News Tribune Editorial Board
With so much noise in St. Paul over taxes, fixing Minnesota's opioid crisis, protecting seniors in care facilities, funding transportation and public infrastructure, and more, advocates for affordable housing fear they're being forgotten. So they fanned out over the past couple of weeks, representatives from the 214 organizations statewide that make up the Homes for All coalition, to meet with newspaper editorial boards and reporters.
The threat of a catastrophic loss of life in the Twin Ports has been hanging over our heads — not unlike last week's sooty-black smoke plume — for at least seven years. Despite so many breathless reports recently, the "news" that the oil refinery in Superior uses hydrogen fluoride during its processing of high-octane gasoline should not have come as any shock. The chemical's use here was first reported in the News Tribune way back in February 2011.
The celebration may be a bit tempered here with our ongoing debate over an earned-sick-and-safe-time mandate and the way that debate has left so many of Duluth's small-business operators feeling unappreciated, vilified, and threatened. But Minnesota's "Small Helps All Day" proclamation for today and the 55th annual "National Small Business Week" this week are reminders of how important smaller employers are to our state and nation — and to those millions of us who bank on small businesses for our employment, income, and financial well-being.
A 2014 study determined 4,400 new housing units were needed in Duluth by 2020 — about 730 per year. As of about a year ago, however, only about 500 homes were being created. We're falling behind. As a community, we aren't keeping pace with the demand and the identified need.
Nearly four full weeks remain in the 2018 session of the Minnesota Legislature, and it apparently isn't too soon to start prodding lawmakers about getting their work done. On time. And without the mad scramble at the end, the closed-doors meetings, the secret late-night deals, and the votes on bills no one has had time to read. All of these unsavory, not-the-way-to-conduct-the-people's-business practices have marred recent sessions and even seem to be emerging as a disappointing norm.
Presented with compelling evidence that many businesses in Duluth are struggling to stay afloat, the Duluth City Council Monday — pushed ahead anyway for an ordinance that's sure to drown even more employers or drive them out of our city.
Every single week in the state of Minnesota, 400 fresh complaints roll in alleging that our aging parents and grandparents in nursing homes, assisted-living centers, and other care facilities are being mistreated, even abused. It's no wonder horrific and heartbreaking stories have been in all the papers over the past couple of years. It's no wonder the Minnesota Department of Health's backlog of complaints grew to an unmanageable more than 2,300.
The first Earth Day, 48 years ago today, was front-page news in Duluth. An estimated 175 college students gathered at Leif Erikson Park at 4:45 a.m. With songs and readings, they reflected on the relationship between humankind and the environment. Then — led by the Students for Environmental Defense group from the University of Minnesota Duluth and the Friends of the Earth group from the College of St. Scholastica — they attended speeches, panel discussions, and other events spread over two days.
When it comes to how much we pay in taxes, no one wants to be at the top of the list. Yet there's Minnesota with its corporate income tax the third highest in the nation and with its top-tier personal income tax rate a disappointingly lofty No. 3. Moving Minnesota to more reasonable rankings would benefit workers, employers, and the state's economy while also helping our state be more competitive both nationally and globally. A bit of tax relief could even help Minnesota chip away at its unflattering reputation, deserved or not, as a pricey and difficult place to do business.
Minnesota's newest U.S. senator sees it: Regardless of copper-nickel mining, the land exchange proposed between the federal government and PolyMet Mining is a great deal for our state.