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West End News September 21

Fall Colors by Bill via Flickr
Fall Colors by Bill via Flickr

Clare Shirley is traveling this week, so she called in the second string to present the West End News. Clare is a tough act to follow, but I will do my best.
The U. S. Forest Service is asking for public comment on Lutsen Mountains Ski Area's proposal to expand onto 550 acres of public land adjacent to the existing ski hill.
You can see Lutsen Mountains' proposed master development plan online at lutsen.com. Basically, the ski area owners are saying, that given the state of the ski industry nation-wide, they need to grow dramatically in order to survive. Based on the statistics and Lutsen Mountains' long and deep involvement in the ski industry, it's hard to argue with their analysis.
Lutsen Mountains is the largest private employer in Cook County now.  Many other businesses rely on their existence, so it is very important to all of us that they survive and thrive.
The Forest Service is involved because terrain that is suitable for ski area expansion is on public land administered by the Forest Service.  It is actually very common for the Forest Service to make land available for ski areas.  Many, if not most, of the big western ski areas are located on federal land, which is leased by the businesses under an agreement called a special use permit. The process of applying for a special use permit is still in the early stages, so comments should address issues that you think the Forest Service should investigate.  The issues can be about social and community impacts, not just the obvious land-use and environmental impacts.
The deadline for these preliminary public comments is September 29th. You can find the physical and cyber addresses at the Superior National Forest website.
I saw long time Lutsen resident, Steve Dobbelmann a couple of weeks ago and immediately noticed that he is even thinner than usual.  It turns out that he was diagnosed with stage three dance in the tonsil and lymph node on the right side of his neck back in May.
He spent the summer receiving intense radiation and chemotherapy treatments. As with all cancer treatments, he was burned and sickened as a side effect to stopping the disease.  The good news is that Steve has now completed his treatments and the side effects are starting to recede.  The success rate for his type of cancer, treated in this way, is 85 to 90 per cent, so Steve and his family are feeling pretty upbeat.
This is good news, because we'd like to keep Steve around Lutsen for another 40 years if we can.
The county budget and property tax levy are much on people's minds now days.  The county is proposing a pretty substantial property tax increase this year. In past years, the county board, under pressure from tax payers, has elected to spend reserves and delay capital improvements to keep the levy low, which has now caught up with them, requiring a higher levy to get the budget back in balance.
While it is very easy to have the opinion that the county should spend less, the reality is much more complicated and nuanced than that.  My philosophy is that taxes should be raised and spent, efficiently for three reasons. The first is to provide services that are best handled by public entities.  Roads, law enforcement, education, public health are a few examples.  Second, are things that pay a handsome return on investment.  The YMCA, Cook County Higher Education, Child Protection Services, and community centers are good examples.  All prevent huge spending later by building community and preventing problems now.  This is the definition of wisdom, in my opinion.  The third category includes things that are simply the right thing to do.  A community is measured and respected according to how it takes care of its members who can't take care of themselves.  I, for one, don't want to abandon people with legitimate needs to their fate, like was done in the dark ages.  We are better than that.
The good news for taxpayers is that Minnesota has a number of ways to reduce your property tax bill if you are having trouble paying it.  The Cook County website has a helpful section that will allow you to easily determine if you are eligible.  I urge everyone to investigate, because it's surprising what is available.
Finally, I urge you to be polite and encouraging to our county commissioners, even if you disagree with them.  They have a very tough job and I know that don't want to do anything that hurts people.  However, they are elected to make decisions on our behalf and we should honor and respect that responsibility.  If you feel very strongly that they aren't representing you, than by all means stand for election the next time around.  Like everything in life, it isn't as easy as it looks from the outside.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with theWest End News.
 

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