Opinions

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.

Wed
06
Feb
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Winter’s Voice Hard When Below Zero Temps Reign

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

The voices of Winter

Winter’s frigid voice is hard when the temperature falls far below zero.

Before one even ventures out the door, leaving the morning warmth of home, the bitter cold announces itself in the long brittle crunching of a vehicle’s black tread stepping heavily on yesterday’s now spiky slush.

It is broadcast in the crack of the cold-stiffened wooden step that seems to fracture in protest against the weight it now bears as a bundled figure steps out the door.

It is heard in the crunch of a boot on Arctic snow, the boom of cracking ice on the lake, the scrape of a shovel on concrete, the tightening of the timbers in the home, and the whine of a cold engine starting.

Wed
30
Jan
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Should Election Day Be A Federal Holiday?

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

There is a national movement to make Election Day in America a national holiday. It isn’t a new movement, but it is getting new attention today. It has been proposed in Congress at least three previous times - 2001, 2002 and 2005 – with nothing coming of it.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, is changing that. She is the young woman who defeated long-time, powerful incumbent Democrat Rep. Joseph Crowley in a primary election last year and went on to win a seat in Congress. She supports making Election Day and taking away Columbus Day so as not to increase the number of federal holidays on the books.

Tue
22
Jan
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Consequential Decision Before County Board

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Swift County’s Board of Commissioners is about to make a historic decision that will have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on everything from our tax bills, to the aesthetic beauty of the historic courthouse, to future operational costs for law enforcement, to the potential economic future of the City of Benson.

Commissioners plan on voting at their Feb. 5 meeting on whether or not to construct a $17.475 million justice center that will house the Swift County Sheriff’s Office and jail operations; 6W Community Corrections; Swift County Human Services; the Swift County Attorney’s Office; and Restorative Practices.

Of that total, $11.94 million is for a justice center and $5.925 million for the human services operation. Another $390,000 represents the cost of issuing the bonds. With interest charges over the life of the bonds, however, the price is closer to $30 million.

Wed
16
Jan
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Pass A Hands-Free Cell Phone Law

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

It isn’t easy finding legislation on which Democrats and Republicans agree without intense public bickering and private negotiating leading to an agreement in the last minutes of a Minnesota legislative session. However, we might be seeing bipartisan agreement develop on a bill that is essential to public safety early in the current session.

A Republican state senator has already introduced a bill to address distracted driving with the requirement for hands-free-only cell phone use. A Democratic Minnesota House member is planning on introducing similar legislation in the coming week.

Wed
09
Jan
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Can Governor Walz Deliver For Rural Minnesota?

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

With his swearing in as Minnesota’s new governor Monday, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s Tim Walz became the state’s first rural governor since Rudy Perpich left office in 1991. Perpich was from Hibbing. Walz grew up in a small town in Nebraska and eventually settled in Mankato, teaching high school history classes.

He served 12 years in the U.S. House representing southern Minnesota, a district much like western Minnesota with its strong ties to agriculture, small towns, struggles with declining population and declining school enrollment, and fading main streets.

Walz has promised that those rural roots will drive his goals as he serves as the leader of the state’s executive branch of government. However, he will have to deal with a divided state Capitol, building compromises to achieve his goals.

Wed
02
Jan
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Capitalizing On Our Opportunities

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

In many ways, 2018 was a good year despite what could have otherwise been seen as a year of loss and decline for the community.

We lost Benson Power, once known as Fibrominn, with its 45 full-time jobs and support for perhaps another 100 jobs in the area, its $8 to $10 million economic impact, and its $765,142 in local taxes paid to Benson, Swift County, and Benson Public Schools.

We saw our school continue to struggle against the impact of declining enrollment on its ability to provide all the classes and facilities our children deserve.

We saw the farm economy continue to struggle as low commodity prices persist and we saw its ripple effect on main street.

Wed
26
Dec
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Border Security Is Far More Than A Wall

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Most readers of this column will undoubtedly have seen the television commercials and stories about how Amazon could one day use drones to deliver packages right to your door wherever you live in America. Drones flying down the block dropping off packages and then zipping back to their base to pick up another, we are told, are coming in the not-too-distant future.

Tue
18
Dec
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Social Media, Russians Undermine First Amendment

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

This past Saturday was the birthday of the signing of the Bill of Rights. Among the 10 amendments included in the bill was the First Amendment, which guarantees our fundamental rights of freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition our government, and freedom of speech. It was signed by the nation’s founders Dec. 15, 1791.

It is considered one of the greatest foundational documents ever written to shape a democracy responsive to the citizens who elect those who govern. It gives us the power to hold our leaders accountable and voice our thoughts whether those in power like them or not.

But while The First Amendment is one of our founder’s greatest achievements it has now been shown also to be one of our greatest weaknesses.

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