Reader responds to Sartell’s Opinion Page

Fred Joesting, Sartell

If you read closely in the Opinion and Our View columns of Dennis Dalman you will find a sentence that should be the goal of everybody. “The main law should forbid partisan control over election processes at every level.” But when reading the two columns by Dalman, all you hear him talking about is what he perceives as Republican efforts to suppress votes and other forms of voter fraud. I am in no way indicating there is no fraud and suppression by Republicans. However, if Dalman would expand his horizon to hear from some independents and conservatives he would find allegations against Democrats are also substantial. The Newsleader prints a section telling us “staff members have the responsibility to report news fairly and accurately and are accountable to the public.” To be fair and accurate it seems to me one has to look at fraud and suppression by anyone regardless of party affiliation.
Gov. Dayton aired many ads about defeating the amendment for voter photo identification because he said we had to go back and get it right. Now we hope Dayton and the Democrats will work with the Republicans to get a bill on voter photo identification done. Hopefully saying we have to go back and get it right was an honest statement and not just a fraudulent way of defeating the amendment.
One of the things Dalman lists as attempting to suppress voting is “purges of names on voter registration lists.” Does he want names to stay on forever once someone has voted? If you want a fair election the only names on a list should be legal voters. If someone has died, if someone has moved or if someone has committed a felony then those names need to come off the voter registration list. To not do so enables fraud to happen.
Dalman talks about “”Attack ads against Obama.” I am sad to say there were definitely attack ads against Obama but also very sadly there were attack ads against almost everybody running as a Republican or as a Democrat. Obama’s campaign spent months attacking Romney even before he won the nomination. Dalman decries “despicable statements made by Rush Limbaugh and Tea Party extremists.” But I did not see him worried about the same kind of statements by extremists like Move-On and the Democratic National Campaign groups.
I wonder how Dalman feels about the ultimate voter suppression? The disenfranchisement of millions because of abortion.

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Be reasonable; do it my way

Ron Scarbro –
I was watching a discussion the other day between some Democrats and some Republicans. The Dems were saying this country is in trouble because the Reps are refusing to compromise their positions. The Reps were saying the country is in trouble because of the policies of the Dems and the only way to fix the mess is to turn away from those policies and return to fiscal sanity. The debate reminded me of two football teams facing each other on the 50-yard line with neither side able to move the other. As a result, nothing gets accomplished. Nobody scores.
The election showed us clearly the country is almost equally divided between those two positions. It also showed us this situation of deadlock must be desirable because the electorate continued the stalemate by their election choices. When a stalemate happens in a football game, the soccer-style kicker is called upon to come out and kick a field goal. That usually is not very satisfying, but it at least brings about an end to the deadlock. I believe what is needed in this country is a good field-goal kicker.
I have written before Republicans do Republican things because it’s what they believe. Democrats do Democrat things because it’s what they believe. For either side of this debate to say, “Be reasonable; do it my way” is ridiculous. Most Republicans probably think if they caved to the demands of the Democrats, the country would suffer irreparable harm. I’m pretty sure the Democrats feel the same way. At least I hope their thoughts are more with the country and not just with their political parties or with their own particular political futures. This is what I know, however: If compromise is not reached, the country will suffer and possibly more than either side could ever repair. The so-called “fiscal cliff” we are facing is a reality. It isn’t going away. If it happens, Greece will look like a Sunday school picnic.
The people we have chosen to represent us are our employees. They answer to us. They are charged with the responsibility of doing the business of government. The economic mess we are in is their doing. It’s not the failure of the American people. It’s the failure of their elected representatives. All citizens in this country need to write their representatives and give them the following message: Put your party affiliation aside, do a quick re-read of the Constitution, swallow your egotistical pride and compromise for the good of America. Unscrew what you have screwed up. Failure to act is a criminal offense and you will be held liable, period.
The election is over. The country has chosen. For better or worse, the status quo has been re-elected. Many of you do not like the results. Many do. Today it does not matter. What matters is the people we have chosen to get the job done need to get busy with that job and get it done. Failure truly is not an option.
We all have our opinions as to what is the best policy for this government. The resolution to the fiscal mess we are in will probably have to take on some from both sides. Like a field goal, it probably won’t be totally satisfying to either side, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is resolution be found and compromise be reached. Another thing is crystal clear. Both Obama and the Congress are equally responsible for our situation and they both will be held accountable.

