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 →

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 →

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 →

How to cover politics in northern Minnesota, and other quandaries

One of my life’s most interesting relationships has been with the word, “journalism.” I’ve always considered myself a journalist, even after leaving daily newspapers 21 years ago. But the nature of that relationship changed with time and trends.  In college during the late 1990s, our journalism professor bemoaned “citizen journalism,” a reference to the idea… Read More →

Talking Biden, bridges, Duluth, flags and fame

I was on WCCO Radio early Monday morning talking about a host of northern Minnesota issues. President Biden was in town last Thursday touting more than $1 billion in funding to replace the Blatnik Bridge connecting Duluth and Superior. So was actor Timothée Chalamet, who visited Duluth and Hibbing to research Bob Dylan for an… Read More →

Sun shines on Iron Range solar prospects

The Minnesota Reformer published my latest essay today, the first of the new year. This one is entitled “Solar energy shines on the Iron Range; will politics throw shade.” In the past ten years or so, the Iron Range’s relationship with the solar energy industry has been something of a roller coaster. In 2011, Silicon… Read More →


Today the Minnesota Reformer published my latest essay about about the new $68 million cannabis facility proposed for a shuttered Grand Rapids factory. The short version is that I’m skeptical. The long version gets to the root of that issue. The title of this post refers to the notion of commercial weed on the Iron… 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 →

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 →