Showing posts from December, 2022

The Long Way Home 12.23.2022

Well, it’s that time of year again. The sun rises at a quarter to eight and disappears less than nine hours later.  With the weather we’ve been getting, the clouds have made the depressing lack of sunlight, short as it is, even worse.  And the snow. Enough already. On a happier note, the sun is moving toward us again since Wednesday and longer days are coming. The Winter Solstice, a cause for festivals and celebrations for millennia, has led to many of the holiday traditions in modern times.  Ancient cultures viewed this time as one of death and rebirth. Christians adopted it as the time of the birth of their savior. Seinfeld adopted it as the birth of Festivus. And so it went. Yule, the predecessor to today’s Christmas, began as an ancient pagan winter solstice festival. People celebrated with a 12-day feast and burned a Yule Log that stayed lit for all 12 nights. Can you sing the 12 Days of Christmas? We Swedish people began a festival of lights, called St. Lucy’s Day, which honors a

Cook County Ranked First in Per Capita Spending for General Government in 2020 by State Auditor

The Minnesota Office of the State Auditor reports that in 2020 Cook County ranked first of 87 counties in per-capita spending for General Government. Cook (pop. 5,600) spent $806 per capita. Neighboring Lake County (pop. 10,905) came in at 13th place spending $452 per capita. The State Auditor has been analyzing and reporting on local government revenue and expenditures for many years.  In a January 15, 1998 editorial, the Minneapolis Star Tribune called out Cook County for its number-one ranking in the 1997 report. In 1997 Cook County spent $379 per capita on General Government. The next highest county in 1997 was $233, 39% less.  “General Government” excludes spending for Public Safety, Highways, Sanitation, Human Services, Health, Culture and Recreation, Conservation, and Economic Development. In Cook County, General Government spending is less than a quarter of its $19.9 million total expenditure ($3,562 per capita). Lake County spent a bit over $26 million or $2,391 per capita. Co

The Long Way Home 12.16.22

 Is it really possible that news reporting could be free of bias? “Just the facts Ma’am,” is the oft-quoted line of Sergeant Joe Friday, played by the actor Jack Webb as a Los Angeles cop on the television show “Dragnet.” But a report in a newspaper, magazine, radio, or television could never contain all the facts of a particular story. So the reporter and her editors select stories they think the audience wants to see and then select the facts deemed most relevant to tell the story that will fit into the time or space available. I’ve seen stories published about issues that are important to me and I know they did not contain all the facts. Not because of deliberate bias, but because no popular media journalist could have a full understanding of any issue. Let’s say trucking and logistics. Important industry for sure, but not something people generally understand. Even those working in it. So a journalist usually makes the mistake of reporting what they think are both sides of an issue

The Outpost Motel is a Mom & Pop With a Loyal Following

The Outpost Motel in the unincorporated town of Colvill started in 1952 as the Moe-Del Motel, named after its founders. The motel sits on 18 acres of primarily wooded land bordered by USFS forest to the north and Lake Superior to the south. Holly and Todd Current owners, and self-proclaimed Mom and Pop operators, are Holly Johnson and Todd Zins.  They were long-time visitors to the North Shore, from Duluth to Thunder Bay, during the 27 years prior to buying The Outpost. Like many people living in the Twin Cities who visit the Lake, Holly and Todd thought they would move to a North Shore home after retirement.  Todd, a carpenter, and Holly, a property management specialist, decided in 2016 that they could make the move to the Shore well before retiring if they could find a place to live and work that was within their budget. They found a small resort on the shore near Two Harbors that was for sale and made an offer. The price was a bit higher than they wanted so they thought that one of

