Early last evening, Bluestem posted Red Wing Mayor Egan leads Minnesota Industrial Sand Council; citizens wonder who he'll serve.
Toward midnight, the Star Tribune's Tony Kennedy, who's been an aggressive newshound in tracking down the deals local and county government officials and staff have been making with the industrial sand industry, turned in some real journalism on Egan's rise to Mayor of Fracsandville in Red Wing's mayor gets second job with frac sand lobbying group.
As the subhead notes: "His work to promote fracking is a conflict of interest, residents say."
Red Wing Mayor Dennis Egan has been hired to run a new lobbying and trade group for the frac sand industry, triggering consternation in his hometown just as it begins considering what position to take in a sand-mining debate that is emerging at the State Capitol.
Egan said Tuesday he sees no conflict of interest and won't step down while he works as executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council.
But Red Wing City Council President Lisa Bayley, a lawyer, said she has received many "complaints, questions and concerns'' from residents about the mayor's new job as a paid advocate for an industry that is at the forefront of local ferment.
Egan claims there's so nothing happening with frac sand in his town, but we in McLeod County can practically hear the laughter in Red Wing over that one. Egan said he'd talked to the city administrator before signing a contract last week--PIM had reported Friday that Egan had been serving as Mayor of Fracsandville for three weeks--but the city administrator didn't return Kennedy's call.
Council members are not impressed, telling the Strib:
Bayley and fellow Council Member Peggy Rehder, however, said the frac sand debate is very much alive in Red Wing. The city is dealing with truck traffic issues and barge loading of frac sand from the city-owned bulkhead, or dock. Part of the agenda for Monday's council meeting, Bayley said, is to discuss what position the city should take on frac sand issues that crop up at the Legislature. No bill has been introduced so far regarding frac sand mining, but there has been talk behind the scenes of possible statewide involvement in the issue.
"The issue of local control is very important to us,'' Rehder said. . . .
Rehder said she wants the city attorney to issue an opinion for the council as to whether the mayor has a legal conflict of interest. Rehder is a former lobbyist who worked in Washington, D.C., and who used to represent Hennepin County.
"Would I ever be a lobbyist and hold public office at the same time?'' Rehder said. "No."
She said Red Wing is "in the heart of frac sand mining country'' and people are "very concerned'' about Egan's new position.
Egan said that the council's goal is to put forward "best practices." This sounds a lot like the self-policing goals of the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Council. Its best practice seems to be churning out happy shiny news about the frac sand industry, while painting its critics as either envious or dupes of Hollywood enviros.
Not that anything like that has shown up in Minnesota's discourse about industrial scale mining since the council was formed. Representative Glenn Gruenhagen's column last week, which Bluestem examined in Stupid or dishonest? Glenn Gruenhagen blames years of frac sand controversy on new movie, was by all accounts a revelation delivered to the Glencoe area insurance agent in a blinding heavenly light on Sibley County Road 8 as he headed over to visit Uniminn.
It's a miracle.
While Red Wing citizens and city council members may stew about Egan becoming Mayor of Fracsandville, Egan is settling in quite comfortably on Facebook. As the screenshot of his Facebook account shows, he's now listing his place of residence as St. Paul.
Seems about right.
Screenshot: Fracsandville Mayor Egan's Facebook page.
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