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This LTE highlights what I think is a Range war. It starts by saying “I got a big chuckle out of comments by Governor Mark Dayton (MDN 5/13) ‘Everyone on the Range should know: the state government is on your side.’ In fact, I still can’t stop laughing! His comments remind me of the old adage ‘The Three Biggest Lies: the check is in the mail, of course I’ll still respect you in the morning and I’m from the government…I’m here to help you.'”

One thing comes through clearly in that opening: Rangers don’t trust Gov. Dayton. That should frighten whoever becomes the DFL gubernatorial candidate. Tim Walz’s Lt. Gov. pick is a wild-eyed environmentalist. That’s before considering the fact that Walz was a longtime NRA member who just threw that record overboard to win the endorsement. While she was part of the Executive Council, Rebecca Otto voted against approving a series of exploratory mining leases, then sent out a fundraising letter bragging that she’d stood up to big mining corporations. Finally, Erin Murphy is an unknown quantity in terms of mining policy but who is the most progressive of the 3 DFL finalists. Why would a Ranger trust her on mining issues?

Mark Dayton is a poor little rich kid from Minneapolis whose fortune is invested in trust in South Dakota to escape Minnesota taxes. He is personally and ideologically aligned with the environmental wacko movement and his heart and soul is not with us on the Range.

Dayton will do what he thinks the Range needs, not what the Range knows it needs.

The DFL has literally run the Range into the ground for decades. That isn’t hyperbole. When confronted with the Range’s high unemployment years ago, IRRRB Chairman Tony Sertich said (sorry, I’m paraphrasing here) that that’s been that way for years. The statistics verify that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Republican Party is the new home for construction workers, farmers and miners. The DFL doesn’t understand blue collar workers any more. The DFL has fought and is fighting against new pipeline construction (Sandpiper) or old pipeline (Line 3) replacement.

The DFL has shut its doors to blue collar workers. Their policies haven’t helped the Range in decades. Literally.

Pete Stauber heads into today’s CD-8 Republican convention as the only candidate in the race on the GOP side. Perhaps that’s because he’s an impressive candidate with a strong organization. Perhaps, it’s because his list of endorsements reads like a Who’s Who of Iron Range mayors:

“Enthusiasm is very, very high,” Stauber said. “It’s an inspiration for me as a candidate.” But it’s not the delegate numbers that are most telling at this stage in the race, some seven months away from Election Day. It’s the names Larry Cuffe Jr. of Virginia, Shari Swanson of Buhl, Robert Vlaisavljevich of Eveleth and Andrea Zupancich of Babbitt, the four Range mayors who have endorsed Stauber despite being from a region traditionally known as a stronghold for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

This is still a tough fight for Republicans but it’s worth noting that Eighth District Republicans have flipped a bunch of legislative seats since 2010.

After today’s convention makes him the officially endorsed candidate, Stauber can start his general election campaign. Meanwhile, on the DFL side, a handful of candidates will have to fight things out amongst themselves for the next 3 months.

This must put a smile on Stauber’s face:

But it’s not just Stauber’s position on mining that is winning over some people on the Range, said Cuffe, who admitted to being raised Democrat and voting Democrat most of his life. “I believe in his qualities and values,” Cuffe said of Stauber. “Mining is just a small reason why I support him.”

The Twin Cities DFL is nuts. It’s composed of trust fund babies and environmentalists. Rudy Perpich’s DFL exists only in the history books.

Swanson added she’s less likely to listen to local DFLers even if they are full-tilt for mining. The party, she said, has been co-opted by Twin Cities’ metropolitan values. “It just seems like more and more the power is coming out of the Twin Cities in the DFL Party,” she said. “It’s getting stronger on their side and it’s less friendly with what we do up here.”

This is a fight Stauber can win. If he wins and, as I suspect, Republicans flip Tim Walz’s seat, it could make for a very good night for the Republican Party of Minnesota.

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Let’s recount the DFL’s Eighth District Convention last Saturday. According to multiple tweets, Leah Phifer got the most votes in each of the 10 rounds of balloting. Still, she didn’t reach the 60% threshold needed to win the DFL’s official endorsement to run for the US House of Representatives. It was considered a fait accompli that Ms. Phifer would run in the August DFL primary. Why wouldn’t she? She was the frontrunner in each of the 10 rounds of balloting.

Late Wednesday night, though, Ms. Phifer dropped a bombshell, announcing that she wouldn’t run in the DFL primary.

In her official statement, Ms. Phifer said “My goal, since first declaring my candidacy in October 2017, has always been to win the DFL endorsement, bring new voices to the table and strengthen the party. A divisive primary season would only serve to weaken the party and distract from the issues affecting the people of the 8th District.”

