Time to prove it

Okay the election is over and it is time for our politicians to walk the talk. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is. It’s time to stop spouting platitudes like these and actually get something done.

If any local government officials want to take this message to heart, that is great, but I’m thinking primarily about our federal representatives.

Congressman Rick Nolan at Devil Track Landing when he visited in August 2014.

Congressman Rick Nolan at Devil Track Landing when he visited in August 2014.

I’ve been waiting for the campaigning to be over to see what our newly reelected Congressman Rick Nolan does with the resolution he introduced in the waning days of the last session of the House of Representatives. His Restore Democracy resolution was a key piece of his campaign message. While touring the state to gather votes, he said time and again that Congress has become a very “undemocratic institution.”

I heard him talking about the unproductivity of the current Congress when he visited Cook County in August. I think he was sincere in his frustration with the way the system currently works. At that time he said most congressional representatives spend hours every week in call centers, fundraising for the next campaign.

Nolan said things in Washington, D.C. had changed drastically from when he served as Minnesota representative 30 years ago. He said in his early days as a legislator there was a spirit of bipartisan cooperation—and things got done.

Nolan said in those days bills were read thoroughly and discussed and debated in committees, with 7 – 8,000 hearings and subcommittees each year. In that August meeting in Cook County, Nolan said the 113th Congress had only 500 committee meetings. He said what that means is that all the members of Congress don’t get a chance to share their concerns or offer suggestions. He said bills are brought to the House floor to be voted on without having been read by more than a handful of representatives.

He summed up the discussion at the August luncheon with a statement he repeated over and over as he worked his way across the district campaigning, “We’ve got to change the way we do politics in this country if we want a Congress that works and a government that isn’t broken.”

Nolan’s Restore Democracy resolution is a start. The resolution has four tenets: 1.) The House and Senate will work five days a week, on the same schedule; 2.) Every bill brought to the House floor will have an ‘open rule’ allowing for amendments and full debate; 3.) No bill or resolution can be brought to the House floor without first being heard in committee, with amendments permitted and voted on before the bill is passed, and 4.) The House can consider no conference committee report unless the committee has met at least three times with all members present and resolved all differences by vote. The conference report must be available to all members at least 72 hours before the vote.

The resolution introduces common sense ideas that should be in place. The problem is that it is only a resolution, not a bill. Hopefully Nolan is serious and he pushes ahead with the Restore Democracy Act. Hopefully he finds likeminded representatives who will co-sponsor the bill and move it through committee and to the Senate.

Taking a look www.Congress.Gov is disheartening. The website lists hundreds of bills that are in limbo.

Important pieces of legislation that would benefit American citizens such as HR 2692 Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2013, which would restrict the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and evaluate the health of America’s bees or HR 2485 Helping Homeless Veterans Act of 2013, which would fund the Department of Veterans Affairs counseling and veteran reintegration programs.

There are bills that could save tax dollars such as HR 2643 Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act of 2013, which would require federal agencies to reduce travel expenses by the use of video conferencing.

And there are bills that would directly benefit families, such as HR 1527 Student Loan Interest Deduction Act of 2013, which would increase the tax deduction for interest paid on education loans or HR 769 Child Tax Credit Permanency Act of 2013 which would make permanent the child tax credit and would require an annual inflation adjustment.

There are many, many, more. All important. All waiting for our legislators to move forward. It’s time for Congressman Nolan and his colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—to fulfill those campaign promises.

Can any of you seriously say
the Bill of Rights could get
through Congress today?
It wouldn’t even get out of
committee.

F. Lee Bailey


Where are We in November?

 

Do you know where the News-Herald was when this photo was taken? Give it a guess!

Do you know where the News-Herald was when this photo was taken? Give it a guess!

Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

Last month’s photo was apparently too tough. We had no correct entries. The picture was of a new bridge over Swamp Creek in Hovland—on the Hovland Woods ATV trail. Try your luck! Take a look at the November photo. If you think you know where we were when we took the picture, send us your answer.

The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $30 value). Good luck!

Answer to the November WHERE ARE WE? must be received by December 15, 2014.

