The Star Tribune reports that the Giants Ridge ski and golf resort in Biwabik, Minn., has never made money during its 30 years of operation (“State-subsidized ski resort leaves trail of red ink,” April 5). The resort is owned by the state of Minnesota and directly managed by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB).
In the past decade, the resort’s total losses have been $40 million. From 2006 through 2014, ski visits have dropped 20 percent and golf rounds are down nearly 30 percent. In an attempt to turn around resort operations, “the IRRRB is focusing on improving how the resort is run … how to run Giants Ridge more efficiently.” Also, in just a few weeks, the IRRRB will break ground on a new $12 million event center and ski chalet.
Evidently, attainment of a Giants Ridge “balanced budget” is not an IRRRB priority — if ever attainable.
Is this “Biwabik boondoggle” characteristic of our Legislature’s competence when finite, taxpayer-sourced funds are (supposedly) strategically rationed?
Gene Delaune, New Brighton
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I would like to add positive thoughts to the Giants Ridge story, and it is related to Nordic, not alpine, skiing. To my mind Giants Ridge has one of the finest trail systems in the Midwest. It was designed, I think, to World Cup specifications, so some of the trails are very challenging, and, for good reason, the state high school Nordic meet is held there yearly. Further, over the past five years or so the grooming of the trails has improved vastly, making it a real jewel in the crown of the Minnesota Nordic scene. That the number of people participating in Nordic skiing in the Upper Midwest (and in other parts of the country) is booming might mean that financial problems at Giants Ridge may begin to improve. Given great trails and grooming, and of course reliable snow, if could become a national ski destination.
Anthony Pellegrini, Bloomington
We engage the courts because rights are not a local issue
D.J. Tice (“Irreconcilable differences and democracy,” April 5) suggests that same-sex marriage rights should not be determined by the courts, regardless of the fact that determining the constitutionality of laws has been the purview of the courts since Marbury vs. Madison in 1803. Instead, Tice would prefer we wait for a genuine reconciliation of opposing views, lest we find ourselves with “a culture-transforming court decree that remains a cause and symbol of political and social estrangement four decades after it was handed down.”
I would ask Tice: Should the courts have waited until opposing views on racial integration could be reconciled? If they had, we would still have separate drinking fountains and lunch counters in many places. I would further remind Tice that the judicial system is a coequal branch of government, rightly involved in examining the laws passed by Congress. Equal protection under the law is guaranteed by our Constitution; rights should not be subject to the vagaries of prevailing local opinions.
Joyce Denn, Woodbury
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Tice commendably cites “the Minnesota model of democratic debate and decision” in approving same-sex marriage, while invoking Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union address on the irresolvable conflict over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War. Had Mr. Tice chanced to read Leonard Pitts Jr.’s equally thoughtful column in the Miami Herald the day before, he would have been reminded that after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, President Lincoln declined to gloat for the jubilant crowd at the White House, but instead asked the band to play “Dixie.” And that, for his efforts to begin healing a divided nation, he got shot in the head two days later.
It took a hundred years for the Confederate states to be forced, by the federal judiciary and the Congress, to understand that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution actually meant what it said. So, while the legislative model of social change might be preferred, I’m glad that a few federal judges have ruled that my children and their children won’t be forced to wait another hundred years to be granted “the equal protection of the laws.”
William Beyer, St. Louis Park
You, too, can participate in observing the state bird
I enjoyed reading Peter Leschak’s April 5 essay “Up close and personal with our state bird: A touch-and-go season in the notable life of the loon.” Loon-watching is a fascinating activity to enjoy while spending your time at the lake. Loons are a most entertaining bird with their antics and song. Through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Nongame Wildlife Program, the opportunity exists to be an official, active “LoonWatcher.” In the packet I recently received for observing loon activity on our small lake this year came the appeal to encourage others to participate in the annual lake survey as observers. If you have an interest in being an observer, you could volunteer by reaching Kevin Woizeschke, nongame wildlife specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be keeping Peter’s article to be read again.
Pete Boelter, North Branch
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The loons in Leschak’s article may be facing more challenges than just climate change. Mercury releases from coal-fired power plants have contaminated the Great Lakes and many of Minnesota’s waterways. Xcel Energy’s Sherco plant alone emits more than 400 pounds of the metal annually. The mercury rains out into lakes and streams, is consumed by plankton, which are eaten by small fish that in turn are dinner for the birds. Loon eggs can have methylmercury concentrations as much as a million times the level in the water. Highly toxic mercury affects the growth and development of loons and is dangerous for children. That’s why many states have issued warnings to limit fish consumption. In recent years, Minnesota has led the nation in the number of posted warnings.
Count the loons among the advocates for phasing out dangerous coal and building a future with clean energy, clean air and clean water. If you agree with the loons, better let your legislators know; they are busy trying to roll back our renewable-energy goals.
Bruce Snyder, Mendota Heights
Factor inflation on both sides
Over the past number of weeks there have been discussions of what to do with the projected surplus and whether a forecasting office reporting to the legislative branch is needed to offset the existing executive forecasting office.
None of this matters until we get serious about the concept of forecasting. In building a budget forecast, it is idiotic to assume there will be growth on the revenue side (if we disagree on the rate, a mature discussion should take place) but then be legally obligated to ignore the fact that there is a relatively predictable rate of inflation on the spending side.
If I had a financial planner try to help me with a budget considering only one side of the equation, I would immediately fire that person. It is way past time for all parties to stop playing games with the numbers.
Steve Mikunda, Minneapolis