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. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 22:09:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Letters From Readers: Ice arena needs private sector push Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:57 +0000 We now have a new City Council in Elk River and I sincerely hope that they realize that they were elected to govern our city. I know that there are citizens who would love for Elk River to be known as Hockey City. This is fine and dandy, but I do believe what is really needed is a private citizen, company, corporation or whatever it takes to invest in this ice arena project.

They say build and the people will come. Really? Have you noticed the golf courses that are struggling and closing? Pinewood was affordable and enjoyed by many. Do you think that a private corporation would lose money three years in a row without investigating how they could reverse the situation?

There are a few of us that believe the city should govern and stay out of the investment business. Please, council, we do not want to be on the list of bankrupt cities. — Lola Driessen, Elk River

]]> 0
Editorial cartoon for Jan. 17, 2015 Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:55 +0000 Editorial cartoon for Jan. 17, 2015.

Editorial cartoon for Jan. 17, 2015.

]]> 0
Viewpoint: Stay awake for life, and resolve to be more alive in 2015 Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:48 +0000 Advice is a plentiful commodity with little or no market value. Everyone has lots to sell or give away, but no one is buying. However, if the same advice keeps coming your way from multiple sources, it may be worth heeding.

For example, Caribou Coffee repeatedly advises us, “Life is short. Stay awake for it.” Likewise, the Apostle Mark said, “And what I say to you I say to all, keep awake.”

Then there’s this mini-soliloquy, part of a poem, by an author whose name I can’t remember: “What was your word, Jesus? / Love? Forgiveness? Affection? / All your words were one word: / Wakeup.”

These are just a few examples; but you get the point. With all these diverse voices urging us to remain awake and alert, there must be something to it.

Obviously, these varied advisers don’t mean we should literally never sleep. But they are saying that being awake and aware of what’s going on is the only way to be truly alive and engage with the real world. It’s called “living in the moment.”

As writer William J. Burkhardt pointed out, “You must live in the moment – really live it, not just endure it – because this very moment is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, pregnant with the future.”

If we are not tuned in to the present, we miss much of the beauty, novelty, wonder, confusion, foolishness and excitement that make life interesting and worthwhile.

Some may think it’s easier for those of us who are older to live in the present because, as one wit observed, “We can’t count on tomorrow and we can’t remember yesterday.” But it doesn’t work that way.

Actually, it’s easy to sleepwalk through the second half of life, completely lost in the haze of our own self-absorption, self-pity and narrow self-interest. Also, numbing habit and routine can lull us into a trance-like, robotic life at any age. The more we are locked in to ourselves and our own trivial pursuits, the more we miss of the greater grandeur called life.

So staying awake and paying attention is good advice whether you’re 20, 50, 70 or beyond. And right now – at the fresh beginning a new year – is a good time to give yourself a “wake-up call.” In fact, it just might make a great New Year’s resolution.

Of course, some people don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. They believe they’re a waste of time. But resolutions are what we make of them. They are promises to ourselves. Some we keep. Some we don’t.

Some resolutions are merely wishful thinking. Some are simply statements of what’s going to happen anyway. Others are noncommittal, like the guy who resolved “to be a better person, but not yet.” Some resolutions are just rhetoric. Others are for real.

Sometimes a resolution becomes a powerful objective that pulls us into the future and alters our life. This could be one of those times.

So if you’re weary of living solely by looking at yourself in the mirror and want to be more “alive” in 2015, why not take Caribou and others up on their advice?

A game-changing resolution could be as simple as vowing to live by the words of Mari Luti, a writer for the Stillspeaking Writers Group, who urged us, “Wake up, stay awake, watch out, heads up.”

That sounds to me like a good way to live at every age. What do you think?

Best wishes for a bodacious New Year! Are you awake? — Bob Ramsey (Editor’s note: Ramsey, a St. Louis Park resident, is a lifelong educator, freelance writer and advocate for vital aging. He can be contacted at 952-922-9558 or

]]> 0
Letters From Readers: Clean up after your dog, please Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:47 +0000 As a dog owner, I was recently embarrassed and disgusted by other dog owners.

