Star News » Opinion The Star News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for Elk River, Otsego, Rogers and Zimmerman, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 07:02:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ECM Editorial: Dayton deserves to continue on job-bearing track Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:03:54 +0000 On Tuesday, Nov. 4, Minnesotans will decide if they should keep Mark Dayton as their governor for the next four years.

Dayton told ECM’s Editorial Board that under his leadership and policies, he has placed the state on the right moderate course with a balanced approach on spending and raising revenues. The board agrees that based on his record over the last four years, Dayton deserves to be re-elected.

If there were a demonstrated need for a new governor, however, his opponent, Republican-endorsed Jeff Johnson, has the qualifications and legislative experience to be governor.

Both men have legislative experience. Dayton has 37 years of public service on his resume and served in one office or another, including one term in the U.S. Senate. Johnson has served six years in the State House of Representatives and is now serving his second term as a Hennepin County commissioner.

Hannah Nicollet is the Independence Party-endorsed candidate in the contest.

Dayton says when he took office, he inherited a $6.2 billion deficit and owed school districts $2.8 billion. With the aid of the Legislature from both parties, today there is a budget surplus and the public school debt has been paid. One reason for the surplus is the controversial 2 percent tax levied on high income earners. He doesn’t plan to introduce any new tax measures.

Dayton stresses his role in funding pre-K schooling, all-day-every-day kindergarten, and more funding on the state aid formula. He insisted that the University of Minnesota freeze tuition rates, and believes the state should provide more funds to be spent solely to lower the tuition rate.

On his acceptance of the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange and enlarging eligibility for Medicaid, Dayton notes that Minnesota has more people insured and pay some of the lowest premiums in the country He laments the rocky launch of MNsure but is confident the new enrollment will be improved with better software.

Dayton is aware that Minnesotans want better transportation with roads and bridges repaired but the key issue is finding the revenue to do the job. An increase in the gas tax would not bring in enough revenue, citing a 1 cent increase generates only $77 million. He favors an increase in the wholesale gas tax as one way to raise revenues.

Job growth is another of Dayton’s accomplishments. Under his watch, 168,000 jobs have been created and the unemployment rate has been consistently lower than most states.

Dayton is concerned over the impasse in authorizing mining of copper and nickel in northeastern Minnesota. Dayton says he will withhold judgment until the required environmental impact statement is completed in 2015 and will remain neutral on this difficult issue where two sides are 100 percent against it and for it.

Thanks in part to a one-party government during the last two years, Dayton is credited with signing measures that increased the minimum wage, provided for medicinal use of marijuana and equal pay for women.

Johnson is critical of MNsure which he calls “a complete and total disaster.” If elected he would clean house by replacing the top MNsure staff and reorganizing the oversight board to include providers and insurers. He would apply for a waiver provided by the Affordable Care Act for more flexibility. Johnson wants a health insurance plan that provides people more choices at more competitive rates. He says that 140,000 people have been forced off their old insurance plans.

Johnson criticizes Dayton for giving in to Education Minnesota’s opposition to educational reforms, namely a change in the tenure law and for vetoing more funding for Teach for America. Johnson, who says he always voted for increases in educational funding when he was in the Legislature, prefers giving more funds to local school districts and letting school boards decide what programs they need. He favors subsidizing the needs of students who need additional services.

He also favors the state giving more money to higher education and calls a tuition freeze a Band-Aid.

Johnson says job growth in Minnesota is overrated and that half of the new jobs are filled by people who are overqualified and underpaid.

As for transportation, Johnson says he is for buses rather than rail and for roads and bridges, and wonders why they don’t have a higher priority. He does not favor an increase in the gas tax to fund transportation.

Johnson says Dayton missed a great opportunity to reform the tax system with a DFL House and Senate. The overall tax structure is too high, he maintains.

He also says the state has business-strangling regulations and believes regulators are punitive on businesses. He would speed up the regulatory process for opening copper and nickel mines to provide badly needed jobs.

No doubt Johnson would be totally engaged and focused on his priorities of improved business climate and more jobs, educational reform and auditing state government programs.

Dayton’s pledge is that he will continue to keep the state on the right fiscal, economic and job-bearing track, and for that he deserves to be re-elected. — An opinion of the ECM Publishers Editorial Board. The Star News is part of ECM Publishers.

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ECM Editorial: Second term will be Franken’s time to shine Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:02:20 +0000 If Minnesotans in 2009 were expecting Al Franken to arrive in Washington, D.C., as a bombastic elected official wanting to turn the U.S. Senate into a comedy hall, they were clearly mistaken. Instead, Sen. Al Franken became a low-key, out-of-the-limelight senator who quietly went about his business of serving Minnesota.

With the narrowest of victories secured in a long and bitter recount with former Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota’s junior senator had little political capital to spend. Franken, who had made his mark as a television comedian, book author and radio political commentator, buckled down to business and stayed clear of a national media certainly hungry to feed on his celebrity.

Now six years later, Franken faces re-election on Nov. 4 and is challenged by Republican Mike McFadden and Steve Carlson, who won the Independence Party primary but has been disavowed by the party. We have followed Franken closely during his term and believe he deserves to continue his service to the state and nation.

