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 →

A journey through time, to town and back

Just before the 20th Century a trip into town from Balsam Township in east central Itasca County took two days at full speed. The winding journey required paddling a canoe down the Prairie River, crossing several portages depending on the time of year. I imagine one might camp at the midpoint somewhere near the modern… Read More →

Blandin layoffs highlight divided economy

Wall Street is surging. Minnesota’s economy continues to add jobs. But in Grand Rapids, a set of layoffs reminds that the United States has two economies heading in different directions. On Tuesday, UPM-Blandin announced the impending closure of its Line 5 plant amid declining demand for its coated paper products. The move will cause 150 people… Read More →

Talking journalism on ‘Dig Deep’

Last week Northern Community Radio broadcast another series of episodes of “Dig Deep,” a podcast exploring contemporary issues from unique points of view. The show features Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns, a conservative, and yours truly, a known liberal. We attempt to collaborate on solutions and sticking points in current political issues, rather than just… Read More →

DFL candidates debate Friday in Grand Rapids

This Friday I’ll moderate a DFL candidates forum at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids. All six announced DFL candidates for governor are scheduled to attend the debate, which begins at 7 p.m. The forum is free to the public and will be held at Chuckers Auditorium. Itasca Community Television (ICTV) will record and rebroadcast… Read More →