Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins

Born on August 30, 1944
Monterey, California

Died on January 31, 2007
Austin, Texas

Writer, columnist, political commentator and conscience for many.

Name-calling or Truth-telling?

Dear True,

One reason I like to read your blog is that opinions on all sides are tolerated that don't meet the "mainstream media" criteria. But, I like best for opinions to be backed up by facts.

I think people like to read your posts because they walk the borders among truth, facts, opinion and even invective. It is up to the reader to decide. For example, is it a fact or opinion that the East Bay is a Big Box?

Or, is calling big outside developers "Disney" or "Big Box" (aka Wal-Mart) fact or opinion? Personally, I think it is fact. Others may disagree.

At today's City Council meeting (two and one-half hours long!) nearly every issue facing the city and the county came up. The new council and mayor chose wondrously practical, even-handed and transparent decisions that allow for plentiful public input before any binding decisions get made.

Even the Gals got another chance, after the Attorney General ruled that their permanent easement from the city was illegal.... they have two weeks to work out a compromise.

Mayor Larsen is just so practical, but also her transparency shines like a Nova Star in the night.

Civil discourse, as our Vision Adviser Rudy Schoolderman reminded us today, can lead to c0nsensus-based solutions such as his CGI team have proposed this afternoon. But Rudy could not help but notice from his team's inclusive process that there is a big, big 50-50 split on some design standards.

Dear Truer than True,
Even in our opinion posts we like to hear some facts or at least some ethical justification for the opinions presented. Sticks and stones may break our bones but names can never hurt us. I didn't notice any facts or ethics in your post, but perhaps you might be willing to elaborate.

I hope, nonetheless, that all of our readers will be careful about name-calling.

Jane Marple
A regular True contributor and an old village tabby

All the president's cohorts: Is Plamegate (finally!) the new Watergate?

Look at the latest damning facts. We all know it; the Pres. and his Cohorts were responsible for outing Plame's deep CIA cover. But the mills of Truth grind slowly, though they grind exceedingly small.

Jason Leopold and Marc Ash Cheney's Handwritten Notes Implicate Bush in Plame Affair

Dear Truer Friend,

Ok, what's your point? The East Bay is a box in every sense, and the Gunflint Gals are bellicose.

It is the issues that matter. A friend of Grand Marais, whether true or truer, would deal with them. Yet nowhere , not on the hallowed pages of this blog, nor anywhere in the traditional local press,  nor in any other public forum,  including before the city council, have any reasonable or persuasive arguments been presented by the Gunflint Gal's or their shills (and they are shills by any definition) in support of the favor they seek.

So, Truer Friend, step up and speak out, Why should their request be granted?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar and Obey Restore Road Construction Funding

Hello, folks,
Looks like the desperately needed Highway 61 work might happen sooner than we thought. Read on:

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar and Obey Restore Road Construction Funding

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar Pushing to Fully Fund Minority Business Program

The Minority Business Development Agency helps to fund business startups for Chippewa tribes in northeastern Minnesota; it is only half funded so far this year. Click to read more from Oberstar:

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar Pushing to Fully Fund Minority Business Program

Monday, January 29, 2007

East Box Ramp Handicaps Sidewalk!

You just have to love the Poor O'l Gals of the East Box. They build a ramp to serve the handicapped, likely so they can tear down their existing one for more parking or for an expansion of the East Box. They plunk it on the city sidewalk without a permit. They then want the city to give them the sidewalk forever, for free. Plus they want an agreement that says that the ramp need not meet the requirements of law regarding handicap ramps. (In other words the ramp need not be handicapped accessible!) All of this with a straight face!

What the Gals lack in charm and civic manners, they more than make up in greed and hubris.

Forget that they broke the law, that giving them the property for nothing breaks the law even more, and that all of it sets a terrible precedent that will cause problems for the city for years to come. What sense does it make for the city to approve a structure that is allegedly to serve the handicapped, but the builder will not warrant does so? And why should the city approve a ramp that is squatting on the city sidewalk, and in doing so, makes the sidewalk itself no longer compliant with the requirements of Americans with Disabilities act?

Take a look at the ramp, and a look at how, when you consider its proximity to the curb, the location of the street light (the orange cone) and the parking with vehicle bumpers overhanging the narrow remaining sidewalk, there is no reasonable room left for those in wheel chairs to traverse the narrow strip they have left for the public.

On Wednesday, January 31, once again the Gals will be at city hall with their lawyer in tow, and their hankies out, to present a tear filled plea to the council. Hopefully the council will muster enough votes to set things right.

Though it is unlikely they will be required to tear it down:

  • They need to warrant that it is fully compliant with the ADA and that they will correct any deficiencies in that regard without taking more city property,
  • There should be no free or perpetual easement - just a year to year license,
  • There should be no blocking of the sidewalk by parked cars - the number of spaces lost in the street should be made up by them, for public use, in their own lot - or other barriers, and
  • They should be required to bear all expenses incurred to date including staff time and any legal fees the city may have incurred in dealing with this stupidity.

    It would be funny if it weren't so ....


Send $$$ to Shinners!

Here we go again!

The latest word in Grand Marais is that a certain element of the business community is organizing to thwart any plans to improve the present marina or to implement any of the findings of the visioning process. Allegedly, Shinners and Associates are collecting funds ($200 each contributor for a war chest) from various business owners to form an organization to stop the visioning process from affecting any of their plans for development, and to stop Harbor Friends from collecting the information that is needed to make rational, fact based decisions on the future of the marina.

The problem they have is that the visioning process, like Harbor Friends, has broad community support. The last election told the tale when Mark Sandbo and Bob Spry lost. Sandbo lost by a tremendous margin. The two of them lost mainly on the issues of downtown development (read the East Box, and the related condominium scams) and the marina issue, not to mention the strong smell of favoritism and self dealing.

Time will tell, but the people of Grand Marais spoke once and they will continue to speak in support of the new city council, in the support of development policies that strengthen and not destroy the city, and in support of the efforts of Harbor Friends’ dedicated, open and honest hard work to protect and improve the harbor.

So, if you want to protect the city center, the harbor, and the gains made in the last election, support the new mayor and city council. If, on the other hand, you want more East Boxes, and you want to destroy the harbor with a large marina, sign up with Shinners – and don’t forget the $200 entry fee. Make the check payable to cash.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Poor in Cook County

Poor in Cook County and regressive taxes

Okay I am “outing” as a poor person in Cook County. Since moving here seven years ago I have been unemployed, underemployed, and bankrupt. No, I was not born to the “culture of poverty” but I might as well have been. Thirty-plus years of a professional career in the Cities resulted in several new jobs: as housekeeper, then entry-level, part time work ending in layoffs.

