Thursday, June 30, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Thursday, June 30, 2011 By Aaron Brown
On the Iron Range of northern Minnesota the traditions of Independence Day parades, street dances and fireworks displays continue to unite people who increasingly don't know what to say to each other. The fact that all of these things are loud helps. Indeed, the loudness is the point.
You may say, "I am not from the Range. My town has fireworks, a parade and other celebratory events!" That may be true. I would posit that the Range Fourth is a little different. It's like Mardi Gras, only less exotic, less expensive, alternately hilarious, frightening and endearing. It's a bit for the booze, but that's not the only appeal.
Below is a schedule of the Iron Range parades, fireworks and street dances that I could find. Generally these parades line up about an hour before the start time. No Range town is particularly huge, so just go to the town and find the crowd. Feel free to make additions or corrections in the comments.
Saturday, July 2
8 p.m.-midnight -- Gilbert Street Dance
Evening - Keewatin Street Dance (fireworks at dusk)
Sunday, July 3
6 p.m. -- Aurora Parade (followed by street dance and 10 p.m. fireworks)
7:30 p.m. -- Gilbert Parade
8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. -- Eveleth Street Dance (fireworks at 10:15)
Evening -- Nashwauk Street Dance (fireworks at dusk)
Monday, July 4
9 a.m. -- Virginia "Calithumpian" Parade
9:30 a.m. -- Eveleth Parade
9:30 a.m. -- Mt. Iron Parade
11 a.m. -- Tower Parade
11 a.m. -- Crosby-Ironton Parade (lines up in Ironton)
Noon -- Aurora Children's Parade (includes flyover by 148th Fighter Wing)
Noon -- Nashwauk Parade
Noon -- Side Lake Parade
1 p.m. -- Biwabik "Patriotic" Parade
1 p.m. -- Ely Parade
2:30 -- Keewatin Parade
7 p.m. -- Biwabik "Calithumpian" Parade
Dusk -- Virginia Fireworks
Dusk -- Crosby Fireworks
10 p.m. -- Ely fireworks
Dusk -- Grand Rapids fireworks (over Lake Pokegama)
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 By Aaron Brown
If you missed the beginning, here are the posts in the order they ran.
Covering a key northern toss-up
A new district in more ways than one (redistricting scenarios)
Chip Cravaack readies defense against DFL challengers
The campaigns that never were
Jeff Anderson runs with Range roots, Duluth experience
Tarryl Clark moves north for run at Cravaack
Rick Nolan comeback bid shakes up race
Other DFL contenders may break out of pack
If I missed a potential candidate or got something wrong, let me know. It's my goal to provide information and perspective on the race and its meaning. I have my biases, but I'm also trying to be fair. If you're wondering why I didn't go into policy position differences it's because I plan to do a recorded interview with all the announced candidates before next winter's precinct caucuses. In those interviews I'll ask policy questions.
People say that politics is getting ugly these days. And I suppose it is, but no one's been clubbed nearly to death on the floors of Congress with a walking stick. No one has raised a posse to capture Mexico with designs to return and overthrow Washington. These things actually happened about 200 years ago, which is three elderly people ago.
Northern Minnesota politics has a reputation of being rough-and-tumble on account of the labor history of the region. In truth, it's been pretty sleepy and stagnant for 30 years. The change represented by Cravaack's 2010 win will come into clearer focus with this 2012 campaign. There's an old Chinese proverb which may or may not be real, and may or may not be a curse, that says "May you live in interesting times." What is known is that emotions are running hotter because we are beginning to enter interesting times.
The MN-8 race could go either way. Medicare privatization in particular is an issue that, because of the district’s aging demographics, will favor the Democrats. National trends, particularly the economy, will have a major influence.
If the DFL were unified around a baggage-free candidate at this point I’d argue that the race would lean Democratic. However, the DFL is likely to go through a long process to name a candidate, probably involving a primary. Festering generational conflict within the party will spill out in some spectacular, yet-to-be-determined way. Republicans will be united and highly motivated to strengthen their position in this Great Lakes Midwestern district, though it's easy to see them overreaching and alienating moderates. As a result, the only proper classification now is TOSS-UP. It really could break either way, though more likely to break DFL in a high turnout scenario or an Obama win in Minnesota.
Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range."
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The MN-8 race at this stage could probably best be described this way: the DFL is still reeling after Jim Oberstar's stunning defeat and the GOP is still reeling after Chip Cravaack's surprise win. Both claim confidence and competence in the upcoming 2012 contest. I contend that we are all headed to Crazytown and the result is anything but certain.
We can now identify three "front runners" for the DFL nomination, a title they earn mostly by default as the three most active, plausible candidates: Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark and Rick Nolan. I don't think anyone expected these to be the candidates after last November's Cravaack win, but they are. Because many of the most obvious northern Minnesota DFLers took their names out of consideration (and in this list I neglected to add State Sen. Roger Reinert, also not running for Congress) we are left with an even more curious lot of dark horse candidates in the wings.
Let's run through some of the more prominent potential candidates:
I considered giving Fanning his own post but he ended up here. For one, this former community organizer and Iraq War vet never announced his candidacy. After several months touring the 8th in the shadow campaign with Anderson, Nolan and Clark, and going so far as to call his campaign likely, he abrubtly pulled back his public schedule, mostly for professional reasons to retain his job as Sen. Al Franken's 8th CD coordinator. However he has not rendered his final decision about whether to run or not and, until his campaign pause, appeared to be gearing up for an outsider campaign.