This doesn’t make any sense. Phifer was the only environmental activist of the 4 candidates that were either considering running in the DFL primary or who had announced that they were running. Further, CD-8 was the only district where Rebecca Otto defeated Tim Walz. Clearly, environmental activists were activated in the Eighth. In a 4-way race, there’s no reason to think that she couldn’t have defeated her opponents.

Considering the fact that DFL Chairman Ken Martin said that a divided DFL that didn’t endorse a candidate couldn’t defeat Pete Stauber and considering the fact that the DFL was a divided shambles Saturday night after they failed to endorse a candidate, isn’t it interesting that they suddenly have 3 pro-mining candidates running in the DFL primary? What are the odds that the frontrunner, the candidate who stood between DFL unity and DFL division, unexpectedly dropped out?

It’s difficult to believe that someone who looked that energized in that picture voluntarily dropped out of the race. I think the more likely question is more nefarious. Which of Ken Martin’s inner circle forced Leah Phifer from the race?

Finally, let’s recall a little history within the CD-8 DFL. Chairman Martin and Congressman Nolan have fought to prevent a fight between the pro-mining faction within the DFL and the pro-environment faction. In fact, they fought that fight for years. Why wouldn’t they fight to prevent it one last time?

The DFL’s CD-8 food fight, aka CD-8 DFL Primary, is starting to take shape. The latest news is that “State Rep. Jason Metsa is not done yet in his bid to replace Rep. Rick Nolan in Congress. On Sunday, Metsa said he will continue his campaign, targeting the 8th Congressional District DFL primary election in August.” Sunday morning, Metsa said “With no result from the DFL endorsement process, I have chosen to continue my campaign to be the DFL nominee for Congress in #MN08. The best way to identify the strongest candidate to win in November is through a primary campaign,” Metsa said in his statement. “I look forward to running a robust grassroots campaign focused on our shared values of fairness and responsibility.”

According to the Duluth Tribune, “Metsa joins Phifer, Radinovich and Michelle Lee as candidates vying for the primary.”

Thus far, each of the candidates is staking out their territory:

“We need to make sure that equal access to healthcare, education, the right to put food on your table and a roof over your head is something that all Americans can achieve, not just those who can afford it,” Phifer said.
Radinovich emphasized the importance of education.

“I got myself elected to state legislature where I got myself on the Education Finance Committee and I passed legislation to make sure that there was no gaps between the richest and poorest schools in our state,” Radinovich said.

Phifer said she would fight for sensible gun control, climate change, DACA, protecting treaty rights as the supreme law of the land, and raising minimum wage. “The DFL is the party that fights for our safety and wellbeing. We are the party that believes in economic justice. In congress I will lead the fight for $15 an hour minimum wage,” Phifer said.

Metsa hadn’t jumped into the race at the time of the WDIO article, which was written on Saturday.

Thus far, this is the field for the CD-8 DFL Primary:

Let the food fight begin.

Prior to Saturday’s DFL Convention, I thought that the DFL’s best chance to hold a battleground congressional district was the Eighth District. Based on Saturday’s CD-8 DFL convention outcome, I won’t predict that anymore. Based on reports like this article, it sounds like the convention ended in discord.

Sam Brodey reports that “it’ll take an August primary to determine which of these Democrats earns the chance to compete in the general election, and that primary has the potential to showcase the party’s rifts on issues like mining and immigration, which were on full display at Saturday’s convention.”

One of the early casualties was Rep. Jason Metsa. Rep. Metsa got into the race late. Still, he might run in the DFL primary. Others sure to run in the DFL primary are Joe Radinovich, Leah Phifer and Michelle Lee. Each of those candidates have flaws.

For instance, Phifer is an environmentalist who worked for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That put her at odds with “members of the Latino DFL Caucus.” Rep. Radinovich was a one-term wonder from Aitkin before losing to Dale Lueck. After that defeat, Radinovich was Nolan’s campaign manager before becoming Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s chief of staff. When Nolan endorsed Radinovich after the 6th ballot, Frey held up a sign announcing Nolan’s endorsement.

Frey, who traveled to Duluth to work the floor for Radinovich, got on top of a chair with a hand-written sign broadcasting Nolan’s endorsement to the delegates. But ultimately, Nolan’s support was not enough for Radinovich to eclipse Phifer.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that DFL State Party Chair Ken Martin addressed the convention:

Addressing delegates earlier in the afternoon, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin urged delegates to unite behind a candidate. “If we come out of here divided, we’re not going to win,” he said.

