Our View: Thumbs up, thumbs down on newsy month


February 23, 2024

Jana Peterson

Cloquet City Councilor and Fond du Lac Band member Lyz Jaakola encouraged people to think of future generations while discussing the forestry center.

THUMBS UP to the Moose Lake city council for its unpopular but fiscally responsible decision to contract with Carlton County for its law enforcement needs. The months-long saga ended last week, in what many considered disappointing fashion, with a 3-2 vote. Choosing the Sheriff's Office to provide four deputies and a part-time clerk to cover the city meant dissolving the city's long-standing police force. But the force had dwindled to one, a result of disgruntled officers resigning and early retirements leading to escalating duty disability insurance costs.

The state legislature provided police the opportunity to step out of the job with post-traumatic stress disorder, but until recently didn't give municipalities the money to pay for those. The Moose Lake officers also switched unions and made higher demands on the budget. In the face of emotion and nostalgia tied to keeping a police force, saving $248,000 on a $1.03 million levy was the reasonable choice by the majority of councilors. Councilors Doug Juntunen, Walter Lower and Greg Sarvela did what representative governance sometimes has to do: make unpopular decisions in the face of opposing public opinion.

The vote drew statewide attention as another example of small municipal police forces dwindling in numbers due, in part, to legislators' poor planning when it came to early PTSD retirements.

After it was clear where the vote was going Feb. 14, it was disappointing to see mayor Ted Shaw, a tie-breaking vote on the council, side with public opinion, leaving councilors to draw the ire of some in their community. Shaw's soap box seemed politically expedient and not like leadership, so THUMBS DOWN, in this case, to him, a generally well-received longtime mayor.

THUMBS UP to Carlton County commissioner Tom Proulx for reminding the county board last week that it agreed in 2021 on a resolution that would keep its broader political opinions to a minimum. Faced with pressure to join the outcry in favor of delisting the gray wolf from federal protection, the Cloquet-based Proulx rightly balked on Feb. 13, forcing the board to table its vote on a resolution supporting federal action.

Two of the county's federal legislators, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Pete Stauber, are already involved in legislative actions aimed at delisting the gray wolf and making the state responsible for wolf management. We appreciate Proulx wanting to let it play out on the federal level. Indeed, the commissioners previously agreed not long ago that "the Carlton County board of commissioners will not get involved in matters beyond the scope of the authority given by state and federal constitutions, laws, rules, and regulations, and furthermore ... commissioners will not get involved in partisan politics matters that do not have a direct effect on the budget, policies, ordinances or laws of Carlton County."

The group Hunters for Hunters, central to the outcry, has had its say and been heard. The county board would be wise to follow its own policies, and stick to the business of governing the county the best it can.

THUMBS UP and Thumbs DOWN to last week's public listening session regarding the Cloquet Forestry Center. It was well-run, and it seemed that everyone who wanted to speak got the opportunity. But the presentation of the transfer of the university's research facility/forest to the Fond du Lac Band as a fait accompli also made the exercise feel rather pointless. And the fact that it came after many nonpublic discussions within the university administration is shameful for a public university. Perhaps the Board of Regents will surprise us all and actually debate the idea, but we're not holding our breath.

THUMBS DOWN to last week's sticky note and the damage it did to a beautiful photo of Janae and Jeshua Sjodin and Wesley Ward on Page 1 of last week's Pine Knot News. Our press guys did some hands-on research, and found that the darker the photo, the more color came off when the sticker was removed. The photo was quite dark and likely still damp when the sticker was applied, which exacerbated the problem.

While there are no perfect solutions, here's what we did. First, we made nine copies for Janae's family to keep, and two for Wrenshall Schools. Second, we have reprinted the entire story and both photos in this week's paper, on Page 23. While we are not (yet) getting rid of stickers, we are working with the press to place them across the masthead, and may change our sticker company if the same thing happens again next week.

In the meantime, thank you all for caring and being so understanding last week. Thumbs up to our readers, who show us how much they care about the paper.


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