Sunday, June 3, 2007

Open Your Mouth and Say Ah… Or Why Won’t OurGovernor TeePaw Do the Right Thing and Give BigU What It Wants?

Mr. B. has previously pointed out the disconnect between authorizing new bioscience buildings for the U (a blank check, so to speak) and an explanation of where the money is going to come from to fill the buildings with people and equipment. These issues have not been addressed in the latest piece by the Star-Tribune's excellent legislative reporter, Lori Sturdevant.


"If You Build It, Grants Will Come? Or, Could Someone at BigU Please Be Honest and Responsible About Expansion of Biomedical Research?"

Perhaps we should worry more about a way to lower tuition for doctors who plan to do family practice in Minnesota so that they can afford to do this? Agitation on the part of BigU's med school administration indicates that this may be a pressing problem, particularly if St. Thomas/Allina get into the mix. BigU is well aware that there may be a limit to the amount of funding available from the state coffers for the education of future health care providers.


"BigU's MedSchoolDean Comments on St. Thomas/Allina Feasibility Study for New Medical School"


"University of St. Thomas to Establish New Med School?

as well as

"Blanket Email from Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, Kudos and Questions for Proposed Medical School"

From the StarTribune:

A moment left unseized
The wait continues for a gubernatorial push for the U of M bioscience plan.

By Lori Sturdevant, Star Tribune

Published: June 03, 2007

Twenty years later, DFLer Rudy Perpich circled the globe, hunting for jobs in industries ranging from chopsticks manufacturing to supercomputing. Then came Republican Arne Carlson, who knocked himself out to keep Northwest Airlines afloat.

So as the clock wound down on the 2007 session, I figured that Gov. Tim Pawlenty would soon start talking up the University of Minnesota's request for fast-track bonding authority for four new bioscience research buildings. Or that legislators would start buzzing about calls from the governor's office, urging a kind look at the university's plan for hiring scores of new faculty.

The university's request was, after all, the only viable, affordable, remotely plausible plan in sight for keeping up with the competition, and snagging a share of the industry that's exploding in research hotspots around the country.

But the clock wound down. A public appeal from Pawlenty to the Legislature never came. If one was made privately, it escaped detection.

When asked May 1 about the university's bid for a separate bonding path for biosciences, Pawlenty's response wasn't negative. It just lacked oomph. "That's a good idea," he said. "Either this year or next year, it should go ahead."

The governor wasn't alone in playing it cool. The Senate was with the U on this request for the second year running. But it was a different story in the House. There, where turf jealousies, regional parochialism and raw partisanship are the order of any given day, several senior DFL members weren't interested in giving the university permission for more than one building at a time. Allowing the Legislature a chance to say no before a building's bonds were issued was proposed. No deal.

"Their view was, 'Come to us every two years and let us take care of you,' " said university lobbyist Donna Peterson.

There are two problems with that view. One: It isn't the depth of state commitment that Academic Health Center Dean Frank Cerra needs to turn top faculty heads. Cerra says that recruiting research superstars takes three to five years to consummate. He needs to be able to promise today that a brand-new building will be waiting in 2012 or 2014.

And two, it pins Minnesota's best hope for a desirable new industry on what has become an unreliable process.

University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks says he'll be back next session -- or, better still, in a special session -- to try again. Platou says he'll try to keep a major donor on the hook. Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher says she'll try to "bring greater awareness to legislators about the competitive pressures involved here."

They are a potent threesome, but they can only go so far.

"It's going to take the governor's leadership to make this happen, "Bruininks said. Providing leadership to develop new industries -- that's what governors do, isn't it?

Mr. B. believes that there are a number of logical disconnects in the above analysis.

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