Now is the time of year when many Americans write lists: of presents, of goals, or resolutions. Remember back to March 1st of 2016 when Minnesotans were collectively building lists of resolutions at our precinct caucuses.
In SD 62 Ward 8, one of my neighbors didn’t structure of her resolution “correctly” so a few folks helped her reword it, so that we would be resolved to teach black history in our schools. Our communities raised at a hyper-local level important issues, including raising minimum wage, reducing pollution, improving transportation, and protecting the boundary waters and northern MN from the hazards of sulfide mining.
Through the DFL caucus process over 100 resolutions submitted and passed by citizens at the precinct level, moved up the ranks to larger bodies such as Senate Districts and finally up to the State Convention on June 4th, 2016. By this point the list of resolutions had been whittled down significantly, and Resolution 54, to “Oppose sulfide ore mining, which is significantly different from taconite mining, poses unacceptable environmental risks, threatens multiple watersheds (Lake Superior, BWCA/VNP, Mississippi) and should not be allowed in the sulfur-bearing rock of Minnesota.”, was tabled so more voices could be assembled to weigh in on the issue.
At the time the resolution was tabled, some believed that tabling this issue would help Congressman Rick Nolan win reelection in CD 8 and potentially put the DFL in a better position for the upcoming 2018 governor’s race. Members of Our Revolution MN in Duluth and northern MN, the places which initially passed the resolutions, supported it despite the potential for short term, limited, job creation in their local economies. With this issue, as with so many others in the election cycle, a false narrative has been spun, pitting jobs against the environment as though the two objectives are mutually exclusive outcomes.
A statement from the DFL Environmental Caucus gives perspective on the aftermath of the tabling of Resolution 54 in June. “Elected leaders, and party officials thought it was more important to fight back the voices of environmentalists than to move forward together with open and respectful dialogue between the stakeholders in our party. Our offer to table resolution 54 indefinitely was soundly rejected by party leaders, Congressman Rick Nolan, union leaders, and by members of the State Central Committee. It is extremely telling that the only stakeholders who vocalized acceptance of our offer were individuals who were part of the Ad Hoc Task Force, skillfully led by our State Auditor, Rebecca Otto. After just two meetings, the level of trust had grown between us so that they knew our desire for party unity was sincere. Unfortunately, their colleagues, who were not part of the Task Force did not agree and we were left with no choice but to fight on alone.” Veda Kanitz
Chair of the DFL Environmental Caucus
Throughout the state communities and industries, citizens and jobs rely on clean water and environmental protection. In the North, the Duluth Paper Company, tourism, BWCA recreation, fishing, traditional rice farming, etc. rely on a clean, healthy environment. In a time of record breaking corporate profits and rampant tax evasion, many existing jobs can and should pay livable wages, not just in northern MN but throughout the country.
We must stand together and fight back against the decimation of our environment. We will no longer allow our rivers, and lakes, hills and plains to be plundered and polluted, in the name of short term profits.
As for the need of party leadership to play it safe to win elections, I frankly don’t believe that’s a winning strategy. As I was out door knocking for Rick Nolan during the election cycle it seemed more Democrats were disappointed with his environmental record and therefore unenthusiastic about voting for him, than who felt his stance on creating mining jobs enough of a single reason to assure their loyalty. We saw Bernie Sanders rise from near anonymity to winning 23 states in the primary by holding fast to core values and addressing the concerns of the American people. In the wake of November 8th, the DFL party leadership must apply some of the lessons of his campaign to engage and trust voters here in MN. Not only would it re-invigorate party stalwarts but open the door to new voters disaffected by 30 years of Democratic abandonment of the People’s issues, interests and involvement.
Watching Resolution 54 be defeated in the State Central committee meeting on Dec 10th made me more resolved to continue engaging in the messy frustrating political process. We must tell Veda Kanitz and the Environmental Caucus, “You are not alone”. We must tell unemployed union workers, “You are not alone”. We must tell families who are cannot afford access to health care, “You are not alone”.
Whether your way to express this solidarity is by joining the Our Revolution MN Reform, the DFL team or is by engaging in the 2017 city council and park board elections, or becoming a member of the DFL State Central Committee or local organizing unit or building progressive third party power I commend and encourage you.
Be it RESOLVED that in 2017, we must bring people together to find solutions to our own issues. We must stand together against hate and division from our national government and further what we do to build political power for better local policy and a future for us all.