So. I am stuck here now, with four cats and a dog and no place to go. I can’t meet my basic living expenses, which are at least 30 percent higher than they were in the Twin Cities metro area. Has anyone compared costs at the grocery store, gas station, and public utilities with other places? I pay huge taxes on gas, phone calls, and virtually everything I buy in addition to the staggering costs of food and energy just to survive.

I refuse to eat starchy, fattening macaroni dinners from the food shelf and also to feed junk food to my small companions. I don’t have water or septic and frankly, I stink.

And yet, I am told by the seven major employers of young strong people at the resorts that it would be to my advantage to increase taxes on food and beverages and recreation because this would mainly affect the “marks”: i.e., the tourists.

Not so. Though it may be very occasional, I sometimes meet friends for coffee in town-- a treat I can scarcely afford as a poor person in Cook County. I am not a sports fan but my friends who like to play golf or ski will have to pay more for the privilege that once was seen as part of our good life. When I first moved to Minnesota some 40 plus years ago, almost everybody was proud to live in a place where folks took care of other folks. Taxes were paid and people got benefits from them. Super high quality education for kids and even for college students at low cost was maybe the most important but not the only bennie in the state run by the Bean Feed Party of giants like Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. We took for granted that our environment, our forests, our lakes and rivers were a sacred trust for all to enjoy, quietly and peacefully, and without charging the poorest people extra.

It’s a very sad decline today to see the likes of Norm Coleman and his ilk who change their stripes every time the wind blows and who bow to the greedy rich at every turn.

Yes indeed, Cook County has major problems.... There is not enough infrastructure to support the tourist demand in the summer season and so foreign workers descend on us in the summer, gladly working for wages that would not support my puppy. Residents who can’t for one reason or another work three to four jobs find they can’t make ends meet. And in winter, like now, us poor folks can’t afford to buy wood or pay for electricity to keep us warm.

So, what solution is proposed by the biggest and richest employers? Subsidize, just like the U.S. Senate demands that business owners get breaks for paying people the barest of minimum wages. Impose new sales taxes on almost everything.

And, what is a real solution that works for those of us (female, single, elderly) who can’t cope? Yes, there needs to be support of our economy (think, grants from both government and foundations) and yes, we are far behind the rest of the state in gaining this support. But, please do not build critical economic incentives on the backs of those least able to bear the cost.

Poor but honest in
Grand Marais

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blue Water Upper Deck forum on ATV use February 8th

Join us on Thursday, February 8 from Noon to 1:00 p.m. upstairs in the Blue Water Cafe to discuss "ATV Use in the Superior National Forest for the Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts."
Guest speakers will include: Dennis Neitzke, District Ranger for the Gunflint District, John Wytanis, District Ranger for the Tofte District, and John Olson, zone engineer. This will be an excellent opportunity for you to come and learn about their objectives for ATV use, the status of their planning efforts, the process they are using and the timeline for finishing the plan.
Upper Deck Forums are open to the public and you are welcome to bring a bag lunch or purchase items off of the buffet provided by the Blue Water Cafe. They are sponsored by: Cook County Community Education, Cook County Extension, Blue Water Cafe, Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce, PAC-13 and WTIP.
Diane Booth
Cook County Community Center / ExtensionDirector
317 W. 5th Street
Grand Marais, MN 55604
218-387-3016 (fax)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

DNR Supported ATV Assault on North Shore Puts Lie to Cook County ATV Club Claims!!!

Cook County's ATV club and its supporters claim that all they want to do is drive down the road for coffee. Detractors of the proposal before the Cook County Commissioners say the ATVers are trying to make Cook County an ATV destination for ATVers from around the region and that will overrun Cook County, destroying the peaceful enjoyment of the area for everyone else. The truth seems to lie with the DNR who is now openly pushing for converting the North Shore Trail to ATV use via House File 59. The DNR itself says it wants to convert the North Shore Trail to the "backbone" of motorsports (ATVs, dirt bikes, 4 x 4s) use and a key link to scramble areas in our part of the world.

Read on and wake up!

The following Action Alert was just published by Minnesotans for Responsible Recreation (also linked on this site).

Action Alert, January 24, 2007

Protect Minnesota's North Shore from ATVs: Tell Minnesota House Environment Committee members and your state legislators to vote "No!" on House File 59.

House File 59, authored by Rep. Tom Hackbarth, Cedar, would convert the North Shore State Trail from Normana Road in St. Louis County to the Moosewalk ATV trail in Lake County to ATV use. The DNR has stated it wants to use the 165 mile North Shore State Trail as the backbone of its system of ATV, dirt-bike motorcycle and four-wheel drive truck routes and scramble areas in Northeast Minnesota.

The North Shore State Trail runs from Duluth to the Canadian border and parallels, crosses and shares treadway with the Superior Hiking Trail, one of the state and nation's most popular hiking and backpacking destinations. While the North Shore ATV Club, St. Louis County and the DNR claim conversion of the North Shore State Trail would concentrate ATV use on a single treadway, the intention is to disburse ATV and other off-highway vehicle use in the region with a web of publicly funded connecting routes perpendicular to the North Shore State Trail. This would greatly increase encounters with these machines and their accompanying noise and fumes for visitors to the Superior Hiking Trail and Minnesota's North Shore.

A 2006 DNR Feasability Study found that converting the North Shore State Trail would require flattening over 100 hills, installation of 276 culverts, 190 treadway alterations and 12 miles of fill at a cost of at least $875,000.

Minnesotans and our guests fund ATV and snowmobile trails every time we buy gasoline. In 2005 we paid over $15 million at the pump to expand motorized recreation in Minnesota. These public funds would be used to convert the North Shore State Trail into an ATV superhighway and to disperse ATVs along the North Shore and throughout Northeast Minnesota.

Protect Minnesota's North Shore from the noise, fumes, danger to others and environmental damage caused by ATVs.

Tell the below Minnesota House Environment Committee members and your state legislators to vote "No!" on House File 59.

Environment and Natural Resources Committee Membership 2007 - 2008
Copy and paste the below e-mail addresses into the "To:" line of your e-mail.

Contact Committee Administrator Kirk Koudelka, (651) 296-6937, and request to be put on a listserve for updates to track committee action on this bill.

Committee meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. in Room 5 of the State Office Building, St. Paul.

Contact Phone Number and E-mail Address

Chair: Kent Eken (DFL) 651- 296-9918

Vice Chair: Rick Hansen (DFL) 651-296-6828

Lead-GOP: Tom Hackbarth (R) 651-296-2439

Kathy Brynaert (DFL) 651-296-3248

Tony Cornish (R) 651- 296-4240

David Dill (DFL) 651- 296-2190

Paul Gardner (DFL) 651-296-2907

Joe Hoppe (R) 651-296-5066

Carlos Mariani (DFL) 651-296-9714

Denny McNamara (R) 651-296-3135

Frank Moe (DFL) 651-296-5516

Dave Olin (DFL) 651-296-9635

Dennis Ozment (R) 651-296-4306

Brita Sailer (DFL) 651-296-4265

Bev Scalze (DFL) 651-296-7153

Cy Thao (DFL) 651-296-5158

Kathy Tingelstad (R) 651-296-5369

Jean Wagenius (DFL) 651-296-4200

Find the name and contact information of your state representative.

