Published Thursday, April 5, 2001
The following is a transcript of Gov. Jesse Ventura's hourlong meeting Tuesday with Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson, DNR Commissioner Allen Garber, Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock and the governor's spokesman, John Wodele.
Ventura: Instead of you interviewing me, I'm going to interview you.
Anderson: You're going to interview me?
Ventura: Yeah, a little bit more so. I took great offense to your article on Sunday, very big offense, insinuating that Commissioner Garber and I somehow aren't reputable people and that we can't be trusted with DNR money with the things that you write about. And also that the insinuation that somehow I don't know about wildlife, hunting and fishing. On what do you base your opinions and your knowledge of me on?
Anderson: I didn't say you didn't know anything about hunting.
Ventura: You insinuate it all the time. I read it in your articles all the time.
Anderson: I didn't say you didn't know anything about hunting. I didn't say you didn't know anything about fishing.
Ventura: You tell me I'm not a very good -- our No. 1 conservationist who's not on board with your ideas. I've read a number of your articles. Well first of all, let me tell you something. My family and I have owned a lake cabin for 44 years in the state of Minnesota. That's a lot more than Bud Grant. To my knowledge, he's in Wisconsin.
Anderson: How'd he get into this?
Ventura: I just threw him out there for practical purposes. 'Cause he testified against me once and said I didn't know anything about hunting or fishing. All right, I've owned a lake cabin for 44 years. My parents, and now I, own it; they're gone. Second of all, when it comes to hunting -- I got your resume. You ever done military service?
Anderson: You have my resume?
Ventura: Yeah, I got your file. You ever done military service?
Ventura: You haven't? Well, Commissioner Garber and I have. He has two tours to Vietnam and I have one as a Navy SEAL and then 17 months in Southeast Asia and I'll just tell you this: Until you hunted man, you haven't hunted yet. Because you need to hunt something that can shoot back at you to really classify yourself as a hunter. You need to understand the feeling of what it's like to go into the field and know that your opposition can take you out. Not just go out there and shoot Bambi. Or go out into the field and shoot pheasants and things like that.
Anderson: This doesn't have anything to do with conservation.
Ventura: No, but it has to do with being a sportsman, in my opinion.
Anderson: The military has something to do with conservation?
Ventura: Yeah, yeah, 'cause it's called hunting.
Anderson: I miss the connection.
Ventura: Pardon me?
Anderson: I miss the connection.
Ventura: You also judge [my interest in the outdoors] by the commissioner [of the DNR] I've named. You've taken shots at him, and you've insinuated that somehow this man is not reputable enough to handle --
Anderson: I didn't say that.
Ventura: Do I need to pull this article out from Sunday?
Anderson: Let's see it.
Ventura: Fine. You can beat around the bush all you want. I trust this man's integrity completely. He not only is a former Army Ranger, with two tours of Vietnam. He also served his country 26 years as an FBI agent. Now, if he doesn't have integrity, you tell me who does?
Anderson: I didn't use the word integrity in the Sunday story. Nor have I ever [in reference to Garber].
Ventura: Really? What it leads me to believe is that you want to build this new committee to spend the money 'cause you think he and I are not capable of doing it right.
Anderson: I didn't advocate the new committee.
Ventura: You didn't?
Anderson: Absolutely not.
Ventura: Who did?
Anderson: Well, Representative [Mark] Holsten and Senator [Bob] Lessard.
Ventura: And you're telling me that your article didn't support that position?
Anderson: Absolutely not.
Ventura: Really. John [Wodele], you read that article. I got out of it --
Anderson: I didn't take a position whatsoever on that committee. My basic point was on the commissioner's reaction to it [the Holsten-Lessard bill].
Ventura: How is that different?
Anderson: It's significantly different. You were an Army Ranger --
Ventura: No, I was a Navy SEAL.
Anderson: Well, I've been watching state government for 20 years. That might even be longer than you. I've never seen a DNR commissioner approve, or the commissioner of any other state agency approve, a press release that called into question the intent of the authors of a proposal like that DNR release did. "Deceptive" [is the description the DNR release used].
Garber: Is that wrong? That I called it into question?
Garber: Is that wrong? That I called it into question?
Anderson: In my opinion, in my position, it was an overreaction.
Garber: Well, I think your position is whatever we do is wrong. That's what this is all about, really. You're not objective. And I can't remember any article in which you've said the DNR has done right. And after a while, it gets old. That's what I'm telling you, it gets old. And you can beat around the bush and tell me that you're objective and that you don't really support the council, but we're not fools.
Anderson: I don't support the council [as presently composed].
Wodele: [In your Sunday article] You said the governor "did not care," that's a direct quote. Now, it's all right for you to question his objectivity, but it's not all right for us to question someone else's objectivity?
Anderson: You can question my objectivity any time you want.
Wodele: [Then why can't we say] "deceptive?"
Anderson: Deceptive, I think, is when somebody, let's say these two legislators, are trying to fund in this session resource management enhancement in the state by more than $100 million, it seemed to me to be an overreaction. And it seemed to many other people. You haven't received a positive comment [on your reaction] in any newspaper in the state that I've seen.
Garber: You haven't read Sam Cook in Duluth.
Anderson: I read him.
