Early duck opener
SIDEWAYS THUMBS: Judging from most reports, it appears the Department of Natural Resources made the right call when it requested the Legislature bump up this year's waterfowl opener after learning that the consensus of bird hunters in the state desired an earlier opener. It's a move that made sense since a great number of teal and wood ducks tend to head out of Minnesota the first week of October. The DNR wants to improve the hunting experience for everyone in the field, and allowing them this extra early weekend was clearly the best way to do that. In the meantime, the DNR will keep a close eye on an important statistic: the number of hunters in the field. The state has been hemorrhaging hunter numbers for more than a decade, a trend that continued on the opener, where the DNR said the number of hunters declined 4 percent from 2010. As of Sunday, the state had sold a shade more than 69,000 waterfowl stamps - almost 10,000 fewer than five years ago. Time will tell if the new regulations help reverse that troubling trend.
Get it together, Congress
THUMBS DOWN: The U.S. Congress continues to play with fire and live on the edge when it comes to coming to terms on issues that three times this year have driven them to the brink of a shutdown. Monday's agreement over $2.6 billion in disaster aid marked the third time Congress has come within days of a government shutdown - it happened back in April and again in August before the debt limit was raised. Members of Congress are living a charmed life; the troubling question for everyone though is, will we back in this same situation in November? It shouldn't take a crisis and sense of urgency to get our elected officials to move on something, but unfortunately that's the trend in Washington these days.
THUMBS UP: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities has hired a hands-on, tell-it-like-it-is chancellor to replace James McCormick. Steven Rosenstone visited Southwest Minnesota State University on Tuesday and met with select community and business leaders, along with faculty, and students. Rosenstone said he has no intention of micromanaging colleges and universities in the system and realizes the importance of agriculture in our region and how it relates to SMSU's ag program, which had to be rescued from the chopping block in February. With the very real possibility of future alignment between SMSU and Minnesota West out there, SMSU is close to entering a time of transition and Rosenstone, who respects the previous administration's decision to not make any major realignment moves this year, appears willing to work on SMSU's behalf in that process that will benefit both SMSU and Minnesota West and the communities they call home. It is our hope, however, that MnSCU and both educational institutions keep their feet on the pedals on realignment and not let it fade away and turn into some kind of afterthought.
Biking and parking
THUMBS UP: We support the Marshall City Council's decision this week to allow parking on the northwest side of C Street by eliminating the biking lane on that side, while keeping a bicycle lane on the other side. The street isn't wide enough, for starters, and it's a street that will likely see much more traffic when the new library opens in November. We understand the city's efforts to promote biking in and around Marshall, but when you start putting bike lanes on streets, safety is always a key issue and having two biking lanes on one stretch of road raises major safety concerns. Bikes and cars will always share the road, so there is a place for these lanes and there are plenty of bicyclists in town to justify them, but they must be used properly, and, in the end, it's still up to motorists to notice them and respect their purpose. If they don't, the lanes are practically useless and a will be viewed as waste of money.