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My LTE for the St. Cloud Times is posted today. Check it out to find out why Minnesotans deserve better than what we’re getting.

A Quick Fix for Empty Dorms!
by Silence Dogood

At the Budget Advisory Committee meeting on October 30, 2013, Dan Pederson, Director of Residential Life, announced that in the fall of 2009, prior to the opening of Coborn’s Plaza apartments, occupancy in the on-campus dormitories was at 96%. This is an impressive figure!

The capacities for each of the dormitories on campus are listed on the Residential Life website:

Lawrence 100
Mitchell 460
Sherburne 550
Shoemaker 500
Benton 280
Stateview 96
Case-Hill 326
Stearns 400
Holes 400
Total 3,112

Using the figure of 96% occupancy, in Fall’09 there were 2,987 students in university housing.

For Fall of 2013, Dan Pederson stated the occupancy had fallen to 78%. Undergraduate enrollment in Fall’09 was 15,780. By Fall ’13, undergraduate enrollment had decreased to 14,641, resulting in 1,139 fewer undergraduates on campus. Even if the same percentage of undergraduate students wanted to live in the dorms, there would be quite a few more empty rooms because there were 7.22% fewer undergraduate students on campus. Occupancy had to drop even further because, in fall of 2010, the Coborn’s Plaza apartments opened, adding capacity for an additional 453 students. With Coborn’s Plaza apartments coming on line, the dorm capacity increased from 3,112 to 3,565 students. It is quite understandable that the occupancy rate would fall as enrollment dropped and additional capacity was added.

In Fall’09 all of the dorms were available for occupancy, which is what makes the 96% figure so impressive. This fall, Shoemaker Hall East and West are undergoing renovations so they are unavailable for occupancy. That removes dorm space for approximately 350 students. This leaves a dorm capacity for approximately 3,215 students. If there is a 78% occupancy rate, it means there are 2,508 students in university-managed housing. From Fall’09 to Fall’13 there were 479 fewer students living in the dorms and managed property (Coborn’s Plaza apartments).

When the renovations are completed for Shoemaker Hall for the fall of 2014, there will be room for additional students in SCSU’s dorms. For discussion sake, let’s assume that the renovations reduce the capacity of Shoemaker Hall and that the new capacity in Shoemaker Hall East and West is 225 students. This would bring the capacity for the dorms and managed space up to 3,440 students. Unless significantly more students request to live in the dorms next year, the added capacity for Shoemaker Hall will decrease the occupancy rate. For the moment, let’s make an optimistic assumption that the same demand for SCSU housing next year results in the same number of students living in dorms and managed space next year as this year. Under this scenario, with 2,503 students filling 3,440 spaces, the occupancy rate is projected to be 72.8%. Clearly, unless a miracle happens, there will be unused dorm capacity for about 937 students, which is more than two completely empty Coborn’s Plaza apartments.

Dorms typically make money for a university. Having 27% of available dorm space unoccupied is a significant loss of revenue (money isn’t coming in). The empty space in Coborn’s Plaza is an unrecovered fixed expense (money has to be paid out for each empty room). Combined with the loss of tuition revenue from declining enrollments, reduced budgets from MnSCU along with the fixed cost of the Coborn’s Plaza lease, the newly added bonding costs for ISELF, the Brooks Center, and recent dorm renovations, SCSU’s operating budget will be severely stressed. It’s hard to believe the FY15 budget at SCSU can be balanced without major expenditure reductions and at a university that means reducing the number of people.

When faced with serious problems, thinking “outside the box” can be helpful. So what’s the solution? Here’s are an idea. Require all scholarship student athletes to live in the dorms by making their scholarships only good for room and board instead of tuition. This won’t bring in a single new dollar more of revenue to the university but it would sure make the dorm occupancy rates look good again. And what’s more important than looking good?

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Monday night, 4 St. Cloud City Council members voted to require that sidewalks be built in neighborhoods that don’t already have them. The asterisk is that this won’t happen until that block’s streets are torn up to install upgrades to the city’s sewer and water systems. The other notable asterisk is that this won’t add a penny in assessments to the property owners.

That said, it’s terrible public policy. First, I’ll say that I live on a block that doesn’t have a public sidewalk. I’m definitely biased. Mine is definitely a low traffic part of town. It’s worth noting that I’ve lived in my current home for 50 years. It’s noteworthy because, in all that time, we’ve never had any public safety issues in our neighborhood.

