It's said conflict makes for interesting cinema, yet the proposed Hackensack four-plex theater has afforded a bit of drama even before any movie projectors start flickering.
The political conflict comes in the form of mixed messages from Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration on plans for a four-plex movie theater in Hackensack. Developers of the deluxe theater, complete with stadium-style, elevated seating, are applying to be part of the state's Jobs Opportunity Building Zone program.
News of the proposed theater was a big story in Hackensack. Pawlenty was on hand for the early February announcement and expressed support for the project. Matt Kramer, commissioner of the Department Employment and Economic Development, said later the governor misspoke and the state's official stance is to strongly discourage the use of tax-free designation for retail projects.
It's easy to understand the conflicting messages. A shiny, new movie theater, while not a huge employer, would be welcomed by many small towns. It could serve as a magnet for movie-goers who might want to have dinner, shop or buy gas while in Hackensack.
Yet a movie theater that employs two full-time people and six part-time workers is not the sort of target industry state officials were thinking of when they devised the JOBZ program. It was designed for industrial plants, light manufacturing, businesses with some growth potential and high-paying jobs. Without industries with that kind of substance, taxpayers might question why the state's granting tax-free status for a movie theater or retail outlet while their competitors down the road must pay taxes.
Ideally, distressed areas of Minnesota could benefit from the JOBZ program and attract new businesses that might otherwise locate in another state. That sort of tax break makes sense. While we understand why a small town or a small business would want to take advantage of the JOBZ program, state officials might want to go back to the drawing board with more specific guidelines that would encourage industrial growth and offer more employment possibilities.
Huge caucus turnout indicates 2004 to be a lively political year
Political veterans across the state were comparing turnout at Tuesday's caucuses to the heydays of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Democratic and Republican caucuses were jam-packed with energized party members. The Political pros were licking their chops at the prospects of so many potential election year volunteers. They couldn't write down the names and phone numbers of the newcomers fast enough.
Adding flavor to the night were the smaller but committed groups that attended caucuses for the Independence and Green parties. These groups didn't even exist in Minnesota 20 or 30 years ago, but they're now part of the political landscape.
Interestingly, the caucus attendance numbers of the Democrats and Republicans in Crow Wing County were almost identical. Both drew around 370 people. That number represents an awful lot of politically motivated people who were willing to drive a distance on a cool March night to talk politics.
It appears Minnesota's two major parties couldn't be farther apart on the issues and couldn't be closer in terms of the number of party faithful they can count on. If the caucuses are any indication it looks like Minnesotans can expect a spirited political season in 2004. All those fired-up partisans appear ready to stamp out political apathy whether the undecideds like it or not.
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