The lobbying cycle that limits Iron Range progress

The Iron Man Statue outside Chisholm, Minnesota, represents early iron miners and their sacrifices for future generations. (PHOTO: Beverly S. via Trip Advisor)

The Iron Man Statue outside Chisholm, Minnesota, represents early Mesabi iron miners and the sacrifices they made for their families and future generations. (PHOTO: Beverly S. via Trip Advisor)

Last weekend, the Star Tribune continued its investigative reporting on Iron Range politics and economic development with a Jennifer Bjorhus story that focused on Iron Range lobbyist Gary Cerkvenik and one of his highest profile projects, Mt. Iron’s Silicon Energy. The story received almost no attention on the Iron Range, but I’d like to revisit it today:

Despite scoring millions of dollars from the public, the little solar panel maker on the Iron Range was fighting for its life.

So its lobbyist, Gary Cerkvenik, went to work.

Two months later, the state announced substantially higher rebates for anyone who buys Silicon Energy’s solar panels. The increase boosted the fortunes of the company and the city it calls home, Mountain Iron.

Both are represented by the same lobbyist: Cerkvenik.

Cerkvenik’s knack for finding public money to finance projects on the Range has made him a go-to guy in Minnesota’s laissez faire lobbying world. With a dozen clients, mostly local governments, he’s helped bring bike trails, a call center, business parks and a biomass burner to northern Minnesota.

Later on, some facts on the Silicon Energy project:

Despite more than $7 million in public support, Silicon Energy employs just 11 people, fewer than when it opened in 2011. It’s been slowed by production issues and lower cost products offered by its rivals.

Undaunted, Cerkvenik sees the company and the more than $10 million its California owner has put into it as a victory for the Iron Range, whose leaders want to wean it away from mining jobs.

“This is something we should be celebrating,” Cerkvenik said. “Someone who took their own money and invested in the end of the road, in an economically challenged area.”

By all means, take a moment to read the original story.

To recap, Mountain Iron is paying Cerkvenik to create jobs and tax revenue. Silicon is paying Cerkvenik to create favorable subsidies, the only reason the company exists in Mt. Iron. Eleven people have jobs at a solar plant, all while nearby Minntac has laid of several hundred through the fall.

What follows are my thoughts and, believe me, they are *not* based on this story alone. In fact, the story is just a trigger. Further, what follows is not based on some personal vendetta against Cerkvenik, the Range DFL or any particular person. In fact, there are a handful of other lobbyists like Cerkvenik not mentioned in the story. I view the whole cast of characters around here as products of a situation. And yes, I’ve worked with the Iron Range DFL in the past and one of my best friends is a state lawmaker from the Iron Range, so I’ve seen the checks whirl about and, earlier in my career, said nothing. But as I wrote during the conflict of interest controversy surrounding State Sen. David Tomassoni earlier this year, Cerkvenik is an example of what I’ve dubbed the “consultant class” on the Iron Range, something that’s limiting progress in the place I and so many others love. Maybe it’s like this other places, but it seems uniquely pronounced here on the Iron Range.

Today, I’m adding a new term: “The Lobbying Cycle.” This cycle has dominated the last 30 years of economic development on the Iron Range and I argue that it is inefficient, ineffective, and propagating a culture of mediocre leadership in our region.

The lobbyist-driven political system that now essentially runs Iron Range economic development is a closed loop. Local cities pay lobbyists to access the loop. Developers pay lobbyists to curry favor within the loop. A relatively small amount of the money goes to local elected officials in the form of legal campaign donations from the lobbyists and their friends. Candidates for state office are vetted by the lobbyists, who are the primary political fundraisers for serious candidates, and in most cases their favored candidate prevails in DFL primaries, the origin of all current elected officials on or near the Mesabi Range. A larger portion of the money goes to the lobbyists, who are the highest paid, arguably most powerful people in the region. These lobbyists are parked around the State Capitol offices of Range legislators like furniture and many important decisions are made with them in the room.

The thrusting majority of the money in the “lobbyist cycle,” however, is pumped into projects that would not happen without free money from investors who require no stakes. The public is “all in” on these projects, and happily wait for jobs to transpire. Whether the jobs come or not, whether those jobs stay or not, the public gets the risk while the developers, and their lobbyists, get the profits. In the end, the jobs are subsidized so deeply that it would have been just as good to give regular folks the money directly, or pump it all into major works throughout the region. To suggest this is heresy.