Last night, I spoke with Mayor Kleis about the issue at the weekly gathering for Ox in the Afternoon listeners. When I asked him for a justification for this requirement, one of his responses was that sidewalks are just part of the price of living in cities. I’d respectfully disagree. Prior to Monday night’s vote, they really weren’t.

There’s no question that they were a potential cost. Prior to Monday night’s vote, however, it was the city’s responsibility to prove why installing sidewalks were necessary. Prior to Monday night’s vote, the city had to hold public hearings where that block’s citizens frequently spoke out against installing sidewalks. From the city’s standpoint, it was a messy process that should be avoided at all costs.

Thanks to Monday night’s vote, the city got its wish. Sort of.

Another rationalization for requiring the sidewalks was that we’re already required to mow the law that is the city’s right of way. That’s something I can’t dispute. That said, that isn’t a persuasive argument. In fact, that’s one of the flimsiest public policy arguments I’ve ever heard.

From the city’s standpoint, upkeep is upkeep. All property owners’ responsibilities are equal in their eyes. Nothing is further from reality. Making 2 passes with a lawnmower on a beautiful summer day isn’t the burden for a property owner than shovelling a foot of wet snow is in February. To think that they’re equal in terms of physical exertion is foolish.

This is one of the most foolish public policy statements I’ve ever heard:

Council President Jeff Goerger said the city will continue to consider how sidewalks will impact trees and driveway access before they are put in.

“We represent all the citizens of St. Cloud,” Georger said. “We have to ask ‘Are sidewalks important to this community as a whole? Are they a benefit to this community as a whole?’”

I expect one-size-fits-all policies from the federal government. I expect custom-tailored solutions from the city council.

What’s particularly bothersome is the fact that Georger isn’t asking the right question. There are tons of things that theoretically make sense from community-as-a-whole standpoint that don’t make any sense from a is-it-right-for-this-situation standpoint.

The question Mayor Kleis didn’t address was what problem this fixes. There aren’t any public safety issues that this will fix, at least not on the east side of town. It adds to government’s intrusion into my life in terms of requiring me to shovel snow on a sidewalk I don’t own or want.

Finally, what’s inexplicable is that Mayor Kleis has a lengthy history of keeping government intrusion limited. It doesn’t make sense that he’s now supporting an ordinance that’s this intrusive in people’s lives.

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It’s been awhile since I posted on LFR. Thanks to the second biggest storm that’s ever hit my house, I was without power for almost 55 hours to the minute. The official determination is that we were hit by straight line winds that exceeded 70 mph. Perhaps that’s what happened but I couldn’t prove it by the destruction in my neighborhood.

First, I was fortunate. I had three broken branches, 2 of which were ‘politely’ deposited on the roof of my garage. The other is still up in the tree. The house to my north had 2 big branches on its rooftop. The house across my alley lost 3 trees. One tree is still standing, sorta. It’s a box elder that had been there since the 1960s. The house across the street from me lost a monster blue spruce and another tree.

The irony is that the home with the most trees down didn’t lose power. Apparently, they’re on a different grid than I’m on. A block to the south of me, the wind snapped off 2 power line poles like twigs. What’s wierd is that they snapped 6-8 feet from the top of the poles.

The neighborhood made it through the storm fairly well considering. The neighbors across the street, Brian and Craig, let us tap into their electrical outlet. That helped save almost all of the food in the refrigerator, with a couple of eggs and a thing of breakfast sausage being the only things that went bad in the fridge.

We actually ate pretty good during the outage. Saturday, Jim and I ate a couple of steaks made on the grill for lunch. We ate some Hannah Lake walleyes made on Jim’s propane single-burner stove for supper. FYI- Hannah Lake walleye is what our family has called the sunfish and crappies from Hannah Lake for decades.

Personally, I’d rather have stayed at a nice hotel with wi-fi, a nice restaurant and electricity than deal with the comforts of home. Though my home didn’t get blasted like it could’ve, I can definitely empathize with the thousands of people still without power, especially those in the Cities.

My prayers are definitely with them.

Finally, I want to praise the professionals who’ve spent the weekend cleaning up from this nasty storm. The city employees who got rid of the trees that littered the intersections were efficient and informative. The professionals who restored power worked quickly until they had to quit. Work rules prohibit them from working more than 16 straight hours. The team of professionals who restored power came here from Kansas City, MO.

It’s impossible to call this weekend fun but everyone got through it ok without injuries. Considering the winds of Friday morning, I’d call that a miracle.

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak tweaked New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Monday night:

Wheel of Fortune is playing in front of crowds at Madison Square Garden in New York City this week. Host Pat Sajak took the opportunity to poke a little fun at America’s leading paternalist, Michael Bloomberg. Sipping from Big Gulp-sized soda — with many in the audience laughing on — Sajak informed the crowd that he had just discovered “cola is better with trans-fats in it.”

Why did he do it?

“Not much to say. It was Monday night on Wheel, our first night of four weeks at Madison Square Garden in New York. Not sure why everyone laughed; I was just thirsty,” Sajak told Human Events.

God bless Pat Sajak for tweaking Bloomberg. Bloomberg is out of control. The best way to stop his antics at this point is to ridicule him mercilessly for acting like NYC’s nanny. That’s precisely what Sajak did.

About an hour ago, St. Cloud State punched their ticket to get into their first Frozen Four tournament. Playing stellar hockey all weekend, St. Cloud State just wouldn’t be denied. The line of Cory Thorson, Joey Benik and Brooks Bertsch played a monster of a game, scoring all 4 of the Huskies’ goals against Miami.

The game started with the fastest first period I’d ever witnessed. It took 31 minutes to play a 20 minute period. Both teams entered with reputations of pushing the tempo. Benik got the Huskies on the board first just 5:28 into the first period. After that, Miami put on some pressure, twice hitting the pipe with shots on the same shift.

Benik provided the second goal of the game, too, getting his fourth goal of the weekend 5:36 into the second period. after Miami scored to make the score 2-1 Huskies, the “Thorson line” (Coach Motzko’s name for it) went to work again. This time, Cory Thorson lasered a shot past Miami’s Ryan McKay to give SCSU another 2-goal lead. For those who didn’t watch the game on ESPNU, Thorson’s shot is what’s known as a goal scorer’s goal, the type of shot few players are capable of making.

For the game, the Thorson line was a +10, with Thorson being on the ice for 4 even-strength goals, with Bertsch and Benik being on for 3 even-strength goals each.

What was most impressive for me was watching the Huskies playing with such total confidence. I suspect that’s because they went through the competition of a grueling WCHA schedule. No disrespect intended towards Notre Dame or Miami of Ohio but it’s tough to get frightened after facing the likes of North Dakota, the Gophers, Mankato State and Wisconsin.

The Huskies played like they belong in the Final Four from the drop of the puck against Notre Dame to Cory Thorson’s empty netter with .2 of second left in today’s game.

The telling stats for me weren’t what you’d expect. It wasn’t that Ryan Faragher was the second coming of Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden, though he certainly played well. The first stat that jumps out at me is that SCSU didn’t give up an even-strength goal all weekend. The other statistic that’s worth noting is that they gave up 3 shots in the second period and 5 shots in the third period against Notre Dame, then essentially did the same thing today, limiting Miami of Ohio to 5 shots in the second period and 7 shots in the third period.

The Huskies put a thorough thumping on Notre Dame and Miami of Ohio this weekend. Their defense was strong all weekend. They moved the puck out cleanly most of the time, which is impressive considering how Miami was buzzing today. Their ‘third line’, aka “the Thorson line”, dominated throughout the weekend. Ryan Faragher gave up a goal Saturday and another today.

If they play like this when they get to Pittsburgh, there’s no reason to think they can’t win the last game of the NCAA hockey season and bring home the big hardware.

Admittedly, I jumped on the Huskies’ bandwagon late this season. That said, they’ve given hockey fans reason to get excited. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if more jumped on the bandwagon.

The Huskies’ flight is expected back to the St. Cloud Airport at 10:30 tonight. I plan on being there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a big gathering at the airport tonight.

This afternoon, I watched the SCSU Huskies utterly dismantle the top-seeded Notre Dame hockey team, winning going away by a score of 5-1. Ben Hanowski got the Huskies started 11:32 into the opening period on a great lunch pale goal.