Contact MRR for more information about how you can help protect Minnesota's North Shore from the unwanted effects of ATVs.

For all posts and comments about ATVs just click on the label "ATV" below.

One more post re Road Whiners

Hi, sports fans,
We had another comment today from "fastjerry" about the ATV issue; you will need to scroll down to the "Road Whiners" post on 1/11 to find it, and then scroll down to the bottom of the comments list. OR, you might just want to start a new discussion with the latest article about DNR conversion of state trails (above).

Senator Webb's Response to State of the Union Address

Senator Webb's Response to State of the Union Address

Congressman James L Oberstar -- "The reality is, he is President"

Click on this link to read Oberstar's reaction to Bush's State of the Union speech last night:

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar: Bush State of Union Speech Falls Short

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Scooter Libby a Scapegoat for Karl Rove? Scurrilous!

Bush detractors defending former Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby would have
us believe that the Bush Whitehouse would actually stoop so low as to
deflect blame from Karl Rove and lay it at Libby's door. We all know that
Cheney and Rove are leaders of the highest integrity and above reproach.
They are men of consummate honor who, if they had made mistakes, which is
highly unlikely, would own up. Besides, Libby has clearly shown his
disloyalty to Bush by getting caught and should quietly go to the gallows.
Some people simply cannot be trusted!

On another note, we are winning the war in Iraq and Our Great Leader is
guiding this nation as God has directed him.

So, all you whiners, sit down, shut up, and hold on. It really won't take
much longer in Iraq, and we can easily destroy Iran, and it is just rude to
ask about Bin Laden. Remember, George W. does talk to God and Jesus loves
all of us in the Whitehouse.

It is all oh so true.

Honestly yours,

Dick and Karl

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What were they thinking? or, With what were they thinking?

Dear True,

It is amazing when you read about the mess unfolding in the sweetheart deal that Sandbo and Spry did for the Gunflint Gals in giving them a free perpetual easement for city property, that one of the first actions of the old guard on the council was to vote them in on the important Public Utilities Commission (Spry) and on the Economic Development Agency (Sandbo). They failed as servants to the city in terms of protecting city property with clear displays of likely misfeasance, if not out right malfeasance, but even worse, they displayed an uncommon lack of common sense.

It will be surprising if they don't do the same degree of damage in their new positions as they did in their old. I always thought recycling was supposed to be a positive thing.

Pincushion Pal

Saturday, January 20, 2007

East Bay Giveaway Goes Away?


Attorney General Says, “Not So Fast” to East Bay Give Away!

The word out of St. Paul at the end of last week was that the office of the attorney general has decided that the giveaway of city property that was Mark Sandbo’s Christmas gift to the Gunflint Gals, is now a deal undone. Presented with a clearly illegal giveaway of Grand Marais’ sidewalk, the attorney general reports an opinion of not so fast. It appears that Sandbo, in his lust for one last dance with the gals, did indeed run roughshod over the laws he had pledged to uphold.

You will recall that the East Bay Condominiums and Suites in Grand Marais became, just before the end of the term of Mayor Sandbo, an egregious example of the special deals and favoritism that were a hallmark of his time in office. Ever sweet on the Gals, against the express opinion of the City Attorney Don Davison, and in the face of advice to the contrary from the City Manager, Mike Roth, Sandbo, complaining about “nit picking” legalisms, forced through a giveaway of city property to those bellicose belles who own East Bay. He could not move fast enough to consummate their passion for city pavement. Anything for the Gals and for the business he had once managed.

The Gals had been called to task immediately when Davison and Roth realized that they had built on city property. Cease and desist meant nothing to them since they were in tight with the mayor. Instead of listening to reason and complying with the law, the Gals saddled up Swanson Law Firm lawyer Dehlia Seim and galloped into city hall to plead that their breathless desire for special treatment far outweighed any need to comply with city regulations and that it was a virtual outrage to deny them city property when they were oh, so tight with Mayor Mark. Our mayor, ever true to character in his slavish loyalty to his old employer, was eager to trod on the city’s own regulations and castigated one and all who questioned the giveaway to his Gals.

Citizens protested, officials protested, the city attorney pointed out the clear requirements of the law and all were told, in effect, to sit down and shut up. The attorney general was contacted by at least one citizen and by the city attorney for an opinion from a higher authority. Instead of doing the prudent thing and waiting to hear from the attorney general, Sandbo, now with the support of the entire council, decide to give a last goodbye kiss to the Gals.

Well, as we all know, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over; and in this case it’s back to the dance at city hall because the attorney general, according to the reports from the capitol, says it was all illegal. Davison and Roth have evidently been fully vindicated and this is once again going to be another case of Sandbo screwing up. This time, however, it might get very expensive for the city. But, with a new mayor and recast council, we can hope that the city attorney will be listened to and that we will soon hear jack hammers at work tearing out the illegal ramp. Some legal nits, it turns out, just need to be picked.

A True Friend

What does it Mean to be a Politically Active Citizen if No One is Listening?

Dear readers,
Please read and deeply contemplate the thoughts expressed by this young person, and consider whether we are teaching our children well ....

What does it Mean to be a Politically Active Citizen if No One is Listening?

To my friends who own ATVs

There's something fascinating about an engine and big tires, the idea of speed, the noise. It's like human catnip. My friends who ATV swear it's the most fun they've had with their clothes on.

Some of us have the motor gene, and some of us don't. I guess I was passed over. I've been out on snowmobiles and found them exhilarating, deafening and smelly. I've been on motor scooters and found them stimulating, noisy and disconcertingly tippy. I've permanently wrecked my knee on a motorcycle. I've seen young children, mere tots, drive ATVs while standing, much like a rider posting in the stirrups of a horse, ripping along at stunning speeds, having the time of their lives...and I've been terrified for them. Nope, the motor gene has passed me by.

When I think about ATVs, I worry that someone young will zoom unexpectedly in front of me on an ATV I don't clearly see because it lacks bright running lights. I'm afraid an ATV'er is going to be driving on the road at a slower speed than permitted, causing an irritating delay, or be driving on the shoulder raising dust that clouds my vision, or suddenly be popping up out of a ditch in a way that startles me and makes me jerk into the oncoming lane, or be zipping in front of a summer tourist who's least expecting it. You can dismiss me as neurotic, but these kinds of things happen all the time. I'd hate to see someone crippled for life or worse.