Garber: That's the whole point, though, right, because he's not with you.
Anderson: I misspoke. He was neutral.
Wheelock: I think the unfortunate thing is there seems to be a blurring with the [issue] of whether more resources for conservation are appropriate, as compared to, is this the right vehicle by which to deliver those resources and programs?
Anderson: I don't disagree. I didn't support the commission. I did not address the issue of a commission. I will address the issue of a commission. I don't think it's a good idea as presently constructed. If that matters here. But I'm just saying that in my Sunday piece the issue was the DNR's reaction, when these people [Lessard and Holsten] and their community of supporters, in my estimation, in good faith, are trying to do a much-needed, long-needed service to the state.
Garber: And we've said exactly that. We've said we support this much-needed effort. However, if you heard my testimony today, I have two responsibilities: One, we do support -- we think this can be a very, very good thing. But I also have a responsibility not to simply say, just because there's money, just because there's the word "natural resources" in it, it's great, I love it. I gotta love it. And what you did was -- and you do this all the time -- because I took an issue, because I brought an issue up, that's bad, that's not right. Nowhere in there did you say, 'Yes, it is his responsibility, I don't agree with what he said, his criticisms of it, but it is his responsibility as commissioner when he sees something that needs to be brought up, that isn't very favorable, that doesn't please you.
Ventura: What I don't like about it is this insinuation that this man doesn't understand how to hunt. He's been protecting the public for 26 years as an FBI agent. He did two tours of Vietnam. Again, that's hunting. Going out and shooting Bambi, to me, isn't hunting. Because you walk out there and you're going to shoot some poor little animal that can't shoot back; that offers no defense. And that's being a sportsman and a hunter? I just don't like the fact that he and I --
Anderson: [To Garber] He doesn't hunt. That's the deal. He doesn't hunt.
Garber: I went deer hunting this year by the way, Dennis. I went pheasant hunting last year. You don't know everything.
Ventura: That's right. And you don't consider war hunting?
Anderson: Not in the context that we're discussing.
Ventura: Really. I do.
Anderson: Well, you do. I don't.
Ventura: Well, that's 'cause you have no have no experience at it.
Anderson: Have you hunted deer?
Anderson: That's my point then, I guess.
Ventura: My point is the deer can't shoot back. Have you hunted man?
Ventura: Then you have no basis to talk from, pal. Because hunting a deer, big deal. Big deal.
Anderson: I'm not saying it is a big deal.
Ventura: So don't tell me I'm not a hunter. The training is to hunt, to hunt something and be successful. I find that it's far more challenging to hunt something that can potentially do harm back to you, than to go out and hunt something that sits around and eats twigs and leaves in the middle of the woods and then you've got the gall to tell me I'm not a hunter? You better talk to Commander Marsinko about that, too, what the definition of being a hunter is.
Anderson: As I was saying, my issue is conservation. it's not being effected in this state, and needs to be if we want to continue our heritage. You were there, commissioner [at the House hearing this morning]--
Ventura: And we're supportive [of the Holsten-Lessard bill]. But I'm not supportive of bringing in a band of good old boys to allocate where the money goes.
Wheelock: I think there's a basic misconception about whether the governor supports conservation or not. You may not be bound by the same overall financial objectives that the governor has, but in a limited budget, where we have a modest rate of growth, there's been a significant increase from the last budget to the current one. A 13 percent permanent rate of growth, roughly speaking, and putting together a two-year budget for the next biennium with a 5.4 percent rate of growth, roughly the rate of inflation, we still provide [$50] million for CREP funding, we still provide permanent lottery-in-lieu funds, where the Legislature's is only a one-time annual investment, and in relative context of his whole budget, with the fiscal parameters that he had, that's significant investment of additional resources. Now if you want to debate a separate legislative body [to disburse funds] that's a debate to have. If you want to debate if that's a sufficient level of investment, that's a debate to have. But to suggest because the commissioner of DNR doesn't like the proposed about no certainty and predictability of funding for these important programs that he's in charge of administering, and the notion that somehow it would be better public policy from this mechanism of a small group of legislators -- because I think there are a lot of people, including some environmental advocates, who question whether the LCMR is a preferred way to make public policy, that's a debate to have. But I don't think it's fair to criticize this commissioner as not being supportive of the interests that you advocate just because he does not believe that the method by which they would implement this is the preferred mechanism. I think that's an unfair conclusion to draw, that he is somehow, what did you say, the "antithesis of [the late DNR Commissioner] Joe Alexander?"
Anderson: Joe Alexander was a lifelong DNR employee; Joe Alexander sat in this office when Governor Perpich --
Wheelock: What you specifically said, Dennis --
Anderson: That [Alexander] was a gutsy conservationist. There were farmers and developers in [the governor's] office who were going to drain wetlands, and Joe Alexander said, 'No you're not.' And he risked the same that any commissioner would [in possibly losing his job].
Wheelock: I'm not saying anything against Joe Alexander. But you describe him as a gutsy conservationist, and you describe this commissioner [Garber] as the complete antithesis of that.
Ventura: That's the point.
Wheelock: That's a pretty dramatic statement.
Anderson: What do you want me to say, I really made a mistake, I shouldn't have said that? I stand by it, OK?
