Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photos from the drive to Hoffman on Tuesday morning, March 31

In the video clip at the bottom of this post is the view at Crossroads in Kensington at 9:30am...

West Central Area schools CLOSED for Tuesday, March 31

Another winter storm is raging across the western Minnesota prairies. It's gonna get bad again! I'm planning to leave the office at Noon on Tuesday, finishing up the April 2nd issue of the Hoffman Tribune this morning.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Complete area forecast from the National Weather Service for Monday-Wednesday

Monday – snow likely, mainly after Midnight. Cloudy, with a high near 36. Breezy, with a east northeast wind around 21 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Monday night – snow and widespread blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. Low around 21. Blustery, with a east northeast wind between 20 and 24 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent. New snow accumulation of 5 to 9 inches possible.

Tuesday – snow and widespread blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. High near 31. Blustery, with a northeast wind between 21 and 24 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent. New snow accumulation of 6 to 10 inches possible.

Tuesday night – snow likely. Cloudy, with a low around 20. North northwest wind between 14 and 17 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.

Flooding photos (dated last week) near Wendell from Sheriff Walvatne

Hoffman Tribune office closing at NOON on Tuesday, March 31

Due to the impending blizzard coming our way, the Tribune office will close on Tuesday morning at NOON. The office will re-open on Wednesday morning. I'll also be gone on Thursday morning, attending an agriculture-related event in Morris.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Highway 55 between Wendell and Elbow Lake is closed

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is closing Highway 55 between Wendell and Highway 59 in Grant County at 11 a.m. due to flooding on the roadway.

Highway 55 will remain closed until further notice.

This is an awesome story - It shows that small town businesses can run with the "big boys"

"Small-town retailing fits this couple in a big way"

March 24, 2009 - West Central Tribune newspaper, written by Tom Cherveny

OLIVIA — Nearly 10 years ago Karen and Don Theisen decided they wanted to own their own business and work together, even if it meant leaving their home in Blaine and stable jobs with enviable four-day work weeks.

But what business, and where, they asked first?

They enjoyed camping, and looked at all kinds of campgrounds and resorts, but eventually realized it was not what they wanted.

Husband Don, a true Mr. Fixit with a farm background and career in fabrication and welding, suggested the hardware business. Soon, they were making a whole new round of visits to communities across southern Minnesota with hardware stores for sale.

It came to a successful conclusion not in a hardware store, but in Bart’s Café in Renville.

“We walked in the front door and it felt right instantly,’’ said Karen. She gave up a career as office support for the Minnesota Supreme Court to be a small-town retailer.

The Theise’s said their visit to Bart’s Café showed them that Renville was an open, friendly and very active community.

They have owned and operated Renville Hardware & Rental Inc. since July 2001.

Since January 2006, they have also owned and operated Olivia Hardware & Rental Inc.

Owning the two stores has increased their purchasing power, which translates into both price savings and a greater variety of goods for their customers, they said.

Don tends the Renville store and Karen the Olivia store. She manages the bookwork for both from one location, thanks to computers.

Although their typical work week is six days of 10- and 12-hour days, “the time flies, it just goes so fast,’’ said Karen. “It’s time to go home before I realize it.’’

Each day brings a steady flow of people who know there is only one place to get help along with the doohickeys they need: The local hardware store.

“Customer service” is what small-town hardware stores are all about, said the Theisens.

Yet it takes more than being helpful and friendly to run a business, as the Theisens discovered as soon as they purchased the Renville store. July is the time when hardware store owners make their orders for Christmas and winter inventory, and the Theisens had to start making decisions before their first day in the store.

“Overwhelming,’’ said Karen of how it all looked at first.

But they had help. Their stores are part of United Hardware, a cooperative, and their district manager was right there to assist them, they said.

The owners of neighboring stores are always willing to help one another as needs arise too, said Don.

“All of us little retailers are in this together,’’ said Karen.

