Since it is nearly Thanksgiving, one of the biggest football-game-watching days of the year, I’m going to write about how grateful I am that the Minnesota Vikings stadium currently under construction has a roof.
I know, I just raised the ire of half of the Cook County News-Herald readership. I know there are many people who don’t think the State of Minnesota should be paying a portion of the $975 million price tag, taxing us all to pay for it.
I don’t necessarily disagree, especially in light of news that was announced as I sat down to write this week’s Unorganized Territory. Yet another Viking player—linebacker Erin Henderson—has been arrested. Henderson has not yet been charged, but the case is under investigation by the Eden Prairie Police Department. It appears he may be charged with driving while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance.
Yes, he is innocent until proven guilty, but looking at the Vikings’ recent history, it doesn’t look good for Henderson or the team.
Perhaps they don’t deserve a new stadium. Certainly not one built in part by our tax dollars. But that is not the point of this week’s column. I’m not going to debate the Vikings’ playing ability or talk about their horrible moral standards. Although it is hard not to since according to the New York Times Upshot feature which analyzes the arrest records of NFL players, the Minnesota Vikings have had the most players arrested since 2000. A total of 44 Viking players have been arrested for crimes ranging from drug possession, driving under the influence, reckless driving and domestic violence.
Definitely not something to shout Skol over.
However, it is a moot point. The stadium is being built and one hopes that it will be used by players that can be decent role models for Minnesota’s young people.
But watching football with my husband Chuck over the weekend, I realized I am grateful that Viking management chose reason over false pride. We live in Minnesota. We need roofs over our heads and heaters keeping us from freezing. It’s not a sign of strength to be able to endure frigid cold for no reason; it’s a sign of stupidity.
Watching our Wisconsin rivals shivering in the stands, bundled in so many layers they can barely move, cheering on their beloved Green Bay Packers, makes me laugh. The announcers encourage football fans to come to Green Bay to watch a game. There is no experience like it, they say, speaking fondly of the Packers’ glory days. The announcers wax poetic about the proud tradition of Bart Starr and Coach Vince Lombardi and Packers founder and long-time head coach, Earl “Curly” Lambeau.
I find it very hard to believe that if Coach Lambeau had had the money to build a roof over that original stadium back in 1955, he wouldn’t have done it. I think Bart Starr and the other Packers who played in the historic “Ice Bowl” would have just as happily played in a heated arena.
Other teams stubbornly hold onto the tradition of open air stadiums—the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos. Watching the Packers playing last weekend and seeing the Buffalo Bills clearing snow from their stadium for their next game makes me grateful that Minnesota has a little more sense.
Ideally, the new Viking stadium would have a retractable roof like the ones that are home to the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts. But that would drive up the building costs even more and up our taxes further. No, I think the Minnesota Vikings franchise made a good choice in its stadium design.
Its choice of players? The jury is still out on that.
The secret is to work less as
individuals and more as a
team. As a coach, I play not
my eleven best, but my best
It’s around this time of the year we start seeing Christmas trees on top of vehicles heading south. Many people come to our neck of the woods to select their trees and not from the lot at the Holiday Station store. They head into the woods with a saw, axe or chainsaw in hand and a picture of the perfect tree in their head. I hope to get a tree this weekend but will most likely find it on our own property. Here’s some information from the USFS on cutting trees from forest land.
Kristina Reichenbach, Superior National Forest
GATHERING GREENS – A HOLIDAY TRADITION ON SUPERIOR NATIONAL FOREST
DULUTH, MN (November 21, 2014) Gathering your own Christmas tree or balsam boughs on the national forest is a great way to get outdoors with your family and celebrate the holidays. For many people this is an annual tradition.
Christmas trees: You may stop by any of our Forest Service offices to obtain a permit for a Christmas tree. A permit to cut one Christmas tree on the Superior National Forest costs $5.00. Two Christmas tree permits are allowed per household per year. These are not intended for commercial use.