Sometimes this closed system generates a project that actually comes to fruition, hiring people and causing celebration. But these projects aren’t built on proven laws of supply and demand, nor are they owned by the people for the benefit of all. They are tiny fiefdoms of borrowed cash and political influence. When a project like Silicon Energy is launched, it requires more subsidy a short time later. It simply can’t stand on its own, so it drains money as long as people are willing to pretend that the assets are greater than the liabilities, when the reverse is actually true.

Sure, some people are working and that’s great. Renewable energy is important. Promotional photographs are taken. But it’s all veneer. We could have spent a fraction of the funds to have cities hire the same people to make our cities look better, renovate vacant buildings, and provide services and support to existing businesses and local entrepreneurs. We could have actually installed solar panels on the roofs of every public building on the Iron Range. Those outcomes would have better effect, for a lot less money.

Arguably, we could expend the total of the Iron Range’s local mining revenue on diversification and quality of life efforts to measurable effect, but typically the funding is ensnared in the Lobbyist Cycle, leaving just a fraction for projects like broadband or anything that isn’t directly tied to mining or mining vendors. In fact, the Lobbyist Cycle has little game outside of pushing the declining employment prospects of new or current mines, an industry that even optimistically can’t support our current population with any sort of prosperity.

But that’s the kind of talk that will get you labeled as “negative,” or — worse yet — “anti-mining,” the worst slur in the vocabulary of these latter-day machine politicians. Further, the Iron Range is a tightly-knit community, exemplified by the close personal, professional and political alliances of its leaders to one another. Arguments are family disputes, and only family members have voice in those arguments. To the degree that I am a member of that family, this is why I am writing today. It’s easy to ignore Jennifer Bjorhus. But I grew up on the Range in conditions grittier than most, educated myself in politics and history, and have no financial stake in anything being discussed. I hope it’s hard to ignore this:

What the Lobbyist Cycle does is use the Iron Range’s most deeply-held value — loyalty — against itself. You can’t cross the lobbyists because they’re guys you grew up with. They’re “good guys” (and perhaps they are good fathers and friends). They want good things for the Range. They hold small “p” progressive beliefs and small “c” conservative values: true Rangers. So just go along with them. If there’s a problem, it couldn’t be their fault: only Republicans, Twin Cities liberals, or small time bloggers would cross true Rangers. And we’ll show them, “the way we always do.”

This isn’t conservatism. This isn’t liberalism. This is isolationism. And it is suffocating the Iron Range.

Entrepreneurs encounter a weird, backwoods mentality when they approach our political culture (some notable exceptions exist, including some of the staff at the IRRRB who I think do a good job). People who move here might be liberal or conservative, but generally experience the same cold shoulder when their concerns about business climate or the environment run afoul of the local norm. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Cuyuna Range doesn’t do this (arguably a conservative region). Grand Marais doesn’t do this. Ely, while deeply divided over mining, is home to many new people and contrasting ideas. Duluth (a liberal city) is growing and prospering with a mix of business development and progressive inclusion. All of this is in the 218! The Range need not lag behind, and — by force of demographics and economics — will change whether the current population wants it to or not.

Nevertheless, change is difficult, and I don’t for a second believe this essay will change all that much — at first. But I do think an improved awareness of the “Lobbyist Cycle” will help everyone — including the participants in that very cycle — do a better job with a clearer vision. The goal is progress. The goal is improvement. Open the doors. Light the lamps. Ask questions. This isn’t about us — our friends, our job, our legacy; it’s about the next baby born at the Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Virginia or Ely hospitals and the world that awaits them.

Comments

  1. John Ramos says:

    I always perk up when a troublemaker starts talking. Next thing you know, you’ll be doing data requests.

  2. Reid Carron says:

    Keep it up, Aaron. I hope you write about what really happened in the recent Minnesota legislative sessions–regular and special. MPR is giving Bakk a total pass. And nobody seems to be willing to tell the truth about the governor.

  3. Paula Maccabee says:

    Some individual lobbyists are well-intentioned. They’re just wrong. In economic development, it is always tempting to pick the winners and keep backing them, no matter what the cost. But the strategies that really work for long-prosperity are those that build human capital (education and training) and infrastructure, like universal high quality Internet access and low-cost decentralized energy. Keep asking the right questions, Aaron.

