Trail brings back boots, bicycles

In 1849, “Minnesota’s first road” was created by the new territorial legislature, running between the lumbering towns of Stillwater and Anoka – the “Rum River Road”. It ran right next to White Bear Lake’s northeast side. In 1883, Methodists from St. Paul formed the Chautauqua, which was the only settlement on the east side of White Bear Lake. It included a huge church, a hotel and cabins for more than 50 families, plus larger homes spread north along the lake for the wealthier participants. Now often called Camp White Bear, the area is occupied by people who love it and don’t leave. Close neighborhoods create stability. Some residents have known more than 75 neighbors for more than 40 years, a few of whom have passed on. Children play together with no idea that their great-grandparents were the closest of friends. 

The railroad arrived in 1869, the Chautauqua assembly in 1883, the streetcar not long after. The Chautauqua assembly died, and its building disappeared, but the sense of neighborhood, belonging and shared values did not. Passenger services went away. Cars took hold, and the neighborhood continued. The values remained as well, with people treating each other with friendship and regard, rich or poor, lakeshore or not. Essential values of the Methodist settlers – love, kindness and good behavior, remain today. 

In recent years, lake area residents have worked to bring back the boots and bicycles. In the Chautauqua and the rest of Mahtomedi, we have restored movement on rail lines and streetcar lines, making things safer for children. We took abandoned ground used for leaf disposal and bad car parking, and turned it into a beautiful park and trails, with a historic bridge, and soon, a small amphitheater. Neighbors plant flowers. Others stop to paint or take pictures. Hundreds each day walk or ride this way. The number grows constantly. This, simply, is the best of life, the best way to grow old together and to raise children and grandchildren, and we are very grateful. The hard work of committee members, neighbors and political figures has made possible a complete re-birth of honest exercise and personal movement, and an intimate appreciation of the beauty of our area. 

Please walk or ride the Lake Links Trail in Mahtomedi, capturing the history on the east side of the lake.

Steve and Karen Wolgamot



Hope to buy electric vehicle close to home

I was very surprised to read in the Business Briefs section on Jan. 27 that the White Bear Lake Chamber of Commerce executive director, Shari Williams, states that the adoption of clean car standards in Minnesota will “harm” me as a consumer. Sixty-six percent of prospective Minnesota car buyers, myself included, want automakers to provide more types of electric vehicles, according to a 2019 survey from Consumer Reports. Taking a negative stance against the adoption of lower vehicle emissions is looking backward and neglecting to recognize the changing industry. General Motors understands this consumer demand. In the company’s words, “GM is on its way to an all-electric future with a commitment to 30 new global electric vehicles by 2025.” It plans to invest $27 billion in product development.

The future and economic opportunity for the auto industry is in clean cars, and I challenge our Chamber of Commerce and our local auto dealers to meet the demand of consumers. I enjoy having so many car dealerships close to home. When we purchase our next vehicle, it WILL be electric. I really hope that we can stick close to home for this purchase.

Karol Durdle

White Bear Lake


Letter to residents of Senate District 43

Thank you to everyone who tuned in for our Saturday, Jan. 30, virtual Town Hall meeting. We covered a wide range of topics, including the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, helping students recover from learning losses during the pandemic, promoting recycling and clean energy initiatives, the need for more mental/behavioral health service options, election integrity and more. A recording of the meeting is available by going to

We encourage you to provide us with feedback to these or any other issues of interest, and to receive our updates.

Be well and stay safe.

Chuck Wiger

Peter Fischer

Leon Lillie

Victoria Reinhardt

Stan Karwoski


No evidence of widespread crime in Vadnais

In response to City Council member Urban's recent letter, "Crime in Our City," I have this to say: "Cut it out." His opinions are unsubstantiated and amount to nothing more than fearmongering. He claimed there is a spike in crime, possibly even a "crime wave," but there is no evidence to support this assertion.

At the October 2020 City Council meeting, Sheriff Fletcher is actually on record stating multiple times that Vadnais is an "extremely safe" community. There is no appreciable spike in crimes in our community and there certainly aren't "people roaming the streets looking to victimize our residents." That's just a fantasy. There's no data to support this conclusion.

