OBERSTAR THREATENS NTSB CHAIRMAN'S POSITION
Congressman Jim Oberstar said Friday morning that "in my mind, Resenker's chairmanship is in jeaopardy." Oberstar criticized the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board earlier this week for saying recently that a design flaw caused the I-35W bridge collapse. Oberstar said he wants Mark Resenker to change his statement because the board has not yet arrived at a probable cause standard. Oberstar said he will meet with Resenker next week and ask him to recant his statement. The company that designed the bridge no longer exists. If a design flaw if found to be the cause of the collapse the legal liability of the construction company repairing the bridge and State of Minnesota may be diminished.
AL FRANKEN IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA
Entertainer and US Senate candidate Al Franken will appear in Onamia on Saturday to begin a week-long, eleven Northern Minnesota city campaign tour leading up to the precinct caucuses on February 5th. Franken said most of the campaign stops are 'Meet and Greet' appearances, not necessarily formal speeches but a chance to meet voters face to face. Franken said he likes his chances against the other three DFLers running for the party endorsement, Mike Ceresi, Jim Cohen and Jack Palmeyer-Nelson. The winner of the primary runs against incumbent US Senator Norm Coleman in November. Franken will be in Esko, Virginia, Grand Rapids, Walker, Crookston, Park Rapids, Wadena, Brainerd/Baxter, Little Falls, Fergus Falls and Alexandria between Tuesday January 29th and Saturday, February 2nd.
UPS DRIVER DIES IN COOK CRASH
The driver of a UPS truck died Thursday afternoon after colliding with a southbound CN freight train travelling through Cook. The driver died at the scene of the crash. No one else was injured. The driver's name has not been released and the investigation continues.
CERISI CAMPAIGNS IN BRAINERD
Former State Senator Don Samuelson, former State Representative Kris Hasskamp and Rolf Westgaard will host a 'Meet and Greet' session at the Brainerd Library Saturday afternoon for DFL Candidate for US Senate Mike Ceresi. The Minneapolis attorney who participated in the Minnesota Attorney General's suit against tobacco companies will be at the library from 1-2:30pm. He's competing with entertainer Al Franken, lawyer Jim Cohen and St. Thomas professor Jack Nelson-Palmeyer for the party endorsement to run against incumbent Norm Coleman.
CUYUNA COUNTRY ICE FISHING CONTEST
Organizers of the Cuyuuna Country Icefishing Conteat and Scorpion Snowmobile Reunion hope anglers will flock to Serpent Lake next weekend, February 2nd for the annual event. Chamber exec Johnna Johnson said she's looked at a long range weather forecast and it should be a bit nicer than last year. Johnson said last year's contest temperatures hovered around -17 and this year's should be warmer. Organizers hope the Scorpion Snowmobile Reunion part of the event will also be 'hot'. Johnson said lots of snowmobile owners bring their refurbished machines made in Crosby, some even in semi-loads from as far away as Alaska and Illinois. Get more information on the Cuyuna Country Chamber web site, www.cuyunacountry.net.
BACK TO HACK!
This is Back to Hack Weekend in Hackensack. Chamber Director Jean Dawson said the events begin Friday night with the Parade of Lights at 6:30pm, the Community Bonfire with free hot dogs, pop and hot chocolate at 7pm and fireworks on Birch Lake at 7:15pm. The theme for the parade this year is Viva Rock Vegas. The Snowflake Royalty Pageant begins at 7pm Saturday night at the Fire Hall. This year, all the contestants are couples. The dance begins right after the pageant. Sunday's events include ice racing in cars on Birch Lake and the Hackensack Lions breakfast in the Community Building from 8:30-11:30am.
WANTED: GOVERNOR'S FISHING OPENER SPONSORS
Organizers are still looking for businesses or individuals to help sponsor the 2008 Governor's Fishing Opener at Breezy Point Resort May 8-11th. Event Co-chair Dr. Ryan Buell said there are levels of sponsorships from the Sunfish level up to $500 to the Platinum Walleye level at $20,000 in cash or in-kind donations. The event usually hosts 200-300 media guests who then spread the word about the fantastic fishing beautiful surroundings in the Lakes Area.
DNR ISSUES NEW DOCK REGS
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released its 2008 dock platform general permit on Wednesday. The permit says a platform can't exceed more than 120 square feet, 170 square feet including the walkway, and the walkway can't be wider than five feet. The permit is effective immediately. DNR Waters Divsion Manager Tom Hovey told the Brainerd Dispatch that owners of larger platforms can apply for a special permit. It would cost between $150 and $1,000 depending on its size, but owners need a good reason and Hovey said "I don't know of any good reason." The DNR will also issue a permit for an 'aquatic impact area' that could be no more than 50-feet of shoreline wide and extends into the water to a 4-foot depth. You can find the permit and other information on the DNR web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us, look for the Public Info button, then the Issues column and bring up the page titled 'Issues Related to Docks'.