I had a nice meeting with Fanning back in April. I'd come to know him through his casework helping the steelworker retirees jilted of their pensions from the former National Steel mine in Keewatin (now U.S. Steel's KeeTac) on the Iron Range. He's great one-on-one, seems smart and informed on local issues. His apparent barriers are that he's not well known outside the "new media" landscape of political blogs. He's still finding legs as speaker and is not a native of the district. Though he has lived in Duluth for about a decade, he's spent a lot of time in Twin Cities on political causes. Thus, to win he must build a coalition not likely to include old guard 8th CD DFLers.
If Fanning runs, he'll have the potential to join the others in the front pack, but only if he can craft a compelling narrative and raise a noticeable amount of money in a short time. Unlikely, though possible. He's a dark horse, one to watch.
Yvonne Prettner Solon
Janezich, the "Jerry" of "Tom and Jerry's Bar" in Chisholm, is a former Iron Range State Senator and 2000 endorsed DFL candidate for U.S. Senate. Current Gov. Mark Dayton outgunned Janezich in the DFL primary, on his way to winning the Senate seat that year. Janezich has spent his time since as the lead legislative director (lobbyist) for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
Janezich has long held ambition for higher office. One local legend describes him declaring a future candidacy for Congress right in front of former Rep. Jim Oberstar after winning his State House seat in the early '90s. That ambition may have mellowed a bit since the 2000 campaign, but his name has popped up again in the context of this MN-8 race.
One thing to consider about Janezich, the Iron Range DFL organization is looking hard for a labor candidate and has not yet centered on one of the front runners. A labor Democrat from the Iron Range would quickly gain both delegate support for the endorsement and boots on the ground for a primary campaign. With labor scions Tom Bakk and my friend western Range Rep. Tom Anzelc declining to run there is an avenue open for someone like Janezich, or...
The first time I saw Melin campaigning in a room full of people, my thought was, "This looks like someone running for Congress." At some point I'm almost certain that will come true, though probably not in 2012.
Who else is on the list?
Brainerd Rep. John Ward is considering a run. I don't know as much about him, other than he represents Brainerd and was once mayor of Proctor, a nice cross-regional blend. He's been at a few events and has given fiery speeches. He'll have to figure out a way to outpace Nolan as the Cuyuna Range contender in this race. I doubt he'll run if Nolan announces.
At one point former Mora Rep. Tim Faust was rumored. He's endorsed Nolan. Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley was considering a move back to his hometown of Bemidji for a run, but he's abandoned that plan and has also endorsed Nolan. Rep. John Persell of the Bemidji area is considering a run, though it's not clear that Bemidji will be in MN-8, nor can he afford to wait until the lines are drawn. He's likely to stay put.
With all this speculation, I have to add a couple more items: The dream candidate. This is someone not running, not rumored to run, but that I am suggesting for my own nefarious reasons, mostly entertainment.
But I can picture the debate. Dennis Anderson at his podium looks to Cravaack. "Chip, what have you been doing?" And Cravaack, in shame, would walk off stage and resign. The crowd would not cheer. They would sigh. The remainder of the debate would be spent with Denny telling stories. This dream makes me very happy. It is far more favorable than the reality of this race, which I will summarize in the conclusion to this series tomorrow morning.
Cleanse yourself of dirty politics with this video of Anderson's final sign-off from WDIO!
Read Part 1: Redistricting Scenarios; Part 2: Chip Cravaack; Part 3: The non-candidates, Part 4: Jeff Anderson; Part 5: Tarryl Clark or Part 6: Rick Nolan. Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range."
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 By Aaron Brown
In three terms, from 1974-1980, Nolan made waves as a brash young liberal from a rural Sixth District that then included his home on the Cuyuna Range, since redrawn into the Eighth. He was among the very first to vote to withdraw U.S. forces from Vietnam and was a key early opponent of the renomination of President Jimmy Carter in 1980, supporting Sen. Ted Kennedy instead. (I learned most of this from a fine Nolan profile piece by Stu Rothenberg in Roll Call, very much required reading for those interested in this topic).
So Nolan was bucking conventional political wisdom, winning competitive elections an increasingly conservative region, and then in 1980 he opted not to seek re-election. Worn out from partisan Washington, a lack of progress and the toll politics took on his personal life, Nolan walked away. He returned home to north central Minnesota, became a successful entrepreneur and international business leader. He remained active in regional DFL politics, but never again ran for office.
Nolan has not yet announced his candidacy for the MN-8 DFL nomination, but he, Jeff Anderson and Tarryl Clark seem to be at all the same social occasions. He told the Brainerd Dispatch he is 99 percent certain to run and plans an announcement of his intentions in July. Though I have not yet met Nolan, people I know have seen him speak and talked with him. His message is simple. He's been to the puppet show. He knows how it works and won't get caught in the gamesmanship. He believes now is a time for specific actions to save a sinking republic, largely through a left-center interpretation of fiscal reform. Implicit in all of this is the hypothesis that he is in a unique position to run, win, and serve effectively right away.
Nolan's biggest roadblock is something he can't control, voters' perceptions of his age. Sixty-eight, his earthly years if elected, is on the high end for a new Member of Congress, even above average for the body as a whole. The 8th district is marked by its own demographic aging, so there is some wiggle room here. Further, this election will be heavily influenced by the issue of Medicare and Social Security. Older voters will be very motivated and, at least in that case, Nolan's age is not a disadvantage. Young parents and middle aged professionals might have a different view.
Secondly, Nolan has yet to announce and hasn't made a major push to raise money yet. It would be logical that a guy like Nolan would have access to some kind of fundraising network, but that's not clear at this time. He was known as an impressive fundraiser when he was in Congress, but that was before the internet, cell phones, fax machines and, well, I'll stop there.
