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If Garofalo isn’t running for governor, I’ll eat a bug

ALSO: Ferg Roller Girls want arena access; NDSU grows fat on Minnesota students; Bennies protest bottled water ban (huh?)

News From Greater Minnesota

If Garofalo isn’t running for governor, I’ll eat a bug

This column should start with the falderal over school funding, but first we need to shed light on the Fergus Falls Roller Girls’ frustration over a venue where they’d like to perform. I’m talking about how the West Otter Tail County Fair Board has denied the FFRG access to the fair arena for roller bouts. According to Ryan Howard of the Fergus Falls Journal, the FFRG have been trying to get permission to use the arena since March 2010. They say the armory is too small for bouts and the high-school gym has scheduling issues. But the WOTCFB has demanded insurance information. The FFRG said they’ve provided it; the WOTCFB said they haven’t provided the right documents. But now, the WOTCFB is responding favorably to a request from a curling club to use the arena. This gets under the FFRGs skin. Weve been knocking on their door for 18 months, said team vice president Erica Karger. Fair board president Willis Roehl said the WOTCFB has nothing against the FFRG. “We don’t want to keep anybody out,” he said. Curling club architect Tim Atkinson said he sympathizes with the FFRG; he knows what it’s like to be part of a non-mainstream sport, but he worries about the arena’s ice. “It’s an involved process to get it in and get it right, especially if you’ve got advertising in the ice.” We’ll keep you updated.

Now back to school funding. One-third of the state’s districts are asking voters for operating levies this November. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, the chair of the House Education Finance Committee, told MPR last week that a $50-per-student bump school districts will receive from the state was a huge bonus and school leaders should shut up and be happy with the cash theyve got. Of course, he didn’t say much about the massive decline in state education funding that has occurred since 2003, nor the fact that the state won’t pay schools 40 percent of their funding for another year. Here’s what Garofalo said: “Unfortunately, we have some school boards that are using people’s generosity to engage in the fleecing of taxpayers.” Several news organizations took the opportunity provided by Garofalo to ask their local lawmakers if schools do indeed need more funding. Mankato Democratic Rep. Kathy Brynaert said this to Mark Fischenich of the Mankato Free Press: “that statement (is) totally unacceptable from a state representative. Obviously he’s impugning people’s integrity.” Glencoe Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, a freshman Republican who spent 16 years as a school board member, wouldn’t remark on Garofalo’s opinion. Sen. Al DeKruif, an Elysian Republican who is a member of the Senate Education Committee, won’t follow Garofalo’s lead in attempting to defeat referendums but does say districts fared well in the 2011 budget. Over at the Marshall Independent, Per Peterson found Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, pleading the fifth, saying it’s not his place to tell any school official what to do or how to handle their money issues. Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, noted that the $50-per-student bump will help defray the $700 million the schools won’t be getting until later. “Two years ago there was a $1.6 billion shift and the Legislature didn’t appoint any money to districts for those payments,” Swedzinski said. Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said that while the $50-per-pupil boost sounds good, schools will end up seeing a net loss. “This is a direct result of some of the financial tricks and stealing from the schools,” Falk said. Pthblt.

Meanwhile, up in Grand Forks, supporters of locked-out American Crystal Sugar union workers are placing fliers in grocery stores that carry the words “consumer alert” and proclaim that the sugar company is “killing the American Dream.” Doug Driscoll, director of operations of the Hugo’s chain of supermarkets, said some customers have complained about the leaflets. He said when employees find the leaflets, they are removed and discarded because Hugo’s has a no-solicitation policy. The leaflets encourage shoppers to sign an online petition, buy sugar from companies that respect their workforce, and spread the word. “It’s part of our union campaign with our friends and allies,” local Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union spokesman Mark Froemke said. The lockout is in its eighth week. No negotiations have been scheduled. The company offered employees a pay increase, but employees didn’t like contract language that would erode job security. The company has brought in replacement workers contracted through Minnetonka, Minn.,-based Strom Engineering.

