health institutes, employers and consumers.

During the past five years, the Institute and its forums have made it possible for health stakeholders from six states serving nearly 15-million people to collaborate on health system and policy change.

At the Institute’s annual meeting that I attended last month, Senator Durenberger and other health policy leaders discussed a variety of issues... looking for solutions to health care access... uncompensated care for those who cannot afford it ...and new medical technology.

As Senator Durenberger has pointed out, universal health care coverage has become the hottest topic in domestic politics nation-wide. At least 20 states are contemplating a Massachusetts-like or another approach to covering all ... or nearly all ... of their citizens with some kind of health insurance or health care coverage. Here in Minnesota, we provide health care to most of our residents more efficiently than almost anywhere in the nation, but we can do better to deliver the care more equitably.

At the county level, we are concerned about the health of our residents... the health of our employees... and the health of Hennepin County Medical Center, which has been caring for our residents for nearly 120 years.

This outstanding public teaching hospital includes a 424-bed hospital, trauma center and primary care and specialty clinics.

The staff, the training and the technology at Hennepin County Medical Center have consistently placed it on US News and World Report’s list of top hospitals in the nation.

No matter where you get your health care in our area, chances are pretty good that your physician received at least some of his or her training at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Many people are alive today because of the excellent care they received as patients at HCMC.

A few of the stories make the headlines -- like the young man who fell from the 17th story of a downtown Minneapolis hotel, and who is back home and at work today... thanks to the paramedics and staff at HCMC.

Or, the 22-year-old man from a Twin Cities suburb who was in a very serious car crash last summer. He was rushed to the Level One Trauma Center at HCMC where emergency medicine, surgical care and specialists from the traumatic brain injury program worked together to put him on the road to recovery. His goal...as he said in a news story... is to return here, to the University of St. Thomas, to finish his degree.

You also may have seen the story about the Minneapolis man who recently had a heart attack.
Fortunately for him, HCMC was the first hospital in the state using "Arctic Sun" technology to cool the body of a heart attack victim. This technology helps prevent damage to the patient's brain. Today, the patient is home and doing very well... because of that innovation and the care that came with it.

There is a young man from St. Cloud who will soon become a doctor. He chose medicine because the doctors and nurses in the burn unit at HCMC saved his life 12 years ago when he was suffering from a rare bacterial infection...an infection so severe that it almost cost him his legs. That young man is now a resident in that same burn unit.

In addition to running marathons, he is on his own personal journey to becoming a burn surgeon-- repaying the people and the profession that for him meant the difference between life and death.

Across the country, public hospitals have been moving away from direct operation by state and local governments to achieve more operational autonomy and flexibility... to be more nimble in the increasingly competitive health care business. That is exactly what has happened with Hennepin County Medical Center.

I want to recognize my colleague Mike Opat for his strong leadership in forcing us to deal with this issue.

To keep HCMC thriving in our very competitive health care market, the County Board unanimously approved a change in governance for the Medical Center. The result of that change, which was approved by the Minnesota Legislature, is that a new public subsidiary corporation – called Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc. – was created...and officially began operating HCMC and its clinics on January 1st.

The County Board last summer appointed the first Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc., board of directors. Commissioner Mike Opat and I serve on the new board, along with 11 other members from the community who have expertise in areas such as health care, finance, human resources, business and education. Christopher Puto, the dean of the Opus College of Business here at St. Thomas, is a board member.

The new board has significant operational control of day-to-day activities at HCMC... but the County Board still has control over the hospital’s safety-net mission and major budget decisions. I am pleased that we achieved this governance change with the help and support – after extended, careful negotiations – with organized labor, and especially my friend – Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5.

Our goal remains the same -- to continue HCMC’s mission of providing quality health care to all in our community ... continuing to attract, train and retain the best medical talent in the world ...and continuing important research.

Other health care

With our population growing older and Baby Boomers beginning to retire, Hennepin is providing more and more services to its older citizens.

Many seniors who wish to remain living in their homes are eligible for county programs that help pay for community-based services, such as

alternative care. Hennepin County is expanding service delivery in North Minneapolis at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center. Relocating and

restructuring health and human services at NorthPoint is allowing the county to reach out to the community and serve clients more effectively.