The competition comes from the big-box retailers, but this David and Goliath battle is not as mismatched as it might seem. The big-box retailers hold the upper hand when it comes to the perception of low prices, said the Theisens. They keep their prices low on a list of goods that stick in customers’ minds.

But eight years in the business have shown them that small-town hardware stores are every bit as competitive in pricing, thanks to group purchasing, they said.

And just how good is the small-store service? “We make house visits,’’ said Karen. She will happily head over to a customer’s residence to offer her recommendations on paint and color selections.

Better yet, she has installed a computer terminal in the store. It allows customers to plug in a digital photo of their room or house, and see how it looks under a variety of color schemes.

The Theisens said that is the norm in small-town hardware stores today. They are constantly adding new technology and changing along with everyone else. “If you’re afraid of change, it would be really hard to be in retail and survive,’’ said Karen.

She and her husband feel that small, independent hardware stores have an advantage over big-box chains in how they can readily meet the needs of their local markets.

Although their Olivia and Renville stores are no more than 12 miles from one another, each is tailored to its different market area. In Renville, plumbing and housewares lead the sales. In Olivia, painting is followed by lawn and garden.

Along with knowing what their customers want, small-town retailers also enjoy the pleasure of actually getting to know their customers, said the Theisens.

On more than one occasion, they’ve opened their car door at the end of the day to find a bag of fresh garden goods waiting. Once, they were pulled over on the way home. A thankful customer insisted on handing over the pheasant he had harvested.

Owning their own business has proven to be everything they expected, and that definitely includes hard work and long hours. “It can’t be a hobby. You really have to make a commitment,’’ said Karen.

But it’s clear how much they enjoy it. When they get away today, it isn’t to go camping. “We go visit hardware stores,’’ Karen sheepishly confessed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sorry, I can't help it but I have to comment...

The Republican Party has to be the saddest thing I've ever seen or heard. To sit and criticize President Obama for "working too hard" is ridiculous, silly, and petty.

Are they stark-raving mad?

More videos will be posted on Friday morning from today.

The following is very good reading, from Suzy Khimm:

They Were Against It Before They Were For It

This week, Republican leaders have leapt to join the populist outcry against the bonuses that ailing insurance giant AIG has awarded its executives. But such rants against executive earnings mark a remarkable about-face for the right flank of the party, which condemned President Obama's decision to set limits on executive pay just last month.

"I really don't want the government to take over these businesses and start telling them everything about what they can do." Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC News in February, when asked about Obama's proposed limits on executive compensation. Senator Jim DeMint, who attacked the original bailout bill as "pure socialism," characterized executive pay caps as a dangerous government intervention. "I think it's a sad day in America when the government starts setting pay, no matter how outlandish they [sic] are," DeMint told the Huffington Post. "This is just a symptom of what happens when the government intervenes and we start controlling all aspects of the economy." DeMint's right-wing compatriot, James Inhofe, also equated limits on compensation with the demise of the American way. "As I was listening to [Obama] make those statements I thought, is this still America? Do we really tell people how to run [a business], and who to pay, and how much to pay?"

A mere six weeks later, DeMint and Inhofe are now attacking the administration for failing to curb these executive payouts. In a long diatribe delivered on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Inhofe abandoned his earlier defense of businesses to make their own decisions about compensation to express his "deep anger" over the pay. "I don't know how someone at AIG giving out or receiving a bonus right now can look at themselves in the mirror," Inhofe thundered on the floor. "You can be sure that we will do all we can to right this wrong and get these bonuses back." DeMint has also found ways to channel his newfound anger against corporate pay. In a letter sent to the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, DeMint, along with David Vitter and Jim Bunning, demanded that AIG contracts be formally subpoenaed to determine why the company was "specifically exempt[ed]" from the executive compensation limits. In other words, DeMint is now asking why AIG hasn't been forced to comply with the conditions that he had so vehemently opposed.

