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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

June 10, 2014
Associated Press

Mesabi Daily News, June 9

Very serious issue bumbled badly

It's darn near impossible in this 24/7 news cycle and ever-insatiable Internet society to get a national consensus for people to keep their powder dry on rushing to judgment on a controversial issue.

We believe that would be best regarding at least a portion of the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release as a captive of the Taliban in exchange for five serious terrorists as to the actual facts of what happened after he deliberately left his post and while in the hands of the Taliban.

Americans need to hear details from Bergdahl before reaching their final conclusions on that part of this confusing tale.

But we find the most credible, believable and honest words on the Bergdahl saga so far coming from his Army brothers whom he left. They are saying, in no uncertain terms, that he is a deserter who willingly walked away from his post. And Bergdahal's own words and actions prior to his decision to leave and seek out the Taliban only give more legitimacy to such a determination.

A Rambo he was not.

And we certainly do not find even a morsel of credence in the words of Susan Rice, President's Obama's national security adviser, who went on talk shows last Sunday to say Bergdahl served "with honor and distinction."

Yep, this is the same Susan Rice who as ambassador to the United Nations did the Sunday news show tour after the terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including our Libyan ambassador, at our consulate in Benghazi. She then dutifully read administration talking points that blamed an anti-Islam video for the attack. A competent presidential aide she is not.

Whether it was proper for the commander-in-chief to make the five-for-one deal with the enemy found at least mixed results in initial polls. But it didn't take long for that to start dissipating. And the president has no one but himself to blame.

The administration's decision to not notify key members of Congress before executing the swap was bad enough. In so doing, the president showed complete disregard for the very core of our constitutional foundation and the trustworthiness of leaders of both political parties.

But then he doubled-down on arrogance. He took a personal "victory lap" in the Rose Garden, trotting out Bergdahl's parents like props while touting his prisoner deal.

That was a poke in the eye to Bergdahl's fellow soldiers who served with him and went out on countless dangerous missions to try to find him. And some of those soldiers, who definitely did serve "with honor and distinction," are now also claiming that a few soldiers were killed on patrol while in search of Bergdahl.

The president knew of all this fog of war that surrounded the Bergdahl case, yet still tried to reap a political harvest from it with his Rose Garden antics.

That show was terribly disrespectful to the great office he holds. And it was remarkably tone-deaf to the public reaction realities that should have been visible for all in his administration to see.

President Obama may have once been a political whiz kid, but not any more.


St. Cloud Times, June 7

Emissions plan raises many questions

First of all, it's a testament to the work of Minnesota's policy makers and energy providers the past few decades that there isn't a statewide uproar about President Barack Obama's proposal to cut the state's carbon dioxide emissions by 41 percent by 2030.

While Obama's plan certainly presents some challenges, it's clear Minnesota's adoption seven years ago of the Next Generation Energy Act put power providers and Minnesotans on this track well ahead of Washington.

That state act requires at least 25 percent of all electricity generated or purchased in Minnesota to come from renewable energy by 2025. In 2013, the Legislature expanded required additional 1.5 percent of retail electricity come from solar energy by 2020.

Clearly, such legislation is one reason Xcel Energy Inc., the largest power company serving the state, already generates half its energy from carbon-free sources. (Think nuclear, wind, solar and other renewables.) Furthermore, Xcel plans to raise its wind energy 42 percent by 2016.

Despite progress in Minnesota, there are several issues that deserve thorough public discussions — and clear answers — before the president's plan is formally adopted.

At the national level, the overriding issue is whether Obama's plan puts the nation at an economic disadvantage all for the unproven perception that America can lead by example in protecting the environment.

Indeed, in the announcement of the EPA plan Monday, the administration highlighted its belief it was doing the right thing morally and believes other major carbon-emitting countries will follow suit.

For starters, existing morals (and markets) seem to be doing a pretty good job of shifting away from carbon-heavy sources of energy. Nationwide, coal has gone from providing 52 percent of U.S. energy needs in 2000 to just 37 percent in 2013. Even this plan only drops that to 30 percent in 15 more years.