Mr. Urban has been on record at  council meetings sharing his experience of having been a victim of theft. While unfortunate, his personal experience does not constitute a pattern of malicious behavior. His proposed solution of installing license plate monitoring devices to keep records of the comings and goings of citizens is an abuse of our right to privacy and of his authority. The citizens of Vadnais Heights should not have to use tax dollars to address his personal feelings of insecurity. In council meetings, he has been pushing the narrative for months that “people from Minneapolis" are coming to Vadnais Heights to commit crimes. Not only is this a dangerous line of thinking, it's barely concealed racism because — let's be honest — "people from Minneapolis" is just a dog whistle term for "non-white." He's not fooling anyone. We hear his message loud and clear, with all the subtext.

Let me be equally clear. Mr. Urban, that kind of thinking does not represent the good people of Vadnais Heights. We want no part of your vendetta. The city is not a place to act out your fantasies. This is not what leadership looks like. The people of Vadnais Heights deserve much better. Come 2022, your seat will be occupied by someone more worthy of the responsibility. Until then, just keep the streets plowed and leave your personal agenda and bias outside the council chamber.

Tim Cheesebrow

Vadnais Heights


Make investments elsewhere

I am concerned that the Rush Line is misplaced planning. The pandemic restrictions have taught us many lessons — the value of family and less commuting time, and the importance of appreciating our quality of life. It seems to me that planning for more commuters is not the right thought — we should be planning for more telecommuters. I would rather have good fiber internet investments made than bus stations and the promise of an economical bus fare. This would achieve the goals of reducing traffic and improving quality of life. Let’s think in the 21st century. For the considerable investment, you may be able to fund public fiber and auction long-term leases to private providers. That’s a public-private partnership that will fuel real value in our area and achieve many of the goals being promoted by the Rush Line.

Paul Pilarski

Vadnais Heights


Fearmongering is not a Vadnais value

I'm responding to Councilmember Greg Urban's letter to the editor titled “Crime in our city”. I was sad to see Mr. Urban fearmonger and misrepresent the community further in this letter. As Mr. Urban is aware, at an October 2020 City Council meeting Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher described Vadnais Heights as “one of the safest cities in the country.”

There is absolutely no evidence to support Mr. Urban’s assertion that there are “people roaming the streets looking to victimize” the people of Vadnais Heights, and such a claim only serves to scare and unsettle our residents. Mr. Urban says we have not seen violent crime “so far,” another rhetorical device specifically written to fearmonger about Mr. Urban’s oft stated (and untrue) belief that “people from Minneapolis” are terrorizing our city.

If Mr. Urban is genuinely concerned with safety and the well-being of the residents of Vadnais Heights, why does he not wear a mask at open-to-the-public City Council meetings? Why does he continue to ignore residents’ calls for a Human Rights Commission that would assist the residents of Vadnais Heights in feeling and being safer and more secure? The pandemic has put a strain on the city and its residents. Rather than attempt to improve conditions with community action and resiliency, Mr. Urban appears to choose to use his position to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Mr. Urban wants to scare the people of Vadnais Heights into living in constant fear of whoever he thinks is the “other,” rather than constructive uses of his authority, such as funding the Human Rights Commission demanded by the residents of this city.

The people of Vadnais Heights are kind and considerate, and value community. I urge Mr. Urban to listen to the residents of our city, engage with us in good faith and avoid hyperbolic fearmongering. Reacting out of fear, uncertainty and doubt will only serve to further undermine those values.

Imran Merchant

Vadnais Heights


Businesses must enforce mask mandate

Under Gov. Walz’s mandate, all individuals are required by law to wear a mask in all public spaces. This includes restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, government offices, museums and zoos. If there are other places not listed here that require you to wear a mask or do not enter, you should have a mask on or do not enter and put others at risk because of your beliefs. This is a requirement now to do business in our state.

No one can use the lame excuse that this is not necessary, saying they have a health condition and do not have to wear one. Wrong: We as business owners cannot ask them to prove said illness or disease under the HIPAA Privacy Law, but we still can refuse them service if they do not comply with the  mandate. As a citizen and frequent customer of many fine establishments that have enforced this mandate and have obeyed the laws, I maintain that when the next person comes into your place of business and says “No mask,” you must say, “No service!” This is not a joke, people. However, it's becoming one to people who do not lead by example and instead cower behind the HIPAA laws. Really, how does that protect me and you when we are lying on a hospital bed dying and on a ventilator? It doesn’t. Please post this letter in your places of business just like the “Masks Required” signs are posted everywhere. Wear a mask or don’t come in. Period.

From a person who wears her mask even if she hates it — because it’s the law and the right thing to do for everyone.

