Archived Story

Editorial: State senator fails to represent interests of Albert Lea

Published 4:28pm Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It would be nice if Albert Lea had a state senator.

Where has Dan Sparks been? The DFLer from Austin is supposed to represent the interests of both cities, but we rarely see him at Albert Lea events unless it is election time. There are several serviceable roads that connect the two cities, and one of them is a major freeway.

More to the point, the most crucial action people in Albert Lea want this year is bonding-bill funding for the dredging of Fountain Lake. Albert Lea’s Shell Rock River Watershed District asked for $7.5 million to go toward the $15 million project. The other half is coming from a local-option sales tax, and the project funding has been denied by state leaders for six years. This year is the year the state ought to stop fooling around and pony up its share. It sure was quick to give $327 million to Rochester in a single-year request but drags its feet annually on a small, humble request by Albert Lea.

Now our own state senator from the city of Spam cannot bring home the bacon. The Senate bonding bill only offers up $1 million for the project.

Disappointing.

What’s more, Sparks is on the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

Even more disappointing.

Now we understand why the Republicans argued in court during the last round of redistricting to have Albert Lea separated from Austin for the Senate district. We lack direct representation in the Senate chamber.

Why did senators tour Albert Lea in December? It was a rare appearance by our senator. Wasn’t it clear that Fountain Lake isn’t some country backwater, that the body of water is central to the economy, quality of life and beauty of Albert Lea? We are working to clean this lake and dredging is crucial to that effort.

We hope Sparks can come through in the clutch. There is a golf metaphor that says 100 percent of putts left short don’t go in.

We were pleased to see our state representative, Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, garnered $7.5 million in the House bonding bill, even after revisions Monday, so the request is very much still alive. Perhaps she can shepherd the request through conference committee.

What’s strange is that the DFL Party knows that Savick’s district is a close one in terms of elections. Losing it and a few others could cause the DFL to lose the House. A reasonable politician would say: We need to take care of Albert Lea so that we keep our majority, so let’s get this dredging request funded. Instead, considering the bonding bill proposals by the governor and the Senate, it seems the DFL is trying its best to lose her seat.

It’s clear her district companion in the Senate sure isn’t doing her any favors.