Local Communities Struggling with Northshore Mining Closure

 Northshore Mining, a subsidiary of Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc., was shut down in May of this year, laying off several hundred full-time employees. Northshore includes the Peter Mitchell Mine in Babbitt, a lakeside taconite mill in Silver Bay, and a railroad connecting the two facilities.  According to Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves, the shutdown decision was taken after they concluded the inventory being produced was not needed by their customers at the time. Another factor in that decision is an unresolved dispute over the amount of royalties owed to Mesabi Trust. This publicly traded entity was created in 1961 to derive income from the Mitchell Mine and the parties have been unable to negotiate a reduction in royalties that is acceptable to Cleveland-Cliffs.  Two cities were built by Reserve Mining in the 1940s and 1950s to support a taconite mining and processing operation for the Mitchell Mine. Babbitt, the site of the mine, and Silver Bay the processing and shipping plant for

Hovland Hobbyist Creates Beautiful Boreal Knives

  John Jacobson’s custom-made knives are finding collectors, and knife users, from family and friends to the general public. A mushroom forager, John’s knife-making began with creating his own foraging knives and then he added filet knives. John, a retired logistics executive, and his wife Lou Ann have a home in Minneapolis and they have owned property in rural Hovland for more than 20 years. They are committed part-time residents of Cook County and are well known for their community-building efforts, from helping build the addition to Trinity Lutheran Church to baking bread they share with friends and neighbors. Last year, Peter Lewis, an artist in glass, encouraged John to submit a dozen or so of his knives for an exhibition titled “Wood Glass & Steel” at the Art Loft located in Boreal Gifts & Goods in St.Paul that was held this fall. John submitted 16 knives that he’d made, and 11 were sold before the exhibition ended last month. Boreal Knives are Scandinavian-styled. John b

Cost of Drive Offs at Fuel Pumps Lead to Payment Changes

Drive-offs are a form of theft where motorists intentionally drive away without paying for the fuel they pumped into their vehicle. Often times they may just have forgotten to pay inside. Other times, the theft is intentional and the driver leaves the station in a hurry, threatening the well-being of bystanders or retail staff with dangerous driving. In 2008 the Canadian province of British Columbia instituted a regulation called Grant’s Law mandating that all fuel retailers make customers prepay at the register inside or pay with a credit/debit card at the pump. The regulation was passed three years after a teenage employee at a gas station named Grant DePatie was killed by a driver who was running off after putting $12 worth of gas in his car. Grant had run out of the store to get the license number of the car when he was struck and dragged several kilometers. The City of Coon Rapids, MN passed an ordinance in the summer of 2012 requiring fuel retailers to have a pay-at-the-pump or p

The Long Way Home 12.9.2022

While researching an article on the impact of the shutdown at Northshore Mining operations I was reminded of one of those stories of encounters with the near great that we all like to recall. So here we go. Reserve Mining is the company that built the country’s first taconite processing plant in 1955 right here on the North Shore in Silver Bay.  For every ton of ore produced at the plant, two tons of waste, known as tailings, were created and dumped directly into Lake Superior. In the late 60s, sport and commercial fishing groups began complaining that the pollution caused by the tailings was killing fish. Various environmental groups took up the issue as well. By the early 70s, the Silver Bay plant was identified as the source of amphibole asbestos fibers that were showing up in the city water of Duluth.  On February 17, 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency sued Reserve Mining in Federal Court to end the practice of dumping the tailings in the lake. The presiding judge for the ca

The Long Way Home 12.2.22

The advertisements on my social media are dominated by journals, of all types. Electronic, leather-bound, or low-cost paper. From a few dollars to more than a Benjamin. And they promise to help me do or be something that I’m not today. There are plain, blank-page journals to those with motivational prompts that will increase productivity, change bad habits, lose weight or find my values. I have been a journal junkie from time to time. When we first moved to the North Shore in the 1990s I wrote in journals daily for several years. Mostly about the shimmering Aspen trees, flaming sunrises, and crashing waves, but also the daily comings and goings of the Fernlund household.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried “journaling” but it is a hard habit to maintain. It’s nice to have some record of our lives, but most of us aren’t very good at keeping the journal current. I know I’m not. As a fast-rising phony executive in my younger days, I sought out the Franklin Daily Planner to get me organized