Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Should We Have Fewer Water Management Organizations?

Written by Jeff Johnson on January 14th, 2013. Posted in General

I’ve been working on a proposal for over a year now to consolidate watershed organizations in Hennepin County.  After much work and several drafts, I presented a plan to my colleagues a couple months ago. 

My work on this issue arose after the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota completed a study and report on county water management for the Hennepin County Board last year.  In the report, the U of M recommended, among other things, consolidation of watershed districts and watershed management organizations in Hennepin County.  The U of M study also recommended that each of the new watershed entities have taxing authority.

 Over the past decade, watershed organizations within Hennepin County have budgeted expenditures totaling over $230 million with an average annual increase exceeding 5%.  These investments, combined with cities’ focus on storm water management, building standards and developer requirements and initiatives, have contributed to reducing the number of declining lake quality grades. 

The most recent lake quality trends indicate that water quality in Hennepin County lakes has stabilized in the past ten years, with the majority of county lakes showing no significant upward or downward trend.  The average lake grade in Hennepin County over the past decade is a “C”, regardless of watershed organization.

Despite this stabilization success, water governance in the county is still fragmented and often reactive, spending varies dramatically depending on location and, in some ways, transparency and accountability are lacking.  There are many of us who believe we can improve upon the current system.

County Requests $600,000 to Teach Kids how to Garden

Written by Jeff Johnson on July 9th, 2010. Posted in General

Last week, the county board voted 6-1 (I was the “no” vote) in support of a county request to the Legislative -Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (“LCCMR”) to fund a proposed $700,000 county program called UrbanWatch. The program purportedly would support environmental education for at-risk kids in North Minneapolis and at the Hennepin County Home School, a facility for juveniles who have committed crimes.

The kicker: $600,000 of this public money would be spent to help kids plant and maintain 40 gardens in the urban core of Minneapolis and at the Home School. In other words, we would be spending $15,000 each for 40 “community gardens” in the name of environmental education.

Solar Silliness

Written by Jeff Johnson on May 31st, 2009. Posted in Golden Hydrant

New solar panels will save taxpayers $15,000 per year in energy costs – starting in 2070goldenhydrant_web

We in Hennepin County government have recently been congratulating ourselves about the new solar panels just installed on the county’s Public Works building in Medina.  The panels are touted as a great success story for county taxpayers because they are saving $15,000 per year in energy costs.

I believe this sort of project can be a great use of taxpayer dollars.  If there are “green” improvements that we can make to county buildings that save us money down the road (within a reasonable period of time), I’m on board.

When I was first told about the panels, I asked what I assumed was a simple and relevant question: How much did the panels cost; how long before they have paid for themselves and the taxpayers start realizing this $15,000 annual savings?