Ventura: And I stand by that you're not a hunter. Because you haven't hunted the real game that he [Garber] has.
Anderson: And you're not a conservationist.
Ventura: How do you know?
Anderson: Well what have you done? If I'm not a hunter, what have you done for conservation? You tell me and I can put it in the paper.
Wheelock: You don't think $60 million for CREP funding, on top of being an advocate for --
Anderson: I'm talking about personally -- [inaudible]. Here's my view, if you care: The point of, and you [Garber] were there, of most of the people who testified [today on the Holsten-Lessard bill] was that the natural heritage of the state --
Ventura: [Reading Anderson's column] Here's the part that gets me --
Anderson: Can I finish?
Anderson: The natural heritage of this state --
Ventura: Excuse me, you're in my office now.
Anderson: You said maybe, I assumed that meant I could finish.
Ventura: Well, maybe, wait. [Reading from Anderson's column] "Their efforts would be aided if Gov. Jesse Ventura -- theoretically the state's top 'conservationist' -- understood the importance of the state's woods, waters and fields, and supported them." Now, I want to know what, when you can justify that I have not supported that. Give me an example.
Anderson: Last legislative session, when the lottery in lieu of money, and had it not been for the Senate, in the tri-part agreement, it wouldn't have passed.
Ventura: Really? Now how do you know how negotiations take place, you mister observer of government for 22 years --
Anderson: Twenty years.
Ventura: Twenty. [Turning to look at the floor behind his desk] I'm just looking at my jackal down there on the floor. You have observed government, how do you know what kind of exchanges take place between the leaderships? And like Representative [Dave] Bishop said to me the other day, 'You never make a perfect bill, governor, never.' And I said 'Why not?'
Wheelock: And governor, if I could add, last year was a nonbudget year. It was a capital budget bonding year.
Anderson: I hear you. My point is this: I don't know what goes on in negotiations between the Senate and the House. And I would assume -- it's a given -- that there are high-ranking discussions about these matters, and so forth. I think everyone understands that. My point is that if, and to continue my [original] point, our natural heritage is to be continued in some fashion similar to that which we have, and we still have, we need someone out front. It would be great if you were out front, saying these things -- television is more popular than we [newspapers] are -- saying these things, asking citizens to take a role in it, by your actions and by the things you say, validating the interests of conservation, trying to get citizens involved. That's my point. My point is not against Al Garber. I don't have anything for or against him, notwithstanding what he or anyone else here might believe. My point is that this state has been behind the [conservation] curve, it was behind the curve behind Governor [Arne] Carlson, and you can easily access clips [of Anderson columns criticizing Carlson and then DNR Commissioner Rod Sando]. I'm sure Rod Sando left office thinking I was a jerk. I was his friend before he became commissioner; he used to do freelance [writing for me]. My point is conservation needs to be accelerated in this state by some creative means. And I understand [Wheelock's] point about limited budgets. But I'm saying that, leadership, out front, a gathering of individual citizens, a recognition that the state alone can't do it, it doesn't have enough money, it doesn't have enough people, that's the kind of thing we need.
Wheelock: But you, just a moment ago, gave credit to the Legislature last year for advancing the lottery-in-lieu. But where is the recognition that the governor stepped up to the plate, and made that funding permanent. Within his own budget, permanently funding what the Legislature did for one year.
Anderson: I'll concede one point. I didn't glorify him. But I think I reported that in the same column I reported that he [included in his budget] the CREP money. Now I did say that the CREP money was in the bonding bill and that you held off.
Garber: You said it was being held hostage.
Anderson: The headline said that, I think. I don't think I said it. I might have.
Garber: That isn't your article?
Anderson: I don't write headlines.
Ventura: That's plausible denial of the media. All writers have plausible denial.
Anderson: I might have said that, I don't know. You could check it. But I think I said you were including CREP money and that was good, but that it was pending that it [be included in the bonding bill] and that [according to the governor] it was pending that the bonding bill was going to be signed and that the Legislature would not come back in session next year.
Wheelock: Actually, that's not factual. The exception that the governor has [since] made is that the only thing that he would sign is CREP.
Anderson: Has that been made public?
Wheelock: It's been said in public meetings.
Anderson: I missed it. I would be glad to report that. Has anyone reported that?
Wheelock: I don't know.
Ventura: It's not our job to cheer --
Anderson: I'll be glad to report that. So you will sign CREP this year absent a full bonding bill?
Wheelock: But the only thing he would consider signing if they're coming back next year, in the bonding bill, is CREP.
Ventura: Because of the matching federal funds that we need to get.
Garber: Another thing that's screwing us all up is, you're not very interested in what we [the DNR] really are doing. We could show you many, many things we do with citizen groups. All the time. Things we do with Pheasants Forever, the Nature Conservancy, with citizens oversight committees. But you're not interested.
Ventura: And let me say from a personal note, all the friends that I grew up with are all avid hunters and fishermen. And they do it with their own money. I mean they're not paid by a newspaper to go out and hire a guide for them and go out and write a story.
Anderson: Don't insult me.
Ventura: You insult me all the time. You insult me all the time.
Anderson: I don't need a guide to take out to hunt and fish. I'm not a newspaper guy --
Ventura: You're not?
