In an announcement sent to sunscribers to his email lists, Representative Steve Drazkowski claims that citizen forums across the state and an Environmental Congress are intended to send a message friendly to "extreme environmental advocates" and that "efforts by our state government to notify farmers and other business owners throughout the state, about these meetings, has been extremely limited."
These statements run counter to Bluestem's own experience in learning about the Citizen Forums and the Environmental Congress.
What we read & when we read it
Back at the begun of November, Bluestem first read about a series of citizen forums to take place in advance of a larger meeting in 2013. The Hutchinson Leader reported in Minnesotans are urged to speak up about the environment at Citizen Forums:
What do clean water, the economy, energy and the health of our environment all have in common?
These topics will be discussed by Minnesotans this month and next at six Citizen Forums around the state. The forums, free and open to the public, will afford Minnesotans an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. State leaders will consider the citizen input next March at a Minnesota Environmental Congress summit, where they will begin to plan a blueprint for Minnesota’s environmental and economic future. (For more information about the Minnesota Environmental Congress, visit http://mn.gov/EnvironmentalCongress">http://mn.gov/EnvironmentalCongress.)
The Minnesota Environmental Congress and the Citizens Forums leading up to it are the result of Governor Dayton’s Executive Order 11-32. To assess Minnesota’s progress toward clean air, water and energy, the Environmental Quality Board is convening the Citizen Forums around the state to engage citizens in constructive dialogue, identify environmental challenges, and define a vision for Minnesota’s environmental future.
Here are the locations, dates and times for the six regional Citizens Forums:
Rochester: Nov. 27, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon, at Wood Lake Meeting Center
Bloomington: Nov. 27, 6:30 to 9 p.m., at Normandale Community College
Duluth: Nov. 28, 5:30 to 8 p.m., at Lake Superior College
Worthington: Dec. 10, 3:30 to 6 p.m., at Worthington High School
St. Cloud: Dec. 12, 5:30 to 8 p.m., at Stearns County Service Center
Moorhead: Dec. 14, 3 to 5:30 p.m., at Minnesota State University
Minnesotans are encouraged to come out and be heard at the Citizens Forums. This is our state and our future, and every voice matters
That was the first notice, but the news brief published on the website of the largest circulation newspaper in largely agricultural McLeod County was not the last time we saw it in rural newspapers. (McLeod County is also quite conservative; we're represented by Senator Scott Newman in the Minnesota Senate, and Glenn Gruenhagen and Dean Urdahl in the state House).
On November 12, 2012, we recieved an emailed copy of Minnesota Farmers Union Director of Government Relations Thom Petersen's Notes From the Farmers Union that included the following information:
Minnesota Environmental Congress
The Minnesota Environmental Congress will be a gathering of many Minnesotans, individuals, state leaders, and agencies working to help guide Minnesota's state leaders in shaping our environmental and economic health, and creating a long term vision for clean air, clean water and clean energy in our state. Nine state agencies, environmental policy experts, business leaders, local governments, and a diverse group of citizen leaders will convene an Environmental Congress to engage Minnesotans in constructive public dialogue about our state's environmental and economic health. The actual Congress will be next year and there is more info on their website here: http://mn.gov/EnvironmentalCongress/about.html
In the meantime, MFU encourages members to attend the citizen forums that will lead up to Congress with Minnesota’s top environmental experts:
Nov. 27: Wood Lake Meeting Center, Rochester, 9:30 a.m.-12 noon
Nov. 27: Normandale Community College, Bloomington, 6:30-9 p.m.
Nov. 28: Lake Superior College, Duluth, 5:30-8 p.m.
Dec. 10: Worthington High School, 3:30-6 p.m.
Dec. 12: Stearns County Service Center, Saint Cloud, 5:30-8 p.m.
Dec. 14: Minnesota State University, Mankato, 3-5:30 p.m.
In addition to being sent to Farmers Union members, the Notes are posted to the MFU website. Petersen included news of the Congress in his November 19, 2012 Notes as well.
Please consider attending one of more of the forums outlined in this note (at bottom) from a handful of Governor Dayton's commissioners.
A bit of background: Last session, under Republican control, the legislature entertained legislation that would have ended the Environmental Quality Board, as it's usefulness as and agency, has been almost non-existent. Ultimately, that bill was not adopted.
With a change in control in each House of the Legislature, the government itself, accompanied by the governor and his staff, is attempting to find ways to legitimize the growing of this agency. Undoubtedly, these meetings and the March 2013 "Environmental Congress" will be used by these same government officials and extreme environmental advocates to bring forward a message to the legislature and to Minnesota that says "Minnesotans don't believe that their government is big enough or that environmental laws are stringent enough to adequately protect our resources from the people of our state."
If enacted into law, the resulting effect of these efforts will undoubtedly include the killing of even more Minnesota jobs than our high taxes and regulation in this state have already provided. The threat to property rights is very great.
As far as I can tell, the efforts by our state government to notify farmers and other business owners throughout the state, about these meetings, has been extremely limited. This may have been by design. I encourage you to attend one or more of these sessions to represent common sense in the discussions. Please notify your friends and neighbors in other parts of the state, as well.
Have a great week!
The headnote was accompanied by this forwarded "Dear Colleague" email:
Room 401 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1298
Sign up for email updates at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/join.asp?id=15286
>>> "Anderson, Ellen (MDA)" 11/21/12 3:30 PM >>>
November 21, 2012
Dear Rep. Steve Drazkowski,
In response to Governor Dayton's Executive Order 11-32, the Environmental Quality Board will be convening a series of Citizen Forums as part of the Minnesota Environmental Congress. We would like to welcome and encourage the participation of you and your colleagues at the local Citizen Forum events on the dates listed below.