OBERSTAR CRITICIZES NTSB CHIEF
Congressman Jim Oberstar criticized the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board yesterday for suggesting that a design flaw was the critical factor in last summer's bridge collapse. Chairman Mark Rosenker said gusset plates connecting steel beams on the bridge were roughly half the thickness they should have been. Oberstar said that statement was inappropriate. Congressman Oberstar said the NTSB does make announcements like that when it finds significant factors before they reach a finding of probable cause. Oberstar said Rosenker reported no finding of probable cause during hearings but at a news conference afterward, the Chairman said "this is why the bridge collapsed and corrosion had nothing to do with it." Oberstar said no NTSB Chairman over the last 25 years has made such a public statement while the investigation is ongoing.
SEIFERT IN NISSWA
Minnesota House Republican Leader Marty Seifert attended Wednesday night's Crow Wing County Fundraiser and said he was impressed by the size of the crowd. Seifert said the main business of the upcoming session will be the bonding bill and dealing with a deficit of at least $373-Milllion. Other speakers at the fundraiser inlcuded State Senators Betsy Wergin, Amy Koch and Paul Koering and Taxpayer League President Phil Krinkie.
SHERIFF HAS PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl has been on the job for a bit over a year and change has come to the department. Beyond the internal management changes Dahl's has made himself, the new jail has expanded county law enforcement's impact. Dahl said there are still other things he wants to get done in his time in office, like continue to improve communication between the department and citizens, take a look at certain computer programs, and develop a reserve officer program to expand the reach of his active duty officers. Dahl said he's been planning for these years during most of his career in law enforcement and now he's "living the dream."
A KINDER, GENTLER PLANNING AND ZONING
Crow Wing County District Two Commissioner Paul Thiede shared some positive news with the rest of the board and members of the Planning and Zoning Department this week. Thiede said a contractor friend of his had gone to the department recently with the usual trepidation. The contractor of 20 years said he'd been there before and always felt there was an adversarial relationship in the department. Thiede said the contractor was pleasantly surprised this time, that he went through the process, got the help he needed, made the application and everything went smoothly. Thiede said there's been a cultural change in the department over the past year and he's happy to see it.
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
The family of a Steele County man who died in a fish house Sunday night is urging anglers to install carbon monoxide detectors in their own fish house. 47-year old Daniel Erickson of Owatonna and 53-year old Ronald Dunford Senior of Holt died when fumes from their LP gas furnace apparently blew back inside. The men were found in their house on Lake of the Woods.
NEW FARM BILL STALLED
Minnesota Congressman Colin Peterson work on the new farm bill continues but he sees possible road blocks ahead. Peterson said President Bush has suggested he may veto the bill because of its $286-Billion price tag. Peterson said if he vetoes the bill, all bets are off. If a new farm bill isn't signed by mid-March, farm policy will go back to 1949 price standards known as 'permanent law'. Peterson said that wouldn't be all bad. Food prices could drop and the federal tax burden could lessen. The Congressman said 'permanent law' is very workable in the current market situation because most price support levels are below current prices.
HOUSE BILL ENCOURAGES ADOPTION, CARRYING CHILD TO TERM
A group of DFL lawmakers unveiled a package of bills yesterday they say would take some of the economic pain out of unplanned pregnancy. Long Prairie lawmaker Mary Ellen Otremba said the Pregnant Women and Parent Support Act will encourage more women to choose life for their unborn child. Royalton Representative Al Doty said the bill should help a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy. The bill would outlaw health insurance waiting periods for maternity benefits and require insurance companies to offer coverage to already pregnant women. Insurance companies now consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition. Another bill in the package would set up day-care centers in Minnesota colleges. Another would offer pregnant women a $1,000 tax credit for adoption-related expenses and spend state tax money on the federal Women and Infant Children food and health care program.
ONE MORE TB-INFECTED HERD
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced yesterday that one more beef cattle herd in Roseau County has tested positive for tuberculosis. This is the ninth herd confirmed for TB. The USDA has begun to put a value on the cows. The agency then pays the farmer and the herd is put down. Testing continues statewide in nearly 1600 cattle herds in other parts of the state. So far, all of them have tested negative.
YELLOW RIBBON IN DEFENSE BILL
The Defense Authorization bill Senator Amy Klobuchar voted for this week includes the language that would make the Minnesota's Yellow Ribbon program federal. The program helps National Guard members transition back to civilian life. The Defense bill includes money to expand the program to other states. The program includes family and marriage counseling, financial planning an education, small business planning, community outreach, and health care and veteran's benefits education. The Defense bill also includes money for the Wounded Warriors program to help recovering veterans.
SEARCH FOR OLD FARMS
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is looking for 150-year old farms to feature during the state's sesquicentennial celebration this year. Minnesota turns 150 years old on May 11th when it became the 32nd state in the Union. Officials would like to talk to landowners who have had farms in their families for at least the last century and a half. If that happens to be you, contact Allen Sommerfeld at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CROW WING REPUBLICANS MEET TO RAISE MONEY
The Crow Wing County Republican Party is hosting a fundraiser Wednesday night, January 23rd at the Nisswa American Legion. County Chairman Dale Walz said the evening will feature a number of speakers as well as food and a good time. Walz said speakers include House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, State Senate Minority Leaders Betsy Wergin and Amy Koch, former US Senator Rod Grams, and Minnesota Taxpayer League Executive Director Phil Krinkie. But Walz said the most important part of the evening is for people to relax, share some ideas, and get ready for the campaign season ahead. The event runs from 5-8pm, includes hot hors d'oeuvres, and costs $10 per person.
