mississippi river

According to the latest edition of the Morrison County Record (November 30, 2008 print version), the Board of  the Little Falls Golf Course is hosting a contest to name the Golf Course restaurant.  (I’d link to the article online, but it doesn’t appear when I search for it.)  Yippee!  A contest!  What a great way to get the community involved, but there’s a catch.  According to the contest rules, the name must have the words “Mississippi River” included in it because the Golf Course is situated on the river.

Talk about hamstringing the contestants.  If the Golf Course Board is so wedded to the words “Mississippi” and “River,” why doesn’t it figure out its own name?  The board is half to two-thirds of the way to a name already.

The Golf Course Board has also set a few other rules.  (And I’m paraphrasing here.)  The name must position the Golf Course restaurant in the minds of visitors and residents.  It must be brandable and easy to market.  It has to be distinctive in comparison to other golf courses (or is that golf course restaurants?). And, it must be an easy-to-remember name, which I guess hearkens back to that positioning rule, because it’s hard to position a restaurant that no one remembers.

When it comes to marketing and branding, long names are unwieldy for customers unless they are very, very memorable and catchy.  Now take the word “Mississippi,” which is already a mouthful, add the word “River,” and then add some other word or words to create the name.  If the name gets too long, I guarantee that customers will find a way to shorten it.  If the name itself is too difficult to easily shorten, the place will probably be referred to as the Golf Course restaurant and that will be that.

Along with saddling contestants with already-chosen words, the Board has decided not to reveal (or, perhaps, overlooked revealing) what will be served at said Golf Course restaurant, as though everyone in the community has already been there and knows what’s on the menu.  What is the ambiance of the restaurant?  The name must accurately reflect that ambiance in order to properly position it in the minds of customers.

According to the Record article, “Additional contest rules are available online and entry forms may be downloaded at http://www.littlefallsgolf.com. Entry forms may also be picked up at the Little Falls City Hall . . . .”  I sure hope City Hall has those entry forms, because when I went to the Golf Course website to check on a menu, I could find no entry form or information about this contest at all.  As the contest deadline is December 19, will there be time to get this online?

Methinks this contest could have used a little more forethought.

Trapped in a water hole,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel


I know you homo sapiens, especially the males among your species, can’t wait for the special event coming up this weekend – and I don’t mean Mother’s Day.  I quake at the thought of mentioning it:  The Fishing Opener.  Why must you insist upon hooking us by the lip?  [Let your eyes follow my waving tail fin.  That’s it, follow along.  Back and forth.  You are getting very sleepy.]   Why must you insist on hooking us at all?  [You don’t like fish.  We’re hard to clean.  We’re filled with mercury.] If you can’t resist the Fishing Opener, at least give us a chance by using the catch and release technique.   [Fishing is boring.  And worms and leeches make your hands slimy. You don’t want to go fishing.  Skip the Fishing Opener.]  Take it from me, it’s more fun to say “hi” to a fish than to eat one.  [You may wake up now, as long as you’ve slept through the Fishing Opener.]

A fish incognito,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Community Federal Savings & Loan in Little Falls has a new sign and with it, a new name.  It is now called Home Savings of America.  When I googled “Community Federal Savings and Loan,” I came to this website, which says that Community Federal is a division of Home Savings.  Has this always been the case?  The About Us page for Community Federal mentions that it’s “a hometown community bank located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Little Falls, Minnesota,” while Home Savings’ About Us page, the fine state of California is mentioned.

Which came first?  Community Federal or Home Savings?  Hmm.  Questions, questions.

A curious fish,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

The folks at the Morrison County Record are demanding change.  Someone at the newspaper has a lead foot and wants to put it to use.  In the Our View section of this week’s paper, the lead footed make a case for increasing the speed limit on Haven Road.

