Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

School funding, polls and drug trafficking prompt comments

Among the topics stirring MinnPost readers to comment recently were education funding, poll results, the dismal state of the Timberwolves and Red Lake drug trafficking. Here are some examples:

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Dan Hoxworth offered this view of the June 26 Community Voices essay, “This legislative ‘jump-start’ will prove to be a shock to taxpayers’ wallets,” by Phil Krinkie, a former chairman of the House Taxes Committee and president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota:

 

With all the hooting and hollering over education funding, it seems that we too often do not look at the per capita pupil funding to see what we are investing in our children’s public education and where these per capita dollars go. It would make all of us in the public more informed about this debate.

It would also help us understand why Minnesota has one of the lowest per capita of counselors for our children. As more children from homes where there is no history of higher education attend our public schools, where are students and their parents to turn to get assistance and advice about applying for college, scholarships, financial aid etc. How are we addressing this issue as a state?…

I would love to see MinnPost really dig into this issue and the ongoing demographic changes and how they could impact our need for the public infrastructure we have created throughout the state. The demographic changes of the need for more places for seniors to gather, to enrich their lives and stay vital may make for some successful collaborative solutions, especially if we can only figure out a way to have our schools be community institutions. Marshall, Minn., has piloted an effort to place a family center in their middle school. Let’s hear about these creative approaches to the public education.

Where are the incentives for innovation in the system?

From Tony Wagner:

Interesting that Mr. Krinkie would publish this at the same time MPR reports business interests were actually the top-spending lobbyist groups at the Capitol this year. Of course, business generate a more immediate return on investment than education, but that doesn’t mean the public return on education funding is insignificant or can’t be improved. It may not be prudent public policy to simply dump an extra $1 billion in education like Ms. Greiling wants, but Krinkie’s dismissal of it as political and unfundable is likewise too simplistic.

Dan Hoxworth raises some excellent points and questions. That’s the open, honest debate that the issue needs, rather than the emotional appeals of Greiling or the pocketbook appeals of “Dr. No.” I want to see specific concerns examined and specific solutions proposed, like the Marshall family center or expanding early-childhood education, before focusing on dollar signs.

From Thomas Swift:

It is clear that EdMN was not pleased with the return on investment it received from the Democrat party this year and called Ms. Greiling on the carpet. Meanwhile, Minneapolis and St. Paul public school districts now spend more than $15,000 per year per student and graduate barely more than half of them for that monumental investment.

And need I even bother to mention that fully one fourth of the “cream of the public system’s crop” arrive at colleges requiring remedial education in core subjects?

At the same time, EdMN and its legislative minions (yes, you, Ms. Greiling) are always on hand to ensure that any measure of accountability, or meaningful change that challenges the union’s power over the public school district meets a quick demise with “extreme prejudice”.

It’s high time that Rep. Greiling and her ilk are called on the public’s carpet to explain themselves. The left flatly refuses to acknowledge that it has destroyed the public school system beyond repair. While they struggle to retain their control over the billions of dollars we send to the schools every year, and over the captive audience that the students provide for their leftist socio-economic indoctrination, frustrated parents will simply continue to find alternatives that put the best interests of their kids ahead of a trade labor union and its attendant political party’s agenda.

The time is near when even the most ardent defender of the status quo will suddenly realize that the classrooms are as empty as their excuses.

Bernice Vetsch differed:

Education Minnesota does nothing more than keep legislators informed as to the needs of Minnesota’s children. Legislators are not the lackeys Mr. Swift and Mr. Krinkie pretend them to be, but are instead public servants trying their best to serve the public while coping with the right-wing policy of resource starvation.

From John Olson:

I’m not going to fully agree with Mr. Swift, but many will not go along with the idea that Education Minnesota is somehow a benevolent organization. They hold the legislators that are endorsed by their PAC feet to the fire and the consequences for not toeing that line can be swift and harsh. I’m also weary of listening to the coveted “we are doing this for the children” mantra from one or both sides.

Many good, young teachers are simply swept aside at the end of their probationary period en masse by the administration. They do not want any long-term commitment, regardless of how well the teacher has performed. The union’s power structure is retained and they get to look forward to yet another group of young teachers coming in from whom they can get more dues and blind loyalty. Status quo is maintained.

We continue to pour millions in. The wealthier school districts in this state continue to flourish while many rural schools struggle to simply survive. In my own community, I no longer vote in favor of excess levies. I’ve watched too many of our tax dollars get diverted from their intended purpose and it is frustrating.

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Tom Poe commented on Joe Kimball’s Wednesday Political Agenda post, “Mayors made a dent in recruiting GOP convention volunteers – now it’s time for the big guns”: Every volunteer “must be willing to undergo a security background check,” or in other words, must be willing to verify NSA’s domestic surveillance program data, as well as Homeland Security’s watch list program data.

Actually, the RNC might want to negotiate with the tens of thousands of so-called protesters. I’m sure they’ll find all the volunteers they want. Protesters are prime candidates to volunteer, on condition they can speak as Americans to convention attendees.