Boughs: Permits for bough gathering are only available at Ranger District offices. Contact the Ranger District office closest to the area where you plan to collect. A “personal use” permit for gathering balsam boughs on the Superior National Forest allows for enough boughs to make approximately 5 door-size wreaths and costs $20.00. If you plan to harvest a large amount of boughs, a commercial permit must be purchased.
Be sure you use your permit in the right place. Parcels of state, county, tribal and private lands are intermixed with national forest lands within the Superior National Forest boundary. Cutting of Christmas trees and boughs is not allowed inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, plantations, recreation areas, or administrative sites. Visitor maps of the Superior National Forest which show land ownership are available for $10.00 at all Forest offices and also via internet.
You may use your Off-highway vehicles (OHVs), including ATVs and dirt bikes, only on designated trails and specific roadways. Motor vehicle use maps are available at Forest offices and are posted on our website. Snowmobiles may be used on designated trails and cross-country in most areas or on unplowed roads with a 4-inch minimum snow cover. Check with the Forest office issuing your permit about any restrictions in the area you plan to visit.
Superior National Forest office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, with the exception of federal holidays. Permits and maps may be obtained by mail but you must allow time for a check to travel through the mail and materials to be returned.
Make your tree-cutting outing a safe and enjoyable experience by following these tips:
- Arrive early at your cutting area as it may take longer than you think to find that special tree.Bring snacks and water as well.
- Check the weather outlook and be ready for changing conditions.
- Carry tire chains, shovel, flashlights, and blankets in your vehicle, plus rope to tie down your tree. Many national forest roads are not maintained or snowplowed during the winter, so be sure that your vehicle is equipped for winter travel and has a full tank of gas.
- Wear proper winter clothing and carry extras in case you get wet. You might be warm, dry and comfortable when you start, but you may get tired and cold as the day wears on.
- Let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back. Check in when you return.
- Don’t rely on your cell phone as it may not work in many areas of the forest.
- Keep aware of your location. Bring a map, compass or GPS technology and know how to use it.
- Watch for other traffic – on foot, on the road, and on the trails and be aware that hunting season may still be underway.
For a printable flyer and additional information, visit the Superior National Forest web site at: www.fs.usda.gov/superior
The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes twenty states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/R9.
The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.
I can’t say I am upset we won’t have venison to eat this winter, I don’t really like the taste of it. PLEASE don’t tell me when you cook it I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between deer meat and beef, that’s like telling me I wouldn’t be able to taste the difference between Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi. I have amazingly good taste buds and I can tell you if a bottle of Diet Coke is expired in just one taste. And yes, no matter how you cook it venison still tastes like venison.
This year Mike’s family spent one of the weekends hunting on the Gunflint Trail. They saw just as many wolves as they did deer and none of the deer had antlers so they couldn’t shoot. One highlight of the weekend is when Mike’s brother-in-laws’ father was sitting on a chair and heard a sudden noise. He turned just in time to see a deer come within a foot of running him over. As he toppled over in his chair he saw the reason the deer was in a hurry, a wolf was in hot pursuit. He could also hear another reason nearby in the woods.
I’m not sure the wolves are going to even have venison this winter. There weren’t too many success stories coming from the Gunflint Trail. They may have to eat more moose, I heard they like that better than venison anyway.
There are some special people that I would like to thank as we come into the Thanksgiving season and as we have finished up our 5th summer in Grand Marais. Hardly a day goes by that someone does not come into the store and tell me how great it looks and how much they like the design and the way it is merchandised. So let’s start at the beginning.
When I decided to buy the property and remodel the store the first people I needed to track down were an architect and a designer. Tom Barbeau was the original architect of the store along with a local designer, Richard Olson, that he has worked with for years, so that is where I started. We pulled out the original plans of the store and added some area and finished off the back areas and third floor. They made some changes to the floor plan and we were on our way.
Next we needed a general contractor and Tom got me in touch with Arno Kahn of Builder’s Commonwealth of Duluth since they too worked on the building when it first went up. I was reluctant to use out of Cook County contractors for the work and came to an agreement that we would use Cook County labor in almost all instances. Our local labor force is as good as it gets and if I was going to live here and have a store here, it was imperative that we had “locals” doing the majority of the work.
