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Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, Sept. 23

Views by the Echo Press Editorial Board. Topics: Diversity Festival, boating, police and sheriff's office, teachers, courthouse lawn concerts.

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While wearing their jingle dresses, sisters Abella, right, and Adelyn Erler from the Lower Sioux Indian Community near Morton performed at this year's Diversity Festival at the Alexandria Technical and Community College. The event took place on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press
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Learning about other cultures

Thumbs Up: It was great to see that a first-ever Diversity Festival in Alexandria was a success, drawing a good-sized crowd and lots of enthusiasm. The event, which took place Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Alexandria Technical and Community College, featured cultural food made with authentic ingredients, Native American drumming, dancing and more. Deb LeDoux from the Literacy Project and the Inclusion Network, who was also on the planning committee, said the event was fantastic for a first-time effort. She said because so many want to make this a yearly event, the small planning committee is meeting this week to brainstorm how to keep it going but with even more community members participating. Here’s a thumbs up to the members of the committee – LeDoux, Jeremy Vinar, Cindy Haarstad and Eli Dotts from the Alexandria Technical and Community College, Bea Hadler from the Literacy Project and Tom E Lee, program director and morning show host at Z99 radio in Alexandria.

Boating’s impact in Minnesota

Thumbs Up: With another boating season coming to an end, it’s a good time to appreciate the impact the boating industry has in Minnesota. Recreational boating is an integral part of the state’s economy. Across northern Minnesota, it has an economic impact of $464 million every year and supports 120 businesses in the 7th Congressional District (Douglas County’s district) alone. In 2020, the state was ranked fifth in total marine spending. Minnesota has more than 830,000 registered boats. That number rose significantly since the start of the pandemic, serving as an economic boon amidst a nationwide dip in the economy, according to Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association. “With lakes like Osakis, Latoka, and Carlos among others facilitating small business in our communities, stores, marinas, and other businesses serving Minnesotans are reaping the benefits of popular watersports,” Nustad said in a news release. “There is a reason several U.S. boat manufacturers have their headquarters here. Minnesota’s economy will always be linked to the greater boating industry.”

Police, sheriff’s office working together

Thumbs Up: Good things happen when there is cooperation and collaboration between local groups or agencies. It’s been happening with the Alexandria Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. It would be easy for each agency to work on its own “turf” without communicating or working with each other. Instead they share information, keep each other in the loop, brainstorm about common problems and work toward solutions that benefit not just the “county” or the “city,” but the entire community. The latest example is a crisis response armored van that the Alexandria Police Department will be getting soon. Police Chief Scott Kent and Sheriff Troy Wolbersen talked with each other about how the new vehicle will be used. The van will fill a different purpose than the sheriff's office armored BearCat military-style vehicle. During county SWAT calls, the BearCat is typically followed by 12 to 15 other law enforcement vehicles, which recently led to two dangerous situations. In one instance, the suspect saw the entourage, knew law enforcement was arriving and fled, which led to a pursuit. In the other instance, a friend of a suspect saw all the vehicles and texted the suspect before they arrived at the scene. The new van will draw less attention while still giving police officers and others a safer approach to crisis situations.

Teachers get tax help

Thumbs Up: Teachers are finally getting a break when it comes to spending their own money on classroom supplies. National Public Radio reports that for the first time in 20 years, the Internal Revenue Service is increasing the deduction limit for the amount of money teachers spend on supplies. Teachers will now be able to deduct up to $300 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses in 2022, up from the $250 that has been set since the incentive first started in 2002. The limit will rise in $50 increments in future years based on inflation adjustments, according to the IRS. Eligible educators include K-12 teachers, principals, teachers' aides or counselors who spend more than 900 hours at the school during the academic year.

Courthouse lawn concerts

Thumbs Up: The Red Willow Arts Coalition’s summer concert series on the courthouse lawn was another big hit. Chuck Wencl, the coalition’s program director, noted that it took a lot of helping hands to make it work. The county commissioners approved the use of the lawn; the Echo Press reported weekly preview stories about the bands; local businesses and individuals sponsored concerts; visitors and local residents attended performances; Anderson Funeral Home and Elden’s Fresh Food have supported the concerts since they began and Bethany on the Lake that became a major sponsor last year. “Like any big project, there are so many involved who have helped make these concerts possible,” said Wencl. He added that work has already started on the 2023 season.

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If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to aedenloff@echopress.com or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.

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By the Echo Press Editorial Board