RAMS hires Dicklich as state lobbyist

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The Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) hired former executive director Ron Dicklich as its state lobbyist this past week, according to Bill Hanna in the Mesabi Daily News.

You might recall RAMS at the center of a controversy last spring when State. Sen. David Tomassoni was hired to succeed Dicklich as executive direct despite being a sitting member of the legislature. One of RAMS core functions is to lobby the legislature on behalf of Iron Range cities and school districts. RAMS tried to accommodate this tenuous situation by splitting the duties of the executive director from those of the lobbyist. Ultimately, however, Tomassoni bowed out of the job for the good of the situation.

Steve Giorgi was then hired as RAMS director. Now, Dicklich, himself a former state senator who helmed the group for many years after he left office, is back as the lobbyist. According to the report, Dicklich will be paid $1,750 per month plus expenses.

Interestingly, Hanna notes that another former Iron Range lawmaker also bid for the work. Former State Rep. Loren Solberg of Grand Rapids asked for $4,000 a month, plus expenses.

Setting aside my many opinions about the use of former lawmakers in roles like these, one encouraging piece of news from the Hanna story was that access to broadband would be under consideration for one of RAMS’ top priorities in 2016.

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed $100 million for the Border to Broadband program in 2016, which would require support in the legislature. This would be a useful project for RAMS to support.

There is an important matter at the Dec. 21 IRRRB meeting in which board members will decide the fate of a Paul Bunyan Communication project that would bring extremely high speed internet to 3,500 people, 1,250 households and more than 100 businesses in central Itasca County. It was the state’s top rated project in the Border to Broadband grant program, but requires a match from the IRRRB.

DISCLOSURE: I live in an area affected by the Paul Bunyan proposal and have been involved in organizing for its successful completion. I have done so as a volunteer and would become a paying customer like everyone else when the project happens. I’ve been advocating for rural broadband as an important part of Iron Range economic development for more than 10 years.

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