Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Weeks of December 16 & 23, 2007

Here's a link to a state guide that I found useful, and which you might want to pass along to your local school. The text is from the MPCA.

Healthy Sustainable Schools: Guide & Assessment Tool

With a goal of helping Minnesota K-12 schools reduce operating costs, reduce environmental impacts and promote a healthy indoor/outdoor environment for students, the MPCA has produced a free on-line and printed resource that provides a:
  • Guide (65 p.) to the many physical/operational aspects of a school that can be changed.
  • Assessment Tool (60 p.) - a checklist - for walking through school buildings and documenting what needs to be done to make improvements.

Aimed at motivated parents and school officials committed to making improvements, the Guide helps advocates for change sell their recommendations by summarizing the many benefits of a healthier school, which include:

  • Enhanced student health and performance
  • Higher performing school buildings with reduced operating & maintenance costs
  • Reduced environmental impacts
  • Increased student attendance
  • Increased staff satisfaction

The Guide covers the following topics under the headings of Buildings & Operations, Reduce / Reuse / Recycle, Health & Wellness, and Toxicity Reduction:

  • Green building; energy and water conservation
  • Smart growth; building location / community adjacencies /size
  • Environmentally preferable purchasing; green cleaning
  • 3R options; paper and food waste reduction; composting
  • Indoor air quality; integrated pest management
  • School bus emissions; mercury, lead, chemicals management
  • Nutrition
The Assessment Tool for Change includes these chapters:
  • Free Topic Experts and Resources
  • Getting Started
  • Establishing a Team
  • Building Awareness and Support (includes model policy statements)
  • School Assessment Forms
  • Final Tips

View and download the Guide and Assessment Tool at the web site above, where you will also find 6 school case studies. Three of these 5- to 8-page studies are from pilot projects that used and refined the Guide and Tool. For those school leaders working on an improvement project, contact the MPCA's Linda Countryman (linda.countryman@state.mn.us; 651/215-0269) for a free printed copy of this resource and for additional assistance.

Schedule: On Tuesday, December 18th, I did an interview about the district for House Public Information Services. The ten-minute interview will be on my House web site soon. In the afternoon, I attended a meeting of some of my colleagues on internal efficiencies. In the evening, I attended a meeting of the House DFL Caucus. On Wednesday, December 19th, I chaired the second meeting of the Subcommittee on Drinking Water Source Protection. Testifiers included the DNR, the MN Geological Survey on its county atlas program, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on recharge of groundwater, and the University of MN. The goal of the day's session was to get a better understanding of the science of water, especially groundwater. In the evening I met with several members of the Shoreview Sierra Communities group about drinking water issues.


Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident supporting state education tax on wealthier school districts to help support less wealthy ones; Lino Lakes resident against an NTSB recommendation that state require motorcyclists to wear helmets; two Shoreview residents and one Circle Pines resident against greater government involvement in health care (see previous post on the Minnesota Majority e-mail campaign on this); Lino Lakes resident against DNR position to put down a bear in northern MN that is hibernating under a cabin; Shoreview residents supporting universal health care; Shoreview resident about Board of Medical Practice; Shoreview resident about a local election issue; Shoreview resident asking about property tax computation; Shoreview resident against HF635 relating to wireless regulation; Circle Pines resident supporting state acquisition of proposed Lake Vermillion state park

Friday, December 14, 2007

Week of December 9, 2007

Schedule: On Monday, December 10th, I attended a meeting at the MN Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) where a representative of the Michigan Environmental Council presented on a proposed on-line tool for "water withdrawal" permitting. One concern here in MN and elsewhere is that some large-scale users of groundwater (e.g., bottled water plant, ethanol plant) might use too much water so that other residential and agricultural users cannot get enough water. In Michigan, they are proposing that a potential large-scale water user can go on-line and find out whether there is enough water in a particular area. We don't have our groundwater all mapped out in MN so we can't do this yet.