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Ed Nelson weighed in on Eric Black’s June 26 post, “Observations on the latest Obama-McCain poll numbers for Minnesota”:

I find the lead that Coleman has with Independents fascinating. One has to ask themselves what Coleman has done to help independents, or Minnesotans in general for that matter.

The Coleman camp continues to distract us by looking at Al Franken’s mutual funds, which have nothing to do with Minnesotans, have no affect on us as Minnesotans, do not affect our taxes in any way and make no difference to us in any way.

All while our hard-earned tax dollars continue to go into the pockets of oil companies, Big Pharma and all of Bush’s buddies instead of towards finding a way to help small businesses survive the devastating costs of health care.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, the infrastructure, roads, bridges and even the education system all continuing to decay at ever greater speeds. If Independents and small business owners don’t think this is all going to come back and bite them hard in the future … well, then they probably won’t continue to be successful small business owners for long.

John E. Iacono‘s view:

“By a solid 54-38 percent, Minnesotans chose the second option. Hmmmm? What think?”

I think, regardless of whether they think going into Iraq was a good idea or not, or whether they think it was a good idea executed badly, Minnesotans do not like the idea of turning tail and going home in the kind of disgrace that was Viet Nam.

I think they do not accept the view that Iraq is an unmitigated disaster doomed to failure.

I think they do not believe that if only we leave Iraq all will be well in the world, and that Al Qaida and those others who wish to harm us will also go home.

I think they are more comfortable with “fixing it” and THEN going home. That’s more the Minnesota way.

Hiram Foster commented on Steve Berg’s June 27 story, “Ready, aim, litigate: Gun ordinances now under fire”:

An issue the court did not decide yesterday was whether its ruling applied to the states. As originally enacted, the Bill of Rights applied to the federal government only. After the enactment of the 14th amendment, the Supreme Court extended these constitutional protections to the states. The Supreme Court has not in the past, nor did it hold yesterday, that the second amendment, through the 14th amendment now applies to the states. The ruling was applied only to the District of Columbia, a federal enclave, where the Bill of Rights applies directly.

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Here’s an excerpt from Geoff Larson‘s comment on Judith Yates Borger’s June 25 post, “Lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez case”:

While the column is appreciated, for such a hugely important decision, I am not sure you did the issues justice both for what you write and what you do not write.

You leave the impression that the attorneys in this case will be left with little to show for their efforts. While that might be the case for some, others will do quite well, though, of course, not nearly as well as they would have done had the punitive damages award been higher.

The true losers with this verdict are … those in Valdez who relied on fishing for their livelihood.

The livelihood is gone, replaced by a payout of approximately $15,000 from the punitive damages award (in addition to any money received under the similar compensatory damages award).

The true misstep in the column is not in overlooking who won and lost in this case, however, but what the Supreme Court’s decision means going forward. You suggest that the greatest consequence of the Valdez decision is what it will mean for companies throughout the United States. … This case, however, probably will have little effect on punitive damages in non-Maritime cases, in which the accepted ratio for compensatory to punitive damages arguably remains somewhere around 9:1 rather than the 1:1 ratio recognized as appropriate under Maritime law.

On the other hand, though this was a maritime case, defendants in future punitive damages cases certainly will point to the Court’s logic in lobbying for a lower ceiling on punitive damages for non-Maritime cases. While defendants’ ability to gain traction based on such overtures currently seems unlikely – given both prevailing “land law” and the composition of the Court – it appears evident that one critical change to the Court could allow the Court to “view things differently.”

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Nicole Scheid appreciated Brian Voerding’s June 26 post, “What smells like rotten eggs — and can both kill us and save us?”:

An interesting article!

I am an ex-Torontonian, now living in New Zealand, and I just visited a place last weekend where hydrogen sulfide abounds. Rotorua is three hours drive from Auckland, and it’s a fascinating place. The entire area is extremely geologically active — steam rises up above the city, and many people have vents in their backyards. Hotels use geothermal heating (currently it’s winter here down under).

And yes, hydrogen sulfide hangs thick in the air.

They’ve actually just begun an in-depth study on the health effects of HS2 on the populace, but I believe it is focused on detriments rather than benefits, simply because as far as I know the average lifespan is no greater there than anywhere else in NZ. And I suppose if there was ever a great place to use as a testbed it would be here — a relatively healthy population with access to medicine and low levels of environmental pollution.

An interesting related belief is the health benefits of bathing in hot springs: essentially exposure to hydrogen sulfide.

For anyone thinking of a visit to New Zealand, Rotorua is a must — even if it doesn’t add 20 years to your life.

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Susan Herridge commented on Jim Walsh’s June 27 story, “Dancing with the universe”:

There is a book by historian Barbara Ehrenreich called “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy” that may explain, at least in part, why we are so moved by this video. We’re hardwired, deep in our reptilian brain, to respond positively to collective dancing. It helps us understand why grown men (and women) weep when they see Matt’s work.

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Sylvia Markus had this to say about Joe Kimball’s June 27 Political Agenda item, “Some still prefer a loop for St. Paul light-rail route”:

With an aging population it makes more sense to have a loop system that will passengers closer to desired locations, like the Xcel center or the Capitol. Making them walk several blocks from one central dropoff street defeats the purpose of a “convenient” transportation system.

