Monday, October 27, 2008 By Aaron Brown
That's fine. It's predictable and Range voters have often refuted newspaper endorsements. When I was editor of the Hibbing paper we didn't even do them. If you want to know who I'm voting for it's pretty easy to find out. People will make up their own minds.
The Mesabi Daily News editorial direction is not determined by an editorial board, but rather by the editor, Bill Hanna -- a longtime Range journalist originally from North Minneapolis. Bill has many admirable traits, but objectivity is not one of them. He's pro-development to the extreme and tends to let his opinions spill over onto the news pages when the editorial page is not enough. He and his paper have every right to endorse Coleman, but to prop up the bloated, decaying Excelsior Energy Mesaba project as justification for supporting Coleman is an insult to the intelligence of Iron Range voters. Excelsior Energy exists solely because Bill Hanna and the Mesabi Daily News have never, ever asked hard questions about the viability of the project and technology in an objective way. They shut out opposing viewpoints in their news coverage from 2001 through the present. And then, even after the Excelsior Mesaba project encountered blow after crushing blow from the realities of the economy, the power industry and energy experts, the MDN is using this waste of $9.5 million of Iron Range money and millions more from the state and federal government as justification for re-electing Sen. Coleman.
Hey, if you like Coleman, great. But this is a joke.
But we find Franken to be sadly out of step on issues that play such a crucial role in the future of Northeastern Minnesota.First of all, if Bill used Google or read Newsweek, he'd know that the CEO of Duke Energy, the largest coal company in the country, also believes this so-called "clean coal" technology is only viable at the mouth of a coal mine where the carbon can be buried (it can't here) and the costs of transporting coal and carbon slurry is as low as possible (it would cost billions to do it here). Indeed, the Mesaba Energy Project doesn't have a customer, permits or a viable business plan short of near-total government financing. Recently, the fact that Excelsior used state funds to lobby for state favors and federal money -- which is deeply unethical -- went largely unnoticed and was not mentioned in the Mesabi Daily News. Nor was it mentioned that former DFL State Sen. Doug Johnson, who endorsed Coleman in a Sunday front page splash, is a lobbyist for Excelsior Energy.
We are especially concerned with Franken on economic development issues.
On Excelsior Energy, Franken is opposed to the project. He has flat out said it should be built elsewhere -- "in coal country" -- with the jobs it would create benefiting another state. So much for looking at an innovative way for economic development in Minnesota and on the Iron Range. Coleman and most DFL legislators have worked hard to move along this energy project.
If there's one thing I always hated as an Iron Range reporter and editor it was crackpots who wouldn't give it up on certain issues. I am trying really, really hard not to be a crackpot here. I would support a power plant if I felt it was needed or wise. This is neither. And neither is re-electing Coleman on these grounds.
Al Franken is not a perfect candidate. The first to admit that would probably be Al Franken. He's written a few nasty jokes along with other very good ones and has a history of getting mad when he sees injustice in the world. But he cares deeply about the people on the Iron Range, about real jobs for the Iron Range and he's not about to be pushed around by developers and big shots when it comes to what's in the people's best interest. Al doesn't need the MDN endorsement to do well here. He does need it to be pointed out that the Mesabi Daily News isn't just an apologist for Norm Coleman's lukewarm term in the Senate, it is in dereliction of its duty as a newspaper on the matter of Excelsior Energy and the role of developers and lobbyists in shaping the agenda of the Iron Range political world. This goes beyond party politics to a core problem; if smooth-talking promise-makers can push around our local leaders and prop up federal chameleons like Norm Coleman, there is no future here.
That will not stand. Not with me.
I'm voting for Franken, if anyone cares.