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Opinion: Cheers to DL, jeers to big pharma

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This week the City of Detroit Lakes gets a cheer and a slight jeer.

Cheers to the city for planning ahead and taking an interest in what the business owners of downtown want Washington Avenue to look like.

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More than a year in advance, the city has been holding meetings with merchants to see what they want downtown to look like once Washington Avenue is reconstructed at the end of next summer.

The merchants are requesting benches, outdoor electrical outlets and decorative trash containers. The city is planning to oblige.

When completed, the street will look similar to Veterans Memorial Parkway and Washington Avenue north of the BNSF tracks, which was reconstructed a few years ago.

There will be stamped sidewalks and colored concrete crosswalks.

The city has questioned where downtown merchants would like an outdoor sound system and bike racks as well, making an extra effort to be proactive ahead of a difficult time for retailers.

City Administrator Bob Louiseau also told business owners that the city would support the effort of an advertising campaign during construction to let the public know businesses are open and how to access them. Although it will be the businesses’ responsibility to organize the campaign, he said the city will help as needed.

While the city is taking suggestions for the downtown, it is also pushing a little garbage on the business owners as well, which is where a slight jeer comes in.

The city has asked that, when the project is done, businesses empty the trash in the new decorative garbage cans along Washington Avenue.

Michael Norby said at a meeting that since businesses pay taxes, that is certainly something the city should handle. We agree.

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Here’s something that will make your blood pressure rise — hope you don’t have to take any prescription drugs to control it.

A new report by Community Catalyst and U.S. Public Interest Research Group shows that people with cancer, heart disease, epilepsy and other conditions have been forced to pay an average of 10 times more than necessary for at least 20 critical drugs.

The reason? So-called “pay-for-delay” agreements between brand and generic drug companies. They delay the entry of cheaper generic drugs into the marketplace.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that pay-for-delay agreements are subject to antitrust scrutiny, but did not make the deals presumptively illegal.

That’s where Congress comes in. U.S, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the Antitrust Subcommittee, has introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, to make pay-for-delay agreements illegal.

Reining-in the big drug companies won’t just save medical patients money, it will save big bucks for everybody else as well: The Congressional Budget Office says the law would generate over $4.7 billion in budget savings to the federal treasury between fiscal years 2012 and 2021.

Time for Congress to act.

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