It’s still to be decided whether the primary will split or unite the DFL but it can’t be denied that the DFL isn’t off to a good start of uniting the party. It can’t make Martin feel good that the candidates essentially ignored his exhortation to unite.

Looming large over the convention was a candidate who wasn’t even in the room: Republican Pete Stauber, who is a lock to earn the CD8 Republican Party endorsement. Democrats are concerned that a bitter and drawn-out primary will give Stauber time to raise money and consolidate support, boosting his campaign to win this seat in November.

National Republicans like Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner who formerly served with the Duluth Police Department, and they view CD8 as one of their best pick-up opportunities in the entire country. President Donald Trump won here by 15 points in 2016, and Republican candidates are making inroads in places like the Iron Range, which has been a DFL stronghold for the better part of the century. Nolan’s retirement, in the eyes of the GOP, only increased their chances of flipping CD8.

The biggest advantages of not getting primaried is that the opposition doesn’t get additional ammunition against the candidate, in this case, Mr. Stauber. The other advantage is the opportunity to open some deep philosophical differences. Mining is something that the DFL, especially Chairman Martin and Congressman Nolan, have worked hard at avoiding.

That’ll be difficult in the primary since Radinovich is from the ‘other’ Range, aka the Cuyuna Range. Meanwhile, Phifer is a diehard environmental activist. Those wings of the DFL mix together like the DLC wing and the MoveOn.org wing of the DNC.

At minimum, the DFL will spend this summer fighting and burning through cash while possibly dividing the party for both the congressional candidate and the gubernatorial candidate. If the DFL isn’t united this time, it will be a tough year for them up-and-down the ballot.

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If we know anything about Gov. Dayton, it’s that he’s a political opportunist. This article insists that Gov. Dayton has “shrewd political instincts”, too. J. Patrick Coolican’s article is nothing more than another Strib pro-Dayton puff piece.

It opens by saying “Since Gov. Mark Dayton came out in favor of a controversial proposal by PolyMet to mine copper, nickel and other precious metals in northeastern Minnesota, he and his allies have said that his support is guided by sound environmental and economic policy, not politics. But Dayton’s decision and its timing showed the shrewd political instincts, as well as the loyalty to the DFL Party, that have helped him win statewide office four times. By giving his public support to PolyMet he offered an olive branch to the Iron Range, knowing that he could take the political hit from environmentalists since he’s not running for re-election next year, and at the same time forge a temporary peace in the ongoing conflict.”

Actually, it’s guided by politics. Gov. Dayton hasn’t changed into a consistent supporter of the Range. He’s still opposed to the Twin Metals project. He’s still vehemently opposed to the Line 3 Pipeline project that would create approximately 3 times as many jobs as a typical end-of-session bonding bill would create.

This quote is telling:

“It diminishes PolyMet as an issue going forward. It’s one less flash point. That’s what a responsible steward of his party would do,” said Joe Radinovich, a former DFL state legislator who was U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s 2016 campaign manager.

It hasn’t had that effect whatsoever. It’s telling that Coolican said that Gov. Dayton “could take the political hit from environmentalists since he’s not running for re-election next year.” Doesn’t that mean that the candidates running to replace him can’t afford to get on the environmental activists’ bad side? Further, a page will get turned when the DFL picks their gubernatorial candidate. From that point forward, the Range will make their decision based on that candidate.

This paragraph is telling, too:

For some, it came too late. Dayton’s DFL has taken heavy losses in legislative districts in greater Minnesota, as Republicans have successfully tied them to Twin Cities environmentalists and other progressives at the expense of economic development in struggling communities.

Do the people in this video sound like they’re pro-mining?

Further, Coolican is right. Republicans have flipped rural Minnesota. The DFL have repeatedly proven that they’re anti-farmer, anti-labor. You can’t be anti-mining and pro-labor. You can’t ignore the farmers’ agenda and stay on the farmers’ good side.

This isn’t just about PolyMet. The Range wants to vote for someone who’ll always have their backs. The DFL is still the divided party, with a heavy anti-mining slant:

The DFL factions hit a breaking point recently when Reid Carron, well-known environmentalist in Ely, made disparaging remarks about miners in a Sunday New York Times Magazine story. “They want somebody to just give them a job so they can all drink beer with their buddies and go four-wheeling and snowmobiling with their buddies, not have to think about anything except punching a clock,” he said, before later apologizing.

It didn’t take long for Gov. Dayton suddenly react to the article:

So Dayton stepped on the fire. Just eight days after publication of the explosive story in the Times, the governor announced in an interview that he favors the PolyMet project if it meets permitting requirements and financial assurances that would protect Minnesota taxpayers in the event of a fiscal or environmental catastrophe.