What was once emblematic of a free-market economy--the ability of private industry to determine its wages--is now the sign of a Democrat-led "fiasco" caused by a "lack of transparency and accountability," in the words of DeMint's letter to the Banking Committee. Of course, there are plenty of good reasons to be steamed about AIG's bonuses, but it sure would be nice if Senate Republicans spared us the rank hypocrisy next time.

--Suzy Khimm

Amy Klobuchar.... "This is a difficult time, but our determination will get us through this."

Senator Klobuchar introduced Vice President Joe Biden to the crowd at 11:47am.

The company New Flyer Bus, Co, employs 650 in St.Cloud. They are a leader in transit innovation and low-emission transportation.

Each bus manufactured here has 20,000 individual parts that come from across the U.S.

Last year, New Flyer delivered 2,164 new buses, up 8 precent from the year before. The company has 2,500 employees, with 1,000 in Minnesota. (Source: St.Cloud Times)

12:03pm...Vice President Biden: "We're standing here under the roof of a true American success story." He went on to detail the highlights of the growth in the New Flyer Bus Company.

"We want to lay a foundation for the 21st Century." Biden went on with additional details of how the recently-passed Recovery Act is helping the economy right now.

12:19...Vice President Biden wrapped up his introduction speech and is now bringing members of the President's Cabinet to the podium to give the crowd a little background from each of them.

Sec of Ag Tom Vilsack spoke at length about plans to help the nation's ailing dairy industry. (It's about time!)

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development said that the average American family has 60% of their paycheck eaten up by housing and transportation costs.

12:31pm...Two important websites that were announced by Cabinet members: One of them is Recovery.gov and another is makinghomeaffordable.gov.

On to the audience participation and the Town Hall format:

12:34...A member of the audience from Apple Valley talked about a Light Rail project, a $176 million project, with 2,100 employees in the first phase of construction. She spoke of how they want to buy from Minnesota companies for the project.

Vice President Biden replying to a person who asked about opportunities for recent immigrants to the United States.

12:45...Vice President Biden emphatically stated, "Health care is no longer just a moral issue... it is an economic and a budget issue."

He talked about the Health Care Act, which has a $630 billion down payment over 10 years. It's paid for in the budget, as well.

12:55pm... The Cabinet members highlighted opportunities for women in the work force, women owning businesses, and also child care issues. (Items my girlfriend will be interested to hear about!)

12:59...Ag Secretary Vilsack mentioned that there are 8,800 parts in a windmill. He also bragged about renewable energy in Minnesota.

1:01...Vice President Biden called Veteran's issues a "sacred" issue, and that promises made to them must be kept. His own son is a veteran of the Iraq war.

1:09...Vice President Biden states, "I'm kind of a nut on rail." (When talking about the Northstar Rail Corridor, and other rail projects around the country.

By around 1:30, the event wrapped up and Vice President Biden got busy walking along a line of well-wishers and members of the public who wanted a photo opportunity with him.

More video clips will be posted today and on Friday. I have plenty to review and decide what to post.

Blogging "live" from New Flyer Bus Company in St.Cloud at Vice President Biden's Road to Recovery Town Hall Meeting

In the photo is the stage where Vice President Joe Biden will be conducting today's Town Hall meeting on the economy.

Wow this is about as exciting as it gets, coming in as a runner-up only to President Obama himself!

10:01am, fired up the laptop & wireless internet.

10:33am, I have to say, they are treating media here like total royalty...gotta love it!

The following updates are courtesy of the St.Cloud Times:

*10:26, Biden's plane arrived at the airport. Nine minutes later, Biden
stepped off of the plane.

*10:40, Biden's motorcade left the airport for New Flyer's campus in the
outlying area of St.Cloud, due southeast.

10:47am...I'm thinking, Dude, you sure are a rookie...bringing your own bag of donuts and a water bottle in case I get hungry before/during/after the event... when in fact, they've got all the food I could ask for sitting in our media lounge in the "loft" above the staging area for the Town Hall meeting!

