Backers of ballot measure visit city

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A handful of local and state leaders in the environmental and arts realms met with the Tribune Tuesday to share their opinions of protecting the state’s natural resources and way of life through the proposed Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

Though it initially was presented as though they were sponsoring an event where local supporters could rally at Edgewater Park, it turned out to be a simple presentation to the newspaper of why the amendment should pass, including an explanation of how it would benefit Albert Lea.

The leaders started in Mankato earlier in the day, stopped at Albert Lea’s Edgewater Park just before noon and were expected to campaign in Austin, Winona and Rochester afterward. The “Vote Yes” campaigners are expected to head northward as the election draws closer.

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If you leave the question about the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment blank on the ballot it is counted the same as a “no” vote.

If passed, the amendment would increase the state sales tax beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of a percent until the year 2034. It would allocate funding for four purposes: water quality, wildlife habitat, arts and cultural heritage, and parks and trails.

The amendment would generate about $300 million a year.

“There couldn’t be anything more important than making sure this amendment passes,” campaign manager Ken Martin said.

Steve Morse, executive director with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said 40 percent of Minnesota’s tested waters don’t meet basic health standards because of pollution. That statistic doesn’t even include those waters that aren’t tested, which is the larger number.

The amendment would invest in cleaning polluted rivers and lakes and preserving natural areas for game habitat to protect the state’s strong hunting and fishing tradition.

The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment allocates funding among four purposes:

33 percent for water quality

33 percent for wildlife habitat

19.75 percent for arts and cultural heritage

14.25 percent for parks and trails


“Hunters and anglers in Albert Lea and around the state know this is the best conservation opportunity we will ever have,” said Lance Ness, co-chairman of the Duck Rally. “Every major sporting organization in the state is fully committed to getting their membership to the polls. I am voting ‘yes’ so my kids have the same outdoors access I did when growing up.”

He urged people to vote likewise and wanted to remind them if they leave the question blank on the ballot, it will be the same as a “no” vote.

In attendance to represent the arts sector on the state level was Sheila Smith, the executive director for the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. She said one thing that ties all of these amendment supporters together is their love for Minnesota.

Two local arts advocates were also present to share their opinions about the art side of the amendment.

“We’re so encouraged by this one opportunity to get arts funding,” said Albert Lean Glen Parsons, a retired Albert Lea educator, who is also on the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council’s board of directors.

“Every year we lose some of that,” Parsons said. “This is our chance to get some of that back.”

Bev Jackson-Cotter, a member of the Albert Lea Art Center board, talked on the importance of music, the arts and history into this area’s culture.

“Quality of life — this is what this is all about,” Martin added. “Folks realize this is not a partisan issue.”

He said people have been responding to their message positively.

And once people — who otherwise didn’t know anything about the amendment — are told more about it, they are usually in favor of it, Ness said.