• Tag Archives legislature
  • Legislature Lurches

    Spring                                                                      Beltane Moon

    The legislature lurches toward adjournment, up ending decades of environmental legislation as it goes, e.g.  permitting relaxation, a transfer of school trust lands out of the DNR’s purview (about 50% of land currently under their management), a probable wolf season.

    A major reason for the bad outcomes (from my point of view) is the legislature’s focus on three big issues:  Viking stadium, a bonding bill and the Republican tax legislation.  These are the issues with which the governor has engaged and around which he has used his leverage in negotiations.  Our issues have not risen to the top of any of these debates.

    This session, my third as chair of the Sierra Club’s legislative committee, is my last and I don’t like going out on this note, but there you are.  The next big target for all environmental activists has to be the 2012 elections where a concerted effort will be made to change control of both chambers of the legislature.

    The ebb and flow of political fortunes, effected as always by many factors outside anyone’s direct control–economy, world military engagements, current social issue orientations–will give us a favorable climate at some point.  We need to work to make that point the 2013-4 legislative session.

  • In A World Far Away

    Spring                                                                   Waning Bee Hiving Moon

    Spent the day in the world I’ve created, Tailte, a sister world to earth, but separated by several thousand light years.  It’s strange to spend time there, a place that exists only in my mind, yet populated with people, creatures, landscapes, mountain ranges, oceans, islands, gods and goddesses.  Strange, but in a good way.  It’s one of the joys I experience in writing fiction.  It takes me to a place I can’t reach in any other aspect of my life.

    I’m still typing in work I did at Blue Cloud Monastery though I’ve also advanced the word count by a few thousand words.  Plugging away.  Just have to keep at it.

    We only have a month left to go in the 2011 session of the 2011-2012 legislature.  The number of bad bills, outrageous legislation and outright strange bills (like cutting down walnut trees in State Parks to save the State Parks continues to pile up as the party out of legislative power for years flexes its muscle.  The callous disregard for the future of our rivers and streams, lakes and forests, wildlife and prairie’s just doesn’t make sense to me.  I don’t understand the political calculus that trades temporary economic gain for permanent disfigurement and toxification of wetlands, cutting down old growth forests, polluting the Minnesota, the Mississippi and wetlands around and possibly within the BWCA.

    Mark and I watched Salt, an Angelina Jolie spy flick.  Not bad, not great, but entertaining even with the cliches.  We also started watching a three part made for tv movie called Archangel.  It was good; we’re about half way through.

  • Mr. Ellis Goes To St. Paul

    Imbolc                                                                          Waning Moon of the Cold Month

    Got in the Celica this am and took off for the MNDOT building where I parked.  Three hours for $4.50 in quarters, paid at a central pay station.  The only argument I had with it was that the pay station was outside when there was a perfectly warm building within 20 feet of its location.  Anyhow it gave me plenty of time to have lunch in the MNDOT cafeteria, favored of lobbyists, with Justin Fay, the Sierra Club lobbyist.  We talked politics, a favorite activity of mine, somewhat akin to fly fishing or racquetball for others, I imagine.

    The cafeteria has a wide expanse of windows, a hundred feet by 30 foot room full on non-descript tables.  Files and briefcases and blackberries sit slumped by chairs or flat on a table, folks hunched over them as if they had the latest news of breaking legislation.  And, who know?  They might.  I suspect one of this places charms is its distance from the capitol since it sits about three blocks away from the capitol itself, connected by the very sensible tunnel system that passes through S.O.B–nope, not that, State Office Building–then to the capitol and at the other end of its run the State Supreme Building.

    After lunch Justin and I walked through the tiled and dimly lit tunnel to the S.O.B., an office building that houses Representatives and Senators, especially now the DFL senate, here for the first time since partisan politics began in the state thanks to the Elephant stampede last fall.  In SOB and in the capitol the hallways and benches, elevators waiting rooms filled up two and three gathered together, huddled and discussing this or that fine point of pending legislation or a Superbowl party.  Suits are the garb d’jour, but there are plenty of us non-suited folks wandering the halls, too.  That way it’s easy to tell the players from the audience.

    We met with a member of the House of Representatives after a brief stop in the Senate DFL Siberia to check on talking points on legislation due for a floor vote soon.  This member, a liberal from Minneapolis, welcomed us into his office and we chatted for about an hour, sharing talking points, questions to ask about this legislation and that, getting his reading of the legislature this first day of February.  When we were done, we left, headed for the elevators, down to the basement, through the tunnel back to the MNDOT building and back out to our cars.  Time to go home.

    Politics, especially legislative politics, is all about relationships and relationships are all about showing up.  It’s so physical, immediate that you can forget the essential matters being dealt with.  It is, as one veteran lobbyist said, high school.  Never ending high school.

  • The Seventh Generation

    Samhain                                  Waning Thanksgiving Moon

    Any of us who work the legislature and the administration for any purpose have to take the 6.2 billion dollar deficit seriously.  It will disrupt state work, occupy legislative time and distract attention from other matters, especially longer term matters like environmental and conservation issues.  It could also, in light of its direct cause, the economic crisis and slow return of jobs to our state economy, tilt the scales in favor of jobs based proposals like the Polymet hard-rock, sulfide mine proposed for the edge of the Iron Range.