As for leading by example, the elephant on the planet is China, putting out about 30 percent of all CO2 emissions. And until last year, its output was growing about 10 percent annually. Such trends, coupled with increased emission from nations such as India and Japan, cast doubt on the lead-the-world-by-example claim.

At a local level, this proposal adds another dimension to the ongoing debate about the Xcel's Sherco plant in Becker. The coal-burning plant, built in the 1970s, provides about 20 percent of the power used by 1.2 million Xcel customers in Minnesota. It also is the state's largest emitter of carbon dioxide.

A multifacted, multiyear review of the plant's future is well underway, and this proposal is bound to add to that discussion.

As it proceeds, the most important questions to answer about its future — or what replaces it — must not just involve emissions. They also must include everything from reliability to costs and benefits to consumers, power providers and the state's entire economy.


St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 10

Redirecting MnSCU: Pioneer Press editorial

Change is hard on organizations. For their leaders, pushback comes with the territory.

That's so at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, where Chancellor Steven Rosenstone last week received a harsh critique from a faculty union, the Pioneer Press reported, as the system's board of trustees prepares for its annual review of his performance.

The chancellor, however, has MnSCU trustees' support, and his work in a drive to increase collaboration and boost efficiency across the system deserves backing beyond the boardroom.

As Rosenstone advances a sweeping "Charting the Future" blueprint for system-wide change, he "has operated under the clear direction of the board," Chair Clarence Hightower told us.

The chancellor has been visionary in moving MnSCU forward and has "helped all of Minnesota understand what we need to do to create a better future for our students, their families and their communities," Hightower said.

The plan strives to prepare the system -- one of the nation's largest -- to serve students in a permanent environment of scarcer resources, continuous change and increasing expectations. MnSCU has 31 colleges and universities on 54 campuses in 47 communities.

The union, the Inter Faculty Organization, which represents educators at the seven state universities, has been negotiating with MnSCU for more than a year.

Its memo lists a "Bill of Particulars" that takes issue with budgeting and other operations under Rosenstone, and criticizes him for being "out of touch with legislative and public sentiments on higher education priorities."

It says he based his strategy on desires of the Chamber of Commerce, rather than the needs of students and their parents. The union previously questioned Rosenstone's belief that campuses need to be more responsive to the workforce needs of Minnesota employers to stay relevant, the Pioneer Press' Mila Koumpilova noted.

The memo also mentions the handling of two recent high-profile cases: payroll problems at Metropolitan State University and the firing and rehiring of a Minnesota State Mankato football coach who was accused and then cleared of child pornography.

"We want to work together for the benefit of the citizens of Minnesota and for our students," Union president Nancy Black told us, but the chancellor "does not listen to faculty voices."

The union's major issue at this point "is that the chancellor has not learned how to work in a union environment," Black said. "We have something called shared governance, and this chancellor does not believe in shared governance. He hasn't been operating that way, and it causes a lot of conflict."

Earl Potter, president of St. Cloud State University and of MnSCU's executive committee, told us Rosenstone has worked to make sure all voices are included in the Charting the Future process.

The initiative calls for working together more effectively as a system to plan academic programming across the state, Potter explained. "The union fears that will mean a stronger central office that tells us what to do. The chancellor says that is not his intent, and the union doesn't believe him. That is essentially what the conflict is about."

In meeting with us last fall, Rosenstone made it clear that more collaboration doesn't mean more control from the system office in downtown St. Paul. We take him at his word -- but also observe that, because of inertia, it takes the application of outside force to change a body's course. That needn't translate into undue central control, but central influence is necessary.

"All the parties want the right things for Minnesota, but we differ," Potter observed. Adversarial relationships from the bargaining table "color the conversation about doing the hard change work."

The conversation at MnSCU is an important one in a state that must acknowledge both changing demographics and the limits on public resources.

In organizations, it's easier to do things the way they've always been done. In addition to the strong leadership it has, Charting the Future will need broad support to overcome the inertia of the status quo.



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