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Aaron Brown "IRRR Must Adapt Or Be Smashed To Pieces"

UPDATE as of 4pm, 06/25/20:

Commissioner Phillips approves $250,000 grant for Fond du Lac water tower project

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Commissioner Mark Phillips today approved a $250,000 grant to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Funds will be used toward a new water tower to serve the communities of Mahnomen and Brookston. The first phase of the project is $1.3 million and includes the construction of the water tower. The total project cost for all phases of the water treatment system is $11.93 million.

A funding request for the project was originally presented at the June 10 Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board meeting but was tabled pending a request for further information.

“After gathering additional information from our funding partners, I am pleased to move forward with this important infrastructure project to provide clean drinking water for the residents of Mahnomen and Brookston," said Phillips. "The project meets our program guidelines and aligns with our mission and vision to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota."

Original post:

Aaron Brown is a print, radio and online journalist who covers Iron Range politics.  He grew up on the Range lives and works on the Range.  This gives him a unique, and not always liked, perspective on the past, present and future.

In a recent blog post "IRRR Must Adapt of Be Smashed to Pieces" he questions the decision by the advisory board to the now state agency of the IRRR to fund a new water tower for the Fon du Lac band of Ojibwe's Brookston area in St. Louis County, which is part of their service area.  Senator Tom Bakk (DFL Cook) stated “I can’t remember ever having a situation where a local government came to us that was anti-mining and asked for mining tax dollars,”.

In Aaron's opinion - the the Fond du Lac band — which  has officially protested the permitting process for proposed copper-nickel mines at Hoyt Lakes and Ely but never opposed taconite mining has been cut out of  funding needed because of politics of the advisory board members.  In the end, it will be the IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips who makes the final decision. 

Aaron asks some pretty big questions in his post - first - does the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation agency serve the common good of all residents?

And second -  is it the arm of a  political establishment that uses funding to suppress dissent, control local governments, and project outsized power for a few politicians? 

Read his full blog postand listen to our conversation from the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show to find out more. 


Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.