Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
Bipartisan action on LGA
Thumbs Up: Here's good news for small cities such as Alexandria. The Legislature introduced bills this week that would add $45.5 million to the Local Government Aid program over the next two years, restoring the program's funding to its 2002 levels. The authors of the bills were Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, and Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne. The bill is notable for its wide mix of co-authors representing districts in every corner of the state. Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, who is president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, which has been fighting for the funding, thanked Weber, Anderson and all of the co-authors of the bills for their commitment to ensure that communities across the state can continue to be great places to live and work. "LGA is absolutely essential to keeping our cities and state strong, and this legislation gives it a much-needed boost," she said. "The fact that this bill has attracted legislators from both political parties and all parts of the state — rural, urban and suburban — just goes to show how important LGA is." The aid will help keep property taxes in check and support essential city services such as police and fire protection, and park and street maintenance. The Legislature last increased funding for local aid in 2014, but the overall state appropriation has not kept up with inflation and still lags behind where it was 15 years ago. If the Legislature does not pass a tax bill with an increase this year, the total amount of aid cities receive will remain frozen.
Charter changes torpedoed
Thumbs Down: It was disappointing to see the Alexandria City Council run into roadblocks while trying to make reasonable, common-sense changes to the city charter — a set of rules that were originally drafted in 1908. The city's charter commission has been studying the most recent set of 14 recommended amendments for months, devoting significant time and energy into the issue, only to see four amendments defeated by one or two votes from Virgil Batesole and/or Bob Kuhlman. Five others were tabled. Changing the charter requires unanimous consent, which seems to have fed into Batesole's and Kuhlman's desire to have things their way or no way. One of the changes, for example, would allow the council to follow the latest edition of Robert's Rules of Order or alternative rules of procedure for its meetings. Kuhlman was concerned that future councils could enact weird rules such as allowing members to throw shoes at each other, so the amendment was tabled. One can only wonder what could prompt a majority of council members to vote for something like that. Another amendment would formally allow the city to do something it's been doing for years — having council members and the mayor serve four-year terms. The council already approved such a measure back in 1996 but didn't follow the correct procedures for changing the charter. An amendment would solve the problem, but Batesole cast the lone vote against it, preferring to bring a time-consuming and costly election before the voters — even though the issue has caused barely a ripple of concern from the public. There's a kicker to all this too: If the council changes something in the charter that residents don't like, citizens have the power to call for a reverse referendum. So the "we the people" that Batesole repeatedly refers to still have the final say. We hope the council moves forward and approves the remaining amendments. They bring old rules up to date, make sure they comply with existing state laws and give the council more flexibility for running city government in the 21st century.
Ron's Warehouse to the rescue
Thumbs Up: Loren Ortendahl of Osakis, who had surgery last month to replace his left hip, gives a big "thumbs up" to Ron's Warehouse in Alexandria. For his at-home recovery, he planned to sleep on a hide-a-bed on the ground floor but a nurse told him that wouldn't be good for his hip and said he should put a mattress over the bed as well. Ortendahl tried to get to Ron's before they closed but realized he needed to measure the spot for the mattress, so he called them and asked if they could stay open a bit later. He ended up getting there about an hour late but was relieved to find the store still let him in to get the mattress. "They really came through for me," said Ortendahl.