  4. I call them “Fixers”. To get anything done around here it seems you have to hire one of these guys (Cerkvenik is one, but don’t forget Fedo and Dicklich) or it doesn’t happen. Then magically permits happen, IRRRB money gets thrown around, land becomes available, the project happens. It’s machine politics, pure and simple. It’s endemic of single party politics, no matter which party.

  5. Pru Lolich says:

    You are truly a “work in progress”, I read the entire piece in the Strib and found it fascinating. You have hit so many nails on the head in your story. It will fall on many deaf ears but you might be srprised at the growing number of Rangers who would agree with you. It is time for projects to be judged by on-going results–not just coming to fruition. And then there is Essar. If you are a trouble maker—keep it up!!

  6. Geeze ole Cerkvenik is one of those evil 1%’ers on lobbying alone. Great gig if you can get it! This crony capitalism has been a problem on the Range for 50 yrs. I know it has reached a critical stage when folks up here start calling them out. Usually the DFLers up here close ranks and defend their “guys and gals” to the bitter end. Typical for folks up here who lean left to complain about how bad things are until you ask them if they think 50 yrs of DFL rule has anything to do with it, then they list all the great things the DFL have done for the Range. Cerkvenik has been involved in shady deals and his partner in business Pat Forcia went to prison while Cerkvenik escaped jail time yrs ago.

  7. Michelle says:

    I would add that the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” tow-the-line or prepare for retribution threat from legislators and lobbyist stifles the debate/discussion about how to break out of this cycle. It’s long been an interest of mine to help craft a solution having grown up on the Iron Range, but it isn’t “welcome” or “safe” to challenge the ideas/approach of powers-that-be meaningfully. Draw out the example: After Silicon gets subsidies and has a product that requires a premium price, then the legislators pass a law that requires use of that product in a utility project which drives up the cost of the project and that gets passed on to the customer again becoming the argument for why renewable/solar is too expensive so customers need to subsidize the mine’s electricity rate and put up with the negative health and environmental consequences of the existing fossil fuel generation. (Mind you, despite the Silicon premium price, in general renewables are beginning to compete as least cost with fossil fuels, and all energy types have some form of subsidy.) In each step (and this example is but one of many), the winner is the corporation and lobbyists’ short term profits and the loser is the very people they claim to be fighting for.

  8. Ranger47 says:

    Make no mistake….any person whose paycheck comes from us the people, whether at the local, state or federal level, will never vote in favor of changing the system. Aaron’s words might appear otherwise in this article but beware, he’s in their camp, just like the sources he links us to or quotes from. Watch how he votes…

  9. Ranger47 says:

    …& ’round & ’round we go

  10. John Ramos says:

    Apparently R47 stands on his tippy-toes and peeks over the curtain to watch how people vote.

  11. I’m not sure how Aaron or anyone else votes but I know it has been a half century of DFL rule up on the Range. I’ve said it before, look what 50 yrs of Democratic rulers have done to Detroit. The very people who complain that the Range is sinking defend the politicians drilling holes in the boat to the bitter end. I just don’t get it!!
    Michelle, thank you laying it out, much better than I ever could, how this cronyism hurts the very folks who vote it in.

  12. John Carroll says:

    Mr. Brown –

    I found your article on lobbying, economic development and Silicon Energy to be incredibly petty, naïve to the point of ignorance, and frankly a personal shot at Gary Cerkvenik, someone who has performed admirably as a loyal steward for economic development on the Iron Range and if anything deserves recognition and support for his efforts on behalf of the region. Given your relationship with the Star Tribune, the nature of the sequence of articles attacking economic development efforts from that paper, your feigned loyalty toward the Iron Range, indeed your comments must be considered the height of hypocrisy.

    Counter to your assertions otherwise, my personal experiences with the economic development activities of the IRRRB and lobbyists like Gary Cerkvenik and Ron Dicklich were anything but a “closed loop”. I am from California, probably the ultimate outsider, but back in 2003 I picked up the phone and called someone named Gary Cerkvenik when a consulting client I was working for was interested in selling an Xcel power purchase arrangement that ultimately resulted in the Laurentian Energy Authority and the re-powering of the Power plants at both Hibbing and Virginia public utilities. I would describe that experience as anything but inefficient, ineffective and frankly required a great deal of leadership and vision.

