The loss of the buddy system

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by Helen Schnoes | June 25th, 2009 • Like all young Minnesotans, I loved going to community beaches during the summers of my childhood and thus was quite familiar with the buddy system. That is, the arrangement by which each swimmer has a buddy, and the two always keep a watchful eye on one another. It’s about safety–for yourself and your pal.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

Judging by his recent unallotments, it seems that Governor Pawlenty has forgotten the buddy system. Having left many local governments with the unenviable task of making difficult budget decisions, he has paved the way for the loss of lifeguards at community beaches around Minnesota. With these cuts, Pawlenty has betrayed his buddies–everyone from the municipal officials suffering from budget dilemmas to the swimmers lacking lifeguard support at the beach.

While in the grand scheme of things funding for lifeguards may seem like a menial issue, it is part of a larger concern for Minnesota families and communities: what to do with children during the summer. Public beaches offer affordable and healthy amusement on sweltering summer days. Affordability is of particular importance as we endure the continuing economic recession.

Furthermore, lifeguards provide safety and peace of mind that parental supervision cannot solely provide – including CPR, knowledge of lake drop-offs, and the enforcement of beach rules. According to the Minnesota Safety Council, “Nationally and in Minnesota, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional-injury death among children age 14 and under.”

But local beaches are not alone in this problem, as another option for kids and parents also faces a troubled future: public libraries. Throughout the state, libraries are having to cut hours, close branches, and make other accommodations in the face of dwindling budgets and cutbacks. Libraries present a great resource for children and families, as they provide inexpensive and educational activities.

If this trend continues, Minnesotans will have to cope with the loss of activities that keep their children safe and occupied during the summer months. It’s quite a sacrifice, as libraries help to stimulate the minds of and lakes energize the bodies of Minnesota’s youth.

To the children of Minnesota and their parents now having to deal with these real-life losses, Pawlenty can only muster one sad message: Sorry, Buddy.

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