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Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down: Views by the Echo Press

FORGETFUL, FAST DRIVERS Thumbs Down: It’s Minnesota. It snows. It gets slippery. Drivers seem to forget those basic facts every time we get our first significant snowfall of the winter. There were 16 motor vehicle crashes on Alexandria streets and Douglas County roads Monday. Another 11 drivers lost control and ended up in a ditch. We were fortunate; none of the crashes resulted in serious injuries. Statewide, there were four fatal crashes. Two habits in bad weather are especially unsafe yet happen every winter: driving too fast and following too closely behind other drivers. It’s as if these drivers, many of them in SUVs and big pickups, think they can stop on a dime no matter what the conditions. We’ve seen them nearly up against the bumpers of the “slow pokes” ahead of them and buzzing by other vehicles on the highway and interstate, going well over the speed limit, as if it were a nice June day. When the snow starts piling up, please: Buckle up, slow down, give yourself plenty of time (if you must travel), don’t tailgate and turn on your lights.

MANUFACTURING’S MUSCLE Thumbs Up: The economic power of manufacturing is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be. About 300,000 people work in manufacturing in Minnesota, primarily in such areas as computer and electronic products, foods, fabricated metal products and machinery, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Manufacturing contributes $40 billion to the state economy – 15 percent of Minnesota’s gross domestic product – and the industry accounted for $18.6 billion in state exports last year. Salaries in the sector are much higher than most other industries in the state because many manufacturing jobs require high-tech skills to operate advanced technology and computer-controlled equipment. The average manufacturing position in the state paid $58,760 last year, about $10,000 more than the typical job in Minnesota.

FESTIVE FUN IN THE FORT Thumbs Up: The organizers and volunteers for the Runestone Museum’s Christmas in the Fort should take a bow. They do an excellent job of running an event that kicks off the holiday season in Alexandria in a festive, fun way. The event was very successful again this year, drawing more than 800 people. They listened to the Jefferson Carolers, the Zion Children’s Choir and old-time Scandinavian music from the Nordic Bees. One of the bees even played the Swedish national instrument, the nyckelharpa. Many people purchased wagon rides, and all children had an opportunity to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The museum provided free cider and pretzels, which Garden Center kept warm. The Midway Mall Cinema donated popcorn.

TAX BREAK FOR CHURCHES Thumbs Down: Churches are exempt from paying property taxes but what happens when they acquire nearby property to put in playgrounds or parking lots? Is it right to take that property off the tax rolls? A local resident who dropped us a note about it doesn’t think it’s fair for other taxpayers. “If they [churches] can afford to do that, they certainly should be able to pay taxes on those properties,” he said. “Once they buy the land and those lots are removed from the tax base, others have to make up for the loss.” We’d like to know how readers weigh in on this issue. E-mail or write us a letter and we may do a follow-up “thumbs” on the topic.

PHONY PHONE SCAM Thumbs Down: Here’s a scam the Todd County Sheriff’s Office is warning people about: A rural Osakis resident received a call from someone acting as his grandson and claiming that he was in an accident. Another voice came on the line from someone identifying himself as a staff sergeant of the State Patrol, saying that the grandson was being held in jail and a bail of $2,400 was needed for his release. The “sergeant” told the resident to send a money order to an address in New York. Do not fall for this con. Do not send any money. Hang up the phone.