Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cabin Fever

Cabin ownership used to be more prevalent among the common people of Minnesota. Back in the 70s and 80s, while growing up in decidedly middle class environs, it wasn’t uncommon for our neighbors and friends to own a cabin and head up north every summer weekend. But something has happened over the past few decades to change this, probably some combination of increased demand for vacation homes eating up supply, increased property taxation on these properties. Plus the standards for the “cabin” have increased dramatically over the years. A cabin used to be nothing more than a ramshackle hut with a few rooms, questionable heating and suspect plumbing (and we loved it!). Now it’s assumed to be a McMansion on the lake with multiple guests rooms and built in bars and Jacuzzis and big screen plasma TVs. No doubt this has driven up the price as well.

For whatever the reason, those among the working class rarely speak of their cabins anymore. For all but the wealthy, they are not affordable. And with that goes much of the cherished Minnesota institution of going “up north”.

Well, maybe not for everyone.

One of the private amusements I’ve enjoyed with myself over the years (one of the many!) is reading the retirement announcements of teachers and education bureaucrats and other government employees, and noticing how often they mention retiring to their cabins. No, I didn’t have the foresight to compile statistics and clippings over the years to prove this, but trust me, it happens quite a bit, otherwise it wouldn’t be so funny to me every time I see it. And I’ve always taken it as another piece of evidence that perhaps we’re being a bit too generous in the compensation and retirement benefits for teachers, education bureaucrats, and other government employees. Should we really be subsidizing a lifestyle for our public servants that is unattainable for those they are serving? I report, you decide.

The latest from Washington County, the County Administrator is stepping down after serving the public for 37 years. His plans for retirements? From the Stillwater Gazette:

We have a family cabin in northwest Wisconsin that we haven't been able to spend enough time at.

Yes, yes, yes, maybe the cabin has been in their family for generations and didn’t cost him a cent. Or maybe his wife made all the real dough in the family through private sector endeavors and she popped for it. Or maybe he won the lottery some years back and splurged on a cabin.

Or, maybe, just maybe, my confirmation bias is right on the money, and that cabin has been paid for by the good graces of the Washington County taxpayers who’ll never have such a luxury in store for themselves.

Ah well, whatever the circumstances, it’s always nice to see a life of honest labor rewarded with some years of comfort and ease. We wish him the best, and we look forward to the tenure of our new Washington County Administrator, just now taking her position. The Oakdale-Lake Elmo Review has a profile, including this tidbit on her hobbies:

In her spare time, O'Rourke said she enjoys gardening and skiing. She and her husband of 30 years are also fulfilling their dream of building a cabin, O'Rourke said.

Just a coincidence, I’m sure.