Yudof urges lobbyists

Megan Boldt
Staff Reporter
University President Mark Yudof made a rallying call Wednesday night for volunteers to e-mail, phone and meet with their legislators to advocate the University’s 2000 legislative proposals.
Yudof addressed an audience of 200 people in a legislative briefing sponsored by the Legislative Network at the Radisson Hotel Metrodome. The network is a 3,000-member advocacy group that works with state legislators concerning University issues.
Yudof’s main concern was urging supporters to assist in overcoming Gov. Jesse Ventura’s $54 million state grant proposal for the University. Yudof had originally requested $134.3 million, earmarked for new facilities on all University campuses.
“We really need your help,” Yudof said to the volunteer lobbyists. “We need to do better (than $54 million).”
Minnesota Rep. Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, reminded volunteers that if they mobilize and organize, their personal connection with legislators can make a difference in what bills and proposals get passed.
Yudof said the project that will be the toughest sell is the proposed Art Building on the West Bank. The new building still needs an additional $21 million in state funds.
“The (present) building is a disgrace,” Yudof said. The deteriorating building poses serious health and safety problems.
There are several projects the University is planning on starting with state, fund-raising and University funds.
Among the items needing funding is the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement program. The $16 million in state funds would expand the existing buildings on the University’s campuses.
An additional $35 million is needed to finish the Molecular and Cellular Biology Building on the East Bank, a jewel of the University’s science facilities.
“This is going to be the core facility for research,” Yudof said.
The Microbial and Plant Genomics Building, a center researching new strategies to preserve the environment, requires $10 million in funding from the state.
New and improved greenhouses placed on the St. Paul campus by building the Plant Growth Facilities would aid in genetic-engineering research.
The 2000 Capital Request also includes five projects on the Duluth, Crookston and Morris campuses.
Yudof said he wants to make the University among the top five research centers in the United States. At the same time, he wants to make the University a better experience for undergraduates.
“Many universities lost sight of who they were serving,” Yudof said about large college campuses.
Members of the Legislative Network, created in 1986, are University staff members and also any interested community members.
“Campaign 249” in 1998, when the University requested $249 million in funding, was the network’s biggest success, said Chris Smith, a spokesman for the University Alumni Association. The University received $245 million from the state government that session.
“A lot of very nice things were said about our grass-root organization,” Smith said.

Megan Boldt covers state government and welcomes comments at [email protected].edu.