One interesting fact: Nolan is the only DFL candidate so far who's won the endorsement of other rumored candidates. A few weeks ago State Rep. Ryan Winkler, who had been mulling the Tarryl Clark-like move to the district from elsewhere, offering his endorsement of Nolan. Then today former State Rep. Tim Faust, a minister from the Mora area in the southern 8th, also endorsed Nolan. If Nolan were to start securing labor backing or notable supporters in Duluth or on the Range he'd be formidable.
Can Nolan start up a Lazarus campaign after all these years? Can he pitch himself to a younger crowd of DFL activists hungry for a win? Can someone who walked away in frustration with the system go on to change it after 30 years of life experience? These are compelling questions suitable for a political drama, but more than that they are central to Nolan's candidacy in MN-8.
Read Part 1: Redistricting Scenarios; Part 2: Chip Cravaack; Part 3: The non-candidates, Part 4: Jeff Anderson or Part 5: Tarryl Clark. Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range."
Monday, June 27, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Tarryl Clark is a fascinating figure in the unfolding drama of the newly-competitive MN-8.
On one hand she's a former state senator who won a competitive election. She has a wide political and fundraising network and is considered a competent speaker and campaigner. She's been cultivating a coalition of labor and progressive groups for the elusive "blue green" combination key to winning elections in this region.
On the other, she is from St. Cloud in MN-6 where she ran for Congress just last year. She and her husband very recently moved to Duluth for the purpose of running for this seat. Clark raised a handsome sum of campaign cash in her 2010 run against Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN6), but much of that can be attributed to the particularly controversial nature of her opponent. Bachmann raises vast amounts of money for herself and her opponents almost every time she speaks. And, of course, Clark lost by a 52-39 margin.
After what appeared to be a rather polished campaign roll-out, Clark was lambasted in the top Duluth and Iron Range newspapers as a "carpetbagger." Her efforts since that time have been enthusiastic and campaign smooth, but more resemble the sort of generic machinations seen in a late stage Senate campaign in a much larger state, not an early local plea for down home support. Her website is a list of well-meaning but unsurprising Democratic policy positions and a fundraising pitch. Her connection to the district is not apparent and she's obviously made a strategic decision to pretend otherwise and hope no one notices.
And there you go. Clark's problem isn't name recognition among 8th CD Democrats. Most of them know her. They really wanted her to beat Bachmann last time. But there is serious grumbling about the way Clark played the geographic game here. She has very little personal connection to the district, other than St. Cloud's location somewhat near the longstanding border between MN-6 and MN-8. Northern Minnesota politics is heavily influenced by Duluth and the Iron Range. Before Cravaack, this particular seat was held for more than 60 years by two political legends, Jim Oberstar and John Blatnik, both from the Iron Range city of Chisholm.
The prospect of a dynamic progressive woman representing the 8th would be exciting for many DFLers. The prospect of that woman being from outside the region wouldn't. This is Clark's central problem and she hasn't properly responded to this yet.
Nevertheless, Clark could be a strong contender for the DFL nomination in a primary, especially if the field is split. She can raise money and is, to her credit and detriment, a methodical, steadfast, focused campaigner. Her success will depend on how well she convinces northern Minnesotans that she understands the region.
Tomorrow we meet some of the potential DFL candidates for the MN-8 seat, the most notable at this date being former Rep. Rick Nolan from the Crosby-Ironton area.
Read Part 1: Redistricting Scenarios; Part 2: Chip Cravaack; Part 3: The non-candidates or Part 4: Jeff Anderson. Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range."
Monday, June 27, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Cravaack's first Range town hall was in Mt. Iron last month, where a few sparks flew. This one might be a little friendlier, being off the Mesabi, but then again the controversial nature of nonferrous mining may end up being a bigger deal. Ely is home to some of the strongest support and opposition to the proposed mining projects. Cravaack's top Range issue has been speeding permitting for the projects at the federal level.
Monday, June 27, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Jeff Anderson boasts a strong resume for the run. He's announced. He's raising money. He's been active on the trail. Anderson's Iron Range roots and Duluth address tie him to two of the district’s most important and historically significant regions, both of which supply most of the DFL votes in MN-8.
Friendly, smart, an experienced speaker, Anderson would adapt well to the role of a congressional candidate. An Army National Guard veteran who's well-connected to the Duluth business community, he can interact comfortably across a wide spectrum of the electorate.
He faces some challenges. He's not as well known outside Duluth and Ely. His historic role as Duluth’s first openly gay city councilor is an admirable badge of courage in this traditional district. Nevertheless, in a year that will see a divisive anti-equality constitutional amendment on the ballot, he’ll be forced to talk about his personal life in ways others wouldn’t. That’s not right, but it’s a thing. To his credit, Anderson is acutely aware of the challenge and speaks about it openly in his meetings with DFLers. It's possible that voters won't be as concerned with the issue as some believe.
Many know Anderson from his work in Duluth media, though a city councilor always faces an uphill climb for name recognition when running for Congress. Anderson joins Clark as being the only candidates currently raising money at this stage, and among only three or four rumored candidates who are likely to be able to raise the necessary funds.
Anderson's big advantage is that he's the only candidate in the mix right now who doesn't have a complicated story to explain where he's from and what he's been doing for a living. In my personal experience, those are the two most important pieces of biographical information to the people of northern Minnesota.
Tony Sterle at A Little Bit of Liberal did an interview with Anderson recently. I've talked to Anderson and will be doing a series of formal interviews with all the candidates before the precinct caucuses. I'll have a post about Tarryl Clark up at noon and a look at other potential DFL candidates Tuesday.
Read Part 1: Redistricting Scenarios; Part 2: Chip Cravaack. or Part 3: The non-candidates. Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range."