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Paul Scrumb was among those who commented on Susan Albright’s Tuesday story, “Who should be VP? Pundits’ picks for Obama”:

I believe what Clark said had nothing to do with attacking McCain, He was just stating the truth. McCain is a war hero; however, being a war hero alone does not mean that you will be a good president. Shame on Obama for throwing Clark under the bus. Obama is getting too PC for his own good. We have to be able to have commentary of views and opinions without it being called an attack. …

From Dan Hoxworth:

It seems to me that foreign policy expertise is critical given Obama’s relative inexperience in this area, along with Obama’s emphasis on the individual being fully prepared for this role. If that is so, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden … are very strong in this regard. Webb does not have the experience of these two. Just think, you could have one of these in the VP role and bring Madelaine Albright back in a prominent role – UN or Secretary of State — that is, if she’d take it!

From Bernice Vetsch:

Obama seems to be more centrist (but not a Blue Dog) than he appeared at first. I’d like to see him choose someone who is unabashedly Rooseveltian as a counter-point to some of the Chicago School advisors he has picked in an effort to, I imagine, be centrist enough to attract independent voters.

Hillary Clinton, absolutely not. I do not get the impression they like one another well enough to work that closely or that she would support all his goals.

Richardson, yes. Dodd, yes. Biden, yes.

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Ron Gotzman added this to Catharine Richert’s Tuesday story, “What a mess: Can Congress bring order to presidential primary chaos?”:

I am glad Amy K. is finally working on something that is important to the “little people” she cares about.

From Gretchen Long:

I don’t understand this. The parties pick the candidates, not the people. The people pick the president. If the people want to pick the candidates, they should get involved with the parties. If they don’t like the candidates the parties pick, they should start, or support, different parties. I don’t understand how this is, or should be, any of Congress’ business, unless they really want to make sure that independents never have a voice.

From Gail O’Hare:

The parties choose the candidates, but isn’t the orderly process of selection fair game for Congress? I have an old copy of the Constitution but I don’t think it even mentions anything about parties or primaries.

Before we worry about the primaries, I think we have to control media coverage. This year’s circus must never happen again. There should be a limited number of debates, completely untainted by corporate media. Maybe three debates from March to May, then the primaries, then the conventions. Holding off till August and September makes the conventions utterly irrelevant.

Maybe they should be scrapped.

The reason I think this is the business of Congress is that leaders of the Senate were barely doing their work from about April 2007 until Iowa in January of this year. Then good candidates dropped out because of Iowa, which has way too much influence on financial backing. If the race didn’t even start til January, good candidates wouldn’t be eliminated before voters even had a chance to get to know them. The stakes are too high to leave this to the parties.

And despite the fact that I like Tom Harkin, he’s dead wrong about this. We all have a right to insist that candidates be selected by a broad spectrum of voters.

Why can’t there be a national primary day, just like election day?

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Grant Abbott agreed with Jay Weiner”s Tuesday post, “Swimming’s big splash proves Twin Cities should bid for some Olympic trials”:

If the Twin Cities can cooperate to get the Republican Party convention, I hope they will listen to Jay and start working right now to bring Olympic trials to the Twin Cities. Surely, if Omaha can do it, we can.

Imagine the excitement that watching some of the best athletes in the United States would bring to summer in the Cities, not to mention the attention and the dollars.

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John Olson opined on Steve Aschburner’s June 27 post on the Timberwolves, “The second round: one part funhouse, one part landfill”:

Sadly, this franchise continues to believe that they can bamboozle the fans by trying to make this landfill appear and smell less putrid. No amount of Febreze will help. I’m not sure that even getting rid of McHale would help at this point.

Granted, they unloaded Jaric’s fat salary in the midnight trade, but that’s not much different than trading in your car upside-down and eating the difference between what you owe and what it’s worth. The comedy/tragedy of this franchise’s draft “savvy” is surreal.

This is a franchise that may have only a couple of years left to keep itself viable. Hoops fans may find Tubby’s product more palatable on the other side of the river in the Barn. In a lousy economy, people are not going to pay a premium for a second-rate product – which is what the Wolves are right now.

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Here’s an excerpt from Victoria L. Brun‘s comment on Mike Mosedale’s June 30 story, “In federal court, a harsh light is cast on Red Lake crack trade — and tribal police”:

I just read the article on the Red Lake drug trafficking. It couldn’t have come at a better time!

… Drug trafficking/addiction has taken over our Reservation and has made some of our lives unbearable. The crimes committed by these people have made us look at everybody with skepticism because they have affected our lives in every way possible. They were arrested and then let out of jail to come back here and target more people, sell even more drugs, and try to get back at all those they think were responsible, even though we all know that it totally was their fault to begin with, and when a crime is committed, there is a price to pay for it.

The seriousness of it all makes me wonder why they even bothered to do the busts when they all were allowed to continue on with their drug trade and hurt even more people than before. Is that the kind of justice we need on Reservations? Is that all we deserve?

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