Together, we will engage in a dialogue with Minnesotans about the current state of Minnesota's environment and the quality of life in Minnesota. We will evaluate Minnesota's performance and progress on protecting our valuable air, water, land, and energy resources. The Citizen Forums are free and open to everyone, and our goal is reach as many Minnesotans as possible. This is our state and our future - every voice matters.
Minnesota Environmental Congress - Key Dates
* Citizen Forums
* Rochester: Wood Lake Meeting Center, November 27 - 9:30am - 12:00pm
* Bloomington: Normandale Community College, November 27 - 6:30pm - 9:00pm
* Duluth: Lake Superior College, November 28 - 5:30pm - 8:00pm
* Worthington: Worthington High School, December 10 - 3:30pm - 6:00pm
* St. Cloud: Stearns County Service Center, December 12 - 5:30pm - 8:00pm
* Moorhead: Minnesota State University, December 14 - 3:00pm - 5:30pm
* Statewide Environmental Congress Coming March 2013 (date and location TBD)
The Statewide Environmental Congress event in March will gather state leaders for a one-day summit to discuss public feedback received at these six regional Citizen Forums and begin planning a blueprint for Minnesota's environmental and economic future.
For more information or to RSVP, visit: http://mn.gov/EnvironmentalCongress/ . Contact Anna Sherman with questions at 651-201-6607 or Anna.Sherman@state.mn.us.
We look forward to seeing you at a Citizen Forum event soon!
Sincerely,David J. Frederickson, Chair
Environmental Quality Board
Commissioner, Department of Ag.
Spencer Cronk, Commissioner
Department of Administration
Brian Napstad, Chair
Board of Water and Soil Resources
Mike Rothman, Commissioner
Department of Commerce
Katie Clark, Commissioner
Department of Employment and
Edward P. Ehlinger, Commissioner
Department of Health
Tom Landwehr, Commissioner
Department of Natural Resources
John Linc Stine, Commissioner
Pollution Control Agency
Thomas K. Sorel, Commissioner
Department of Transportation
What the Tea Party newsletter said
Surely, rural newspapers and the Minnesota Farmers Union didn't have exclusives. Indeed,even the Rochester Tea Party Patriots' latest newsletter included notice of tomorrow's meeting in their latest newsletter:
An Environmental Congress Citizen Forum will be held at the Woodland Center in Rochester on Tuesday, Nov 27 starting at 9:30 am. The purpose is to collect citizen input on Minnesota Environmental issues and to give citizens the chance to talk with Minnesota State employees. This will likely be a put up job with a predetermined outcome, but if you can attend, it would be helpful. For details, click here.
What the Citizen Forum planners said
Seeking to reconcile Representative Drazkowski's dark vision of the motives of the Dayton administration and those scary, scary extreme environmental advocates with the wide distribution and publication of press releases and notice of the Citizen Forums and Congress, Bluestem called the EQB to ask about who had been let in on the secret.
Kate Frantz, the harried but extremely professional staffer (the EQB has exactly two people on its payroll) was packing materials for tomorrow's meeting in Rochester in her vehicle, but took time to note that the press release had been sent to news media across the state, to chambers of commerce for cities in the regions where the meetings taking place and to stakeholder email lists kept by each of the commissioners who serve on the EQB.
She directed Bluestem to Pamela McCurdy at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), who had been helping with getting the word out; McCurdy had also been monitoring social media chatter about the Citizen Forums.
McCurdy had not seen the Drazkowski email, although she did know about Thom Petersen's tweets and the Rochester Tea Party Patriot's attention to tomorrow's meeting. She noted that the MPCA's email distribution lists include farmers, since many need permits from the MPCA or have worked on watershed and water quality issues.
"Everybody's invited," McCurdy said. "We're happy the word is getting out," noting that having everyone from local soil and water boards to the Rochester Tea Party Patriots tell constituents and members to show up was what those planning the forums had in mind.
Update 11/27: Rochester Post Bulletin political reporter Heather Carlson writes in Drazkowski warns of 'extreme environmental advocates' pushing more regulation:
Ellen Anderson, senior adviser to the governor on energy and environment, said Drazkowski's assertion that notification about the meetings has been limited is "completely false." She said the board has sent out hundreds of email invitations to various stakeholders including farm groups, chambers of commerce, mining groups, environmental groups and energy groups — just to name a few.
It doesn't appear that registration is required--though it is encouraged, and the Environmental Congress page notes that the discussion will continue online:
The Citizens Forum will continue with an online forum which will be open for your follow up comments.
All of the input gathered at the Forums will be compiled and presented to the Dayton Administration at the statewide Environmental Congress. Your ideas will be used to inform the Administration’s vision and to help set their top priorities in an environment and energy blueprint for Minnesota.
If you want to know what Minnesotans have to say, we will send you the report from the citizen forums (just give us your email address) or check our website for updates. It will be delivered to state legislators and other state leaders as well.
One of the concerns was that the spaces the EQB had been able to secure for the forums would be big enough. McCurdy noted that over 100 people had RSVPed for both the morning meeting in Rochester and the evening forum in Bloomington.
Bluestem had questions about the legislation Drazkowski mentioned, but since he did not provide a House file number, it's not entirely clear what language he was refering to in his email. That mystery may be the subject of another post.
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Photo: Steve Drazkowski, via the Hastings Gazette.