The sound of footsteps in an empty mall

I like to walk. My “five miles or more per day” habit is about all that’s keeping me out of the Big and Tall stores these days. (And I ain’t getting any taller). Walking is probably the only good habit I’ve ever had. So when I had an odd free moment the other day I… Read More →

Itasca conference aids navigation of ‘Post-Truth Era’

The peacock is really just a 12-pound pheasant with a fancy tail that is probably delicious. It evolved and lives today because potential mates and predators alike believe they are much larger birds with many, many eyes. It’s hardly the only species built on deception, but it’s a particularly successful one. It’s got nothing on… Read More →

Iron Range downtown revitalization projects on tap

You can’t legislate beauty. But you can clean a place up and take some pride in your community. You can also deploy public art as a way to change attitudes and outlooks. That’s the logic behind a small but growing movement to revitalize Mesabi Iron Range communities. The IRRRB announced their 2018 Downtown and Business… Read More →

Digging deeper into environmental policy

This month, the “Dig Deep” podcast explores environmental policy, a ferociously hot topic here in Northern Minnesota. “Dig Deep” is a production of Northern Community Radio, and appears both on the radio and as a podcast. My friend Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns represents a more conservative approach to issues while I present a more… Read More →

Enrollment decline poses new challenge to state colleges

Trying to read trends is difficult. You have to figure out what’s part of a normal cycle and what might be indicative of change. And then, if it is real change, you have to determine what’s causing the change. Is it inevitable or malleable? Are you causing it or is it something else? That’s the… Read More →

Christmas Bird Count adds meaning to season

I grew up in the Northern Minnesota birding mecca of the Sax-Zim Bog. Nevertheless, I learned surprisingly little about birds. I knew the basics — robins, chickadees and crows — but not much more. It took me a long time to finally appreciate the immense nuance of the natural world, the complex systems of life… Read More →

IRRRB boost for school project raises important issue

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board is winding up its business for the year. As usual, the commissioner brings a number of projects to the docket. One provokes an important discussion about regional strategy regarding school consolidation. The IRRRB oversees a unique state agency, which is actually run by a commissioner appointed by the… Read More →

Beep-Boop, you can drive my car

News coverage of driverless cars tends to skew from “Oh, wow, look at these fancy gadgets” to “Look out, the robots are taking over!” But we’re going to need to take a very real look at autonomous vehicle technology. After all, it will dramatically reshape our lives in Northern Minnesota. Like most change, the issue… Read More →

Rural housing crunch hits home

One of the biggest challenges in moving to Northern Minnesota is finding housing. The same struggle broadly applies to all of rural Minnesota. Sure, we’ve got lots of houses. “For sale” signs dot the streets of Iron Range communities. But if you’re not looking to buy, or especially if you’re not looking to buy what… Read More →

In building community, every little bit adds up to a lot

A few weeks back, my son’s Boy Scout Troop in Grand Rapids helped build 25 wheelchair accessible picnic tables. The extra long table tops will adorn parks across Itasca County, everywhere from Nashwauk to Deer River, allowing people who use wheelchairs to easily join in a family meal. Henry and I built one picnic table… Read More →