Anderson: -- who needs help to go out and hunt and fish.
Ventura: The only thing I see here on your [resume] is you've been a newspaper guy your whole life. Graduated from the "U." You're an editor. You're a copy editor. Outdoor editor. Outdoor team leader and columnist.
Anderson: I was a truck driver for 3½ years, coast to coast, Canada to Mexico.
Ventura: OK, well that's not in there. So I guess you don't brag about that.
Anderson: My issue with the DNR, to continue the point, is that you're all good people. You're all nice people. You all go to work every day. All work hard. The outcome of that, yours and collectively with others who are interested in it, is not enough, has not been enough, and continues to be not enough to offset the negative effects on the environment in this state.
Wheelock: If that were the argument that you put forth in your column, you wouldn't be sitting here today. I think that what is so damaging to the relationship and to advancing the goals that you seek -- because you're an advocate for natural resources and conservation -- and frankly it's clear that you don't care about the overall issues, about relative tax burden and tax policies.
Anderson: I didn't say I didn't care about that.
Wheelock: Let me finish, because I don't think that you do. If you did, you would appreciate the investment and the advancement that these two gentlemen have made in the governor's budget and in [Garber's] administration. But yet what you do is you decide that they have failed because they didn't go as far you think that they need to. You don't measure it by what they have done in the governor's budget relative to the overall spending parameters that they've set to see how it's fared compared to other interests. You just decide flat out that they have failed because they didn't go as far as you think they need to and that therefore they're not conservationists, they're not leaders and they're not doing their jobs.
Ventura: And I don't understand the state's woods, waters and fields. I've only had a lake cabin for 44 years, but I don't understand it. I only grew up on a lake. All my friends are hunters and fishermen. You know who I consult when I want to know about it? Not you, them. Because they're out --
Anderson: Do you understand what the status of the state's watersheds are? They're in dismal shape. Do you understand about uplands? Wetlands? It's not your fault, I'm just saying --
Ventura: Do I understand it? Yeah, I watch what goes on.
Anderson: Do you mobilize the people who care about that?
Wheelock: That's why we fund the wastewater treatment grants, the Minnesota River --
Ventura: You blaming Mr. Garber and me isn't going to help. You comparing us to a [DNR] commissioner from 14 years ago when times were different, that's not going to help.
Anderson: OK, what would help?
Ventura: What would help? Try writing something positive for a change. Try not ridiculing me as being some ignorant fool that doesn't know the outdoors at all and doesn't know a thing about Minnesota wildlife. I'll match up to you any day of the week, you want to go. Anytime. Anything you want to do, when it deals with that stuff. You know? Look at the military [Garber] did.
Anderson: All I want you to do, anybody in your position, is look at this state, and bond with those people who testified [on the Holsten-Lessard bill]. And try to amplify that --
Ventura: Well, it's difficult when you get these so-called outdoorsmen like Bud Grant that walk down there and testify. He doesn't know a thing about my background, either, just like you don't. And you guys make assumptions that somehow I don't know a thing, that I grew up in south Minneapolis and I have never, ever set foot at a lake, or hunting or anything throughout our entire state of Minnesota. Those are some pretty broad-based assumptions that you make.
Anderson: OK, I concede everything. how do we get by this? How do I help you do what, if we all agree, what needs to be done in this state?
[Inaudible; several people talking at once.]
Wodele: You're using your article to say the governor doesn't care. You say the commissioner is incompetent.
Anderson: I didn't say the commissioner is incompetent.
Wheelock: You said he was the antithesis of a highly competent, gutsy conservationist leader, whatever -- so if he's the antithesis of someone who is highly competent --
Ventura: That means he's incompetent. You can use your play on words, you went to college, you got a master's degree. We give you credit, you know how to play off of words.
Wheelock: If he's the antithesis of highly competent, what is he?
Ventura: He's the opposite.
Anderson: Gutsy's the word. Gutsy's the word.
Wheelock: You said --
Anderson: I agree I said it. Gutsy is the word I was looking for. Gutsy conservationist. OK? Speak out for wetlands. Speak out for uplands. Speak out for watersheds.
Garber: I just don't happen to speak out to the three things that you think are the only things. But to say I don't speak out. I certainly do speak out on many issues. And how can you get by this? I'll tell you how you can get by this --
Anderson: It's not "I" --
Garber: How we can get by this: You can write some things about what is being done. Your picture is that this state is -- is hopeless.
Anderson: That's not true at all.
Garber: It's not true?
Anderson: And I don't write that.
Garber: If you've been to the beautiful state parks, if you've been to the beautiful state forests, you know we have a beautiful state. If you've been on some of the trails, you know we have a beautiful state. What you can do, that helps us get over this, is write about those things, too. Along with the problems you see in wetlands.
Ventura: I'm not averse to criticism, but Dennis, I've never read one of your articles that said one thing positive about me or my administration.
Anderson: That's not true. You said you read [my] CREP piece. You know, you're telling me how to do my job, I'll tell you how to do yours. [To Garber] When you go to the Fishing Roundtable and you've got people who spend 2½ days of their time trying to make fishing what it once was in this state -- that's why they're there -- and at the conclusion of that, when the commissioner stands up, they want to hear what a great job they did, they want to hear how much it took out of their personal time and effort to be there. They don't want to hear about the Minnesota Wild. That's the first thing you said, 'How about those Minnesota Wild?'"