We went to Otsego Park for a walk with our dog. We were the only vehicle in the parking lot, and as we got out to put our dog on the leash, I looked around and there was dog poop everywhere! I commented on it to my husband, and as we started our walk through the park, the poop increased. It was on the path and on the sides of the path. We have walked our dog many times in the park and always see lots of dog poop. We bring bags with us and pick up after our dog, but others are not so considerate.

As I was thinking of writing this letter I decided to look up the consequences and diseases associated with dog poop. This is what I found.

Dog waste does not a good fertilizer make. It is actually toxic to your lawn, causing burns and unsightly discoloring.

Beyond your grass, it has been estimated that a single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which are known to cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness and serious kidney disorders in humans. EPA even estimates that two or three days’ worth of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs would contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it, to swimming and shell fishing.

Dog feces are one of the most common carriers of the following diseases:











If you aren’t worried about the state of your local waterways, you may be a bit more concerned about the impact of dog waste a little closer to home. The thing about persistently disposing of stools improperly (or not at all) is that it kicks off a harmful cycle that can affect your whole family — including your pet.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pet droppings can contribute to diseases animals pass to humans, called zoonoses. When infected dog poop is deposited on your lawn, the eggs of certain roundworms and other parasites can linger in your soil for years. Anyone who comes into contact with that soil — be it through gardening, playing sports, walking barefoot or any other means — runs the risk of coming into contact with those eggs; especially your dog.

Some of the hard-to-pronounce parasites your lawn could harbor include cryptosporidium, giardia, salmonella, as well as hookworms, ringworms and tapeworms. Infections from these bugs often cause fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting and diarrhea in humans. Children are most susceptible, since they often play in the dirt and put things in their mouths or eyes.

It is such a nice park and families are always there enjoying the playground and paths to ride bikes on.

Plastic bags are cheap. They sell rolls of poop bags at the dollar store! The plastic bags from the store would work, too. Everyone has those! There are garbage cans in the park, but you can also take it home and put in your own garbage. If you have a dog, please pick up after it! It is no different than children. If they pooped at the park, you would clean it up! — Del Hinton, Otsego

]]> 0
Letters From Readers: Cranky man smiles over animal stories Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:46 +0000 I’m 75 years old and very cranky. I smiled once three years ago. I understand Grumpy Cat when he said it was awful. This year I smiled twice in one hour. Once when I read the article in the Star News about the Elk River Park and Recreation employee and the community service officer who freed the coyote trapped by wire. The second smile happened when an Elk River police officer and two other people rescued a German shepherd. I disagree with Grumpy Cat; it feels good to smile. — Donald T. Wander, Elk River

]]> 0
Letters From Readers: Police, fire should command respect Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:31 +0000 God created all of us regardless of skin color on purpose for a reason. So what we become is our gift back to God. As for me and my house I choose to follow the Ten Commandments and serve the Lord.

I am grateful for the men and women of our police and fire departments. They have chosen a service of protection and sacrifice for the people. This selfless choice is made with the knowledge of both real physical harm (possibly death) and the negative social commentary of recent times (especially for the police).

I heard that recruitment for both police and volunteer departments nationwide is down. Who wants a service where one is not respected and compensated for their efforts?

Personally, I thank you for your dedication and service. Just as an aside note, because of a drug reaction to an Rx, I took a ride in an ambulance to a nearby hospital recently. Lt. Joe, EMT’s Rick and Scott, I am just fine. It was not my heart. I told you on our ride that we pray and give thanks for both fire and police departments. The two officers whose names I did not get were first to arrive to aid and comfort me. Thank you, as may recall I walked over to you, officer, and thanked you for being here. I also told you I would not want to “mess with you.” I taught high school in a “tough” school district in Wisconsin where in 1969 the principal of the junior high school was shot and killed by a student with a deer rifle.