On Wednesday, December 12th, I attended a meeting of the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board (SWMCB) so I could hear a presentation about a proposed paint product stewardship project. Counties spend a lot of our money to help safely recycle or dispose of our old paint. The state and the metro counties are working with paint manufacturers to see if they can create a system where paint manufacturers can help pick up part of the tab through a consumer fee or incorporating the cost of waste management in the price of the new product. Later in the day I attended a meeting of the House Suburban DFL Caucus and then a DFL House Caucus fundraiser in St. Paul. On Thursday, December 13th, I attended a half-day program by ISAIAH called "Conversation on Health." It was an effort to get supporters of change in the health care system together. On Friday, December 14th, I attended a meeting of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts with about two dozen legislators. The AMSD presented on expected deficits for metro school districts and several superintendents debriefed recent unsuccessful attempts to pass local school levies. Senator Pogemiller and Speaker Kelliher also spoke. Finally, I sat in on a meeting of the East Metro PFC Oversight Working Group, which is monitoring Department of Health efforts to address contamination from 3M chemicals in drinking water.

Visitors: Lino Lakes resident about environment and economic development issues; House researcher on solid waste legislation; committee chair about drinking water issues; House researchers about a health care issue

Constituent contacts: Lino Lakes resident about Lino prison; Golden Lake Elementary parent about education; Lino Lakes resident about heart-healthy initiatives; Lino Lakes resident supporting constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage; Lexington resident wanting tougher penalties for deer-baiting; Circle Pines resident, three Lino Lakes residents, and four Shoreview residents supporting "Free Markets Health Care Petition" that opposes new health care mandates (Minnesota Majority, the organization that organized the health care petition, has five issues that it works on: health care; illegal immigration; gay marriage; sex education; and stem cell research)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Week of December 2, 2007

Schedule: On Monday, December 3rd, I attended a meeting of the Solid Waste Administrators Association (SWAA) where they discussed how recent e-waste legislation is working out. (It is working out quite well, actually.) I also took the bus from the Capitol to downtown Minneapolis for that meeting using my Go To card. It was cheaper than parking! On Tuesday, December 4th, I attended a legislative listening session by the Anoka County Affordable Housing Coalition. About twenty organizations and about six or seven legislators from both parties were in attendance, as well as several people who are living in a local shelter. It became clear that some of these homeless Minnesotans have multiple issues to deal with, including mental health, criminal background (sometimes by a parent or relative), substance abuse, and a lack of skills to be able to deal with all the forms, agencies, and so on that you have to deal with to get housing and benefits. And some homeless people have also had a run of bad luck, including a recent divorce, health problems, escape from domestic violence, etc. It seems very overwhelming, and I compliment the staff of these advocacy organizations for their commitment and skills.

Here are some freaky statistics: In Anoka County, the workforce ratio (the number of retired workers compared to the number of employed workers) was 1 to 9 in 2005. In 2030, it is expected to be 1 to 3.7! This is another indication that our population is aging quickly, and this has radical consequences for housing.

On Wednesday, December 5th, I attended a meeting with some of my colleagues on health care.

On Thursday, December 6th through Saturday, December 8th, I attended a conference in Chicago of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) for the Great Lakes region. This trip was not taken at taxpayer expense, and I received a scholarship from NCEL in order to go. The funding for the scholarship came from the Joyce Foundation. Topics included chemicals found in umbilical cord blood, renewable energy, Great Lakes ballast water legislation to combat invasive species, e-waste, green building, climate change, clean cars, and smart growth. We also toured the Chicago Center for Green Technology and a Mercy Housing low-income housing project that incorporates green building techniques, including a battery-free and low-profile wind turbine design that I had not seen before.

Visitors: House researcher about solid waste legislation; a committee administrator about the drinking water subcommittee; lobbyist for Clean Water Action about future environmental proposals

Constituent contacts: North Oaks resident concerned about decreasing health care coverage and increasing cost; Shoreview resident supporting universal health coverage, concerned about overcapacity in K-12 education, better funding for transportation, and lower property taxes; Shoreview resident about bike trail funding; Shoreview resident about MN Board of Medical Practice