Garber: You know, I got so many positive comments, from so many people about my, about what they did, and about what I said about what they did. It was a wonderful experience.
Anderson: That's not --
Garber: And I don't really care what you think about my experience. I know it was a wonderful experience.
Anderson: Well, there you go. OK.
Wodele: [Inaudible.] You're a columnist, and you can give your opinions in your column. And I thought this article, last Sunday's article, was probably the best example -- and I admit, I don't read a lot of outdoor writers -- but I thought it was the best example of a writer who has a bias. Who did not take the time to understand the people he's writing about.
Anderson: What do you think the bias is?
Anderson: I don't disagree. My bias is for conservation. That's my bias. Do you understand that?
Wheelock: I think you are saying: Here's my problem with your writing. I think if someone doesn't pass your litmus test on the level of advocacy, that's clearly visible and reflected in new resources being committed to your conservation goals that you have set as the highest priority, in a $42 billion state budget. I think the problem is that you reject them then completely. And to suggest that what they're doing doesn't have any value, and doesn't help advance some of these goals, and isn't a significant commitment within the parameters of what they have to work with, feels really critical to them beyond what is productive. And you should recognize that what they have to work with, and that there are other, broader concepts that these conservation goals must fit in, and to recognize the progress in some of these key areas, and to count that and applaud that, at the same time you say here are the things you should do more in an area that admittedly I'm passionate about, feels very unproductive. And I think that's what is reflected in this article. And I think that's unfortunate, because I don't think that's going to help you advance your goal.
Anderson: I hear you. But I still don't hear the part about how we get by this, besides that I have to change and be supportive of you.
Ventura: No, I'm not saying that. Don't take personal shots at me when you don't know a thing about me. When you write the quote, it's right here: "If he understood the importance of the state's woods, waters and fields, and supported them. He doesn't." You're telling me I don't support it, and I think my actions prove otherwise.
Anderson: A lot of people think your actions don't prove that.
Ventura: Yeah, because they're reading your writing.
Anderson: No. The legislative session last year, when [people] had to support the whole in-lieu-of money, and the DNR sat on its hands because you wouldn't let them support it. A lot of people think that [was a lack of support for conservation]. It wasn't me. A lot of people thought that.
Wheelock: I wish you could at least acknowledge that the governor thinks that, the governor believes that, that was not a year to increase operating budgets.
Ventura: That's right.
Wheelock: It's not that they don't care about conservation. Because it's reflected in the new budget for the next two years. You just conclude that he doesn't support it because the timing [wasn't right].
Ventura: I'm battling a battle here, Dennis. That we're supposed to be budgeting one year and bonding the other year. But the Legislature, every year, opens them both up. The big picture in this government is that I want them to get back to what they're supposed to be doing. When they do a budget, it's a biennial budget, they should live in that budget for the two years, and not reopen it. Then the second year, the second year is supposed to be for bonding, and bonding only. Stick to bonding. But the end result was this: Our original biennial budget was slightly over 10 percent. Because they reopened that budget, it went well over 13 percent. So we had a 3 percent growth in permanent government spending just simply because they couldn't live within the rules that they themselves set. Now what good are rules -- and you, as an outdoorsman, should really appreciate this -- what good are rules if we bend and break them? If every year, well, you're allowed six pheasants but, we've got a good crop this year, I'm going to take eight instead and not tell nobody. Well, we all know there's a bit of honesty that has to go on in the field: that you're expected to obey the laws that are set out there for all of us so we can all understand it. Now I've come back this year and my approach is, since they bond and budget in the same year, then there's no reason for them to meet every year. Because they do it both in one year. That's why I'm pushing this year for every-other session. That the Legislature comes in, do all their work in one session, then get out of here. Sine die and go. And let us carry out what they do. Because government continues to grow. If I let it grow to the extent of my first two years, we're going to have permanent government growth of over 25 percent. I can't accept that and I won't allow it. That's why I came in with a budget at only 5.4 percent. Because for two years in a row -- did you know there were more bills brought up and passed last year in the bonding session that there was in the budget session? That's what we're facing over here. Is that, when they come in here, whew, it's like, Katy, bar the door. [They're] going to open everything up and reopen it, even when we agree the year before. We reopen the budget again and we allow it to grow and grow and grow. I can't let that happen. I have a big picture to look at over here. I realize you're an advocate, as I am too.
As I said, what got me into politics was the fight over a wetland in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. I would never be in politics today if it weren't for that. I saw government ignoring that we lived along the Mississippi, and it was an old established neighborhood. A developer came in, and there were a couple open lots, and he then had the council in his back pocket, who then, because of him and him alone wanted to assess us all curb, gutter and storm sewer. We didn't need it.