I think it's important that there are guidelines for ATV use on the roads, just as there is for cars. Perhaps these exist already and I'm just ignorant of them. I think ATVs should be licensed, there should be a driver age limit, helmets should be mandatory like motorcycles, and the driver should have to pass a test. The ATVs should be brightly lit, night or day, for easy visibility. I don't want to have any contact beyond a friendly wave.

And lastly, I live on the North Shore for the tranquil beauty of the Lake, the quiet, and the sweet smell of the woods. I think you should have your fun on some prescribed system of trails or roads, at certain times during the day, and not just have free rein to disturb my enjoyment of nature. Common courtesy is a dying trait -- no one seems to have it any more -- so courtesy and safety need to be legally outlined. Just as you would not appreciate my revving my chainsaw outside your bedroom window at the crack of dawn, so I would not appreciate having you roar down my road while I'm savoring my morning coffee. Just as you'd be irritated if I set up my easel, my umbrella, my paint box, and my radio in the middle of your ATV trail, so too would I not be pleased to have you rocket past me as I leisurely walk my old dogs (never mind the old people) down my road.

Surely with the size of Cook County there is some way to find a middle ground. I think you have every right to enjoy your ATV, but I have some rights as well, so we need to figure out where the boundaries are and work together for a reasonable solution. We need to find some way to compromise so you can enjoy yourself, and I can maintain peace and quiet in my environment. And we both need to ensure safety on the roadways.

Pam Dorris
Cascade Beach Road

Reader: Rhonda needs to relax

Dear True,

Tofte, Lutsen, and Grand Marais residents need a place to voice their thoughts or, at the very least, read the thoughts of someone who thinks in the same way but who is more verbal. True North Blog gives people a chance to vent without repercussion (like getting fired, hey!) If a guy doesn't go along with the powers that be, it could be economic suicide. It's happened before. Sadly there's many that can attest to it. The big chill.

Rhonda needs to relax. After all, the facts in the local papers aren't always 100% correct, and the paper's viewpoint is sometimes biased, so what's the difference? Live and let live. And if a guy wants to post on an electronic soapbox, why not? It's too dang cold in the winter to stand out in the Harbor Park and rant, even if a guy was brave enough to do it, eh?

Knows the Score in Grand Marais

Wake up, Cook County

The ATV proposal being considered by the Cook County board was the subject of today's lead story in the Duluth paper. Check the link below.
Duh, folks. Do you think the Twin Cities ATVers, a full half of all ATV owners, will stay home once they can ride freely all over Cook County? If so, I have a bridge I can sell you cheap in San Francisco.

· Duluth News Tribune ·

Friday, January 19, 2007

What do loyalty oaths have to do with public meetings?

Dear True,

I value and appreciate the opportunity to post anonymously to your blog. There are many reasons why I may not wish to use my own name. Most important is that my opinion would reflect on others for whom I am seen as a representative. In fact some of these sources have insisted that I not be identified in any way with their views.

So in Rhonda Silence's recent vent against anonymous blogs, I felt my hackles rising. Especially in her assertion that it takes courage to sign your name and the worst you might expect is dirty looks at the post office. No, sorry, the worst you might expect is that the causes dearest to you would be tarred with the same brush, or that you would lose your job. I have plenty of courage; I write letters criticizing the Bush administration in plain words daily and I sign my own name. This probably earns me the dubious honor of being spied upon, in my mail, email and phone calls. That is a price I am willing to pay.

But, putting my livelihood and credibility on the line in this provincial and ingrown town is another story. I need to make money here to survive but I also have to maintain a facade of Minnesota Nice in order to keep my jobs. Does that mean I have no right to put my opinions out there, on the blogosphere? I don't think so.

In fact, after reading Rhonda's comments, I feel like upping the ante.....
What does reciting a loyalty oath to god and country, hand over heart, have to do with attending a public meeting? I am referring to the Pledge of Allegiance required at the Cook County board and Lutsen board meetings.

I can't in conscience pledge loyalty to a piece of cloth (the flag) or a nation that violates my most sacred values of cooperation, consensus and humanitarian based solutions to global and domestic crises, or a god in whom I do not believe.

What does this mean? That I better not attend any county or town meetings? That I better be prepared for being cut dead by the Reds? I don't accept that. And, I don't accept that I need to sign my name to express my opinion if that act would destroy my livelihood in this benighted community.

Lezzie Latkes (yes, a pseudonym for a pro-choice Buddhist athiest Jewish lesbian radical feminist etc cetera...)

Tofte hears latest morphs on sales tax proposal

Nancye Belding
True correspondent

At its January 11 town meeting, Tofte supervisors and residents heard the latest proposals for continuing the one-percent sales tax scheduled to sunset in November and for adding new three-percent taxes: on food and lodging, and recreation. Treasurer Bill Hansen and Lutsen Resort owner Scott Harrison, both members of the Cook County Economic Analysis Council, presented some of their findings and sought feedback. The council is meeting with many county stakeholders, trying to generate consensus for a sales tax proposal that will go to the legislature in March. “We’re all in this together,” Hansen said. “We’re hoping the one-percent tax and the lodging and recreation taxes will be looked at as one package,” Harrison said. “Our competition isn’t each other; it’s Duluth, Vegas and Disney.
The council has assembled some facts and figures about where the county’s revenue comes from. “The primary driver of the Cook County economy is tourism,” Harrison said, accounting for about 70 percent of income in a direct reversal since 1920, when mining and manufacturing made up that same 70 percent. The support economy (schools, health care, government services) has remained fairly constant.
The biggest problem with our tourism-based economy is that it causes unemployment and underemployment during the winter season, especially in April and November, but requires more labor than is available during the summer peaks. Another problem has been that income from lodging has been basically flat-line since 1999 and occupancy rates have been only 42 percent compared with 65 percent nationwide. This makes it difficult for resort owners, especially with older properties, to re-invest in their buildings.
The council has decided that extending the one-percent tax, which could require a referendum even if the legislature approves it, should be limited to actual infrastructure improvements. Possibilities include a new pool in Grand Marais, library expansion, projects for the Joint Powers Recreation Board, and continued support for the hospital. “We have a compelling story for the needs of the hospital, recreation and community,” Hansen said.
The three-percent taxes would support any kind of economic ventures that increase activity during the eight months of slow season. While this could include cultural festivals and events it could also be aimed at attracting conventions for fire and rescue training or lumber products, and creating a county-wide public shuttle bus system in partnership with Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency.
County Commissioner Bruce Martinson said, “Some ventures will flop. But we should just go ahead, take the risk.” Hansen said the consensus-based process is a chance for stakeholders to learn to work together. “We have to be of one mind here. Legislators are forcing us to be cooperative. It’s a huge opportunity for this county.”
James and Huggins said their concern is that any initiatives benefit the West End proportionately.

