Archive for the ‘News’ Category

11/09/09 UPDATE: Harmon Park is safe. According to members of the Save Harmon Park group the Pipestone city council met in closed session again tonight (11/09/09) and when they came out they announced that they had taken a vote and had declined Coborn’s offer for Harmon Park.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


If you happen to be a Facebook user then you will know that you often get all kinds of unsolicited invitations to become a fan of someone or something or to join a cause. It is easy to do with a couple of clicks and you can then beat your chest and say, “I support the ____ CAUSE.”  Recently I received a suggestion from a FB friend that I have known for a long time. She suggested that I join the Save Harmon Park cause. My curiosity got to me so I signed up and discovered that the city of Pipestone was considering selling part of their premier city park so that it could be developed  into a Coborn’s Superstore which would include a car wash and a gas station/convenience store. Coborn’s, Inc. is a Minnesota grown corporation founded in 1921 based in St Cloud with locations in the midwest, primarily Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

The Pipestone County Star carried the first story, Coborn’s Superstore on the drawing board, about this development on October 7, 2009 and it was soon after that the opposition formed their group.

The Save Harmon Park group has been busy. They now have 276 members in the FB group and are using this social media tool for discussion, communication and organizing. They have contacted news organizations to get their story out, organized a petition drive which garnered 400 signatures to present to the city council, generated numerous letters to the editor and had over 100 people at a recent city council meeting to speak against the sale.

The city of Pipestione has had a rough year. Bayliner shut down its operations and Suzlon announced significant layoffs. The stagnant economy and unallotment by the Governor have also contributed to the tough situations faced by the city council. While the influx of cash from the sale of the park and future property tax collections may seem attractive now the Save Harmon Park group believes that it is short-sighted and I sympathise with them. I think it is a bit arrogant for Coborn’s to believe that the citizens of Pipestone would give up their park without question. I wonder what they were thinking when they were picking their ideal spot for a new store.

Did the conversation go like this?

 “Here is a great location” !

 “But wait, isn’t there a city park there”?

 “So what, our green will trump their green”.

For me, another reason to dislike this idea is Coborn’s political stance on health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. They have opposed both and urged their employees to do the same in an internal memo. In a Minnesota Public Radio report, Coborn’s director of communications, Steve Gottwalt says, ” the company frequently shares information with its employees about factors affecting its business”. Steve Gottwalt also happens to have another job as a  Minnesota state representative in district 15A and  is a member of the Republican caucus.

Visit the Pipestone County Star website to keep abreast of the situation and to read the letters to the editor. Here is just one example. If you are on Facebook search Save Harmon Park.

I can’t help but think of this song.

Peace & solidarity,




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The Marshall Independent is reporting that former Minnesota House minority leader Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall will formally announce his bid for governor on July 7.  His plans include a campaign tour throughout the state, starting with the Twin Cities and with visits to Duluth, Rochester and Mankato.

Oh, by the way, he also mentions that voters have until Tuesday to take advantage of the campaign political refund program that his best bud, Governor Pawlenty, has decided to eliminate. I wonder how that is working out for you Marty?

Peace & solidarity,


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Today at approximately 10:00 A.M. a portion of the JBS Swift plant was evacuated due to an ammonia leak. The Worthington Daily Globe was on the scene and covers the story in 40 JBS employees treated after ammonia leak.  Daily Globe photographer Brian Korthals was able to take a few pictures from the roof of  a vehicle just outside the JBS property (we watched you from the cafeteria windows).

I was one of the many evacuees who hastily left the building and fortunately was not affected by ammonia. The group of employees I was with were at the back of the property for about 35 minutes when we were told we could reenter the building through the front and proceed to the facilities cafeteria which was unaffected by the leak.  I was then able to get a better idea of what was going on because I had a good view of all the emergency vehicles that were gathered outside the front of the building. My thoughts were with the brothers and sisters who were being transported to the hospital. I hoped that they would all be ok and according to published reports most were treated and released with only a few admitted for further observation. The leak was contained and after the affected areas were cleared of the ammonia we returned to work.

UFCW Local 1161 officials were on the scene and will be actively involved in the ensuing investigation of the cause of the leak and the effectiveness of the evacuation. I have my own observations and thoughts which I will share with the Local 1161 and JBS Swift.

Ammonia leaks are serious.

They can be deadly.

Once the cause of this leak is accurately determined, it is extremely important that preventative measures be taken to prevent its recurrence. A critical look at evacuation procedures is also necessary to determine if the evacuation could have been done better. Hopefully the end result will be a safer workplace.  Of course, I am sure MNOSHA will have a role in the investigation. The state OSHA officials investigated an ammonia leak at this plant in January of 2008 which resulted in the JBS Swift receiving a citation and a nominal fine. I wrote about that incident in a previous post, JBS Swift workers evacuated. Workers were evacuated and hospitalized during that incident also and the cause of the leak was determined to be a faulty valve.

