After Deadline: The difference between candy and cauliflower

There are stories we have to do, and there are stories we get to do, and really I love them both.

After Deadline - Brian Todd column sig

I need to eat more vegetables.

Looking at me, most would guess that since I'm charitably described as "chunky," that I didn't get this way gnawing on celery. Still, I love veggies. Take cauliflower. Whether dipped in ranch (not the healthiest way to eat cauliflower), stir fried in a light oil with herbs, or just raw, it's delicious to me.

But I love sweets, too. The older daughter makes the best cookies in the house. My cheesecakes are legendary . And, frankly, desserts are delicious.


This last week or two I've been trying to keep up with the onslaught of cities and counties voting to on their preliminary property tax levies for 2021. This happens every year, and it's not the sweetest story to cover out there, but it's something that's good for us. Knowing what our governments plan to spend and how much it will cost is what politics and government are all about.


These stories, which aren't always the most exciting – "after months of workshop negotiations, the city council and/or county board unceremoniously voted to pass a 3 percent levy increase which may or may not be the final levy ..." – help people see what local government is spending money on, and gives people a chance to give their input on what is or isn't important to them.

We cover a lot of things like this: school board meetings, city council and county board meetings, election campaigns. All are part of the "watchdog" job of a newspaper. It's the vegetables we dish out, like a healthy serving of carrots. But sometimes these stories turn into carrot cake, like when we talk about trends in spending or how the budget in St. Paul is impacting budgets from Austin to Zumbrota.


While we know the veggies are important, we also know you love a little dessert.

Last week I tracked down stories ranging from a group of Winona churches paying off bad medical debt for people across Wisconsin and Minnesota to a story about problems Hispanics face integrating into the community in Lake City.

The story of the five churches in Winona collecting $15,000 in donations to erase $2 million worth of medical debt from the credit reports of strangers across Minnesota and Wisconsin is the kind of sweet story we love telling. Pictured, from left, are Rev. Danielle Bartz, of First Congregational Church; donors, Shari and Clare Jarvis, of Winona; Rev. Rachel Rosendahl, of Grace Presbyterian Church; Rev. Michael Short, of Central Lutheran Church; and Jeff Franko, of Cedar Valley Lutheran Church. The group was photographed Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, at First Congregational Church in Winona. (Joe Ahlquist /

The latter story is a good example of that carrots-to-carrot-cake scenario. I found out about the survey Lake City's EDA had conducted on the topic during a city council meeting where I'd primarily shown up to hear about their, you guessed it, 2021 property tax levy.


During the meeting, though, Katie Yoder, who conducted the survey, gave a report on it.

I could have easily just written a couple of paragraphs about the survey in the city council story, but where's the fun – the deliciousness – of that? So I contacted Yoder. She also put me in touch with Dalila Loyo, a Hispanic immigrant and a paraprofessional in the ESL program at Lake City's Lincoln High School.

In the end, the story was the kind of dessert we like to serve, a sweet tale about the lives and struggles of our neighbors here in Southeast Minnesota.

Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.

Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or
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