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Faribault junior AJ Worrall hauls in one of his six receptions in last Friday’s 30-28 victory against Northfield at Bruce Smith Field. Worrall finished with 78 yards and a pair of touchdown receptions. (Michael Hughes/southernminn.com)

Rice County law enforcement continues seat belt campaign

Rice County law enforcement agencies are reminding motorists to buckle up after a seat belt campaign nabbed several dozen local motorists failing to do just that.

More than 300 law enforcement agencies across the state participated in the Click It or Ticket enforcement awareness campaign from Sept. 18-30, reporting 2,664 seat belt citations and 64 child seat violations.

That’s a significant drop from last year’s total, when 4,415 seat belt citations and 96 child seat citations were issued. However, it’s notable that the number of traffic fatalities among unbelted motorists is on pace to sharply increase this year.

While she was grateful that the numbers weren’t higher, Kathy Cooper of the Rice County Safe Roads Coalition was deeply alarmed by the number of fatal crashes this year, along with the fact that in most of those cases, failure to use a seat belt played a part.

Even though motorists have gotten better at wearing their seat belts over the years, Cooper said she’s somewhat exasperated that some motorists still don’t make the simple, potentially lifesaving decision to wear their seat belt.

“I don’t know how much more we can say about (the importance of) wearing your seatbelt,” she said. “Officers aren’t just (issuing tickets) for kicks, they’re doing it to save a life.”

Northfield Police Sgt. Kevin Tussing said one officer signed up for an extra shift and a few Faribault officers made their way over to Northfield to cover a few shifts.

In total, Faribault Police led the way in issuing seat belt citations with 18, followed by the Rice County Sheriff’s Office with 11, Lonsdale Police at 10 and Northfield Police with six. Only one child seat violation was issued between the four agencies, by the Rice County Sheriff’s Office.

Across the state, 297 individuals have died on Minnesota’s roadways as of Oct. 5. That’s an increase of 28 compared to last year, and Rice County Sheriff’s Office Troy Dunn noted with consternation that a similar increase has been seen locally.

In Rice County, six people have lost their lives on the road this year, compared to just two last year. In five of those cases, the people who died were unbelted or not wearing a helmet.

Dunn said there’s no more difficult call he has to make than the one to a mother, father, son, daughter or spouse telling them that their loved one has been lost in a severe injury crash. By making some simple changes, he said those numbers can be minimized.

Severe crashes overall are on the rise this year, after a general trend of decline over the last few decades. Dunn attributed the increase to the decision of too many motorists to “drive too fast, drive distracted or drive impaired.”

“We have to start with the basics again,” Dunn said. “When we’re driving, the priority has to be driving, not conference calls, doing your makeup or eating.”

Though new cars may come equipped with more safety features than ever, none are more important than the seatbelt. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing your seat belt reduces the risk of fatality by 45% and serious injury by 50%.

In total, wearing a seatbelt has saved more than 300,000 lives from 1960 to 2012, according to the NHTSA, more than all other vehicle technologies combined. In large part, that’s because wearing a seatbelt minimizes the chance of being ejected from your vehicle.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, nearly 80% of all auto accidents in the state involve one of four “bad behaviors”: distracted driving, speeding, not using seat belts or impaired driving.

Last year, the state passed a “hands-free” law in an attempt to reduce distracted driving. Previously, only texting while driving had been illegal, a provision of the law that was very difficult to enforce.

Drivers who use a cellphone are four to five times more likely to be in an injury crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Using a phone “hands-free” helps to mitigate some of that risk, though advocates note that putting the phone aside is the best option.

Even though the law has been in place for more than a year, many motorists are still tripped up by it. Dunn said his department issues tickets every day while Bohlen reported 17 citations just over the course of the Click it or Ticket campaign.

“We want for people to continue to buckle up, stay safe and avoid distractions,” Bohlen said. “It’s unfortunate that we see these violations.”

Trump son derides Dems, calls for father's reelection in farm visit

NORTHFIELD — President Trump’s middle son, Eric, derided Democratic party leaders on a number of issues and praised his father’s accomplishments during a Tuesday speech to a few hundred supporters in rural Northfield.

