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By John Diers Jun 26, 2019

About a week ago, as we do on most summer evenings, my wife, Marcia, and I were out on our front porch discussing the issues of the day, the fate of the world and the failings of the younger generation. Retired septuagenarians do that sort of thing.

The porch is our natural habitat and one of life’s dividends. We love our little house on Pleasant Street, our front porch, our neighbors and neighborhood, our yard, the flowers, the occasional wildlife that comes calling, the ancient trees and the breeze that whispers by on a summer’s eve. Some call it a small-town feel. We call it home.

Our house is 110 years old. I say happy birthday, little house. William Howard Taft was in the White House when your first owners moved in. We talk about you and what you’ve seen and reflect on the 110 years that have gone by. Marcia goes back to childhood memories and her grandmother’s house and farm in Battle Lake. I talk about my grandparent’s house on West Minnehaha in St. Paul, my grandmother’s flowers, the wide boulevards, huge elms and Hamline-Cherokee streetcars that I watched going by from their front porch.

For us, it’s a quiet, reflective time — that is, until a motorcycle or car blasts by with a loud (or no) muffler or wide-open windows and a boom box thumping some awful beat. Or, like a week ago, we hear an explosion followed by a series of staccato pops and booms announcing the impending arrival of the Fourth of July.

Be it fireworks, boom boxes or noisy cars and motorcycles, Marcia hates noise. She was indignant and wanted to call the Prior Lake Police. I demurred, acknowledging the season but also the certainty that it was just a bunch of hormonal boys doing what boys do and, of course, remembering what I did on the Fourth of July all those many years ago. But she was insistent and had good reasons. Marcia was on a mission.

I paraphrase her speech and her argument, but it went something like this:

“Every year it’s the same thing. It starts about now and goes on all summer. Cherry bombs, bottle rockets and firecrackers aren’t legal in Minnesota. Let them buy them in Wisconsin or North Dakota. They can blow them up there. The same goes for the sclerotic geezers who roar around on their noisy Harleys. Get a Vespa.“

It was a persuasive speech. I wholeheartedly agreed, and she called the police. A short time later, she took a call back from the officer who’d responded. The explosions stopped. It was quiet. She thanked him. We noticed his police car stayed in the neighborhood for a while, presumably to make sure things settled down.

I share this because I’ve heard similar complaints from other people, not just in Prior Lake but elsewhere. Go to Google and you’ll find noise defined as an unwanted sound that’s perceived as unpleasant or annoying by the receiver. The keyword is unpleasant. Sound is energy and everywhere and inescapable— unless, of course, you don’t hear it — which, of course, is preferable when that sound is noise. We live in a noisy world. It’s why I’m happy I don’t hear as well as I did 50 years ago.

Noise is a nuisance. Go to the city of Prior Lake webpage and look under ordinances, specifically 605, Public Nuisances, and 605.1000, Noise. You’ll find several pages and sections and subsections that define and describe noise, its abatement and how and when the city enforces the ordinance.

Enforcement is problematic and inherently subjective. Imagine for a moment a police officer pulling over a vehicle with a loud muffler, taking out a decibel meter and pacing off the requisite distance to measure the level. The same goes for a bunch of kids setting off fireworks and scattering through a neighborhood. Police resources are limited and have to be saved and carefully allocated for emergencies. Noisy fireworks, loud mufflers or boom boxes are nuisances. They’re not the same as a car accident, a fire or a heart attack.

It’s all about common sense, courtesy and consideration of others. I’m reminded of a sign that was placed at the entrance to every Pullman sleeping car. I have one in my collection. It reads: “Quiet is requested for the benefit of those who have retired.”

Enough said.

Please read more from The Prior Lake American:

John Diers is a Prior Lake resident who spent 40 years working in the transit industry and is the author of “Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and “St. Paul Union Depot.” To submit questions or topics for community columnists, email editor@plamerican.com.

By Wes Mader Community Columnist May 30, 2019

These are challenging times. Our southern border is being overrun by thousands of undocumented, illegal immigrants. Iran and North Korea continue to pose potential nuclear threats. Our nation is adrift, floating toward socialism, abandoning the foundation upon which America was built. These and other major challenges need to be addressed. Imperfect leadership would be better than no leadership.

Great leadership is what sustained America when most needed, leadership from imperfect individuals who rose to the occasion. They were human beings with human faults who could not have survived in their day if subjected to the scrutiny being imposed on today’s would-be leaders. The non-stop search by politicians for sins of their adversaries and a national media eager to print it all have practically eliminated the possibility for anyone to lead our nation. The past presidents we revere would fail in today’s political atmosphere.

George Washington, the one-time British military officer, gained wealth using dubious means including slaves to work his plantation. Nevertheless, when America needed a leader to kneel and pray with the starving and demoralized troops at Valley Forge and then defeat the better-armed and trained British army, Washington was it. He gained independence for America and then guided our nation through its infancy. I wonder if the name Washington, D.C., will be attacked by those who are intent on erasing the names of former heroes and leaders from public buildings, streets and parks because of past sins.

