The Long Way Home--City vs. North House

I long ago gave up on FOX “News” and CNN, and by long ago I mean 20 years. I was much closer to some of the news back then and watching MSNBC left me less agitated than the other two cable networks. None of them were any good at presenting news. I eventually gave up on MSNBC as well.

The problem with all of them is they fit a bit of news into their format. Since most of us aren’t “news junkies” they need to add theatrical “talk” shows to keep us tuned in. A cadre of guests spouting one gossipy political point of view or another is “zoomed in” on the checkerboard panels to bellow pronouncements that keep eyes on the advertisers' commercials.

I gave up on the talk radio crowd long before the internet and podcasts were just a dream for shouting white guys, and they were almost all white guys.

I decided that if I wanted to hear shrill screams I’d simply walk into the house without taking my boots off. Works every time. I apologize, clean up my mess, and get on with a happy wife, and happy life.

Now, I’m contemplating whether to give up Facebook. I enjoy seeing what friends and family do on vacations, cooking in the kitchen, or playing in the woods. I enjoy sharing the puns and political cartoons and dropping a philosophical point from time to time.

The Grand Marais Community Page on Facebook had a recent post about the City of Grand Marais and Northouse Folk School negotiations over the future of the city property that gave birth to the school 25 years ago. The commenters on the post remind me of the checkerboard panels on the MSNBCs. People who have an opinion tend to shout down anyone with a contrary one. Tiresome.

In the mid-90s, the USFS vacated two buildings and the land under them adjacent to the campground, gifting the property to the city. Mark Hansen, the man who fathered the folk school, presented a plan to Mayor Andrea Peterson and the council to have the folk school occupy and improve the property in return for a nominal rental payment (currently $390/month.) Despite some vocal opposition, the plan was approved and things progressed. It was, as my conservative friends might say, a true public/private partnership.

Over the years, the school purchased three other parcels surrounding the old USFS property. In addition to teaching folk arts, it operates as a commercial landlord leasing office space, a restaurant, and housing at so-called market rates.

The vocal opposition of 25 years ago has muted, but not gone away. It’s especially apparent with long-time business people in town who are amazed that a property unofficially valued at $1.2 million is earning less than $5,000 a year in rental income, far less than what it would bring in property taxes. Far below market rental rates.

I believe a deal is a deal until it needs to change. This is one of those deals that should have been reviewed years ago. The lease is expiring and North House would like to purchase the property. The succeeding parties to the original partnership are trying to make something work.
North House isn’t going anywhere. It is prospering. Grand Marais isn’t going anywhere. It is struggling. The real estate deal that Mark Hansen struck with the city has worked and proven its worth.

Now is the time for the city and the school to negotiate in good faith to maximize the value received by both parties. And Facebook is not the place to do that.

After slaving over this column I have decided to stay on Facebook and avoid the Grand Marais Community Page.


  1. I left Facebook long ago, weary of the self-righteousness of a few who poison the soup for many.


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