Does history repeat itself? Albert L. Tribune has the answer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2002

&uot;Experiences are savings which a miser puts aside. Wisdom is an inheritance which a wastrel cannot exhaust.&uot; &045;Karl Kraus

Trouble is brewing around here. Discontent is rampant. Angry mobs are banging on the gates of our local leaders. The county sits perched on the edge of anarchy. Residents are demanding answers.

This is a job for Albert.

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It’s been a while since I headed down to the basement to pick old Albert’s brain. In case you don’t know, I’m talking about Albert L. Tribune, who has been working here longer than anybody can remember. He spends his days downstairs, doing very little but always being prepared to answer my questions.

Here are a few questions I forwarded to Albert recently, and the old sage’s answers:

Dear Albert:

Former mayor Marv Wangen seemed to find his way into a few controversies during his time. Now that he’s gone, an attempt to name a park after him has, you guessed it, stirred up a controversy. Isn’t that ironic?

Albert says:

Well, contrary to what Alanis Morissette will tell you, that’s not ironic. It’s just sad.

Dear Albert:

Why do we need a 117-bed jail in Freeborn County? That seems so big!

Albert says:

There’s already a waiting list just to serve time in our 42-bed jail. If the 117 beds were available today, at least 60 would probably be full at any given time. The number goes up on weekends. Within a couple years, there will probably be 70-75 people in the jail. That means it’s not entirely full, but we’ve also been told that a jail is safest when it’s not at its maximum capacity.

As crime increases, projections say those 117 beds could be pretty much full within 20 years.

The other key to this is physical. The jail will be the lower level of the courthouse, below ground. If they build a small jail and it turns out they need to expand it, what do they do? It’s tough to add on to a below-ground facility.

The jail’s needs are also more complicated than just 42 bodies in 42 beds. The existing jail can only hold four women, and has only eight maximum-security cells, for example.

It sure does seem big. But for my money, we’ll be glad in 20 years. Those of us who are still around, anyway.

Dear Albert:

Is it true that history repeats itself?

Albert says:

You be the judge. Here is an excerpt from the Freeborn County Standard of Albert Lea, from Nov. 17, 1886. I found a copy down here in the basement:

&uot;The county board is in session as we go to press. The new members Thos. A. Helvig, L. Marpe and Wm. Morin met with the board Monday and together they gave careful consideration to the matter of building a new court house. The various plans were inspected, and a committee consisting of D.N. Gates, Wm. Christie and K. Ingebrigtson was appointed to confer with Architect Dunham of Burlington in regard to his plans. … Mr. Ingebrigtson is said to be the only member of the board who is inclined to be backward about going ahead with this most necessary and important enterprise. There is such a thing as being penny wise and pound foolish, and the public will be glad to know that the majority of the board are not afflicted with that kind of wisdom.&uot;

Of course, those were the days when newspapers weren’t shy about sticking their opinions right into the news. Some of you probably think those days aren’t over yet, but that’s another question.

Dear Albert:

Which two candidates are going to win the primary election for mayor of Albert Lea?

Albert says:

Hey, pal, I’m wise, but I’m not touching that one. It’s anybody’s guess.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays.