What's a columnist to do when you have lots on your mind, but not enough to cover just one subject? Here are some slightly organized, random thoughts.
I know I'm not the first one to say this, but there were definitely some "facts" thrown out (from both sides) of the health care debate that were downright scare tactics. For example, data from a study released last year linked more than 45,000 deaths in the United States a year to people who lacked health insurance and were therefore unable to get appropriate care. Now, this became one of the rallying cries for the "need" to provide everyone with health insurance. According to the supporters of the bill, these individuals wouldn't have died if they had health insurance. Need I remind everyone that some 2.5 million people die in the United States every year. So, some common sense and simple math would say that the majority of the remaining 2,455,000 deaths in the United States were people who had health insurance. Maybe someone should say that even with appropriate health care, more than two million people died in the United States last year. I don't think a lot of our health problems in the United States can be solved by giving insurance to everyone; it's about making good individual choices and being willing to take care of yourself.
As for health insurance being a "need" for everyone I simply don't see health insurance on the same level as food or shelter or any of the other basic needs that most U.S. residents should hope to get assistance with during tough times. Which is fine by me. I don't think the federal government should be forcing this on the general population. I imagine there will be big political changes come November.
I was really happy to read earlier this month that the Ward County Board of Annexation made the right choice in approving requests from property owners in southeast Minot to annex their houses into the Minot Public School District. I think the tax dollars and ability to vote for local school boards should go with the individual or family that chooses to send their children to a specific school district. It seems only fair. This definitely passes the common-sense test. Neither district, Minot nor Nedrose, will be drastically impacted by the decision, but this does set a nice precedent that I hope future families moving to the area can count on.
Speaking of moving to the area, what's the problem with local rental prices? I know of very few people who feel they are being treated "fairly" when it comes to the price of rental units. Now, having said that, I completely understand the concept of supply and demand, yet it just doesn't seem right to be charging those who made the decision to move to our town an outrageous price (often between $800 and $1,300 a month) for a simple two-bedroom apartment. Those same apartments were going for less than $600 a month just two or three years ago. If the price has doubled, has the quality doubled? I doubt it. I hope we don't hear any whining in a couple of years, once things have returned to "normal," from some who will complain about not being able to fill their apartments (especially if they are still charging too much).
And last, but not least, thanks to the many thousands of Minot residents who promptly filled out their census forms and returned them in the mail. The nationwide mail participation rate (as of last Wednesday) was 67 percent, with North Dakota coming in at 70 percent, and Ward County and Minot registering 74 percent participation from those who received the census form in the mail. Lagging behind is Minot Air Force Base, sitting below the national average at 59 percent. Just a reminder, filling out this form will not impact your residency status or ability to vote in a "home state." All the census does is take a snapshot picture of who is living where in the United States as of April 1, 2010. Thanks for your support as the City of Minot Census Committee hopes to reach everyone. Remember, it's in our hands.
(Mark Lyman is one of four community columnists for The Minot Daily News)