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Black Friday shows true dedication to saving money

The anticipation leading up to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, grows weeks before the holiday even arrives. We are bombarded with advertising and enticed by coupons to bring us into stores and spend money.
To some, it’s a day where businesses show just how greedy they are for business. In fact, this one day can produce just enough money to keep many businesses afloat for almost the entire year. To others, it’s about the rush of getting that 25- or 50-percent discount. I admit I like the rush of saving money but also see it as an opportunity to see how far people will go for the perfect gift – or at least the perfect sale.
The biggest thing about shopping on this sometimes crazy day is preparation. Shoppers must plan your route or you will struggle to find parking and deal with monstrous checkout lines. The truth is lines are always long on this day. If shoppers get up before the sun comes up and claim their spot in line, at least they’ll be holding the item they came for as they wait.
When I was in high school, a notable clothing and fragrance store was offering a free tote bag with a purchase of $25 or more. This was a BIG deal to me at the time, and I already wanted the perfume they carried. There were several catches. The first one was I didn’t know how to drive. The second catch was the deal was just for Black Friday. I had to think about how to ask my mother to wake up at 5 a.m. so we could be one of the first 100 people to enter the store to get that bag. She reluctantly agreed. I got my bag and beamed all the way home.
As an adult I have also fallen under the Black Friday spell. I camped out with one of my friends who needed a computer monitor. We stood in a line at Best Buy at 4:30 a.m. to make sure she got one. As many shoppers know, the deals are great but stores usually only have 20 in stock. This is especially the case when it comes to electronics. Why do they torture us like that? It’s just not right.
As a lover of newspapers, I like looking through the holiday ads. It doesn’t matter where one lives. The Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day paper is packed not only with good stories but ads galore. Online shopping kills this tangibility of holding the paper in my hands, but — despite that loss —  being able to print out coupons is nice. Sometimes stores will allow customers to use more than one coupon. Bonus!
The interesting thing about Black Friday is it evolves every year. Whether it’s stores announcing earlier openings and closings or news reports of an increase or decrease in shoppers due to the economy, there is always something new.
I read an article in USA Today that said smart phones will play a key role in the shopping experience this year. Some stores have equipped staff with mobile devices where shopping lists can be downloaded before customers arrive and items await you at the register. That offers a solution to the line problem but limits the customer-service interaction. I’m personally too much of a people person for that to attract me, but it is a nice tool.
More than anything, Black Friday shows the dedication friends and family members have to their pockets and those they might want to surprise for the holidays. Those lines might be long, but shoppers bond in them and share their victories in getting the last item out of 20 they came for. I think it’s just a fun day to observe. That’s just me. Happy shopping!

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Tell the nicotine demon to bug off

A gaggle of teenagers who live at the end of the block sometimes struts down the street puffing away like crazy. I feel like saying, “Kids, don’t smoke.” But they wouldn’t listen. They’d scoff like I did once upon a time.
I quit smoking four years ago. It’s the smartest thing I ever did. The dumbest thing I ever did? That’s easy – starting smoking when I was a teenager.
I quit, cold turkey, for almost six months back in 1987. Like a fool, I started again. All it took is one lousy cigarette, and I was back once again in my chain-smoking mode, sending out toxic smoke signals.
Not a week went by since then that I didn’t vow to quit smoking – maybe tomorrow, perhaps next week and certainly by the time the New Year rolls around. Empty vows. Then, one afternoon, I was sitting at the kitchen table talking to the neighbor lady, Marty. I put out my cigarette, crushed the empty pack of Basic menthols and tossed it into the trash.
“That’s it,” I said. “No more smoking!”
“I’ve heard that one before,” said Marty, laughing.
“Well, this time I’m serious,” I said. “Wanna bet? Ten bucks!”
We shook on the bet.
In the coming days, Marty later admitted she would sometimes peek in my kitchen window to see if I was “sneak-smoking.” She would enter my house, her nostrils quivering, sniffing the air for lingering smoke traces.
A week later she paid up, slapping down a $10 bill on the table.
The first four days were cold-turkey hell. I was light-headed, shaky, loud. I paced and kicked furniture. At one point, guests fled the house, fearing I was about to murder them. I kept having a ridiculous urge to go to the mailboxes at the south end of the mobile-home park. I kept thinking, “I’ve GOT to get to the mailbox! To deliver those letters! Now!” It was only later I realized the mailbox-torment was nothing but the inner nicotine demon prodding me. The mailboxes are next to the grocery store where I bought cigarettes. The demon knew if I got as far as the mailbox, I’d think, “Oh, what the heck, I’ll get a pack of cigs and then quit tomorrow. Or maybe next week.”
That’s my advice: Don’t listen to the devious trickster. He will give you infinite excuses to destroy your resolve. Tell the demon to shut up. After four days of his sly torments, he will leave you alone – except for a rare return visit.
I quit cold turkey because I knew if I used patches or gum, I would foolishly think, “Oh well, I can smoke just one or two and then quit again. Maybe next week.” I wanted my quitting to be a torment so when I was over it, I wouldn’t want to go through that misery again. But whatever works for you (gum, patches, whatever), do try it. If you fail, try again.
I recommend writing a list of the dozens of reasons why smoking is not good: smelly house, too expensive, fire dangers, offensive to other people and to pets, and last but not least – bad for your health. When the demon tempts you, re-read that list and then tell the demon to bug off.
A few times, I admit, I was so tempted to smoke a cigarette – “just one.” But that was the demon again, back for a quick visit. I told him where to go.
My advice to kids is this: “Please, kids, don’t start and you won’t have to stop.”