    The reason Silicon Energy opened a manufacturing facility on the Iron Range is BECAUSE of leadership, the vision and the willingness of Iron Range legislators, including Senator Bakk, Senator Tomassoni, Rep. Rukavina to stick their neck out, to risk political capital in order to create a Minnesota solar incentive program. Lobbyists like Gary Cerkvenik are the eyes and ears of the Iron Range legislators, and I have rarely encountered a harder working or more effective lobbyist than Gary Cerkvenik. In all honesty Mr. Brown, I think you need to re-read and re-think Ms. Bjorhus article because you missed the salient point: that Gary Cerkvenik is indeed a tireless and most valuable economic ambassador for the Iron Range.

    Economic development is not a linear progression: in fact it is anything but. Dry holes are to be expected, especially when you are dealing with an area that is at the end of the road let alone the degree of difficulty involved with some of these projects. But more often than not, the projects Gary Cerkvenik has invested his time and energy in have panned out for the Iron Range. But you have not mentioned any of that. You take the work of a Jennifer Bjorhus, a Bill Hanna, or Dave Schaffer and merely echo the sentiments, void of any investigative effort to understand the details of the issues involved.

    For example, let’s take the issue of the $7 million in “subsidies” you claim have gone to Silicon Energy. Silicon Energy has not received any subsidy – it has an equipment loan ($1.5 million) and a $1.95 million inventory loan that are at market interest rates and are guaranteed by its majority investor. The city of Mt. Iron built a $3 million building and leased it to Silicon Energy at market rates – is that a subsidy? The solar “subsidies” represented by the Made in Minnesota incentive program flow to owners of solar systems, not Silicon Energy. And in fact, over 80% of those incentives have not gone to projects equipped with Silicon Energy solar modules. Have you completed any, even topical investigation of what is going on in the solar industry? Mr. Brown, have you ever picked up the phone and discussed any of this with Silicon Energy? How would you know why Silicon Energy decided to locate in Mt. Iron?

    Silicon Energy located its manufacturing plant in Mt. Iron because the Iron Range delegation, Sandy Layman of the IRRRB, Gary Cerkvenik, Craig Wainio and others recruited us – they made us feel welcome. We have invested over $10 million into that manufacturing plant and have had a tough time because of Chinese competition, heavily subsidized Chinese manufactured product that has been dumped throughout North America and even into the “made in MN” incentive program. Being the mining expert you claim to be – does that story line sound vaguely familiar to you?

    John J. Carroll
    Senior Vice President
    Silicon Energy
    Irvine, California

    • ” Lobbyists like Gary Cerkvenik are the eyes and ears of the Iron Range legislators, and I have rarely encountered a harder working or more effective lobbyist than Gary Cerkvenik.”

      They’re its hands and feet, too.

  13. Dear John,
    You may be from California but many of us Rangers have seen this song and dance before, many times over. The IRRRB has been a source of much debate up here and guys like Cerkvenik have prospered while our region has steadily gone downhill. We are all delighted when a company like Silicon Energy comes up here with the promise of jobs but you didn’t come here because folks made you feel welcomed (if you did you should be fired) you came here because it made the most sense economically. Your job is to make your company profitable so everybody can do well- you, the workers and of course the company.
    I have no problem with Cerkvenic doing well for himself and his family but too many of these projects have just been good for the “closed loop”. I could list a number of failed ventures where the chance of success was very slim and the money outlay by IRRRB huge, it would include a chopstick factory, believe it or not. We may be up here in sticks but we can smell an inside job, we’ve had plenty of chances to get noses in tune with the scent.
    There is and has been cronyism up here ever since a few got their hands on the millions in taconite tax money. I wish you and your company well, getting a startup business off and running requires a bit of luck, timing and proper economic conditions along with great leadership. Good luck

  14. John Ramos says:

    Mr. Carroll,
    The bulk of your argument consists of defending Silicon Energy, and that, of course, is what you must do. But that is only a small part of Aaron’s overall description of the Lobbyist Cycle. “Developers pay lobbyists to curry favor within the loop,” Aaron writes. In your own words, you fed right into that cycle when you picked up the phone and called Cerkvenik–or are you saying you didn’t pay him anything?

