On Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an argument advanced by the group I lead — Save Lake Calhoun — that former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr lacked authority to change the name of the lake when he approved the initiative last year (front page, April 30).
My motive to fight for Lake Calhoun had less to do with trying to save the name itself and more to do with fighting for fairness and justice for everyday Minnesotans.
Everyday Minnesotans just want to be left alone and not bullied into changing the names of our lakes, our streets, our schools, our landmarks and our cities. We’re sick of the “holier than thou” morality tone coming from politicians, media and activists.
Everyday Minnesotans are tired of being demanded by the elites (media, activists and politicians) that we change our beliefs, our values and our thoughts in order to conform to their worldviews. We take offense to the threat of being called a derogatory name merely for having a difference of opinion.
The fight for Lake Calhoun was never about relishing the name of John Calhoun, the guy who was on the wrong side of the moral argument for slavery. The fight is about the unfairness of the renaming effort and how everyday Minnesotans got ignored. Local politicians, lobbyists, the media and political activists hijacked the renaming process — and ignored how the majority of Minnesotans felt about Lake Calhoun.
To most of us, the name Lake Calhoun represents absolutely nothing more than a beautiful lake in the heart of the city. It never represented an endorsement of slavery or an endorsement of genocide, which is a worldview shared by many supporters of the name Bde Maka Ska.
In the end, I was disgusted by how everyday Minnesotans had been steamrollered by politicians, the media and activists and forced to adopt a name (Bde Maka Ska) that we didn’t support.
When the DNR ignored a warning from the general counsel of the Minnesota Legislature that changing the name of Lake Calhoun was illegal per Minnesota Statute 83A.01-.07, it was at that moment that I realized the elites are truly out of control. And shortly thereafter, thousands of Minnesotans rallied to support the legal team that has put Lake Calhoun back on the map.
This fight is not just about Lake Calhoun, but about whether we’re going to allow ourselves to be bullied by the elites into renaming our other lakes, streets and landmarks. I suspect that as a result of this win on Lake Calhoun, the folks on Lake Harriet are breathing a sigh of relief that their lake isn’t about to be renamed Bde Unma.
Tom Austin is chairman of Save Lake Calhoun and a 20-year resident of the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.