Trump’s visit to Felton Farms came exactly three weeks before the Nov. 3 general election pitting Donald Trump against Democrat Joe Biden. Several times during his visit the 37-year-old businessman portrayed Republicans and Democrats as having different views of society. He said Republicans support the nuclear family structure and God. He also chided the decision made by some athletes to kneel for the national anthem to protest racial injustice and the opposition of some to the inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“It’s no longer Republicans versus Democrats,” Trump said. “It’s right versus wrong.”

Trump attributed his father’s upset 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton to divine intervention, noting Donald Trump’s victory came despite a 2-to-1 fundraising disadvantage.

“It was David versus Goliath,” Eric said.

Trump successfully energized the crowd a number of times in his address. He said the U.S. had “the strongest military in the world,” a statement met with chants of “Four more years!” He then spoke of the work his father has done to improve the lives of veterans and called for quick, efficient military operations to prevent long conflicts such as the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. “USA! USA!” the crowd cheered.

Eric Trump praised his father for following through on his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recent peace deals he said will foster harmony among nations.

He attributed a decrease in illegal immigration and human trafficking to the Trump Administration and said it had constructed 360 miles of border wall fencing, more than the 220 planned.

“Build the wall!” the crowd chanted, echoing a common slogan used at Trump campaign rallies.

While Eric Trumps statement is accurate, a fact check last month by USA Today reported that while over 300 miles of wall have been built since Trump took office, only 5 miles are new.

Trump briefly touched on the COVID-19 pandemic, criticizing the decision of some state leaders to deem liquor stores essential while limiting capacity for church services. Many of those in attendance did not wear masks.

Trump ties Biden to controversial progressive policies

Trump said Biden has not drawn the crowds indicative of a person with much support. He also took issue with what he said is media bias favoring Biden, the candidate’s reluctance to attend in-person rallies and his gaffes.

“He won’t leave his basement,” Eric said of the former vice president. “He doesn’t know where he is going.”

Echoing comments made by others associated with the Trump campaign, Eric Trump predicted vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris would quickly assume control if Biden is elected.

“Is this really the best and the brightest of the far left?” he added. Perhaps his most cutting comment directed toward Biden, however, was his pejorative comment that the former vice president had been in politics for 47 years.

“What the hell do we have to show for it?” he asked.

Trump extolled law enforcement officers attending the rally and attempted to tie Biden to calls from some progressive leaders to either cut Minneapolis Police Department funding or abolish the entire department. He also brought up Ilhan Omar, the progressive Minnesota congresswoman who has drawn both extensive support and controversy for past statements. Upon hearing her name, the crowd booed.

Another progressive policy Trump linked Biden to was Medicare for All, a plan he said would eliminate 180 million private health care accounts. Biden hasn’t expressed approval of the plan. He also derided the Affordable Care Act, legislation he called “the worst” and lauded his father for using a most-favored-customer clause in an attempt to lower prescription drug prices in the U.S.

President Trump has long promised a replacement for the ACA, but despite support for a lawsuit before the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the legislation, he has yet to produce a concrete plan.

Trump chided Biden for proposing a tax increase if he is elected. According to the Tax Policy Center, Biden’s plans call for increasing taxes by $4 trillion over 10 years, “with nearly all the revenue coming from corporations and the highest-income 1% of taxpayers.”

Trump spoke of social media companies’ bias toward conservatives like his father. He described Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is in the middle of a Supreme Court nomination process that will likely result in her being named a justice, as “a tough cookie” who will help protect the Second Amendment and religious liberty. Trump criticized Democrats for what he said is their support of packing the Supreme Court and Biden’s refusal to take a stance on the issue.

The rally also included appearances by prominent Minnesota Republicans, including 2nd District Congressional candidate Tyler Kistner and Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan.

Before the rally, Faribault resident Deb Voorhees, a member of the Women for Trump organization, said she voted for the president in 2016 and planned to do so again this year. To her, Trump represents the values she agrees with and has eased the division she said was in place during the Obama administration. She also chided Democrats for what she deemed as their failure to work with Trump on his Supreme Court nominees and COVID-19 relief measures.

“I’m just excited,” she said of his possible reelection. “I hope Trump wins again.”

Fellow rallygoer Jeremy Robinson, who described himself as a former “lifelong Democrat” who voted for former president Barack Obama, said he supported Trump in 2016 because he had become disillusioned with existing free trade policies and that the Democratic party has become overrun by billionaires.

