Our housing crisis is a very, very fine mess

Get a job. Start a family. Buy a house. For many — even most — these simple-sounding goals become our life’s work. But jobs, families and housing have all changed significantly in recent years. It’s important to recognize those changes as we collectively seek “the pursuit of happiness” promised in the U.S. Constitution. Employment data… Read More →

‘The Wild Mississippi’ starts close to home

“But I never saw the good side of a city, ‘til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen.” “Proud Mary,” by John Fogerty John Fogerty wrote “Proud Mary,” arguably the definitive song about the Mississippi River, for Creedence Clearwater Revival. But Fogerty isn’t from anywhere near the river. Rather, he was born and… Read More →

What goes up ain’t ever coming back

My latest essay for the Minnesota Reformer is out today, entitled “A Fistful of Helium.” This one’s been floating around my office like an old birthday balloon for several months. In fact, the helium discovery near Babbitt is one of the topics I’m most asked about when I’m out and about. I hadn’t written anything… Read More →

An emergency deferred

The 2024 session of the Minnesota Legislature provided all the overwrought drama and political resentments we’ve come to expect, but lawmakers managed to do one thing right.  A new law passed with bipartisan support provides $24 million in short term emergency aid for rural emergency medical service (EMS) providers. The measure also funds an experimental… Read More →

Heart du coeur del corazón

Years ago, my wife and I experienced magical moments when we heard our babies’ heartbeats for the first time in the ultrasound room. Even though a flickering pulse sounds like an old dishwasher through a walkie-talkie, we were moved by the hopeful cadence of new life. However, when I sat in the same room almost… Read More →

Curtailing power of professional influence in Minnesota

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer, “Democracy for sale or rent,” is out today. It’s about lobbying, specifically how the power-dynamic of our elected government is shaped by agents with an unfair advantage.  Lobbying has been part of American politics from the beginning.  In the colonial days, an elected delegate strolling the town square… Read More →

The West rises on the Mesabi Range

A flurry of new exploration and extraction could shape the next few decades of iron mining on the Mesabi Range. The exact outcome, however, seems as uncertain as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Local communities should read closely before turning the page. The general public just learned that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources… Read More →

An ode to Pops

If you’re in your 40s and still have grandparents, you’re pretty lucky. I certainly am. In a couple days my grandfather turns 90, one of those big, round impossible numbers you hear about sometimes.  Nonagenarians sometimes dole out advice, such as following a strict regimen of diet and exercise, avoiding all vices. But that certainly… Read More →

Big promises cost small towns valuable time and energy

My latest essay for the Minnesota Reformer just went live. Remember in January when someone proposed building a space port in Hoyt Lakes? You’d be excused for forgetting. News turns over quick these days. But it happened. And while it’s technically possible that a multi-billion dollar space port will be constructed on the Iron Range,… Read More →

Hopeful future combines STEM and humanities

Have you talked to a teenager lately? I see teenagers at work and home, so I talk to them plenty. It seems harder to choose a path in life than I remember at the same age. For one thing, careers have changed. Automation and new technology created enormous specialization across the economy these last 20… Read More →