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New website is big improvement for city

A city’s website is a means of communication with its residents and potential visitors. It’s a glimpse into the personality of a city and its operations. It helps make a first impression. Well, St. Joseph’s just got better.
The city’s new website is a big improvement in communication and accessibility. Speed and efficiency are just two of the areas residents will see a change. More is planned.
City council members voted earlier this year to contract with CivicPlus to revamp the city’s site. The company also designed the City of St. Cloud’s website. St. Joseph paid $17,000 for three years of service and software support through 2014.
While the city recently unveiled the new website, it will continue to evolve. Some of the features to be added include a bill-pay option, a room-reservation tool, live streaming of city council meetings and an area for local advertisements, according to staff.
There were also core features of the website that have been updated. Some of the updated features of the site include an online document library for access to city documents, including old and current council meeting agendas, minutes and city ordinances and plat maps. Residents may also sign up for notifications via email about upcoming events and city meetings via the new site.
As cities continue to struggle to maintain fiscal responsibility, officials work to keep a watchful eye on spending. Many cities are in budget mode with final budget and levy numbers to be determined in December. With pressure to find areas to reduce or projects to postpone, one could question the decision to spend $17,000 on a new website.
The decision to revamp the city’s website was a good investment, an investment that will lead to better engagement of the community and will help keep residents better informed. Documents that once took more than 20 minutes to load appear faster, and maps that might not have loaded at all are now visible with just a click of a mouse. While the site is still a work in progress, it cannot be denied that it provides not only a fresher look but an enhanced experience.
With the introduction of the new website, the next step is to see if the city delivers on the proposed added features. For those who haven’t visited the site yet, it is worth it and will reflect a dramatic change from the previous site. Check it out at www.cityofstjoseph.com.

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Paraprofessional Judy Theisen works with eighth-grader Meg Schneider Nov. 15 at Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph. She was named Support Staff of the Year by Resource Training and Solutions.

Kennedy teachers honored for leadership

Three teachers at Kennedy Community School received awards for doing what they love – teaching students. The honor, which came from Resource Training and Solutions of St. Cloud, recognizes those who excel in academic leadership.
Teachers Pat Forte and Cheryl Novacinski received Leadership in Educational Excellence Awards last month. Paraprofessional Judy Theisen was named Support Staff of the Year. All said they are humbled by the acknowledgment.
Novacinski has taught first grade for 26 years. The St. Joseph resident even had her own children in class at one point. She’s never strayed from first grade because it is here she sees so much of a child’s development, she said. Seeing a student walk into her classroom and start at a beginner’s reading level and walk out reading a chapter book is what makes her job worthwhile.
“It’s just wonderful to see the growth,” Novacinski said. “It’s a lot of work but I’m doing what I love.”
She also works hard to stay connected to her students after they advance. For several years, she has tracked down students once they graduate from high school to send them a grad card with their first-grade picture enclosed. She wants them to know she still cares after they’re gone. While she doesn’t seek recognition, she is appreciative of the award.
Forte, a math and science teacher, has been a teacher for 24 years. Nine of those years were at Kennedy where he teaches sixth grade. In that time, he has zeroed in on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores and tutors students to help them improve, Moeller said.
“I was surprised,” Forte said of the award. “We have such a talented staff here it could go to anyone. I’m very humbled by it.”
Forte said teaching is really a team sport, and so he is grateful for the team of teachers he works with. They call themselves Team 6 since they teach sixth grade. The team is a familiar concept for Forte since the Sartell resident is an assistant hockey coach at St. John’s University.
Principal Diane Moeller said she couldn’t be prouder of her staff. A committee made up of previous award recipients selects new recipients for the year. A total of 17 awards have gone to Kennedy, Moeller said.
“Both of them really strive to individualize the work they do with the kids to make sure they’re successful,” Moeller said. “They are very deserving.”
Moeller explained the award highlights staff who are leaders not only in the building but in the district. They essentially go that extra mile, she said.
Paraprofessional Judy Theisen was named Support Staff of the Year by Resource Training and Solutions. Her supervisor, Laurel Schoborg, was not at all surprised by the recognition.
“She is well deserving,” Schoborg said. “She’s phenomenal.”
Theisen is grateful for the support she gets from staff at Kennedy. This is what makes her job easier. She has worked in the St. Cloud School District for 17 years with 14 of those being at Kennedy. She has worked in special education for six years and likes being able to help with whatever needs to be done from day to day.
“I love kids,” Theisen said. “I’m there for support. This was such an honor.”