Sunday, June 26, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Range towns should look inward for future possibilities
By Aaron J. Brown
I've learned that a sound, compact wooden railroad design will yield many fun adventures for my boys. A poor design will collapse easily, requiring numerous repairs and producing grumpy children. One quick fix to a bad situation is to keep building a line off to the side, restarting a fresh railway connected to the hellscape you’ve left behind. Invariably, however, available track runs out. Resources expire and you are left no choice but to tear down the whole works.
Abandoning a bad plan for outward expansion is OK when you're dealing with toys in a playroom. This is simply not an option when you're planning the future of Iron Range communities like ours.
Here in Hibbing the last decade has produced growth around the edge of town, most notably the commercial area surrounding Wal-Mart. Some real estate ads in this paper now tout proximity to Wal-Mart instead of the actual city of Hibbing. The city has run power and sewer infrastructure out toward the airport, where a giant spec building stands as a hulking reminder of human error.
Meantime most empty buildings in Hibbing have remained empty, or became empty again after brief revivals. The downtown, beautified by flowers, is no stronger now than 10 years ago. Housing stock is older, less valuable at the top end and less affordable at the bottom. This is not unusual. Towns like ours are experiencing these same problems all over the country.
Over in Nashwauk the city just spent a quarter million dollars on acreage at the edge of town. The logic is that the area was the only place the city could expand now that it's penned in by mining land. At the same time much of downtown Nashwauk's business sector is for sale. The city has its entire economic development plan wrapped up in Essar's proposed project, which is materializing slowly and could take a decade or more to recapture public investment under even an optimistic projection. The Nashwauk-Keewatin School district will face a fiscal and facilities crisis in the coming year, with no monetary help on the horizon.
Again, one can understand the temptation to chase expansion when so little seems to be going well. All the towns are doing it, you know. Why not ours? The cold reality is that local governments will bear the first, greatest brunt of the coming public funding crisis. Only those places with strong plans will survive, at least in any meaningful way.
A Brainerd-based organization called "Strong Towns" specializes in this idea, providing advice and research to communities that seek to endure these hard times. A June 14 Strong Towns blog post by Charles Marohn, "The Growth Ponzi Scheme" challenges conventional ideas about city expansion.
For instance, Marohn shares examples of city investment in street expansions and industrial park development in towns not unlike those here on the Range. What seems like a short term gain in development and property tax revenue can often mask a long term financial commitment to infrastructure maintenance that simply won't add up in the long run. Even if new development takes hold the city will be playing to break even at best. Many industrial park developments simply never make the money back.
I'd add that the kinds of modern "just outside town" development we've seen provides no honor to our people. What are these big pole buildings with nondescript names in which people do nondescript things? Strip malls that can be interchanged with those in another town imply that our people are also interchangeable. Cities with meaning inspire people to come and stay, build and grow. In a region like the Iron Range, where history, culture and geography make us so unique, any attempt to copy the suburbs is not only foolish, but wrong.
Demographic evidence shows that most of the growth in northern Minnesota is in the rural areas on lakes and outside towns. Most of the growth in towns is, as stated earlier, on the edges of towns. Ask yourself why people aren't living, starting businesses or spending as much time inside our towns as they once did? Your answer to the question probably represents a difficult challenge, one that will require as much mind power as it will money. This is where our efforts should be focused.
One thing seems certain; dumping money on the city limits won't get us any closer to a solution, and may sink us even deeper in the hole. The future, for better or worse, lies in the core of our communities and ourselves.
Aaron J. Brown is a writer and college instructor from the Iron Range. He is the author of the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and the book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”
Friday, June 24, 2011 By Aaron Brown
A review of the photos of performers indicates that the mix is four parts guitar band and one part accordion. That's a good blend.
Friday, June 24, 2011 By Aaron Brown
This post focuses, surprisingly, on all the top tier DFLers who opted not to run. Normally you'd just ignore these people. Most people don't run for Congress. This is actually the normal thing to do. Nevertheless, we can learn important lessons about the state of this district (and politics generally) from these individuals' decision to stay out of the race.
Back when former Rep. Jim Oberstar (DFL-MN8) was invincible I joined many in speculating about the future of the district after his theoretical retirement. The names I mentioned would seem familiar to Minnesota politicos. Among the DFLers were House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, Duluth Mayor Don Ness, Iron Range firebrand State Rep. Tom Rukavina and labor favorite State Sen. Tom Bakk. Privately, I was certain that the next DFL candidate would be one of these guys.
How many do you think are running in 2012? None. Zip. They all took a pass. Sertich lost his shot at Speaker in the 2010 election and became Gov. Dayton's IRRRB commissioner. Ness remains the popular mayor of Duluth, opting to focus on running for re-election and raising a growing young family in his hometown. Rukavina chose to stay in the legislature. Bakk became Senate Minority Leader and is taking the better odds that he has a chance at Majority Leader.
I can't stress enough how Range and Duluth DFLers had their hopes pinned on this group. Other parts of the 8th were hoping to run their own people, perhaps State Sen. Tony Lourey, who also isn't running, or former State Rep. Tim Faust or Rep. John Ward, still rumored. But these were always the outside candidates. Sertich, Ness, Rukavina and Bakk were the front pack.
Now, these people all have their own reasons for not running, which I leave to them to explain, but these are the factors that united to push all of them out of the running:
- Running for Congress in 2012 means raising at least a couple million dollars, a staggering figure for candidates used to running campaigns for the cost of nice boat.
- Running for Congress in 2012 means joining a political culture that punishes you for mixing too much with decision makers in D.C., while forcing you to spend most of your time in a car, plane or rented hall with people who already support you.