    “Lobbyists like Gary Cerkvenik are the eyes and ears of the Iron Range legislators,” you write. i think what Aaron, and many Iron Rangers, would prefer is that their legislators use their own eyes and ears.

  15. Yeah, I don’t even think Aaron is referring to the Cerkvenik guy directly. Seems like an example. More of a symptom than the actual ailment. Besides that everyone has their own friggin’ personal experience to circumvent whatever noise the Carroll guy is making.

    I just wanted to add my own thoughts, which are that I see a theme that’s more social than economic in all this. Some people probably relate more to the personal story of experiencing the cultural attitude more than the business stuff.

    There was a cultural shift, though. I am certain there were more opportunities in the past for people to participate in a different social or cultural setting on the Iron Range than what currently exists there. I believe the demographics shifted. My best metaphor right now might be radio, oddly. Does it not appear that the Iron Range is way more Garth Brooks than Ramones compared to the past at this point? Just an example. Not dissing Garth Brooks totally. Well, maybe.

    My feeling is that you could watch the change happening. Think of Babbitt. The thing moves as the mines close. Reserve shuts down. Babbitt goes Garth. LTV shuts down. Aurora-Hoyt Lakes, Biwabik go Garth. The path for an isolated youth is threadbare. The most important thing is Aaron’s closing paragraph. That’s the lamp Aaron is lighting here.

  16. Mr. Carroll —
    Thanks for your comment. It is very informative. And it deserves a reasonable response which I hope to provide as briefly as possible.

    Things like ignorance, naivety, hypocrisy, or disloyalty to the Iron Range will be revealed by time. I’m not particularly worried about it because I feel I ask a lot of questions and am constantly learning new things. I also believe my actions — how and where I live, what I’ve do for my community, and how I spend my time show my loyalties rather clearly. I wouldn’t have written any of this if I didn’t feel I had learned about our local political structure in earnest. I’ve been a reporter, an editor, a political operative, a five-time winning legislative campaign manager, a teacher, a producer, and I come from a family of no fewer than three Iron Range small businesses. I pick up things along the way.

    I do know that yours are words that have often come up when I’ve questioned Range development policy in the past, which reenforces the idea I listed here — that the Iron Range’s mostly deeply held value is loyalty and that sometimes people use the Range’s tendency toward loyalty as a weapon to crush dissent.

    As John pointed out, one of the central points I made was that Iron Range development is filtered through a small number of highly connected lobbyists. That’s how you got moving on the ground here. I think most people love the idea of Iron Range-made solar panels finding markets all over the world. The problem is that the reason you are here are the subsidies you describe. Perhaps not cash in your pocket, but certainly part of your business model. And as we learned when the Chinese ate your lunch by dramatically opening the market for cheaper panels — as soon as market conditions changed you needed more help to adjust to the change.

    As I said, I’m trying not to make this personal. But Gary is one of the most powerful, connected people in the region and, as such, he deserves at least as much scrutiny as a state senator or representative. So does Ron Dicklich and anyone who takes contracts to do public work and write policy. Again, that’s another point I make pretty clear.

    Much depends on how we describe “successful projects.” If a structure is built, a company is recruited, and workers hired, that could be called a success, but if that same project isn’t self-sufficient and ends up costing the people more money over time — either through direct subsidy, tax credits or other deferments that other businesses *don’t* get — well, that’s not a win — it’s a draw, at best. And these things don’t last long, as we’ve seen before.

    I also made reference to the “good guy” arguments, all of which you deployed here. Gary is a “good guy” who does good stuff, so how could you? How could you? Well, I love the Mesabi Trail and what Gary does for that and independent community radio. He’s had his hands in good projects and gives time to his kids and local school. That’s great. He’s a human. But he’s part of a system that IS failing the Iron Range. It’s not sustainable. I know this because the same people have been doing mostly the same things for 30 years and things are not better. I drive through decaying towns every day and there just isn’t enough money to sustain the kinds of projects that require fiscal and legislative guardianship for the rest of our days. We need self-sustaining ideas, responsive education and curriculum, and people willing to work without the benefit of a lobbyist.