MN SUPREME COURT JUDGE ON BRAINERD PANEL
The Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters will co-host a panel discussion titled "The Importance of an Independent Judiciary" Wednesday night, January 23rd. Panelists will include Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Russell Anderson, Supreme Court Justice Lorie Gildea and District Court Judge John Leitner. League spokeswoman Patty Aanes said the panel will talk about the the role of judges and is it important how judges are selected and kept. A Minnesota election law banning judges from campaigning was recently overturned and that has changed the judicial election landscape. Aanes said the next question is should the landscape be changed anymore. The program begins at 6pm in the Brainerd High School Little Theater.
CROW WING DFL HOLDS CAUCUSES
All 62 DFL precincts in Crow Wing County will meet at the Brainerd High School. County Chair Marcia Ferris said it worked well to have everybody meet at the same place two years ago and even though each precinct gets its own table, Ferris said "its like a big pep-fest." The DFL precinct caucuses will include a presidential preference ballot to allocate Minnesota's delegates at the convention in August as well as delegates to the district convention on Saturday, March 1st, also at the Brainerd High School.
MCCL MARCH FOR LIFE
Members of the Crow Wing County Chapter of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life will hold their annual March for Life Tuesday morning at 11:30 in Brainerd. The march commemorates the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws outlawing abortion. Marchers will gather near the intersection of Sixth and Oak for a short program at Noon and then march to the Crow Wing County Courthouse where Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Group Director Terri Hopman will speak.
VISIT THE DENTIST FOR FREE
Lots of Minnesota children will see the dentist this week and not get a bill. Duluth dentist Tim Langguth said the Give Kids A Smile program is aimed at low-income families. Langguth said more than 500 volunteer dentists will see young patients Friday and Saturday. The dentist said its important that kids get regular dental check-ups early in life and that oral health affects health in general. Volunteer dentists in last year's Minnesota Dental Association program saw 5300 patients, filled over 3,000 cavities, installed 125 crowns and pulled 434 teeth. Parents should call the United Way at 800-543-7709 to get their kids enrolled.
REPUBLICAN DECIDES TO CHALLENGE JOHN WARD
Chrissy Nakonsky has never run for public office before but has decided this is the right time to throw a hat in the ring. He and his wife and four young children live in West Brainerd. Nakonsky said its time for someone runs for office, a person who doesn't make a lot of money. Nakonsky said he wants to put a face on poverty-level people, to get them out to vote so that they have a voice. Nakonsky said he's been a Republican all his life and opposes an increase in the gas tax, "we can't afford that these days. Nakonsky said he won't take special interest money and hopes the campaign doesn't get very expensive because he has a thousand dollars for campaign expenses and that it.
GREAT DECISIONS KICK-OFF MEETING
The special guest at Wednesday's Great Decisions kick-off meeting will be veteran newspaper writer Frank Wright who said he was asked to talk about the Middle East. Wright said he spent 45 years working for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and reported from more than 60 countries but because of the war on terrorism, he's most commonly asked to talk about the Mid East. Wright's talk will start at 1:30pm at the Hallett Community Center in Crosby. Organizer Bob Manning said because this is the kick-off to the Great Decisions season, there will be no charge for Wednesday's program.
ICEFISHING CONTEST ON!
The 18th annual Brainerd Jaycees Icefishing Extravaganza will happen this Saturday. Spokesperson Mary Devine said so far she knows they've sold about 5,000 tickets to the event on-line. Devine said the ice will be outstanding. The contest got the go-ahead from the Crow Wing County Sheriff last week when he measured an average of 17 inches of solid ice on Hole In The Day Bay on Gull Lake. Proceeds from the $150,000 contest supports a number of area charities.
MPCA FINES IRON RANGE TACONITE PLANT
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently fined United States Steel Corporation's Keetac facility $68,250 for alleged air quality violations at its Keewatin taconite tailings basin during the month of November last year. In addition to paying the fine, the company also had to pay $60,000 to the city of Keewatin to buy a street sweeper.
BRAINERD SUPERINTENDENT RETIRES
Brainerd Superintendent Jerry Walseth told the school board last week that this will be his last year as the executive head of the district. Walseth said working well with so many quality people will be among his fondest memories of the job. Superintendent Walseth said among the accomplishments he's most proud of is hiring a curriculum coordinator and getting all of the curriculum aligned and matching up to state standards. He said he's also proud to have helped make the decision to become a data-driven system and know specifically what students needed to learn and achieve. Walseth had considered retiring last year but school board members convinced him to stick around one more year through last year's operating levy referendum attempt.