Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Signs of a Thaw?

In the mid-'70s we were living on the edge of Loring Park as the area was undergoing gentrification. We were not the gentry, and we moved after our rent nearly tripled within a couple years.) One of the new landlords responsible for the area's rising rents witnessed my bicycle being stolen from our apartment building's stairway and gave chase. He caught one of the culprits and held him for the police. Unfortunately, the other accomplice made off with the bike.

Because they saw a chance to get a petty criminal off the street, the police and the city attorney asked me to press charges, and I went along, hoping the pressure might get my bike back. That didn't happen, so I decided to attend the trial in case there was a last-minute bargain. The accused testified that he'd first met the other guy at Moby Dick's and didn't recall his name. He then spun an elaborate story about accompanying his new friend to get the man's bike. He'd waited on the street for the fellow and hadn't realized that the mystery man was up on our porch cutting my chain. It was only when the landlord started chasing them that he had any inkling of wrongdoing.

By the time he finished his tale, I had my doubts. Afterall, we'd seen the people hiking our rent as the villains. You couldn't see my bike from the street. The guy hadn't turned in the accomplice to escape jail. Maybe he was unjustly...

It took about that long for the judge to render a guilty verdict, and seconds later the prosecutor and public defender were chuckling about how that was about the worst story they'd ever heard.

This preamble is to establish my credentials as someone who is susceptible to thinking the best about people, even in the face of ample contrary evidence.

Today I attended a hearing of the Minnesota House Tax Committee, chaired by Rep. Phil Krinkie (R), as it heard a presentation advocating raising the income tax on top earners and lowering taxes on business. It was delivered by Growth & Justice, a progressive think tank that wouldn't necessarily expect a warm welcome from the Republican majority.

I am not an experienced observer of capitol committee meetings, but it appeared that people from both parties were making an effort to be cordial and respectful with each other, and to give the Growth & Justice ideas a fair hearing.

Although it's very early in the session, after last year's legislative stalemate, this is a hopeful sign.

I left before I could overhear any insiders chuckling over what was really going on in the hearing room. It's still winter and the forecast calls for more snow, but today, I chose to see signs of a thaw.


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