Message From Director
2017 – More Challenges for the Region, or Opportunities?
November 8, 2016 is certainly one of those dates that will long be remembered by many Americans. Whether your political beliefs had you on the winning side, or on the losing side of the political aisle, one thing we can all agree on, few if any us truly believed the results prior to all the votes being counted.
On a local level, the loss of Representative Tom Anzelc may have been anticipated as his opponent, Sandy Layman was formidable, has name recognition and strong party backing, but the defeat of Senator Tom Saxhaug was not predicted, even by the most savvy political pundits. Be that as it may, change was in the wind that November night, and it blew stronger and stronger across the country, until it swept in the biggest change of all, Donald J. Trump as our new president with a conservative majority I both the House and the Senate. Minnesota also saw the majority shift in our State Legislature with the Republicans taking over the majority (by the slimmest of margins -1 seat) in the State Senate, thus setting up a repeat of Governor Dayton’s first years as Governor with both the House and Senate majorities held by Republicans and he a sitting DFL Governor.
We can all remember that the 2015 legislative session ended in futility with neither a bonding bill, or a tax bill being passed. Sitting on a surplus of well over a BILLION dollars, the parties could not compromise on a much needed bonding bill that would have created thousands of construction jobs, provided much needed improvements to our roads, bridges and college campus facilities and a tax bill that would have increased the LGA formula and provided relief to our struggling communities and local governments. A summer of talk and rhetoric about a special session to address those failures resulted in nothing but fodder for the election cycle, false promises and anxiety for those facing uncertainty with their health insurance premiums and coverage.
At the Federal level, while many people were overwhelmed by the election of Donald Trump as our next President, President Obama was busy with executive orders and pardons and farewell tours. Unfortunately for us in Northeastern Minnesota, under his watch two of his agencies, the USFS (Forest Service) and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) requested a withdrawal of 240,000 acres in and around the BWCA and recommended that a new usage analysis for the acreage be undertaken. A public comment session was started and one public hearing was scheduled for March 16 in Duluth, with a second hearing “somewhere on the Range” promised. Depending upon the outcome of this process, there could well be a 20 year moratorium on land use put into effect over the withdrawn acreage. In conjunction with this decision, the USFS denied the renewal of land leases for the Twin Metals project, not based on science or new environmental findings, but based on politics, and emotions.
So once again we are at a crossroads in battling the forces that are seemingly working against us in our efforts to expand our economic base, to diversify, to secure jobs for future generations that allow families to stay on the Range and raise families and repopulate our dwindling numbers of millennials. When out of St. Paul, a letter is sent to President Elect Trump, from House Speaker, Kurt Daudt, imploring him to overturn this devastating decision by the previous administration! Also a joint letter signed by 60 legislators from both parties, was also sent to the incumbent department heads requesting an immediate reversal of the decision on the withdrawal. Could this be the issue that leads to a more cooperative legislature? Could division on the Range, actually end up being the lightening rod that helps bridge a divide in St. Paul and result in a positive legislative session? Perhaps this is an opportunity, not a roadblock for the region. I do have to admit, I must express my disappointment in noting that not a single representative from the Duluth contingency signed the joint letter.
We have all been witnesses to the actions of President Trump since his inauguration. Like him or hate him, or perhaps fear him, he has been a man of action. Unfortunately, some of these actions have created distractions that have delayed the confirmation of his Cabinet and therefore any action that we could hope for on overturning the withdrawal decision has also been put on hold.
Yes, the election results of November 8, 2017, will certainly be something I will remember for the rest of my days, the opportunity it created may just be an unforeseen but tangible benefit to the Range. Once again, all that RAMS has asked for is to allow the science and strict environmental review process to make the determination on whether or not a new mining project, or any industrial enterprise should be allowed to proceed and not politics, emotions or rhetoric.