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Just in case you thought all manufacturing-union news was bad, The Austin Daily Herald is reporting that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union members have voted to accept new four-year contracts for about 4,000 Hormel Foods Corp. workers in Austin; Algona, Iowa; Fremont, Neb.; Beloit, Wis.; and Atlanta, Ga. The new collective bargaining deal will mean a base wage increase of $1.50, improvements in health care, improved retirement security and a pension increase.  “Our communities need good jobs with pay and benefits that can support a family,” said Vincent Perry, a four-year veteran at the Hormel plant in Algona, Iowa, in a news release.

North Dakota State University in Fargo is basking in its reputation as THE spot for Minnesota college students to attend university. Amy Dalrymple of the Fargo Forum reports that an analysis by the Minnesota Private Colleges Council shows NDSU is the top importer of Minnesota high-school graduates. The report found that Minnesota was a “net exporter” of undergraduate students in 2010, meaning that while 10,649 high-school graduates from other states chose to attend college in Minnesota, 14,495 Minnesota students went to college out of state – a net loss of 3,846 students. Minnesota had 2,728 high-school graduates go to North Dakota colleges, while North Dakota had 1,230 graduates attend college in Minnesota – a net gain for North Dakota of 1,498 students, more than any other border state. Here are the top destinations of Minnesota residents enrolling in out-of-state colleges or universities after high school (fall 2010): North Dakota State University: 1,374 students; University of North Dakota: 1,007 students; University of Wisconsin-Madison: 738; University of Wisconsin-River Falls: 643; University of Wisconsin-Stout: 538; University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: 529; Iowa State University: 489; South Dakota State University: 486; Luther College (Iowa): 239; University of Wisconsin-La Crosse: 236. The full report is available here.

What to do with the 40-foot trunk of a dead oak tree in your front yard? Why, have it carved into your own version of Hermann the German, of course. Here’s the story by Fritz Busch in the New Ulm Journal, but the best link is to the photo itself. If I could, I would TOTALLY have this statue in my front yard. Bill Strenge wanted a Hermann statue like the one in New Ulm, but not an exact replica. Hermann, the Cheruscan warrior who is credited with defeating the Romans in Germany in 9 A.D., likely would have carried a battle axe. Since he was royalty, he probably would have worn a cape. Strenge commissioned Dave Parsons of Parsons Woodsculpture in the Twin Cities to create the piece in his yard past the paved part of Bishop Lucker Lane over looking New Ulm. “I’ll add a seal coat before it gets too cold. It should last a long time,” Strenge said.

Chinese-owned Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth changed its leadership last week, removing Brent Wouters, Cirrus prior president and CEO, and replacing him with Dale Klapmeier, who founded Cirrus with his brother, Alan. As Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune reports, a statement from Klapmeier said: “Along with our new owners, our commitment is stronger than ever to the same goals and ideals that we had when we started the company more than 25 years ago. … Today, we are at the beginning of the next chapter of the reinvention of personal transportation.” China Aviation Industry General Aircraft bought Cirrus in June. Cirrus assembles the best-selling four-seat airplane in the world, the SR22, at its plant in Duluth. The company also is working to develop its first jet aircraft.

And finally, of all the injustices in the world, they choose to protest this: Jenna Ross of the Strib reports that College Republicans passed out bottled water last week to protest of the College of St. Benedict’s new ban on bottled water in campus vending machines, cafeterias and sporting events. Instead, CSB has 31 “hydration stations” where students can refill reusable water bottles. This fall, St. Ben’s became the first school in the state to ban the sale of plain bottled water on campus. Macalester took a similar step Sept. 1. The junior-Repubs complained about market freedom and the cost of installing the hydration stations. Kate Paul, a St. Ben’s student and a Minnesota College Republicans leader, said in a statement that “the hydration stations not only cost us money to use, they are costing us our ability to choose and convenience that derives from choice.”