Send your entry to:
Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at: 15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
email: starnews@boreal.org
Questions? 218-387-9100


The power of one vote

I had a lot of fun on Election Night 2014 on air with Jay Andersen and Roger Linehan on WTIP Community Radio. I don’t know how I ended up being part of the WTIP election news team, but I have enjoyed taking part for a few years now.

I hope listeners did too. We know at least one person was tuned in—Sherrie Lindskog who brought us some delicious bread pudding with a vanilla cream sauce. Thanks, Sherrie!

I think we do make a good team. Jay and Roger are much more in tune with the regional and national races and the ballot measures across the United States. They are more hard news—I’m there to lighten the mood a bit.

I fill in the slow spots with information on our local electoral process. I turn to Cook County Auditor Braidy Powers for that information. Braidy is our “go-to” guy for many things, but especially inquiries on elections or financial questions.

So he was happy to provide replies to my questions about precinct numbers and voter registration. I asked how many election judges are there and who are they? Braidy gave me a complete list so I could give a shout out to them on the radio. Of course they were hard at work counting ballots, so they likely didn’t hear me. But I do appreciate their efforts.

Braidy was able to answer the question of whether election judges are paid—yes they are, $10 an hour and mileage.

Asked what the county saves by conducting mail ballots, Braidy had historical data on the last election before mail balloting began in 1994. That election process cost the county $49,175. The next election, with mail ballots in 1996, cost $38,702—a savings of $10,473. However, answer man Braidy said that does not factor in the cost of setting up polling places to be in accordance with today’s handicap accessible guidelines and the installation of new vote-counting technology.

Good information. I also try to lighten the election evening reporting with some “color”— historical voting trivia or silly quotes from politicians or about politicians.

One of the best historical tidbits I found while researching elections this year was a Cook County referendum item in 1933. An article in the September 14, 1933 issue of the Cook County News-Herald reported that the voters of Cook County went to the polls that Tuesday to indicate their choice on the return of the old fashioned saloon. The article went on to list how each township voted—“wet or dry.”

Interestingly, the now defunct township of Mineral Center was tied with 13 votes for “wet” and 13 votes for “dry.” None of the townships voted in favor of staying “dry” and Colvill, it was noted had 16 votes for “wet” and 0 for “dry.”

The measure to bring back the saloon passed in the county, by a vote of 42 to 145.

Some very silly election trivia. But no sillier than the quote I found attributed to Abraham Lincoln. I have been unable to authenticate when and where Lincoln spoke the words, so I’m stressing that it is attributed to him. But it’s a great quote on elections, no matter who said it:

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Vote-Here-DirectionalThis has never been truer than in this election. At press time the county is awaiting the outcome of a tie election. One more vote for one of the east end candidates—Kristin DeArruda Wharton or Frank Moe—and that Commissioner District election would be over. Although a recount would have still been possible, it is now undoubtedly going to happen. And the candidates must suffer for a few more days of wondering if they’ve won or not.

The west end of the county as well—only five votes separate the two candidates, Bruce Martinson and Commissioner-elect Ginny Storlie. If six more people had cast their vote would there be a different outcome?

We need to remember this when the next election rolls around. It’s easy to think your vote doesn’t count in state and national elections where it is one of many among thousands. But it does. One vote by one vote, the tally is counted.

And as you can see in the microcosm of America that is Cook County, one vote truly does count.

There’s no trick to being a
humorist when you have the whole
government working for you.
Will Rogers


Scary stuff to think about

By the time readers pick up this issue of the Cook County News-Herald, Halloween will be over. All of the little princesses and pirates, cuddly critters and creepy creatures, and ghosts and goblins will be done with parties and treat gathering. The silly spooky stuff is done and it’s time to get back to reality.

And unfortunately, reality for today’s kids can be a bit scary, with the threat of terrorists and strange diseases and children gone missing. I don’t remember having so much to worry about when I was a kid.

We talk about this a lot, the people that I grew up with. With them, I recall leaving the house early in the morning and wandering far from home. I grew up on the west end of County Road 7—the “old highway”—and I remember heading to a cousin’s or friend’s house a half mile away or more and playing there for hours. We rode our bikes all over the back roads never worrying about “stranger danger.”

We didn’t worry much about getting sick with some strange respiratory influenza or an exotic illness carried from a Third World Country. I’m fortunately not old enough to really have had to worry about polio or measles. I grew up in a relatively healthy time for American children.

