Northwest Minnesota, especially Bemidji, may be ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing for the next generation of jobs. But it's also something that we must continue to foster and provide resources in order to accomplish that goal. This month, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce reported that the gamut of companies are having problems finding qualified workers. It particularly noted skilled precision manufacturing positions. It means our education system needs to be retooled to train the next generation workforce for the jobs that are now evolving.
It's not very often when the weight of the public's will can stop federal bureaucracy, but in the case of the U.S. Coast Guard wanting to shoot up Lake Superior, it thankfully has. The Coast Guard on Monday announced that it is withdrawing plans to close off some 2,500 square miles of the Great Lakes for live machine-gun firing exercises. One of sites was off the North Shore of Lake Superior. The Coast Guard went ahead with its plans earlier this year without public hearings, and was taken to task for it, notably by U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District.
A lot of issues will compete for attention starting next month when the Minnesota Legislature convenes, notwithstanding the chief job facing lawmakers of crafting a new two-year state budget. Property tax relief, health care reform, K-12 funding equity, higher education tuition relief -- all promise to gain traction in the next few months. Perhaps the stars are aligned right, but we believe the upcoming session will also be prime for moving Minnesota to the forefront of staking out a position in energy policy in a number of different fronts.
The Bemidji City Council may have backed itself into a corner this week when councilors voted 4-3 to proceed with plans to upgrade Diamond Point Park. The price tag for improvements at $3.3 million far exceeds the $1.65 million budget established for the park.
Congress adjourned its 109th session early Saturday morning. Hopefully, its 110th session which begins Jan. 4 will be more productive. Granted, the recently concluded session has been preoccupied with a number of big and immediate issues, notwithstanding the ongoing war in Iraq and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. But for a Congress in which one party controlled both chambers and the White House, it will remarkably go down as one of the least productive.
Death is always a tragedy, but it seems even more tragic when it is unexpected and especially when it is preventable. Such is the case this week as a North Branch, Minn., family ponders over the loss of their 17-year-old son to carbon monoxide poisoning. Mitch Carlson and his fiancée, Penny Pliscott, thought their new home was getting chilly, but didn't know why their propane boiler furnace was malfunctioning, coming on at inconvenient times. The family was getting sick over several days, and the couple at 6:30 a.m.
Wednesday's release of the long-awaited Iraq Study Group report only confirmed what most of us already knew -- that our current policy in Iraq is flawed and a new direction is needed, now. There is no doubt that the United States has the greatest military force on the planet. It had a job to do, and it did it in weeks in 2003. The Saddam Hussein regime was toppled and President Bush stood on an aircraft carrier proudly proclaiming "Mission Accomplished." It's what happened after that which has only been getting worse and worse.
The failure again of the U.S. Senate to pass disaster aid for farmers on Tuesday proves the need for a farm bill program that sets aside permanent farm disaster aid. The Senate, still in Republican hands, is rushing to approve measures which may not see the light of day when Democrats take control early next year.
The event that should set the tone for the 2007 legislative session comes today when state finance officials give their economic report which includes a revenue forecast for the foreseeable future. Four years ago, that forecast was devas-tating. A newly elected governor, Tim Paw-lenty, armed with his agenda for the state, suddenly found himself facing a state bud-get deficit in excess of $4 billion -- a deficit for which GOP Pawlenty and the Legis-lature has been dealing with ever since. Today, that forecast is expected to be different.
Earlier this year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stood before the United Nations General Assembly and declared that President Bush was "the devil" and that he could still "smell sulfur" left behind by the "devil," George Bush, who had addressed the same chamber 24 hours before. It was an insult to the president, and by association, of our nation. To make matters worse, Chavez the next day in an address in Harlem, called the president "an alcoholic and a sick man." There is no doubt that Chavez hates the United States, or least the administration that would threaten his power the most.