While we were putting the store up we needed to put together a staff that was knowledgeable about the outdoors and the area and had a feel for what the consumer needed to enjoy our area. We quickly put together a staff that did a fabulous job of getting the store up and ready for our grand opening. Some of those same people are still here today. Others have moved on but we have always been able to find great people to take their place.
Social media was next. Kristin Walters set up our web site and Facebook originally and set the stage for what we have today. When Kristin left us we were so fortunate to bring in Ann Papenfuss of Apirlaät who picked up where Kristin left off and has made our web site and Facebook what it is today.
Next I looked around and even though I was extremely pleased with the talents of the staff in terms of merchandising, I felt we needed an outside touch so I brought in Colleen Kleve and Tracey Lundhagen of Double Vision to help put a professional touch on our displays and it too has paid off.
I mention all of this so that next time you come in the store you will know where the talent comes from. We go form the architect, designer, builders all the way to the staff, which of course is the most important asset I have. And on a personal note, two people who were most instrumental in the whole initial planning and implementation of the concept were Kristin Walters, my daughter and Eric Stone, my son who was my initial CFO.
So, if you are ever looking for help with your projects, do not hesitate to contact any of those I have mentioned above. Most of my local contractors do not have web sites or Facebooks but do not hesitate to call me when looking for recommendations.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to hear international speaker, Gil Penalosa, speak in Duluth. Gil Penalosa is the executive director of the Toronto-based organization “8-80 Cities,” and is passionate about cities for all people. Throughout his compelling hour-long presentation, Penalosa spoke of a simple concept: cities and communities that work for our children (8 year olds) and our seniors (80 year olds).
So what does Penalosa’s “8 to 80 Rule” tell us about Highway 61 in Grand Marais? The 8 to 80 rule is simple:
- Think of an older adult.
- Think of a child.
- Would you send them out together for a walk to the park?
If you would, it is safe enough. If you wouldn’t, it needs to be improved. Let’s apply this to Highway 61 in Grand Marais. Would you send your loved one, an older adult or a child, across Highway 61?
This week I explored this question with elders and children in our community. I shared lunch with a group of eight 5th-7th graders at Great Expectations School. When asked about any problems they have encountered on 61 in Grand Marais, the group yelled out a cacophony:
Cars don’t stop!
One young woman followed up:
You pretty much have to make a gesture like stepping out in the road before you try to cross. Even in the crosswalks, cars don’t stop.
The group consensus was that many families have the rule that children have to be 11 years old before they can cross 61 alone, and children are encouraged to cross only at certain locations. So in regards to the 8 to 80 Rule, something needs to improve for safe crossing of 61.
Frankie Jarchow, a representative of the elderly on the Active Living Steering Committee, met with fellow bridge players to gather feedback about the unique concerns and ideas of active seniors. Frankie shared comments from 9 seniors in their 60-80’s. Several comments addressed issues facing the Highway 61 corridor for seniors or the disabled:
Not shoveled sidewalks, crossing the busy highway, very difficult and dangerous to cross the road, crossing the street at Highway 61 can be dangerous either by car or foot.
It turns out that the children and seniors we spoke with this week agree that the 8 to 8o Rule tells us we need to make improvements for safe crossing of Highway 61 in Grand Marais. Does this surprise anyone? I don’t think so. Safe crossings have been one of the most agreed upon concerns in the Highway 61 redesign process. As we dream and plan about a redesign of Highway 61, or any new projects within our communities, let’s make sure that the proposed solutions create a space that works for our 8 to 80 year olds.
