WRITTEN BY: Kathryn Hoffman, Interim Executive Director
As all Americans absorb the results of last night's elections, we at MCEA want you to know that we are more committed than ever to our mission to protect Minnesota's environment, natural resources, and the health of its people.
This is perhaps the most perilous time in history for environmental protection. Donald Trump has denied the very existence of climate change, the greatest environmental threat that we face, and has already appointed a climate skeptic to his team. We will need to marshal all of our resources as an environmental movement in the next two years to ensure that the bedrock protections of air, water and land remain in place.
That is discouraging, but it makes the work of state-level organizations like MCEA even more important. In communities across the state, Minnesotans hold our natural places dear. Already, much of the most important work to protect our environment was being done at the state and local level. MCEA’s work will help ensure that Minnesota remains a leader, and helps provide a model for other states. Now is not the time to lose heart. It is time for us to come together to protect the places and the resources that we love.
Now is a time for leadership. Minnesota has always been a leader on environmental issues, and that legacy remains strong. Minnesotans make good choices for the environment every day. And many of our decision-makers do as well. This is the perfect moment to reach out to your legislator and let them know that you expect them to continue to represent our environment.
Now is a time for hope. Our challenges to the environment are great, but our determination is even greater. More than ever, your support is critical to MCEA's work. Our ability to protect Minnesota's environment depends on you. We possess a range of tools and we will continue to use them. We work with the courts. We work with state agencies. We persuade lawmakers. Just this morning, MCEA challenged PCA’s lax regulation of a taconite mine to push the agency to protect our northern waters.
Now is a time for respect. We do not agree on everything, but we can still work to understand each other. We all depend on nature. We all know of beautiful places we'd like to preserve. Our challenge is to make those connections from a place of respect.
Stand with us. In leadership, in respect, in hope.
WRITTEN BY: Jim Erkel, Land Use & Transportation Director
At baseball games, vendors yell out that “you can’t tell the players without a program.” If you are a political junkie like me, you will be watching the presidential race but also paying attention to down-ballot action including state and local measures that relate to many different issues such as education, health care, the minimum wage, marijuana use, and gun control. If you’re a baseball fan like me, you will need a program to help you keep score on the measures that you consider important.
Here are several programs on issues of significance to MCEA:
TRANSPORTATION – I’ve prepared a list of 70 transportation-related ballot measures from 59 jurisdictions. It includes major transit funding packages in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and Atlanta. These regions compete economically against the Twin Cities and, if the measures succeed, will be supporting transit build-outs with chunks of sales tax that in some cases will be six times what the Twin Cities invests in its regional transit system. The most striking thing about the measures, though, is how many different funding mechanisms they would tap for road construction and maintenance. Rather than raising a state-level gas tax, states and communities are desperately seeking to raise tolls, sales taxes, parcel taxes, lodging taxes, gravel fees, utility fees, cigarette taxes, and even new taxes on non-medical marijuana. You can check it all out at the bottom of this blog post.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING –Recently, a $25 million fund was established in the Twin Cities to help preserve existing affordable housing stocks. It is interesting to note that a number of the transportation ballot measures I identified also seek to fund affordable housing needs. Instead of a revolving fund of $25 million, one of the ballot measures I identified would annually raise $50 million to create exits from homelessness and moving the homeless to more stable situations. There are a number of measures that would specifically fund or regulate affordable housing solutions. In one, $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds would be authorized to fund affordable housing solutions. The Twin Cities’ $25 million fund will need to revolve almost fifty times to match that kind of a regional investment in affordable housing. To see how other regions are seeking to fund or regulate affordable housing solutions, check out a list of measures prepared by Cheryl Young, a senior economist at Trulia here https://www.trulia.com/blog/trends/election-nation-16-preview/.
LAND CONSERVATION – It is not unusual for there to be a number of state and local measures on the ballot that seek to protect or restore natural areas, watersheds, working farms and forests, neighborhood parks, open space, and other lands that define and enrich communities’ character. You can check out a list of conservation-minded measures prepared by the Trust for Public Land at https://www.tpl.org/2016-conservation-ballot-measures.
CLIMATE – In this category, there is a big measure and a small one. The big measure is Washington’s Initiative 732 which would establish a carbon tax and return the revenues through tax credits for low-income households and an across-the-board reduction of Washington’s sales tax. It is opposed by many environmental and clean energy organizations who prefer a carbon fee and reinvestment approach in which funds could be invested in clean energy opportunities and other climate solutions. You can check it out at https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVoteOLVR/OnlineVotersGuide/Measures?language=en&electionId=63&countyCode=xx&ismyVote=False&electionTitle=2016%20General%20Election%20#ososTop. The small measure is an advisory referendum in Middleton, Wisconsin. It poses two questions – (i) should the city act to reduce the threat of climate change through its decisions and actions, and (ii) should the city endorse a federal carbon fee and dividend program which is somewhat similar to Washington’s Initiative 732. You can check it out at http://www.middletonclimatereferendum.com/index.html.
CLICK HERE to view 2016 Transportation Ballot Measures