The Journal of New Ulm, Sept. 17
Only Coach Kill should make health decisions
University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill suffered another epileptic seizure during a Gopher football game on Saturday, creating another stir about whether his health compromises his ability to be an effective leader for the program. Some are saying the U of M should offer him the opportunity to resign for his own health's sake, and that Kill should accept.
Coach Kill should ignore the ignoramuses and keep on coaching, if that's what he wants to do.
Yes, it is disturbing to see someone suffering a seizure. But those with knowledge of the disease and experience in dealing with it should be the ones making the decisions, not someone who feels uncomfortable witnessing an episode.
Kill has plenty of experience with his condition. He and his doctors are working hard to control it. He and his assistant coaches have set up a system to carry on in game situations with minimal disruption. That system went into effect during the game, which the Gophers won.
This is the third time in three seasons that Kill has had a sideline seizure. Those who think this should disqualify him as a football coach probably have a little understanding of coaching as they do of epilepsy. The preparation before the season and the preparation and planning during the week before the game have much more to do with the success of the program as the coach's presence on the sidelines. All we can say is, Kill's predecessor Tim Brewster never suffered a seizure during a game, and Kill seems to be doing a much better job with this program than Brewster ever did.
Armchair coaches are a part of the game, but armchair doctors should have no place here. We expect Kill and his doctors will work on his health, and he will continue to work hard for the betterment of Gopher football.
Post-Bulletin, Sept. 17
Gas tax alone won't maintain state's roads
Minnesota's governors have provided little leadership on transportation funding during the last 25 years.
The state's gasoline tax has been raised just once in that span — in 2008 after the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge that killed 13 people and injured 145 —when the Legislature overrode Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto and passed an 8.5-cent-per-gallon increase. Before that, the last increase was in 1988.
Gov. Mark Dayton opposed a modest 5-cent-per-gallon increase during the 2013 legislative session, which was curious because the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee, which the governor appointed a year earlier, issued a grave warning in its final report: "If the decline in Minnesota's transportation system is allowed to continue through inaction with regard to funding, irreparable damage may occur to the state's economy. The consequences of inaction are clear and predictable."
Dayton, apparently, is ready to change course again. He has directed Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle to embark on a statewide sales pitch to encourage investment in roads, bridges and transit systems. Zelle brought that pitch to Rochester last week, telling the audience, "We can't afford to wait."
We're heartened that Dayton has reordered his priorities. Minnesota's 140,000 miles of roads and 20,000 bridges —the nation's fifth-largest highway system —are woefully behind in repairs and needed upgrades after years of escalating costs and flat revenues.
Before becoming transportation commissioner, Zelle served on the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee, which called for higher gas taxes and other fees to raise at least $50 billion for roads and transit over the next 20 years.
Zelle is promoting the committee's recommendations, which include a gas-tax increase of 10 cents per gallon in the first year, followed by 1.5 cent increases in each of the next 19 years. It also called for raising motor vehicle license fees by 10 percent.
We favor increasing the gas tax because the users of our roads and bridges are the ones who pay it, making it less regressive than other excise fees. It's also constitutionally mandated to "highway purposes," so legislators can't divert the revenue to unrelated projects. This is a case where Minnesotans truly get what they pay for.
MnDOT says the average Minnesotan drives 15,000 miles a year and gets 21 miles to a gallon of gas. At the current 28.5-cents-a-gallon state gas tax, the typical driver pays $203 a year for smooth roads and safe bridges.
How much do you pay per year for your twice-weekly latte?
But it's worth noting that, at some point, we'll reach a point of diminishing returns with the gasoline tax. As fuel efficiency increases, gas taxes will become a less-dependable funding source. When we're all getting 30 miles per gallon and paying 50 percent less in gas taxes, we'll still need good roads.
So Zelle's tour should be a sounding board for other revenue-raising ideas, such as toll roads and mileage-based user fees, which are being tested in other states. Minnesota also might need to find new ways in which owners of high-mileage hybrids or electric cars will be required to pay a bit more into the state's highway fund. Until electric cars become hovercrafts, they'll still be contributing to the wear and tear on our roads.
Raising transportation taxes would be a courageous act in 2014, as Dayton and all members of the Minnesota House are up for election. Nonetheless, the governor should lay out a case to invest in our long-neglected roads and bridges, something his predecessors — and Dayton himself —have consistently failed to do.
The Free Press of Mankato, Sept. 17
More focus needed for keeping Asian carp away
Any hopes that invasive and voracious Asian carp have stayed out of Minnesota waters were dashed recently when the carcass of a more than 2-foot-long Asian carp was found atop a concrete dam on the Mississippi River near Winona.
The silver carp is the species of large carp people have seen on YouTube videos flying through the air by the hundreds when spooked by boats traveling on the rivers elsewhere in the country.
The discovery has accelerated pressure by Minnesota congressional members, including Tim Walz of Mankato, to have Congress order the closing of the Upper St. Anthony lock in downtown Minneapolis. Shutting down that lock would be the best — although not foolproof — way of blocking the carp from moving up the Mississippi and getting into other streams and lakes across northern Minnesota.
But the plan would do nothing to protect the state's namesake river from being infested with the carp that not only pose risks of injury to boaters but can devastate other game fish habitat because of their voracious appetites. The mouth of the Minnesota River enters the Mississippi miles to the south of the St. Anothony lock, leaving the Minnesota River wide open to Asian carp that are making their way north.
While the carp carcass found in Winona is farther south of where the Minnesota enters the Mississippi, the discovery confirms the big fish are nearing, if not already in the Minnesota River.
Protecting the Minnesota River has, unfortunately, been all but ignored by state and national groups fighting to stop or at least slow the migration of Asian carp.
Attention on the St. Anthony lock is understandable. It's a relatively easy spot to seal off the river and state residents are justly proud of the majestic Mississippi River and want to protect it from further damage by the carp. The fact the lock is in the midst of the Twin Cities also gives the effort much more political clout.
That doesn't mean attention shouldn't also be focused on protecting the Minnesota, which stretches from border to border, 335 miles across the state.
There is no solution for the Minnesota as simple as closing off a lock. But there are options that have been used with some success elsewhere, including creating a combination of bubble, light and electric barriers across the river. The barriers send electric currents and light, or create bubbles that have been shown to scare the carp back and keep them from moving upstream.
Such a system near the mouth of the Minnesota is not likely to be 100 percent effective. During floods and through other means, Asian carp are likely to eventually get into more streams and lakes in the state. But dramatically slowing their migration into the Minnesota River is necessary.
Congress and federal officials also should put more effort into containing the carp closer to their main source in states south of Minnesota.
Slowing their spread would limit the damage they cause and it would give researchers more time to develop other future strategies, including things such as finding ways to disrupt the reproductive cycles of the carp.
Minnesota elected officials and DNR leaders should be pressuring Congress to take a comprehensive approach to limiting the carp, not focusing entirely on one spot in the state.