EDITORIAL: Walnut Towers upgrade deserves state funding

Dec. 17—Thumbs up to the upcoming renovation of Walnut Towers.

The largest downtown apartment was awarded $20 million in loans, grants and other support through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

The 86 apartments in the 52-year-old building have long been in need of upgrading. For years, the city has worried that the building could be purchased, renovated and converted into more costly rentals that would put them out of reach of the residents now living there.

Fortunately, the renovated complex will continue to be dedicated to serving people earning 50% or less of the area median income for decades to come.

Getting funding through the Finance Agency is highly competitive — communities across the state have a huge need for help in revitalizing older housing of all types that serve lower income residents.

Having Walnut Towers qualify is a big victory for the city and current and future residents of the building.

Christmas cheer

Thumbs up to members of the St. Peter police reserves and other volunteers for hosting groups of seniors to holiday light displays to help spread a little Christmas cheer.

The reserve officers recently helped commandeer school buses from Saints Bus Service to bring seniors from St. Peter to see the Mankato Kiwanis Holiday Lights.

Saints Bus Service deserves recognition also for co-sponsoring the rides and providing drivers. The rides are free but the seniors bring an non-perishable food item or cash to donate to the food shelves that use the Kiwanis Lights as their collection point.

Many seniors take advantage of the ride as some are hesitant to go out driving on winter nights or waiting in long lines through the popular attraction.

The reserves and other volunteers make a real difference in the enjoyment of the holiday season by the seniors and the event keeps them safe as well.

Sidewalk duty

Thumbs up to the effort businesses and residents make to keep their sidewalks and curb cuts clear. It certainly isn't easy. Recent heavy, wet snowfall has made the task daunting.

But clearing walkways isn't just courteous, it's necessary for people to safely get around. One wheelchair user told The Free Press that he has to request help from a friend armed with a shovel to clear some sidewalks and curb cuts so he can get to work several blocks away from his Mankato apartment.

Not only are shoveled sidewalks key for getting around cities, but clearing them in a timely manner is required under city ordinances. Not doing so can be deemed a public nuisance and property owners can be charged for its removal.

The crypto congressman

Thumbs down to U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, and his have-it-both-ways embrace of cryptocurrency.

Emmer, who as GOP whip-elect figures to be the most influential member of Minnesota's House delegation in the next Congress, is an unabashed fan of crypto. He co-chairs the "Congressional Blockchain Caucus," which advocates what it calls "a light regulatory touch" of crypto.

He has aggressively sought campaign contributions from crypto-related firms with a promise to attend to their interests, and just as aggressively fought proposals to regulate them.

In March of this year Emmer and some of his Blockchain Caucus colleagues sent a letter to the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission telling him not to impose "extra-jurisdictional and burdensome reporting requirements" on crypto-related firms.

The letter was sent after the SEC wrote FTX and other crypto companies asking questions about their business practices.

But now FTX has gone belly up. Its bankruptcy overseer calls it a case of "old-fashioned embezzlement," but Emmer is blaming the very same SEC chairman he urged to stay out of FTX's business.

Emmer opposes meaningful regulation of crypto — but favors blaming regulators for the corruption the untraceable "assets" are, in truth, designed to enable.