Senator Al Franken held meetings on school safety and the BWCA land swap issue this week and invited MREA to both meetings. Here are reports on each of these meetings:
The primary focus of the school safety meeting was how best to provide early mental health interventions and support for students.
Sen. Franken cited a statistic that 50 percent of mental health issues emerge prior to age 14, and his point is that if we can intervene with 50 percent our citizens with of mental health issues while they are in school, we reduce the number of citizens with untreated mental health issues in our nation.
During the meeting at the Eagan Dakota Middle School, Sen. Franken heard from representatives of school counselors, school psychiatrists, a mental health provider, the principal of the middle school, the Eagan police liaison officer, the Mayor of Eagan and Fred Nolan of MREA.
BCWA Land Swap Update
In the BWCA land swap meeting, Sen. Franken said he is trying to go from “zero to sixty” on this issue and would be meeting with all kinds of groups: environmentalists, unions, governmental agencies both in the Twin Cities and in Northern Minnesota before going back to Washington DC. MSBA, AMSD and MREA were invited to this meeting of school organizations with the Senator.
Former State Representative Denise Deitrich laid out a persuasive case that every office holder who can affect these lands is acting as a trustee and the beneficiaries are the children of Minnesota. She argued that the 40+ years these lands have been within the BWCA have been a “breach of trust,” that needs to be rectified. These lands were established as a perpetual trust for children’s education.
Sen. Franken used the language of being a trustee within the meeting. He also pointed out that this was a controversial issue with environmentalists who feared non-ferrous copper nickel mining would result eventually from such a land swap, and that he is looking for a “sweet spot” where the trust fund gets lands that will generate revenue and the environmentalists can agree to.
Former State Representative Al Junke, of the Willmar area, who is working for Sen. Franken on this and other environmental issues, proposed a solution that looked promising to Fred and Sam of MREA. Grace Kelliher, of MSBA, concluded that we need a champion on this issue, and we all thanked the Senator for his attention to this important issue for Minnesota’s current and future children.