    In times when the books balance and the state’s economy hums along at full employment decisions with long term consequences are still hard to make.  It would be easy, then, in hard times, to simply duck the issues of logging off our state and national forests, their resiliency in light of climate change and the damage to them wrought by invasive species and powered vehicles.  It would be easy, then, in hard times, to put off financial investments in mass transit.  Why spend money when we already have roads and buses?  It would be easy, then, in hard times, to put off more ambitious clean energy goals, continuing to pump electricity out of toxic emitters like coal plants, balking at ground floor investments needed in wind and solar energy.

    It would be easy, but it would not be wise.  We have learned already, the hard way, that mountain tops once removed, will no longer rise toward the sky.  We have learned, the hard way, that sulfide mining produces heavy metal and sulfuric acid waste that lasts not years, not decades, but centuries, outlasting the companies that produced it, the jobs created and the governments that allowed it.  We have learned, the hard way, that generating energy with dirty fuels like coal, gasoline and nuclear fission has consequences, world changing, life shattering, additive changes.

    This means that especially now we must be vigilant, careful, thinking about the seventh generation when we make our decisions.  Will the seventh generation of Iron Rangers be better off with hard-rock sulfide mines spread along the Range?  Will my seventh generation, my grandchildren of the distant future, find a boreal forest in Minnesota? Will there still be unpaved portions of the metro area?  Areas saved by the development of rail, bicycle and pedestrian pathways?

    Hard times, hard as they are, come and go.  The clean waters we love, the dense forests through which we hike, the fresh air we breathe can all be imperiled by decisions made with long term benefits lost, traded for short term gain.

  • On the Banks of the Wabash

    Fall                              Waning Back to School Moon

    Lafayette, Indiana on the banks of the Wabash River.  Home of Purdue, the Boilermakers.

    Got in here at 8:58 last night Minnesota time.  But, this being Indiana, it was 9:58 here.  Indiana suffers from chronic ambichronicity with the rest of the country and from county to county within the state.  A pleasant night for a stroll took me past the county courthouse and several college bars to the Holiday Inn.

    Tuckered out, as we say in Indiana, I went to bed not long after.

    Up this morning with a significant amount of work to do for the Sierra Club; we’re in the legislative priority setting process, so I ordered room service breakfast and tap, tap, tapped my way through saving files, sending attachments and setting up a meeting wizard for a late October meeting.

    After that the friendly folks at Enterprise entertained me by sending a man who stood right next to me talking to Kate and asking her where I was.  When he realized it was me, he hung up, saying, That was your wife.  Well.

    Now back at the  Hotel, finishing up this and that before heading out to Chesterfield Spiritualist Camp.  If you feel any spiritual vibrations, it means I’ve arrived.  At the camp.  Not the great beyond.

    BTW:  I carry this netbook with me as well as my Blackberry and my  Kindle.  An electronic menage a trois.  Keeps me connected, informed and well read.  Not bad for under 2 pounds.

  • Busy, Busy

    Lughnasa                                  Waxing Back to School Moon

    Whew.  The new queen came today in a perforated UPS box, complete with a court of five worker bees.  After spraying them with sugar water, I took them out to the honey queen-bee-mdhouse where I pushed in the cork at the end of her wooden home, inserted a marshmallow (tiny) into it firmly, then opened the divide, took off the honey filled top hive box and inserted the queen in the middle of the second box.  This is called a slow release.  The queen and her workers eat away the marshmallow from one side, workers in the hive from the other.  Over the time this process takes, so the theory goes, the new queen becomes less threatening to the workers, who then allow her to come out and become their new monarch.  If it doesn’t work, they kill her.  I won’t check for another week.

    With the queen in her new castle (hopefully), the grocery store was next on my list since Kate has a cold and she likes my chicken noodle soup when she’s sick.  While I made the chicken noodle soup, I also cooked lunch.  After we ate lunch, Kate went back to rest and I went outside and picked yet another several cups of raspberries.  Our bushes have been prolific this year.  The chicken noodle soup had our carrots, onion and garlic.

    When the raspberries were inside, I worked downstairs answering e-mails while I waited for the soup to finish cooking so I could add the egg noodles and the peas.  At the end of that.  Nap.

    After the nap I had to sort out a vote on legislative priorities for the Sierra Club and respond to a few more e-mails.  This took me up to the time to leave for the Minnesota Hobby Bee Keepers Meeting at the University of Minnesota.  The man who runs nature’s nectary, Jim, was there with a refractometer to measure moisture levels in honey.  Our capped honey was 16.9%, a little thick and the uncapped honey was 18.3%.  Since honey is anything below 18.6%, both of our batches were fine.

    Home again where Kate and I ate some soup, watched a little TV, put the dogs to bed and then headed there ourselves.

