Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down: Views by the Echo Press Editorial Board
Legislature stumbles on LGA
Thumbs Down: A big test is coming up for Republican legislators. Will they give rural cities a much-needed boost in local government aid so they can provide essential services such as police and fire protection while keeping local property taxes down? Or will they do nothing? Unfortunately, as things stand now, the latter option is winning. The Legislature should restore aid to the levels they were in 2002 by approving a $45.5 million increase in base funding over two years. Back in 2002, Alexandria received about $1.65 million in aid. In 2016, it received $1.47 million — an 11 percent reduction. That's not right. Gov. Dayton is proposing some headway, a $20 million increase in base funding. The GOP-controlled House, however, hasn't proposed anything yet, and it's even worse in the GOP-controlled Senate where they're calling for aid cuts. So as things stand now, small rural cities like Alexandria, Osakis and Brandon would have been better off if the Legislature hadn't even convened this session. We keep hearing promises from local legislators that they're "staunch supporters" of LGA and are "always fighting" for rural Minnesota. It's time for them to put their money where their mouth is. The state has a budget surplus of $1.65 billion. The tax bill is $900 million. Any argument that a $45.5 million increase in aid spread over two years is "unaffordable" doesn't add up. There's still time this session to do something significant for rural Minnesota. The votes are there. DFL legislators support an aid increase and just a few Republican votes are needed to make it happen. Urge your legislator to pass this test and increase local government aid.
Thumbs Up: It was neat to see the Brandon Lions Club getting a splash of recognition in Lion magazine's April 2017 issue published by Lions Clubs International. An article and several photos highlighted the Brandon club's initiative to build an outdoor ice rink back in 1969 and their ongoing efforts to maintain it. The article built nicely off a story published in the Echo Press on Jan. 20 titled, "Celebrating a rink renovation," which included information about the club's first-ever Winterfest Pond Hockey Tournament. The Lions magazine quoted the club's vice president, Mike Ranwiler, who noted that although the tournament was not a big moneymaker, "it's not always about the money. It's to do something good for the community and have some fun."
Thumbs Down: An Alexandria resident gives a "thumbs down" to all those who carelessly threw away the junk that's littering ditches throughout the area. "It appears that the road ditches in and around Alexandria also function as a landfill," noted Jason Gehrke. "The trash is highly visible in many areas and makes our community look terrible. Construction sites, local businesses, truckers, and motorists all play a role in managing this issue. Adopt a Highway is a great program, but it alone cannot keep up with lack of disrespect that people apparently have for what can be a beautiful area."
Eleven unsung heroes
Thumbs Up: Here's a salute to some unsung heroes — those who answer emergency calls, dispatch emergency response crew and render life-saving assistance to the citizens they serve. In honor of Telecommunicators Week, April 9-15, Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen offered insights into the vital role these dispatchers play: All 911 calls in the county are received 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at the communications center at the sheriff's office in Alexandria. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has 11 911 dispatchers — telecommunicators — who are specially trained professionals who answer those calls. The dispatchers use their training, skills and technology to ensure that help arrives when it is needed. "Communication is a key element in any situation, and that makes Douglas County 911 dispatchers vital members of the emergency services team," Wolbersen said.
Dog problem at park
Thumbs Down: About a year and a half ago, the newspaper ran a letter to the editor that thanked the city of Alexandria and its parks department for adding some playground equipment at Skylark Park near Anderson Way and Curt Felt Drive. Unfortunately, nearby residents are ruining the park by letting their dogs "do their duty" there without cleaning up after them, according to the letter writer who contacted the newspaper about the problem last week. "The neighbors — and there are quite a few with dogs — are letting their dogs out every day," he said. "It makes it hard for the kids going to and from the playground."
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