Campaign rhetoric is one thing; getting results in Washington is something else. Franken has been repeatedly challenged by McFadden for voting with President Obama 97 percent of the time. It is also evident that Franken has made a determined effort to work across party lines and achieve bipartisan agreements.

An examination of Franken’s work reflects bipartisan efforts that have produced results. It was Franken’s provision in the 2010 health reform bill (the 80/20 rule) that required insurers to spend at least 80 percent on actual health care and not on administrative salaries and expenses, and marketing. Insurers that spent over 20 percent were required to rebate the difference to policy holders. More than $330 million was rebated to individuals in 2011, including nearly 2,000 Minnesotans who received more than $500,000.

Franken was active in passing the bipartisan 2014 farm bill where he helped write the energy section that expands the use of renewable energies that assist farmers and small businesses by cutting energy costs. The bill reforms the nation’s farm policy and saves money by cutting the federal deficit $24 billion. Franken supported legislation creating the 12-member bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that recommended ways to slash $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade. When agreement could not be found in Congress, automatic cuts of discretionary spending resulted in 2013 through sequestration.

We applaud Franken’s determined work on workforce investment programs that build partnerships between the government, schools, businesses and men and women who train to fill high-skill jobs. In a time when many jobs go unfilled because trained workers can’t be found, it is a highly important effort. Franken also was key in passing Wall Street reforms and co-authored specific reform of Wall Street credit rating agencies. He was on board in passing the 2013 bipartisan Violence Against Women Act that includes Franken provisions to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. He was  successful this year in securing funds for schools to improve mental health services for students and families.

Our endorsement of Franken is not a condemnation of ideas espoused by McFadden. Our editorial board was impressed with McFadden’s passion and understanding of key issues. He is on leave from a Minneapolis-based investment bank where he advised privately held companies on mergers and acquisitions. He sees transportation, education and health care as key issues.

McFadden would keep the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, but describes the federal mandate as a “train wreck” that is not providing quality health care and driving up costs. On transportation, McFadden understands there are gaping needs nationwide and believes roads and bridges in Minnesota have been neglected. With the total federal budget topping $3.5 trillion, he says dollars can be found to improve infrastructure. On education, McFadden believes the achievement gap and high school graduation rates between white and minority students is unacceptable and is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

There are clear differences in the candidates. McFadden would work for immediate approval of the Keystone pipeline and proposes that copper and nickel mining in northern Minnesota should commence soon. Franken will support Keystone if it is built with American steel and all  regulatory steps are completed. The latter holds for mining in Minnesota. In foreign policy, McFadden supports the current actions in Iraq and Syria, but fears America’s allies don’t trust the U.S. and that the nation’s enemies don’t fear the U.S. Franken agrees that military action targeting ISIS is warranted but further authorization of force under the 2001-2002 act may be too broad.

We believe Franken is best prepared to deal with major issues facing the United States and Minnesota. If returned to office, we expect Franken to take the next step in becoming a national leader on a major issue, be it health care, foreign policy, the economy or immigration. He no longer needs to stand in the shadows; it’s now his opportunity to lead in the fashion of a Humphrey, McCarthy or Mondale. —An opinion from the ECM Publishers Editorial Board

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Opinion: Editorial cartoon for Oct. 25, 2014 Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:01:49 +0000 Editorial cartoon for Oct. 24, 2014.

Editorial cartoon for Oct. 24, 2014.

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Letters from Readers: Business owner backs Steinbrecher for board Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:55 +0000 As a business owner in the ISD 728 community who works with the schools, I support Shane Steinbrecher for re-election to the ISD 728 School Board. As a business owner himself, Shane understands the needs in the workforce for educated, skilled employees. He understands how important it is to prepare our students in the E-12/primary education level with the skills of the 21st century needs, whether that be preparing them for college or preparing them to go directly into the workforce.

He is also fiscally responsible with the taxpayer’s money. He understands that we have to live within our means; that deficit spending is not an option. He also understands the need for schools to change and adapt to the current times in order for students to be competitive in today’s workforce. Shane’s support for technology and implementing alternative programs are examples of this.

I encourage you to re-elect Shane Steinbrecher for ISD 728 School Board on Nov. 4. — Tom McChesney, Zimmerman

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Letters from Readers: Feds need to stop telling kids what to eat Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:51 +0000 Hi, my name is Dylan. I am a sixth-grader at Zimmerman Elementary and this has been bothering me for a while. I would like to give my opinion about school lunches. First, the portion sizes are small; it usually takes two lunches to fill you up because they make you take food you don’t want to eat.

When I take my tray to the garbage it makes me sad seeing all the vegetables and fruit in the garbage. With the price we pay for a lunch and watching it get thrown in the garbage, it’s like throwing money away.