Even though our doors aren’t open yet, we at Voyageur Brewing Company have much to be thankful for, including, but not limited to:
The fine people at the IRRRB and the National Bank of Commerce;
Virginia Palmer, our excellent realtor;
Rich Palmer of COMO LP;
Baiers Herren, our outstanding business lawyer and the terrific Sharon Door of Swanson & Herren, P.C.;
Brian Morse, our extremely talented architect from TKDA;
Rick Crawford and his superlative people at Crawford Excavating;
Smith Construction and their amazing crew;
Mike Roth of the City of Grand Marais;
The exceptional craftspeople of Hedstrom Lumber;
Brian Sherburne, our superb carpenter;
Mike, who’s probably dry walling and painting this second, he works so danged hard;
Jeff Suck; the talented folks at Cavallin Plumbing; Brian Palmquist; and the many people who have wished us well or follow our blog or offered to help us taste beer. Apologies in advance to anyone we might have forgotten, but know that we are grateful for every chore and kindness that’s been done.
Last but not least, we must thank David Moore of Moore Photography in Coffs Harbour, Australia for kindly permitting use to use his excellent footage of a turkey drinking beer. If you need a photographer down under, he’s your man! moorephotography.com.au
Have a wonderful holiday all, and see you in the tap room in 2015.
One day I will see caribou migrating. The crew that paddled this summer saw a huge herd with thousands of caribou of all sizes. Until then I will have to be satisfied by watching videos and reading about it.
Question of the week
Q: I noticed the DNR eagle cam is back online. Do bald eagles in Minnesota migrate for the winter, or do they stay on their summer nests?
A: Many Minnesota bald eagles do not migrate. As long as they have access to open water, they can and do stay here all year. In fact, with the installation of the eagle cam, we have learned that eagle nests are rarely vacant. Eagles are bonded to their nesting territories, and staying around ensures that it will not be taken over by another eagle or pair of eagles.
The eagles along the Mississippi River and Hawk Ridge near Lake Superior during spring and fall are mostly migrating eagles. Most of the eagles come from Canada and use the Mississippi flyway to travel south to their wintering grounds.
Lori Naumann, DNR nongame wildlife program specialist
After a busy summer when I did no blog writing, it is time to get back into the swing of writing to you all regularly.
During the early summer it was cool and rainy followed by sunshine. This meant a bump crop of strawberries and blueberries. Bruce and I picked (on hands and knees) 16 cups of wild strawberries. Every berry went into jam. Blueberries have been made into jam too except for a supply kept in the freezer for pies, scones and pancakes. I thought there were not too many raspberries but we still ended up with 36 jars of jam.
The lodge was busy for most of the summer. Right now we are in that quiet time between fall color and the holidays. It may still officially be fall but the snow is coming down while I write as if it is winter. We have also had some cold weather that is more like winter than fall. Who knows what the rest of the year will bring but right now we are on the way to good skiing conditions.
Hunting season is just over and deer are starting to come down to the lodge. Apparently the does and young ones know that no one is hunting them. Meanwhile we have the meat from a nice forked buck in our freezer.
Bruce and I took off for three weeks. We went to Tanzania on safari with three other couples We saw the most game in our lives. One thrilling moment was being in our car while a herd of about 200 elephants walked past on all four sides. It took 25 minutes and we loved very minute. Another day we saw a mother lioness bring her four young cubs out to play. You can imagine how cute those fat little cubs were. Each day was filled with surprises as game appeared when we least expected it. Who would think that a dung beetle could be so interesting?
After the safari Bruce and I took off for a week in Paris. We rented and apartment and walked all over the city. Our estimate was 4 miles a day. Our days were divided between museums and monuments and street fairs and shopping. Of course, the main events each day were lunch and dinner. All those wonderful starters were our favorites – escargot, mussels, French onion soup, pates and foie gras. It is a good thing we walked every day.
Now we are home and about to go down to Robert, Miranda and Zach’s for Thanksgiving. I have been warned to prepare for a big surprise. It seems that at 14 years of age, Zach is now up to 6 feet tall! I have no idea how those kids grow so fast.
One of the highlights of the fall was the birth of our first great-grandson. Tanner and Molly’s son, Oliver, just takes our breath away. Aren’t you supposed to be “old” before a great-grandchild is born?
