Saint Louie, Louie

The Duluth News Tribune has been doing some investigative journalism lately. I’m just going to let that linger on the screen for a second. Nice.

OK, so the DNT ran some good stuff Monday about the St. Louis County Board and its travel reimbursements for its seven county commissioners. The smoking gun scandal is not readily apparent, but what is obvious is that a whole lot of money is paid out by SLC taxpayers to move their commissioners around a Rhode Island-sized land mass for meetings. John Myers has the story.

Representatives of the St. Louis County watchdog group “We are Watching” tell me they plan to raise some heck over some of the itemized trips from the travel expense reports. We’ll see where that goes.

For Minnesota metro types who breathlessly follow the shenanigans of counties like Hennepin and Ramsay, you should give a passing thought to St. Louis County. This county is often tagged as the “Iron Range/Duluth/DFL/slow election returns” county. Indeed, it is all of those things, but it does boast a couple hundred thousand people and is the state’s largest geographic county. The marked cultural contrast between the city of Duluth and the county’s northern fringes is almost comical.

I’d further argue that St. Louis County politics remains woefully unknown and misunderstood even by the people who live here. Incumbent commissioners cast long political shadows, indeed they can sometimes be described as Palpatine-like imperial figures, vulnerable to attack but seldom defeat. The DNT shows how these commissioners command a salary and travel reimbursements that rival if not exceed those of state representatives or even senators in some cases. Vast amounts of money and policy are cleared through the county board, none of it facing the scrutiny that the actions of the state legislature or city councils face. This is probably true in most Minnesota counties, but especially so in St. Louis County.

I guess I wasn’t looking for trouble with the county board when I woke up this morning, but what the hell. I’ve got a blog and I’ve been grumpy lately. Controversy cleans the blood.

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