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Thumbs Up/Down - March 25, 2016

The sidewalk on Jefferson Street near Third Avenue East is riddled with holes and ruts. (Photo by Al Edenloff, Echo Press)

SHODDY SIDEWALKS

Thumbs Down: Some sidewalks around Alexandria are in shoddy shape. One reader alerted us to an especially bad area along Jefferson Street leading to Third Avenue East. There are big holes, ruts and rough spots that make it treacherous for walking. There is some good news, however. The city’s 2016 budget places a priority on street and sidewalk improvements. We’re hoping this is a seasonal thing and the city will be making repairs soon.

LGA HEADWAY

Thumbs Up: It’s good to see headway is being made to increase funding for local government aid (LGA). Gov. Mark Dayton recently included a $21.5 million one-time increase in LGA funding as part of his supplemental budget. Also, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has told city leaders that the Senate is standing by its plan to increase ongoing funding for the program. The Senate tax bill would put LGA back at 2002 levels by providing $45.5 million in additional LGA funding. More than 75 cities, including Alexandria, have adopted a resolution in support of the $45.5 million increase. LGA represents a significant portion of city budgets. Alexandria is scheduled to receive $1.47 million in LGA in 2016, about 16 percent of its total budget. With the proposed increase, the amount would increase to $1.49 million. Robert Broeder, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, notes: “Our costs continue to rise, yet LGA funding has not even kept up with inflation. We are asking our legislators to support a modest increase to the program so that our cities can continue to provide key services to our residents and businesses while restraining property taxes.” On the House side, a proposal sounds like it would increase LGA for Greater Minnesota cities but it comes with a catch: Cutting $84 million in LGA that goes to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. While that may sound like a good deal for rural cities, it puts the entire LGA program at risk. Instead of benefiting nearly all the cities in the state, LGA will be reduced to a rural program that won’t be supported by any of the metro area lawmakers, in effect, dooming it. We hope legislators do the right thing by restoring LGA to its 2002 levels for all cities.

FARMERS CONTRIBUTIONS

Thumbs Up: Thank a farmer today. March 25 is National Ag Day – a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions agriculture provides in communities across the country. As noted by Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson: “ Agriculture provides our food and fiber, provides jobs in our communities and also helps to give back to our rural communities by keeping the dollar turning more than seven times in our rural communities.” Every family farmer feeds more than 144 people, according to Agday.com. That’s a big increase from just a few decades ago and shows how American agriculture is doing more and doing it better.

COUNTY ROAD 22 TROUBLE

Thumbs Down: An Alexandria resident is alarmed about speeding and tailgating on County Road 22. She listed business and construction vehicles, gravel trucks and trucks pulling boats or campers as the biggest culprits. “Everyone is in hurry because they are late for work or just showing off and being macho,” she said. “This road belongs to runners, joggers, bikers, skateboarders or just those going for a walk. Is your speeding more important than the safety of a person who would probably be killed because at 40, 45 or 50 miles per hour, there is no chance they’d survive? You are going too fast to even be able to react and avoid a disaster. Also, as you drive by at these speeds, I can see you are on your cell phones! It’s really upsetting that this behavior is normal and accepted. We have road signs that say 15 mph for goose crossings. We have more respect for geese and ducks that cross our many streets in town than we do for people!”

GRANTING A FINAL WISH

Thumbs Up: Eugene Carlquist of Nelson, diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, died on March 15, eight days after his final wish to ride a Harley Davidson was granted. His family will be forever grateful to all those who made the ride happen. “It would be amiss to not highlight the kind of compassion and character we have in Alexandria in the people who made this extraordinary event happen in a week and without prompting,” said Pam Engstrom on behalf of the Carlquist family. “Thank you to Tom Brenden of Apol’s Harley Davidson for taking our small request of renting a Harley ride to spearheading the event of 22 wonderful members of the local HOG chapter in accompanying the 25-mile ride. Thank you to Jerry Karger for sharing his impressive side car, Harley, and thank you to the HOG chapter for giving your time and the many kind sentiments that were shared. The lavish gift that was humbly given to Gene even extended beyond him; many are thankful and inspired by this act of compassion and care.”

INJUSTICES

Thumbs Down: A reader sent us a thumbs down to a criminal justice system that he said “continues to abandon the victim.” He pointed to two recent cases: The one-year jail sentence given to Nickolas McArdell for concealing the body of Laura Schwendemann, and the two-day jail sentence a North Dakota judge gave to Ashley Birkle for negligent homicide in a crash that killed David Herold of Garfield. “Where’s the justice here?” he asked. In the McArdell case, Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson acknowledged that the gross misdemeanor charge was “woefully inadequate” and he has provided legislators with amendments to Minnesota’s tampering statutes. We urge the Legislature to take up this issue and make the punishment fit the crime so this kind of injustice doesn’t happen again.

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