- Running for Congress in 2012 means placing great strain on your family. It's actually so pronounced that the only people who seem to be able to do it are those who are single, who have older children, or those whose whole family campaigns together like the von Trapp family.
Sertich and Ness, in their 30s, want to focus on family. We may hear from them in the context of higher office in the future, but not now. Rukavina and Bakk know too well that a run for Congress is daunting and might not be the best thing for two guys just coming off unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns. Their legacy will be attached to the Iron Range legislative record of the post-Perpich era; Rukavina in one corner, Bakk the other.
Instead, we have two announced MN-8 DFL candidates, Tarryl Clark and Jeff Anderson, who no one expected to be frontrunners but are by default. We have Rick Nolan and others considering a run, all of whom most people haven't heard of. All to run against Cravaack, a Republican incumbent no one expected to win, a guy voters are still just getting to know.
Join me Monday for a review of the Democrats seeking to unseat Cravaack. Read Part 1: Redistricting Scenarios. Part 2: Chip Cravaack. Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range."
Friday, June 24, 2011 By Aaron Brown
I recently suggested that northern Minnesota would be disproportionately affected by the shutdown. This is why we're dedicating the show on Saturday to the topic as people in the audience will on the front lines of the shutdown. My commentary might explain why I didn't get into the tit-for-tat budget politics of the session, even when egged on my comments here at the blog.
For one thing, I am a state worker and am nervous myself. Fortunately for my students and my family MNSCU was exempted from the shutdown. We'll be allowed to finish our summer session and start the fall semester on time regardless of the negotiations. But we still don't have a budget and all of this still leaves many important state functions and workers on the furlough list. People are going to notice very soon that the issue is big and won't go away without great political effort.
The other reason I laid off the arguments during the session is the futility of debate when there is no give and take. Busy people don't have time to try to talk people out of a political position held in the same part of the brain as religion. This is true of liberals, but especially true of the newest incarnation of the conservative movement -- which combines the cocksure theories of libertarianism with the inflexibility of fundamentalism. This movement holds particular sway over the GOP held House and Senate.
Gov. Dayton, while assuredly a liberal, isn't particularly dogmatic. He'd trade on any number of issues to get a deal. But lacking a the convenient "no new taxes"-like line the Republicans have he's selected taxing the wealthy as his sticking point. He wants the Republicans to move just a little on revenue so he can call it break even. But they haven't. And one is left asking why, short of carnage in the streets, would they start now? They must be offered something they want.
So we head for a shutdown. Personally, I am a friend and informal advisor of Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam). I am proud that he announced he wouldn't take a salary during any potential shutdown. This is a political problem. The politicians need to be made uncomfortable for any progress to happen. Not just some of them, but all.
The Saturday morning conversation on "Between You and Me" aims to be respectful and wide-ranging and will run from 10 a.m. to noon on 91.7 FM in northern Minnesota and streaming live all over the world at www.kaxe.org.
I am curious what music producer/host Heidi Holtan will bring to the table to exemplify the theme this week? Might I suggest "Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones?
Friday, June 24, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Read and recommend the essay over at MPR. It helps!
Friday, June 24, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Chip Cravaack. This freshman member of Congress, the first Republican elected here since 1944, still fosters an air of excitement after his shock upset of Jim Oberstar in 2010. Residing in Lindstrom in the Eighth District's far southern environs, Cravaack ran up huge numbers in the district's lower half while softening Oberstar's support up north. Cravaack, like Oberstar, landed on the transportation committee where he's specialized in aviation.
Cravaack has broken with party occasionally on labor issues, but mostly has joined with the agenda of the GOP majority including repeal of President Obama’s health care reform, spending cuts and reforms of Medicare including privatization. Largely, he's stuck to campaign promises. After an initial delay, he opened a district office in Duluth and did more outreach into the northern part of the district. He held a town hall on the Range, which didn’t go particularly well but won him political points for trying.
That said, Cravaack so far has posted relatively weak fundraising numbers (though outside groups appear poised to make up the difference) and a more rigidly conservative voting record than some swing voters expected. This begs the question, did people elect Cravaack in 2010 or simply "unelect" Oberstar when an attractive, unknown alternative appeared?
Many of my DFL friends in the district have a contemptuous view of Cravaack’s election that will do no good in the campaign. Fact is, while many were simply tired of Oberstar and voted for an alternative, Cravaack is the kind of politician who can look people straight in the eye. You can disagree with him, argue against his ideology and motivations if you like. But he’s got skills and his campaign scheduler
Minnesota’s 8th District is more conservative than it used to be, mostly because its geographic growth has absorbed more conservative areas around its borders. It is also older and more reflexively cautions about progressive issues once championed here. It will probably become a shade more conservative as its demographic patterns settle in. But at its core the district retains a very large DFL bastion in Duluth and a graying, socially conservative, but still Democratic Iron Range region. Any scenario that has Cravaack winning in a higher-turnout presidential year, particularly in a year involving a debate on Medicare funding, has him making some impressive inroads on the Iron Range or in Duluth. I’m not seeing this on the ground yet.
Redistricting plays a big part in this analysis. If Cravaack is drawn into a safer Republican district he’s almost certainly heading back to Congress. I still argue he gets a district similar to his current one and a very competitive race. Make no mistake, however. Democrats shouldn’t discount Cravaack’s chances. He’s got the championship belt and he and the GOP won’t give it up freely. His vulnerabilities are notable, but so are his political skills and the motivation of a Republican party trying to keep its 2010 gains.
Join me later today for a look at the revealing list of candidates not running for MN-8. Read Part 1: Redistricting Scenarios. Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range."