On-site health care services make NorthPoint a convenient, one-stop center for medical, dental, and social services.

We also are concerned about the health of our employees.

The county, in partnership with HealthPartners, recently opened a “Be Well Center” and a health care clinic in the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis -- the first HealthPartners clinic of its kind in the Twin Cities. It offers evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of minor conditions such as colds and headaches. Other services include blood-pressure checks and cholesterol screening.


Our suburban county libraries are recognized as one of the top six library systems in the nation by the study published in the American Library Association’s magazine, Library Journal.

Our 26 suburban libraries experienced record usage last year. More than 13 million books, CDs, DVDs and magazines were checked out in 2006.

That is an average of about 17 books and other materials per person -- about two and a half times the national average ...and about twice the state average.

Hits on the library’s website topped 10 million in 2006 ... a 34-percent increase over 2005 ... and more than 2.8 million reserves were placed on books and other materials in last year, an increase of nearly 13 percent.

The county library system is stronger than ever... but that is not the case with the City of Minneapolis system where library hours have been severely reduced and some libraries temporarily closed.

Late last year, the County Board created a city-county joint committee to explore the future of libraries in Hennepin County.

After careful study, the committee recommended that the county and city library systems consolidate by December 2008, with the county assuming operation of the consolidated system.

Let me be very frank here. Although I was born and raised in Minneapolis, the district I represent is now entirely suburban. Some suburban residents have questioned why the suburbs should “bail out” the city’s libraries.

First, we have to recognize that Minneapolis is historically the depository/archive library for the State. That function would have to be absorbed by Hennepin County if the city or state did not do it. Second, the suburbs will not thrive around a decaying central city, and libraries are an important public service. Third, if we can work out the details, the county’s expertise and economies of scale will provide better library services for everyone.

The recommendation calls for the new system to be called the Hennepin County Library...with a single, enlarged library board appointed by the County Board.

This is a complex merger, involving very different personnel and compensation systems, different technology and software, even different book classification systems. There are many details to be worked out, but I am optimistic that when the County Board meets on April 10th, we will be ready to support a plan to merge those two systems and provide quality library services countywide.

New ballpark

Another issue that, in my view, receives an inordinate amount of media attention is the new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins. Hennepin County stepped up to the plate... so to speak... and is “teaming” with the Twins to build a new ballpark. This partnership will make sure that Major League Baseball remains in Minnesota ...and in Hennepin County ...for decades to come.

The Hennepin County/Twins proposal for an open-air ballpark in the Warehouse District near Target Center in downtown Minneapolis -- led by Commissioner Opat -- was approved by the State Legislature and signed into law last year. The basic agreement is for the county to pay $350 million for construction and infrastructure costs from a 0.15 percent sales tax in Hennepin County, and the Twins organization will contribute $130 million.

Upon final approval by the County Board, construction is expected to begin this summer, with the new ballpark opening for the start of the Twins’ 2010 season.

We are still negotiating with the Twins, the City of Minneapolis, the Ballpark Authority, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the landowners and the railroad which has tracks on part of the land. We have scheduled a meeting on April 10 when I hope the County Board will approve the final agreement with all parties and decide on the legal process to acquire the land.

State of the county

Although libraries and ballparks receive the media attention, Hennepin County does a lot more. We provide needed human services ...encourage economic development along our transit corridors... and provide law enforcement for cities in the rural, western part of the county, as well as help in Minneapolis when needed.

Hennepin is by far the most populous of Minnesota's 87 counties, with nearly one-point-two million people... and the quality of life here is among the best in the nation. Money Magazine recently named the Twin Cities area as the best place to live in the Midwest...and Popular Science declared Minneapolis as the “top tech city” in the country.

We believe that the high-quality programs, services and opportunities provided by Hennepin County contribute to making this a place where people choose to live and work... and help us attract the bright and ambitious young people who are essential to our continuing prosperity.

