Sadly, children lead us in stewardship

Talk about your "good news, bad news story." Or, if you will, a "Is the sandwich bag half-full or half-empty?" story. 

The good news is that 25 John Adams Middle School students spent six hours on Friday cleaning up downtown Rochester. They filled bag after bag with cigarette butts, which eventually will bring their school a 5-cent-each "bounty" from the Rochester Downtown Alliance. The money will be used to support the school's science lab, and Mayor Ardell Brede has promised to kick in up to $500 from the mayor's contingency fund.

We don't know the totals yet (and don't envy whoever gets the task of counting the butts), but it's a safe bet that the science lab, which includes a menagerie of live animals, is going to get a serious infusion of cash.

But come on, smokers. When it's realistic to expect that a sixth-grader will pick up 1,000 cigarette butts in just a few hours, then we've still got a major littering problem. As proof of that fact, an exhibit of the kids' labors will be on display this summer during Thursday's on First & Third.

Kudos to the John Adams students who spent the day making downtown Rochester look better. But really, it's sad that there's talk of expanding this program to include other schools. If you're a smoker who routinely snuffs your butts on downtown sidewalks, then you should be embarrassed by the very idea of a kid picking up after you. 



Tribe may have ended racino debate

For years a string of politicians, lobbyists, horse-racing officials and members of the Minnesota's tribal community have taken turns bending our editorial board's collective ear about racinos. We were told told that installing slot machines at Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park would help build a Vikings stadium and pour money into our public school systems — and we've been told that racinos would devastate tribal gaming, leading to job losses among the non-tribal workers who are employed there.

But now, it appears that this debate may have ended, once and for all.

In early May, Gov. Dayton signed a bill that will allow off-track-betting at tribal casinos — which should increase the size of purses at both of Minnesota's racetracks. And on Monday we learned that the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has agreed to contribute about $80 million to Canterbury Park's purses over the next decade. In exchange, the track will stop lobbying for racinos.

This is good news for Minnesota's horse industry, which suffered of late as purses in "racino" states have grown and Minnesota's have stagnated. And we appreciate the fact that one of the states wealthiest tribes has opted to spend some money to resolve the problem, rather than using that money to lobby for the status quo.


A case for Civic Center expansion


Nearly 2,700 delegates attended the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention at Mayo Civic Center during the weekend, generating an estimated $1.2 million in economic impact.

The influx of visitors is a boon to Rochester hotels, restaurant and bars, which hope to draw repeat customers.

"The big thing is people get here and they’ll come for dinner and tell us, ‘I’ll come here for lunch tomorrow,’" Paul Griffith, general manager of Chester’s Kitchen & Bar in downtown Rochester, said last week in preparation for the weekend convention.

This year, the Mayo Civic Center is scheduled to host about 70 conventions and meetings, according to the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau. The frequent use of Mayo Civic Center bolsters Rochester's case for a share the $47.5 million in grant money set aside for economic development in the state's $496 million bonding bill.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, who is chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Program, said the grant program was written with projects such as the proposed Mayo Civic Center expansion in mind. We agree with Senjem's assessment that if Rochester doesn't receive the grant for the civic center expansion, "It's purely politics."

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