ATM surcharges, housing costs are MPIRG’s priorities

by Emily Dalnodar

Fighting ATM fees and advocating cheaper housing will be the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group’s two top agenda items next year, members decided Sunday.
An assembly of about 35 — some students from the University, Hamline University, Macalester and Augsburg colleges — converged at Hamline University to sort through 15 possible causes the advocacy group should spend its time and resources to pursue.
This year’s proposals encompassed a wide range of issues including: ATM fees, urban sprawl, junk mail, sexual violence and harassment, endangered species and corporate accountability.
The interest group is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Consisting of nine chapters, it serves both rural and urban communities across Minnesota. Each year members select new issues they believe will have the most community impact.
“I think the really neat thing is every year people come together and set up a vision,” said Heather Cusick, executive director of the interest group.
After Sunday’s session ended, state board members met to tally the votes cast by attendees. All present chose five issues they wanted as top priorities and ranked them in order of preference.
Two proposals tied for first place, said Emily Irwin, College of Liberal Arts senior and member of the interest group. The group wants to examine affordable housing-related issues and continue its investigation of bank and ATM fees.
Discussion on bank fees and credit card companies riled up participants at the meeting as people generally agreed on importance of the controversial issue.
“I’m still paying off a credit card bill from my freshman year of college,” said Debora Holmes, an MPIRG member who attended the meeting. “More and more people are filing bankruptcy at younger and younger ages.”
The next three on the agenda are: urban sprawl and transportation; sexual violence and harassment; and government finance campaign reform and awareness.
“We will focus in on two issues and maybe do some secondary campaigns,” Irwin said.
For the next month, the group’s two advocates will look into the issues more extensively. Members must now consider such factors as feasibility, current levels of awareness and state policy.
After the research is complete, officials will hold another meeting May 17, when final decisions will be made.