It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since the death of Senator Paul Wellstone. Moderate, liberal or conservative, it was hard not to like Wellstone once you met him in person. Energetic, funny, personable and earnest, you felt like he was listening to you when you talked. I first met him in the Summer of 1990 and took a ride from one side of Willmar to the other in his now famous green school bus and did an interview with him. A few months later, as election day drew near, I was watching the Vikings lose to the Packers on a Sunday afternoon when I got a call that Wellstone was making a late campaign stop at the Willmar Airport in an hour or so, so I drove out there and Ann Polta from the West Central Tribune and myself did a little interview with him. Fast forward 12 years...the fall of 2002...the nation's capitol was being terrorized by a series of random sniper shootings. I did my last interview with Wellstone and he was concerned about the safety of his staffers going to-and-from work. Two weeks later, I was at work when word came across the wire that a plane was missing in cold and snowy northern Minnesota. Then came word that Wellstone was on his way to the funeral of Representative Tom Rukavina's father in Virginia MN that afternoon, but it was uncertain if the plane that was missing was Wellstone's. Then it was confirmed...Wellstone's plane was missing. And of course, shortly after came the tragic news that the wreckage of his plane was found not far from the Eveleth Airport. I clearly remember the televised coverage of Wellstone's memorial service in the Twin Cities. Hard to believe it was ten years ago. During Wellstone's tenure in the Senate he had Republican counterparts, including Dave Durenburger and Norm Coleman, and often they cancelled out each other's votes. But Wellstone will always be known for fighting for the little guy, something the diminutive former wrestler and professor could relate to.
I moderated the Willmar City Council Candidates' Forum for the League of Women Voters on Tuesday night. The West Central Tribune took a lot of heat, particularly from council members Jim Dokken and Tim Johnson, for criticism they've leveled at the mayor and some members of the council for having the temerity to question city staff and not rubber stamp everything set before them. The paper has been most strident against Mayor Yanish and Councilmen Ron Christianson and Dokken, but Johnson and Steve Ahmann have also felt the wrath of Publisher Steve Ammerman and Editor Kelly Boldan. Johnson last night said any dysfunction on the council was "overblown" and the paper was "obsessive" about reporting any conflicts. Johnson praised the staff but said it's the council's duty to "verify" and said asking questions is not micromanaging. Wasn't it Ronald Reagan who said, when it came to nuclear arms treaties with The Soviety Union, "trust but verify." Johnson also blasted the paper for what he felt were incorrect, sensational headlines saying the Lakeland Drive sewer project would be delayed because the Public Works/Safety Committee withdrew their endorsement of a certain engineering firm for the project. In the end, the council did indeed chose a firm other than the one recommended by staff and the committee. As for my position on the whole matter, I feel there's a little bit of truth on both sides...the council, with Johnson and Mayor Yanish, do indeed ask more questions of the city staff which is under the management of new(er) City Administrator Charlene Stevens than former Mayor Les Heitke and councilman Steve Gardner asked of then-City Administrator Michael Schmit. Perhaps as a result, the city has lost Police Chief Marv Calvin, City Engineer Holly Wilson, Schmit and others, although the timing of their departures may be purely coincidental. You'd have to ask them. As for the newspaper using the editorial page to blast the city, that's their business, but getting people angry against the mayor and certain council members because they are doing what they feel they were elected to do seems to me more like making the news than simply reporting it. Some may accuse me of favoritism toward city staff instead of the mayor and council members because I regularly have Stevens and City Planning and Development Director Bruce Peterson on the Open Mike Show. But the practice of having the city administrator on to preview that night's council meeting agenda goes back more than a decade, and the door is always open to phone calls or even guest appearances, if the mayor or council were ever to ask. I am not the one pitting one group against the other...I am simply doing my best to report the news.
Over the years I have heard rumours that The Palmer House hotel in downtown Sauk Centre was haunted. My wife Sharon and I had a drink in the bar once and certainly didn't see any ghosts. But earlier this year the Travel Channel Program "Ghost Adventurers" paid a visit to The Palmer House and the episode aired last Friday. Sometimes when the modern-day "ghostbusters' visit a place they come back empty handed, but that wasn't the case at The Palmer House. The hotel was built in 1864, but was destroyed in a fire in 1900 and was rebuilt in the same spot. Over the years there have been documented cases of people seeing shadows, hearing voices and foot steps and feeling ill or ill-at-ease, especially in the basement where people were said to have died in the fire. The Ghost Adventurers crew spent a lot of time in the basement where they felt ill and lethargic, felt electrical charges, one person was pinched or scratched and they recorded voices saying their names, saying they would follow them and more. A broom fell to the floor by itself, and cameras picked up mysterious lights and wires moving by themselves. The Ghost Adventurers left The Palmer House feeling it was one of the most haunted places they've been to. Many times they end up feeling like the spirits are harmless, but they felt whatever is still lingering at the Palmer House is possibly evil or demonic. As a Christian, I'm not sure I should be watching shows like these. We generally believe when we die our souls go to a better place (hopefully) and don't hang around here any longer than they need to. As humans we are naturally curious and many feel like they need to know every single secret of the universe, from The Big Bang to the DNA code. But there have always been those who feel a need or an ability to contact the spirit world...remember the Ouija Board craze of the 60s? Or the seances that were all the rage around the turn of the last century? Many thought it was just for fun, but people who study the paranormal believe they can be doorways through which satan can enter into our lives. Having watched Ghost Adventurers, Ghost Hunters and Haunted Collector for many years now, I can't believe everything they document is a hoax...if anyone ever proved they were faking it, or if they confessed, all credibility would be lost. They are compelling shows, but I don't know how I feel about being entertained by lost souls. Have you ever seen a ghost?