Volunteers get dirty to make Rochester cleaner, better

If you’ve been out and about at all in Rochester this week, there’s a good chance you saw groups of people, green trash bags in hand, scouring the city’s parks, parking lots, riverbanks and roadsides for trash. We don’t yet know the final tally of volunteers or the amount of litter they collected, but we’re certain that the second annual Make Rochester A Litter Bit Better campaign has been a big success.

Next up is the third annual CareFest, scheduled for June 14, in which thousands of volunteers from churches across Rochester will donate a day of labor to clean and paint our schools, landscape our parks, fix up homes for needy residents and provide a variety of other important services that otherwise wouldn’t get done or would take a bite out of the city budget.

We commend everyone who’s gotten their hands dirty for their community, and encourage those who haven’t to consider getting involved. One person alone can’t do much, but when 2,000 people donate eight or 10 hours of labor, the results can be spectacular.

But one final note, in keeping with the notion that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Cigarette butts continue to be a plague on our effort to keep Rochester clean.

Smokers, clean up your act!



Good choice for MnDot

Gov. Tim Pawlenty pointed the Minnesota Department of Transportation in a new direction Monday when he named Tom Sorel as the replacement for Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who earlier this year was unceremoniously removed from her role as MnDOT chief.

Unlike Molnau — a former legislator and a lightning rod for controversy throughout her MnDOT tenure — Sorel has never run for office or participated in a political campaign. The 51-year-old has degrees in civil engineering and business administration, has 30 years of experience in the field of transportation and currently heads the Federal Highway Administration division office in Minnesota, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

That means that although he’s a relative unknown in political circles, Sorel has had plenty of contact with MnDOT officials, especially in the aftermath of the I-35 bridge collapse. His role in leading the federal response, recovery, and rebuilding efforts after that tragedy earned him a Presidential Honor award.

Sen. Steve Murphy, a DFLer from Red Wing who was MnDOT’s harshest critic during Molnau’s time in office, already has predicted that the Senate will approve Sorel’s appointment.

That speaks volumes. Clearly, Pawlenty is steering MnDOT in a new direction, and this time it appears he’s putting experience and qualifications over party loyalty.



A really bad idea

Minnesota Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican from Good Thunder, thinks the best way to prevent deadly shootings on college campuses is to have students carry guns.

His logic is familiar and straightforward: Would-be assailants will be less likely to attack classmates if there’s a good possibility that some of them are armed, and if someone still decides to start shooting, it’s possible one of their would-be victims could cut the attack short with a well-placed shot.

We disagree — this is one of the worst ideas to be introduced in the Legislature in a long, long time. The potential for collateral damage, in the form of suicides, accidental shootings and alcohol-induced brawls that start with punches and end with pistols, would be enormous.

Meanwhile, the odds of a frightened 19-year-old successfully taking down a gun-wielding attacker would be very, very low.

Cornish doesn’t expect his bill to be heard this session. He says he’ll reintroduce it next year, but we’d rather he abandoned the whole idea.

College is a place to exchange ideas, not gunfire.

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