Rep. Phyllis Kahn has done a number of good things for Minnesota since her first term as state representative in 1972. For instance, in 1975 she helped pass the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. Her seniority in the state House has allowed her to become an entrenched part of the institution. Kahn hasn’t had a serious challenger in years. For decades, the institution that she helped control was able to stave off any serious opponents and discourage them from running.
This same institution has continuously ignored the needs of students and neglected the University of Minnesota. Since Kahn’s first term, tuition costs have skyrocketed, and public higher education is becoming nearly impossible for many to afford. Despite being the representative for Minnesota’s main university, Kahn has done little to empower students, make college affordable or create a vibrant University community.
I believe that it is time for a generational shift. It is time for a passionate and energetic advocate of students to represent this district at the Capitol. This campaign began as a grassroots effort more than a year ago. After holding listening sessions across the district and having thousands of conversations, we discovered that the 50,000-plus students on this campus have inadequate representation in St. Paul.
I am running for state House to empower students and ensure that the University community we love can continue to exist for all to enjoy, but the issues I will fight for are not limited to one topic. It should also be the goal of our leaders to create a welcoming and inclusive community. The anti-marriage amendment that will appear on November’s ballot does the exact opposite. Rather than advocating for education, our leaders are advocating for hate. As your representative in the state House, I will not rest until all of our brothers and sisters in Minnesota have the right to marry the person they love.
The rising cost of tuition is not only unsustainable; it is inexcusable. The University needs a fighter in the Capitol building. I will be the champion of the University. For starters, the state must work with the University to create a plan to gradually increase state funding back to its prior level while making tuition affordable again. This should include a commitment to limit annual tuition increases, which would ensure incoming students aren’t subjected to outrageous hikes in cost during their time at the University.
For decades, communities across Minnesota have been blessed by new Americans. The University community has benefited from new cultures and languages more than anywhere else, where new Americans are a vibrant part of neighborhood identity. However, laws haven’t changed much to incorporate these new populations into our cities and towns. As a legislator, I will work to pass New Americans in Minnesota reforms that address these concerns. For example, I will tackle inadequate translation services for medical care, a problem repeatedly raised in our campaign’s listening sessions and conversations around the Cedar-Riverside and Glendale communities.
The core of our campaign is an unyielding focus on including and empowering more University community residents to get involved in the political process. By becoming a delegate for the Grassroots for Griffin campaign, I am not only asking you to believe in our ability to go to St. Paul and fight for marriage equality, affordable tuition and opportunity — I am asking you to believe in the power of yourself to get active and include more Minnesotans in the political process. Join me and hundreds of your fellow students at the caucuses at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
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