From: James Johnson
At the Board of Adjustment’s public hearing on Dec 5th, members of the board threatened to summon police to arrest me and another speaker after we repeatedly “strayed off topic” in our comments.
Later in the week, the Winona Daily News’ editorial staff compared us to “tyrants and incompetents” in an editorial ironically titled, “Let’s remember to be respectful.”
The public hearing was for a variance application that would allow CD Corp to double the scale of their frac sand operation at the Port Authority’s commercial harbor dock. This is despite the fact that the city has a frac sand moratorium in place that prevents “new or expanded frac sand mining, storage, washing, drying and and processing operations, and transportation facilities.”
My “off topic” comments at the public hearing concerned our city’s double-standard regarding frac sand operations that the city’s Port Authority profits from. The Port Authority’s commercial dock is mysteriously exempt from the frac sand moratorium, and city staff has been hesitant to give legal rationale for why any operation can be exempted from the city’s ordinance.
But we already know why the commercial harbor is exempt. As the Winona Post has reported, the Port Authority, “the economic arm of the city of Winona,” will make roughly $160,000 a year from CD Corp. Our city officials are charged with regulating the frac sand industry, but they are also charged with ensuring activity at the commercial harbor - a clear conflict of interest when it comes to the frac sand moratorium.
Citizens have questioned the exemption of the Port since April and have yet to receive a coherent response from city leaders. And now citizens are being threatened with arrest if they mention the issue at public hearings.
I agree wholeheartedly with the Daily News’ editorial that “strong communities are built on cooperation, compromise and collegiality.” But I would remind citizens of Winona that our city leaders have not shown us the same collegiality that they demand of us.