Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happenings in My Hometown

I thought it was about time to catch up on the news from Minnesota.

FAIRMONT, MN --- New director for Opera House
Tom Dodge will be starting as managing director for the Fairmont Opera House, replacing Michael Burgraff, who took a position as executive director of the Black Hills Playhouse. According to the Fairmont Sentinel:
His ties to the Opera House date back to when the historical arts center was renovated in the 1980’s.

“I was shoveling dirt and working closely with Doc Arneson,” Dodge said, referring to Dr. Robert Arneson, who organized efforts to save the Opera House.

The work Dodge will put into the Opera House as director is “kind of a tribute to the Arnesons, for what they did for the community.”

“This is going to be more a labor of love than anything, taking care of the Opera House,” he said. “This is going to be a way of putting back into the community a lot of what the community has give to me.”
A native of Truman (the same town where young Nick Graham, a high school student, rescued a grocery store from extinction), Mr. Dodge wants to build on the mission of the Opera House as an educational facility, and work toward more coordination with other local cultural venues, such as the Red Rock Center, the Fairmont Film Society, and the Martin County Historical Society.

ST. PAUL, MN --- Minnesota college costs twice the national average
A recent report says that the “net cost of a public college education in Minnesota is nearly twice the national average.” Apparently, the cost is also higher than other Big Ten schools. Of course, I have trouble digesting this because the one Minnesota school that my daughter is even marginally considering, Bethany Lutheran College (a private institution), averages $24, 640 annual tuition. The local Connecticut school that is tops on her list is the fourth most expensive college in the country --- Connecticut College --- with an annual tuition fee of $48,000. Even given differences in income and geography, from where I sit, Minnesota still looks like a bargain.

ST. PAUL, MN --- State Senate limits payments to I-35W Bridge victims
The Minnesota State Senate recently voted to limit compensation for the victims of the I-35W Bridge collapse to $400,000 each, an amount many feel is woefully inadequate. Rather than pay survivors according to their individual losses, the state would like to create a $25 million compensation fund, out of which awards would be paid. The Minnesota House of Representatives voted NOT to cap individual awards. The plans will now go to a conference committee that will be tasked with reaching a compromise.

Apparently, the $400,000 cap in the Senate version of this legislation already exceeds the state liability limit of $300,000, a point that is not lost on some legislators. Senator Ron Latz, for example, believes that it isn’t fair for bridge victims to receive more when their injuries are no different than those suffered by others in other incidents, but who are bound by the liability limits.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN --- City ranks one of top ten for childbirth
A survey by Fit Pregnancy found that Minneapolis is the second best place in the United States to have a baby. Beaten only by Portland, Oregon, this North Star city received the following grades in various categories on a “birthing report card:”

Affordability: B
Maternal & Infant Health Risk: A
Breastfeeding: A-
Birthing Options: C
Stroller Friendliness: C
Fertility Laws/Resources: B-
Access to Hospitals/Doctors: A
Child Care: C
Safety: C-

What was good about Minneapolis? Low infant mortality rates, low cesarean section rates, and progressive laws that guarantee a nursing mother the right to breastfeed in public. What needed improvement? High hospital costs, the availability of licensed day care centers, and state laws that do not require health insurance companies to offer fertility-related services. The weather was also a big detractor (shocking!). It isn’t always conducive to getting out and working off those extra pregnancy pounds. Oh, well. No place is perfect.

Other impressive statistics:
- Minneapolis has one doula for every 37 live births; the national average is one per 649.
- 16% of Minneapolis mothers breastfeed exclusively (meaning no solids, formula, or other liquids) for six months or longer.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN --- Radio and TV legend Bill Carlson dies
Bill Carlson, a legend in the broadcasting community, passed away in late February after a protracted struggle with prostate/liver cancer. I can remember Mr. Carlson from my childhood in Minnesota. For me, he was the face and voice of WCCO; he and Dave Moore. I remember Mr. Carlson’s wife as well, Nancy Nelson. She is best known for her role in numerous infomercials, as well as various talk shows in the Twin Cities area over the past decades. A memorial service honoring Mr. Carlson was held in early March and was attended by more than 800 people, common folk and celebrities alike. He will be sorely missed.

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