Note: portions of this report were excerpted in the Cook County News Herald.

Sales tax and Cedar Grove broadcasts available on WTIP website

If you missed WTIP's One Percent Sales Tax Call-in Show on January 17th or the broadcast of the Upper Deck Forum: Cedar Grove Business Center, we have them available on our website. You can listen to them by going to Click on the Programming link and then Archives in the left hand column. Directions are included!

WTIP, volunteer powered, community driven!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Grand Marais draft vision plan on line now

"Nicole Scheler"

City of Grand Marais Downtown Vision

Thu, 18 Jan 2007 14:50:21 -0600


Good News, you are now able to view a draft copy of the City of Grand Marais Downtown Vision Plan on our website at or by clicking on this link, Please continue to check our website for further information and updates. Also, there is a City Council meeting scheduled for January 31, 2007 and they will be discussing the draft plan at this meeting.

If you have any questions or comments on the draft plan, please contact Rudy Schoolderman by email at or by phone at (218) 722.7799.

Thank you,

Nicole Scheler
Community Growth Institute
14084 Baxter Dr.
Suite 7
Baxter, MN 56425
Fax 218.828.3069
Toll Free 1.866.900.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Just the facts, ma'am

Just the facts, ma’am
Joe Friday
True contributor

Okay, here’s the deal. The CCEAC, that self-named grassroots group consisting of seven major employers in Cook County, have published a report. Some of it is opinion. Some of it is fact. Whatever fact means.

Here are some of the bare bones facts:

· Cook County Living Wages and Actual Average Wages at Certain Tourism Businesses: Living wage for a family of four with two adult workers is said to be $10.70 per hour. Average wages in Lutsen Mountains and resort area are about $12 per hour. This translates as: two adults working full time year round could support a family based on their wages in the Lutsen area. Questions: How many families have two adults working full time year round? What happens if one adult gets sick or has a baby? Census figures indicate that far fewer women than men have full-time, year round jobs.
· Per Capita Income Change: 1990 to 2000: In 1990 per capita income in Cook County was $12,067 compared with $14,420 in Minnesota. In 2000, per capita income in Cook County was $21,175 compared with $23,198 in MN.
· Increase in Per Capita Income from 1990 to 2000: Cook County, 75 percent; Minnesota, 61 percent. “Much of this increase was due to the substantial increase in retirement income ... in Cook County...”
· Housing in multi-unit structures (2000): Cook County had only 6.8 percent multi-unit housing compared with 22.3 percent in MN and 28.4 percent in U.S. This likely explains why Cook County has only about one-half the proportion of young adults ages 20-24.
· Monthly sales as percentage of peak month: Peak months for lodging and total sales were July, August and September. In April, May and November sales dropped to 30 percent of these levels compared with 50 percent during the winter months. Cook County unemployment is higher than the state from November through April. Seasonal underemployment is believed to be far more prevalent than unemployment and to affect many more workers, according to figures from local businesses in 2005.
· Average visitors per day (2005): About 54 percent of visitors stay overnight at a hotel or resort. The rest is split among campgrounds, vacation homes and day visitors. Hotel and resort visitors spend more: $291 per party night compared with $69-$99 per party day for others.
· Direct tourism spending (2005): Of the $100 million direct sales for tourism in 2005, 70 percent was for hotel and resort visitors. Another 20 percent included spending by vacation home owners for construction, occupancy and other expenses. The remaining 10 percent came from campers and day visitors.
· Average visitors per day (2005): 72 percent of direct tourism spending in 2005 came from hotel and resort visitors, but these visitors accounted for only 53 percent of total county sales.
· Sales by source (2004): Tourism, including hotel visitors, business spending, vacation home spending, campers and day visitors accounted for 82 percent of sales in 2004. The remainder was local sales (8 percent) and interest/retirement income (9 percent).The West End has about 2/3 of year round lodging capacity; Grand Marais has about ¼ and the Gunflint trail has about 9 percent.
· 2005 lodging revenue per lodging district: The West End receives about 66 percent of lodging revenue, compared with 20 percent for Grand Marais and 14 percent for Gunflint Trail.
· Monthly winter hotel visitors—2005, party days: Downhill skiers spend more than ¼ of overnight lodging tourism sales. During the winter months, this figure increases to 74 percent.
· Monthly lodging visitors (2005): After accounting for non-winter sales, ski-based tourism sales accounted for 35 percent of overnight lodging. Cross country skiers represented three percent, general tourism 60 percent and snowmobile less than one percent.

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar: First 100 Hours a “Good Start” for American People

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar: First 100 Hours a “Good Start” for American People

Latest news from CCFCC

CCFCC:It has been several weeks since the last posting. As most of you know, public pressure has resulted in positive change on both the local and national levels. Public pressure has also forced the Coast Guard to scrap their plans for live-fire exersizes on Lake Superior as well as forced the local EDA to make changes regarding conflict-of-interest. Thanks to all who made your voices heard toward this great effort!!!

Here are a few reminders and current updates on the proposed Homeland Security Building, Border Security and County Development issues. Thank you for your continued concern. Stay tuned to this site for more information as it develops. SLDRADIO PROGRAMMING THIS WEEK:Tune in to WTIP Radio at 90.7 FM or 91.7 FM Gunflint Trail this week for two shows about current issues in Cook County.

Wednesday at 6pm right after the Community Calendar Show, is a call-in program regarding the 1% sales tax issue. In the studio with WTIP's News Reporter Barbara Jean Myers are Bill Hansen of the Cook County Economic Analysis Council, Howard Abrahamson of the Hospital Board and Commissioners Jim Johnson and Fritz Sobanja. Phone numbers for the call-in show are 387-1070 or 800-473-9847.

On Thursday evening from 6-7pm right after the Community Calendar Show, we will air the Upper Deck Forum held Thursday, January 11. The speaker was Matt Geretschlager, Director of the EDA and the topic was the Cedar Grove Business Center and Sawtooth Cottages. That's Wednesday and Thursday evening at 6:00 pm at 90.7 FM or 91.7 FM Gunflint Trail.