“I was glad that he took the time to talk to us,” Robinson said of Trump’s visit.

‘America can’t afford another four years’

Trump’s visit drew approximately two dozen protestors who set up camp across the street from the farm. Another group planned to gather in Northfield’s Bridge Square to oppose his appearance.

In a statement issued before the rally, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said Trump’s visit was made “in an attempt to distract from his father’s failures to support our state’s family farmers these last four years.”

“(President) Trump has been no friend to farmers and has enacted policies that set them up to fail,” Martin said. “His failed trade war with China wreaked havoc on industries across the country and had disastrous ripple effects for communities, small businesses and families who rely on the agriculture economy to put food on the table and keep their small businesses afloat.”

To Martin, “America can’t afford four more years of Trump playing political games.”

“The best thing we can do in 2020 to support our farmers is vote Trump out and elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Democrats up and down the ticket,” he said.

Doug Peterson, a former member of the Minnesota House and past president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, agreed.

“Farmers are among the hardest workers in the state,” he said. “And they just want to earn a fair living in the marketplace. Trump’s administration has done real economic harm to producers and their communities by kicking the legs out from under the ethanol industry for three plus years.”

Fairgrounds construction 2

Met-Con Construction has begun work on long-awaited new bathrooms at the fairgrounds. The project, made possible thanks to federal assistance, should be complete by Dec. 1. (Andrew Deziel/southernminn.com)

District drafts guidelines for forming, dissolving athletic co-ops

Faribault Middle and High School administrators are are working together to set the guidelines for forming cooperative athletic partnerships.

While the evaluation criteria for forming, reviewing, amending or dissolving athletic co-ops with other schools hasn’t been finalized, the administrators and athletic department officials have turned to the Minnesota State High School League handbook bylaws for guidance.

“We want something for me to be able to handle those requests at the AD (Athletic Department) level and involve the leadership team in decisions that are best for our students,” said FHSl Activities Director Keith Badger.

A conversation about the necessity of athletic cooperatives originally started back in June, when the Faribault School Board re-evaluated the district’s athletic partnership with Bethlehem Academy, which has existed for over 40 years. The board weighed the pros and cons of dissolving the agreement as the board members considered whether or not its co-ops promote open enrollment, which has cost the district hundreds of students and necessitate sever budget cuts.

The board ultimately decided not to dissolve the co-op agreement between FPS and BA, but the question of when to accept or deny requests from other schools remained.

“We’ve put on hold forming any new co-ops right now as we have conversations on the direction we’d like to go, and that’s based on the School Board’s request and leadership,” Badger said.

At Monday’s School Board meeting, the board reviewed a draft of the procedures for cooperative sponsorship evaluation, which the Athletic Department and administration aligned with MSHSL bylaw 403 and tailored to the Faribault school district.

According to the criteria, athletic co-ops must serve to benefit FPS if it is the host school. Unless a sport or activity can’t be sustained without a co-op agreement, another criteria states that the co-op must not move FPS up in athletic classification (for example, from A to AA).

In reviewing, amending or dissolving existing co-op agreements, FPS must consider whether both schools could offer the activity or sport without the agreement and if the partnering school has low participation. In those cases, FPS could dissolve the co-op. Partnering schools may not deny amendments FPS makes to the co-op agreement unless MSHSL deems the partnering school disagreement reasonable.

the discussion Monday’s meeting, board members weighed in on the co-op agreements.

Board member John Bellingham, who is less supportive of co-ops, compared the concept to going to a Ford dealership to buy a Chevrolet.

“What this boils down to, is we have excellent academics and if you want to be part of it, join us,” Bellingham said. “If you choose to attend somewhere else, you take what they offer. There’s where I stand. I just want to see that the administration has solid guidelines.”

Bellingham pointed out that some students will be hurt by whatever decision the district makes in regard to co-op, but Board member Jerry Robicheau pointed out that students aren’t usually the ones deciding where they attend school.

“If we’re going to exclude, it will be because of parental choice, not the child’s choice,” Robicheau said.

Badger and the administration, along with Faribault Middle School Activities Director Brent Hawkins, will simplify the criteria and present it to the board for approval in November.