Haven Road, for those of you unfamiliar with Little Falls, is actually a continuation of First Street Northeast, one of the main roads through downtown.  The road becomes Haven as soon as one crosses the railroad tracks on the north end of town, very near City Hall.  This road was widened and repaved this past summer.  Now that it has been improved, the Record notes that “the new design of that stretch invites people to speed up, and most people drive between 35 and 40 mph.”  The Record continues with the following:

“That being the case, we believe that the speed limit should be increased to 40 mph east of the railroad tracks.  To leave it at 30 mph is to invite disrespect for the law, which is never a good thing.”

Let’s get this straight.  The Record is arguing that the speed limit should be increased on this stretch of road because people are already going over the speed limit and we don’t want them to disrespect the law.  Are you serious?  [Phineas continues reading.]  I guess so, because toward the end of the article, the Record states, “Laws need to be reasonable and fit the norms of public behavior.”  Well, that’s interesting.  Have you noticed that no matter where the speed limit is increased, people have a tendency to go five to ten miles per hour over the posted limit?  The Interstate has a speed limit of 70 mph, but people regularly go 75 to 80.  Just because something seems to be a public norm, it doesn’t mean that we should automatically give in to that norm.  If you jack the speed limit on Haven Road up to 40 mph through this area, it’s a guarantee that people will speed up to 45 or 50.

Let’s set aside the argument that we should increase the speed limit on Haven Road because everyone is driving that speed anyway and examine the situation from a different perspective.  My Fish Wrap colleague Suckerlip Blenny and I took a little drive on Haven Road to check things out.   We wanted to figure out why the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) thought it would be appropriate to set the speed limit at 30 mph through this stretch.

As we drove over the tracks, we hit the mileage counter to see how long the stretch in question was.  We were looking to see when the speed limit changed.  From the track to just past 13th Avenue Northeast, the speed limit was 30 mph.  Once past 13th Avenue Northeast, a speed limit sign indicated an increase to 45 mph.  The distance between the tracks and the 45 mph sign was approximately half a mile.  Between the tracks and the 45 mph speed limit sign, we noted that we moved from a residential area into a business area.  There are new apartment buildings in this stretch along the river.  There is a Casey’s gas station, Charlie’s Pizza, Dairy Queen (which is getting a full face-lift), and the Crestliner boat manufacturing plant.

Is it possible that MNDOT looked at these businesses and figured that with all the traffic coming and going, the wisest decision was to keep the speed limit at 30 mph?  Have you noticed all the kids that frequent the Dairy Queen in the summer?  How about all those cars streaming out of Crestliner, off of 13th Avenue Northeast, when the shift changes?  Having driven through this stretch myself during busy times of the day, I think MNDOT made the right decision.

But, Suckerlip Blenny and I weren’t done yet.  It was time to strain our brains with MATH.  What kind of time might people save if the speed limit increased from 30 mph to 40 mph for this half-mile stretch?  It takes 2 minutes to travel one mile driving 30 mph.  It takes 1.5 minutes to travel a mile driving at 40 mph.  Divide those minutes in half to get the time it takes to travel a half-mile.  It takes one minute to travel a half-mile going at 30.  It takes 45 seconds to travel a half-mile at 40 mph.  The difference between those amounts is the time you would save by speeding up – a mere 15 seconds.  If anyone enters Haven Road from 13th Avenue Northeast in front of you, you’re going to have to slow down, which will eat up those 15 seconds.

If you haven’t got 15 seconds to spare in a day, you need to torch up some incense and schedule a weekend at a Zen center for some meditation and introspection, ’cause your life is just waaaaay too busy.

Glub, glub, ohmmmmmmmm . . . .

Phineas F. A. Pickerel


Don Heinzman, what can I say. It seems like every other week he’s given some chunk of blank space in the Morrison County Record where, for the past several weeks he publishes articles on school issues; like the one where he and the ECM editorial board advocated for denying the community the right to vote on whether or not to approve a school tax levy. So, every other week I read his ultra-conservative right-wing education opinion and think of the little bunny who covers his ears while chanting…make the stupid people shut up. Yep, that sums up my feelings. As Heinzman has gotten increasingly comfortable in his position on the ECM Editorial Board his messages on education have moved further and further to the right, so far right that his knuckles have to be dragging.  As last weeks guest columnist Heinzman penned the exception when he over shot the right-wing  inlcuding the majority of right-wing conservative politicians and  planted himself firmly among the warm, hard bunny pellets of fascism. 