Hennepin County has maintained its triple-A credit rating – the best possible – for 32 years. Our top rating reflects strong county management and our overall, sound financial condition. We take pride in the fact that Hennepin is one of only 20 counties – of the 3,100 counties in the nation – with a triple-A rating from all three rating agencies.

County administration

The state of the county is very good. I like to think it is partly the result of the leadership of the County Board.

But, it also is due to the vision and sound financial management of our county staff ...and of Sandy Vargas, our county administrator since 1999 whose last official day is tomorrow. Sandy has dedicated herself to combating inter-generational poverty in Hennepin County, with her commitment to having every child graduate from high school ...eliminating teen pregnancies ...and providing stabilized housing for families.

We are all sad to see Sandy leave ...but we are as excited as she is about her new opportunity to serve our community as CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation. We sincerely thank Sandy for a job well done at Hennepin County – and we will be knocking on your door with some great ideas on how the Minneapolis Foundation can invest even more money in our community through Hennepin County.

County administration will be in the very competent hands of Acting County Administrator Richard Johnson. Richard joined the county in 2000 as deputy county administrator. Previously, he was an associate regional administrator of the Metropolitan Council and chief financial officer of Dakota County.

Richard Johnson has the full confidence of every member of our board.

State and federal funding reductions

The demand for Hennepin County services and programs -- many of them mandated by the state and federal governments -- is increasing, along with the cost of providing them.

We are still adjusting to the hundreds of million dollars in state funding reductions that were handed down to us in 2003 and 2004 ... when we were forced to reduce or eliminate a number of county programs and services, primarily in Human Services and Community Corrections.

Now, Hennepin County must respond to cuts estimated at between $8 million and $21 million in human services funding because of the Federal Deficit Reduction Act. This means that county property taxpayers will have to pay millions of dollars more for the delivery of social services, many of which are mandated.

In typical federal fashion, the cuts passed Congress in January 2006, but we still have not been told exactly what has been cut... and we are still waiting for the federal implementation rules – although the federal government says that many of the reductions will be retroactive to January 2006.

2007 County Budget

This year’s county budget is approximately $1.5 billion, with a net property tax levy of $565 million, an increase of slightly more than 5 percent from the 2006 levy. Because of the change in governance at Hennepin County Medical Center, the County Board...for the first time... approved a separate budget for HCMC. That budget is slightly more than $500 million dollars.

Increased service demands, federal and state funding reductions, and the rising costs of energy and health care were major factors in developing the 2007 budget ...and human services and public safety programs continue to consume the bulk of new property taxes.

As stewards of the public’s assets, we are striving to bring down the cost of doing business -- without losing quality and the ability to serve our customers.


County Commissioner Gail Dorfman co-chaired the City-County Commission to End Homelessness. At our final meeting in 2006, the County Board approved “Heading Home Hennepin: The 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Minneapolis and Hennepin County,” signaling the board’s commitment to ending homelessness in the next decade.

The plan attacks the problem of homelessness from a variety of fronts – from preventing people from becoming homeless ...to better outreach on the streets that will help homeless people access services and attain housing.

We approved $2 million to launch capital projects recommended by the 10-year plan, such as developing transitional housing... and Veterans’

Service has hired additional staff needed to connect veterans to appropriate services, including housing. On this issue, the Governor and even the federal government have been cooperative.

Hennepin County/University of Minnesota partnership
Hennepin County’s more formal partnership with the University of Minnesota is now in its third year. This joint effort – with special attention by Commissioner Linda Koblick -- is connecting the scholarship and research of the university with the local, hands-on laboratory that is Hennepin County.

Together, we have undertaken initiatives in the areas of transit planning, public health, delivering social services, and ending homelessness. As one small example, Commissioner Dorfman worked with the dean and students of the University’s College of Design to redesign the space for the second “Project Homeless Connect” event – a one-stop-shop for delivering services to the homeless – at the Minneapolis Convention Center last year.

In addition to homelessness, the University and Hennepin County are working together on other issues, including youth development and school success ...and how rail transit affects surrounding communities.

