Editorial - Barry MacDonald
The grass is growing again after a long, hard winter. In Stillwater all through November, December, and January the snow that the plows pushed to the side made piles between five and six feet, so that we had to ease our cars slowly out of our driveways, as we couldn't see coming traffic.
Every morning at around 7:00 I find myself at Pioneer Park standing on a bluff overlooking a hollow by the St. Croix River. Old Stillwater resides in a hollow of limestone bluffs. Nineteenth century brick storefronts line Main Street. Numerous church steeples mark a sloping landscape, and an hours-long procession of cars pass west over the Stillwater lift bridge from the Wisconsin side through Stillwater, Minnesota.
The St. Croix River is quite wide at Stillwater, and it has carved a deep winding valley through the centuries.
The sun coming over the east side of the valley draws my attention. Each sunrise is different, varying with the cloud cover. When the winter wind is strong it isn't easy to be still and watch, but it's worth it. What was a black silhouette to the east becomes a steep bank of cottonwood, pine, oak, and maple.
In the spring the sun sparkles on the river and the air is full of the sounds of birds. The grass is wet with dew. In the fall the leaves are green, yellow, orange, and red.
There is nothing permanent about the river. The course of the river curves gradually. The species of fish and the flora are in flux. It is all a coming and going, one continual flow. And every morning is a different show of light. Pioneer Park overlooks a scene of constant change.
I can only afford a few moments in the park before I turn to the office. I walk down a hill and up a steeper hill on the way. Stillwater is full of hills. The physical activity of the walk clears my mind and prepares me for work.
The politicians are coming up with a plan to tax drivers by the mile; the new system would require each of us to install equipment in our vehicles, so that the government can follow our movements.
President Obama is pondering an executive order aimed at government contractors. He wants to force contractors to disclose which party or political action committee they contributed to in the 2010 elections. Such an executive order is an extremely partisan action and is much resented - though it reveals a ruthless political character, it will escape the notice of the vast majority of the voting public.
Washington, D.C., seems to be full of scheming egos eager to extend their influence over the whole country. Somebody has to keep an eye on what they're doing. My point is that watching power politics everyday is like looking at the world through a straw: I see only political strife. It's important for me to stop by Pioneer Park to maintain a sense of balance.
By the way, the Stillwater lift bridge is years beyond its estimated life span. The residents here have wanted a new bridge for 30 years, and millions of dollars have been spent by the State of Minnesota on plans. Homes have been condemned and razed in preparation for construction.
Because the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the St. Croix River is listed as a Wild and Scenic Riverway, there is much opposition to the construction of a new bridge. Twenty-four environmental groups are involved in efforts to block current plans. Lawsuits have been ongoing for decades and Congress is presently hearing testimony on the new Stillwater bridge plan.
But I don't spend much time thinking of the bridge controversy when I'm at Pioneer Park.
I just imagine poor little Ken Harycki, mayor of Stillwater, who has a mop of black hair that makes him look like an overgrown teenager, giving testimony before a congressional committee - what did their eminences think? In Stillwater we just want the Big Shots to decide what to do about the bridge before it falls apart with cars on it.
The lift bridge has been raised to national prominence, but it is not prominent enough for the Big Shots to solve the problem. The state governments of Minnesota and Wisconsin aren't allowed to meddle.
Washington, D.C., must have the biggest collection of educated narrow people in the nation. *
In Pioneer Park