Keeping Houston County citizens informed and involved
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 5:29 AM
As the commissioner representing Houston County District #2, I have taken it upon myself to research and study industrial frac sand mining so that I can build an intimate knowledge of the industry. The manner in which Houston County decides to regulate industrial frac sand mining is historic to the county and may very well be the most important decision the county has ever made. An error in regulation would be life changing to our citizenship.
With this said let me share with you my experience at the board meeting on March 4. Chairman Walters had taken the initiative to set up an "ordinance writing committee" regarding the regulation of industrial frac sand mining. In days prior to the board meeting, Chairman Walters and I agreed that I would be on the committee. Not to be boastful in any way, shape or form but I should be on that committee, as my passion to study the industry isn't matched by any of the other commissioners. The commissioners are well aware of my research, interest and connections that I have made at the state and regional levels in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. In addition, all five frac sand mines that are being proposed are in my district.
While at the board meeting I'm listening to Chairman Walters give a rundown of who is on the frac sand ordinance writing committee, which happened to include an individual who was removed from "the original frac study committee" for misconduct by former Board Chair Jack Miller. Ms. Walters gets to the end of the list and my name isn't announced.
My initial thought was why would you exclude me from this committee with my background and after we agreed that I would be on the committee? It looked like and felt like I was being railroaded, maybe that's not the case but it sure seemed like it. Was there someone who influenced the change? With the situation that was developing I reacted and asserted myself no different than any other elected official at any level might react with a basic move in government called "political posturing." I will not waiver in my commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of Houston County citizens.
Commissioner Storlie of La Crescent used last week's board meeting as a public platform to call my reaction one of a bully. There is irony to this coming from her. Apparently that is her definition of an elected official who stands up for what they believe is right and just. Obviously unintended on her part, Ms. Storlie's accusation and openly expressed desire to keep me off the committee coupled with her commonly known influence on the board chair draws considerable suspicion on my part. I learned how to connect the dots when I was a kid.
Of course, as expected, the "promoters of sand mining" are jumping on board seeing a partnership with Commissioner Storlie. The "pro frac sanders" will launch an attack on me that may be led by a township board member from my very own district. In no way do "pro frac sanders" want me on this committee for obvious reasons - so they will attack my character for my "crime of protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of Houston County citizens."
I guarantee that if I were on the side of industrial frac sand mining, the "frac sand promoters" would be cheerleaders for me and say that "I was doing what I had to do to stand up for the best interest of Houston County and in their eyes that would be the mining of frac sand." Now I have to tell you that I have received those very accolades many times over from those who realize the devastating impact industrial sized frac sand mining would have on our everyday life. I thank those people for their support.
I would invite you to view a video of the March 4 board meeting and my reaction on YouTube. The video was filmed and posted by an individual who is dedicated to the prevention of industrial frac sand mining so that you could see what I stood for. I commend Commissioner Dana Kjome of Spring Grove as he had the insight to see what was happening and relinquished his seat on the committee for my representation. A statesman-like move on the part of Dana.
The charge of this newly formed committee is to draft ordinances for the purpose of regulating industrial frac sand mining. The previously formed frac sand study committee that was set up by the Planning and Zoning Department was disbanded, an imbalance of committee members leaning to the "pro frac sand" side led to some chaotic "Hatfield and McCoy" like meetings.
While attending seminars and meetings at the State, regional and local levels including Wisconsin, I also sat in on eight of those 21 study committee meetings and portions of several others. It was quite obvious that no real study was taking place, the "pro frac sand" committee members had brought their opinion to the table with no hard data or research and committee members were being pitted against each other. It all led to little or nothing being accomplished. Seeing this I became a proponent of disbanding and with the agreement of the board the committee came to an end.
As this decision on regulating industrial frac sand mining will be historically important to Houston County it puts "the spotlight" on Chairman Walters handpicked committee. Let's hope that it is fair and balanced.
We are all brothers and sisters in this life and when the dust settles we will remain. The bad thing is that without mining one shovel of frac sand, the industry has already reared its ugly head and divided the community. The good thing, the community has awaken as a "sleeping giant" to protect and preserve the quality of life for all citizens assuring every person's right to clean air, pure water, the environment in which we live, the roads we travel on and the value of our property.
Commissioner District #2