Duluthians look toward more Legislative climate wins

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Cristin Curwick, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Local residents, community leaders, and legislators hustled in, one by one, through the Unitarian Universalist Congregation doors, anxious to escape the chill of a January night in Duluth. Excited murmurs ensued as attendees wrote questions on notecards for Rep. Liz Olson, Rep. Liish Kozlowski, and Sen. Jen McEwen.

On January 22nd, over 80 community members gathered for the Legislative Climate Justice Town Hall for a chance to hear from their legislators about the recent successes and challenges of passing environmental, transportation, and climate bills in the state legislature. 

The discussion with the representatives ranged from monitoring waste, clean water bills, MN Department of Transportation projects, to full support of a Clean Heat Standard. Rep. Kozlowski leveled with community members about how electric vehicle transition will not be enough, emphasizing the importance of our land use and how we design our cities, including parking policies. 

All three representatives emphasized the importance of community involvement in legislative decision and rule-making processes. Rep. Olson advised to activate constituent enagement with elected officials in order to ensure community-based rulemaking and decision making. 

After tackling questions from the audience in a streamlined panel discussion, the legislators were flooded with enthusiastic audience members, buzzing about the exciting new legislation that’s on the table for our community. Looking back to see every seat available was filled by residents, I was filled with relief. Our community always shows up. It shows how much we care. 

The disarming and excited atmosphere of the event was due to the wonderful organizing work of Sierra Club’s Jenna Yeakle and Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light’s Bret Pence, with Brett Cease facilitating the panel. With a long array of co-hosts (MEP among them), they were able to reach a large group of folks interested in connecting with their representatives. 

The crowd struggled to dissolve, as for many Minnesotans, trying to say goodbye is a difficult task. Isn’t that the great thing about a Minnesotan goodbye? It always takes too long because we’re planning the next thing. Our community leaders are always preparing for the next steps of the process of healing and protecting our community, keeping the wheel of reciprocity moving. Having that strong connection between citizens and representatives is what sets the Duluth community apart. Let’s continue to never say goodbye to community healing, resilience, and compassion. 

Check out WDIO’s coverage of the 2024 Legislative Climate Justice Town Hall.

For previous columns, visit mepartnership.org/category/blog/. If you would like to reblog or republish this column, you may do so for free – simply contact the author at cristin@mepartnership.org.

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