I went to a Minneapolis Town Hall meeting last night—my first ever.
I learned 3 things:
- People in my neighborhood are really politically engaged, which is great to see.
- Even local politicians don’t give you the whole story.
- I voted for these people but that doesn’t mean I have to back them or believe them on every issue.
This was a meeting held with 3 state representatives on climate change. I was intrigued because climate change of all topics doesn’t really seem local; plus, I wanted to see hippies. Judging by the parade of Toyota Prius’ I followed into the Mayflower Church parking lot, I would not be disappointed (there were at least 15 in a parking lot of 80).
But in all seriousness, I care about climate change, and about preventing it as best we can. I’m not great at doing my part, but I’m getting better.
I was impressed by how many of my neighbors care, too. The church probably held 200 people, and it was 90% full. Unbelievably, about 50% of the attendees were taking notes! It was like a college freshman seminar all over again, except the “student” ages ranged from 18-80.
One legislator said to us, “Whatever you don't like on the federal level--there's a companion at the state.” That’s where taking action can really have an impact. He gave two bills in Minnesota (HF 386 and HF 387) as examples related to Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as Education Secretary. They deal with vouchers for private schools.
The one that got my interest (and led me to take action), though, was HF 235—changing the name and purpose of the “Renewable Energy Fund” to the “Energy Fund.” It’s a fund into which Xcel Energy drops $25 million annually, based on the number of storage casks containing nuclear waste that are kept at its Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear plants. (There was another topic which Forbes covered of a proposed power plant-big issue.)
This bill terminates research grants for new renewable energy technologies and redirects the funds, while also repealing solar panel incentives. That’s not the direction I want my state to go, so I wrote all the senators who are sponsoring the bill, and I told them to knock it off. The legislator at the town hall told us a one sentence email was fine—they primarily just count the number received (Sad!). Find your Minnesota reps.
Here’s the deal, as one of the presenters from MN Fresh Energy told us:
- There are 54,000 clean energy jobs in Minnesota—most pay 42% higher than the average state wage.
- The more renewables Minnesota has added in the last decade, the lower the cost of our energy—a trend expected to cut your kw hour cost in half by 2020.
- Nationwide, there are 4 times the number of solar jobs than in the coal industry.
- One out of every 50 new U.S. jobs was in the solar industry last year, and its employment growth outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times.
- The solar industry employed 260,077 workers last year, a nearly 25% increase in the number of jobs from 2015 (wind power was 88,000, a 20% increase).
- Employment in the coal mining industry peaked in 1985 at 178,000 jobs, and it has declined to 56,600 today.
Why isn’t our president cheering and talking about accelerating the renewable energy boom? Why is he instead talking about propping up an industry that no longer makes sense?
The last thing I learned at the town hall was that the representatives told us their positions on a few other bills, and how we should be outraged about them. I did some research and found I disagreed with them on 3 of the 5. I won’t say which, but I think it illustrates a point we saw in the national election—you gotta do a little work to fully understand the issues--don't take a politician's word. And, when your candidate is doing and saying wrong things, just because you voted for him/her doesn't mean you have to agree.
Other thing I did
I wrote the Midwest Wells Fargo media team and let them know that my next mortgage, which I’ll be signing in the fall, will not be with Wells Fargo unless they divest from DAPL. I will stick to this promise. With enough bad PR companies won’t build stuff like this because it won’t be worth the hassle.