HOMELAND SECURITY UPDATES At the Upper Deck Forum last Thursday, EDA Director Matt Geretschlager stated that Homeland Security has not yet chosen the "top three" potential sites for their compound. However, Matt also told the crowd that one developer from Florida heard that HS was focusing on the state of Florida sites and that "MN is next." This is hearsay, but for an exact quote from Matt, tune in to the rebroadcast this Thursday, the 18th from 6-7pm on WTIP 90.7fm. Commissioner Jim Johnson has been very helpful and interested in the proposed Homeland Security project. Here are his most recent email responses regarding the Homeland Security Compound and Border Security:
November 24, 2006
Dear Staci, I have no new information to report about the location of the proposed Border Patrol Building. At the conference (in North Dakota) I asked about the tension that exists between security and wilderness along the BWCA-Quetico border. Glen Schroeder, who was up here for the forum last September, assured me that any surveillance would be "non-invasive" and "low impact". Representatives of tourism and commerce at the conference were quite concerned that any tightening of the border for security reasons would restrict the normal flow of people and trade; they were worried about damage that could be done to commerce and tourism if the border becomes too tight. Passports, birth certificates, driver's licenses and other documentation were discussed, but it doesn't look like anybody has agreed on a plan yet. I think local people and officials need to be kept informed and enlisted in the security process. We know when something doesn't seem right and will be able to report it sooner than any high-tech surveillance system will. I hope they will be better at including us in the process. Glen Schroeder did mention that the Boeing Company is involved in putting together the plan for border security in this sector (Pigeon River to Montana). He mentioned plans for up to 35 aircraft, as well as one Predator drone, which is a remote controlled aircraft. I wish I knew more about that. Thanks for your interest.
Jim Johnson
November 25After I e-mailed you yesterday I googled on Boeing Border Security and got all kinds of information. will give you one of them, but check around on google and lots of interesting stuff comes up.
November 30, 2006
Staci, There was no discussion of the money trail. As you know from reading the news reports on the Boeing deal, there were several other companies making proposals on the SBI (Secure Border Initiative) contract, but Boeing was only mentioned once as the contract winner. It wasn't until I got home and looked at the internet that I found out some of the details. As I understand it the Southern Border will take priority, and then plans will be implemented along the Northern Border if they work in the South. Glen Schroeder, the border patrol chief in Grand Forks, said that the details of the plan have not yet been worked out. Hopefully, his non-invasive, low impact statements refer to the wilderness areas, and towers and more intensive aircraft may be used along the 39th parallel in North Dakota and Montana. He mentioned that they had used dog-sleds in the past and increased patrol officer presence seems to also be part of the plan. I find myself speculating along with everyone else on this, and that's always a dangerous thing to do, so hopefully we will be kept informed as plans progress. I don't know what legislation this plan was tied to, but I did get the impression that it has already passed. It sounds like Boeing will do a section at a time (first in Arizona) and if it works, then they will be able to continue on to other sections and eventually to the Northern Border. I don't know anything about the EDA actions regarding Coleman and Oberstar, since that is a city function. I know they did a report comparing costs of the airport site vs. the EDA site, but wasn't aware who they sent it to. The airport commission has also submitted a proposal to the Border Patrol, but they have heard nothing back yet either. Thanks for your continued concern.
Jim Johnson

A date has been set next month (date and time will be forthcoming) for the first public hearing regading sale of EDA land on the hillside to Northern Communities Land Trust for an extensive housing development on the hillside. This development would effect portions of the Superior Hiking Trail, the Snowmobile Trail, the view of the hillside from Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway. In addition, the development of up to 30 homes and several businesses, including an excavation business, possibly a "plastics manufacturer" as well as the proposed 34,000 sq. ft. Homeland Security compound is plagued with a number of political, economic and environmental issues including water runoff and wetlands delineation. Tune in to the WTIP rebroadcast of the Upper Deck forum on this issue (Thursday 1/18, 6-7pm) for more details and stay tuned to CCFCC for more details. If you wish to weigh-in on this issue, please plan to attend the public forum and voice your concerns.Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Cook County Sales Tax

The ad hoc committee for giving our tax dollars to the West End - also known as the self proclaimed Cook County Economic Analysis Council - has thrown out a lot of statistics to bolster their argument for taking money from the hospital and giving it to the poverty stricken folks who own Lutsen area resorts. What is lost in this discussion is the fact that their statistics are irrelevant to the argument.

The real question to be considered is, is it appropriate to take the sales tax away from the hospital, where it serves the general best interest of all of Cook County, or should it be given over bolster the economic well being of a few narrow, but loud interests in the resort and tourist business?


ATV Discussion Thread

If you are interested in following the discussion regarding ATV use of county roads in Cook County, follow the above link, or scroll on down the list of posts to get to it. This one topic has generated more comments than any other. It is a good exchange and it does a good job of laying out the respective positions on this contentious issue.

Please post your comments.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

West End dominates county tourism market

Last year, seven business owners in Cook County, on learning that the one-percent sales tax to benefit the hospital will “sunset” in November of this year, set about looking seriously at the economic climate in Cook County and what other permitted uses this tax might support if extended. Legislators Dill and Bakk told the group that it would be much easier to extend the tax and change the use than to rescind it and then try to get it back later. Dill and Bakk also recommended getting consensus among county stakeholders before bringing a proposal forward in March. The council has been attending town meetings and working with groups like the county’s Joint Powers Board and the Grand Marais Save the Pool committee to try to create a consensus plan both for a one-percent tax extension and also for new taxes on food/lodging and entertainment/recreation that will help to turn around and sustain the county’s tourism-based economy.
In coming weeks, True will be exploring this issue in depth. For now, see this News Herald link for how the council’s findings highlight the West End:

Cook County News-Herald - Grand Marais, Minnesota

WTIP on one-percent tax

WTIP will host a special listener call-in on January 17 about possible uses for extending the one-percent sales tax due to sunset in November. For details, check this post on Boreal:

Boreal Access

Friday, January 12, 2007

ATV use on county roads?

The county could vote next week on an ordinance allowing ATV use on all county roads, during daylight hours and with a 30 mph speed limit. For more details, see the link below.
Cook County News-Herald - Grand Marais, Minnesota

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Bush Plan Will Extend U.S. Involvement in Iraq

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Bush Plan Will Extend U.S. Involvement in Iraq

Road Whiners

Cook County's atv'rs are lobbying the county board for permission to ride atv's on county roads. They cite equal treatment to support their requests for uninhibited use of roads and access to almost anywhere in the county. Most conservationists and environmentalists have a legitimate reflexive negative response to such proposals. Some county residents are petitioning county board members to exclude their roads from atv riding in an understandable not in my back yard reaction. Regardless of how this turns out, this will not be the last series of demands from atv'rs.

Of late, Minnesota, especially all across the northern part of the state, has seen unrelenting pressure from atv'rs and snowmobilers for trails, regardless of the impact they may have on the environment or on those who want to enjoy the simple pleasures of a quiet forest. The motor sports enthusiasts are quickly outraged if they do not get their way. They have made clear what they want - unrestricted riding privileges. Those of us who are not motor sports enthusiasts, the acknowledged majority of Minnesotans, are just as clear in what we want - the quiet enjoyment of the forest.