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An assortment of bass guitars hangs on display Nov. 8 at Riff City Guitar and Music Co. in St. Joseph.

New music store opens in St. Joseph

Anyone who walks into Riff City Guitar and Music Co. will never see a sign that reads, “Please ask for assistance.” Owner Joe Leach encouraged those visiting during a recent grand opening event to pick up an instrument and play – even if it was their first time.
“We want to bring the music community a place to hang out and collaborate,” Leach said. “Our mantra is ‘please play the guitars.’”
The music store that carries everything from electric and bass guitars to ukuleles, strings and picks, opened Nov. 5 at 708 Elm St. E in St. Joseph. It’s located in the Northland Plaza behind Movies Etc. It’s the first location in Minnesota and the first music store in St. Joseph. The store is run by a staff of four that includes Leach, his daughter Ellen Leach, Al Stumpf and Bill Lydeen.
Leach, a bass guitarist with 25 years of experience, has always been a lover of music. The 44-year-old was once in a band with Al Stumpf, who also works in the store, but he said he just plays for fun now. He wants others to find fun in playing as well. One of the ways to help introduce music to others is through the offering of ukulele and guitar lessons that will begin in the coming week.
He has two other businesses in St. Joseph. They are Bliss Direct Media and a corporation called Overstock Management Group. Overstock Management Group has three websites on which the company sells items online. Music is one of the three online niches. In the music-instrument market, it’s necessary to have a retail store so people can come in and try things out, Leach said.
The store carries about eight guitar brands that include Fender, Gretsch and Music Man. In addition to the retail store, the music company has an e-commerce site, www.riffcityguitaroutlet.com, for those who wish to purchase items solely online. The advantage of having a retail and online store is some items require testing them out before purchasing while other items do not. A guitar is something many might want to hold in their hands before buying.
Guitars are a lot like some clothing, where it may be the exact same model but there’s slight variations between them.
Riff City Guitar and Music Co. will offer ukulele and guitar lessons on Monday nights. Slots are open between 3 and 7 p.m. The dates are Nov. 19, Nov. 26 and Dec. 3. There are five spots open for people to come in and try the ukulele on these days. During the half-hour sessions that begin at 6 p.m., participants will learn a few chords and a simple song, he said. The instrument is provided. The first lesson is free, but if participants want to continue lessons they can sign up with the instructor for paid lessons.
Why the ukulele? When researching most sought-after musical instruments for the company, the ukulele was the most searched item.
“The ukulele is the most popular musical instrument on the planet right now,” Leach said. “It’s really made a comeback.”
Stumpf and Lydeen said traffic was steady throughout the grand opening. In the few days the store was open, the response was positive and they predict the support will continue. Leach agreed.
“Feedback has been phenomenal, particularly from the musicians who have been in the area for a long time,” Leach said. “Anyone in St. Joseph is astounded we have a music store in St. Joseph. We love hearing that feedback.”
Leach and his wife, Barb, have three children. They live just north of St. Joseph in Avon.