I have been involved in several evacuations over the years and once got a shot of ammonia.  My eyes, nose, throat and lungs were immediately in distress and I couldn’t get fresh air fast enough. I turned out ok (well, some may say my brain was affected). It is something I will never forget. I do not live in fear of an ammonia leak but I am acutely aware of its deadly potential. I hope I never experience another one.

Peace & solidarity,


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Minnesota’s 6th congressional district Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann has garnered a lot of attention this last week for comments she made to talk show host Chris Baker of radio station KLTK.  Needless to say, her remarks were totally off the wall and were devoid of facts. OllieOx at  Bluestem Prairie notes that NPR’s  Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me featured her, “we are running out of rich people”, comment on their latest broadcast. Minnesota Independent has an interesting piece  as well as the MN Progressive Project, and of course Dump Michelle Bachmann has all the coverage.

If you would like to weigh in on her latest comments please take the poll below.

Comments are welcome.

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Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District Congressman Tim Walz drove to the end of the world district today (a few minutes more and he would have been in South Dakota)  for a listening session about the economic stimulus package recently passed the the U.S. House of Representatives. One of several throughout the 1st district over the last couple of days, the event in Luverne was well attended. walz-luverne-jan-30-09-aLocal elected officials, school administrators, business people from the private sector, ag interests, social workers, organized labor and concerned citizens were there to hear what the congressman had to say and to ask questions and share their concerns.

Congressman Walz was straightforward about the seriousness of the

Congressman Walz making a point.

Congressman Walz making a point.

economic crisis we face as a nation as well as the pros and cons of the stimulus package. He would have preferred more infrastructure spending (as do I) but also touted the fact that the transparency measures are unprecedented. The congressman and his staff received valuable input on projects from the assembled crowd and will use that information to pass on to state government officials who will eventually receive the stimulus money and be tasked with its distribution. They will also use the information gathered today in Luverne and from previous listening sessions to help shape the final look of the stimulus package. The Senate will deal with the legislation next and eventually the two legislative bodies will have to reach an agreement on the final package. Representative Walz  says this will all be done by February 15 but there is still time for citizen input.  A Bluestem Prairie has a summary of the plan posted here.

I continue to be impressed with the Congressman’s willingness and eagerness to constantly get out and meet with the people he represents. There may be more voters  in Rochester and Mankato but he also came to Luverne because he sincerely wants to represent all the people of the 1st District.



Oh, just one more thing. My youngest of five grandchildren, at 11 months, had his first face to face meeting with a congressman. It was a proud moment.



Peace & solidarity,


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Wal-Mart has once again become the symbol of our nations over-zealous consumerism. The BlackFriday death of Jdimytai Damour is tragic and my heart goes out to his family. Many words have been written and spoken about this event. Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press writes about the event in his column, Black Friday finally claims a life.

Ojanpa writes:

“The safety of our customers and associates is our top priority,” Wal-Mart lawyerly intoned post-stampede.

OK, then, prove it by doing this: No more whipping waiting mobs into a shark frenzy by teasing them with pulse-quickening prices on purposely rationed items.

Go read the rest of his opinion piece here

The death of this worker was preventable. The barbaric crowd bears some responsibility for this death but the police in Long Island will find it difficult to bring criminal charges against anyone. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, has a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace and failed dismally in this case.

CNN reports that UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce Both has called Wal-Mart’s actions, “blatant irresponsibility”. 

This incident reminded me of a song I downloaded a few years back by MC Lars called Wal-Mart Nation.


Peace & solidarity,


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Since I will be dedicating my time to GOTV efforts my ability to provide content on this blog for both of my readers will be curtailed. I do have a number of recommendations for the faithful.

For news and views about southern Minnesota and the 1st CD’s Tim Walz, the first place I go to is A Bluestem Prairie. Ollie Ox keeps the stories coming and provides facts and insight on politics in the 1st CD. Ollie also keeps a watchful eye on the MSM and does not hesitate to tell ‘the rest of the story’.

Charlie Quimby provides an an eclectic mix of content at Across The Great Divide. From reviews of lemonade stands and bar cuisine, commentary on biking (the kind of biking as my mother used to say, “you pedal you legs off to give your ass a ride”), and short, powerful essays on the economy, there is always something interesting for the reader. His serious stuff is at Growth and Justice.

McPherson Hall always provides thoughtful, well researched analysis and commentary on legislation, public policy and candidates at Minnesota Central.

Some of my other favorites include Blog of the Moderate Left, Mercury Rising, Liberal in the Land of the Conservative, BlueMan in a Red District, Tild, and The Mississippifarian.

All progressive or Lefty Blogs but if you want to read what others have to say in Minnesota go to Blognetnews/Minnesota for a line up of left, right and everything else on the blogosphere.

Check the blogroll to the right for others that I frequent.

Well, that was fun, but a little labor intensive.

Peace & solidarity,


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