The public was given tours of the Westwinds Estates housing development in Willmar today. Controversy over Westwinds in 2009 and 2010 probably gave WRAC-8 in Willmar it's best ratings ever as the city council, mayor and citizens battered each other over the project that involved construction of 14 low-income rental homes in the midst of more expensive, single-family homes. Opponents said they weren't against low income people but felt the project didn't belong in that part of town and feared it would take a hit on their property values.
At one point half the city council walked out in the middle of a meeting, the street improvement project for 2010 was rejected, Mayor Les Heitke blasted some council members, and eventually he and project backer council member Steve Gardner were voted out of office. And after all the sturm und drang, Westwinds was approved, built, and is now open. In fact, most of the units are rented. Was all the contention and worry worth it and warranted? Only time will tell. The project is managed by the Willmar HRA and they will have an on-site caretaker.
I've seen President Obama give better speeches than the one he gave this week for the State of the Union. He had some gaffes, seemed pretty flat, and when he did emphasize some words it seemed forced. As for the content, he suggested tweaking some parts of the controversial health care bill from last year but not repeal. He stressed how technology and education are the keys to restoring America's greatness. He pledged a 5-year freeze on government spending but more bureacracy to help education. And he repeated his attack on big oil, promising to cut their tax loopholes, and to veto any bill with earmarks, which is a reversal of his previous stand.
To me, there were two high points...when he joked that freshwater salmon are regulated by the Department of the Interior, saltwater salmon fall under the auspices of the Department of Commerce, and he said "it gets even more complicated when they're smoked." And the other highlight was the protracted applause for U.S servicemen and women. Obama promised to start drawing down troops from Afghanistan.
Minnesota GOP Representative Michele Bachmann delivered the "Tea Party Response" broadcast on the internet and CNN. She essentially blamed Obama for skyrocketting debt and unemployment, and like Ross Perot, had her own graphs to back it up. I don't know if her response shed any new light on the differences between Obama and Republicans, but it did elevate her even further into the national spotlight, and might boost her chances if she choses to run for the White House in 2012.