11:31am...Posting video clips, with very cool patriotic music playing in the background, as dignitaries stream in. (i.e.= Walter Mondale)

The fun should begin at any moment...11:36 right now. No sign of VP Biden, however.

I'm thinking, "Man, the White House sure does make a great Chicken Ranch wrap! Mmm Mmm Good."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lest anyone forget...

The view I had going into Kensington (traveling west-bound) last week on Thursday morning. What a difference a few days make!

This will be fun being a part of - If I can get a ticket, I won't be in Hoffman on Thursday, March 19

Tickets for Biden in St. Cloud available Wednesday

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — Tickets for Thursday's forum with Vice President Joe Biden in St. Cloud will become available Wednesday.

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — Tickets for Thursday's forum with Vice President Joe Biden in St. Cloud will become available Wednesday.
Ticketing will be first-come, first-served from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the reception area of the visitors' entrance to the New Flyer Co. bus plant in St. Cloud.
Biden and members of the White House Middle Class Task Force will appear at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at New Flyer. The town hall-style meeting will focus on the economy and the impact of the stimulus bill President Barack Obama signed last month.
The task force will take questions from participants in the forum, as well as via a White House Web site: www.astrongmiddleclass.gov.

This morning I'll be working with HEDA director Muriel Krusemark to craft a well-worded question/comment to offer during the economic forum.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday, March 16 - "Freedom of Information Day" in Minnesota

Today is a day to celebrate the freedom of information act, and the ability for citizens to challenge their government and demand openness and transparency with what they do with our tax dollars.

The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act...presumes that everything is public. This is unique in the United States compared to other states in our country.

Technology and enforcement of Minnesota's version of the "freedom of information" act is vitally important.

It's very expensive to enforce these laws. Sadly, in many cases our government is establishing the upper hand in many disputes that are waged with citizens' demand for transparency in what our elected officials do with their power.

The legal process hasn't gotten cheaper. A private individual can rarely take a case to court, if they think their government is breaking the law.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stock Market skyrockets by a 9% margin today - President Obama critics noteably silent

It was a good day to enjoy the sunshine!

Three cheers for the U.S. economy, may we all work together to lift ourselves out of the mess we've been in.

My only question to the head of Education Minnesota = "Where will the money come from?"

Statement of Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota, in response to Senate DFL proposed budget cuts

St. Paul, Minn., March 12, 2009 –

The following statement can be attributed to Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher:

The proposed cuts are not in the best interest of Minnesota’s school children. If enacted, they would seriously harm the quality of education the state takes pride in providing its students. Parents need to know that under this proposal their kids will get less individual attention and fewer opportunities for learning. The cuts to higher education could also lead to yet more tuition increases at the MnSCU schools and the University of Minnesota.

Minnesotans believe we need to make education funding a top priority of the state and this proposal does not reflect the priorities that many Minnesotans share. Making seven percent across-the-board cuts is not setting priorities.

Just because we’re in a serious economic downturn, doesn’t mean the needs of our students disappear. The way to get out of difficult economic times is to have a highly-educated work force. Now more than ever is the time to invest in our children’s education and our state’s future.

National Farmers Union elects new president

St. Paul (March 13, 2009) – Minnesota Farmers Union delegates elected Roger Johnson, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, as the new National Farmers Union President at the 107th National Farmers Union Convention in Washington, D.C.

“Roger grew up in the Farmers Union family,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President, “so it is fitting that he was elected as our National President. I look forward to working with him in promoting the Farmers Union agenda, and pushing for policies that better family farmers and rural America.”

"I grew up in Farmers Union and believe strongly in the positions NFU advocates," Johnson said. "I look forward to working with Farmers Union members, those both inside and outside of agriculture, and policy makers on both sides of the aisle to improve the quality of life for those who live, work and raise their families in rural America."

