Mesabi Daily News, Dec. 13
Governor: New IRRRB commissioner must get back to agency's core mission
Gov. Mark Dayton plans to have a decision made on a new Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board commissioner by Jan. 5, just a day before the new legislative session begins.
The governor seems to have a good and thorough selection process in place. And that should be the case, as this is a very important appointment for the governor, but more importantly for the very future of the Iron Range.
While the governor has several different points to be addressed in the process, we strongly believe the top priority for consideration has to be for the agency to return to its roots and mission of working to diversify the Range economy.
The IRRRB needs someone with a firm resolve to expand the Iron Range job base outside of mining and mining-related businesses.
Mining remains the very vertebrae of the Iron Range economy. That industry has been the biggest job-generator on the Range for more than 130 years now and will continue to play that role for generations to come.
But we need to add value to that resource and also the logging industry.
And we need to grow our manufacturing and telecommunications bases to help fulfill the agency's initial mission.
The governor's mantra before his election in 2010 was "Jobs, jobs, jobs," which was an echo of the words of his onetime boss, former Gov. Rudy Perpich of the Iron Range.
The governor now needs a "Jobs" and "Economic Development" commissioner for the IRRRB. That should be priority No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 for the job.
The job shouldn't be about process; it needs to be about economic development results.
It shouldn't be about public works; it needs to be about strong ties with private business — after all, government doesn't create jobs, that's the work of the private sector. Government can provide help and some tools, but it does not put payrolls in place.
And just as important, the IRRRB shouldn't be about political favoritism. A job does not have a "D'' or an "R'' on a paycheck for a worker.
The IRRRB is vital to the Iron Range. It needs to do better to be a motivator in diversifying the economy and the job base.
We wish the governor well in his selection.
St. Cloud Times, Dec. 14
Legislature, stay out of MSHSL decisions
During the recent debate on the Minnesota State High School League's policy decision on transgender student-athletes, a chilling comment was made by a state lawmaker.
Here it is:
"This decision should be made at the state Capitol, not (MSHSL)," said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove. His comment was reported in a St. Paul Pioneer Press story. Incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Joyce Peppin echoed that idea in separate comments.
This is a bad idea. (And what a surprise to see Republicans calling for more government involvement.) But first let's outline the facts about the MSHSL.
The MSHSL is a voluntary, nonprofit association of public and private schools, according to the organization's website. In addition, the association "neither solicits or receives any state funding."
The organization represents nearly 500 of the state's public and private schools. The schools ask to be part of the organization.
The MSHSL acts as the governing body on deciding what class each school competes in for each sport and activity. Also, the league coordinates state tournaments and arranges for officials for high school events. The events range from dance teams to one-act plays to boys and girls hockey.
This organization appears to have the support of Minnesota schools and has done an exemplary job of running the high school tournament for decades.
So what business does the Legislature have in butting into its business?
Some lawmakers may want to pick the issues for which they get involved. But what might determine the reasons for that involvement? Do lawmakers want to help decide if dance team is an activity or a sport? Do they want to help draw the boundaries for tournament play?
Do they want to try to set the start of fall sports practices for after Labor Day to benefit the state's important tourism industry? Goodness, they've had that power for school-year starts and look how inconsistent that's been in recent years.
The MSHSL gets no direct state funding. It is a voluntary association. If schools object to policy decisions, they can withdraw.
But school officials, who have to deal with all the details of running and scheduling events for student-athletes, know they are the best people to make the decisions. The MSHSL board spent a great deal of time and effort studying the transgender policy.
That's the way it should be. The MSHSL and the state extracurricular high school activities shouldn't become another political football.
Winona Daily News, Dec. 17
Quit playing politics with veterans' lives
22 veterans a day take their own lives.
150 suicides a week.
600 a month.
8,000 a year.
Those are stats from the office of U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, citing federal Veterans Affairs statistics, provided in a recent attempt of an increasingly admirable and courageous thing — trying to get Congress to approve a sensible bill that saves money and, much more importantly, saves lives.
Too bad, then, that Walz's bipartisan Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans bill was denied single-handedly by Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, who refused to let the bill make it to the Senate floor. It's worth noting that the decision came after Walz's bill passed the House. Passed the House? Isn't that something of a teachable oxymoron these days?
Let us tell you a bit about Clay Hunt.
Hunt was a Marine shot in the hand by a sniper while deployed in Iraq in 2007. He chose to become a sniper himself and deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. When he returned home he fought two new battles — one with post-traumatic stress disorder, the other with the Department of Veterans Affairs, over his disability rating. He killed himself in Houston, Texas, in 2011.
He was far from alone; after all, while members of Congress might lie, statistics sure don't.
And men like Hunt live a lot closer to home. Without getting into details, out of respect for the men, we've seen plenty of cases in recent years we know are directly related to PTSD end up in county criminal courts and be reduced to line items in court bulletins.
So Walz, a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard and the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress, authored a bill to spend a paltry $22 million to fund an important step toward rebuilding the strength of the nation's VA hospitals. The act, according to The Washington Post, would create independent evaluations of mental health care and suicide-prevention programs, and court young psychiatrists to lend their talents by offering student loan repayments to those who work for the VA. It also would establish a plan to reclaim prescription medication from VA patients.
Walz himself knew the bill was just one small step toward a brighter future for veterans. In a statement released Monday night, he said:
"While not a cure-all, this bipartisan bill is designed to help the VA provide better mental health care services and is overwhelmingly supported by Republicans and Democrats, servicemembers and civilians.
"I'm greatly disappointed that even this, the most bipartisan of measures, fell victim to politicking."
Two points there.
One: The bill had broad bipartisan support, yet somehow still fell victim to that politicking.
Two: When ideology wins, everyone loses.
Coburn has something of a reputation for voting down or blocking anything that expands the spending of the federal government, regardless of the cause. Even in this case, after an appeal from Hunt's parents — self-described as conservative Texans who aren't big fans of big government either — Coburn stuck by his ideology, and in so doing, failed both veterans and Congress.
"This is why people hate Washington," said Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in a statement.
We've all heard the phrase in our workplaces, right? The rules are the rules.
The only problem with that? There are no such rules. Not in business, not in Congress, not in life.
Abiding by the rules is ideology. Taking the world as it comes, on a case-by-case basis while framed by the world's rules, well, that's humanity. Sometimes $22 million is just $22 million. But other times, it represents real lives.
So, thank you, Tim Walz, for fighting for veterans when it seems like so few others in power are.
We hope this isn't the end of the bill, or others like it, but knowing how Walz presents himself to the world, we're pretty faithful that will be the case. Walz had this to say in a statement released Monday night:
"While today we may have lost the battle, be certain that we will win the war."
We are proud to be represented by a Congressman who understands that when the war abroad ends, there is sadly one more war at home to be fought_one that needs to end.
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