In that article Don Heinzman jumped on the tiny, precarious bandwagon with Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota President, Phil Krinkie.According to the article, Krinkie claimed that school staff are babysitting children with special needs in the Minnesota public school system. What Heinzman didn’t include in the Viewpoint letter was that Krinkie’s views on education were so extreme that during the same speech he also advocated for high school classes with as many as 200 students, he rationalized this statement by saying that some University of Minnesota lectures have that many students, so why can’t our high schools. After a remark like that who in their right mind would think it was prudent to jump in and march in Phil Krinkie’s greed-monger parade? Apparently, Don Heinzman and naturally the Morrison County Record saw fit to print it.

While there is no debate that the American system of education took its cues from the industrial revolution, Krinkie’s recommendation would catapult students from the current industrial model of education to a model gleaned straight from a textbook factory farm. Save money by boxing students in from wall to wall while injecting them with antibiotics to deter disease in the overcrowded cesspool of an environment. Not only does Krinkie throw all special needs students under the short bus but Krinkie closes his speech by tossing all high school students in after them.

Stating that school staff are babysitting says nothing about special need students and everything about Krinkie and Heinzmans gross and utter ignorance on the subject. Heinzman also insinuates that special needs students require a vast amount of staff support which is also a stereotype and a blatantly false statement. The article goes on to attack individual education plans (IEP) as being a burden to our public schools.

It is important to point out that only a small fraction of special needs students require the aid of a staff person, this is an exception not a rule and IEP’s more often than not contain simple provisions and accommodations. Some common examples of provisions extended in an IEP would be being given additional time to complete assignments and/or modified grading. When the article discusses an Individual Education Plan (IEP) it makes it sound as though these students are given their very own curriculum and their own instructor when in truth the accommodations are usually simple adjustments that serve to level the playing field for the student. That having been said, I should also point out that we are in fact discussing services provided by PUBLIC schools that were established and funded to accommodate, well…the public, not just the Heinzman/Krinkie Aryan race.

What Heinzman and Krinkie are suggesting smacks of a  good’ol,  Jim Crow mentality. While the Jim Crow system rationalized that whites were superior to Blacks in all important ways, including but not limited to intelligence, morality, and civilized behavior, Heinzman’s and Krinkies remarks bare a frightening resemblance when they suggests that special needs students require babysitting, a statement that blatantly implies that special needs students require closer supervision and are therefore less civilized. There elaboration also suggests that special needs students cannot benefit from public education in the same meaningful way mainstream student can therefore they clearly must be less intelligent.

I have to wonder what mathematician and Nobel Prize Laureate (Economics) , John Forbes Nash would say.  Or better yet, British theoretical physicist and Lucasion Professor of Mathamatics at Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, whose key scientific works to date include Roger Penrose, theorems regarding singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, known as Hawking Radiation. Too bad Hawking has Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is almost completely paralyzed, that means that according to Phil Krinkie and Don Heinzman, Stephen Hawking needs a babysitter.

While I found the entire article to be a statement of ignorance and blatantly discriminatory, nothing offended me more than Heinzman saying that funds in a schools general budget are being used to subsidize the special needs students. In fact a schools general fund covers a huge array of expenses, and is intended for ALL learners not just the Krinkie/Heinzman Aryan race.  Singling out special needs students as though money in the general fund isn’t equally theirs is in itself an attitude of discrimination and an endorsement for a hostile learning environment. The money in the general fund doesn’t belong to any subset of students as Heinzman suggests but is intended for all learners. Portions of special education funding has always come from a schools general fund and all districts are expected to budget and allocate those funds accordingly.

