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Ted Mondale: The Environment
By Martin Kaste
September 11, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

TED MONDALE SAYS THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES CHARGED with cleaning up the natural environment in Minnesota are often more of a hindrance than a help. He says the duplication of duties between a variety of state and local agencies is not only wasteful, but frustrating to regular citizens trying to do the right thing.

Mondale: Farmers will talk about this. They'll say, "Can I develop my land?" and there's seven different government agencies that all show up, that never talk to each other, and all end up pointing fingers at each other. That's wrong. That's not government service and we need to fix that.
If elected governor, Mondale says he'd start by taking a long, hard look at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Mondale: If you looked at their decision-making process, it would look like something my 4-year-old child would draw in her finger-painting class. Somewhere in there it says customer service and quality enhancement. It's hard to find it. In most of that agency, there are two groups of people in the agency working at cross-purposes.
Mondale says a more rational MPCA would go a long way to solving one of the most notorious environmental problems on the political agenda these days: livestock feedlots. There have been instances of manure from feedlots leaking into the local groundwater, and many environmentalists say the only solution is to ban all new feedlots. Mondale opposes a feedlot moratorium, saying it simply won't be necessary once the MPCA starts catching the problematic feedlots before they get a chance to pollute.

Mondale does believe in reigning in the growth of suburbs: he says so-called "urban sprawl" is one of the most pressing environmental issues of the day.

Mondale: About the size of the Megamall of prime land gets paved over every day in Minnesota. And to do that we need to build new infrastructure, new roads, new sewers, new bridges, and the costs become prohibitive, and you can't build a cohesive transportation system, and the schools cost too much. So yes, it's a very big issue.
But Mondale says he doesn't believe sprawl is something the state can fix by fiat - with a single law or policy. Instead, he says, often the best thing elected officials can do is restrain themselves from adding to the sprawl.
Mondale: When I was in the Legislature, I stopped the new airport because I said, "How can we be against urban sprawl and then spend $8 billion in infrastructure an hour-and-a-half south of the Twin Cities?" Doesn't make sense. I opposed the Stillwater bridge because it no longer followed our development pattern. We gotta put the $100 million in new money for that bridge to do something in the cities, into the transit system, or do something to strengthen the urban core.
Mondale says keeping the cities livable is probably one of the most effective ways of making sure the pristine areas outside the cities stay that way.