What a coincidence! Immediately after environmental activists show their true colors, Gov. Dayton made his pro-mining announcement. If he was truly pro-mining, why hasn’t Gov. Dayton done anything to make the permitting process fair and transparent? If he’s truly pro-mining, why didn’t Gov. Dayton take on the environmental activists?

Perhaps, it’s because he’s a political opportunist who isn’t really pro-mining.

The editors at the Mesabi Daily News are being respectful of Gov. Dayton, though they aren’t letting him off the hook either. In this Our View Editorial, they simply ask what Gov. Dayton meant when he said he supports PolyMet.

It’s clear that the Mesabi Daily News welcomed the headline when they stated “Dayton’s support is more than welcome around the Iron Range, which has been through the ups and downs and review process with the project for more than a decade. Having the top DFLer in Minnesota give it the thumbs up cannot be understated.” Still, they aren’t excited about Gov. Dayton’s statement because they then wrote “But what does Dayton’s support mean to the project in real terms?”

The reason why they don’t trust him is stated clearly when they wrote “Every time PolyMet celebrates a new achievement on its way to breaking ground, a new lawsuit swoops in to try and delay it. Will Dayton help call off the dogs as the project’s bigger milestones enter the horizon?” That’s a totally fair question. It’s easy to say you support mining if you know that environmental activists will file another lawsuit that adds another delay to the project.

There’s a bigger point that’s important to make, too. Why should Rangers tolerate a regulatory system that’s this convoluted? How many studies are enough? How many hearings need to be held? Chip Cravaack tried getting this pushed through when he was in office. He was elected in 2010, the same election that gave us Gov. Dayton.

It’s clear that Gov. Dayton hasn’t jettisoned the environmentalists. He’s still siding with the environmentalists on Twin Metals and the Line 3 Pipeline project. While the lawsuits fly, PolyMet sits in limbo:

If they get through the permitting and the lawsuits, this will be part of PolyMet’s processing plant. So much for preserving pristine waters.

Forgive me if I’m more than a little skeptical that Gov. Dayton’s sudden support of PolyMet is sincere. First, Gov. Dayton said “Nothing of that magnitude is risk free but I think it’s a risk worth taking and I support the project. But they still have to meet the environmental permitting requirements.” Nothing has changed in the sense that PolyMet always would have to meet the standards set out in Minnesota law.

Further, I’m suspicious of his statement because it comes so close to Bill Hanna’s statement that “the days of blind Range voting allegiance to the DFL Party are history. Consider this: State Sen. David Tomassoni’s district is in the heart of DFL country. Yet, it was carried by Republican Donald Trump not Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. That reflects a troubling trend for the DFL and rural Minnesota, according to Tomassoni. There were 21 rural DFL senators in the Legislature in 2009. Now there are seven, he said.”

The true test of whether Gov. Dayton has changed is whether he’ll support the Line 3 Pipeline project. It, too, would have to meet stringent environmental requirements. If Gov. Dayton doesn’t support the Line 3 Pipeline project, we’ll know that his support for PolyMet isn’t sincere.

This is utterly laughable:

The project has been studied for more than a decade and is still undergoing scrutiny. Dayton’s declaration that he supports the project does not negate or short-circuit that ongoing permitting examination. Several state agencies are currently examining the proposed mine.

“I don’t interfere with those determinations,” Dayton said.

Gov. Dayton, you don’t have to “interfere” in the process because you’ve stacked the regulating agencies with hard-core environmental activists who will do your dirty work. That’s if it gets that far. This chart explains the permitting process:

The next step in the process is to have Native Americans review the process. Let’s just say that I’m not betting they’ll approve the project. If they can’t get past that, the project suffers another expensive, time-wasting major setback.

Forgive me if I think that the DFL politician who negotiated this year’s budget deal in bad faith isn’t acting in good faith now. This is telling:

And the two sides are further and further apart on that project and on the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, creating a tinderbox of emotion. “If I had a magic wand I would bring folks together,” he said. “I don’t see the middle ground on either one.”

Gov. Dayton, often, there isn’t middle ground. Often, it just requires a leader to make a decision. It’s apparent that you aren’t that leader.

Anyone that thinks rural Minnesota isn’t changing its voting habits needs to read Bill Hanna’s article in the Mesabi Daily News. Included in the article is this information:

But the days of blind Range voting allegiance to the DFL Party are history. Consider this: State Sen. David Tomassoni’s district is in the heart of DFL country. Yet, it was carried by Republican Donald Trump not Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

That reflects a troubling trend for the DFL and rural Minnesota, according to Tomassoni. There were 21 rural DFL senators in the Legislature in 2009. Now there are seven, he said. “The map is going ‘Red’ (Republican) and keeps creeping towards us,” Tomassoni said. “Meanwhile, rural Minnesota keeps losing ground.”