Because of our partnership, the county recently opened a satellite licensing service center on the University’s Minneapolis campus. Students and faculty can now take care of such matters as driver’s licenses, state ID cards, passports and motor vehicle transactions at the new service center in Morrill Hall.

Sentencing to Service Homes Program

The County Board recently appointed Fred LaFleur, the director of our Community Corrections Department, to the new position of Assistant County Administrator for Criminal Justice. Fred is providing countywide leadership... and coordinating partnerships with elected officials, local governments and the state. The goal is to develop new initiatives to make probation, parole and other community-based programs that deal with offenders more effective.

A good example is the Sentencing to Service, or S-T-S, Program that was developed by Community Corrections to enable offenders to compensate their victims ...and do something productive for the community they harmed, instead of just serving time.

One component,the S-T-S Homes Program, is one of the most successful offender re-entry programs in the United States. For the past seven years, the program has taken felony offenders sentenced to prison as the result of multiple convictions ...and trained them to be carpenters. The S-T-S Homes Program has served nearly 400 felony offenders ...and fewer than 20 have returned to prison.

That is a remarkable 95-percent success rate in rehabilitating serious multiple offenders. The Homes Program also is cost-effective since, for the most part, it is financially self-sufficient. We have been able to make this program work so well with the cooperation of the Minneapolis Building Trades Union.

The program operates seven crews that are housed at state correctional facilities... and one crew housed at the county Adult Corrections Facility in Plymouth. The crew at our facility is comprised of offenders who have completed a seven-month training program and are awaiting release from prison.

There is a huge demand for carpenters from builders and developers in the Twin Cities area...and a real need to make the Homes Program available to Hennepin County offenders who are sentenced to the Adult Corrections Facility instead of prison.

Today, I am recommending a major expansion of the S-T-S Homes Program. I propose that the county retain ownership of more of its tax-forfeited properties, instead of ‘giving’ them to the City of Minneapolis ...and S-T-S Homes participants will build residential homes on the properties.

The new homes will then be sold by the county. The program’s manager, Bob Hunter, estimates that Hennepin County can realize $100,000 in net revenue on each single-family home built... and total revenues could easily amount to the millions of dollars, depending on the number of homes built.

In addition, I am proposing that in the future far more Adult Corrections Facility residents work in support of the home-building program ...and, perhaps, expand into other areas of construction. For instance, the pre-fabricated assembly of some components of the homes to be built on tax-forfeited properties could be done on site at the Adult Corrections Facility.

With all this in mind, and because I believe in second chances and personal improvement, I am suggesting that we rename our Department of Community Corrections to be the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Public safety and criminal justice: with the work of our Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Preparedness Division, the Twin Cities area is among the best in the nation for effective communications between law enforcement agencies during an emergency.

According to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report released earlier this year, the Twin Cities region is one of only six urban areas among 75 that scored perfectly in all three categories:

How effectively governing bodies prioritize and fund communications systems...the implementation of operating procedures...and proficiency in using the technology. The report defined the Twin Cities area as Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties.

Commissioner Penny Steele, as chair of the Metro Emergency Services Board, has been key to implementing Hennepin County’s 800-megahertz communication system. It enables the county, cities in the county and other government agencies in our region, such as the Three Rivers Park

District and law enforcement agencies, to communicate with each other. Previous systems forced agencies to use different frequencies, which prevented them from talking to one another.

Our Sheriff Richard Stanek and his staff are working with local law-enforcement agencies in “pro-active” policing of high-crime areas in the county. This activity reaffirms the county’s commitment to crime prevention by providing a visible presence of officers on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

A very disturbing trend in Hennepin County is the increase of violent crime. Violent crime in Minneapolis has increased each year since 2001. It increased 15 percent from last year.

In partnership with other law enforcement agencies and county and federal prosecutors, the Sheriff's Office has guided the formation of the Violent Offender Task Force. This unit investigates and prosecutes repeat, violent offenders.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will soon release his “gang initiative” -- a joint effort with the Minneapolis Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, with the goal of sharing resources to combat gang crimes.

Juvenile crime prevention is a priority of the County Attorney’s Office. This requires working with cities, school districts and county agencies. Specifically, the office plans to work closely with our Human Services and Public Health Department to address juvenile crimes.

