Friday, June 13, 2014

Winning at the Range

Today's MinnPost is running a story I didn't think I'd ever see, about "Republicans mining DFL votes on Iron Range." Of course, I was foolish enough a few elections ago to think that Congressman Oberstar probably had the safest seat in the House. There's also a story by Eric Black that looks at a recent Pew Research Center report that finds "Yes, we're more polarized — but most Americans still don't fit the description [of being polarized]." This combination, plus the recent Star Tribune story about the continuing friction regarding the Southwest LRT project really makes me wonder if we've lost the ability to make the decisions we need to move ahead as a society. According to this posting on Planetizen, our willingness to be guided by "experts" has dropped phenomenally. We don't even need to begin to touch on the loss of civil civic discourse that has contributed to our political gridlock at state and national levels.

northern Minnesota
northern Minnesota                           © harrington

Many years ago, I worked for someone who was secure enough to show up at the office wearing a hat on which was printed I am their leader, which way did they go? I think the time has come for those of us in the 99% to show our "leaders" which way we went and want to go, and let them know we won't settle for more of the same. The Sierra Club has been conducting a fairly effective Beyond Coal campaign based on both creating cleaner energy sources and new jobs and cleaning up the environmental contamination associated with coal mining and burning. I, for one, would like to see more leadership from Democrats, environmentalists and labor leaders on something like a "beyond taconite" campaign. The studies I've seen so far don't offer much in the way of substantial economic development from nonferrous mining in Minnesota. Aaron Brown, a real Iron Ranger, offers the most intelligent and well reasoned analysis I've seen on how to move forward. Why the "powers that be" (Blandin Foundation? IRRB?) aren't trying to act on his proposal is beyond me.

Maybe the Center for Small Towns could follow up on their recent symposium and work with communities on the Range to create better, longer lasting (another way to spell sustainable) employment opportunities than currently exist. Minnesota's Region Five (Cass, Morrison, Crow Wing, Todd and Wadena Counties) has created and is implementing a resilient region plan. Maybe the Range could take a hint from their neighbors in northern Minnesota.

lumbering historic marker
lumbering historic marker       © harrington

The St. Croix River Valley was once dependent on the fur trade: gone. Then it relied on lumbering: gone (mostly). Now it's looking toward its current assets: its history, the arts, tourism and a regional approach to economic development. Local leadership played a major role in each of the transitions the area has faced. The number of mills in "Mill City" is also pretty limited these days but Minneapolis seems to be managing, for the most part. Maybe we need to be reminded that no one really wins a Mexican standoff.
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