If a peaceful North Shore and Cook County seems to be what the county's and Minnesota's quiet majority wants; why can't they get it? Mainly because of the political clout the motor sports side has, disproportionate to their numbers. It is much easier to organize those in favor of a special interest, no matter how obnoxious most of the world finds it, than it is to build a coalition of disparate people who may not otherwise be natural allies to oppose it. When you add to the mix an industry with deep pockets - the atv and snowmobile manufacturers - it is an uphill struggle for the opponents.

The real problem with the atv'rs demands for unlimited riding on county roads is that it is a major step in the industry's push to link together a vast network of legal and illegal trails across the state. Right now, in Cook County, there are numerous logging trails that atvs can legally travel. Often, however, they are not linked. The county road system provides that connection. The end result will be a system of trails that allow atv users to assault the senses of all who do not share their desire for noise and destruction of the north woods quiet. The north woods experience will soon come to mean an incessant undercurrent of whining engines or the roar of the typical all out atv cavalcade.

Once the network is in place, Cook County residents should anticipate the county being promoted as a destination for atv enthusiasts for rallies, races, and rendezvous. Peace and quiet no more.

Are there good decent people who abide by the laws who ride atv's? Absolutely! And most atv'rs fall within that category. Does the atv enthusiast demographic contain more than its fair share of scofflaws with little regard for nature, their neighbors, or the quiet of the woods? Without a doubt.

The problem for atv'rs is that they are all tarred with the same brush. Experience has shown, however, that is because, even when they have the best of intentions, they've taken up a "sport" that invites the destruction of the north woods and the place it holds in the hearts of all of Minnesotans - a place that symbolizes peace, quiet, and the simple enjoyment of nature. Most may abide by all the rules, but until they get serious about getting rid of the bad apples, and until the manufacturers stop promoting speed and the tearing up the land (just look at the ads and the billboards), until they themselves start redressing the damage they have done, and until they start, as a group, showing respect for others, the best that can be said for the "good", is that they do less damage than the bad. The atv ethic not only tolerates, but encourages, in too many cases, the destruction of the land and the disruption of what should be the natural peace of the forest.

In view of the history of the whole of them, it is unconscionable to even consider allowing atv'rs the unfettered privilege to travel the county roads. It will likely lead to a vast, interconnected trail system that will end the peace of the woods as we now know it.

Regrettably, our politicians at the Cook County Board are likely to roll over once again, and the atv'rs will, in turn, simply roll over the whole of Cook County. Like spoiled children the atv'rs want it all; and like weak and spineless parents, the county board is likely to give in to them, thinking that will satisfy their greed. We all know it won't; they will be back for more and more.

It used to be said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In this case its likely to be the whiners get the woods.


Last Whack in Iraq? Honor the Fallen!

"To step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale." With that, George W. Bush announced a much anticipated and almost universally scorned increase in troop levels in Iraq.

The problems with this are practical, political and moral. They place additional strain on an already over burdened military. For the wars staunchest supporters, and even from a significant component of those who oppose the war, this troop surge, as it has been labeled to make it palatable under the somewhat nebulous proposals in the Baker Report, it would take a number in the range of several hundred thousand to really give the strategy a chance to work. That is the practical side.

On the political side, while a sop to the usual gang of thieves surrounding Bush, this proposal has the support of no one of importance in the military, has caused significant numbers of the president's own party to distance themselves from him, and has brought a certain amount of energy to the here-to-for docile Democratic Party.

On the moral side, among many others there has to be concern about throwing away the lives of more of our service people in what is clear to everyone to be a lost cause. And to try to salvage an undefined and undefinable victory with the blood of more of the innocent people of Iraq? Where is the moral virtue of pouring more blood down the Iraqi sewer? Where is the good in trying to establish a western style democracy in a country whose people clearly want only to kill each other and anyone who would have them stop this senseless self immolation? None of these questions can be answered except in the negative.

There is no moral high ground in Iraq. It cannot be lost, because it was doomed from the start. It certainly cannot be won, if for no other reason than no one knows what winning is. The question is what to do about it. It seems that the American people have answered resoundingly, at least in the last election, Bring the troops home! Help that happen .

In Grand Marais, there is a rally planned for this evening in Harbor Park. The following announcement went out this morning from Cameron Norman and Debbie Westby. You are urged to give this your support. Here is what they have to say:

This will be a repeat for some, but we just wanted to make sure you all received it.It's been a while since anyone in the area made a fuss over the war. Thursday marks an opportunity to be seen and heard around the country. Events have been planned including "honk and wave" at strategic intersections, candlelight vigils honoring the fallen, etc. They are all reflections of America saying NO to the escalation in Iraq.Please join us at Harbor Park tonight (Thursday Jan. 11th) at 7:00 pm. Bring a candle that won't blow out and warm clothing. We'll be out for an hour.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Grand Marais City Council Drops DNR Marina

In July of 2005, the Grand Marais City Council passed Resolution 2005-16. This formally resolution set in motion the planning for a large marina in the southwest corner of the harbor. In a unanimous vote tonight on a motion brought by newly minted councilman Lenz, seconded by Costello and "double seconded" by Bolstad, the council created an almost clean slate for marina planning by rescinding Resolution 2005-16. In comments made by council members during discussion on the motion it was clear that they were frustrated with the DNR and were responding to the November elections that saw a new mayor (Evelyn Larsen) and a new council member (Bill Lenz) elected on promises of just this action. The council clearly does not want a large Marina in the southwest corner of the harbor and wants instead to focus on the existing marina.

Harbor Friends had proposed this action in the open session that is scheduled at the start of every council meeting and was gratified tha the council promptly passed it. In addition, Harbor Friends asked the council for its endorsement of a Harbor Friends funded and managed study of the feasibility of rebuilding the existing marina in its present location. That proposal is to be taken up over the next few weeks by the council


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sulfide Mining Concerns


Here are some things that need to be brought forth in the discussion of non-ferrous metallic mineral mining (sulfide mining):

AMD - Acid mine drainage has already polluted more than 12,000 miles of rivers and streams and over 180,000 acres of lakes and impoundments across the United States.

PolyMet's proposal alone will destroy over a thousand acres of wetlands, this would be on Federal land located in the Superior National Forest.

Water degradation - Sulfate ions added to the water would increase methyl mercury and threaten ground water with heavy metal contamination.

Sulfide mining waste has to be treated " forever, almost". Drainage from metal mines in Western states has caused some of the country's largest and most contaminated Superfund sites.

Areas all over the Northern half of the State are being explored and leased by mining companies in the hope of striking it rich. Many people do not own their mineral rights. The State owns roughly 25% of the mineral rights and is offering most for lease in an attempt to bring a new type of mining to MN.

Sulfide mining, or non-ferrous metallic mineral mining, is a particularily destructive and dangerous type of mining far worse than taconite mining and has never been permitted before in MN.

Wisconsin now has a Moratorium on Sulfide mining.

