Friday, June 14, 2024
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The Long Way Home

I’ve decided to “pee in my Cheerios” today.

If you’ve been following the saga of billion­airess Kathy Cargill, who has purchased some 20 properties on Duluth’s Park Point over the past year, you already know this quote was at­tributed to her.

The new mayor of Duluth, Roger Reinert, had sent Mrs. Cargill a letter asking to meet and discuss her plans for developing the prop­erties. She declined.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Cargill stated that the excellent things she planned won’t happen now that the City of Duluth had proved to be “a small-minded community.”

In these days of instant outrage, public com­ments on news reports and social media re­flect a vast chasm between her supporters and opponents.

On one side, libertarian-leaning folks write that people are free to do what they want when they buy property. They often wrote that the mayor or any other government authority shouldn’t ask about her plans as long as they don’t violate current zoning laws.

Some of those same commenters weren’t so quick to defend a company owned by Seth Jeffs that bought a 40-acre parcel on Pike Lake Road in Cook County in 2018. Seth and his now-incarcerated brother, Warren Jeffs, were leaders of FLDS, a radical offshoot of the Mormon church.

On the other side are those who compare Cargill’s comments to those made by French queen Marie Antoinette, who, when informed of the rampant famine in her country, said about her subjects, “Let them eat cake.” The “small-minded” weren’t impressed, and short­ly after, the queen lost her head in the French Revolution.

The epicenter of the controversy, Park Point, is a seven-mile-long peninsula (technically an island) of dunes and beaches separating the big lake they call Gitche Gumee from Superior Bay. It is home to roughly 1,300 residents.

The Point is accessible at the north end by the historic and iconic aerial lift bridge that crosses the shipping canal. The small Sky Harbor air­port is at the south end.

It is a popular tourist spot, and when the waves are big, surfers proliferate. Sand beaches make for amazing walks, and in the summer heat, swimmers are everywhere.

This week, I intended to comment on “white privilege,” which refers to advantages people considered white have in relation to non-whites. No matter what politicians say or what your redneck uncle says, white privilege is real.

That intent went off the rails when the Cargill/Park Point story bubbled up because “wealth privilege” is real, too.

I can comment on the advantages the wealthy have over the rest of us—not just billionaires or Mitt Romney’s one percent. I’m someone who grew up in a low-income household, rose to a comfortable level of wealth, and then lost the wealth privilege 15 years ago,

Even upper-middle-class folks have privileg­es unknown to those living below the median income.

Imagine growing up in a family that is not worried about having enough money to last the month. That doesn’t worry about the unexpect­ed costs of a car breaking down—no worries about how to pay for a health crisis or a child’s education. Dental work and braces? No prob­lem.

If wealthy enough, you don’t even worry about flying commercial to go on vacation.

I’m told the Cargill family, privileged more than most, helps fund some of the larger non-profit organizations in Cook County. The people of those local organizations may take offense if I write negatively about the wealthy class of their donors. The Park Point brouhaha should be off-limits for the rabble-rousers like me. It is a good thing I never ask permission before I state an opinion.

The wealth gap is widening constantly. The potential outcome for those of us in the “small-minded community” is terrifying.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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