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Reader's view: ‘Timberjay bill’ would help keep government honest

While at the Capitol in St. Paul visiting legislators I happened to walk near the office of Sen. Kari Dziedzic, co-author of S.F. 1770, the “Timberjay Bill.” The American Newspaper Association supports this bill and so should any citizen wanting to ensure government transparency.

I got a draft copy of the bill and asked those legislators whom I visited to support it, too. Maybe News Tribune readers remember when the Ely Timberjay newspaper publisher sought contract information between St. Louis County schools and Johnson Controls. I first became aware of the Timberjay’s quest for government accountability after reading the News Tribune’s Oct. 10, 2012, story, “Appeals Court rules for newspaper in debate over construction records.”

As I understand it, Sen. Dziedzic’s bill not only would be beneficial to newspaper editors and reporters; ironically, it could be used to prove that government doesn’t always have credible supporting data for many projects.

For example, in 2010, I was among citizens who stopped what we alleged was an ill-conceived Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Dark River restoration project. We got the DNR to show it lacked the science to justify the project. We citizens learned that what the DNR says is not always factual; and S.F. 1770, an important amendment to the Data Practices Act, would help ensure government honesty.

I am seeking information from the DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on the matter of a 14-year delay of the proposed Living Word Bible Camp project on Deer Lake in Itasca County. Since 2010 I have alleged that the DNR and university professors caused the delay by supplying unscientific, not-peer-reviewed reports to Itasca County, with resultant harm to taxpayers. Ironically, I plan to use Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13 to get the DNR and the PCA to admit to my allegations.

Have your legislator support S.F. 1770.

David G. Holmbeck

Grand Rapids