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Ellen Bloom competing in the 200 Individual Medley Final

Sabres take second at state swim meet

There was a time, when she was a very young girl, when Ellen Bloom cried all the way to swimming lessons. Not anymore. The swimming champ came back to Sartell all smiles when the Sartell Sabres earned second place, behind champion Northfield, in the Class A state championships last weekend in the Twin Cities.
It’s hard to believe Bloom wasn’t born swimming and loving every minute of it.
At the Minneapolis Aquatic Center last weekend, she won first place in the 200-yard individual medley (the second time in two years she has done that), and she also won first place in the 100-yard backstroke race. She was also champ in those two races last year, helping bring the Sabres to their second state championship. Their first was in 2009.
“I didn’t like swimming lessons,” Bloom recalled. “I took them when we lived in Wisconsin. But when I was about age 10 I started liking swimming. That’s when I joined a swim club in St. Cloud.”
The Blooms moved to Sartell when Ellen was in first grade.
At last weekend’s meet, in a last breathless moment, Bloom helped her team edge ahead of the Visitation High School team during the last event of the weekend – the 400-yard freestyle relay. That is when Visitation was in second place, ahead of Sartell by just a point. Bloom, who was the fourth relay team member (the “anchor”) plunged in when the team was just two points behind in the relay race. Swimming fast and furious, she touched the other end of the pool where her fans and friends erupted into a joyous frenzy. Bloom and her team had earned second place and bested Visitation in the tough competition. She beat her competitor, Emily Conors of Visitation, by 2.16 seconds with a time of 50.66.
The other members of the relay team for that race were Jennifer Thompson, Anna Ellis and Gaby Hagen.
“I heard them cheer before it was my turn,” she said, “but once in the water I was so focused on what I was doing I didn’t hear anything. It was stressful, but I knew the whole team was there behind me, and I also do well under pressure, and that helped.”
Under the coaching of Dave Olson, the Sabres girls swim team were state champions in 2009 and 2011.
Bloom and her team were elated to win second place this year, partly because they’d faced some obstacles along the way. The team was unusually young this year, for one thing. For another, champion swimmer, senior Marisa Wood, could not participate because of an illness, although she was able to be at the meet to cheer her teammates on. Wood won the 500-yard freestyle championship eight times, every year since she was in seventh grade. The only two seniors among the 13 girls who competed were Bloom and Lauren Martens.
“It meant the world to me and to the other girls that Marisa was there,” Bloom said. “Her support was so helpful to us, to pull off something great.”
Bloom credited the Sabres’ excellent swimming, including her own, to team work.
“That’s what I like best about high-school swimming,” she said. “It’s my teammates, my best friends. We see each other so much, and I couldn’t ask for better girls. They are the sweetest, nicest, classiest girls.”
Bloom’s parents, Goeff and Karla, were at the meet, as well as her other sibling, brother Ryan, who is now a graduate student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Other fans included women who had been part of the Sabres team in previous years: Mollie Giffin, Kate Hellie, Paige Kohlman and Bonnie Sova. Bloom also credited Sabres alternate swimmers for contributing to the team’s cohesion and morale boosting – Ellie Hill, Kate Karpel, Paige Pawlenty and Sara Symanietz. Freshman Pawlenty swam in the freestyle relay and the 100-yard butterfly Friday, the first day of the two-day meet.
Like all Sabres swimmers, Bloom worked extremely hard in-season and out-of-season. She belongs to a swim club in Edina and swims there with a coach’s guidance four days a week. After graduation, she will attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, on a swimming scholarship. She is not yet sure of her area of study. Bloom’s hobbies are hanging out with her friends and playing piano whenever she can find the time.
The Sabres earned 175 points at the weekend meet. Northfield won first with 223 points. Third place was Visitation with 172. The others, in order of their points, were Mankato West, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Albert Lea, Hutchinson, Blake, Monticello, Foley, Melrose, Albany, Sauk Centre and Sauk Rapids.
One of the crowd-pleasing highlights for Sabres’ fans and teammates at the meet was when Anna Ellis, a seventh-grader, came in sixth in the 100-backstroke race, the one that Bloom won.
The following are other highlights of the Sabres’ weekend achievements:
Third place in the 100-yard medley relay. Participating members were Anna Ellis, Lindsey Martens, Bloom and Lauren Martens.
Third place in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Members were Jennifer Thompson, Lindsey Martens, Lauren Martens (Lindsey and Lauren are sisters) and Gaby Hagen.
200-yard individual medley: Ellen Bloom 1st place, Gaby Hagen 11th place.
50-yard freestyle: Jennifer Thompson 16th place.
Diving: Madison Molitor 15th place.
100-yard butterfly: Gaby Hagen 12th place.
100-yard freestyle: Jennifer Thompson 14th place.
500-yard freestyle: Kendra Raths 14th place.
100-yard breastroke: Lindsey Martens 13th place.

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