Upper Michigan residents are currently fighting the start up of this same type of mining that would threaten their water and their wilderness if allowed to go forward.

South Dakota is trying to clean up a bankrupt gold (with sulfide rock) mine that is now a Superfund site. The clean up of the Gilt Edge Mine is estimated to cost well over 50 million dollars and will require long term water treatment of unknown duration.

Sulfide mining's long term environmental damages far outweigh any possible short term potential economic benefit.

Is AMD coming to a stream near you? Our (ACT Now's) answer is "No"

ACT Now!

The ACT NOW group is a coalition of individuals and groups working to educate the public about sulfide mining. For more information about the group, please contact Julie O’Leary with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership at (218) 727-0800. Sulfide mining will be a critcal issue for all of Minnesota, but particularly for the Arrowhead region with the potential for devastating consequences for the environment for generations to come.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sulfide Mining Impact Meeting in Tamarack

Public Meeting Scheduled
to Discuss Potential Impacts of Sulfide Mining

Date: Wednesday January 10, 2007
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Schoolhouse in Tamarack

Please join us for a public meeting to discuss the environmental impacts of sulfide mining. The meeting will include a power point presentation developed by the ACT NOW group, and time for questions. The following items will be covered in the presentation:

Information regarding the PolyMet Mining Corporation proposal for copper mining near Hoyt Lakes,
Data from the Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith Wisconsin,
Potential environmental impacts of sulfide mining.

Several environmental concerns have been raised concerning the mining of sulfide containing rock. When sulfide containing rock is exposed to air and water, sulfuric acid may result. Impacts to water and air resources may occur if this mining byproduct is not treated correctly. An environmental impact study is being conducted for the PolyMet project. Mineral exploration has been occurring in Aitkin County, however, no mining requests have been made for this area.

The ACT NOW group is a coalition of individuals and groups working to educate the public about sulfide mining. For more information about the group, please contact Julie O’Leary with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership at (218) 727-0800. Questions about the meeting may be directed to Janet Smude at the Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (218) 927-6565.

-- David Abazs
MEP Northeast Minnesota Organizer
5879 Nikolai Road
Finland, MN 55603

Non-ferrous Mining in Minnesota


I just watched Almanac North featuring Frank Ongaro representing Mining MN, the non-ferrous organization representing mining interests in the State. Frank mentioned PolyMet, Franconia, Duluth Metals, Teck Cominco, Kennecott. Frank said we need copper and nickel because the world consumes so much, we are a "consuming country, we can't get enough copper and nickel". There was only one pointed question about if there are any environmental concerns of non-ferrous. Frank said how the DNR, MPCA, will be reviewing and expediting the EIS permitting process, he was ambiguous on the time frame, amongst other things. Frank also said how MN has the toughest environmental rules and how taconite production is worse than non-ferrous because of the way taconite is processed.

At the end there was a question posed on screen for people to respond to, people were invited to call with their comments. The show is scheduled to be rebroadcast Sunday at 4:30P.M. on Channel 8 WDSE (PBS).

Is non-ferrous mining right for MN? (or something to that effect)
Or you can reach the Almanac North answering machines at 218-728-0070.

Lori Andresen

Gitchi-Gami State Trail a Snowmobile Route?

There is a question raised in the comment from Rhonda Silence. Are snowmobiles permitted on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail? The DNR says no motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles. The signs say no motorized vehicles.
The snowmobilers feel that they have been told they can run their sleds - motorized, of course - on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail; that contrary to the signage and the regulations they feel have been promised by the DNR that the regulations and the signs do not apply to them because of representations made to them as the trail was being developed.
Others feel that a trail built specifically for exclusive, year round, bicycle and pedestrian traffic under a program that dedicates it for those uses and prohibits motorized vehicles by law, and is posted to reflect those restrictions is indeed not to be a snowmobile route.
Who is right?
With the lack of snow it is sort of a moot point so far this winter, except for the previously noted incident, but it is an important issue relating to pedestrian safety in the winter time and the rights the snowmobilers have to operate their sleds in Grand Marais.
Where is the DNR Trails and Waterways when you really need them?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Non-ferrous Mining Moving Ahead

Non-ferrous mining will change Minnesota forever, and not for the better. Polymet will be the first and there is pressure for more to follow close on its heels. Click here for a detailed article on the subect courtesy of the Mesabi Daily News.

In addition, the State of Minnesota is mobilizing the University of Minnesota, Duluth through the Precambrian Research Center to provide a stream of geologists specifically trained to exploit non-ferrous mineral resources in the state in the service of the international mining industry. Our tax dollars being used to destroy our watersheds and the future of Minnesota, especailly the Arrowhead, and that will include the BWCAW according to the UMD's own proposals.

Here are links to information on this venture , the PRC mission, the PRC business plan.

Here is what our friends at the U have to say about the prospects for mining non-ferrous metals, i. e. mostly sulfide mining:

"A second state need is looming as Minnesota is poised to develop a wholly new mining district focused on Cu-Ni-PGE deposits of the basal Duluth Complex. PolyMet Mining Corporation is in the final stages of permitting to mine the NorthMet deposit located near Hoyt Lakes. Other related deposits have also seen increased activity in recent years, Teck-Cominco’s Babbitt deposit, Franconia Mineral’s Birch Lake and Maturi deposits, and Wallbridge America’s Maturi Extension deposit. The potential exists that if PolyMet is successful in permitting and developing a base and precious metal mine, these other deposits are sure to follow. This will generate an incredible local demand for field-trained geologist with B.S. and M.S. degrees. Besides the Cu-Ni-PGE deposits of the Duluth Complex, other companies are spending money in the state in their search for gold, nickel, titanium, and diamonds."

It is particularly worrisome that the PRC plans to set up summer mining field camps in the BWCAW. And we thought the BWCAW was a wilderness!

"The PRC intends to develop a new summer field camp course based in the Precambrian terrains of northern Minnesota (Fig. 7) through the auspices of the Department of Geological Sciences at UMD. This camp will be designed to meet undergraduate requirements of most university and college geology programs, and will be an open enrollment course to students from the U.S., Canada, and abroad. The course will be based in a number of locations throughout northern Minnesota, including Duluth, Hibbing, Ely, campsites within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), and other remote sites. The educational goals of the camp will parallel those of traditional summer field geology camps in terms of developing basic field-geology skills. However, PRC-run field courses will provide students with the added opportunity to conduct independent and group geological mapping in canoe-access wilderness areas (BWCAW) where our current knowledge of the geology is based on reconnaissance mapping in the 1930s. A long-term goal of PRC-led field courses is to compile student geologic mapping for eventual publication, thereby contributing to the scientific record in the region."

Is this a precursor to pressure to open the BWCAW to mining? Well, the main funders of this intellectual excercise in the BWCAW are to be the mining companies themselves. That should answer the question.