I came in 1970 and nobody even mentioned that occurrence in my interview. That’s why I want men and women on the police department to command respect by their very presence. — Richard George, Elk River 

]]> 0
Viewpoint: Minnesota has a bright future Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:03 +0000 Don’t look for Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to be on the cover of Time magazine anytime soon, but it’s obvious that from an economic standpoint, Minnesota is a state that works.

As you might recall, years ago, Gov. Wendell Anderson was pictured on the cover of Time magazine holding up a fish to illustrate that Minnesota then was a state that worked.

Well, now it’s working better than most states in the nation, and there are good predictions for 2015.

The unemployment rate is the best example. Economists are predicting that November’s 3.7 percent rate in Minnesota will fall to 3.3 percent in 2015’s fourth quarter. Already, Minnesota’s unemployment rate is fifth in the nation.

Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, forecasts good employment news for 2015. She sees increased job growth across the state and a lowering of the unemployment rate as well.

More people will be chasing more job openings particularly in all sectors of manufacturing.

Manufacturers are bullish about the year ahead.

A survey taken by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis shows that nine out of 10 of the respondents are optimistic and expect their businesses to grow. That’s an all-time high.

Some even say they are having trouble filling some of the job vacancies.

Economists are expecting wages that have been frozen for years to thaw and look for 2-3 percent wage increases this year.

Tony Madden, an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, expects personal income to grow, thanks in part to lower gas prices. It could go up as much as 4.6 percent.

Brian Beaulieu, an economist with and CEO of ITR Economics, had good predictions for the year ahead when he spoke last November at the Minnesota Urban Land Institute’s annual Economic Outlook meeting.

Here are some of his observations:

•Income by household is growing, and the proportion of those with lower incomes is shrinking.

•Real disposable income is growing.

•Banks are lending more money than they were a year ago.

•The U.S. economy easily is adding 150,000 jobs a month.

•Mortgage rates are going to stay low for the next six months, maybe longer.

•In the country, home prices are continuing to rise.

•Minnesota’s population is expanding more rapidly than that of the nation.

•There could be some stumbling blocks, one being housing construction.

So why such optimism about 2015’s economy? In a few words: an educated work force. Sieben said 92 percent of the labor force is a high school graduate. Beaulieu says in the Twin Cities, 45.5 percent have graduated from college.

Sieben says her department is identifying jobs available, skills needed and ways to get those skills in a hurry.

I like economist Beaulieu’s rallying cry: “The reality is that we are in a period of prosperity. … You should be making money.” — Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers Inc.

]]> 0
Editorial cartoon for Jan. 10, 2015 Sat, 10 Jan 2015 13:00:51 +0000 Editorial cartoon for Jan. 10, 2015.

Editorial cartoon for Jan. 10, 2015.

]]> 0
Viewpoint: State, local chamber announce their agenda Sat, 10 Jan 2015 13:00:21 +0000 The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce launched its legislative agenda at its annual Session Priorities event on Wednesday in St. Paul, outlining initiatives to keep the state’s economy changing and growing.

Five major priorities will frame the Minnesota Chamber’s lobbying at the Capitol. The Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce will advance this agenda as part of the Minnesota Chamber Federation.

“Good things are happening on the Minnesota economic front. Our state is outperforming the national economy in many regards. We want to make sure the momentum continues,” said Jan Kruchoski, chair of the Minnesota Chamber Board of Directors. She is a managing principal at CliftonLarsonAllen in Minneapolis.

The top priorities this year are:

•Reduce uncompetitive taxes: Allow business owners who report income from their business on their personal income tax return to deduct a certain portion of this income from their taxes to encourage growth and reinvestment in their Minnesota business. Improve tax competitiveness for state’s largest employers by enhancing the research-and-development credit and reducing the corporate tax rate.