Well, you don't fix something that's not broke. Well, they went ahead anyway because it would raise this guy's property value and 450 of us signed a petition. I went up and played dumb, and I said, "What are you going to do with this water, why don't you just pump it in the Mississippi?" Well, I knew they couldn't. But I wanted to hear them tell me: Well, we can't. I said why? Well, because of pollution. And then they go into their whole so many particles per billion, all that stuff. And I said, well wait a minute, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you can't pump this into the Mississippi directly because it's against the law because it will pollute, then what's it going to do to this wetland? And this was a big, established wetland. A block from the Riverview grade school, where kids come down. There's live ducks in it, there's frogs, there's all this wildlife in there. And they're going to pump this storm water right into this wetland. Just to assess us all, curb, gutter and storm sewer so this developer can up the values of his property -- 450 of us signed a petition, saying this was unacceptable. We did not agree with that. We went into City Hall and got voted down, 7 to 0. We ended up having to form a nonprofit corporation, which we called Conserve. We all donated our money into this and we hired Grant Merritt to defend us. And lo and behold, when Grant showed up, it was remarkable commissioner [Garber], he just walked in, walked up to the podium and said, I'm Grant Merritt and I've been hired by the group Conserve, and all of the sudden it was off the table. I don't know this guy's reputation as an environmental lawyer, but it must be remarkable. And to this day they have not been assessed gutter and storm sewer. So please don't insinuate to me that I don't care. I do care. And don't ever think I'm not a hunter, just because my job now doesn't allow me to do it every weekend. And just because I choose, having man, that there's no thrill for me to go out and shoot Bambi.
You have to understand that, that many people like Mr. Garber and I, when you go through and you're trained in combat, and you hunt the ultimate foe, well, it becomes very difficult, and I can't speak for Al, but for me, I can't draw down on Bambi. I can't shoot him.
Anderson: I don't care whether you hunt or not.
Ventura: You miss my point. That still doesn't mean I'm not a hunter. And it's wrong for you to insinuate that I don't know how to hunt. Because when you hunt the ultimate foe, which is man, who can shoot back, you're the best hunter on the planet. I still pheasant hunt. I still go with my friends down to Iowa to pheasant hunt, I try once a year. But my job doesn't allow me very often to be able to do it. I also coach football in the fall. That interferes. Because I'm obligated to my football team in Champlin Park. I can't break away and go on these hunts.
Anderson: I don't care whether someone hunts. I care about conservation.
Ventura: I understand. I want you to understand I care.
Anderson: [Inaudible.] [My background is] I went to school in Morris, I worked in Ely. I knew and I think learned a lot from Sigurd Olson, from other conservationists in this state, some people who have been in the [state] administration over the years, other people who have been in the Legislature, people pass that on. They pass that on to people in my position if we're lucky in this state. And [Garber's] position, and yours.
Ventura: And I've always been supportive --
Anderson: And my job --
Ventura: I've been fully supportive --
Anderson: My job, if you will let me finish. I'm more than willing to give [credit]. But the flip side of this is, I sat in this office with Perpich, who became a friend, and he said, "What's it going to take to get you off [my case]?" And I said, "Sign RIM [the Re-invest in Minnesota legislation]. Sign RIM." Because we couldn't get it through the Legislature. My point is, we don't have a lot of time to preserve these kinds of things in some context for future generations. You could become the hero of all time if you would leverage the good will and interest of those people who [care about these things]. And I mean publicly validated that. That's what I mean
Ventura: Let me also show --
Anderson: Let me just finish. Then, if a guy like me, if I truly am [expletive], then I won't ever report on that. I won't do anything. But maybe you'll find out that, hey, he doesn't not like me, he wants action, even if it's a nominal effort in terms of mobilizing public thought on this.
Ventura: Now, let me tell this one to you. I take a ton of criticism over what's called "smart growth." Which is another huge conservation issue. Have you given any credit for battling all these people? And who do you think is battling them when it comes to smart growth, when I'm out there saying, wait a minute, we can't just allow growth to happen, like throwing confetti up in the wind and let it blow as it may. We've got to develop a plan. I've worked with Gov. [Parris] Glendening of Maryland, who is probably the premier guy on smart growth. He sat and spoke when both he and I were at the conference here in St. Paul dealing with it. That's a conservation issue. That's an issue that's extremely important to all of our cities. How are we going about growth so we don't eat up these wetlands, so that we don't eat up these farmlands by pouring cement and asphalt on them. I'm leading the way on that, and I get rammed every day by people like [conservative radio talk show host] Jason Lewis and these Republican conservatives out there who believe this is manipulating people's lives. That they should have total freedom to develop where they want to.
Anderson: Point taken.
Ventura: And I've been out front on that. So I think you've been very --
Anderson: After you raised it, we did a full page [in the Sunday Star Tribune Outdoors section] on that. I would have to go back to see whether we said you were at the forefront.
Ventura: I don't need the credit. I don't want the credit. I just don't want to be discredited, either. I'm not in this job -- it's not a stepping stone for me. I'm not going on to other political arenas. I took this job the same way I went into the military. I committed to four years. I won an election, and therefore I will do this job to the best of my ability for the four years I'm here. But I don't need my name on a building. I don't need to establish a legacy. That's not what I'm here for. I'm here to do the best job I'm capable of doing on all aspects of being a governor, and [nodding to Garber] to question this man's integrity, I was personally offended. Because that's one thing I will never question on him, is his integrity. His past proves it. If you take a look at his background, you cannot question the integrity of this man in any way, shape or form. You may disagree with each other. But don't question his integrity. Like he had some other underlying agenda. Because he's already paid the price, many times over. That's the part that offended me. It isn't you, taking an adverse position to me. Fine. I get that every day. I get protesters out here. I'm accused of hating kids now, because I want accountability on K-12. I want to fix a budget, where I'm being called that I called education a black hole. I didn't call education a black hole, I called the mechanism in which we fund it a black hole, because it's going to continue until we fix it to be a black hole. We're going to pour more money in and we're not going to get any results out of it. And certainly, I could sit and channel all of that money in there, and I could have all of these K-12 people cheering me on. But would it solve the problem? No.
