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Ventura: Little State Can Do to Stop Mine Closing
by Michael Khoo
May 25, 2000
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Governor Jesse Ventura says there's little he can do to prevent the closing of the LTV Steel Mining plant in Hoyt Lakes. Company officials announced Wednesday that the operation was no longer profitable and would be shut down within the year. Speaking on MPR's Midday program, Ventura said the layoffs are an unfortunate fact of life in the private market over which he has little control. The governor also took the opportunity to clash with the local media over their coverage of his administration.
Hear the entire Ventura appearance on Midday.

WITH 1,400 workers, the LTV mining operation is the single largest employer in the Hoyt Lakes region, and Wednesday's announcement that it could soon close sent Iron Range officials scrambling for alternatives to a shutdown. But Governor Ventura says trying to keep the mine open under the same or different ownership is a lost cause. Ventura says shuttering the facility is a free-market decision which the state has little power to affect.

"If it's going to be just simply a public-private partnership to keep a sinking ship afloat, I don't think that's necessarily a good idea," he said. "You have to look at the long range. If we go into some type of partnership like this, is there the ability to be successful in the long term? Or does it become just a public subsidy for the next 20 years?"

Ventura says the state's dislocated worker program will help ease the blow to the region by helping LTV employees find new jobs or relocate. But the region's lawmakers say Ventura has moved too quickly in writing the plant's obituary.

"I don't think that we should just roll over and play dead," said DFL State Senator Doug Johnson of Tower, who represents the Hoyt Lakes area. He praised Ventura for meeting with LTV officials, but was concerned the governor gave up too easily. "There may be other owners, operators, private owners that would take a look at this, look at some of the other potential mineral deposits in the region, and find some uses for that facility. So, I wouldn't just go by one meeting like the governor did and say, "It's all over, let's move on, and give people their unemployment benefits."

Ventura says most of the high-quality taconite has already been mined in the region, making it difficult to run a profitable operation. He says he'd like to see greater diversity in the region's economic base and criticized the state Legislature for not acting on his proposals to expand the telecommunications infrastructure in rural Minnesota.
"If they can't stand the heat, then they ought to get out of the kitchen, and if the shoe fits, they ought to wear it."

- Governor Ventura on the media

He's also taking shots at the local press for focusing on the worst aspects of the closing and not reporting that many of the LTV employees would be immediately eligible for retirement benefits. In fact, several news accounts do mention the availability of pensions.

Ventura's media criticism echoes some broadsides he takes at reporters in a newly written chapter of his best-selling autobiography I Ain't Got Time to Bleed," which will soon be released in paperback. In the book, Ventura calls the local media "corrupt, shameless, and irresponsible as hell." He says the chapter should serve as a wake-up call to the press corps.

"If they can't stand the heat, then they ought to get out of the kitchen, and if the shoe fits, they ought to wear it," says Ventura. "And if it doesn't fit for them, well then they have a clear conscience, don't they? They can say, 'Well, Governor Ventura's meaningless. I don't operate that way.' But if the shoe fits, maybe they ought to wear it."

The paperback edition of his book is due in June. Ventura is also writing a second book in which he expands his critique of so-called "media jackals." That's expected in September.