Citizen Forum set for Monday in Worthington
WORTHINGTON -- A Minnesota Environmental Congress Citizen Forum to discuss environmental concerns will be from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Monday in the Worthington High School cafeteria.
Six citizen forums are being hosted across the state to examine Minnesota's progress toward clean air, water and energy, and to engage citizens in constructive dialogue, identify environmental challenges and define a vision for Minnesota's environmental future.
"The response has been very good. In fact, in most cases, the rooms have been over flowing," said Scott Roemhildt, meeting facilitator and DNR Information Officer for Southern Minnesota. "That tells us that people want a chance to voice their opinion. We're hoping that Worthington will be a big crowd, too."
Citizen forums are open to the public and are an opportunity for Minnesotans to share their concerns about the environment and interact with state agency commissioners and staff.
"They are for people to share any and all of their concerns regarding the environment," said Scott Rall, Nobles County Pheasants Forever's president.
The forums, hosted by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB), are taking place as a result of an executive order from Gov. Mark Dayton.
"Governor Dayton, by an executive order, created the EQB, comprised of nine state agencies, five citizens and a representative from the governor's office," Roemhildt said.
Information gathered at the forums will be compiled and presented to the Dayton administration for consideration at the March Environmental Congress, where state leaders will begin developing a blueprint for Minnesota's environmental and economic future.
"This is a rare opportunity for people to express their views in a forum where the information gets back directly to the governor," Rall said.
Bill Gordon of Worthington, a member of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Board of Directors and American Soybean Association national director, urges all members of the public to attend.
"I encourage everyone to come to the meeting and enter into the dialogue with the people that are making decisions that we have to live by and that will effect food prices and food safety," Gordon said.
Gordon stressed the topics being discussed during Monday's forum will affect everyone, and that it is important that the public is informed and involved.
The event will start with a 30-minute open house for participants to visit listening stations, interact with state agency commissioners and staff, and learn about Minnesota's Environment and Energy Report Card.
There will also be opportunity to answer key questions and submit more in-depth ideas on postcards.
During the group meeting, there will be a brief presentation highlighting the Minnesota Environment and Energy Report Card and the EQB.
"We want people to understand what the EQB is about and what the role of the citizen forums are," Roemhildt said.
The audience will then be able to express their views on a series of follow-up questions.
People will next divide into small groups, with a facilitator guiding the conversation to determine participates' priorities and vision for Minnesota's environmental future.
Topic areas will include air, water, land, energy and climate. Representatives from many state organizations will be participating in the discussion.
"If you come with a question with road construction, for example, someone would be there to answer that," Rall said.
Following the small-group discussions, there will be a brief closing and additional time for visiting the listening stations and talking with state leaders.
"This is a chance for people to have a direct voice in the future of our environment and to talk about their thoughts and priorities," Roemhildt said. "It's a unique opportunity and hopefully people will take advantage of it."
Additional forums have taken place in Rochester, Bloomington and Duluth, and are also slated for St. Cloud and Moorhead.
The Environmental Congress is a collaboration of Gov. Dayton, the Minnesota Department of Administration, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Energy and Economic Development, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Board of Soil and Water Resources.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.