Back then 9/11 was just a date in mid-September. The last time the United States had been attacked was in 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It was something we read about in history books. It wasn’t something that grownups talked about in sorrowful voices.

I do remember worrying about nuclear war, which seems odd I know, given my somewhat idyllic childhood. But as I’ve mentioned before in Unorganized Territory, it was because of those scary yellow and black FALL-OUT SHELTER signs at the school and courthouse—and the educational component that went with them.

I remember sitting in school hearing the reassurance that even if Russia attacked us with atomic weapons, it would not destroy the planet. It wouldn’t blow the earth apart or kill us all with radioactivity.

Civil_Defense_Fallout_Shelter_SignNo, only those in the immediate vicinity—in the area that could see the giant mushroom cloud explosion—would suffer the horrific consequences. And supposedly, our Civil Defense instructor Mr. Knowlton told us, we would be okay if we made it to one of those Fall-Out Shelters.

I remember clearly the instructions in case we couldn’t get to a shelter. Shield yourself in any way you can—in a basement or just a ditch. To keep from getting tossed about or hit by flying objects, lie flat on the ground or press up against the wall. Hide your face in the crook of your arm, we were advised, to protect ourselves from flash burns.

Of course there were a number of suggestions for how to cope with the after effects of nuclear war and how we would survive in the bomb shelter—the scary, narrow, cinderblock hallway in the high school with solid wood doors to keep us “safe.”

I shudder to think about it— locked in that tight space with the entire student body, not knowing if my family had made it to the only other Fall-Out Shelter I knew of at the courthouse. Not knowing how long we would have to stay there or what awaited us when we emerged.

Scary stuff for a kid, but it was easily put out of mind—unless I had to hang out in that creepy hallway for some reason.

But nowadays, kids are constantly being reminded of the possible dangers around them. We don’t dare let them walk or bike to a friend’s house alone without checking in the minute they arrive. Every year we remember 9/11—as we should—but it’s scary for kids to think that could happen again. They are bombarded with images of illnesses spreading across the United States such as Enterovirus—or now, Ebola.

And children have their fears reinforced—as I did—by disaster drills at schools. At school board meetings, Superintendent Beth Schwarz—doing her due diligence—informs the school about safety drills. Instead of just fire drills, schools are now required to act out a host of other scenarios. At a meeting last year, Superintendent Schwarz informed the school board that School District 166 had completed nine fire drills, one relocation drill to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, a tornado drill and five lock-down drills.

The lock-down drill is perhaps the most frightening event, practicing for a dangerous intruder on the school campus.

Schwarz recently reported on another lock-down drill, explaining that classroom doors are equipped with devices that can be set to allow easy access most of the time, but can allow for complete lockdown of classroom doors instantly in the event of an emergency. During the last drill conducted, Schwarz said it took just 47 seconds to lock down the entire school.

Hearing that brought flashbacks of my elementary—and middle school—bomb shelter fears.

I know practice for these disasters is necessary. It’s good to be prepared for the very worst possible circumstances. I just hope that today’s kids have less vivid imaginations or thicker skin. I hope they don’t spend precious playtime worrying about disaster scenarios and how to respond. I certainly hope they don’t stay awake thinking about it.

And most of all, I wish that none of us had to worry about these things.

Even a minor event in the life
of a child is an event of that child’s
world and thus a world event.
Gaston Bachelard


Voting is women’s work

After I wrote an Unorganized Territory column recalling the fight to allow 18-year-olds to vote, my son Ben asked an interesting question. He asked why I hadn’t gone into more detail about the struggle women went through to gain the right to vote. The question surprised me for several reasons.

This photo from the National Archives shows the women that fought for the right to vote. I hope we all carry on their work by casting our ballots on November 4.

This photo from the National Archives shows the women that fought for the right to vote. I hope we all carry on their work by casting our ballots on November 4.

First, I have to admit I was pleased to know that he had read my column. I don’t get a lot of feedback from my immediate family on my weekly compositions. They generally take a quick look to make sure I didn’t talk about them and move on. So it was nice to know that he had taken a few minutes to read and think about what I had to say.