UPDATE: Corrected to show that Cravaack's campaign
Thursday, June 23, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Remember the basic composition of the 8th is in three parts: the Republican south (where Cravaack lives) between the Twin Cities and Duluth; the DFL Duluth metro; and the DFL-leaning north, including but not limited to the Iron Range.
Scenario 1: Incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) will remain in a district relatively similar to the one he has now. I still think that is the most likely outcome. With a relatively sane, bipartisan group of judges assigned to the redistricting task, I see them following the same logic employed by the judicial panel in the 2002 redistricting case. The Red River Valley and the Iron Range/Duluth corridor have vastly different economies and would be better served with separate representation.
This is supported by the fact that the district's population didn't change much after the 2010 census. A few small precincts from MN-6, which needs to shed precincts, would easily satisfy the small loss in MN-8.
That said, Republicans have long hoped for a northern Minnesota district above an east-west line. With longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar out of the picture, and Rep. Collin Peterson closer to retirement and out of the majority, there are many forces – mostly, though not entirely Republican – emboldened to push the Great Northern Solution. This would bring us to …
Scenario 2: Something similar to the Republican redistricting plan is enacted, placing Cravaack as the incumbent in a new solidly Republican MN-7 which includes his home in the metro exurbs, St. Cloud and a wide swath of western Minnesota. This would push Rep. Collin Peterson in MN-7 over to the Range and Duluth, areas he’s never represented and a prospect he’s publically rejected.
It’s been reported that this is the scenario that Cravaack might prefer. As redistricting enters its judicial phase, this could be a dangerous wish for Cravaack because …
Scenario 3: In an objective, nonpartisan process Cravaack as likely to be drawn in with nearby Rep. Michelle Bachmann in the 6th as he is to receive a fresh, Republican-leaning 7th district. This is now a somewhat more legitimate possibility with Bachmann running for president. The sixth is a district that Cravaack could win easily, but it could put him in awkward situation if the Bachmann presidential campaign fizzles and she decides to run for Congress again.
DFLers would love this scenario because it’d leave Peterson in MN-7, a district that only he could keep blue, and an open seat in a DFL-leaning MN-8.
For the reason that Republicans would love Scenario 2 and DFLers would love Scenario 3, I conclude that Scenario 1 is most likely to be favored by the judicial panel. If so, MN-8 will be competitive and lively, a strong pickup opportunity for the Democrats but winnable for Cravaack.
Join me tomorrow for two posts about the candidates in the race, including Rep. Cravaack and his announced DFL opponents.
Thursday, June 23, 2011 By Aaron Brown
I've held off on this because lately thinking about politics has made me hate myself. I am going to be the Spock that goes into the radiation chamber for you, Minnesota!
Over the next few days I’ll talk about the district, how redistricting will change it and summarize what we learned from 2010. Along the way I’ll rattle off short posts about incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack and his potential DFL challengers, non-challengers and stalking horses. I’ll conclude with a post about the campaign and what voters (especially voters with television sets) can expect in 2012.
One note regarding campaign coverage: I will post news analysis here at the blog but will share smaller items such as individual endorsements, campaign tidbits and other statements in the MinnesotaBrown Facebook and Twitter feeds. Like and follow those feeds for the full experience.
Join me at noon today for the first post in my series.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Strategy 1: Create a Civic Information Corps using the nation’s “service”
infrastructure to generate knowledge. Take advantage of the large and growing
infrastructure of national and community service programs by requiring all service
participants to learn civic communications skills and by creating a new Civic
Information Corps—mainly young people who will use digital media to create
and disseminate knowledge and information and connect people and associations.
Strategy 2: Engage universities as community information hubs. Take advantage
of the nation’s vast higher education sector by changing policies and incentives
so that colleges and universities create forums for public deliberation and
produce information that is relevant, coherent, and accessible to their local communities.
Strategy 3: Invest in face-to-face public deliberation. Take advantage of the
growing practice of community-wide deliberative summits to strengthen democracy
at the municipal level by offering training, physical spaces, and neutral conveners
and by passing local laws that require public officials to pay attention to the
results of these summits.
Strategy 4: Generate public “relational” knowledge. Take advantage of new
tools for mapping networks and relationships to make transparent the structures
of our communities and to allow everyone to have the kind of relational knowledge
traditionally monopolized by professional organizers.
Strategy 5: Civic engagement for public information and knowledge. Take
advantage of the diverse organizations concerned with civic communications
to build an advocacy network that debates and defends public information and
The paper goes into more detail. You might be able to detect some political barriers to universal acceptance of these strategies. For instance, just who would be in charge of the "Civic Information Corps?" Yikes. But on a organizational basis the ideas make some sense. At the community college where I work we've employed civic responsibility into groups like student senate and some specific courses, following at least a couple of the strategies in Levine's paper.
Fundamentally, many of our nation's problems can be traced to a disengaged population, or a population that's engaged with trivial or sensational matters divorced from the function of government or the nation's true health. We've got a long way to go to change this.
(h/t Jennifer Armstrong)
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Just a shade earlier in the day, the MDC will be offering this:
Learn how to turn rusty watering cans, buckets, window frames, doors and other “junky” items into something fun, useful and decorative at the Funky Junk Workshop June 23 and . Bring ideas, items, questions and creativity; MDC staff will help you find out what your junk can become and help you transform it! This workshop is free to MDC members; non-members may purchase a membership ($10 individual) to participate. Workshop is h days. Call , for details.Also Thursday night the Lyric Center for the Arts at 514 Chestnut Street in Virginia will be offering a workshop on social media for independent artists. The cost is $15 and you can find out more here.
