Our View / Endorsement: Booth has his focus on solutions
In 2015, St. Louis County suffered the alarm of having the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths per capita in the state of Minnesota.
"That's just unacceptable," County Board District 1 candidate Jim Booth said at a News Tribune-sponsored candidate forum last month.
But where too many others see only despair and hopelessness in this and other big issues, Booth sees a path toward a solution. His optimism and new way of looking at challenges, some long portrayed as unsolvable, can endear Booth to voters in District 1, which includes much of central Duluth, from Park Point to the airport. The district's eligible voters can embrace positive change by casting their ballots for Booth on Election Day on Nov. 6.
"St. Louis County has a great team working together right now (to end opioid overdoses)," Booth said. "The police department is working with the Minnesota Department of Health, with the Damiano Center, with the UMD School of Pharmacy, with St. Louis County Social Services — and they're working their butts off. We have one of the only medically monitored withdrawal units in the whole United States, Clear Path. I think the county is doing an excellent job with recovery."
More needs to be done. Far more. Of course. Booth sees that. But county residents can find encouragement in his ability to see more than just a bemoaning of the crisis.
Out-of-home placement is another example. The county is expected to spend about $19 million this year to remove children from homes that aren't safe due to drug abuse, domestic violence, and other emergencies. More foster parents are needed, said Booth, a respite foster parent for years. As commissioner, he could more effectively recruit others and assist them through the sometimes-daunting process of becoming foster parents themselves.
"It tugs at the heartstrings," Booth said. "(Out-of-home placement) is a multifaceted problem you have to attack from all different areas."
Taxpayers can appreciate that Booth is a financial planner with fiscal responsibility to watchdog how public dollars are spent.
Veterans can be encouraged by Booth's 22 years in the Air Force. He retired as a senior master sergeant.
"I will be a champion for all veterans," Booth said. "Right now on the County Board, there is not a veteran. I believe the County Board should have a veteran."
And Booth supports copper-nickel mining, including PolyMet and its more than a decade of exhaustive scrutiny by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and others.
In stark contrast, incumbent District 1 Commissioner Frank Jewell remains skeptical.
"I really am going to concentrate on being a thoughtful and careful steward of the environment for the present and future generations," said Jewell, who has been in office eight years. "I want to value all citizens and ensure that all services are available to meet their needs."
There's no denying Jewell's passion for the environment and commitment to helping those who need a hand up. But Booth offers a decidedly different direction for District 1, one that embraces responsible spending and our economy-boosting natural-resources industries.
"I support ferrous and nonferrous mining. I support renewable and sustainable timber harvest," Booth said. "I will work tirelessly with all stakeholders to eliminate the opioid crisis. ... I will work for all citizens of the county. ...I believe I have the vision to make and keep St. Louis County vibrant with common ground between protecting dignified jobs with wages that support a family and a clean environment. And I'll work to eliminate the stigma attached to mental health."
Booth can be held accountable to do all that, but first he needs the support of St. Louis County District 1 in central Duluth.
About this endorsement
This News Tribune endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the newspaper's editorial Board. The board's members are Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, employee representative Kris Vereecken, citizen representative Julene Boe and citizen representative Denise Wise.