When our nation was being divided and torn apart by the inhumanity of slavery, a strange-looking man born in a one-room cabin rose to the occasion. Abraham Lincoln was a log-splitter who became a self-educated lawyer (not by college decree) and defied odds by becoming president. He signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves and propelling America further into its bloodiest war, and as commander-in-chief executed the war that bound our nation together. His courage and good deeds cost him his life.

As our nation was being populated and transformed from wilderness and Native American territory into the world’s breadbasket, the splendor of the plains and mountains was being compromised for commercial gain. President Theodore Roosevelt, a former rough-riding military officer and hunter who slaughtered big game in America and Africa for the sport of it, had the vision to set aside and preserve many of America’s most beautiful places.

When Nazi Germany was overrunning Europe and Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, a commander-in-chief in a wheel chair, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, led our nation into a coalition with allies destined to win World War II. Roosevelt died before the war ended, elevating Vice President Harry Truman, a man with a high-school diploma and 82 days in the office, into the presidency.

In spite of personal deficiencies, Truman met the challenge with unimaginable courageous decisions: dropping the atomic bomb to bring the war to an immediate end, supporting the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-damaged Europe and joining in the creation of NATO. With World War II hardly over, Truman committed U.S. forces to protect South Korea, preventing it from becoming part of North Korea.

Truman’s less-than-presidential mannerisms and the failure by Americans to grasp the long-term effects of his decisions dimmed his chances for reelection in 1952. He chose not to run and left office with a low approval rating, but today’s credible historians rightly rate him as one of the best presidents ever.

Possibly the most dangerous threat ever to world civilization was the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union, each side holding the trigger of nuclear-tipped missiles aimed at each other. It took a Hollywood actor, former president of a labor union and Democrat-turned-Republican to challenge the Soviet Union and initiate the beginning of the end of Communism in Europe.

Given his credentials, Ronald Reagan could have been found unacceptable to either political party, but when he ran for a second term, he won all states except Minnesota, demonstrating that good leaders rise above politics.

Washington, Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Truman and Reagan were all flawed individuals, unlikely candidates to lead a nation in crisis, but when it counted most, they put the nation’s interests above their own. Their legacies will last for generations. In spite of Donald Trump’s many flaws, leaders of the opposition party (and his own) owe it to America to try to make government work instead of using their political positions to render our nation leaderless.

If our elected representatives can’t or won’t curtail the ugliness of Washington politics, this presidency and future presidencies will all fail.

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Wes Mader is a former Prior Lake mayor. Following retirement after serving as president of Bowmar Aerospace and Defense in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Wes and his wife Char retired in Prior Lake.

By John Diers May 29, 2019

Go to Rapid City, South Dakota, and you’ll find the face of President Theodore Roosevelt chiseled on Mount Rushmore. T.R., as he was affectionately known, succeeded William McKinley when the latter ran afoul of an assassin in September 1901. Roosevelt was the 26th President and today ranks high in the hagiography of the Republican Party — not much removed from Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

But was he a socialist?

Maybe not, but by 1912 he’d become a heretic in the party that put him in the White House. Angered by the plutocrats then in charge and the conservative policies of his one-time friend and successor, President William Howard Taft, Roosevelt bolted the Republican Party and ran for President as a Progressive Party candidate on a platform that called for a national health service, a social insurance system for the elderly, the disabled and the unemployed, an eight-hour workday, a minimum wage for women, a federal securities commission, an inheritance tax and a federal income tax.

The election was a three-way split, and he lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, but much of his agenda and platform eventually became law.

On the question of socialism, he wrote: “Much of the discussion about socialism and individualism is entirely pointless because of failure to agree on terminology.” He added, “We can just as little afford to follow the doctrinaires of an extreme individualism as the doctrinaires of an extreme socialism.” It was a debate about words, not action. Roosevelt acted.

Born to a privileged class and family and Harvard-educated, Roosevelt was a pragmatist and a leader for the times. The darling of the press and the muckraking journalists of the era, Roosevelt went after the industrialists and financiers who then dominated American business and had ensconced themselves as an oligarchy of wealth and power through combinations of trusts and monopolies.

They were the “malefactors of great wealth” and “robber barons,” and Roosevelt resolved to break their hold on the American economy. Roosevelt believed in hard work, opportunity and fairness. It angered him to see poor children forced out of school and into mines and factories while the children of the leisure class boarded yachts and private rail cars and put diamond collars on their pets.

He called for popular government that banned the corrupting influence of money and corporate power in American politics. Much of his time as president was spent afflicting the likes of Edward Harriman, J.P. Morgan and James J. Hill.

Today, we’ve arrived at a new Gilded Age. Economic inequality, and what to do about it, is going to be the central issue in the upcoming 2020 election.

