Blame my rural Iowa roots, or perhaps my undergraduate years at a college founded by Norwegian Lutheran immigrants (Go Norse!), but I’m a 30 year fan of Garrison Keillor’s radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.” His stories and satires about Midwestern life hit close to home, and help me to see the humor in my experiences. His fictitious community of Lake Wobegon, Minn., is populated with people that I swear lived in my own hometown. I especially enjoy his monologue that always begins “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.”
That seems like a fitting way to start this update, with one change, “It’s been a quiet week in East Lansing.” The irony in Keillor’s story-telling drips out of the radio speakers, and if you think it’s really been quiet here, you’ve been sleeping.
At Fall Extension Conference (FEC09) on October 15, I shared my concern that Gov. Granholm may elect to use a line-item veto to eliminate funding for Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station in the higher education bill. At the time, I was concerned about being an alarmist—a chicken-little forecasting something as ridiculous as the sky falling. As it turns out, the idea of a line-item veto was not as absurd as we had hoped.
I don’t know if the motivation is based on a true sense of our organizations being outdated and unnecessary, or on a realization that people care enough about our programs to mount political heat that will force compromise between opposing political stances. Frankly, the reason for the veto theory is irrelevant. We have two choices: 1) we can stand on the sideline assuming that “surely they won’t let this happen,” or 2) we can inform our stakeholders of the fate that awaits us and them with a line-item veto.
It’s an easy choice. We owe it to the people we serve to do all we can to ensure our organizations continue to serve them AND to do all we can to use the public resources given to us for our mission as wisely and carefully as possible.
Though this puts us in a situation of great uncertainty and anxiety, it also helps us work through some fundamental changes in the way we are organized and the way we deliver programming as we help our stakeholders understand the importance of their voices in shaping public policy.
Has it been a quiet week? Of course not. And yet, as Randy Bell, Chuck Pistis, and others shared at FEC09, facing these dual challenges is a part of doing the work of Extension—at least in this state. The only difference between what we’re facing now and what we’ve faced before is the urgency and scope of the challenges. In that respect, our past helps us to shape our future. I remain confident that MSUE and MAES will continue to serve the people of this state well into the 21st Century. The needs are great, and our capacity to deliver relevant research and education is even greater. Let’s keep focused on doing our work, and at the same time, attending to the other parts of our lives—our families, our health, our friends—and show this state and this nation how resilient we are.
Look for messages from me throughout the weeks ahead to keep you updated throughout this budget process. And remember to log on to the portal and visit the Strategic Communications page for resources you can use when talking to your stakeholders.
Thanks for all you do to keep us in business.