The Free Press of Mankato, Jan. 9
Kluwe's kicks have implication on Vikings gay issue
The current Chris Kluwe controversy — in which the former Vikings punter accuses the Vikings special teams coordinator of making violently anti-gay remarks and of having him cut for his political activism — is deceptively complex.
Even though Leslie Frazier has been removed as head coach (and quickly landed the defensive coordinator's job with Tampa Bay), the assistant coach in question, Mike Priefer, remains with the team. Indeed, at least before Kluwe took his version of the story public, Priefer was regarded as a potential successor to Frazier.
Kluwe's bombshell piece, published last week on the Deadspin website and quickly the most-read piece in the site's history, brought a denial from the coach and a well-publicized hiring by the team of two prominent lawyers to look into the matter.
Hiring the likes of Eric Magnuson (former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court) and Chris Madel (former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney) does not come cheap, and certainly suggests the team's ownership takes Kluwe's accusations seriously.
At the same time, Magnuson and Madel don't have subpoena power. And it is quite possible that the investigation will be inconclusive. But the Vikings should be credited nonetheless for addressing the issue with top notch investigators who will likely make their conclusions, whatever they may be, with a certain amount of credibility.
Launching their own internal investigation will probably save the Vikings from the kind of league-run probe that is dragging on with the Miami Dolphins in the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal.
It is possible to construct a football-only rationale for the Vikings release of Kluwe after the 2012 season. It is also likely that Kluwe's political activism played a role not only with the Vikings cutting him, but with his inability to land another punting job.
NFL coaches, as a rule, regard placekickers and punters as disposable. NFL coaches, as a rule, regard any moment not spent on football as wasted, and almost any public attention as a "distraction."
Kluwe knew all that, and he chose to take a high-profile role in the 2012 campaign against the marriage amendment anyway. It would be naive to believe that decision did not hurt his job status.
There is a parallel to be drawn with the "Duck Dynasty" controversy, in which the A&E cable channel first suspended, then reinstated, reality show star Phil Robertson after he made comments about gays and blacks in an interview.
Here's Kluwe on the Robertson parallel, from an NPR interview this week:
"I never said the Vikings couldn't fire me for (advocating for same-sex marriage rights). As a private corporation, they totally have the right to do that. ... Same with Phil Robertson. We both are entitled to our beliefs. We're both entitled to our views and we're allowed to speak out on those views. However, we are both also entitled to the consequences of those views."
A&E reinstated Robertson because he is essential to the most popular show the cable channel has ever had. Kluwe is teamless because he is readily replaceable and a "distraction." But he also veers into self-promotion a bit every time he makes a new allegation without a willingness to take it further in some way (as a witness for some kind of league probe or discrimination suit?).
Meanwhile, the NFL (and the rest of America's popular team sports) has not a single out-of-the-closet active gay player. It is statistically impossible that there are no homosexuals in professional locker rooms. It is, perhaps, equally impossible professionally for closeted gay players to come out of hiding.
Doing so, after all, would make them a "distraction."
Post-Bulletin of Rochester, Jan. 9
Pain from sequester hits most-vulnerable citizens
Senior citizens, many of whom who are already on fixed incomes and tight budgets, see a bulk of their expenses devoured by housing, utilities, transportation and medication.
Unfortunately, that forces some of them to make daunting choices when it comes to basic nutrition.
That's why the closure of senior dining programs run by Semcac in Lewiston, Houston, Wanamingo and Morristown is so disturbing. Semcac, which lost $97,000 in federal funding because of sequestration, was forced to make the largest cuts in its 40-year history, said Deb Betthauser, director of the agency's senior services.
Before the four closures on Dec. 31, Semcac had provided reduced-price meals at 58 cities across southeast Minnesota. Semcac's decision to shutter four locations was made after analyzing which closures would affect the fewest seniors.
Senior dining programs administered by Semcac and other agencies dedicated to serving low-income people provide the only substantial meal many of our elderly eat each day. Feeding America, a national network of food shelves, says 8.4 percent of seniors are food insecure, and 9 percent live below the poverty line.
The dining programs offer more than just a healthy meal. Many seniors would lead isolated lives if not for the opportunity to meet their peers over lunch. The value of this social contact can't be measured in dollars and cents.
Leaders in the Houston community realized this and found a way to continue the senior dining program that's been dropped by Semcac. We commend officials with the city of Houston and Valley View Healthcare & Rehab for teaming up to offer meals to seniors at a suggested donation of $3.50 at Heritage Court Independent Living Facility, even though the meals cost $7 to prepare.
However, senior citizens in the other three towns aren't so fortunate. Seniors still will be able to receive home delivery through the Meals on Wheels program in Lewiston, Wanamingo and Morristown, but there no longer will be a place for them to gather as a group.
This unintended consequence is a sad outcome of the sequester. Our most financially stressed and often socially isolated citizens shouldn't be paying the price because Congress couldn't come to an agreement on a budget. Nothing like the sequester should ever happen again.
Meanwhile, we urge civic leaders and groups in the affected communities to follow the lead of Valley View Healthcare & Rehab and provide these meals as a community service. We owe it to our most senior and venerable citizens who worked hard all their lives and deserve this assistance in their retirement years.
St. Cloud Times, Jan. 8
Have a plan prepped for unexpected
The dangers posed by the Dec. 30 train derailments and explosions near Casselton, N.D., certainly is catching the attention of emergency responders, the rail and energy industries, and environmental interests.
But there's one segment of the population that seems to be overlooking some valuable lessons from this crash. Who? The general public.
Don't think so? Then imagine this scenario: It's 1:30 p.m. on a weekday afternoon. Suddenly what happened outside Casselton happens on the rail line in your town. As spilled oil continues to burn, authorities order you to immediately evacuate the city.
What do you do? Where do you go?
If you're at work, do you go home first? How can you get there, though, if the rail line is in the way? What about your family at home? Or what if your spouse is working across town? What about your kids who are still in school?
If you're the leader of your business, do you have an evacuation plan? Do employees know what to do? If the disaster directly affects your facility, do you have emergency procedures in place? Have employees been trained on them?
And, oh by the way, it is mid-January, which presents another whole set of challenges.
The point here isn't to scare people into panic mode. Rather, it's just the opposite. Residents should have at least a basic knowledge of what to do if an emergency evacuation is declared in their community.
Do you have that knowledge? Do your spouse and kids? Your employees?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is a good starting point for that information. Visit www.ready.gov/evacuating-yourself-and-your-family for basic information for families.
Employers can check FEMA, too. But another potential source is "How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations," from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It's available here: www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3088.pdf.
Of course, advice from local experts is also important, which is why we are inviting area emergency preparedness planners to share their top tips on emergency evacuations in the form of Your Turn commentaries. Those will be shared on these pages in the coming weeks.
Knowing how prominent rail traffic is in Central Minnesota, the general population needs to join the experts in trying to learn from what happened near Casselton, N.D.