The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 1, 2013

Our View: Region shows success, challenges going forward


Only four other counties in Minnesota have higher rates of poverty. The level of poverty should get renewed attention by community leaders. Poverty can be a function of job availability but more often it may be a function of worker training and parental support. There are resources in this community that address those issues, particularly the workforce training issues.

But some local anti-poverty efforts do not have the resources they had 10 years ago. The Minnesota Valley Action Council reports its funding per person served is down 23 percent from 10 years ago. Those programs designed to help lift people out of poverty — such as heating assistance, weatherization programs and at-risk teen summer job programs — can serve fewer people in need as resources become tight.

The social indicator of public safety also suggests cause for some concern. So-called “Part 1” crimes in Mankato — including robbery, aggravated assault, theft, auto theft and commercial burglary — were all up year to date through November 2012. Homicide, rape, arson and residential burglaries were down.

Less serious crimes like vandalism, forgery and simple assault were down.

In another trend worth watching, juvenile arrests were up 9 percent in the city of Mankato through November compared to 2011.

In a more hopeful sign, drunk driving arrests were down 7 percent.

Of course, deteriorating social indicators can ultimately drive economic indicators, and looking into 2013, the community should be mindful that a good economy is built on social structure in place that support the people who help drive the economy.

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