It gets worse for the DFL:

Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul responded to a request for comment with a general statement that we can have both clean water and mining jobs. “When it comes to questions that pit water and jobs against each other, we must ensure that we have clear science-based processes that include strong financial assurances.” State and federal processes already do that.

The Range is changing annually. They’re fed up with the Metro DFL’s answers:

They often give a standard, “Yes, I support copper/nickel, if it can be done safely” answer, even though the projects continue to meet and exceed state and federal rules and regulations for permitting and operation.

There’s less wiggle room for the DFL than there was a decade ago. In 2014, I wrote this post about the difficulties then facing DFL Chairman Ken Martin:

Ken Martin got what he had hoped for at the DFL State Convention last weekend regarding the copper/nickel/precious metals mining issue on the Range: Nothing — no resolution for or against debated on the floor. The state DFL Party chairman had said for a couple months in interviews and conversations with the Mesabi Daily News that his goal was to not have the controversial issue turn into a convention firefight. He succeeded, despite passionate feelings on both sides.

He got away with that in 2014. That won’t fly at the 2018 DFL State Convention. Sen. Tomassoni summarizes things pretty succinctly with this statement:

But the state senator said the gubernatorial election is a critical one for the region. “People are really fed up with those in the Twin Cities area lecturing us and telling us how to live our lives. We have the cleanest water in the state and we’ve been mining for more than 130 years. Yet we are told ‘do this and don’t do that’ when it comes to mining that built this great state and country. Iron Rangers are pi_ _ _ _ off. They’ve had enough,” Tomassoni said.

They should be upset. The environmental activist wing of the DFL is still the dominant wing of the DFL. They aren’t a tolerant bunch. Proof of that is how DFL environmental activists shut down a hearing on a pipeline project in Duluth last week, then threatened to disrupt another hearing on the pipeline project in St. Cloud. As a result of that threat, authorities canceled the hearing.

It’s difficult finding comment from other DFL candidates on the issue or copper/nickel mining in general. But not so Otto. As a member of the state’s Executive Council, comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor, Otto voted against awarding leases for copper/nickel exploration in the region in 2013. The leases only allow companies to drill holes in the ground to extract mineral samples to judge the value of certain deposits.

She immediately used her vote against copper/nickel mining as a fundraising tool, especially in the Twin Cities area, and continues to tout her decision, which she has said was to protect Minnesotans’ welfare. She also contends she is not anti-mining.

The DFL’s credibility on mining issues is damaged. There used to be a blind allegiance to the DFL. Bit-by-bit, that’s being replaced with a ‘prove it’ attitude.

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This article highlights the fact that environmental activists aren’t trustworthy. For years, we’ve heard activists from the Sierra Club, Conservation Minnesota and Friends of the Boundary Waters tell us that the sulfur embedded within the copper deposits will stunt the growth of wild rice while poisoning the water.

Pro-mining people questioned the environmental activists’ claims throughout. We’re finding out why the pro-mining people were skeptical. First, before getting into that, I wrote about a University of Minnesota study on wild rice growth a couple years ago. The study reported that rice growth was stunted except when there was a high concentration of iron in the water. The study found that iron mitigated the damage sulfur caused to the rice.

I said back then that there was a pretty high probability that water flowing through the Iron Range would have high concentrations of iron in it. Back then, I quoted from an LTE that said “In 2013 the state hired the University of Minnesota to do a scientific study of the effects of sulfates on wild rice and to determine what the standard should be. Also the Minnesota chamber hired an independent laboratory to do the same. Both studies agree that sulfate is not toxic to wild rice. The studies also found that if sulfates turn to sulfides it does slow the growth of wild rice. However if there is iron present in the water, iron combines with the sulfides and doesn’t allow the sulfides to affect the wild rice.”

This picture is worth thousands of words of anti-mining spin:

The caption reads “A Picture Worth a Thousand Words: Much has been written lately about how sulfate discharges from mines may stunt wild rice growth. Here is a photo of wild rice on Birch Lake (Dunka Bay) ‘stunted’ by sulfate discharges in the Dunka River from the Dunka and Northshore mines. Why are new studies needed when actual results already exist? Photo by Pete Pastika.” Good question, Pete. Personally, I think the time for studies is over. The time for Minnesota to approve the final permits is now.

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