Saturday, October 20, 2007

Questioning Priorities : Sioux Gift and University of Minnesota Football

Like a Golden Gopher football game, you must look beyond the score.

The headline was that the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is donating $10 million for the Gophers' new $288 million football stadium.

It’s great that the monies dirived from Mystic Lake Casino are going to “benefit” a state resource.
But somehow it raises a number of questions.
-- In 2005, didn’t Governor Pawlenty demanded that tribes pay the state $350 million or risk losing their casino monopoly ? $10 million seems like small pocket-change.
-- If Mystic Lake Casino revenues are estimated to be between $600 million and $1 billion a year, once again doesn’t $10 million seem small ?
Remember the revenue is annual, but the donation is a one-time expense.
-- The first priority from the state Education Department for 2008 spending is $59.21 million for funding for the Red Lake School District for new facilities renovation and other investments. Since 1992, the Red Lake School District has received $51.6 million in state bonding for schools. source It should be recognized that the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has given $100 million to various charities in the past five years including $1 million dollars to the Red Lake Nation. Will this donation stymie any criticism from some legislators and Governor Pawlenty about the tribe not doing enough to share its wealth?

But hidden below the headline is the notation that another $2.5 million will be donated to develop a scholarship fund for Indian students. The university will match the $2.5 million.

That’s where the monies need to go … to scholarships and research … not to plazas and stadium construction.
Those scholarships will be an investment in the future and a better State of Minnesota.

It’s great to support a college football program, but that football program will produce few jobs and tax resources for the state.
The state needs to be cultivating strong engineering programs for the future ... for example to support fuel cell technology.
Fuel cell systems require sophisticated manufacturing in ceramics, polymers, metalworking, electrochemistry, electronics and other subsystems … and that means jobs.
That industry is still in its developmental stage and Minnesota seems to be far behind. The State of Ohio has proclaimed itself the leader. Yes, Ohio State has a good football team, but must they also lead in innovation?

Do a quick Google search on the terms “Pawlenty Fuel Cell” and you will be disappointed.
Yes, the Governor does have his Next Generation Energy Initiative but the NextGen Energy Board seems to be focused on agriculture and natural resource sustainability. This is sad not only for the University of Minnesota, but also for Minnesota State University – Mankato which has a strong Center for Automotive Research (CAR) program.

Just as congratulations are due when the Golden Gophers win a football game, the missed opportunities must also be recognized.
As the Gophers "won" a donation from the Sioux, it was not the largest donation awarded last week.
The University of Cincinnati on Thursday link announced that Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE) would receive a donation valued at more than $420 million of computer software and hardware from a consortium of businesses. Earlier this month, it was announced that Wayne State University's engineering school stands to receive a contribution of sophisticated software and equipment, possibly worth more than $300 million link . To date, forty universities already are PACE institutions …and shouldn’t Minnesota colleges be striving for that ?

So as we THANK the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for their donation, we need to ASK the Governor to do more. Heck, it’s just about the State’s future … not a Bowl Game.

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