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 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


The Morrison County Record has published a story about the United Way of Morrison County on its website and in the pages of the this week’s print edition.  There’s more to this story, some of which can be found at the Live Un-tied website maintained by Jody Scott-Olson.  The site includes Scott-Olson’s original press release, in which she calls for the resignation of the Executive Committee members of the Morrison County United Way.  It also has a copy of the resignation she was asked to sign, complete with its offer of money in exchange for silence on financial matters of the organization.  For those of you unaware of how nonprofit organizations are supposed to operate, they are required by law to maintain transparency of their operations, including financial information.

Watching this story with a wide, goggly fish eye,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

There was a report on WCCO News last night about several anarchist groups planning to disrupt the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.  One of their planned tactics is to block delegates from getting to the convention by bottle-necking the roads.  Do the anarchists realize that one of the stated goals of Republicans is to dismantle the government?  Isn’t that the definition of anarchy?  Why aren’t the anarchists working with the Republicans?

In a side note, if you owned a business, would you hire someone who stated he wanted to dismantle your business?  The answer seems obvious, doesn’t it?  Well then, why would you elect someone to the government if his stated goal is to destroy the very institution he is supposed to be serving?  (This thought is not one that this fish can take credit for.  It comes from Bill Press’s book “Train Wreck”, plus I’ve seen it on some internet sources.)

Watching the waves of anarchy,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Fish Wrap.  In that year, Fish Wrap writers have written 257 posts and the blog has received 16,031 views.  Our most popular post, with 1,145 views, is 9/11 Conspiracy Theory – Zeitgeist by Brooke Trout.  The day that received the most hits was Tuesday, June 24, 2008.  That was the day that Gordon Wheeler, Sr., held county commissioners hostage at the Morrison County Courthouse.  The two posts that caused the flurry of hits were Outrage (232 hits) and Sanity in the Courts (40 hits).

While those popular posts dealt with serious topics, one of my favorite posts, written by Suckerlip Blenny, is a humorous post that hasn’t had nearly enough hits in this fish’s humble opinion (a mere 10).  It’s called Bat Boy Moonlighting in Morrison County and it’s got pictures.  Bat Boy is a cultural hero, having been spawned in the pages of the Weekly World News.  We’re pleased he’s decided to make his home in Morrison County.

On that note, we’d like to thank our readers for checking in with us over the year and wish Fish Wrap a happy anniversary.

Bubbling happily in the pond,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

It’s been almost four weeks since the hostage situation took place at the Morrison County Government Center.  This fish still feels shaken by that event and will try not to comment directly on it further other than to say that the Morrison County Record did a fine job of covering the various angles of the situation.  (If you want to find the Record’s articles, just go to its website and type Gordon Wheeler into the search feature.)

What I’d like to do, instead, is discuss property rights because this is ostensibly what was at the root of the event.  When it comes to owning property, most Americans believe that property owners should be able to do whatever they want with their property.  In direct opposition to this thought is the belief that we also get to decide what our neighbors do with their property.  (How often have you found that your lawn aesthetic doesn’t match that of your neighbor’s?  Or complained about how that neighborhood feed lot is going to decrease the value of your property?)

So, which is it?  Do we get to do what we want with our property, or are we going to set up rules that restrict what our neighbors do?  There are no easy answers to this question, yet, when there is a dispute over property rights, someone has to step in and make some sort of decision.

That’s where our govenment officials come in – our county commissioners, city administrators, planning & zoning officials, and inspectors.  Not only are these officials concerned with making decisions about individual property rights, they also have to keep an eye on what’s good for an entire community, plus make sure their decisions square with local ordinances and state laws.  The latter can be notoriously difficult to interpret due to vague language that’s meant to cover all possible situations.

These officials juggle all of the aforementioned requirements and variables in making their decisions and sometimes their decisions don’t sit well with the property owner or with the public.  Then what?  Well, the property owner and public can learn to live with the decisions or the decisions can be appealed to a higher authority.  Perhaps a particular law in question needs to be revised, in which case those concerned with the issue can head to the legislature and work that angle.  If a property rights decision seems particularly unfair, but can’t seem to be resolved with a particular set of government officials, perhaps it’s time to use the power of the vote to bring new leaders into the situation.  The point is that there are all sorts of potential solutions to a property rights disagreement.

The real crux of the matter, however, is that property rights decisions are notoriously contentious because of the underlying premises I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  Sometimes there just isn’t an easy fix, no matter how thoughtfully officials contemplate an issue, and no matter how hard a property owner works to get a decision changed in his/her favor.  What we need to change is our idea of owning property.  While we may legally “own” a piece of property, we don’t really own it.  We’re just borrowing it for a time.  It behooves us to think about who will be using the land next and start making decisions not simply for our own selfish needs, but for the needs of its future inhabitants.

I’ll share my reef, if you’ll share yours,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Here’s one of this pickerel’s pet peeves:

Imagine a rancorous political debate between two people, one of whom believes that everything the Bush/Cheney administration is doing is God’s gift to the American people, the other of whom sees the situation for what it is: a massive power grab by wealthy individuals who will use whatever means necessary to maintain their position, including divesting citizens of their rights and shredding the Constitution.

The debate reaches a fever pitch, as it often does among rabid Bush/Cheney supporters because while they claim to support free speech, they prefer to shout and call names in order to keep their opponents from exercising their right to free speech.  As the opponent continues to criticize the direction this country has taken, the debate crescendos and the Bush/Cheney supporter pulls out this line:  “Well, if you hate America so much, why don’t you just leave?”  Bush/Cheney supporters who say this really mean it, too.  They’d ship any dissenter out in a heartbeat.

Well, guess what?  This country was founded on dissent.  It’s part of the political process and we’d all better get used to it.  Disagreeing with the leaders of our country is actually good for America.  It doesn’t make the person who disagrees unpatriotic and it doesn’t mean the dissenter hates America.  If anything, it makes a dissenter more patriotic because he/she is willing to criticize the government when it goes wrong.  This allows us to correct our course of action.  That’s what a democracy is all about – citizen involvement.

I have to question people who say things like, “Get the heck out of this country,” because, in essence, it seems as though they want to make their own power grab.  If all the dissenters leave the country, then those who are left can do whatever they want.  Not so fast, kiddo.  This is my country, too, as well as the the country of all the rest of us dissenters.  We’re not going to give you the satisfaction of leaving so you can have your way.  Why don’t you quit using your “Get out” line and deal with the situation at hand?

Planting myself firmly in the pond,

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

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