    As a businessman you know markets. You had an idea you believed in and saw an opportunity to use local resources here to bring your idea to fruition. While I’m not optimistic about your company, I’d love it if things turned around for you. But my pressing argument remains the same: the place and people of the Iron Range offer labor, resources and quality of life. We will provide these things on request. But there is only so much our unusual pool of money can do to alter the realities of a market-based economy. Indeed, foreign competition does affect mining as well as it affects your company. We can nationalize, I suppose. But more likely we can stop picking specific companies for specific success and instead foster a climate that encourages entrepreneurship and the quality of life in our communities. That’s my argument.

  17. Jesse White says:

    Bravo Mr. Brown. Excellent take on a perpetual problem that has been choking the Iron Range as long as I can remember and perhaps even longer. Your next blog should look at the nature of politics on the Range, i.e., the handpicked successors to outgoing legislators and senators.

  18. Aaron described the problem quite clearly, and those who keep attaching party labels to the problem miss the point. All the legislators and elected officials could switch party allegiance tomorrow and the problem would remain. It is the old roman axiom…”Cui bono?”, or who benefits. The fact is, all the public money that has been spent on these projects would most likely have benefited ordinary people better simply by randomly employing people in a myriad of projects rather then building golf courses, ski lifts and the various subsidized businesses. Most likely, randomly handing out checks to people might have resulted in even more businesses simply by chance, rather then the vampire class currently feeding at the public trough, The Laurentian energy project is one great example, as they are often currently burning chipped future saw timber rather than the stated willow brush, much to the chagrin of foresters as they watch a valuable future resource used as a subsidy for the collapsed logging industry with public money. Never mind the difficulty in maintaining air quality from unevenly burning fuel. These, like the other examples above, are real world examples of state socialism, where private profit and risk are covered by public expense, while ordinary people get to scratch through the ever growing garbage heap.

  19. Ranger47 says:

    You were doing fine Aaron….until you added “a five-time winning legislative campaign manager” to your list of credentials. (That darn ego is so seductive!). That statement alone exposes two major flaws in your fundamental argument.

    1) You are a large part of the problem. You’ve successfully fought to keep the same failed DFL political system in place on the Range. It’s how we know who you vote for. (No need to tip-toe and look over the voting booth curtain).
    2) It demonstrates your insincerity and lack of credibility to write articles calling for change on the Range. You’ve no interest whatsoever in eliminating the subsidies you criticize Mr. Carroll, or others, have been receiving. You passionately ask for them. The only difference is you want others money to subsidize your field of interests – teachers, unions and “free” internet for all.

  20. Your personal beef knows no ends, Bob. Most of your conclusions about my beliefs are misrepresentations or outright lies. Again, I don’t see what value you provide or derive from this trolling.

  21. John Ramos says:

    Even when people agree with R47, he just cannot bring himself to agree. No matter what anybody says, he just goes on complaining. At some point, you’d think he’d stop wasting his time on inferior websites and start his own.

  22. Ranger47 says:

    Have you not, Aaron, successfully fought to keep the same DFL Rangers and the system you claim to despise in control? Could I be wrong and one of the five-time winning legislative campaigns you managed was for McElfatrick or Cravaack? Please let me know if one, just one of those campaigns you managed was for a GOPer or an Independent and you’ll have my heartfelt apology. And have you not continued to plead for more money (subsidies) from others for your pet projects?

    No, I don’t think you can claim any of my comments to be misrepresentations or outright lies. It’s simply the truth.
    p.s. – And be honest, managing a campaign for a DFLer on the Range is far from a yeoman’s task.

    John – you’re confused. I never complain, and always expose the truth.

  23. You know dang well who I have worked for. Tom Anzelc has become one my closest friends and I’ve run his campaigns, even after I stopped my involvement in party politics. There is a difference. I mentioned the fact above because my involvement in DFL politics is *how I know* this stuff. But as Paul pointed out earlier, to think of this as a partisan problem is missing the point. This is about economic strategy and political culture. I’ve already written this to you and explained more in the past. You don’t listen. You can’t empathize. I’m not a socially conservative libertarian Republican so anything I say, even when you agree, isn’t good enough. It would be a waste of my time and emotional energy to say much more than what I already have.

