West End News: June 6

Young bull moose
Young bull moose

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It's time for the West End to play another round of Jerk the Merc!  For many years now, North Shore Mining in Silver Bay has offered to collect and properly dispose of mercury-containing devices and waste electronics.  This year you can drop off your devices, bulbs and electronics at John's Sanitary Service, 15 Golf Course Road in Silver Bay on Tuesday, June 11 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
 
Mercury-containing devices include fluorescent bulbs, tilt switches, mercury thermometers, gas appliance safety shutoffs and, of course, any elemental mercury that you might have laying around from an old-fashioned chemistry set.
 
Waste electronics include circuit boards, computers, printers, stereos (but no speakers please), cell phones, computer monitors, TVs and microwaves.  The service is free and is open to individuals, households, small businesses and non-profits.  However, TVs, monitors and microwaves are limited to just two of each per household or business.
 
My hat is off to North Shore Mining Company for their annual commitment to keeping our environment free of toxic chemicals.  Once again, the drop-off is at John's Sanitary Service, in Silver Bay, on Tuesday, June 11 between 9 and 2.  You can call Jenny at 226-6231 for more information, or, as always, you can contact WTIP for full information.
 
I'm glad to hear the Cook County Board of Commissioners is moving toward hiring a county administrator.  The joke that I've been making is that the county already has a county administrator… and it's a combination of Janet Simonen and Auditor Brady Powers.  As with all good jokes, there is an element of truth in it, as Janet and Brady often go above and beyond the call of duty to help the county run more efficiently.  Janet's pending retirement is the perfect time to bring on a professional administrator.
 
Few people remember that Cook County briefly had a county administrator back in the '80s and it was an overall positive experience.  Since then, running a county has become exponentially more complex, and the days when the commissioners could act as their own administrator are past.  I hope the commissioners will hire a well-qualified and experienced administrator, because a good county administrator will save and earn far more money than the cost of their salary.
 
As a side benefit, it will make the job of being a county commissioner slightly less impossible and may cause a larger pool of candidates to consider running for office.  This is always a good thing in a representative democratic system.
 
One of my favorite news organizations is an online magazine called MinnPost.  Published by former Star Tribune publisher Joel Kramer, it employs some of Minnesota's best journalists writing about state politics, arts and culture, education, health care and more. 
 
Right now, I recommend a very interesting piece headlined "The Next New Economy," by Jessica Conrad, who is described in her bio as a "content manager" for another web publication called OnTheCommons.org.  Conrad paints a compelling picture of a future that she refers to as the "sharing economy."
 
She supports her prediction by describing a handful of businesses that are already successful in helping people share resources, like the popular NiceRide bike sharing program in Minneapolis.  She also mentions ZipCar, which is a fast-growing car sharing company, and Netflix, which started as a DVD sharing service but now is a streaming movie and TV service. There is a long list of sharing based companies that entrepreneurs are starting using the relatively new tools of smart phones and social networks. One that caught my eye is Sophia, which is an education sharing service.
 
I find this interesting in light of the soon-to-arrive broadband service here in Cook County.  If I were a young entrepreneur who wanted to live in the most beautiful part of the state, I'd be thinking about what sorts of services might spring up here once broadband and 4G phone service are widely available. 
 
I'd love to think up the next big thing myself, but I can never think of a great business idea until right after some else tells me about it.  As soon as the idea is out of their mouth, I say to myself, "I could have thought of that!"  I have thought about having a fleet of canoes that people could rent for BWCA Wilderness canoe trips, but it turns out someone else had thought of that one a long time ago.
 
All joking aside, Jessica Conrad points out in her MinnPost article that Forbes Magazine estimates that people will earn $3.5 billion in the sharing economy this year, with a growth rate over last year of 25 percent.  She goes on to note that in a world where the population is expected to reach 9 billion by mid-century, with the supply of natural resources dwindling, it seems obvious that we'll all have to own less, share more and find ways to cut the huge amount of waste that we now produce.
 
As recently as a few years ago, it was no news to see a moose on the Sawbill Trail.  Now, it has become a rare treat.  I saw a two-year-old bull on my way to town this week, right by the Honeymoon Trail intersection.  Not only was he a cute guy with tiny nubs of antler smaller than his ears, but he also had the classic woebegone look of an adolescent who has recently been rejected by his previously loving mother.  His expression said, as plainly as if he was talking, "I'm lonely, my feelings are hurt and now there is a big pickup truck looking at me and I don't know what to do!"  He finally ambled off down the Honeymoon Trail, where I'm sure that the school of hard knocks will soon turn him into a confident and sturdy adult moose.


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