Opinions

Tue
23
Apr
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What Will Bring People To The Benson Area?

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Swift County, District 777 Public Schools, and City of Benson residents are getting practiced at giving their input to elected officials. It is a refreshing change. Too often citizens sit on the sidelines and complain.

But over the past year, citizens have given their input in shaping a $26.3 million school levy for construction of a new performing arts center, the addition of classrooms onto the Northside Elementary School for early childhood classes and day care, for new gymnasium space, for new classrooms at the senior high dedicated to 21st Century learning approaches, a new cafeteria and kitchen at the Northside, and for a new band room.

Now, through the new Swift County Community Perspectives Committee, citizens will be giving their thoughts to county commissioners on a potential new justice center or coming up with another approach to meeting county building needs.

Wed
17
Apr
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Pursuing Smart, Efficient Energy Is The Smart Choice

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

As America and Minnesota look to increase the use of renewable fuels, particularly wind and solar, there are significant economic development opportunities for the communities that can capitalize on the building and serving the needs of these industries. Other industries will also evolve to serve the needs of renewable technology, such as battery storage.

Minnesota companies now employ more than 61,000 workers in clean energy jobs. The industry showed a growth rate approaching 5 percent between 2017 and 2018, with 2019 expected to see a more than 7 percent growth.

Wed
10
Apr
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A Promise of Enlightenment Turned To Polarization

Another political season is building momentum, though in some ways it hardly seems it ever stopped. As we move toward the 2020 presidential election, Democrats are fielding an increasingly large number of candidates. We will see candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, state House and Senate, and local offices file for office and hit the campaign trail in the coming months.

The atmosphere in which they seek election is going to be supercharged with division in a nation more polarized on political and social issues than ever before. This division can be attributed to the internet, which was once praised for its potential to unite the nation with a common and enlightening knowledge. It has turned out to be the opposite.

In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, it was found that internet and the social media that dominate it are putting us at each other’s throats with less tolerance and more anger with each passing day.

Wed
03
Apr
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Encouraging Little Acts Of Citizenship

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

If you want to kill your community, ensure that people don’t find it attractive: Have cars parked in yards for everyone to see as they drive through town. Have dilapidated buildings to show them. Have run-down storefronts on main street. Allow litter to blow around in your streets.

These ways are all a variation on author, economic development specialist and community “therapist” Doug Griffith’s theme of “Don’t Paint” from his and Kelly Clemmer’s’ book “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.”

 “If you want to ensure that your community fails then you have to make sure you don’t paint. Of course, painting isn’t the only factor included in this concept – it encompasses anything that may beautify your community such as sweeping, cleaning, planting flowers, mowing grass, pick up garbage...” they write.

Tue
26
Mar
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State Must Give Rural Children Equal Education

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

It’s a painful process for the District 777 Board of Education and the school administrative staff as they are forced to go through as they sit down to consider where they are going to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending. What programs will be eliminated? Who are the teachers that will be put on unrequested leave? Should we have the kids in gym classes and sports bring their own towels to school? Should fees be raised or added to cover the costs of participating in activities?

This time around the school board is looking at making cuts to its general fund to address a projected deficit of $631,900 in the 2019-2020 school year. The deficit is due to declining enrollment in Benson schools, a lack of state funding, federal mandates without the financial help to pay for them, and inflation.

Wed
13
Mar
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Are We In Danger Of Losing ‘Sunshine?’

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Whether it is the Swift County Board of Commissioners discussing building a new justice center, the Benson High School gymnastics team seeking a new place to practice and perform, the City of Benson discussing future economic development plans and how it will spend the $20 million coming to it from Xcel Energy over four years, there is one primary source that keeps the public informed – the Swift County Monitor-News.

Imagine if we weren’t here.

How would you be informed? How much information would the gatekeepers of government discussion and debate let you hear about? How easy would it be to get the documents that underlie the decisions elected leaders make?

Wed
06
Mar
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Banning Use Of Appleton Prison Wrong Approach

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

At one time, the 1,640-bed Prairie Correctional Facility (PCF) in Appleton employed 350 people from 24 surrounding counties and generated an estimated $15.2 million annually in economic vitality for the region.

But when client states that were providing prisoners to the privately owned CoreCivic facility ended their contracts, it shut down in February 2010. Though it has been sitting empty for nine years now, it is ready and waiting to once again house prisoners. CoreCivic has kept a minimal maintenance staff in place and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in its upkeep.

Tue
26
Feb
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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Fruit often ends up rotting in the crisper drawer. Well, that's the wrong place to put it. Out of sight, out of mind. The kids all know where the junk-food shelf is. Make the fruit that easy to get to. Put a big huge bowl of fruit on the counter.
Tyler Florence

There is a reason L.L. Bean sends a catalog in the mail with a planned persistence. It recognizes that if it stops sending magazines, and just relies on emails or its website to try to get you to shop with them, you’ll soon forget they are around.

Eddie Bauer, Cabelas, J. Crew, and other retailers will then dominate the market, and L.L. Bean would fade from our awareness despite the numerous emails they send among the flood of emails you already get.

Wed
20
Feb
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A Pivotal Point In Benson’s Future

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

There are times when elected officials can govern on cruise control. The administrative staff has things well in hand, and there are no significant challenges on the horizon. This isn’t one of those times. This is a time that demands engagement as well as open minds and innovative thinking. It is a time for breaking out of comfort zones. It is time for risks.

Municipal governments have as their core function providing essential services to citizens: law enforcement to protect citizens and their property; fire protection; an ambulance or rescue squad; good water; smooth roads; reliable electrical service; and a sanitary sewer system.

Beyond ensuring these services run smoothly elected officials like to be seen as frugal with the public’s money.

Pressing challenges ahead

Benson has significant opportunity and significant challenges ahead.

Tue
12
Feb
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Listen, But Don’t Abdicate Responsibility

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

It was an imposing crowd for a public meeting in Swift County. Nearly 90 people packed into the commissioners’ meeting room in the basement of the Law Enforcement Center with some people standing in the hallway.

It was the goal of those at the Feb. 5 meeting to impress upon commissioners that the “will of the people” was set against the construction of a new justice center. It was the “will of the people” that they are included in new meetings to study the best solutions and costs for any new facility. It was a crowd full of righteous outrage.

Citizens angry with elected leaders who don’t follow their wishes when they show up in a crowd, or who let them know in face-to-face conversations that they aren’t happy with their decisions, is nothing new. Such confrontations have been going as long as citizens have elected fellow citizens to represent them on public bodies.

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