Note: His partner Peggy Flanagan was in St. Cloud and Foley while Tim visited with us in Bemidji on Sunday at 1:30 PM.
While I was not happy to vote for Tim Walz, I felt I had to in order to prevent Trump loving Johnson from winning. The fact that he and Peggy Flanagan are doing a Listening Tour at all is encouraging, as it was to see the group of Water Protectors welcomed at their Transition Office on the 19th of November after the Public Utility Cowards finalized their love fest with Enbridge in approving the requested Line 3 pretty much exactly as Enbridge wanted it.
I thought I was recording so didn’t take notes but there were many excellent comments. From Education, especially pre-K education for impoverished people, to many iterations of Water Protection including Treaty Rights, Walz got an earful from us. I didn’t have time to read my statement and questions but I was able to give them to his staffer who assured me he would get it in the car. I’d put all my contact info on the sheet but I’m not sure I’ll get any kind of response. Time will tell… Here’s what I wrote:
Minnesota’s focus on clean energy has allowed over a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases in the decade since the Next Generation Energy Act and Renewable Energy Standard was signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2007. Minnesota is currently above average in the U.S. with 50% of our energy coming from renewables. Renewable energy aligns with the million reasons people visit Northern Minnesota for hunting, fishing, lakes, and trees. Our northland economy relies on clean water, land, and air to support tens of thousands of jobs, not just in tourism but also in farming, our largest industry in rural Minnesota.
We know from the Department of Commerce that Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 is not needed in the Minnesota Region. The current route approved by the PUC would run through Minnesota’s wetlands and across its many streams, lakes and rivers to pipe Tar Sands oil, and the chemicals needed to make it flow, from Western Canada to global markets offshore and in doing so would produce the same greenhouse gas as 50 coal-fired power plants.
We know two facts: The Alberta Tar Sands are currently the largest generator of air pollution in North America. And we know that every pipeline leaks meaning it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN Tar Sands will devastate our watersheds and impact our vibrant economy.
Can you as Governor justify allowing Minnesota to be used as a conduit for bringing such a devastating increase to our global climate emergency while also creating such a substantial risk to our local economy largely based on a clean environment? What will you do, Governor-elect Walz, to assure that Minnesota divests itself from supporting the Tar Sands economy?
Tim began the session by stressing that local folks are the best decision makers. He wanted from us, ideas on who he should be placing as Commissions to be most effective. He used some capitalistic language, he failed to mention Treaty Rights when bringing up Line 3, and he spoke about a “business climate”. But he did appear to be listening in the the room of over 160 citizens as he sat at the front with Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht and took a LOT of notes.
He has put together a team of 30 very diverse people from Mayors to Educators, Fortune 400 CEOs to Spiritual Leaders to look for the people that will be best incoming “servant leaders” to partner the state and local agencies to make government work for Minnesota. He did say the agencies were NOT regulatory agencies to tell you what to do and not do, but instead to help us all figure out how to do things like make economic activity and still protect the environment or assure resources and equity in education. He assured us this was the first of many meetings to assure the public is heard. And he emphasized unity while still holding our own core beliefs.
Quite a lot of what he said was attractive and I appreciated that he replied to people by name on the few times he did respond. He spent most of the time listening to the people voice concerns and ideas rather than giving his own stances for each new item.
Many people spoke and some I knew. Michael Lane, Assistant Professor at BSU, commented on Native Sovereignty, including his concern about the Brackeen v. Zinke case where the Indian Child Welfare Act was recently deemed unconstitutional. This is an important case to watch as it could signal a very bad future. Consider whether it would be acceptable for Americans to go to Mexico and simply tell families which children they wanted to take home with them, regardless of what the family wanted. Or do you need to try to visualize Germans trying to take the children of Poland at will to truly comprehend the wrongness of this? I mean, what’s next if you can steal the children of a sovereign nation? What more could you do? Literally anything you want.
A woman named Kasey spoke of how limited and difficult her life is because of the lack of resources available for people with mental illness like her. Several members of Lake Associations spoke on the massive amounts of dollars and volunteer hours they commit to protecting our lakes without having any access to being involved as citizen members with the DNR, without having a seat at the table in those discussions even though there are many scientists in these citizen organizations. A Director of Northern Dental Access (a non-profit in Bemidji) spoke about the need for finding commissioners for the Departments of Health and of Human Services who can work together (apparently an ongoing difficult issue with the present commissioners) and that we bring more rural people in advisory roles. [I believe we can do this easily with technology as I’ve sat in my Harn watching PUC hearings or participating in Webinars globally.] She also cautioned on reimbursement changes to assure continued and increased coverage which is very necessary at present. Walz did speak after this calling for us to support him on these measures. He LIVES in “Greater Minnesota” so he gets it but he also stressed again that we all should be making suggestions to his committee or going online to apply for the positions that are open through 12/7/18.
Eugene Summers from Natawash (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe band member) asked how the voice of the Indigenous will be heard and Tim noted that an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of the Ojibwe will be sitting in the Lieutenant Governor’s seat in short order. He did note here that there are eleven sovereign nations and that each has its own treaty rights that differ so he will need help from all. Dialogue should be on the front end and respectful. He mentioned that he lives in Mankato six blocks from the execution site of the 38. Reconciliation and healing are necessary. Even in this room today he noted the wide array of political, religious, ethnicities, etc. but that we also have common goals: improving the lives of citizens, assuring freedoms are respected, and creating fiscally and morally responsible budgets.
Several talked about the growing concern with aquatic invasive species (AIS). An educator said we need to fix the differences between metro and rural education opportunities. Willis Mattison (28 years with the MN Pollution Control Agency) spoke on the fact that the voice of science is filtered through policy issues which prohibits the Governor from hearing the true and vital voice of science. An independent panel of scientists, unbeholden to any agency, would be a good addition to assure the Governor gets good information. Willis’ own experience showed that when he spoke the truth in some administrations, he was successful while under other administrations he was punished.
Audrey Thayer spoke from the perspective of a simple citizen on three issues:
- Considering the recent shooting in Bemidji, there is a need, not for more officers, but for more diversity and understanding in our communities. (As a light-skinned Indigenous, she hears more than many… being somewhat invisible.)
- We’re not going anywhere if our water is not taken care of and we have to understand this. Yes, we need jobs but we can’t afford to lose our wild rice.
- Education needs to be true. Middle school children are still learning about Christopher Columbus but our history needs to reflect the truth, including that of our Anishinaabe and Dakota heritage.
Tim applauded all of us for attending and being civically minded. He is visiting places both where he won and where he lost. He is listening to all constituents. He still sounds like a typical politician. And I agree with him… even for this white woman, it’s pretty difficult to trust another old, white man telling me he knows where I’m coming from. I really only voted against Johnson, not truly for Walz. I hope he can prove me wrong and make me a believer. Today I heard his words but I will be watching for his actions. He asked all of us to hold him accountable. I plan to do my part.
I hope both Walz and Flanagan hear another earful on Protecting Minnesota Water this afternoon in Duluth when they wrap up this 2018 tour.