I don’t understand why Michelle Obama thinks she can tell me what to eat when she doesn’t even know my name. My mom and dad know what I should eat, so let them tell me. My dad works hard for his money. We can’t throw food away at home, why should we throw it away at school? — Dylan Rogers, Zimmerman

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Letters from Readers: Elk River native calls attention to area’s drug problems Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:49 +0000 I have grown up in Elk River my whole life and am troubled by intentional/unintentional deaths with the deadly drug around heroin. Three years ago I almost lost a close friend to an overdose. Almost losing that person made me realize that we need to put this “epidemic” to an end. The first thing we need to do as a community is make resources available in schools for students to feel comfortable using when struggling with personal issues. Today, we are all so technologically saturated that we miss the smallest things happening in the hallways, classrooms, sport practices and in our home. I know personally that I never saw any sign that in the next 24 hours I would almost lose my friend. So what is my goal as a citizen of Elk River? To put an end to suicides, make students and everyone in the community realize how dangerous these gateway drugs are, and what they do to everyone. Stopping this epidemic begins with getting the word out, making everyone aware that it happens every day not only in Elk River but cities all around us. And the only way to put an end to this is first starting with our own community.

The only way for this to happen is starting awareness in the schools, have community meetings regarding ways the decrease drugs being brought into the schools. It is not just one family’s effort, but a community, which as part of the Elk River community I hope to do. — Monique Beaudry, River Falls, Wisconsin

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Letters from Readers: Citizens entitled to change in attorney’s office Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:46 +0000 Hello, my name is Jennifer Peterson, and I am a local attorney who has practiced in Sherburne County since 2006, primarily criminal and family law. In my practice, I have dealt with the Sherburne County Attorney’s Office on almost a daily basis. It is due to this extensive experience that I believe the citizens of Sherburne County need and are entitled to a change in leadership at the County Attorney’s Office. Therefore, I am writing to show my support for Duwane Snyder for county attorney. Duwane is an individual who expresses great concern and passion about making sure that the constitutional rights of our citizens are honored and protected. He is dedicated to implementing change within our county system to protect our veterans and make sure that they are properly cared for during and after serving our country. Duwane understands that one of the primary roles of county attorney is to be a minister of justice. I believe he will take that task to heart in deciding the best practices in properly handling criminal cases, while also protecting the community.

It is time for new leadership at the Sherburne County Attorney’s Office, and therefore I endorse Duwane Snyder and humbly request that the citizens of Sherburne County vote for him on Nov. 4. — Jennifer D. Peterson, an attorney at law for White & Associates in Elk River

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Letters from Readers: ECM should take back its Emmer endorsement Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:38 +0000 When ECM gave Tom Emmer the “nod” in its publication-wide endorsement, it came with “caveats.” The endorsement could easily have been interpreted as a signal that he skates on thin ice, as ECM appeared to condition it on one critical premise made “for the public’s sake”: Emmer must agree to debate John Denney (I) and Joe Perske (D). Emmer contradicted ECM’s wishes on Oct. 13 when he dodged a transportation forum in Denney’s hometown, Forest Lake. Since then, Emmer developed a pattern of leaving 6th District voters behind.

Emmer dodged another debate on Oct. 17 when St. Cloud State University canceled the debate it slated for the end of this month, reasoning that “it took too long to hear back from all candidates.” Notably, Denney accepted SCSU’s invitation on Sept. 10 and Perske accepted shortly after. On Sept. 28, SCSU reported that Emmer never replied to their invite. It is not surprising that Emmer dodged this debate, as Denney is a SCSU alumnus, who recently unveiled a new plan to resolve the student loan debt crisis.

On Oct. 20, when Denney and Perske arrived at the Big Lake Chamber of Commerce forum, again, Emmer was nowhere to be found. Event organizers frustratingly reported that Emmer failed to respond to several invitations.

In dodging these debates, Emmer has withheld from voters the opportunity “to size up the candidates.” Some may argue that the voters’ proper recourse would be to simply not vote for him. However, ECM holds the keys to a much more appropriate remedy. That is, for the public’s sake, ECM must immediately renounce the Emmer endorsement. — John Matthew Schwietz, Esq. Legal Counsel, John Denney for Congress

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Letters from Readers: Heaney’s the most qualified to lead Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:38 +0000 Beyond a doubt, Kathy Heaney remains the most qualified person to hold the Sherburne County attorney position. Kathy has worked effectively as the Sherburne County attorney for 12 years. She has instituted several new programs to help people in the community as well as deal with the increased population and problems that come along with it. I have known Kathy for 25 years as a co-worker and a friend and have observed the compassion and kindness she has when dealing with others. Kathy isn’t afraid to leave the office to walk properties or ditches with landowners when there is a road or ditch project. She will work with employees or folks in the community to help solve problems. Kathy represents honesty, fairness and thoughtfulness and uses those qualities in her everyday work. Please vote for Kathy Heaney to continue working for the citizens of Sherburne County as county attorney. — Patti Kukowski, Zimmerman

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Letters from Readers: Snyder will bring fresh perspective to attorney’s office Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:34 +0000 I am writing in support of Duwane Snyder for county attorney. Duwane has demonstrated the kind of abilities I feel are needed in this position. Not only has he had an exemplary career as a local attorney and business owner, he has also been a civic leader in his community. He is not a career politician, and because of that I believe he will bring a fresh perspective and authentic approach to the job of county attorney. — Janelle Thompson, Elk River

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