  • Chicken Wings, Legislators and a Wolfman

    Lughnasa                                        Waxing Artemis Moon

    More napping.  Still getting the body back to its old form.  Maybe tomorrow.

    Into the Sierra Club for the Legislative Awards.  It was the first time these awards have happened.  Justin’s idea and a good one.  Speeches, good strokes.

    Ran into Randy Neprash.  From days gone by.  He was part of Phoenix Builders who worked with the West Bank Community Development Corporation.  I remembered him, he didn’t remember me.  He’s now doing some multi-city storm water drainage project as a civil engineer.  I knew him from somewhere else, too, but it didn’t come to me.

    Back home after picking up fried chicken wings from the Wing’s Joint.  It used to be on Nicollet, a ways past Lake Street.  How it ended up in Blaine in a strip mall, I haven’t figured out, but I’m glad its there.  Best wings in town.

    Watching the Wolfman with Benecio Del Toro spent the first half of the movie–what I’ve seen so far–trying to capture the heaviness, grief-stricken weariness and stolidity of Lon Chaney.  He’s just not Chaney.  Anthony Hopkins is, as one reviewer said, Anthony Hopkins.  It’s easy to see where they were heading with this.  The set, the costumes, the whole ambiance is right, but the story is draggy, too complex, too frilly.  With Hopkins and Del Toro there are enough acting chops here to produce a good film, but it likes a great story line.  Too bad.

  • A Year in Legislative Politics Comes to an End

    Beltane                               Waxing Planting Moon

    Into the city for the last 2010 session meeting of the Sierra Club’s legislative committee.  The meeting itself, face to face for the first time since January (we met over the phone every week until tonight), produced thoughtful evaluation of both the process and the content of our work.  As Justin said, it was a year that exceeded expectations (low), but could not be counted a good year.  In terms of two major defensive issues:  the nuclear and coal moratoriums, we maintained the status quo, which was a more difficult task by far than it sounds.

    After the meeting at the Sierra Club offices, we adjourned to the Blue Nile for an outdoor dinner and conversation that last until 9:45.  We got to do the kind of casual conversation that is so necessary for team building, for trust, for understanding each other.  I hope we will be able to keep the same team together next session.

    Politics causes a sneer to come to many lips, but I have always seen it as an honorable and necessary method for mediating differences in a large community.  As the art of the possible, politics always bears the suspicion of values besmirched, ideals sold out, but in fact it is a way, a peaceable way of getting the thing done that can get done.   It involves not the selling out of values or ideals, but the real price both pay for a collision with the reality of the moment.

  • A Quieter Period of Time

    Beltane                                            Waning Flower Moon

    We had a light frost last night.  Many flowers are now gone, tulips mostly, and a few leaves have that sickly green color that comes from burst cells in the stem.  The weather service has predictions of 29 tonight, that means I’ll for sure have to cover the sensitive plants this evening.

    A really busy week last week with several trips in and out of the cities, meetings or events at various times of day and three days in a row at the MIA.  It’s nice to have a few days where I can organize my time on my own.  Not like there’s nothing to do, of course.  My three bee colonies each will need inspection today or tomorrow and there’s weeding and other gardening chores.  Latin, chapter 14 in Wheelock, will put me half-way through this text, usually used for a year long college level course.  Then I’ll tackle my next four verses in Ovid.  There is also a tour to prepare.

    This is supposed to be the last or next to last week of the legislative session, but the Minnesota Supreme court’s ruling on Pawlenty’s unallotments of last fall has thrown the whole situation into a big mess.  We may end up with a special session, in which case the legislative committee’s work is not yet done.  You may have seen that the Minnesota House voted to lift the moratorium on nuclear energy though with some important provisions.  Until such legislation is also passed in the Senate, worked out in conference committee, then signed by the Governor, it is not law.

  • Art and Nature, the Nature of Art

    Winter                                          Waning Moon of Long Nights

    In to the Sierra Club for a meeting about legislative work.  The scope of the Sierra Club’s work is impressive, including legislative work at each session of the Minnesota Legislature and scrutiny of the government’s stewardship of our natural resources in between them.  There is litigation work, the primary one right now being the Stillwater Bridge.  There is also the regular work of educating members, the working of the Issue Committees and regular outings.  Perhaps most important of all is the attention of thousands of members to both the particulars of environmental work in all parts of the state and to the developing field of issues, e.g. climate change, renewable energy, efficient public transportation, green planning, work with labor unions for Green Jobs, even climate mitigation strategies to help position Minnesota well when climate change happens.

    After that I went over to the MIA to check on my mail box, nothing in it.  Good.  After I went in there I began to wander through the museum, as I used to do in the days before Collection in Focus, before Docent training, just wandering.  My first stop was the wonderful collection of Chinese paintings that have been up for a while.  Taking them in and meditating on Taoism as I looked, I began to muse about a work that might have the theme art and nature, the nature of art.  Some interesting ideas there.  My favorite collection remains the Japanese, and within it the works on paper:  ukyio-e especially.

    It felt good to be in the museum without a task at hand, or a purpose, other than spending time with the objects.  I could do more of that.