SEEING STARS Minot is paying it forward. Volunteers with the city's Stars of HOPE organization have partnered with Lutheran Disaster Response to organize a Stars of HOPE event in the small North Dakota town of Bucyrus, which was damaged by a wildfire in October. The Stars of HOPE project is sponsored by the New York Says Thank You Foundation, and it encourages people to paint colorful wooden stars with messages of hope and inspiration. The stars are then placed around communities hit by disasters. Last year, some 1,100 stars were placed around Minot. Many residents of Bucyrus have been unable to return to their fire-damaged homes, and some homes in the community of less than 30 residents were destroyed by the wildfire that swept through the area. The Bucyrus project is scheduled for February, and it will no doubt send a message to the town's residents that they are not alone, and that residents of Minot and other disaster-stricken cities are thinking of them.
TOO MUCH MONEY How much does it cost to hold a presidential inauguration and its surrounding festivities? Too much. President Barack Obama raised $53 million in private funds to pay for events surrounding his first inauguration, including 10 inauguration-night balls. This year, the president is again soliciting private contributions, with some packages priced at $1 million for large corporations. For that price, the donor gets four tickets to the inaugural ball, as well as two bleacher seats to the parade, a VIP reception, tickets to a children's concert and other perks. Other less-expensive packages are also available, but still at exorbitant prices for corporations and individuals alike. At a time when the nation's economy is struggling, and unemployment rates have risen, holding such regal and costly events sends a bad message. We understand the inauguration ceremony itself is necessary, but we're disappointed Obama is seeking such large amounts of money to pay for opportunities to spend time with wealthy donors and his Hollywood cronies. Even if those folks can afford the high prices, the gaudy events are simply unnecessary.