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City urges lawmakers to act on climate change

Willa Nagel, a student and member of the Sustainability Club at Red Wing High School, addresses City Council Monday, April 10, in support of a letter calling for lawmakers to address climate change. James Clinton / Contributor

City of Red Wing called on St. Paul and Washington, D.C., Monday night to recognize climate change as a serious threat to the "health, prosperity and security of Americans."

The Red Wing Sustainability Commission brought a letter to City Council endorsing action on climate change. The letter calls for lawmakers to recognize climate change and act to mitigate its effects. The commission asked City Council to endorse the letter and send it to Congressman Jason Lewis, R-Red Wing, as well as Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn, and Amy Klobuchar D-Minn.

After citing measures Red Wing has taken to promote sustainability, such as installing solar panels on public buildings and new energy-efficient lights, Joan Halgren of the Sustainability Commission made an appeal to think beyond the city limits.

"We must communicate with our lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to make sure they understand our commitment to maintaining our pristine environment," Halgren said. "In an era of globalization, we must work together to maintain our Earth."

Willa Nagel, a Red Wing High School student, asked council members to "please think about future generations. Consider how the actions you take today will impact my generation."

Other residents spoke in support of sending the letter.

"If Congressman (Jason) Lewis hears from the citizens of Red Wing, he might be willing to join the Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives," said Donna Lundberg. The caucus is a bipartisan group, started by one Republican and one Democrat, that promotes constructive dialogue on the issue.

Anne Wildenborg called climate change, "the largest, most important pro-life issue that our city, our state, our country and our world faces."

Pat Tieskotter and Mike Johnson also spoke in support of the letter. No one present spoke out against it.

Council member Evan Brown pointed out that in 2007, then-mayor Donna Dummer signed up the city with the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. The agreement calls for cities to encourage federal lawmakers to act on this issue.

Council member Peggy Rehder expressed concerns. "I'm perfectly happy to write personal letters to our representatives about this issue, but I cannot support a letter from Council supporting a specific issue," she said. "It makes me uncomfortable. I can't support the action, but I am going to send my own letter."

Council President Kim Beise thanked citizens for speaking up, both at the meeting and by contacting his office. "Everyone who I spoke with was well-informed," Beise said.

"I asked them hard questions and was satisfied with their answers. This is an important issue and I think it needs to go to our state government as well," concluded Beise.

Before the vote, the action was amended to send letters to state Sen. Mike Goggin, Rep. Barb Haley and Gov. Mark Dayton as well as federal lawmakers.

The action comes amidst uncertainty regarding federal action on climate change. Citing economic growth as its priority, the President Donald Trump's administration recently issued an executive order rescinding several Barack Obama-era rules aimed at curbing the effects of climate change.

Council voted 6-1 to approve the action, with Rehder dissenting.

Supporters of the resolution applauded as the final vote as announced.