I also have to admit that I was a little surprised that he had remembered what he had learned in history class about women’s voting rights. Neither of my boys liked school much, so I’m surprised any history was retained. Good job, Mrs. Brandt—some of your hard work stuck!

And I was pleasantly surprised that he cared about the issue at all. I was outnumbered in our house when my boys were growing up—we even had a male dog—so there wasn’t a lot of talk around the kitchen table about women’s suffrage. Dinner conversations often focused on BMX bikes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, wrestling, football or some other macho topic.

I did insist that there was no such thing as “women’s work” like doing dishes, making beds or cooking. They learned to do all those things—even if they would have their wives believe differently now. But I don’t recall ever having a conversation about the struggle women faced in the 1800 -1900s.

I think perhaps the reason women’s rights are now more interesting is because Ben is now the father of a daughter. Becoming a parent makes a person grow up a bit. I remember marveling at the change from the rowdy teenager who wrecked his pickup truck within three days of getting his driver’s license to the concerned dad who was freaked out by the traffic speeding past his house. When traffic was detoured down his street during construction of the new Gunflint Trail, the former speed demon took a can of spray paint and wrote in big orange letters in the middle of the road, “Slow Down!”

So, just as being a parent makes you worry about things you never before thought to worry about, being a dad to a daughter brings its own concerns. I’ve overheard amazing conversations between both of my boys and their daughters. My younger son is definitely outnumbered in his house by his wife and three girls!

I have heard debates over ear piercing and nail polish and whether Barbie is a good role model. I’ve heard discussion of which Disney Princess is the prettiest, kindest or strongest. I’ve heard lots of silly threats about what will happen to future boyfriends.

And happily, I’ve seen that my granddaughters are being raised to be strong-willed, independent women who will follow in the footsteps of those pioneering women who fought to have a say in the governing of our country. Women like Susan B. Anthony, perhaps the most well known suffragist. Working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the American Equal Rights Association, which fought for equal rights for both women and African Americans. The women published their own newspaper in 1868—The Revolution—which focused on women’s rights.

I hope my granddaughters learn about Anthony, who in 1872, was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York. She was tried and convicted in a widely publicized trial which only served to gain sympathy for the women’s movement, although it was many years later before women gained the right to vote.

In 1878, Anthony and Stanton were finally able to get Congress to consider an amendment giving women that right. But it took many more years to pass the 19th Amendment and many more women led the way, facing isolation, hostility and downright torture. Women such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns who were imprisoned for picketing outside the White House during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, silently calling for equal rights. The women endured inhumane treatment in prison and persevered. Lucy Burns was the first woman to address Congress in 1914 in another attempt to see the 19th Amendment passed.

There were many others who fought loudly—or quietly—like Jane Addams, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, who supported the women’s suffrage movement while working to find solutions to society’s ills. Addams is considered to be the founder of the modern day field of social work. There was Nina Allender, an artist—and cartoonist— who put her talents to work to campaign for women’s suffrage with her pen. Others fought for the abolition of slavery and women’s rights through music, such as Julia Ward Howe who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Unfortunately Susan B. Anthony did not live long enough to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920. She knew though, that the amendment would pass. When she died in March 1906, women had achieved suffrage in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho. The tide was turning and it was apparent the fire she had ignited would not burn out.

Thanks Ben for the reminder of the powerful women who shaped our nation. I’ll remember them when I fill out my ballot—and I’ll look forward to the day when my granddaughters are also able to make their voices heard.

**************

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.”

Clare Boothe Luce


Where are We in October?

 

 

where are we - October 2014Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

Last month’s photo of Highway 61 as it crosses the Onion River—viewed from above at the Ray Berglund State Wayside—was recognized by a number of readers. We did not receive any incorrect guesses this month. Drawn from the correct entries was Mike Nelson of Tofte.

Congratulations to Mike, he wins a one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the October photo. If you think you know where we were when we took the picture, send us your answer. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $30 value). Good luck!

Return answer by mail, e-mail or fax to:

Cook County News-Herald

PO Box 757

Grand Marais MN 55604

starnews@boreal.org

Fax: 218-387-9500

Answer to the October WHERE ARE WE? must be received by November 10, 2014.

