Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

We don’t “need” new stadiums February 2, 2011

I’VE ABOUT HAD IT with Minnesota sports teams thinking taxpayers should help them finance construction of new stadiums.

First the University of Minnesota got their new TCF Stadium. Then the Twins got Target Field.

And, as we know, the Minnesota Vikings have been pushing for a new stadium for years.

The St. Paul Saints have now hopped on the gotta-have-a-new-stadium bandwagon and are proposing a $45 million facility in downtown St. Paul, subsidized, of course, by taxpayer dollars.

Over at Target Center in Minneapolis, a proposal is now on the table to make $150 million in renovations to that building, home to the Timberwolves.

Come on, team owners, athletes, government officials, lobbyists, etc., have you heard of budget shortfalls, the bad economy, unemployment, struggling to make ends meet, high healthcare costs, high gas prices, high food prices, etc.?

I have no time, none, to listen to your list of so-called “needs.” You might “want” a new stadium, but in these difficult economic times, when the average Minnesotan is struggling, you don’t “need” a new stadium.

Here are some real needs:

  • Jobs (and pu….lease don’t tell me stadium projects will create new jobs; those are temporary)
  • Affordable healthcare
  • A decent wage for those who work long, hard hours to provide for themselves and their families (no multi-million dollar contracts here)
  • Lower gas prices
  • Better highways in outstate Minnesota (ever drive Minnesota Highway 3 between Faribault and Northfield or U.S. Highway 14 between Mankato and New Ulm?)

Readers, what’s your opinion on the whole gotta-have-a-new-stadium issue? Choose to agree or disagree with me, but you better have a really, really good reason for supporting a new stadium if that’s your stance.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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The President’s speech: salmon, Sputnik and nation-builders January 26, 2011

President Barack Obama in Minneapolis in September 2009.

DID YOU LISTEN to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address? And, if so, what did you think?

I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but the whole speech seemed more lackluster than your typical Presidential annual summary, although Obama certainly tried.

Political commentators attribute the noticeably subdued reaction among attendees to the fact that Republicans and Democrats sat jumbled together rather than each party in its distinct spot. I agree that one would be more hesitant to strongly react to a Presidential statement when seated with members of the opposite party than when sitting with your own crowd.

On to the speech…Obama tried to convince Americans numerous times that our nation is now on the road to economic recovery. “The economy is growing again,” he said at one point.

I see some glimmer of that, but I don’t think the current situation—with the unemployment rate hovering around 9.5 percent—is quite as bright as the President believes.

“America still has the largest most prosperous economy in the world,” Obama told us. Right or not, I don’t know. I hope he’s right, but I’m no economist.

He offered encouraging words: “The future is ours to win…but to get there we can’t just stand still.”

President Obama outlined steps to move our country forward via innovation, investment in education, rebuilding America and controlling spending.

His call for clean energy and improving our infrastructure with a high-speed rail system are nothing new. I’ve heard this all before and, although the ideas are good, I question whether independent “I-love-my-car” Americans will embrace electric cars and high-speed rail. Geographically our country is much larger than nations with successful lightning-speed rail systems. And how, exactly, will this be funded?

“Innovation is how we make our living,” the President said as he defined his first step in building a stronger country.

ONE OF HIS MORE MEMORABLE QUOTES: “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.” Sputnik, for those of you who haven’t a clue, was the first earth-orbited artificial satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. I thought America had its moment when we landed on the moon.

I liked the President’s statement that “…the winner of the science fair needs to be celebrated,” although I find it odd that he compared such recognition to Super Bowl winners. I’ve long thought those who excel in academics deserve the same recognition as those who excel in sports. But I doubt you’re going to change an entire society’s attitude. I mean, will local newspapers devote a whole section to academic achievers like they do to athletes? I wish they did, but it’s not going to happen.

When addressing the topic of education, Obama called for Americans to treat teachers with the same level of respect as teachers in South Korea, who are called “nation-builders.” Yikes. That word choice really, really bothers me. That, in my mind, produces an image of students in uniforms and teachers drilling science and math into students’ heads. I’m sure the President did not mean it that way, but that was my honest, first gut reaction.

As the President discussed streamlining government and curtailing government spending, he informed us that salmon—yes, the fish—are regulated by two government agencies. That drew audience laughter and certainly made the point that reform is needed within government operations.

He proposed a freeze on annual domestic spending for the next five years.

“Our government spends more than it takes in,” Obama said. “That’s not sustainable.”

You think? And how did we get there?

Numerous times the President called for Americans—and specifically politicians—to work together. “We are part of the American family,” he said. “I believe we can, and must, work together.”

Yet, he recognized that differences will always exist and that such differences are part of the foundation of a democracy. “We will argue about everything,” Obama said. I appreciated that the President emphasized that point, that freedom of speech point.

“I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on earth,” our nation’s leader said toward the end of his speech.

Then he cheered one more time: “We do big things.”

And finally: “The state of our union is strong.”

IF YOU HAVE THOUGHTS on the State of the Union address, I’d like to hear them. What did you like or dislike? What did you believe or disbelieve? And how would you describe the state of our union?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling