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The Minnesota Legacy Funds. A prototype for future living. (Sandra Teitge

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The Minnesota Legacy Funds. A prototype for future living. (Sandra Teitge
  1 The Minnesota Legacy Funds. A prototype for future living. (Sandra Teitge) Min-ne-so-ta: Dakota Sioux Indian word for "sky-tinted water" (referring to the Minnesota River and the numerous lakes). Land of 10,000 Lakes. Land of Sky-Blue Waters. Have you heard of Minnesota? Do you know its geographic coordinates? How about the Walker Art Center? Bob Dylan, Prince? The Cohen Brothers? Ah… now some of you get an idea. Walker Art Center. Although a rather unknown state to the majority of non-US-Americans Minnesota is actually one of the most progressive states of the US, especially when it comes to supporting culture and the environment. In 2013, Minnesota according to Greenopia – Experts on Green Living ranked 5th place amongst the top US green states. The study investigated air quality, water quality, recycling rate, number of LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) buildings 1 , number of green businesses, per capita water consumption, energy consumption and emissions, renewable energy generation, and how progressive its state legislature has been in adopting green measures. 2  One important initiative that reflects this forward way of thinking is the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment (Legacy Amendment) that Minnesota's voters passed to the Minnesota Constitution in 2008 to: protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to  preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, 1  LEED is a green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle recognizing best-in-class  building strategies. 2 , accessed: 15 October 2013.  2 and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. 3  Alone in the year 2012 2,391 projects received support from this funding entity.  Not only do the multiple art institutions/organizations of the city –Walker Art Center, Midway Contemporary, theater & dance companies– benefit. The support is also visible in the cityscape: community gardens at every other corner of the city; public parks spread all over the urban map; public libraries get a new roof, cemeteries a new fence; local musical scores are being protected and heritage discovery walks through the city are  being installed, all funded through the Legacy Funds. St. Anthony Park community garden. The highlight of this urban natural and cultural flourishing (and better than New York’s High Line), however, are the city’s bike trails. Since at least 2001, Minnesota has claimed to have more miles of bike trails than any other state in the U.S. 4  The whole city is crisscrossed by 92 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street bikeways. 5  This number is increasing. Over the past two years, Minneapolis has doubled the miles of on-street bikeways and is continuing to do so. As early as in the 1960s and 70s the state began building bike trails, often along former railroad alignments. Minnesota has had a significant railroading history, but about half of the state's rail lines have been abandoned, opening the land up for new development such as bike trails. A stellar example of this transformation is the Midtown Greenway, a 5.5-mile long former railroad corridor in south Minneapolis with bicycling and walking trails, recently named the best urban bike trail in the USA. It was initiated by a local grassroots organization in 1992, opened to the public in 2000 and … is publicly funded (yes, partly 3, accessed: 15 October 2013. 4  Dan Gunderson (September 5, 2001), "Peddling Minnesota's bike trails," Minnesota Public Radio, accessed October 16, 2013.   5, accessed: 16 October 2013.  3 via the Legacy Funds). The Midtown greenway connects the West of the city with its numerous lakes with the East and the Mississippi River. It takes the form of a corridor that is grade-separated from the street grid, either in a gorge passing under bridges carrying streets overhead, or on a levy with traffic passing underneath it. 6  Besides  providing an alternative to using the car Midtown Greenway offers a unique cycling experience that reflects the great effort of Minnesota citizens regarding green alternatives. It even remains open during the (Minnesota!) winter. One future plan includes an express rail transit service operating alongside the trails and serving as an important part of a regional rail transit system. The Midtown Greenway leads the cyclists to all the beautifully clean lakes on the outskirts of the city and further, to the stunningly vast forest. Acres and acres of prairie and woodland/forest are momentarily being restored and enhanced whilst improving and increasing the habitat, funded by, yes, the Legacy Funds. How does this Minnesota magic work in reality? This progressive initiative, the Legacy Funds, that started in 2009 is an amendment that increases the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent until 2034. The additional sales tax revenue is distributed into four funds as follows: 33 percent to the clean water fund; 33 percent to the outdoor heritage fund; 19.75 percent to the arts and cultural heritage fund; and 14.25 percent to the parks and trails fund. Who would have thought that the Midwestern state of Minnesota would  be this forward thinking and its citizens so engaged? Located in the middle of a country, in which private property is highly valued and government involvement predominantly criticized, this state emerges as an exemplary model regarding citizens' responsibility for culture and the environment via the introduction of a minimal tax raise with maximal impact. Civil society at its best. A proposal. I suggest exporting this model to other places in the world. 6, accessed: 16 October 2013.  4 Lebanon could be the premiere in a series of ‘gigs’. Like in most Middle Eastern countries most projects and initiatives are supported by private individuals or companies. The fairly large Lebanese community in Minnesota who currently experiences the  benefits of the Minnesota Legacy Funds could initiate the export of this model to their ancestors' home country, naturally adapted to local conditions. In the future, there could be Legacy Funds ambassadors all over the world (where necessary and welcomed) who would work on promoting and implementing the idea of the fund in each respective country. Suddenly, Minnesota would be on everyone's map, not via the Walker or Bob Dylan but directly. All thanks to the Legacy Funds. --- Greenopia   Minnesota’s Legacy   Official website of the city of Minneapolis. Bicycling in Minneapolis. Midtown Greenway
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