Monday, July 19, 2010

Emmer's Campaign Manager: Sell the State Parks

It's another beautiful summer in Minnesota. Perhaps nothing is more Minnesotan than enjoying the outdoors, maybe visiting one of our beautiful state parks and doing a little camping. Lots of people like that, right? Do you enjoy the state parks in Minnesota? Which one is your favorite?

Personally, my favorite is Split Rock Lighthouse State Park; incredible campground, beautiful river valley, and the historic lighthouse. I wonder how much it would cost to buy it? If Minnesotans elect Tom Emmer, Minnesotans may find out what our state parks will fetch on the open market.

Representative Mark Buesgens is an atypical choice for a campaign manager, it's pretty uncommon to see a legislator run for re-election while managing a gubernatorial campaign. But in choosing Buesgens, Tom Emmer sent a clear message that he means to radically cut government. I mean radically - Buesgens is well-known for being a lonely voice on the libertarian fringe of the GOP, speaking out against all manner of government services that Minnesotans take for granted.

One example of Rep. Buesgens' vigorous and indiscriminate fight against gubmint is his belief that we should sell off all of the state parks. This issue came up on March 23rd this year as the House considered HF2786, a bill that made minor technical changes to the board of Spirit Mountain Recreation Area Authority. It wasn't controversial.

Rep. Buesgens then rose with an amendment. Rep. Buesgens is known to occasionally offer an amendment or two, and in this case he proposed selling Spirit Mountain and dissolving the Spirit Mountain Recreation Area Authority. Rep. Tom Huntley from Duluth rose with a question:

Representative Huntley: Representative Buesgens, would you then support closing all the state parks, selling them off?

Madam Speaker: Representative Buesgens.

Representative Buesgens: Madam Speaker, Representative Huntley. Yes.
Really, you should see the video - the "Yes" at the end is delivered with Buesgens' unique combination of resignation and indignation. The video evidence is on the House of Representatives website (it's at 1:32:34), or you could just go to the website of Rep. Buesgens' Republican primary challenger, former Rep. Tom Rees. It seems that even for Republicans, Buesgens and Emmer's government-slashing ways have gone too far when they threaten institutions that Minnesotans hold dear. Lest you think that I'm simply tarring Emmer by association here, Emmer stood with Buesgens and 8 other Republicans in symbolically voting against HF2786 after Buesgens' amendment failed to attract even 15 votes.

Buesgens tried to back away from his desire to sell the state parks in a subsequent newspaper article, but only succeeded in describing a more nuanced kind of privatization:
. . .[Buesgens] supports private vendors taking over park land management, he explained. “I’d do that in a heartbeat, you bet,” said Buesgens. “They’re a wonderful amenity — we shouldn’t get rid of them,” said Buesgens of state parks. “But we do need to look at different models when it comes the entire cost and burden of state government nowadays,” he said.
That's right, Representative Buesgens, let's turn Lake Itasca into Jellystone Park. Let's manage our state parks' forests for profit! Nobody will miss a few trees. Maybe we could dam up the lower Cascade River for some hydropower revenue?

Minnesota state parks are more than an "amenity," they are the common heritage of all Minnesotans. They preserve for all, including those yet to come, scenic and historical resources that are part of our identity as a state and as a people. They are not in need of a "different model."

When you hear the shapeless "reinvent government" rhetoric come out of Tom Emmer's campaign, remember this is what it means. And go camping in one of your Minnesota State Parks!

Update by Spot: MNO posted a comment that should be its own post. She makes some great points about the skulduggery that is afoot when many of these privatization schemes are proposed.

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