Johnson said the economy is the overriding issue affecting those in agriculture today. "Today's economic climate underscores the importance of having policies in place that allow farmers and ranchers to survive during tough times," Johnson said.

Johnson grew up in Farmers Union, participating in the organization's youth programs, serving as a county president and chairman of the board of a local Farmers Union cooperative. A third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, N.D., Johnson was elected North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner and recently served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, playing a key role in the crafting of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Minnesota Farmers Union (www.mfu.org) is a nonprofit membership-based organization working to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers, as well as rural communities.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday update at 12;47pm ... it IS as bad as they say it is, and it will get worse

After making a treacherous trip from Hoffman to Glenwood down the awful stretch of pavement that we call State Highway 55, I can safely say that it is as bad as they say it is, and it will get worse.

Last night, the roads became coated with a thick layer of ice, and now with the snow falling, every stretch of road will be difficult to judge on how safe it is.

Let's hope and pray we all make it through without any accidents.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hoffman Tribune office closing at 11:00am on Tuesday, March 10

Due to the weather forecast, I will be closing up shop on Tuesday at 11:00am. We will re-open for regular hours on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service this afternoon issued a blizzard warning beginning Tuesday for portions of west central Minnesota.

Heavy snow and strong winds will affect west central Minnesota and much of central Minnesota on Tuesday.

The Willmar area is in a winter storm warning; areas including Benson, Glenwood, Granite Falls, Madison, Montevideo and Morris are now in a blizzard warning.

The Weather Service says accumulating snow will begin by daybreak Tuesday in west central Minnesota and expand across the state during the day.

Central Minnesota could see a mix of rain and snow in the morning, changing to snow.

Heavy snow will continue through Tuesday evening. Northwest winds will develop in the afternoon, reducing visibility and making travel dangerous.

Blizzard conditions are forecast in west central Minnesota, and the blizzard warning is in effect from Tuesday morning through Wednesday morning. Low visibility in blowing and drifting snow is expected to last into Wednesday morning.

Snowfall amounts are expected to range from 5 to 10 inches across much of west central and central Minnesota. Higher snowfall amounts up to a foot are possible from Morris to Alexandria to Little Falls to Onamia.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

West Central Area's Jake Long wins 140-pound division at Class A State Wrestling tournament on Saturday, exciting 10-6 decision in title bout

Jake Long improved to 42-1 for the season with a state championship effort.

More will be posted on Monday, and a full writeup will be published in the March 12 issue of the Hoffman Tribune.

Friday, March 6, 2009

WCA Alumni basketball tournament being held tomorrow (Saturday) at the WCA High School

The WCA Alumni basketball tournament is coming up on March 7, 2009 at the WCA High School. Contact Kraig Hunter for more information.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

WCA Choir concert coming on March 9

The West Central Area High School Choir Concert will be held Monday March 9th at 7:30PM at the secondary school in Barrett.

All six WCA choirs will be performing. Choir and Band students will also be out fundraising this week for the last time in preperation for their upcoming trip to New York City. The choir recently found out they will be performing at St. John's the Divine Cathedral and the band will be on stage at Lincoln Center. The students would like to thank the community for all the support!

Special school board meeting scheduled for Monday, March 9 at WCA Secondary School Media Center

The meeting will begin at 6:30pm.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Republicans, are you insane? Calls for complete abolishment of Local Government Aid proposed - Small town taxpayers, hang onto your wallets!

I just heard on Sunday morning, a Republican was talking on "At Issue" on KSTP Channel 5, and they called for a complete abolishment of Local Government Aid (LGA) to help close the state's budget deficit.

Do you realize what would happen?

A large number of rural towns, like Kensington and Hoffman, depend heavily on LGA in their annual budgets.

Losing parts or all of their LGA would result in gigantic property tax increases. Either that, or they could cut fire and police protection, or stop plowing their streets after snowstorms.

Are we going to sit on our hands and just take it?