Anderson: Let me ask you a couple of questions.
Anderson: The commissioner testified he supported the Holsten-Lessard bill.
Ventura: And I do, too.
Anderson: But he said he wanted to retain the $20 million of in-lieu funds, and then also take the $115 million. Notwithstanding which mechanism would distribute the money, how do you reconcile that, Commissioner Wheelock, with what you just said?
Wheelock: I don't know what Al [Garber] said or didn't say. But I think the point is is the concern of the predictability of funding. What he is concerned about is, there may be $115 million or $150 million, based on some estimates, generated as a result of the constitutional amendment. But you can't tell me what programs are going to get funded, because there is another whole process [as the bill is proposed] and another group that is going to make the funding decisions. What he is concerned about is, he wants some predictability the programs will be funded.
Garber: You don't know how healthy the wildlife division is, you don't know how healthy any of the divisions are, because you're not involved in them. But the wildlife division is pretty healthy now. We put on 43 people [inaudible]. We're doing quite well now. It involves new wildlife management areas, and partnerships. My point was, there is no guarantee the way it is crafted now. You take away that money, I think that is a problem. That could go away. And I don't want to see those good things go away that we're going. That was the point of what I was trying to say [in testimony on the Holsten-Lessard bill]. Now, where the money will come from, perhaps it will come from out of the sales tax money. But my point was, please, Legislature, think about this. We're doing a lot of good things with this lottery-in-lieu money. We don't want to put it up at risk. One reason we didn't join the governor's challenge pool was, we weighed the risks, and we felt like we were doing so many things that we didn't want to take a portion of it out and put in in the pool and perhaps not be able to recoup it.
Wheelock: And despite not joining the challenge pool you still got the lottery-in-lieu in your budget.
Anderson: I hear you.
Garber: You say you hear it, but you're blowing me off.
Anderson: No, I have another question.
Wheelock: What's the next one?
Anderson: You said you were opposed to the commission, as proposed, and personally I don't think [as proposed] as public policy I don't think it's a good idea, either. Having said that, one of the things that was repeatedly said by a wide number of people who testified on the bill was that they want to be in on the front end of the decision making [at the DNR]; that the review process is multifaceted and scattered, and what these people are saying is that we think as a matter of public policy that the citizens, and I think this also, were on the front end of the deal.
Garber: You think that these people have no input on the front end of how we do business. That's the problem with what you write. There is so much citizen involvement now, that there is an awful lot of it now, and what we're saying is that to create a whole new bureaucracy to do that, it's not smart business.
Anderson: In my Sunday column I pointed out that every state but Minnesota has a natural resources commission. Virtually all of them are volunteer and/or they get $30 a meeting. They meet once a month. This [idea that the proposed commission] needs 10 percent to run the commission is a bunch of B.S.
Wheelock: I want to discuss the assumption that there's no input on the front end. The job of the Legislature, 201 individuals, is to focus on program outcomes before the next appropriating session. If they don't do a good job at that, as part of their legislative decisionmaking, that's their problem. But frankly, we expect that they're talking right now in every single committee about what to do with respect to allocating resources. But that's what their job is. And they need to do that equally across the $42 billion budget.
Anderson: But they do a crummy job on natural resources; the governor's pointed that out.
Wheelock: Then why don't you criticize them and tell them to fix that part of their legislative process. But what you want to do is substitute an advocacy group in place of that --
Anderson: Absolutely not --
Ventura: No, no, no, I'll finish --
Anderson: I had a thought --
Ventura: Well, hold your thought. Now I'll give you another example of these groups that work for per diem, or $20 or whatever it is --
Anderson: It's not a group. You [as governor] would appoint [members of a natural resources commission of the kind many other states have].
Ventura: No, I get one [speaking of the commission in the Holsten-Lesserd bill]. Let me get to the point: When I used to wrestle, there used to be an athletic commission --
Anderson: You used to wrestle?
Ventura: Yeah, there used to be an athletic commission in New York. And we had to put up with these guys, who would come there and get free meals, free per diem, and there whole job was to sit around and see if you're licensed and if you paid your money.
Wheelock: And who were they accountable to?
