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Clean Water Concerns Dominate Walz-Flanagan Listening Session

Baihly Warfield
Updated: December 03, 2018 10:14 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - Even the bigger room arranged for Gov.-Elect Tim Walz's listening session was too small. 

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The Monday afternoon meeting was originally scheduled for City Hall but moved to the DECC to accommodate more people. Even so, it was standing room only.

Walz and Lt. Gov.-Elect Peggy Flanagan wrapped up a 24-city tour in Duluth. 

"There's only two cities that they each are at: Minneapolis and Duluth," Mayor Emily Larson said. "So I am excited that they are investing this much time into understanding Duluth."

It was an opportunity for Walz and Flanagan to switch from doing the talking on the campaign trail to listening while they get ready to govern. 

"It's just encouraging to me," Walz said after the session. "Incredible advice, incredible experience and wisdom that's coming out of that room."

More than 50 people got a chance to speak, but hundreds were in the room. For Nicolette Slagle, environmental issues took top priority. 

"I think that the No. 1 priority for this and any administration would be tackling the climate chaos that we're all dealing with every day," Slagle said. 

Her concerns about projects like Polymet were echoed around the room. The Minnesota DNR recently granted nearly a dozen permits for the copper-nickel mine project. 

Walz said it's about striking a balance between the economy and environment. 

"Folks here in this area know very, very clearly there's a finite source of water," Walz said. "We are both blessed with having it here, but we also need to be stewards of it."

He said people want the same thing, no matter what project or what part of the state. 

"They want to make sure that there's a process that follows the science, they're making sure that the most stringent environmental impact statements are followed, and make sure that the permitting process is not only fair and predictable, that it's actually followed up on," Walz said. 

The future leadership also heard about making sure department heads will be union-friendly, increasing access to medical assistance, resources for the homeless population and funding inequities in education from primary to higher ed. 

"We're really looking for more support in higher education so students can spend more time in the classroom and people can get a degree regardless of what kind of family income they have," UMD Student Body President Mike Kenyanya said.

On any issue, Flanagan said they will need participation from constituents.

"We will not have all the ideas ourselves," Flanagan said. "The best ideas are going to come from communities themselves, which is why we're here and why we had 24 listening stops all across the state."

The two will be sworn in on Jan. 7. 

Credits

Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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