On the matter of truancy ...in the past, the emphasis has been on children who skip school. County Attorney Mike Freeman has made it clear that he also plans to focus efforts on parents who don’t send their children to school.

Chief Judge Lucy Wieland is responsible for ensuring the effective management and administration of Hennepin District Court ... which is now a state-run court system that is housed by the county. New programs include a restructured Drug Court . . . “Court in the Community” with four locations in the City of Minneapolis ...the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative ...and a new system called the Adult DWI Court Program.

The first cases in this pilot program were heard in January. Participants make regular appearances before a judge ...are visited regularly by law enforcement and probation officials at home or work ...and receive treatment and counseling. If the pilot is successful, the county will consider expanding the program to cover more than the City of Minneapolis.


Recognizing that success in school reduces crime and teen pregnancy...and helps combat health disparities and poverty, the County Board recently approved a 20-year collaborative effort to ensure that all youth in the county graduate from high school. Called the Community Education Investment Plan, the effort is being guided by an advisory board of leaders who bring diverse perspectives to bear in improving educational outcomes.

Strategies include aligning efforts of all education stakeholders in the county, investing in early childhood education, creating continuity in learning and increasing parent involvement in education.

Human Services

In human services, we appointed a Child Protection Task Force to examine the county’s child welfare and child protection services. We are bringing in national experts, as well as local perspectives, with the goal of ensuring that every child is safe and that we employ best practices. The task force’s final report will be released this spring.

Hennepin County has created a new governance model for the children’s mental health system, simplifying the bureaucracy ...and ensuring that the voices of parents and community members are heard.

In addition, we implemented an around-the-clock, crisis response service called “COPE” to respond to mental health crises where they occur ...and avert hospitalization whenever possible. In its first six months of operation, COPE responded to more than 1,000 crisis calls. We are learning.

Transit and transportation

Hennepin County continues to invest in transit and transportation projects.

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin chairs the Regional Railroad Authority, a major partner in the Hiawatha Light Rail Line, which continues to have twice the ridership of original forecasts. For 2006 – the second full year of operation – ridership increased by 20 percent to 9.3 million.
We also are working with the Metropolitan Council and Ramsey County on light rail in the Central Corridor, which will run between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis ...and with Anoka County and the State of Minnesota on the Northstar commuter line from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis.

Last month, we authorized staff to issue a request for proposals for a draft environmental statement for possible light rail transit routes in the rapidly growing Southwest Corridor, which stretches from Eden Prairie to downtown Minneapolis. We are also developing plans for three proposed transit stations along the corridor in Hopkins.

With the guidance of Commissioner Mark Stenglein, we are working with the City of Minneapolis and the neighborhoods along Lowry Avenue are redeveloping that economically depressed corridor. Road work in the first phase has been completed, and area residents will be invited to a grand opening celebration June 13th.

The Bottineau Boulevard project involves reconstructing the existing roadway to a new four-lane road between Lowry Avenue and Highway 100 in Robbinsdale – an important first step in mobilizing resources for transit and economic development along this corridor.

Last year, we completed construction of bicycle and pedestrian trails in the east segment of the Midtown Greenway, which is now open along 29th Street in South Minneapolis from the Chain of Lakes on the west to the Mississippi River on the east.

The final phase of the project involves construction of a unique bridge over Hiawatha Avenue. Called a “cable-stayed bridge,” its design allows for a thinner, lower bridge deck that fits below adjoining power lines and above the light rail line. The bridge, which has a main span of 220 feet, will be completed in the fall.

Our Transportation Department continues to improve what we call the “ride quality” on county roads and highways. Last year, another 130 lane miles of roads throughout the county were overlaid with bituminous to provide a smoother ride for motorists.

And, for the very first time, it looks like Hennepin County will become involved in “boat transit” -- on Lake Minnetonka.

Last year, the City of Orono acquired the property that was formerly a veterans’ camp on Big Island. The city has been making needed improvements so Big Island Park can become a natural retreat in the middle of Lake Minnetonka.