Monday, June 20, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) visited Chisholm Friday for an event with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The two discussed their Range roots in this interesting Duluth News Tribune story.
A contestant on "The Price is Right" last week lost with a bad guess on a prize package that included a stay at an Iron Range resort on Lake Vermilion. This is one of those "news here, not news elsewhere" stories that makes life on the Range adorable. Excuse me, adorableish.
Monday, June 20, 2011 By Aaron Brown
In this case, these worlds collide.
Iron Range sculptor Dave Aho has purchased the Mitchell Yards outside Hibbing, once the rail epicenter of the mining capital of the Iron Range. The ore that fed the blast furnaces that produced the steel that won World War II and built modern America was carried by the trains of these yards.
Aho has plans to restore the old engine house into an arts and culture center. His plan sounds difficult, but if successful it would be truly remarkable.
Sunday, June 19, 2011 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
If you haven’t seen yet there is a new book out called “Minnesota Lunch: From Pasties to Bahn Mi,” edited by James Norton from the Minnesota Historical Society Press. This book explores the lunches of the many different peoples who have populated Minnesota over the years. Two prominent Iron Range sandwiches play an important role in the book, the pasty and porketta. I visited with Norton and his wife when they were here in Hibbing to explore the roots of these meaty staples of Range food fare.
There’s a reason that the Range made this book twice. When you get down to it lunch is a big deal around here, in a state where lunch is already pretty important.
I remember reading about an early European missionary working among a Native American tribe in the Northeast. This would have been in the 17th century sometime. In a letter he advised a colleague that life with the Indians was difficult. This was mostly because after a big breakfast no one ate until sundown. There was simply no lunch to be had, barely a pause from the day’s activities. “Eat big at dawn,” he counseled, albeit in more formal terms.
Those old Europeans loved their lunch, particularly the English – producers of the word luncheon. So when Minnesota was settled by successive waves of different immigrant groups, you better believe lunch was served. For centuries, lunch has been a mastication staple here on the continent. It’s a midday break, a social occasion and even an infusion of energy.
In parts of the world, and parts of the state, lunch is still dinner. We call supper dinner in our house; I’ve heard some people call lunch supper. People pretty much leave breakfast alone, except when its mated with lunch for brunch. It makes me want to eat one giant meal each day call Supinfest.
In modern times lunch is tricky business. For starters, lunch is the social arbiter of our entire socio-economic system beginning with kindergarten. Hot lunch or cold lunch. If cold, what’s in there? Is it a decent juice box or just a sandwich? Hot lunch? Free, reduced or do your parents live up there on the hill. Oh, brother. It’s all right there at the lunch table, even if it takes you a few years to figure it out.
Once you find your place in the lunch room they spit you out into the world to find your own lunch. And dagnabbit if a lot of tasty lunches don’t become available to you just as your metabolism shifts down into a towing gear.
Part of our problem is that the modern economy, especially here in America, calls on us to work harder burning fewer calories. We sit, type, perform repetitive tasks, swipe cards and brainstorm. One Whopper would keep us for a few days but that’s not how we do things.
For those of us who struggle to fit into the same pants all year round, lunch is a daily reckoning. What’s it going to be, Jumbo? One slice of cheese on that sammich, use the mustard instead of the butter. Count those pretzels. The serving size is on the bag. Right there. You know where it is. What, you want something hot? You want a hot, healthy lunch? They have cook books for that. Special ones.
These are modern problems. I hope you can rustle up something good for your Sunday lunch and/or dinner. I plan to.
Aaron J. Brown is a writer and community college instructor from the Iron Range. He is the author of the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and the book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”
Friday, June 17, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The meeting was called by Rep. Tom Anzelc, chair of the Iron Range legislative delegation, to quell recent fears that progress seemed slow. Speculation about Essar's expansion of steel operations at plants near Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan and Canada had many, including me, envisioning a taconite-only plant at Nashwauk. Essar reiterates that it will make steel on the Iron Range.
I enjoyed Rep. Carly Melin's characterization of the Essar site as having "Area 51" qualities. With road construction on 65 I have been driving past the site on Itasca Co. Highway 58 often and must say that activity there does seem to move at an odd pace.
It is my analysis that Essar will either become a major player in North American steel, or it will be known as the company that made too many promises. This Times of India news report details Essar's commitments to Sault Ste. Marie about port expansions near its Algoma facility. The company also has major initiatives in Africa and the Middle East.
Friday, June 17, 2011 By Aaron Brown
This week on the Saturday morning call-in and talk program "Between You and Me" my commentary will join the rotating show topic of "Crunch Time." It will be crunch time for the station as they bear down on their goal of raising the exact number of dollars needed to close out their fiscal year. For my part, I slipped a poop joke into my essay. So really this has something for everyone.
"Between You and Me" airs Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon on 91.7 FM in northern Minnesota or streaming live all over the world at www.kaxe.org. Please listen, and if you can at all spare a few bucks join KAXE today.
Thursday, June 16, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Essar owns the former Minnesota Steel project to build an integrated mining and steelmaking facility on the site of the old Butler Taconite plant on the western Mesabi Iron Range.
Recently Essar has announced plans to increase its production expectations from its Nashwauk mining proposal. While this is an encouraging sign of progress on the mine, it portends no speed on the steel mill. To many, this crucial step was the whole reason for the vast amount of public subsidy in the project.
Thursday, June 16, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Nick Begich was a rising Democratic Party star poised to win his second term against a relatively unknown Republican challenger in 1972 when his plane crashed with the sitting Speaker of the House Hale Boggs on board. The plane was never found, something that seems to happen often in the last pioneer state. Mark Begich's predecessor, the longtime Alaska Republican patriarch Sen. Ted Stevens, also died in a plane crash after losing to Begich.
