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Thumbs up to engaged citizens. Public officials may not be comfortable when citizens get off their couches and come to meetings, but it's been wonderful to see all the people at Cloquet City Council meetings and all the letters to the editor regarding the Wrenshall school referendum and the police chief suspension in Cloquet. There were plenty of times last year when the Pine Journal reporter was the only audience member at council meetings, and that's not what democracy is all about. Certainly people show up when there's an issue that will affect their neighborhood or their pocketbook, but the best kind of citizen participation — like the best kind of elected official — cares about the big picture for the entire community. Keep up the good work citizens, your voices are being heard!

Thumbs down to possible open meeting violations by the Cloquet City Council and Mayor Dave Hallback on March 16, when Hallback made the unusual move of calling an emergency meeting when two councilors were on vacation to discuss the union complaint about Police Chief Steve Stracek's management of the Cloquet Police Department. The city then closed the meeting to discuss that complaint and kept it closed to talk about whom to appoint as interim chief, even though that wasn't the reason for closing the meeting. The interim chief discussion should have been conducted in public. And finally, we sincerely hope that groups of three or more elected officials — a quorum — are not discussing city business outside of City Hall ... that would be against the law.

While we're at it, thumbs down to the city's very slow response to the Pine Journal's multiple requests for public government data. It's been more than six weeks for three requests, four weeks for another three ... and the city seems to have misplaced a recording of a public council work session to boot, and those meetings are not recorded by CAT-7 so there's no back up. A little transparency would be nice here.

Thumbs up to the free Easter Egg Hunt held at Pine Valley. It's great fun to see the kids swarm all over that hidden gem of a park, and watch the little ones as they consider whether they love or fear the giant Easter Bunny walking around the parking lot. The event is a wonderful example of a cooperative effort between the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce, Cloquet Community Education and the city of Cloquet, along with the six area businesses that donated this year: Taco John's, Premiere Theatres, Up North Insurance, Members Cooperative Credit Union, Cloquet Ford Chrysler, Frandsen Bank & Trust and MedExpress. Remember to support your local businesses the same way they support you!

~ Jana Peterson

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