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Our view: Honor these northwest Minnesota residents, and then be done with the practice

Fischbach, a first-term Republican who represents northwestern Minnesota, last month proposed two bills, seeking to rename the post offices in Vergas and Oklee. In Oklee, Fischbach suggests, the

Herald pull quote, 12/04/21
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U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach is proposing renaming two post offices for a pair of notable Minnesota residents.

Fischbach, a first-term Republican who represents northwestern Minnesota, last month proposed two bills, seeking to rename the post offices in Vergas and Oklee. In Oklee, Fischbach suggests, the facility should be named for Coya Knutson, the first woman elected to Congress from Minnesota; in Vergas, Fischbach hopes to see the post office named for Jon Glawe, a veteran and mail carrier.

Yes, Congress: Back Fischbach’s bills and put the names of the chosen notable residents on these buildings for eternity. And then stop it.

We’ll get back to that. First, a bit about each of the nominees, according to a report last month from the Grand Forks Herald.

Knutson was born in North Dakota and attended Concordia College in Moorhead. She moved to New York to become a professional opera singer, but settled down on a farm near Oklee with her husband Andy. She was elected to Congress in 1955, and served until 1959.

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Glawe served in the U.S. Army in Germany. He delivered mail in the Vergas area for 36 years. He retired in 2011, and was known in his community for delivering mail, helping neighbors and volunteering at his church. He died in 2016 at the age of 66.

Both appear to be deserving of this honor, and according to current rules and traditions, it’s certainly worthwhile to pursue it.

But the naming of publicly owned objects – buildings especially – can be a dicey game, since politics can sometimes enter the fray (although it must be noted Fischbach is a Republican and Knutson was a Democrat) and opinions can be subjective. Also, naming a public building after someone from the present or recent past limits the ability to name that building after someone who will live and excel decades from now.

Rather, name a stretch of road after notable residents. Around here, there’s plenty to go around – impactful people and miles of roads.

Meanwhile, the act of naming post offices has come under criticism.

A 2015 article in The Atlantic noted that former House Minority Leader John Boehner, in 2010, once discussed the need for congressional reform. He pointed specifically to superfluous fluff work that he felt took time from solving real problems.

“With all the challenges facing our nation, it is absurd that Congress spends so much time on naming post offices, congratulating sports teams and celebrating the birthdays of historical figures,” Boehner said.

In 2018, an article on Rollcall.com noted that “In recent years, about a fifth of the enacted laws did little more than designate names for federal property.”

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And in 2013, The Washington Post noted that “Congress cannot seem to reach consensus on legislation to revamp the financially strapped U.S. Postal Service. But lawmakers sure have spent a lot of time on other urgent business involving the nation’s teetering mail agency: Naming post offices.”

This isn’t to criticize Fischbach or her efforts to remember Knutson and Glawe. She’s doing what so many others have done before her.

But with so much else in need of work, including fixing the United States Postal Service itself, we prefer Congress someday put this tradition to bed and then focus on more important tasks.

Related Topics: OUR VIEWMICHELLE FISCHBACH
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