Notre Dame appeared to tie it just 24 seconds later, only to have the goal waved off because the Notre Dame forward clearly kicked the puck. To be fair, the Irish forward appeared to be trying to kick it to his stick. Regardless, he didn’t get his stick on the puck.

After that, Notre Dame didn’t have any life to their game.

That wasn’t the case with the Huskies. They dominated the Fighting Irish in the second period, scoring 3 goals in 5:25. This time, the snipers were Joseph Benik, Cory Thorson and Jonny Brodzinski. Benik’s goal his first of 2 power play goals, with both coming on big rebounds that happened while he snuck in on the goalie’s weak side. Brodzinski’s goal was a pretty give-and-go-give play.

Ryan Faragher made 10 saves in the first period, then faced a total of 8 shots in the second and third periods. Combined.

Steve Summerhays gave up 4 goals in the first 2 periods on 18 shots, including giving up 3 goals on 7 shots in the second period.

Thanks to today’s performance, SCSU is just a win away from their first appearance in the Frozen Four, collegiate hockey’s equivalent of basketball’s Final Four. I’ll be watching tomorrow’s game on ESPNU but I’ll have my radio tuned into KNSI so I can hearn Don Lyon’s call of the game.

For those who haven’t heard Don call a hockey game, make sure you listen. He’s an NHL-caliber play-by-play announcer. For those of you outside KNSI’s range, follow this link to tune into the livestream of the game. I promise you won’t regret it.

8:25 — AFL-CIO’s Jennifer Schaubauch testifying that Obamanomics failed, with high wage jobs declining, low wage jobs increasing.
8:29 — “Now is the time to raise the minimum wage to $10.55 an hour.”
8:31 — Next testifier talking about how awful Obamanomics is. She’s talking about how she’s been forced to stay in a low-wage job for 3 years after graduating from college.
8:37 — Andrea Kieffer is rock star. She’s asking Ms. Schaubauch if it’s the state’s responsibility to solve a business’s turnover problems.
8:45 — Benjamin Gerber of Minnesota Chamber of Commerce testifying: “60% of people living below the poverty line are unemployed. Raising the minimum wage won’t help people who are unemployed.” Later, Mr. Gerber noted that Minnesota’s teen unemployment rate is higher than “South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa.”
NOTE: Testimony from Mr. Rademacher listed the Democrats’/DFL’s attacks. Fed tax rate went from 35% to 39.6%, state tax rate proposed from $7.85% to 9.85%. Now Rep. Winkler is proposing a 71% increase in minimum wage.
9:20 — Rep. Simonson, who replaced child molester Rep. Gauthier, is getting upset. He’s getting defensive, too, saying that it isn’t just kids getting paid minimum wage.
9:25 — Paul Rademacher, grocery store owner, responds to Rep. Simonson, saying that raising the minimum wage won’t increase people’s purchasing power because product prices will increase, too.

The most dangerous place is between Sen. Klobuchar and a photo op. Apparently, the safest place in Minnesota is between Sen. Klobuchar and a townhall meeting:

These constituents have lots of questions for Sen. Klobuchar. Unfortunately for them, Sen. Klobuchar hasn’t shown much interest in hearing from her constituents.

The DFL storyline is that Sen. Klobuchar is the most popular senator in the United States. That’s because she isn’t a leader who takes tough stands on important issues. It’s also because she’s refused to take questions from her constituents.

That isn’t leadership.

Sen. Klobuchar’s accomplishments have been minimal, an amazing thought considering the fact that she’s never served a day in the minority since she arrived in DC in 2006.

There’s an advantage to staying up late at night. Tonight, a thunderstorm rumbled through St. Cloud at 2:10am. When the cell first hit my neighborhood, the temperature was an uncomfortable 84 with humidity sitting at 81%.

A short 36 minutes later, the temp had dropped to 68. We’d received .43″ of rain in those 36 minutes.

Pea-sized hail was reported on the southeast corner of town. Thunder is still booming in the background. The great news is that the temp has dropped 16 degrees to the point where it’s great sleeping weather.

The downside is that the next wave is just hitting my neighborhood. It’s 2:55 as I type this. Based on where the thunder is coming from, the storm won’t hit me as hard as it’ll hit outside of town. I’m just guessing but I’d bet the heart of this cell is 2-3 miles east of St. Cloud.

Now that the last cell has passed, it’s time to celebrate with the best storm song of all time. Enjoy.