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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Central Corridor... The Longest 11 Miles

Category: Transportation
Posted: 05/28/08 02:36, Edited: 05/28/08 02:37

by Dave Mindeman

We are talking about 11 miles of track! Central Corridor...that's all it is.. 11 miles. Officials have been talking about it for what seems like forever, but all it has gotten us, is yet another impasse.

What gives?

One obstacle after another gets tossed on the tracks. Funding arguments, location disagreements, traffic issues.....on and on it goes. And while the soap opera continues, the money clock is ticking....Federal funding awaits an agreement and $45 million of yearly inflation gets tacked on with more delays.

Whose at fault?

Depends on who you ask. We have two massive egos at work here... Peter Bell of the Met Council and University President Bob Bruininks. Both men are used to being right....but one of the immovable objects has to budge. And Pawlenty keeps adding to the mix by raising questions and pushing for budget restrictions.

What happens now?

More talk. I would guess that the Met Council will have the final say with their vote, but the University has a lot of infrastructure at stake and needs to be on board. Somebody needs to look at the big picture and find a way to make this work.

Bottom line?

This is a key component for the future of light rail. This needs to get done but it also needs to be done right. If extra funding is needed to do this the right way, then find the money. Fixing problems later will be a budgetary and logistical nightmare. We don't have the luxury of playing guessing games.

We have to get this right.

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Pawlenty Meddles in Local Control

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 05/27/08 01:55

by Dave Mindeman

Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis was quoted at MPR's NewsCut blog with this dead on assessment of the the property tax cap:

"I don't know if our tax levy was going to be up 3.9 percent, but it is now," he said. "It might've only been increasing by 2 percent but now we have to raise it 3.9 percent so that we don't hurt ourselves. It becomes a target more than a cap."

Local officials seem to understand the need to plan ahead... much more than the Governor and Legislature do. As the Woodbury Mayor indicates, the cap becomes a target this year. If they don't raise property taxes to the cap limit this year, then they have lost potentially needed revenue for the following year.

Governor Pawlenty makes the assumption that local officials are simply tax and spend addicts. He contends that the heavily increased property taxes over the past few years, (that, incidently, coincide with his administration), are simply local officials out of control.

But County Boards and City Councils get the most direct feedback from their constituents. They live and work in the neighborhoods and shop at the local stores. They don't raise taxes unless they have to and when State Government takes away the local government aid that has been a long standing part of their budget, what exactly are they supposed to do?

Unlike the State, local units are always careful to eliminate spending before they resort to taxes. Admittedly, some of the larger municipalities are less likely to do so, but the vast majority of them are sensitive to local needs and local budgets.

Governor Pawlenty wants to meddle. He wants to control the spending side and he wants to control the taxation side of local decision making.

It is unfortunate that the Governor lays the blame for budget problems at the feet of the only units of government that actually fully understand the concept of taxation through direct representation.
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Dem Contest: Focus on the Next 4 Years, Not Just the Candidate

Category: Presidential Politics
Posted: 05/25/08 13:39, Edited: 05/25/08 13:40

by Dave Mindeman

Since the Democratic presidential primary race has been analyzed ad nauseum, I hesitate to talk about it much. But maybe a little more overall perspective is needed.

It has been quite a ride. I think we may have already been saturated with the historic nature of this heated battle -- a contest that includes a woman and an African-American man. For heaven's sake, who could have dreamed of such a thing, even 5 years ago?

But political contests are still intense competitions. And this one has certainly had its share of rancor and pointed rhetoric. We look for resolution, but these things take time and have to play themselves out. Maybe we need a little more zen and a little less shouting.

Although the nomination seems to be heading Barack Obama's way, this hand wringing about ending the Clinton campaign is a trifle foolish. She has invested a lot of time and money in this effort and she has a number of feminist supporters who have waited a long time for a serious female candidate to run for President. She may have said or done some things along the way that could be cause for criticism, but overall she has run a strong, well organized, national campaign.

How it ends, should be up to her and her supporters.

Barack Obama has not only run an astounding campaign but he has fostered a movement. Although, he has made mistakes....and there has been a lot of discussion about the attacks that inevitably come during a campaign, he has handled it well, and it has made him a better candidate. Politics is not soft and squishy. It is rough and often brutal. And a successful Illinois politician is prepared for that.

What is disconcerting going forward is not the conduct of the candidates.....rather it is the expectations of their base of support. Hillary Clinton has a core base of support which has been a Democratic strength for many years....senior women and the lower to middle income blue collar working class. These groups have an intense loyalty to her campaign and I do hope that will carry over to an Obama candidacy.

Obama has made his case to young voters and independents looking for a new type of politics. Unfortunately, these new voters are more tied to a candidate than a party. Without Obama, I fear they will blend back into the general electorate....even though the overall goals of Clinton and Obama are the same.

Some are going to be disappointed, but that is the case in any campaign. How each side treats the other in a contest that has the same end product is important.

The decision that is made in November forecasts events for the next four years. Control of legislative policy, going forward, is much more important than one individual candidate. I hope that every one of the Clinton and Obama supporters keep sight of that.

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