UPDATE: Corrected to show Valentini's as the venue, not Tom and Jerry's.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The good news is that the government will fall long before these proposed restrictions take effect. So we've got that going for us. I highly doubt the warlords will enforce these rules. Long live Kronos!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 By Aaron Brown
I attended Cherry High School, graduating in 1998. Cherry is a township at the edge of Hibbing's rural eastern borders on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota.
On Tuesday the old part of the school, built in 1928, was torn down to make way for a major renovation. I've written more on the topic to appear in essay form somewhere later this week. Stay tuned. I also wrote an essay called "Cherry Reds" for my book "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range" which explores some of the history of this situation.
Meantime, for those of us who spent meaningful time in these old rooms, today is a day for reflection.
(Photograph by Kathy Bloomquist from Tuesday, June 14, 2011. Kathy was my 5th Grade advanced English teacher at Cherry, advanced classes being something we used to have. Several generations of the Kathy's Wiinanen family have lived in Cherry, the first having literally built the school that was torn down yesterday.)
UPDATE: Earlier in the day I had incorrectly identified the Bloomquists as the part of the family with original Cherry ties. Legendary Cherry journalist Lee Bloomquist, Kathy's husband, rightly corrected me. It was the Wiinanens, on Kathy's side, that go back to the beginning of Cherry, including the naming of the community for cherry growing that allegedly took place early in the township's founding.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The B'nai Abraham Museum and Cultural Center in Virginia stands a remnant of a once vibrant Jewish community on the Range. In recent years B'nai Abraham has ceased regular Sabbath services due to lack of people, but a dedicated group of volunteers and donors have kept the place alive as a cultural center.
Evingson, who grew up down the street from Bob Dylan's boyhood home, is a renowned national performer who has appeared often on public radio and in marquee jazz shows around the country.
The B'nai Abraham Museum and Cultural Center Presents:
Connie Evingson, Dave Karr, Sam Miltich and Matthew Miltich
Playing '40's JAZZ on Thursday, June 16, 2011, at 7 p.m.
Connie Evingson is a great nationally-known vocalist, who performs regularly in Minneapolis, and around the world. Dave Karr, from Mpls, plays sax, flute, clarinet and just about everything else. Matthew Miltich lives in Grand Rapids, and is a bassist. Sam Miltich plays the guitar, loves gypsy jazz, and lives in Northern Minnesota.
Tickets are $10 apiece, and can be bought at the door from 6:15 on, or from the Virginia Area Historical Society after June 1 - cash or checks only. The concert is being underwritten by an anonymous donor but DONATIONS TO THE FRIENDS OF B'NAI ABRAHAM are welcome.
The B'nai Abraham is located at the corner of 4th Ave. and 5th Street South. The Virginia Area Historical Society is located at 800 9th Avenue North - 218 741 1136
Here is a sample of Evingson's singing:
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Colburn's primary subject has been the people and places of the upper Midwest. He's spent some time on the Iron Range over several years and will be displaying his work at these exhibits.
Lyric Center for the Arts; Virginia, MinnesotaColburn writes:
June 17 – July 9, 2011
Minnesota Discovery Center; Chisholm, Minnesota
July 16 – Sept 17, 2011
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College; Virginia, Minnesota
Sept 21 – Oct 20, 2011
LIFE GOES ON: PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE IRON RANGE
The photographs in this exhibition were selected from work competed over a period of twenty-five years. I began photographing in the communities of the Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, and communities in the Mahoning River valley observing how they responded to the collapse of the American steel industry. When we moved to Iowa I realized that Minnesota’s Iron Range was part of that same story. The Range communities were a much more attractive place in which to photograph with their lower population density, fresh air and scenic views. Statistics describe the economic change that was taking place. in the 1980s. I had been photographing in the steel towns of In the late 1980s the number of jobs attributable to iron mining in Minnesota was 15,000, at present there are approximately 4,000.
I quickly realized that even in the face of serious economic change, life goes on. The communities of the Iron Range embrace their traditions and celebrate their history with events that are wonderfully photographable. Whether it is The Eveleth Clown Band playing their familiar songs coaxing parade goers to swing their hips and laugh, or an annual July Fourth gathering in a backyard, life goes on.
The persistence of tradition during economic and cultural change became a subject for my photographing throughout the rural upper Midwest. There are economic shifts in the traditional economies of the rural upper Midwest that parallel those in the Iron Range.
Life goes on.
Colburn has done a fine job capturing the little elements that make the Iron Range what it is. His work catches the ordinary and mundane, the picturesque but also what would seem ugly out of context.
1) Calathumpian Parade, July 4th, Biwabik, Minnesota 1985
2) Fall Meeting, Eveleth Clown Band, Hoagies Bar, Eveleth, Minnesota 2008
3) Kotzy’s Backyard and Garden, Eveleth, Minnesota 2003
4) Natatorium, V.C. Reishus School, Closed 2003, Biwabik, Minnesota 2003
Richard Colburn photos used by permission.
Monday, June 13, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Tony's point of view is that of a pragmatic liberal advancing reasoned, researched ideas about modern politics. While his Range roots and experience working Range campaigns inform his perspective, he is thus far writing (quite well) for a much larger audience. I used to be Tony's speech coach at Hibbing High School. Check it out for yourself. He's got some work to do to get the word out, but I think he's got potential to add a lot to the political discussion on the internet. And that's a good thing.
UPDATE: Oh, hell. I didn't know that Tony had named "10 under 35 -- DFL up-and-comers on the Iron Range" and listed me among them. Damn, the man is brilliant. I was unaware of his kind remarks at the time I wrote this. I promise.