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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

July 9, 2014
Associated Press

The Free Press of Mankato, July 6

Don't promise help unless it's real

First the rain came, then the flooding, then the touring politicians.

Now residents and local government officials throughout much of the state, including here in south-central Minnesota, are waiting to see what kind of assistance will float this way.

With the realization that assessing all of the flood damage will take some time and that there will be a lot of areas in line wanting help, a word of caution to state and federal government officials and leaders.

Don't overstate what can be done. In other words, don't make promises you can't keep and don't say everything will be taken care of when it won't.

Places such as Moose Lake in northern Minnesota can attest to how lightning-fast promises and government leaders' sympathy don't always mean relief is around the corner. The school was under water after a 10-inch rainfall caused flooding in 2012 and legislative proposals to get money to help build a new school repeatedly failed. Mold in the building made portions of the school unusable. Finally, this year the district received some equalization aid, so 60 percent of the cost could be paid by the state to build a new school if the district can pass a referendum to pay for 40 percent.

Residents in Rushford were unhappy with aid efforts after 2007 flooding and let then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty know it. The hometown paper labeled Rushford as Pawlenty's Katrina.

Some northern Minnesota residents affected by that 2012 flooding could apply for low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration, but senior citizens with a will or a life estate didn't qualify for the loans. As Pat Oman of the Barnum City Council said in the Moose Lake Star Gazette: "Those loans only helped a small percentage of the people. They could only get a maximum of $40,000, and a lot of them had $100,000 in damage. A lot of lessons were learned."

The federal and state buyouts of properties often took longer or offered less than residents thought. Residents are even more skeptical of the bureaucratic process when they see Federal Emergency Management money going toward projects that don't seem top priority. In central Minnesota more than $460,000 in FEMA money went to build a baseball field grandstand because it could double as a storm shelter, according to 2013 story in the St. Cloud Times.

Flood victims don't need their pictures taken with the governor or state or federal lawmakers as they shake their heads in sympathy. They want the facts about what help is realistic.


St. Cloud Times, July 8

Kudos to raising standards on pet breeders

The implementation July 1 of a new state law governing large commercial dog and cat breeders is a welcome step in improving quality control of Minnesota's segment of America's $55 billion (and growing) pet industry.

While the American Pet Products Association reports live animal purchases made up only about $2.23 billion of those expenditures last year nationally, problems rooted in pets bred at large-scale operations no doubt contributed to $27 billion spent on veterinary care and medicines in 2013. Not to mention the strife and struggles those animals and their owners face.

So like more than two dozen other states, Minnesota finally this legislative session adopted a well-defined inspection and licensing system for large-scale breeders. After years in the making, this measure should improve the quality of pets bred and sold, which also means more satisfied consumers.

It's worth noting that Minnesota adopted this law in large part because the the federal Animal Welfare Act, created almost a half-century ago, has long been criticized for not being strict enough. For example, until November, it did not govern large-scale breeding operations that sold animals directly to the public. The U.S. Department of Agriculture could oversee only large operations that sold "wholesale" to pet stores.

Minnesota's new law addresses that and many other requirements involving facilities, standards of care, confinement areas, records and identification of animals, transportation and veterinary care. Some examples of those most beneficial are:

. Animals must be fed at least once each day and watered twice daily.

. An animal sold or otherwise distributed by a commercial breeder must be accompanied by a veterinary health certificate completed by a veterinarian.

. Animals must not be sold, traded or given away before the age of eight weeks unless a veterinarian determines it would be in the best interests of the animal.

Those are a few of more than 30 requirements, most of which should not raise concerns from responsible breeders.

Certainly, the new law requires more time and money from large-scale breeding operations. The other part of that equation, though, is those breeders will be able to command higher prices for animals because this law should improve the quality of those animals.


Minnesota Daily, July 9

Schools need a safety plan

University of Minnesota creative writing professor Julie Schumacher published a chilling op-ed in The New York Times last month that detailed her experience talking with a student whose writing about killing people got so extreme that it instilled fear in classmates.

Schumacher's piece, titled "Was This Student Dangerous?" showed what appeared to be unclear or insufficient institutional policy for how teachers are to handle situations where they feel a student may be harmful to themself or others. After Schumacher contacted campus police and mental health officials, the plan was for her and a teaching assistant to meet with the student in private and ask a simple question: "Do you have a plan to harm yourself or anyone else?"

If the student had answered yes, there wasn't a plan for how to proceed, Schumacher wrote.

Schumacher's writing doesn't mention names of any people or the University itself. This indicates that her intentions weren't to implicate the school, but rather bring up an important public safety and mental health concern in higher education. After the essay came out, Schumacher told MinnPost that the director of the University's Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity contacted her, saying that the administration didn't take issue with her piece and that they wanted to open up a dialogue to find out how to best support Schumacher and others in the future.

We encourage the University and other higher education institutions to take a close look at how they'd handle a situation like the one Schumacher faced. Campus leaders must remember that mental health help must extend past clinics and support groups — it needs to get to a more personal level on campus.

With recent, devastating campus shootings across the nation, it's never been more important to ensure we have more-than-adequate systems in place to stop potential tragedies before they happen. And even if students who seem disturbed actually have no violent tendencies, it's still crucial we provide all the mental health support services they need and deserve.



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