Thumbs up: To the parties involved in ensuring a voter fraud case against an 86-year-old St. Peter woman was disposed of quickly.

Margaret Ann Schneider was charged with felony voter fraud for voting twice. The woman, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and dementia, forgot she had voted by absentee ballot and voted again at her polling location. The county attorney said there was no choice under state law but to charge her.

The agreement worked out by the county attorney’s office and the woman’s volunteer attorney was approved by a judge this week; it means Schneider will not have to pay a fine and the charge will be wiped from her record late next year as long as she doesn’t violate voting laws.

It’s the best outcome for an unfortunate case.

Now, the Legislature needs to change the law to give county attorneys leeway to not charge someone when it’s clear they had no intention of voting fraud.  

Vets deserve their benefits

Thumbs down: To delays of months or even years military veterans have to face before they get benefits they have earned.

And to the problem faced by some 31,000 veterans who were wrongly discharged from the military who are unable to collect any benefits.

Fortunately, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Tim Walz are pushing legislation that would get benefits to those who were wrongly discharged.

Perhaps more disturbing is that almost 900,000 veterans have claims pending for benefits including disability, pensions and education benefits, with 600,000 of those claims backlogged.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki recently vowed that by 2015, no one would have to wait more than 125 days. The VA is stretched with the high number of returning troops, but it shouldn’t take two more years to fix the system.

Bicycle safety, and more

Thumbs up: To North Mankato’s pro-bicycle policy. The City Council adopted a policy that calls for bicycle lanes or off-street paths “normally provided to the extent practicable” on new or rebuilt larger-capacity streets. Less busy roads may get bike lanes, wider traffic lanes or off-street paths “depending on site-specific circumstances.”

The city is hoping its emphasis on bike paths will contribute to bicycle tourism and safety. It may also be worthwhile to note that more bicycles means less pollution, and contribute to exercise in ways that automobiles do not.

In many countries, and in some large cities — certainly cities larger than North Mankato — bicycle transportation is a way of life. Better bike paths and roads encourages alternate modes of transportation for those to whom it makes sense (and saves gas money) and gets people thinking cars aren’t the only way to get around.

Taking the tourney by Storm

Thumbs up: To St. Peter’s Nordic Storm robotic team, which qualified for the national FIRST Robotics competition again this year.

At the 10,000 Lakes FIRST regional competition at the University of Minnesota, Nordic Storm competed against 62 other teams and was knocked out in the semi-finals, but the team won the Engineering Inspiration award. That award recognized the “strong engineering design process, computer-aided drafting, machining and the many hours of outreach the team completes each year to encourage youth in the area to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” coach Deb Johnson said.

Not only that, but the competition gives students a strong lesson in team building.

The award is prestigious enough to earn the team $5,000 from NASA for the national competition registration fee.

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