Gianna E. Ianos

White Bear Township


Feedback not considered in Rush Line discussion

It was with great interest that I read Debra Neutkens' Feb. 3 front-page article, “Rush Line buses expect to roll in 5 years.”

Here we go again. The Rush Line email that was sent out to interested parties on 1/8/21 contained this statement: “Feedback from residents and businesses along the Rush Line BRT route has shaped this project and will continue to do so in the years to come,” said White Bear Lake Mayor Jo Emerson, chair of the Rush Line Policy Advisory Committee

The White Bear Press article was filled with facts about Mayor Jo Emerson’s work as chair of the Rush Line Policy Advisory Committee. It would seem that Jo Emerson is telegraphing just how important that position is, rather than her post as mayor of White Bear Lake. The White Bear Press has been filled with letters to the editor, begging for our elected officials to wake up, smell the coffee and make some statement in regard to public opposition to the Rush Line’s terminus in White Bear Lake.

All we get are “crickets.”

The same article has a number of quotes from Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt. Victoria goes on and on about how this is “going to enhance the quality of life,” about how the ridership study’s low ridership numbers are just an aberration, and is actually quoted as saying, “Well, if there was a more convenient bus, I wouldn’t be using my car.” What? Is Victoria all-in on the Rush Line because she’s lazy? I think she just showed how hopelessly out of touch she has become by being a career politician. Congratulations, White Bear Lake. This is what happens when you’re not paying attention.

By the way — the one letter to the editor in the Feb. 3 White Bear Press is a letter of concern from Greg Urban of the Vadnais Heights City Council that speaks to the increase in crime in the area. The Rush Line has the potential of being a conduit for criminal activity increase in our area like light rail is for its route.

Please think about it!

Greg Lees

White Bear Lake


Tracking residents is unnecessary, overreach

Council Member Greg Urban wants to put license plate readers on every entrance into Vadnais Heights to track vehicles and monitor "suspicious" people coming into the city. He also wants to spend our tax money on rebates for Ring doorbells. These are some pretty expensive Big Brother moves for a guy who claims to be for fiscal responsibility, personal freedom and small government.

On October 20, 2020, Sheriff Fletcher spoke about crime in Vadnais Heights. It’s a long meeting, you should all watch it. Here are the highlights:

• Increase in property crimes, primarily things being stolen from vehicles in the parking lot at county parks.

• Urban talks about stuff stolen from his garage. Later, Urban asks about mail theft. Assumes it's up because of the "election fraud."

• Fletcher and council discuss funding for license plate readers and cameras in parks; maybe a stipend for homeowners to put Ring doorbell/cameras on all houses in Vadnais Heights. Council will explore the budget for this. Urban expresses a desire for council to be an active partner in crime-fighting strategies. (Is this the council's job? What does this even mean?)

• Rush Line is discussed and again, brought up as a danger to Vadnais Heights because people from Minneapolis and St. Paul might come here. You can interpret that as you see fit.

• At the 1:09 minute mark, there are some good safety tips for neighborhoods.

• At least four times during the presentation, Fletcher and the deputy describe Vadnais Heights as an extremely safe community. (I interpreted this as no one should panic.)

Look, my car was broken into in my driveway about eight years ago. It was unsettling for sure. I called the police; they said they'd patrol more in my area. I thanked them because it was an appropriate and helpful response to a crime committed on my property. What I didn’t do was to lobby for funding to put up a camera and track every person in and out of my city because that is weird, violating to others, and a poor use of tax money.

Heather Gustafson

Vadnais Heights


End the inequities in our democracy

The first 100 days of Biden’s presidency are underway, and I’m hoping that he and Congress will make reforming our democracy a top priority. The best way to do that is by passing the For the People Act. 

The For the People Act is a bold piece of legislation that would strengthen our democracy for generations to come. The law would dismantle numerous barriers to voting and representation, like gerrymandering, racist voter ID laws, unnecessary hurdles to registration, and felony disenfranchisement, adding millions of new voters to the rolls. It would also reduce the influence of big money in our politics by enacting limits on donations from lobbyists and increasing the power of campaign contributions from Americans by enacting a small-donor matching program.

Without this much-needed reform, our political system will never be truly democratic or fully representative, meaning our government will continue to work only for the privileged few. 

With a new president in the White House, I want to build a better system for all Americans — which is why I’m urging Congress to pass the For the People Act. 

Janice Hallman

White Bear Lake

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