The lodge has just a couple cabins open for Thanksgiving. Christmas and New Year’s are almost full too. It looks like we will be ending the year with a bang.
It’s a short week for the kids with only two days of school. Thankfully there aren’t any hockey games to attend until next weekend either. With one in Silver Bay on Saturday and one in Moose Lake today I can use a break from the road. We’re staying home for the holiday this Thanksgiving and I’m looking forward to it. If the snow holds off then a couple of hikes are on the agenda, if the snow doesn’t hold off then we’ll have to get the snowshoes out to hit the trails.
We’re also going to find ourselves a Christmas Tree to cut down. With a little luck I may even get a Christmas letter written. I still have photo cards from last year that never made it into the mail so there’s no rush to get a photo taken and printed like in normal years. I hope your Thanksgiving plans are as stress-free as mine and I hope you have a short week too.
I find it kind of strange the Red Pine is the state tree of Minnesota yet it isn’t very abundant in our state. It doesn’t even make the top 10 list of abundant trees in Minnesota.
Q: Which tree species are most abundant in Minnesota?
A: Our most abundant tree species in Minnesota is the quaking aspen with an estimated population of more than 3.5 billion. The next most abundant species (in order) are balsam fir, black spruce, black ash, paper birch, tamarack, red maple, northern white cedar, sugar maple and balsam poplar.
Curtis Vanderschaaf, biometrician, DNR Forestry Division, resource assessment
Want to know why the Red Pine is the state tree? Here’s why…Tree
Through the efforts of the Friday Study Club in Minneapolis, and backed by the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Norway pine designation was passed in 1953. It was sponsored by Sen. Gordon H. Butler and Rep. George A. French, and signed into law by Governor C. Elmer Anderson on February 18, 1953. The language of Chapter 20 noted the sturdiness and majesty of the tree, and how it helped lay the foundation for the wealth of Minnesota.
The gales of November. The wind was gusting over 20 miles per hour most of the day today. The waves on Lake Superior were crashing constantly. It was -2 degrees this morning and if the temperature wouldn’t have warmed up it would have been seriously brutal outside this afternoon and evening. Luckily the warmer temperatures arrived just in time and it’s currently 27 degrees outside.
Tomorrow is the day. It’s the day to make sure everything outside is ready for the snow to come. Because after this weekend I don’t think we’ll be seeing balmy temperatures again until spring.
Did you hear about the town in Wisconsin that has received 81 inches of snow already this season? Buffalo is the lucky location in Wisconsin. This early snow is great for them but unfortunately their snowmobile trails don’t open until December 1st. I guess folks have a little bit of time to get their snow machines running and cross-country skis waxed.
I’m hoping when the wind blows the next time it brings us a bunch of snow along with it.
This week's theme was getting up to speed on a few of the very important organizations that exist in our community: the Chamber of Commerce and our Emergency Management Services.
The new Councilors and myself were invited and attended the last Chamber meeting, which was incredibly useful to understand what the organization does, what it doesn't do, and how it is able to impact change/economic development in our county.
The Chamber addressed, in just the meeting on the 19th, issues having to do with abuse to young women in our community, training for our local contractors that would help them learn about new energy efficient techniques, how our area businesses can help encourage their employees to be more healthy, and how we can create opportunities for all of our businesses to network and thus benefit from each other's experience. That list seems to be all over the map, but I believe the Chamber is hitting many of the concerns and needs of our community squarely on the head with its initiatives.
In addition to these initiatives, the Chamber has strong connections to the state and federal governments; they represent our needs for additional funding or assistance to the state legislature and beyond. An example of their work can be seen down in Lutsen where the water pipeline is being installed. They are working on many projects, but a few that I wanted to mention to you are:
1. Workforce Housing-- I can't agree more. We are hoping that the state establishes a fund that can designate grant monies to communities in need of adequate workforce housing. You can bet that I will be listening closely to every whisper happening on this front. If there is even a thought that such a fund would be established, the City Council will be preparing to apply and receive this money.