  24. Ranger47 says:

    “It’s not a partisan problem” – Hmmm, so therefore it makes no difference whether the Anzelc’s of the world or McElfatrick’s of the world are in office? The “economic strategy” as you put it, of these two people are the same? Are you kidding? You know that’s a lie Aaron. If it were true, elections would have no consequences…and you KNOW that’s not true.

  25. John Ramos says:

    On a gut level, there are people whose thoughts I enjoy reading because they are well-thought-out and often surprising, and there are others whose thoughts I know will be exactly the same no matter the topic. Aaron’s description of the Lobbyist Cycle is great stuff that undoubtedly angered many of his friends; he risked that to write it. But that’s not good enough for R47, who simply can’t accept that anyone who doesn’t believe exactly as he does, down to the tiniest detail, has anything worthwhile to say. What a loser.

  26. When your argument is essentially “support and subsidize extraction industry and elect republicans”, one must of course travel down the list of logical fallacies and end at ad hominem, or personal, attack. The first has been and is done so completely, from developing the technology, cataloging the deposits and actively leasing off large chunks of public land despite public protest, the best symbol would be a vampire burrowed into the neck of the public. The other, advocating for a party with an even greater record of self-enrichment and lobbying lust is so stupifying anyone advocating it should be considered psychopathic or delusional.

  27. David Gray says:

    “The other, advocating for a party with an even greater record of self-enrichment and lobbying lust is so stupifying anyone advocating it should be considered psychopathic or delusional.”

    And I suspect this lad thinks he is a healthy part of a civil society…

  28. Ranger47 says:

    John, John….It’s not unusual for the truth to be hard to handle, especially when it means someone is right and someone is wrong or when truth by its narrow nature, seems not inclusive enough. You know, like 2+2 equaling only 4, and thereby excluding an infinity of ALL other numbers. That seems harsh to some and can be tough to handle in today’s world of inclusivity.

    But, that being said…you should consider taking one of Aaron’s Communication 101 classes where it’s taught early on – “when you resort to name calling, you’ve lost the argument”. Or, maybe you’ve taken the class and are admitting…..??

  29. Ranger47 says:

    Not so sure about that David. One could make a pretty strong case that Paul is quite healthy and your assumption that society is civil is unfounded.

  30. This whole thread is about how we spend millions of dollars on the Range to try to help our area grow. Whether you are a conservative, liberal or independent I think we can all agree it is not working!! To act like we are disgusted or disappointed makes no difference if we don’t change. The problem with political programs (IRRRB is tax funded) is folks dig in along party lines and nothing ever changes. Until we all agree that Rangers are not benefitting enough from projects that we throw millions of dollars at, our elected officials will not change. I personally don’t think Representatives that have no business in their backgrounds can decide how businesses work, or have a chance of working, but constantly give out millions in our money. Businessmen have become the new boogie men for so many in the past 10 yrs. I have heard more folks dog talk successful business people than at any time in my life. The politics of division hurt us all, instead of fighting along party lines let’s try to change a system that is not working.
    Whether you believe in mining, Essar was a failure, whether you believe in renewables, Silicon Energy employing 10 people, is not a good investment for 7M.
    The good old boys of connected Rangers that dole out millions- lobbyists, elected officials and groups that feed off public money- must be broken up. All this talk won’t change a thing until the characters that spend taconite tax money changes or how it redistributed changes.
    We can all complain but it won’t do a bit of good until changes happen!! Fellow Ranges, it is not working!! Change it.

  31. Ranger47 says:

    In summary, you sum it up well Ken. And I give Aaron credit for writing the article and appearing to want change. His actions, committed to become a six-time winning political campaign manger, makes one question his words though.

    John – you’re on my prayer list.

  32. Wow…Interesting exchange. Aaron…don’t assume that other areas of the north-land (and beyond) don’t behave the same way as the core range. They hire consultants that have ties to the very same folks you are talking about to get things done. Same thing…same miserable record…. only more expensive and everyone is spared the ugly details.

  33. I recently visited Silicon Energy and was pretty shocked to see one (1) employee in the building, during a regular seasonal shut down. I’m not sure how many months of the year the plant is actually in production. I hope the private business owner can figure out how to make it succeed, but I would like that to happen without any further government investment.

  34. So often when I start down the road at picking an issue apart your articles pop up. Thanks for your hard and bold work.

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