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Rants from the Relic - 10 out of 12 columns

by Doug Luthanen

A friend once charged that I was stating a distinction without a difference when I claimed I was making a political, not partisan, remark.

In this series of columns, I think I did a pretty good job of avoiding political jabs (except for one) and I’m sure there were no partisan lines in the eleven so far. But this one is the twelfth.     

Recently I mentioned Mike Hillman’s witty remark: “If you’re like me, and I know I am...”,  Mike was a colorful and mildly controversial figure who added some spice to Ely culture.

Another personality was Jo Jo Gerzin who could always be expected to bring a chuckle to the conversation.  A memorable Jo Jo gem chaffing Ely culture was “If a little bit’s good, a lot’s gotta be better.”

“Go big or stay home” is another nugget heard frequently.  Its origin is unknown.

Sam Zorman, the most industrious and innovative guy I know, often concludes his improbable anecdotes with “...and that’s no bull___” -- a tag which assures the listener that it is.

And that brings me to a retort that precedes area counter-arguments whether in Zaverl’s or City Hall -- and I need to employ it now.

I employ it now to reject a specious argument I read recently in a letter to the editor of the Ely Echo.  The letter writer was praising the success of the recent film festival in town while criticizing Ely alderman Jerome Debeltz.  Now Debeltz isn’t known for witticisms but certainly has earned a decades-long reputation for public service and loyalty to his hometown.  Evidently Debeltz has publicly opined about the decline in Ely’s population and opportunities.  The letter writer dismissed Jerome’s pessimism with the claim that small towns all over the Midwest are shrinking.  And that’s true.

And here’s where I get to use that two-syllable preface to an irrefutable rejoinder:  “Ya, but!”

Ya, but do those other shrinking cities have one of the world’s richest deposits of essential minerals a short hike away from town?  Do those other towns have a decades-long history of mining during which downstream lakes remained so pure that a Federal wilderness was created to protect them from what never happened to them?  Do those other cities have retailers who have persevered through the steady decline of their town’s economies?  Do those other towns have a remodeled K-12 campus that could easily handle twice the student population it now has?  Do those other towns have a community college?

And do those other shrinking towns have a second and third industry, both of which in Ely have been stifled by fear-driven regulation as has the one that could and should be the primary one?

Imagine that you have a loved one who suffers from a life (or at least lifestyle) threatening medical condition.  The patient is declining.  And the cure is well-known and available.  And you block the administration of that cure but hand the patient candy instead.

What’s the “ya but” to that?


Doug Luthanen grew up in Ely and graduated from Memorial High School in 1967.  He wrote a weekly viewpoint column for the Northwest Arkansas Times for four years and is an occasional contributor to The Ely Echo.

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