March 23, 2006*
Bud Grant is not only a former football coach of the Minnesota Vikings, but to many Minnesotans he is embodiment of the Minnesota spirit: the will to succeed despite our cold climate and do it with a steely determination. Those of my generation grew up with an image of Bud Grant standing stoically on the football sideline with a gray-haired flattop, a countenance chiseled out of granite, and a whiff of breath hovering in the cold air on the frozen sidelines of an open-air stadium; all while his purple giants stood at attention in the background. He was nothing like the flapping and screaming professional football coaches of today coddling their overpaid superstars with fragile egos. He always kept his cool. He could always say volumes with just a few words and that determined glint in his eye.
Though he has come to embody the stoic Minnesota spirit, Grant actually grew up just across the border in Superior, Wisconsin. As a young boy, if he wasn’t playing pick up games with his neighbors he would be haunting the outskirts of Superior for rabbits and squirrels. After graduating from high school in 1945 he became a standout athlete at the University of Minnesota in multiple sports. He went on to a career in professional football as a player and coach in both the Canadian Football League and the NFL.
Through all of his life his first love has always been hunting and fishing in our great outdoors. He was known to get up early prior to practice or even a game on Sunday to get in a little duck hunting. So when Minnesota’s financial commitment to preserving our natural resources started to dissipate after 2002, Grant took action by supporting the efforts known as the “Duck Rally” in 2006. The above quote is from that rally which was a gathering of sportsmen, conservation enthusiasts and environmentalists who called for the state to recommit to protecting our natural resources. His speech was typically short and to the point but one of the most effective of the day. This effort helped lay the groundwork for the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.
This week the legendary coach reappeared on the cold and divided field of politics once again regarding a compromise that allowed the Omnibus Legacy Bill passing the legislature on the last day of session in what has become an unnerving tradition. Going into the final conference committee negotiations the House and Senate were severely divided over the Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriations. The Senate sided with the complete recommendations from the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) the joint citizens and legislative counsel that does a close review of all requests for appropriations from the nearly $100 million dollars dedicated from the Legacy Amendment for habitat preservation and restoration. The House led by their Legacy Committee chairwoman Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) agreed with all the appropriations for the 1st year the biennium from LSOHC, but made several additional recommendations doing an old football end around LSOHC and essentially usurping their role.
It was clear that the experienced Minneapolis chairwoman was positioning herself to get additional habitat dollars for the metropolitan area in the conference committee. The final deal agreed to by the House and Senate conferees along with the governor’s office was to take the Senate position by restoring nearly all of the LSOHC recommendations for 2014 and placing all of the 2015 appropriations back in the reserve so that the LSOHC can fulfill their role of making full recommendations for next session. In exchange the House received $6.3 million mostly out of the outdoor heritage fund reserves to go directly to the Metropolitan Council for habitat restoration in the 7 county metro area. There was also $3 million that went to conservation partnership grants to address the Asian carp threat that was not originally recommended by the LSOHC.
Despite there being legislative agreement there was a large outcry from several conservation and sportsmen’s groups calling on the governor to use his line item veto authority to restore the integrity of the LSOHC recommendations by terminating these two appropriations. Conservation Minnesota has long supported the importance of the LSOHC. Because the session is already completed such an action would cause those dollars to fall into the outdoor heritage budget reserve to be dealt with next session for appropriations in fiscal year 2015.
This is where the Minnesota icon Bud Grant entered the picture by writing an editorial calling on the governor to make the vetoes. The sportsman pointed to a speech the governor made at the 2010 Game Fair during the election were he promised “I will veto any legislative attempts to usurp the authority of the Lessard-Sams council.”
Gov. Dayton in his veto letter sided with the sportsman. He stated “This decision is extremely difficult for me. I attach great importance to keeping my word. Unfortunately, in this instance, I have given contradictory assurances to legislators . . . and to thousands of Minnesotans during the past few years. I have decided that I must honor my promise to those citizens.” He also chided the House leadership to repair its relationship with the LSOHC and the sportsman’s community.
The lesson being when it comes to outdoor heritage funding in Minnesota you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and by no means do you disagree with the legend by the name of Bud Grant.
*”Open water has returned once again”, Schultz, Chris. Herald Journal. March 23, 2006.