 


Long pants and big wigs

School has started so that means Girl Scouts are meeting again. That means things are a little more hectic in Unorganized Territory

Being a Girl Scout leader is very rewarding. It was fun over the summer to see “my” Girl Scouts at various events. And it was delightful to welcome them back to our first meeting, to receive hug after hug from happy young ladies.

But it’s also a challenge getting back in the swing of weekly meetings, monthly leader meetings and planning activities for the various badges the girls need to earn.

At first just remembering the name of our region—Girl Scouts Minnesota -Wisconsin Lakes and Pines (GSMWLP)—was tough. Until the other leaders let me in on the secret mnemonic—Girl Scouts Must Wear Long Pants! It is so silly I’ll never forget it.

I do however, sometimes forget that we are supposed to have an activity for those very energetic young ladies on Thursday afternoons. More than once I’ve ended up frantically googling “Girl Scout activities” just hours before a meeting.

Being a leader forces me to be more organized. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum for Girl Scouts. There are suggested activities for the assorted awards, but much of it is left to the leaders’ discretion.

For example, our fourth-grade Scouts are working on the Flower badge. The leader handbook gives some basic ideas—meet with a botanist, go on a field trip to identify wild flowers, or learn about how flowers are used in the perfume industry or healing arts.

Our fifth-grade Girl Scouts are working their way through the “Agents of Change” journey. It’s an empowering process that teaches the girls that one person can make a difference in the world and also teaches them the importance of working together. At the end of their journey they must work together on some sort of community service project. My co-leader/daughter-in-law Michele and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

But there are no step-by-step directions for these things. Which is sometimes difficult, especially with the additional challenge of leading both fourth- and fifth-grade girls.

Michele is the leader for the fifth-graders and I’m her co-leader. I’m the leader for the fourth-graders and Michele is my co-leader. With different badges for the different ages, we try to plan ahead because it of course makes meetings go much smoother but sometimes we just can’t. Hence the googling of Girl Scout activities.

At a recent leader meeting, all of us burst out laughing when we heard that the instruction manual for new leaders states that a leader can expect to spend about four hours a month on Girl Scout duties. How do these super leaders get it all done in just four hours? How organized are these women, we wondered?

However, constant time crunch aside, being a Girl Scout leader is an awesome experience. The loose curriculum can be exasperating but it also gives us the flexibility to come up with interesting ways to fulfill badge requirements.

One of the fun things Girl Scout leaders get to do is take part in parades with the girls!

One of the fun things Girl Scout leaders get to do is take part in parades with the girls!

We’ve had some great adventures. While working on our Brownie “Water Journey” badges, we visited the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries building at Devil Track Lake, a field trip the girls loved. We also visited the Grand Marais Public Utilities wastewater treatment plant—something the girls did not enjoy as much.

While working on our Artist badge, we painted, painted and painted on all sorts of surfaces. We had a great afternoon with Hovland artist David Hahn. We created chalk art on the pavement and we hiked to the Grand Marais Art Colony to see the plein air exhibit.

As leaders we get to see “our” girls growing up before our eyes. To earn their Citizenship and Patriotism badges, we talked a lot about the history of our country and our flag. We wrote cards and sent them—along with Girl Scout cookies—to folks in the military with Cook County ties. And when each troop was in third grade, they took on the task of conducting the flag ceremony at Girl Scout events.

We’ve also had some hilarious moments. While preparing for Girl Scout Investiture, the ceremony that rededicates us all to the Girl Scout mission at the beginning of the year, Michele and I lectured the girls a bit about proper behavior at this event. Officials from Girl Scouts Minnesota -Wisconsin Lakes and Pines would be at the meeting, Michele told the girls. She cautioned them that they needed to behave in front of the “bigwigs” from Duluth.

The look on our Girl Scouts’ faces was priceless. Big wigs? We could see the question in their eyes—why do the Duluth women have weird hair? Just how big are these wigs?

It took a little while to explain the odd phrase and get our meeting back on track. And I think perhaps our girls were a little disappointed when the GSMWLP representatives showed up at Investiture with ordinarylooking hair.

It makes me smile every time I think of it. Just one of the many rewards of being a Girl Scout leader.

~~~~~~

Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.

Warren Bennis


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