The affordability we can’t afford

Americans like to argue, but seem to agree that we don’t have enough money. The median household income in St. Louis County runs just below $58,000 a year, about $30,000 for individuals. Half make less, and these folks certainly know how hard it is to cover rising expenses. Nevertheless, candidates who support publicly funded health… Read More →

Future depends upon vigilance against wildfire

Today, I share my latest for the Minnesota Reformer, “Minnesota in the age of smoke and fire.” Wildfires have become more frequent and destructive over the past few years, but are not new. In this, Minnesota holds a distinct advantage. After our state experienced the trauma of the 1918 Cloquet / Moose Lake fires, which… Read More →

Cliffs offer to buy U.S. Steel portends shakeup in Iron Range mining

Today, I have a news analysis piece running in the Minnesota Reformer: “Cliffs offer to buy U.S. Steel holds huge implications for the Iron Range.” On Sunday, the two biggest iron ore and steelmaking companies on the Iron Range signaled discussions that could lead to a consequential sale. U.S. Steel announced it was fielding offers… Read More →

A world wide web of unintended consequences

For 20 years, I’ve advocated for high speed internet to create economic sustainability in rural areas like mine. And I still believe that this policy remains necessary. But in my latest piece for the Minnesota Reformer, out today, I explore the unintended consequences. All this time, I’ve had a blind spot. The divides that existed… Read More →

What losing freedom really means

As the United States struggles to balance freedom with religious and cultural nationalism, we might learn a lesson not just from history, but from the present struggles of those who support democracy around the world. That’s the subject of my latest essay for the Minnesota Reformer, “Lessons on freedom from the Russian opposition.”  When I… Read More →

Why no Fourth of July schedule?

Longtime readers know that for the past several years I’ve prepared a concise listing of Iron Range Fourth of July parades, street dances and fireworks displays. It was routinely among the most popular posts I produced each year as thousands read and shared the schedule with friends and families. I’ve decided not to produce this… Read More →

Talking resource politics

Last week I spoke via Zoom to the Tamarack Water Alliance, an environmental group that formed recently in Aitkin County. As I explain in the introduction, I don’t take aggressive positions in these mining proposal debates because I’m trying to learn more and generate productive conversation. But this group asked me to speak and I… Read More →

Rural housing prices rise with changing times

Memorial Day weekend approaches, a time when residents of northern Minnesota welcome the residents of southern Minnesota for the long weekend. Perhaps before you log off to enjoy the next few days you might read my latest for the Minnesota Reformer, “The northland has its own housing crisis.” Summer custom dictates that visitors from the… Read More →

Curtain opens on new era of Iron Range performances

You may have seen my column from last weekend, “Final Goodman show marks new era on Iron Range.” I marked the end of an era with the closure of the Goodman Auditorium and the dedication of the new Rock Ridge school. On Tuesday, I appeared on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Minnesota Now” with Cathy Wurzer to… Read More →

Greed and privilege fuel anti-democracy trend

My latest piece for the Minnesota Reformer is out today, “Democracy checks power; that’s why it’s in danger.” I realize it’s fashionable to comment on declining democratic norms in modern American politics, but I’m not sure everyone realizes how widespread this phenomenon actually is. Every large democracy in the world now wrestles with a proxy… Read More →