But, to get to the park, you must come by boat ... and a new dock is needed -- to accommodate the “Minnehaha Steamboat” that operates out of the City of Excelsior during the summer.

I recommend that the county include modest, partial funding for dock improvements in next year’s capital budget.

Energy and environment

Hennepin County is exploring alternative energy sources, such as the use of ethanol, bio-diesel fuels ...and wind energy.

The county created the Metropolitan Counties Energy Task Force in 1999 to provide a forum for local governments to study and discuss energy issues and consider possible joint actions.

We are working with 15 counties in the Rural Minnesota Energy Board to develop a 120- to 150- megawatt wind-energy project in southwestern Minnesota. Last year, county commissioners from the two groups toured wind projects in the southwestern part of the state to learn about the

technical and financial components of building a wind farm. The goal is to produce clean, renewable energy for both rural and urban Minnesota.

We are also moving forward with wind energy here in Hennepin County.

(It has been suggested that we start by harnessing all the hot air that comes from the 24th Floor of the Government Center!)

The county has received authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department to issue $3 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for construction of a wind turbine to generate electricity at our Public Works Facility in Medina. A recently completed evaluation indicates that there is enough wind on the plains of Medina to justify installation of a wind turbine to produce electricity for the Public Works Facility.

We are meeting with the City of Medina to get the needed municipal approvals ...and have begun negotiations with the utilities for the sale of electricity. If all goes well, we hope to break ground on the project by the end of this year ...but, most likely, it will be in the spring of 2008.


Hennepin County continues to improve services and reduce costs by aggressively implementing new technology. Our Human Services and Public Health Department’s “mobile worker project” is equipping 1,400 front-line staff with mobile technology, including laptop and tablet computers, and Blackberries.

This project got its start because half of the department’s direct service staff work with clients, providers, restaurants and businesses outside of the office.

With mobile technology, they now have the ability to perform the same tasks out of the office as they can in the office. Coupled with the new Electronic Case file, the project is helping make critical information readily available to all staff who need it ... when they need it ... wherever they serve clients.

The Geographic Information Systems -- or G-I-S -- Division of the Taxpayer Services Department recently acquired new pictometry technology.

Pictometry aerial photography offers high-resolution, digital images of neighborhoods, landmarks, roads and buildings ...from multiple views ...at the click of a mouse. It allows county assessors and service providers to view any location in the county from all four directions.

This technology is expected to save assessors time and should reduce the number of trips staff need to make into the field. We are now offering cities in the county access to this technology.

Our Transportation Department and G-I-S Division have developed a new, interactive road construction map on the county website. Simply click on the road name or location you want, and you will receive information on construction schedules and detours.

One more issue those of who work downtown appreciate is the wonderful Romanesque City Hall/County Courthouse. Most people do not know that it is owned and operated jointly by the city and county.

And, we have a major building problem. Our wonderful clocks on the tower no longer work. We have several options. How about my idea of a new digital clock!

I think not.

It will take a year to have the new clock parts machined.

But hopefully next year, the time will be correct on all 4 clocks, 24 hours a day, not just twice a day as it is now.


I have talked about the “conglomerate” that is Hennepin County: health, human services, transportation and transit, technology ...and factors driving our budget, such as federal and state funding cuts, and the rising cost of energy. Meanwhile, the demand for nearly all county services continues to rise ...along with the cost of providing them.

But, there is good news. We have a promising ally in solving our future budgetary problems.

It’s Commissioner Penny Steele, who is always looking for ways to save ... or make... the county money. Commissioner Steele has announced that she will be leaving the County Board next year at the end of her current term. Commissioner Steele has perfected a very special skill – designing and creating very unique cakes, for very special events. When she first told me about her cake baking, entrepreneurial interests, I warned her that every cake -- be it a shape that is square, rectangular or circular – had to have a left side as well as a right side.

She agreed. She did not much like my idea to call her business – Cakes of Steele.

Here, Penny, come down and help me unveil– Penny’s Health Care Hennepin Cake!

We invite everyone to have a piece of her cake or other refreshments at the reception that follows.

Thank you for joining us today.