Economist Robert Samuelson had a column in the May 5 Washington Post along with statistics that make important reading. Consider:

In 2018, the net worth of the wealthiest 10% of Americans represented 70% of all household wealth. That’s up from 61% in 1989. In these same years, the share of the top 1% went from 24% to 31%.
At the same time, the bottom 50% of all households lost virtually all of their net worth — from 4% of total wealth in 1989 to 1% in 2018. Most of these losses were torn from the middle class.
Corporate giants, Amazon and Netflix among them, paid no federal income tax in 2018, executive pay soars and the wealthy few use their leverage and checkbooks to buy seats for their kids at Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley universities — while everyone else gets stuck with student loans.

I’m reminded of noblesse oblige and the phrase, “nothing personal, it’s just business.”

Meanwhile, the economy keeps right on roaring. The GDP gets bigger, but the share of GDP keeps going to a smaller and a smaller share of Americans and a dwindling middle class so overburdened with debt that an economic downturn will wipe it out.

That downturn is coming. It’s predictable because it’s part of our economic system. It’s happened before, and it will happen again; whether it’s a recession, a debt crisis, maybe another 1929 caused by speculation and an overvalued stock market, or perhaps a catastrophe brought on by our over-consumption and climate change.

What would Teddy Roosevelt do if he were here and a candidate in 2020? For sure he’d be on familiar ground. Would he be ideological and debate the issues of socialism and capitalism like some quarreling theologian arguing the number of angels who could fit on the head of a pin? Or would he be pragmatic and have plans and programs and be an advocate for honesty, transparency and change?

Our issues aren’t about ideology or socialism or capitalism. They’re about fairness and the common good — his issues. There are candidates with integrity on both sides of the political spectrum that share them. Let’s hope they succeed.

Please read more from The Prior Lake American:

John Diers is a Prior Lake resident who spent 40 years working in the transit industry and is the author of “Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and “St. Paul Union Depot.” To submit questions or topics for community columnists, email editor@plamerican.com.

By Jack Hammett jhammett@swpub.com May 21, 2019

Prior Lake City Council and the community welcomed newly-selected Police Chief Steve Frazer with uproarious applause as he was sworn in Monday by Mayor Kirt Briggs.

After a hiring process whittled the choices to Frazer, formerly of Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department and St. Paul PD, and Carver County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Eric Kittelson, the city announced its choice May 7.

The hiring process included interview panels with community stakeholders, police department staff and representatives from Scott County and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

“After undertaking a thorough process, I am confident that Chief Frazer is a wonderful match for the City of Prior Lake,” said City Manager Michael Plante, who made the final decision.

Frazer began his acceptance by saying family is an officer’s greatest support.

“It’s extremely hard to be a police officer’s spouse,” he said. “It’s extremely hard to be a police officer’s child. There are a lot of moments that bring you back to reality, when your child is in first or second grade and says, ‘Dad, stop using your cop voice.’”

The community listens as Prior Lake Police Chief Steven Frazer gives a quick speech after being sworn in Monday night.

Frazer thanked the council and mayor, acknowledging they are one of three groups of people the police chief must serve.

“No. 1 is the citizens we all serve,” he said, adding elected officials and department employees are the other two.

Frazer has more than 27 years of police experience, according to a city news release. He moved from serving as a peace officer in Roseville to serving as a commander in St. Paul in 2006. He also served as chief deputy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, managing day-to-day operations.

Frazer will manage 35 employees, including sworn and civilian staff, and the department’s $4.6 million budget.

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By Jack Hammett jhammett@swpub.com May 7, 2019

St. Paul Police Department Cmdr. Steven Frazer will be Prior Lake’s new police chief, the city announced Tuesday.

Frazer will oversee a department of several dozen employees and a budget of about $4.6 million, according to a news release from the city. City Manager Michael Plante made the decision after two finalists held interview panels with community stakeholders and police department staff.

“I am humbled to have been selected as the Prior Lake Chief of Police,” Frazer said in a written statement. “I cannot wait to make Prior Lake my home and place of work. “

Frazer has more than 27 years of police experience in various roles. He moved from serving as a peace officer in Roseville to serving as commander in St. Paul in 2006. He also served as chief deputy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office managing day-to-day operations.

Frazer said he plans to hear out stakeholders, including elected officials and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

“I want to get an idea of (the community’s) overall vision and view and kind of their report card: How’s the PD doing? What are we doing right? What could we do better?” he said.

Frazer said he will spend his first 90 days determining the city’s priorities.

“There’s always room for improvement in any endeavor,” he said.

Prior Lake Cmdr. Brad Cragoe said the department will need a chief focused on developing the next generation of leaders, as several retirements may be coming up within the next four or five years.

“There’s a big age gap (between supervisors and patrol),” he said. “We need to get ready to step up and move people into those spots.”

Frazer will replace Don Gudmundson, who stepped in as interim chief earlier this year after interim Chief Booker Hodges accepted a state government position. Former Chief Mark Elliott’s resignation last year for undisclosed reasons set off the series of department leaders.

Frazer is scheduled to be sworn in May 20 during the regular City Council meeting.

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