News Tribune Editorial Board
The top priority for the Minnesota Legislature in the session beginning today in St. Paul? Depends who you ask. But here's one bottom line: The demands will be many, the time short, and the possibility very real that lawmakers will do little of anything at all, lest risk a misstep in an election year. And those barriers to true leadership and to completing the people's work are on top of all the usual party politicking and accomplishments-anielating partisan divides that are beginning to hamper and hamstring Minnesota as they do D.C.
The rollercoaster ride continues, maddeningly, for funding for a federal program that actually has been making good progress in cleaning up the St. Louis River and other polluted "areas of concern" around the Great Lakes.
English teachers in the Duluth public schools have been instructed to find a replacement for "To Kill a Mockingbird." They're no longer being allowed to teach the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning work because, nearly six decades later, it has the potential to create "an uncomfortable atmosphere," as the News Tribune reported this week. Find a replacement?
Residents of the Duluth school district frustrated with what has seemed, for decades now, like never-ending fiscal uncertainty would have found little solace in a chamber-sponsored public forum Tuesday morning. Some things just won't change, it seems. So it was to the surprise of probably no one when the district's chief financial officer, Doug Hasler, told about 50 Duluth business leaders inside Valentini's restaurant on London Road that, "We have some serious challenges that we're looking at." And, "We're going to need to be making some budget reductions."
Maybe starting all over is just what's needed, even if that's precisely what a state agency executive director warned against last week. And maybe her objections — after more than eight years of patience and toil, after tens of millions of dollars of cost overruns, and still without a computer system that actually works right for registering and licensing vehicles in Minnesota — are precisely why heads ought to be rolling now.
With so many houses in Duluth 50 years old or older, proposals to prompt private investments to fix them up, to do renovations, or to complete total overhauls can be encouraged. We can at least keep an open mind. And Duluthians certainly can be intrigued by a proposal coming from City Councilor Zack Filipovich to create what he's calling a "pilot program for historic home renovation" — even if his idea isn't anywhere near ready for approval or even serious council consideration.
With more than a fourth of all Minnesota kids obese and with a 17 percent obesity rate nationwide among those ages 2 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any effort to get kids moving and exercising can be cheered and encouraged. Well, how about an effort that gets kids playing and not wanting to stop playing — without them even realizing they're also getting exercise? All the better.
There's scant hard evidence to prove the oft-repeated claim that the Super Bowl is the world's largest driver of illicit, illegal sex trafficking. But there is an abundance of data and documentation — in academic literature, via law enforcement observations and arrest records, from media coverage — to show convincingly that the buying and selling of others for sex is a big part of the big game.
We're just weeks away from three long years of Superior Street all ripped up, of downtown and our city center tough to access, and of the sort of business-destroying inconvenience major road construction can cause. "The timing is actually really great." Tami LaPole Edmunds of Art in the Alley offered that rather-unexpected comment ahead of Wednesday's Greater Downtown Council annual dinner during an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page.
The herculean community undertaking that led to the creation and construction of a paper mill in West Duluth started not long after the U.S. Steel plant ended operations here in the early 1970s, plunging Duluth into some of our darkest days of economic doldrums.