Letters to the Editor for Nov. 15, 2013

Opening a new school

To the Editor:

Fifty years ago, the day after Labor Day in 1963, Coon Rapids (Senior) High School opened its doors for the first time.

I was one of those students that attended CRSHS that year as a brand new seventh grader.

In 1963, with the surge of new homes being built in Thompson Park and new schools being built a quickly as possible, the first year CRSHS was open, overflow seventh graders from Coon Rapids Junior High (now CR Middle School) and 10th graders were the first to use the new building. A year later, eighth, 10th, and 11th graders attended CRSHS.

Roosevelt Junior High did not open until the 65-66 school year and that was when CRSHS had it’ first full 10-12th grades and the first graduation class in 1966.

But back to those first days at the brand new school, we dodged construction workers still trying to put the finishing touches on the building.  There were still parts of the building that were not complete yet and it was not uncommon to be sitting in a classroom and hear noise above you, have dust fall on your head, then look up and see a worker in the ceiling looking back down at you.

It was very interesting to go to school with just seventh and 10th graders, those sophomores sure were tall.

Teachers and students alike would often get to a room to find a sign on the door pointing us to another classroom because there was work being done or for a hallway to all of a sudden be closed off.

There was the smell of new paint and we were always getting lost the first few weeks. The passing bells worked sometimes, and the loudspeaker system even less.

In November of 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated, staff went room to room to notify us that the president had been shot and it was when we looked out the east windows over to the junior high and saw the flag lowered to half staff that we knew of his fate.

It is fun looking back at those days.  I don’t think many people remember this little bit of history, as there were only about 150 of us that were there for our seventh- and eighth-grade years.

Thank you
David Teske
Coon Rapids

Medical research

To the Editor:

In Washington, D.C., the budget battles never seem to end. Like in a real battle, there are casualties and among them are people with diseases and disabilities hoping for new medical breakthroughs. I understand that not everything can be a priority, but in one area – medical research – I just don’t think it’s in our national interest to not have it be one of the very highest priorities.

At this rate, the United States will quickly be in the rear-view mirror to countries like China that are investing heavily in medical research. All of the American breakthroughs currently on hold could be Chinese breakthroughs of tomorrow!

In dollars adjusted for inflation, the purchasing power of the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has dropped by about 20 percent over the last decade. Far fewer top-tier, highly promising research proposals are being funded as a result. This will only get worse over the next nine years as automatic spending cuts continue.

Medical research has long been a bipartisan issue – diseases don’t have a party affiliation – and it should remain that way. I’m calling on the Minnesota Congressional delegation to work across party lines, agree that research is a top priority for the people of Minnesota and work with Democratic and Republican leadership to fully fund the NIH, replace the sequester and put a stop to America’s downward slide in this area.

Keep in mind that medical research isn’t just spending – it’s a real investment with extremely positive economic impact.

For example, sequencing the human genome cost around $3.8 billion but has generated $800 billion in economic activity (as of 2010).

NIH funding creates valuable job opportunities right here in Minnesota. In 2011, NIH funding in this state created 7,871 intrastate jobs and 1,338 interstate jobs. Since 2008, the NIH has awarded more than $2.4 billion to Minnesota institutions through 5,194 awards. The dollars are used for research and innovation at universities, medical centers and independent research institutes.

Cutting our national investment in research shatters the hopes of people with chronic illness, rare diseases and those living with disabilities, as well as the people who will join these ranks in the future. Therapies and cures will bring new economic activity, allow people to remain in the workforce and of course, improve quality of life.

Take multiple sclerosis (MS) as an example. On average, it costs $70,000 per year to live with MS, and with nearly half a million Americans living with the disease, MS costs our society more than $30 billion per year in lost wages and medical expenses.

The hundreds of thousands of people who have MS and the millions more who have cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions see what’s happening in Washington, D.C., and wonder whether the ongoing budget battles jeopardize the medical research that could be their ultimate hope for a better tomorrow.

As recently as two decades ago, there were no MS medications, now there are 10 FDA-approved therapies and other new treatments in the pipeline, thanks to discoveries funded in part by the NIH and the National MS Society.

Sequestration means 2,300 fewer research grants – fully one quarter of new and competing grants that the agency expects to fund.

In total, the federal government funds approximately $120 million in MS research annually. Through privately raised funds, the National MS Society is funding nearly $50 million per year on research. This collaborative approach led to the current MS medications, and cutting back on the federal research investment will slow progress toward a world free of MS.

Inaction has real-life impact. Clinical trials that stall could mean the difference of life and death for some. Approvals of new drugs and devices that sit in the pipeline will impact quality of life for many. And the lay-offs and lost economic activity will reverberate in a way that could impact us all.

As an MS activist, I again call on the Minnesota Congressional delegation to agree that research is a top priority, and to work with leadership across party lines to replace the sequester and once again fully fund the NIH.

William T. MacNally

Amazing parade

To the Editor:

Every year my family gathers to enjoy the Halloween parade and we always have so much fun.

But this year we enjoyed an added bonus. The air show before the parade began was an unexpected treat.

I don’t know who to thank for making this possible, but thank you!! It was just amazing.

Susan McCloskey

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