Dayton wants agency moved to administration

Published 10:48 pm Monday, April 24, 2017

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton wants his administration, instead of the Minnesota Historical Society, to oversee the state’s preservation agency.

Dayton said the agency would be more efficient and accountable if it’s moved to the executive branch. His support for a bill that would accomplish the move comes months after the Historical Society took a stand against Dayton over Civil War art in his Capitol reception room.

Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls, said the governor’s staff asked him to carry the bill because of impatience with the time the preservation office took to sign off on projects, most notably, the PolyMet mine’s potential site in northern Minnesota.

Email newsletter signup

“I really don’t believe this is a payback,” Ecklund said “This is a frustration that has been building for a while.”

The Historical Society is currently independent of state control, but relies on it for 60 percent of its annual budget. The society’s officials and some legislators said they were stunned by the move.

“I think it’s generally worked pretty well over 50 years,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, a retired history teacher who challenged Dayton’s efforts to remove the Civil War paintings. “If there are problems they should find ways to resolve them, instead of doing away with an office that I think has been pretty successful.”

Dayton’s chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, told the Star Tribune ( ) that there’s more accountability to taxpayers, government agencies and businesses if the preservation office is moved to the administration.

“Our office did have an experience where it seemed things were not being processed efficiently in the SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) office,” Tincher said.

She specifically criticized the preservation office’s work last winter at the PolyMet mine project.

“It felt like there were a lot of stall tactics happening,” she said. “We couldn’t get a signature on a document.”

Officials with the historical society acknowledged frustrations with the review process and timeline.

“This is a complex project involving many groups who are all working toward the goal of finding the best solution for preserving historic resources,” said spokeswoman Jessica Kohen in a written statement.