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EDITSLesson from Whiskey Bones —Vague laws should be clarified

Todd Powers, owner of Whiskey Bone’s Roadhouse, instigated a legal staredown with the Rochester City Council —and the council blinked first. When push came to shove, Rochester’s noise ordinance was too vague, and there was too little documentation that the bar had disrupted the lives of nearby residents.

The council, although visibly frustrated by the decision it was forced to make, did the right thing. Courtroom fights with businesses shouldn’t be avoided at all costs, but this one had the potential to be very ugly, and at the moment the city doesn’t appear to have a strong case.

We do hope, however, that some good can come out of this whole mess. As our community continues to grow, it will face complex zoning decisions as new businesses seek entry into the Rochester market. Balancing the desire for economic growth with the needs of neighboring residents will require careful decision-making and a thorough "vetting" of proposed businesses.

Furthermore, we strongly encourage the council, city attorney and city administrators to look carefully through the municipal code and clarify statutes that might be deemed vague or potentially contradictory.

An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure.

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    A coal-train reminder
    One of the more ironic claims made by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad in its never-ending fight to bring coal trains through Rochester is that its tracks would be upgraded and improved.

    In other words, the argument was "Look, our tracks are lousy and our safety record is one of the worst in the industry. So please, let the government loan us billions of dollars so we can do better — and bring coal, ethanol and other freight through Rochester."

    Further proof of DM&E’s poor performance came Monday, when a train derailed near Minnesota City. Fortunately, the cargo involved was soybean oil, not ethanol or some other hazardous material, and the oil didn’t make its way into nearby Garvin Creek.

    Within just a few weeks, we expect Canadian Pacific’s purchase of DM&E to become final, and a decision on whether the tracks will be upgraded to carry Powder River Basin coal should follow in relatively short order.

    We won’t hazard a guess as to what the decision will be, but we’ll be glad to see these tracks come under the control of a major railroad that will be willing to spend what’s necessary in the interests of safety, both for the employees who ride the rails and for the people who live and work near them.

      Mayo leads with LiveWell
      The jury is still out as to whether employers save money by offering incentives for employees who exercise, eat right, and generally take good care of themselves — but that hasn’t stopped Mayo Clinic from launching its LiveWell Reward Points Program. The program offers employees discounts on their health premiums or a deposit into health savings accounts for healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation, stress reduction and physical activity.

      The idea goes beyond the traditional ideas of preventive medicine, which usually include screenings for breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and heart disease. Those are important measures, of course, but Mayo has now joined the ranks of employers that are pushing employees to be proactive, to take ownership in their own health.

      Ideally, of course, people wouldn’t need financial encouragement to take care of themselves. The long-term benefits of exercising and quitting smoking are well-known and should be reward enough.

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      But this is another one of those cases in which we really don’t care why people do the right thing, as long as they do it. And, in a similar vein, we suspect that Mayo Clinic isn’t particularly concerned about whether its new program is revenue-positive.

      It’s another case where Mayo is showing leadership as our nation’s health care system struggles to find solutions to the problems of obesity, soaring costs and unacceptable health outcomes.

      What To Read Next
      Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.