Opinions

Wed
27
Oct
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Housing Remains Pressing Rural Challenge

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

There are three fundamental challenges rural Minnesota faces in attracting workers and new residents who want to live away from the hustle, long commutes and dangers of a large metropolitan area.

They see a place where kids can grow and thrive in a safe environment; a place where their children have an opportunity to become a meaningful part of a team, or choir, or high school club.

To bring those families here we need more affordable housing, more child care and high speed internet. We may have made progress with the internet and child care, but housing remains the primary challenge.

Wed
20
Oct
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We No Longer Build Bridges, We Burn Them

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

From time to time we hear stories that underline just how angry some people have become in our polarized society. These are incidents that reveal the depths of the seething anger lying barely beneath the surface. They highlight the normalization of the uncivil behavior social media has created as Facebook and others profit by dividing us.

As a young man sat at a bar watching the news, a Minnesota U.S. senator came on to talk about an issue. He immediately became angry, using profanity and gestures to express what he thought of her. The TV was muted. He didn’t know what she was saying but just seeing her speak lit his fuse.

Wed
13
Oct
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The Rot At the Heart Of Our Discontent

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

In our 40 years as a journalist, we’ve never seen such a divisive, angry, intolerant time in America. It hasn’t just infected the metropolitan areas of the county but has embedded itself in our rural communities as well.

There is only one vector so pervasive and addictive it could so quickly erode the tolerance we once had for one another’s beliefs and political persuasions – the internet and social media.

We’ve suspected it as the cause with numerous articles and books written about its dark side. But until this past week, we didn’t have the definitive proof that the most dominant social media of all, Facebook, was intentionally ripping our democracy and society apart for profit.
Last week Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, exposing the lengths the company will go to maximize its earnings.

Wed
06
Oct
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Too Many ‘Black Elephants’ In The Room

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

In his book “Thank You for Being Late,” Thomas Friedman writes about the impact the accelerating pace of the advancement of technology, destruction of the environment, and globalization will have on our lives. It is his discussion of the abuse of Mother Nature that fits with this column.

Friedman relates a story about when he first heard the phrase “black elephant.” It “is a cross between a ‘black swan’ – a rare, low-probability, unanticipated event with enormous ramifications – and ‘the elephant in the room: a problem that is widely visible to everyone, yet no one wants to address it, even though we absolutely know that one day it will have vast, black-swan-like consequences.”

Wed
29
Sep
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The Gutting Of Rural Newspapers

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

We recently received a call about a small town in western Minnesota proceeding with a city infrastructure plan for an extensive sewer, water, and street project. We were told there was no way that the limited tax base in the community can bear the project’s expense and that default is likely after a few years.

Who is going to examine that levy and its impact on taxpayers? It is crucial they know the consequences – the taxpayers will have to pay the bill no matter how burdensome over the years. The debt doesn’t go away.

When school boards look to raise funds to fund education in a school district or construct new buildings to replace aging, inefficient structures, they go to the taxpayers for a levy. Who examines whether that levy is necessary or excessive? Who reports on the impact of the levy on homeowners, businessowners, and the farming community?

Wed
22
Sep
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Walking Is Good For You And Your Community

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

For too many years, our trip to work was just over two to three blocks. It allowed no time for reflection, listening to an interesting news program, or planning for the day. But over the past decade, we have been on the road at least once a week for a couple hours - country roads, not packed city freeways.

It is time we treasure. It is a time of daydreaming, problem-solving, and discovery. This past week we listened to a program on the joys and benefits of walking on the NPR program 1A hosted by Jen White.

Among her guests was Shane O’Meara, a professor of clinical brain research at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. He is the author of “In Praise of Walking: The New Science of How We Walk and Why It’s Good for Us.”

Wed
15
Sep
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A Challenging Time To Trust The News

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

In these days of bitterly divided politics, we are always looking for lessons on how we can better reach out to our readers to improve their belief that we can be fair and trustworthy.

Generally, community newspapers are the most trusted source of news for their readers when it comes to local reporting. Our stories of the actions of local governments, what is happening in the community, and feature stories are seen as fair and accurate.

Wed
08
Sep
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Empowering The Voice Of The Middle

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

One of the most common complaints we hear about politics today is how divisive they have become. All we have are people on the far left and the far right, we are told. Where are all the people in the middle? Why can’t we get candidates who represent us? Why can’t our elected officials get along and get the people’s work done?

A simple saying explains much of the problem: The world is run by those who show up.

Our candidates are chosen through the primary election process. In the 10 elections conducted in the 21st Century in Minnesota, we have seen a low of 7.42% percent of voters cast ballots in a primary (2016) with a high of 22.77% showing up in 2018. However, the average has been 13.6%.

Wed
01
Sep
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Census Shows Growing Rural Diversity

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

It came as no surprise that the seven-county metropolitan area of the Twin Cities grew the most, and not just by a little.  According to the U.S. 2020 Census, 78% of Minnesota’s growth was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Metro growth accounted for more than 300,000 of the 400,000 people added in the state. Nine percent of the nation’s population growth took place on the fringes of metropolitan areas.

Three counties saw solid growth outside the metropolitan area – Olmstead with the City of Rochester, Stearns with St. Cloud, and Clay with Moorhead.

While rural counties with regional centers and counties with multiple recreational lakes grew, many rural counties where agricultural land dominates the landscape saw their populations fall. All 35 of Minnesota’s 87 counties that saw a decline were in rural areas. It is a nationwide trend.

Wed
25
Aug
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4-H Is The Best Youth Program In America

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
And my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

The 4H Pledge

Each year as we attend the county fairs in the area, we can’t help but be impressed with the quality of the young people participating in the 4-H programs.

Their poise, grace under pressure, sportsmanship, and knowledge of the animals they are handling during the shows all are proof that they are living the pledge they take as members of a club.

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