•Education, workforce: Accelerate our workforce development efforts to help employers struggling to find the workers their businesses need to grow.

•Health care: Ensure small employers are able to provide quality and affordable health care coverage for their workers.

•Transportation: Maintain a solid transportation system by passing a 10-year funding plan that provides for sustained and strategic investment in roads, bridges and transit.

•Labor/management: Eliminate the automatic inflation index in the state’s minimum wage rate, and reduce employer costs by advancing workers’ compensation reforms in the hospital fee schedule for treatment of injured workers.

The Minnesota Chamber will also continue its work to streamline environmental permitting and ensure competitive electric rates – elements that are essential for Minnesota companies to be successful in the global marketplace.

Kruchoski applauded the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce for its commitment to a strong economy. “The Minnesota Chamber Federation represents more than 30 local chambers of commerce statewide united with the Minnesota Chamber to speak with one voice on the critical issues affecting Minnesota businesses.”

For more information on the Minnesota Chamber’s legislative agenda, contact Laura Bordelon, senior vice president for advocacy, at  — Jim Pumarlo, director of communications for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

]]> 0
Viewpoint: Welcome, don’t prosecute demonstrators carrying on Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy Sat, 10 Jan 2015 13:00:13 +0000 Familiar, sad and urgent. Those three words describe my reaction as a former high school history teacher to recent events around the “Black Lives Matter” campaign. From the Mall of America, to threats by the Bloomington city attorney, to deaths of African Americans and New York City police, there is much that needs doing.

This is not just a month to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. It is a time for young people, families, educators and people of good will to act, to take informed, constructive action.

As a person who marched in the 1960s for civil rights, I vividly recall arguments being made that we were not sufficiently respectful of the rights of those who owned property. In those days, we were marching in opposition to businesses that wanted the right to refuse service to African Americans or to refuse to rent or sell an apartment or home to these folks. We also were marching to prohibit voting poll taxes and literacy tests. Fifty years ago, those marches were successful in helping convince Congress to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act. More information is here:

Last month I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It reminded me of the past and stirred me to consider what I’m doing now.

Let’s be clear about a few things:

•Most police are well-intentioned, skilled and committed to being fair.

•Demanding “kill the police,” as press reports say a few recent marchers outside Minnesota have done, is wrong. No excuse for that.

Having acknowledged those two things, the history teacher and civil rights advocate in me also believes Bloomington unwisely is considering doing what some people in the South did to discourage civil rights demonstrators. The Mall of America and city of Bloomington should drop plans to prosecute protestors. They should have welcomed the demonstrators. The mall has welcomed many demonstrations. One recently involved thousands of people who came to celebrate the life of a cancer victim.

I’ve talked with a number of participants in the Black Lives Matter demonstration, including Nekima Levy-Pounds, a law professor at St. Thomas. Each explained that demonstrators were peaceful, orderly and did not shut down any stores. If MOA stores were shut down, it was because police suggested doing so.

Attempting to financially intimidate civil rights activists is an old story. Bloomington should not follow that sad tradition.

Moreover, state statistics cited last month show significant disparities in sentencing for similar crimes.

And some police behavior is not acceptable. Students could be reading about these things and discussing what might be done to reduce racial problems.

Given Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday this month, this is a perfect time for such studies. Students might reach out, with teachers’ help, to schools enrolling youngsters of different races. They can write and Skype. Older students can study recent reports showing a disparity in sentencing in Minnesota. Students might organize debates to discuss how these disparities can be reduced. They could study what has been done to reduce poverty, what has worked and what their school might do to help struggling families. The National Civil Rights Museum has resources for students and families at So does a great website,

The history of this great nation is not just about our greatest heroes, like Dr. King. It’s about what “we the people” have done to help produce “a more perfect union.”

We don’t have to just sit on the sidelines frustrated, sad and concerned. This is a great month to be part of that vital, ongoing work of making America a model for masses throughout the world.— Joe Nathan (Editor’s note: Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at

]]> 0