David Wigdahl named winner of Chamber’s Jackpine Bob Cary Community Spirit Award

WINNER of the Ely Chamber of Commerce’s Jackpine Bob Cary Community Spirit Award was David Wigdahl. He received the award at the annual Smile, You’re In Ely dinner Tuesday at Grand Ely Lodge. Photos by Nick Wognum

Positivity at Smile, You’re in Ely


Flood help no matter where

We are fortunate to live where major rivers don’t threaten our community. We may not have a Sandbag Central but we do have people impacted by an overabundance of water.
When the city storm sewer system froze and backed up a couple weeks ago, two places were hit hard. A resident near the freeze up on Third Avenue East had 6,000 gallons of water fill her basement.
A Go Fund Me site was quickly set up to help her with expenses. The community responded with financial contributions and the goal was quickly met and exceeded.
On the other end of the freeze-up the water went into Sir G’s Restaurant and sand bags were used to keep more water from coming in.
Now volunteers are working with the restaurant’s owners to help with repairs to the floor. This is another example of community members stepping forward to help a friend in need.


Shopko announcement hurts Ely

Ely suffered another blow to the local economy when Shopko announced all stores would close in June. While this is an example of corporate mismanagement and the impact of Amazon, losing a major business hurts Ely.
First and foremost we will have employees who will be out of a job. Efforts are underway by Up North Jobs to help these people find employment when the paychecks stop. There are jobs that will be available at the time of year, but not many that are year-round.
Our tourism economy provides jobs for people during the summer months but when restaurants, resorts and stores close in the fall, those jobs disappear.
The impact even hits us at the Ely Echo. We have been inserting Shopko flyers in our paper for years and had inserts scheduled out into May. Not only will we lose that business going forward, we’re likely going to be out $3,000 in bills the company now claims it will not pay.


Letter to Editor: ...Landwehr’s credibility as a nonpartisan regulator spilled into the Boundary Waters along with his principles

Letter to the Editor:
Stories have recently appeared in the print media regarding the hiring of former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr by Ely based Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness to serve as its Executive Director. Landwehr was hired to lead their organization to fight copper-nickel mining within the BWCAW watershed, focusing on Twin Metals Minnesota’s proposed copper-nickel underground mine, which would be located near Ely, Minnesota.
Up North Jobs Inc. is an Ely based nonprofit membership organization chartered in 2013 to promote economic development and job growth in Northeastern Minnesota. Permit us to offer additional facts to bring context to the print media stories.


The sad state of ethnic diversity

No one growing up in the last generation in Ely would have ever dreamed it could happen. The vanishing of St. Urho’s Day as one of the area’s most honored celebrations.
In Ely, Mill’s Clothing Store, under the proprietorship of the late Bill Mills (a Finn with an anglicized name) featured the day. Restaurants were decorated green and purple and featured Finnish foods such as kola mojakka.
In dozens of homes, Finns gathered for more or less solemn observances. For years, the arbiters of Finnish culture and Urho lore were Lorene and Ben Mauser. Lorene by birth, Ben by marriage. Why green and purple? Because St. Urho became known as the cleric who drove the grasshoppers out of Finland and saved the grape crops for wine. Aha, one might say, but is this not a takeoff on St. Patrick, the Irish saint who reportedly drove the snakes out of the Ireland? In a sense, yes; but that is not the only connection.


Keep the light shining on government

By Doug Hanneman
It’s truly a paradox that the light shining on the Jefferson Memorial contradicts an American principle that this Founding Father is known for defending.
Here’s the storyline: A couple decades ago, national park maintenance workers solved the problem of the deterioration of the memorial’s stone exterior. Excessive washing of bird droppings was to blame.
But what brought the birds to the famed monument in the first place? In short, it was learned the birds came to feed on spiders, which fed on midges. The bugs were attracted by spotlights that shined on the memorial at night.
The solution? Reduce the amount of time that the monument is in the spotlight. The change resulted in immediate results: 90 percent of the insects disappeared, the excessive cleaning was no longer needed, and the memorial’s electric bill plummeted.
The irony, of course, is that Jefferson’s name is synonymous with light. Lots of light.


Guest Editorial: Destroying Credibility 101

From the Mesabi Daily News
If you thought Mark Dayton’s administration and his Department of Natural Resources had credibility issues with the Twin Metals project before, things just got worse. And they’re going to land in the lap of Gov. Tim Walz and his version of the agency.
On Tuesday, the Campaign to Save Boundary Waters named former DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr its new executive director, and in accepting the position, Dayton’s former natural resources chief undercut the agency’s work in permitting projects in Minnesota.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Landwehr stressed that PolyMet and Twin Metals were two distinct mining projects, and the approval of PolyMet under his watch happened after the company passed a rigorous decade-plus long environmental review process.
That is factual.


One year without reserved permits

The debacle that is the U.S. Forest Service trying to finesse the BWCA permit system and turning it into a major SNAFU has one option that hasn’t been considered. Let’s go one year without having to reserve permits.
That’s right, everybody gets a permit to explore our national treasure. We’ve got one million acres out there but fewer and fewer people. This one year trial run could revitalize our local economy and is super simple to implement.
When you get to a BWCA entry point you fill out a permit, tuck it in the box and go and enjoy a trip in the Boundary Waters.
We can hear the outcry from the Twin Cities already. “This can’t be done! The place will be ruined!” Poppycock. The permit system didn’t even exist until 1966.


Council dug its own grave

The Ely city council backed itself into a corner by begging a Tower newspaper to bid on printing the city legals. Despite our best attempts to bail them out of their initial mistake, five members of the council plodded ahead like lambs to the slaughter.
What this issue is really about is who is serving the community as a business and who is operating out of a residence. The Ely Echo meets all of the legal qualification as an official newspaper. We have a known office of issue at 15 East Chapman Street.
Our employees come to work there, our customers stop in to place ads, renew their subscriptions, have photos made or order printing products. Twice a year we send a check to St. Louis County to pay our commercial property taxes. We support numerous organizations and events, because people know where to find us and they know we’ll do our best to help them out.


Lottery, lottery, lottery, lottery, lottery

The message was loud and clear yet the Forest Service didn’t hear it. From elected officials to users to outfitters, the one request was to reinstate the lottery system for the BWCA day use and overnight motor permits.
That would alleviate much of the congestion that caused the online permit system to crash seconds after it opened on Jan. 30. It was an embarrassment to the Forest Service which had been touting the system for months.
Like a bull in a china shop, the agency continues to head down the same path, throwing warnings and pleadings to the side. The next date is Feb. 27 and there is still no lottery.
This debacle caused U.S. Representative Pete Stauber to hold a public meeting in Ely to discuss the digital disaster.
Minnesota’s two U.S. Senators both called for “the lottery to be reinstated this year.” If you’re keeping score at home that’s one U.S. Rep and two U.S. Senators telling the Forest Service to do a 180 and go back to what works.


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