Ventura: Who were they accountable to? They were accountable to the state athletic commission. It was so bad that I used to tape my license to my forehead when I would walk around in Madison Square Garden. Because every 10 feet, one of these people would ask me if I have my license or not. So, you know what I'm saying? With the huge bureaucracy of all these people, all asking me the same question, I go up to the Garden and tape it to my forehead so they wouldn't ask me anymore. The point I'm making is that [World Wrestling Federation co-owner] Vince McMahon decided, you know what, these people are only here because they're a boxing/wrestling commission, and they're supposed to ensure that everything we do is on the up and up. Well, Vince then went public and said we're not an athletic contest, we're sports entertainment, and therefore we don't need this commission. And they were absolved and thrown out then. We didn't have to be licensed anymore by the state. We didn't have to walk around with licenses on our forehead. And the thing that I'm saying here, is that they [the Legislature] have a job to do. If they don't do it, then criticize them for not doing it. But laying out another group here to be an intermediary --
Anderson: I didn't advocate that --
Ventura: It sounded like you did.
Anderson: Can I finish my thought? An example of just how ineffective, and not necessarily overly productive the Legislature is in these matters [occurred] last session when it spent a whole bunch of time debating and ultimately passing and then amending the thing about a lighted fishing lure. They shouldn't be messing with that as a matter of public policy, or other matters of that kind. What I would argue, as long as we're talking about this commission [as proposed in the Holsten-Lessard bill], which none of us apparently is for, what I would argue is that, if, as with every other state, or at least every other state, so I'm told, we did have a -- whether the governor appointed some [members] and they were confirmed by the Senate, or whether it was two citizens, and they wouldn't have to be hunters or fishermen, in my view, though obviously they'd have to be interested, from every one of the DNR districts, so you'd have a geographical representation from the state. What would effect conservation, in my view -- looking at the Legislature and seeing how they fiddle with [natural resource issues], and looking at how difficult it is to manage a large [DNR] bureaucracy and put the money [into it] and have trees and watershed improvement come out, if we could take the politics, and divert the interest in, and the debate about -- to this citizen body, which would necessarily involve more people, which we need because the DNR cannot do this along, nor can the soil and water conservation districts, and involve [this commission] in the politics of conservation. Then we could divert this stuff away from the DNR, which [would be charged with] effecting the policy. Now you might say that these guys [the commission] would be a bunch of clowns. I don't think so. I think if you put a number of well-meaning people in place, year to year they may make good or bad decisions, but they would be self-righting over time. And that the good energy would involve a whole bunch more people, and would make [the DNR's] lives better because you wouldn't have this tension from individuals and/or, in my case, the "jerk media." Instead it would be go [to the commission].
Wheelock: If I could get back to the [proposed commission]. I think there is a fundamental problem in accountability. This person right here [the governor] is elected by the taxpayers, 201 legislators are elected by the taxpayers. He [Garber] is accountable to his boss, who's elected. The problem is, what are you charging them to do, when they have no accountability? They're not elected by anyone, you know. The difference between having an advocacy group so you can get public input and advice you in the policy formation, vs. [a commission] responsible for allocating funds. I don't think that's appropriate.
Anderson: No they're not [responsible for that]. Of the states I've looked into, and my assumption about other states I've been told about [is that] the Legislature stills plays its role. But what this [commission] does is it raises the bar at which the Legislature enters the fray. Because that would go [to the commission]. The Legislature would still set funding limits and so forth.
Wheelock: I appreciate that you're looking for an advocacy group that can distill the issues to the highest public policy. But I don't think that this [DNR] commissioner is necessarily opposed to that. I think you two should spend a lot more time together seeking common ground, quite honestly --
Anderson: Forty-nine states can't be wrong --
Wheelock: Do they get a better outcome?
Anderson: I think they do. Certainly Missouri does. Nebraska does. Kansas does.
Wheelock: How do you know?
Anderson: I will say that none of those is a north-south state. Each is an east-west state, and they are not crossing as many latitudes and as many differing habitat types [as in Minnesota].
Anderson: I suggest you look at it. The governor has said many times he wants to reinvent government, he wants to make it more efficient.
Garber: And we do, every day. You don't happen to see it.
Garber: You're one person.
Anderson: It's my fault, I'm one person, end of argument.
Ventura: It's not your fault --
Garber: I'm saying open your mind, Dennis.
Anderson: My mind is open. I'm saying open your mind. Did I criticize your northern forest initiative, yet?
Garber: You haven't said anything.
Anderson: Oh, come on. Our coverage has been outstanding on that.
Garber: Not yours.
Anderson: Not mine?
Garber: [Star Tribune reporter] Doug Smith's has. Not yours. What'd you say?
Ventura: Let me put it to you this way, Dennis, you've alienated me so bad, I rarely read you.
Anderson: Do you read the Sports Section.
Anderson: Well, more people read Outdoors than sports Sunday, so you're in the minority.
Ventura: That's true. But why am I not reading you? Because you're negative to me every time I pick up the paper, you're negative to me. You sit and portray to the public I don't know a damn thing about the outdoors, I don't know how to hunt, I don't know how to fish, I don't know nothing. You know. So after a while, I quit reading it. Because you can't read stuff like that and maintain your sanity at this job.
Anderson: I heard you. And I heard you [Garber] and I heard you [Wheelock]. But I don't think any of you heard me.
Wheelock: I heard you.
Anderson: And [that may mean] things aren't any different [now] than the way things were perceived in the beginning. And that's unfortunate.
Garber: You just drew the conclusion, I didn't.
Anderson: Did you hear me?
Garber: Of course I did.
Ventura: Hey, enough. You're in my office now.
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