- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Star Tribune, Nov. 30

Planned Parenthood, civility are victims in a warlike attack

A solitary 57-year-old man, in a terroristic act, allegedly opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on the day after Thanksgiving. He wounded nine and slaughtered three, including a police officer who was an elder in his church, an Iraqi veteran who died trying to warn others and a mother of two who had accompanied a friend to the clinic.

Authorities say the motivation of the shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, is not yet fully known, but they know that he held anti-abortion, anti-government views and that, in remarks after his arrest, he said “no more baby parts,” almost certainly a reference to the high-profile, heavily distorted videos that made the rounds in recent months.

Those videos were part of a decades-long stretch of hateful, inflammatory rhetoric and periodic violence employed to limit the constitutional right of a woman to control her body. So intense has the vitriol become that Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois went on television to castigate Planned Parenthood while the shooter was still in the clinic. The “barbaric videos” were a legitimate concern, he said, noting that if Planned Parenthood was not targeted by an anti-abortion shooter he would “fully expect an apology” from the organization that did not yet know at that point how many lay dead in its Colorado clinic.

In the words of President Obama, enough is enough. Americans have been split by the abortion issue since the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. That rift will not knit together anytime soon, and those on both sides of the issue have every right to continue to peacefully express their views. But the warlike attitude that brooks no compromise, only surrender, must end before it feeds further violence. Interestingly, those who wage endless war against the constitutional right to an abortion tend to also be intolerant of those who would restrain in any way another constitutional right - to bear arms.

One of the foundations of this nation is that it is one of laws. That was the genius of this country’s founders. They knew, as Aristotle said, that “the law is reason free from passion.” If Americans allow themselves to be governed instead by the passions of the moment, the country risks a descent into chaos, where facts and logic are ignored for hot rhetoric.


Post-Bulletin, Nov. 28

We must act now to fix our water quality

It was an unexpectedly poignant moment when Gov. Mark Dayton called for a statewide discussion on water quality in Minnesota.

His father, Bruce Dayton, who died two weeks ago at 97, was at the forefront of the governor’s mind when he briefly addressed the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s annual meeting last weekend. Dayton said his father taught him “stewardship is a profound responsibility for each of us.”

In 1950, the elder Dayton bought 170 acres of poorly maintained farmland and hardwood forest in Long Lake. Over the years, he restored the property and, shortly before his death, bequeathed the land to the state. Dayton reminisced about his regular Sunday lunches with his father, telling him, “You know, Dad. You’ve been a mighty good steward of your property. You will leave it far better than you received it.”

Remembering his father as a role model, Dayton announced he would convene a water-quality summit in February, inviting representatives from the Farm Bureau and Farmers Union, as well as city, county and township officials, soil and water conservation boards, environmentalists, academics, hunting and angling organizations and business leaders.

Calling for a statewide summit with so many stakeholders is wise decision by Dayton after the 2015 legislative session, when controversial requirements for setbacks between rural waterways and cropland were passed by the Legislature. During the session, Dayton was outspoken about his commitment to improve water quality by installing buffer strips along Minnesota’s massive network of lakes, rivers and streams.

No doubt recalling the resistance to the buffer strip legislation, Dayton didn’t want farmers to feel they were being singled out in his call for a water-quality summit.

“I want to stress this is not a rural crisis alone. Many of the metropolitan areas, White Bear Lake and others, are suffering extreme water issues,” Dayton said, emphasizing “it’s everyone’s challenge, and it’s everyone’s responsibility, and it’s everyone’s opportunity, all of ours.”

The governor is right. Water quality affects everyone in Minnesota. Our responsibility is not just to ourselves, but to anyone who lives along the Mississippi River as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Minnesota Health Department’s annual drinking water report found 14 communities, including Hastings and Shakopee, have nitrate levels in their untreated water supplies that exceed health standards. The report identified 61 of the state’s 961 community water systems, which provide drinking water to people in their residence, with elevated nitrate levels. The report also found 600 of the 6,000 noncommunity water supplies, which provide water to schools, lodging and businesses, have elevated nitrate levels.

Dayton referenced a separate study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that examined 93 waterways in southwest Minnesota, which concluded that only three are able to support aquatic life and just one could support aquatic recreation because of high levels of nitrate, bacteria and sediment. The governor said communities in southwest Minnesota have sewer systems too antiquated to deal with those pollutants and “have to double, and even triple, their water and sewer bills in order to pay for those upgrades.”

Minnesota’s water quality is worsening, but now is time to act without assigning blame.

“I want to emphasize that you’re not responsible for this degradation of quality, but you are responsible for working with everyone else to improve them,” Dayton said.

If we work together, our children and grandchildren can tell us that we, too, were wise stewards of the land and water they inherited from us.


The Free Press of Mankato, Nov. 30

Keep special session free of complications

Gov. Mark Dayton recently advocated for a special legislative session in which he hopes to help Iron Range steelworkers who have been laid off.

It seems reasonable to call a special session. About 1,000 steel workers have lost their jobs because taconite demand is low and plants have closed or cut back. Another 540 are expected to soon lose their jobs at another plant. Unfortunately for many of those workers, the unemployment benefits they’ve earned would run out soon - before the regular session starts in March.

Dayton wants the Legislature to extend the unemployment benefits period to help the laid off workers pay their mortgages and other monthly bills.

Whether the special session will happen is up in the air. Only the governor can call a special session and the GOP has in the past resisted his call for special sessions. And some GOP lawmakers have said they will only support a special session now if Dayton agrees to allow the PolyMet mining issue to be debated in the special session.

The scientific findings about the proposed Iron Range mine are fiercely debated and Dayton has the final say about whether PolyMet gets a state permit. Dayton said he wants to determine if the mine’s economic benefit is worth the environmental risks - risks he wants to make extremely small.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt wants Dayton to step aside from making any decision about the state permit for PolyMet.

Dayton will almost certainly not call a special session unless all the ground rules of the session are agreed to ahead of time. That’s because while he can call a session, only the lawmakers can vote to end a special session. He has correctly portrayed the inclusion of the PolyMet issue as a distraction that shouldn’t be brought up in a special session.

It will now be up to Daudt and the GOP to decide if there is a special session to extended unemployment benefits for those who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

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