Sunday, May 1, 2011

Clean Water...and The Arts, too!

Originally Posted on August 4, 2008

For those of us in the USA, November 4, 2008 couldn’t come any sooner…

Not only will the voters in this country decide the next President on that date, we will be inundated with many other choices pertinent to the future of our lives. Besides, the ballot does not stop with choosing between Senator Barack Obama, Senator John McCain and everyone else on the Presidential column. Some places have United States Senators, Members of Congress, state and local officials and many questions to ponder.

Yes, our brains will hurt at the end of the balloting experience, but that’s democracy, folks!

Here in Minnesota, we will also ponder questions on our ballot aside from whether we want Norm Coleman to go back to Washington as the state’s senior Senator or send Al Franken or anyone else instead. One such question was actually pitched in class by an alumna of my Saint Mary’s (MN) program.

A bit of history here: Since Ronald Reagan showed up in Washington, the arts have been under attack. Many officials questioned whether governments should support the arts. There were years when funding for the National Endowment for the Arts was cut to almost skeletal proportions. Yet, there were years when the money faucet flowed into Jane Alexander’s office.

In semi-deference to the Constitution, when Washington marches in this step, following along are the states.

Under our current Governor, Tim Pawlenty, the arts have a bad name in his office. He proposed budgets that slashed arts funding, yet the state legislature fought back as hard as they could. However, when it comes to things such as the arts, public transport projects he’s not comfortable with and GLBT rights, Pawlenty loves his veto power.

Now, there is something Pawlenty somewhat cares about: Environmental issues. He may not be as ferverent as his predecessors, he understand that plenty of his supporters are game hunters and sport fishermen. Believe it or not, they care more about the environment than the governor they re-elected two years ago.

So, what do game hunters, sport fishermen and folks in the arts in Minnesota have in common? How about the following question on the November 4th ballot:

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?"

Read that one very carefully. In the six years of Pawlenty’s hold on his office, he has slashed in a budget proposal or vetoed a bill containing at least one of the items that could benefit from this proposed sales tax increase. No governor in the state’s history, including Jesse Ventura, has ever had a wide-ranging lack of care for the above areas of concern.

Why am I discussing this issue now? Why have we been dealing with the Presidential campaign for the past three years? I know it would be better if I discussed it a month or less away from the election, but, as a writer/poet/blogger/creative person, I wanted to create awareness that this ballot measure is coming up and there will be some discussion of it sometime after the party conventions and the September Senatorial primary is done.

Also, I have been quiet about politics for years. My anger with the current Federal and state administrations notwithstanding, I never felt compelled to support anything such as this. When I left California, none of the states I voted in had a liberalized ballot measure system as in my home state. They had school bonding questions and that was it. I supported individual candidates, but it’s been decades since I cared about a cause brought to the voters.

That was until this one was pitched in class.

Just to let everyone know that I will not be actively campaigning for this cause. Instead, I will be talking about it to individuals who are interested in this ballot question. I also wanted to educate my fellow Minnesotans that by turning in a ballot without marking beyond the Presidential and Senatorial choices is an automatic “no” on any question on the ballot. Automatic apathy is what perpetuates the issues facing this state. It feeds into the way the state is currently run.

Oh, and if anyone asks what the ballot measure is all about, just say it’s for “clean water.”

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