Since Heinzman has taken the latitude to suggest that the education of special needs students is being subsidized at the expense of the mainstream student population then it fair interject my own assessment:  special needs students in the Little Falls school district have been subsidizing the financial mismanagement of past school boards, which includes their profound ineptitude when it comes to administrative contract negotiations.

Placing a lack of priority on education has become the American way, similarly when resources are tight it is equally American to blame our countries most vulnerable citizens. If it isn’t the poor kids driving down our test scores, it’s those special needs kids sucking up resources we could be spending on normal kids.  America’s primary issue isn’t financial, the primary issue is that our values suck. We’ve become so bought into capitalism that we can’t assign a value to anything that doesn’t produce buckets of money. So how do we respond? We pour money into defense spending so our elected officials can earn dividends on their stock options.

Section 504 has been an unfunded mandate on the books since 1973, yet when we moved to Little Falls the school district had never even implemented that section of education law and all students who qualified we unserved. Little Falls school board didn’t adopt 504 language until 2004/2005 which accounts for 32 years of unmet education needs effecting the chronically ill and disabled students within the school area. What this says is that it didn’t matter how much funding the state and federal government provided. I must also point out that even after 32 years of shafting that segment of special education, the school district still plummeted into statutory operating debt.

While I agree that the federal government has fallen down on its responsibilities to provide funding for special education it is apparent that funding is only one issue that special needs students face. If a vehicle to properly utilize improved funding doesn’t exist then the amount of funding provided is irrelevant. 

Heinzman also says, “No one likes to talk about inequity, because it involves programs for special needs kids. Parent of special needs children understandably fight fiercely for every benefit their children can get.”

In compiling his Viewpoint piece Heinzman obviously never bothered talking to students with special needs or to their parents for that matter. His statement makes it sound as though special needs students have so many advantages because their parents are such staunch advocates that these students are being handed whatever they want and need. This statement is a testament to Heinzman’s ignorance when it comes to special education.

Heinzman doesn’t know that when the parents of a special needs student requests an evaluation and accommodations they will find themselves facing off with a room full of district staff. While some districts truly work to meet the needs of the student other districts enact an exclusionary policy and their sole mission is to deny service to any and all extents possible. It is an uphill battle so arduous that disability advocacy organization like PACER mail out manuals to parents to try and aid them through a difficult process where they are clearly out numbered. Johnny’s education is not every schools priority. Yet Heinzman actually discusses this as though mainstream students are getting short changed when in fact this population is not only making the grade but they have a significantly lower drop out rate statewide.

Maybe Heinzman should talk to a parent who has been through one of those meetings in Little Falls, or spend time with a Little Falls student who drives to Peirz school district because they are more willing to accommodate special needs so they transfer out through open enrollment.  Until Heinzman has done his homework on the subject he is not qualified to pronounce an opinion as to equity because he has no basis withwhich to define equity.  His only information stems from a few dollar figures, outdated stereotypes and ignorant assumptions. Unless of course, Heinzman is suggesting that equity is measured in dollars spent rather than met education needs.

While it is true that we need to hold state and federal lawmakersaccountable, it is fundamental that our local school boards be held accountable for the exclusionary policies enacted by local school district employees.

Definition-fascist: a person who is dictatorial or has extreme right-wing views. (My special needs son pointed out that Don Heinzman’s advocacy for removing voters rights to decide on school tax levy issues also falls within the realm of fascism, and my special needs son is of course correct.)

Definition – Subsidy: A direct pecuniary aid furnished by a government to a private industrial undertaking, a charity organization, or the like.

Stephen Hawking on disabilities

Olive Rockfish

There was recently a discussion among those of us at Fish Wrap as to whether or not we should establish an annual award for the most despicable act or actions by a county resident. Suckerlip Blenny thought the award name should mirror the theme of our blog and s/he was subsequently witty enough to suggest that we name the award The Bass Turd Award.

While the suggestion was primarily in jest, I did wonder…who would rank as our top nominees for 2007?

Trolling for Trouble,

Brooke Trout

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