Ventura’s trip was a wasted opportunity

Gov. Jesse Ventura will return from his highly publicized 10-day trip to Japan on Wednesday. The results of his agenda — designed to improve Japanese tourism to Minnesota, increase foreign trade of Minnesota companies and learn about comparative educational systems — will not be worth the expense of the trip. Although the trip could have been quite beneficial for the state, it realized only a small portion its potential benefits.
Gov. Ventura left for Japan last Monday with a vast contingent of officials and reporters. He has defended the value of his trip to critics, emphasizing the benefits that could result from comparing Japanese and Minnesotan educational policies, the increase in foreign trade activity of Minnesotan companies and the increase in Japanese tourism in Minnesota.
On Monday, Gov. Ventura visited a highly regarded Tokyo-area high school in an attempt to understand the policies behind its success. Rather than carefully studying the reasons Tsukuba High School is successful despite its 40-student class sizes, he seemed to do more talking than listening. He regaled the students with stories of wrestling in Japan and working as the Rolling Stones’ bodyguard. After his speech, students gathered around him for photographs and autographs.
It is disappointing, however, that Ventura’s exposure to Japanese schools yielded little information that might improve Minnesota’s schools. Japanese schools are among the most successful and competitive in the world, and a thorough examination of them could easily have been integrated into Ventura’s trip. A comparative study of another nation’s educational system could have been accomplished without a visit by a governor.
The deal Ventura arranged with Ellison Meat Co. of Pipestone, Minn., while certainly important for the company, is of little value to the state as a whole. The deal to export 220,462 pounds of pork was called “small by giant meatpacking standards” by the Star Tribune. More importantly, a potentially beneficial opportunity was not taken advantage of. Minnesota farmers are among the most productive in the world and are currently experiencing severe problems with bankruptcy and debt. A mutually beneficial arrangement could have been arranged, as Japan must import 50 percent of its food. Ventura does not even deserve most of the credit for the Ellison arrangement, either, as it was the subject of discussions during former Gov. Arne Carlson’s administration.
Increases in tourism will not be worth the trip, either. Talks during the trip to encourage travel to Minnesota mostly involved officials from Northwest Airlines and their Japanese business partners. A visit by Ventura could not further a business agreement, and his celebrity status is insufficient to attract visitors.
Ventura’s trip to Japan deserves criticism because, at an estimated $100,000, it was too expensive. Additionally, without meeting with any top officials, the trip did not realize its potential. Minnesotans should be wary of his upcoming trip to Mexico, which he admitted intentionally scheduling during our cold winter, and demand that this trip be worth its price.