The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 23, 2012

Our View: Big Ten just isn't as special as it used to be

The Free Press

Thumbs down

To the Big Ten and the addition of two new schools to a once-proud and storied athletic conference that now doesn't at all resemble the proud and storied conference that it once was.

It's just business these days. The Big Ten used to be a Midwestern powerhouse. Even before its latest announcement that Maryland and Rutgers will join the conference, it technically ceased being the "Big Ten." But when Nebraska and Penn State joined the conference a few years ago, at least they were Midwestern schools, maintaining geographical relevance. Maryland and Rutgers, on the other hand, are Eastern schools taken in with the mighty dollar in mind.

It's getting ridiculous. The Big Ten still calls itself the Big Ten even after adding schools 11 and 12, then it divided itself for football into two divisions called "Legends" and "Leaders." It sounded silly at the time. Now with 14 teams, calling it the "Big Ten" sounds even sillier.

Maryland and Rutgers were brought in to capitalize on an Eastern television market. So maybe the conference should now be called the "Big Mo." As in big money.

Don't landfill food if it can be composted

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To a push by some in Minnesota to find ways to compost food waste on commercial levels.

The state's overall recycling efforts surged in the 1980s but have remained stagnant since.

One of the best options to reduce pressure on landfills is to treat organics -- food waste -- as the recyclable material it is. As it is, as much as 40 percent of all the food produced ends up in landfills.

State officials have set a goal in the metro area of cutting the flow into landfills by 75 percent by 2030, with a big chunk of that coming from recycling organic material.

Recycling food waste for use as soil and fertilizers carries obvious obstacles, including the safe collection and storage of it and reducing odors and pests at organic recycling plants. But as anyone who has a backyard compost bin knows, those obstacles aren't that difficult to overcome.

Flame Theater in Wells sparks anew

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To the Wells community and its city for supporting a first-rate, historic theater in the town of 2,400 residents.

Maintaining local movie houses has been tough for small towns for decades as regional centers sprung up to draw patrons away. But the residents of Wells have continued to support The Flame with their business, donations and city support.

The theater, originally called the State Theater, was established in 1912 when it opened with 5 cent shows. The theater was renamed "The  Flame" after it burned down in 1960 and was rebuilt.

It recently purchased $65,000 worth of digital equipment to accommodate the motion picture industry's phasing out of 35mm films next year.

As the only small town theater within a 40-mile radius, The Flame draws some 20,000 visitors a year and charges about half the admission, $3, of big city theaters.

The community came together to support something that maybe doesn't fit into the traditional municipal budget, but people of Wells have decided its worth it as a way to keep people in town and draw others from the region.

Movie theaters were long staples of small-town life. Wells is keeping that alive.

Dotson Co. day builds community

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To the Dotson Co. and their policy of giving their employees the day before Thanksgiving as a day off to volunteer for some worthy community cause.

The company designates a day, usually the day before Thanksgiving, to allow workers to get paid for volunteering for a local cause. Wednesday several employees donated their time helping with demolition work at the old Nichols Office Building that will become the new VINE senior community center.

Employees can take the day off as vacation, a day without pay or get paid while doing volunteer work. It's a nice gesture on the part of a longtime local company to allow its employees to help out a community cause as a way to give back.

We'd like to see more companies offer the same thing.