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To Winona County citizens (09/30/2012)
From: Mike Knutson

Utica, Minn.

At a regular meeting of the Winona County Planning Commission (Sept. 20, 2012), a citizen petition asking that an EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) be incorporated into the CUP (Conditional Use Permit) language for the Nisbit mine, was discussed by the Planning Commission. The discussion, in my opinion, was short and without depth. The commission voted four to three not to recommend an EAW study to the board of county commissioners. A very close vote, indeed.

During that part of the meeting where the Nisbit EAW petition was discussed, no public input over and above what was already contained in the petition was allowed. What was allowed were responses to the questions raised by the citizen petition, in written form, prepared by commission staff and other county employees. These written responses in my opinion shed no new light on the petitioners’ questions and again, in my opinion, did not successfully refute statements made in the petition. No members of the community attending this meeting were allowed to give information vital to an informed decision to the board.

My question is, what law, person, persons, governmental unit or judicial branch caused this meeting to be closed to public input?

When meetings are closed, commissioners may make counterfactual statements in all innocence. When meetings are closed, commissioners may make statements motivated by their own personal agenda. Without public input there are no checks and balances. When meetings are closed to public input important facts not included in the petition do not come to light. When meetings are closed to public input, citizens begin to feel that democracy has failed them.

At a past planning commission meeting one of the commissioners made a statement which I will paraphrase here. The purpose of the planning commission and zoning regulations is to protect all of us from unwise actions of our neighbors. End of paraphrase. At closed meetings those seeking protection from the actions of their neighbors have no voice.

I commend the commission for conducting a fair and impartial discussion, albeit a sparse discussion, of the EAW inclusion for the Nisbit mine. Special thanks goes to those three commissioners who voted for EAW inclusion in the CUP language for the Nisbit mine. They voted to let the light of day shine on all of the uncollected and perhaps unanticipated facts regarding the impact of the Nisbit mine. I see no negatives in collecting more information. As the philosophers have been saying for centuries, the truth will set you free.



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