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Letter: …clearly enjoying themselves at the theater and other locations around town

Dear Editor:

I’ve been reflecting on two very different events I took part in last week: Ely’s City Council meeting Feb. 7 and the inaugural End of the Road Film Festival at Ely’s Historic State Theater Feb. 9-12. While a few laments were heard on Feb. 7 that “Ely is dying,” the weekend told a far different story as all four days of the ERFF saw hundreds of people - both residents and visitors - clearly enjoying themselves at the theater and other locations around town.

While those who have served (too many?) years on City Council pine for the “good ol’ days” of the 1950s through the ‘90s, they fail to recognize that smaller populations and public-school numbers are not unique to Ely but are common in small towns all across the Midwest. Further, Ely went from two grocery stores to one not, as Councillor Jerome Debeltz implied, because we are a dying town but because business owners made a personal decision to retire from store ownership. Meanwhile, our fabulous local dentist has a waiting list hundreds of patients long—that doesn’t sound like a dying town to me - and Elton Brown’s “Meet New Elyites” series at Tuesday Group can’t keep up with all the new neighbors joining our community!

What really excites me is that many of the leaders who made the film festival happen, as well as new leaders of other organizations in town, are Gen Y and Millennials. They bring so much creativity and dynamism, enthusiasm and hospitality to all they do—the very qualities that help a community thrive!

Speaking of hospitality, the Echo quoted Councillor Paul Kess’s response on Feb. 7 to Councillor Adam Bisbee, who had said his “no” vote on sending a letter to President Biden would give those opposed to copper-nickel mining a voice. “We as a council always welcome people to come and speak,” said Kess - words that rang hollow after Debeltz’s earlier tirade about having to listen to “these people” yet again. The only sense of welcome or hospitality I felt at that meeting was that, for once, one city councillor acknowledged that not everyone in this community believes copper-nickel mining is the be-all and end-all for Ely. Whichever way Bisbee leans personally, I am grateful he understands his role as representing ALL the people of Ely. Finally on this matter, I felt heard. Thank you, Councillor Bisbee.

One other distinction between Feb. 7 and Feb. 9-12 is this: Contrary to some council members’ insinuations, none of the dozens of people who came to oppose the council’s proposed action were from the Twin Cities or elsewhere beyond our region. On the other hand, hundreds came from miles away for the End of the Road Film Festival. I hope they didn’t read the front-page of the Echo last weekend and get scared off by old-fangled ideas about what brings life to a community. Or if they read it, I trust it was countered by the positive experience (someone called it “better than Sundance!”) so many were having at the ERFF.

To all who made the ERFF such a success: THANK YOU!

Heidi Mann

Ely, MN

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