2. Early Childhood Development-- There has been a growing body of research that shows that if you get young children into high quality developmental programming between the ages of 2-5, then the performance gap between sub-poverty level students and middle-class students is dramatically lessened. Considering that we live in an area with relatively low wages, any programs that support ECD would benefit us greatly. Also, at present we cannot access the new statewide Early Learning Scholarship program because our land values are high and thus it makes our county look like it is not in need of the program. The Chamber is working to correct these things.
3. Sunday Liquor Sales-- I just had to put this one in. I guess that this has been a stumbling point for the tourism industry up here where visitors to the area get upset when the liquor store is closed on Sundays... I have mixed feelings about this, but I find it hard to believe that the city wouldn't make a fair amount of money on Sunday sales. Weigh in on this: What do you think about Sunday sales?
The other meeting I went to opened up my eyes to understand one of the very interested responsibilities of the mayor.
Did you know that in the case of a natural disaster or some sort of an emergency the MAYOR is the one who makes the declaration? It was interesting to learn that this first step in the emergency management system is necessary in order to receive ANY relief funding... Well, I won't miss any emergencies, that's for sure!
The Emergency Management training held for elected officials on Thursday hear
kened back to my days on the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and the Incident Command System used by all of our agencies to manage disasters or emergencies. We learned the structure of the system and also what our role is in the system. The Deputy Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Minnesota, Joe Kelly, taught all of us that as elected officials we are to provide policy guidance to the people responding to the emergency as well as helping to coordinate the resources over which we preside (city trucks, equipment, etc). We can use our knowledge of the town and its infrastructure to help them out strategically as well as authorizing actions that need to be taken for the general public safety. In the case of an emergency I am JUST fine turning over control of the situation to the well-trained and capable hands of our new County Sheriff, Pat, or Jim Wiinanen, our Emergency Management Coordinator.
We also heard from our neighbors to the North as to how the Canadians handle emergencies. In many ways it is exactly the same as we do, in some ways it is very different. No matter how you shake it out, we need to know each others' structures and be willing to work with them in the instance of an emergency.
I am registered to take a more in-depth course in March of 2015 that will give me even more specific information having to do with the City's response to and role in an emergency.
Now it is time to head down to North House for the Winterer's Gathering. You can find me with a bottomless bag of popcorn watching great movies as well as checking out some great camping setups!
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I wish you all a pleasant and nap-inducing Thanksgiving!
11/21/14 - Dave and Amy Freeman, our wonderful and over-qualified guides here at Sawbill, are nearing the end of their latest epic human powered journey.
11/21/14 - Dave and Amy Freeman, our wonderful and over-qualified guides here at Sawbill, are nearing the end of their latest epic human powered journey. They have paddled and sailed from Ely, Minnesota to Washington D.C. to deliver a canoe that is a floating petition signed by people who are concerned with the environmental and economic impact of proposed mining projects near the BWCA Wilderness.
Last night, they gave a talk at the University of Delaware, where they were greeted by long-time Sawbill canoeists Jean and Richard Krohn.
A Sawbill reunion in Delaware. (l-r) Amy Freeman, Dave Freeman, Jean Krohn, Richard Krohn. Jean is proudly wearing her Sawbill t-shirt.
Steve West, from the Duluth area, is one of the leading fishing experts in the Sawbill area. He sent along this picture from his latest vist, just a little more than a month ago.
Steve is holding the catch for his entire party, so no need to call the game warden.
This morning the temperature got down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit for a brief amount of time. The wind blew fiercely throughout the day and it felt very cold. This weekend the temperature is predicted to get up into the 30′s, that is going to feel warm after the bitter temperatures we’ve been experiencing already this winter.
I’m not sure how time can pass so quickly. Next week is already Thanksgiving and it feels like Halloween was yesterday. It feels like my niece Chelsea was born last year and today she turned 21 years old. 21 years old! I remember giving her a bottle and now she can drink beer from a bottle legally.
Temperatures and time always changing never constant.
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.
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
F. Lee Bailey