The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 11, 2013

Our View: Program to get vets employed worked

The Free Press

Thumbs up

To the Minnesota National Guard and Minnesota employers Target, U.S. Bank, Best Buy, the Minnesota State Colleges and University System and St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, who worked together to create a jobs and training program for vets returning from the Middle East.

The employers actually sent representatives to a military base in the Middle East to run an intensive one-week program to help vets get back into the workforce when they returned home. They helped the vets write resumes, plan their careers and practice interviews.

The guard came up with the idea to hold the training before the soldiers got home, as many other distractions and adjustments take place when they return and that might prevent them from getting the job training. In this case, the soldiers were ready for work. The program also connected vets when they got back to employment resources, workforce centers and educational programs.

By all accounts the program was a resounding success. Most of the 2,700 National Guard soldiers from the “Red Bull” division who returned from the tours last spring have found work. Of the 500 who returned without civilian jobs, all but 35 have found work.

Guard officials planned this well, understanding that unemployment can cause many more problems, including drug and alcohol abuse.

The employment program was proactive and helped veterans be ready for the jobs they deserve.


Vacuum idea was golden

Thumbs up

To everyone at Eagle Lake Elementary school who has a hand in the Golden Vacuum Award.

Each week a classroom or other school area is graced with an upright vacuum, painted gold, which signifies exceptional cleanliness. The brilliant idea originated with fifth-grade teacher Katie Zimmerman, who spray-painted her own non-working vacuum for the special duty. Night custodians Evan Bartlett and Bill Anderson distribute the award once a week.

The Golden Vacuum Award is a creative idea that gives students something else to look forward to when coming to school each week. And it’s a good way to remind them of some important lessons that most of them get at home.


Council time limit rule reasonable

Thumbs up

To North Mankato for properly balancing the need to keep City Council meetings on track with the need to allow adequate citizen input.

Newly elected Councilman Kim Spears proposed that the council end a rule that says people addressing the council must limit their comments to three minutes. Spears said the rule intimidates citizens and is a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

The rest of the council disagreed.

The time-limit rule doesn’t deny citizens their free speech rights. People are free to address the council, write letters to the council, peacefully protest against the council.

And, in fact, we’ve almost never seen the time limit strictly enforced when citizens have addressed the council in the past. The mayor has the authority to allow people to exceed the time limit, which is what almost always happens when someone is giving input that is relevant to the discussion. And citizens can, and often do, return to the podium multiple times during meetings to give input.

The time limit has the added benefit of helping citizens prepare for their presentation, forcing them to be organized and concise.


Putting the ‘public’ in ‘public body’

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To Blue Earth County for taking steps to make their meetings more available to the public. Commissioners and staff are talking about broadcasting their meetings so county residents can witness proceedings without having to attend.

Consideration of the proposal makes sense, especially as people find it hard to cram more into their already full days. Other government entities, including Mankato and North Mankato, already tape and broadcast their meetings.

The Nielsen ratings might not put the broadcasts in the top rankings of viewership, but offering the meetings in that venue is one more way for a government body to make their actions transparent. The county also is discussing putting the meetings on the Internet, which would be a great service. The more available, the better. It helps put the “public” in “public body.”

The County Board will discuss the matter more at its Tuesday work session at 9 a.m. in the Historic Courthouse.