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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Transportation Forum: Problem Gets Bigger --Still No Answers

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 10/05/07 11:23

by Dave Mindeman

Transit for Livable Communities held a public forum on transportation last night in Apple Valley. There were about 75 to 80 people there including... 9 legislators (2 of them Republican), 1 mayor, 3 County Commissioners, and at least 1 DFL House challenger. The TVC gave a sobering presentation about resources needed vs. resources available. Their assessment states that the transportation bill that Governor Pawlenty vetoed last session, even if it had become law, would still not have met even half of the needed funds to keep up with required infrastructure.

Many people gave their opinions and a lot of good points were made. Some of them:

--MnDot continues to "borrow" money from the counties to get projects under way.

--Dakota County has no projects on the MnDOT calendar until 2030.

--54% of Dakota County residents commute to jobs outside the county.

--Minnesota residents use 43 hours of their lives each year, sitting in congested traffic.

--16% of current property tax levies in Dakota County goes to transportation needs.... and a Wheelage Tax has also been implemented.

-- When the Bridge went down, the Missouri legislature passed a state gas tax increase within a week, telling their state that what happened in Minnesota will never happen here.

It is incredible to watch Minnesota's transportation debacle get farther and farther behind in its investments. Pawlenty is not telling us the truth about transportation. He keeps pushing the big "fixes" into the future -- it will be somebody else's problem (no, make that somebody else's crisis).

I assumed that a bridge falling down and 13 people dead in the Mississippi would be a wake up call to this state.... but it wasn't. The slow budgetary strangulation continues and the administration continues to misinform, obfuscate, and delay... to the detriment of this state.

DFL legislators voiced their concerns and sometimes their anger about the situation -- after all they have supported bipartisan bills that have passed, only to see the veto pen wipe out all the hard work. The two Republican legislators sympathized with the transportation plight, but offered no real support and no alternatives to fix the problem.

Where is this going? It is very discouraging. "Roadblock" Pawlenty continues to be this state's biggest traffic problem.
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Sarvi: Another Blue Dog Democrat?

Category: John Kline
Posted: 10/04/07 18:41

by Dave Mindeman

It looks like we have someone willing to run against John Kline. Steve Sarvi has filed the papers and is beginning the long slog to November 2008.

I haven't formulated much of an opinion on this candidacy yet; I really don't know much about him. However, what I have seen so far raises a few questions.

My guess is that Sarvi is going to run a centrist to right of center campaign. Several months ago he made some comments on this blog... they were great comments, but when I tried to start up a dialogue, it was resisted. I heard he was interested in running for the seat in the 2nd and I sent him a questionnaire to get some basic thoughts on positions. I got the same response I always get from Kline's office -- no response at all.

Now Sarvi was still stationed in Iraq at the time and I imagine he certainly had to be careful about what and how he responds... so I will give him the benefit of the doubt about that.

But he has given an interview to Minnesota Monitor and one of his responses was a little troubling.

While Sarvi calls for a change in policy, he does not call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. In an interview with Minnesota Monitor, Sarvi said, "I don't advocate 'cut and run.'"

I don't expect Sarvi to advocate for an immediate pullout... I wouldn't expect that to fly in a Second District campaign; but I find it troubling that he would use the phrase "cut and run" -- a Republican talking point, in his response. Nobody advocates "cut and run", Republicans or Democrats.... but Republicans like to use the term anyway as a means to denigrate any Democratic position. It is troubling to hear a potential Democratic candidate use that phrase on his own.

I don't know what Sarvi's overall positions are.... and they don't have to be solidly progressive; I understand the pragmatism necessary to run a campaign in a reasonably conservative district. But after watching Tim Walz and Amy Klobuchar say one thing and produce something else, I will tend to be more cautious in the future.

I understand that Sarvi would be an improvement over Kline. I also understand that he may have to run a less than progressive campaign to win. I understand all of that.

But my enthusiasm about another Blue Dog Democrat in the House is also less than stellar. If that is what it takes to defeat John Kline, I will accept it..... but I don't have to lead any cheerleading campaigns either.

In a district where progressive politics can often take a beating, maybe Steve Sarvi will be happier to keep progressives at arms length anyway. Maybe.... I don't know.

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Pawlenty Wasting Political Capital

Category: Tim Pawlenty
Posted: 10/04/07 11:45, Edited: 10/04/07 11:47

by Dave Mindeman

My internet access was out all day yesterday, which makes you feel like you are out of touch with the world -- but anyway, I was intrigued by the polls that came out on Governor Pawlenty.

He gets high marks. An astonishing 59% in the Star Tribune poll and an equally impressive 56% in the KSTP poll. So, I guess Minnesotans are happy with state government? Hmmmmm....

KSTP asked some other questions. They asked about Carol Molnau also...35% approve of how she handled the bridge collapse. Only 32% approve of her overall MnDOT performance.... and 53% believe she should resign. On the legislative side, 55% disapproved of the legislative response regarding the bridge collapse

There is also one curious other element. Only 45% say that Governor Pawlenty should fire Molnau.

These two polls came out at about the same time, so I think we can examine them together. What do we conclude? Two things.

1) Minnesotans like Governor Pawlenty personally.

2) They don't like current transportation policy.

The Molnau numbers prove that Minnesotans are unhappy about what has been happening in the transportation sector, but they are reluctant to tie the Governor into that disapproval. Carol Molnau gets the brunt of the criticism, and rightly so... however, ultimately policy is still under the Governor's authority.

The legislature gets low marks, probably because of their perceived inaction. They haven't been able to solve transportation issues and it shows in public sentiment. However, "Roadblock" Pawlenty is still the major obstacle in all of this. Vetos and an unwillingness to address the issues directly are not the fault of the legislature. Yet, again, the public is still unwilling to tag those shortcomings on the Governor.

I think the most telling numbers are these: 57% of those polled disapprove of Carol Molnau; but only 45% say Governor Pawlenty should fire her. Whenever Governor Pawlenty is drawn into the question, the numbers change to the benefit of the Governor. They aren't even sure they want him to fire the person in charge of the transportation policy they disapprove of.... because it might reflect badly on their approval of the Governor. Very interesting divergence.

So what does it all mean? Here's my take:

The people of Minnesota simply like Governor Pawlenty and want him to succeed. They have given him a window of opportunity to solve these issues... but it is not open ended. Right now, they are willing to separate their approval of the Governor from their disapproval of his (and I emphasize "HIS" ) policy. As MnDOT troubles mount and the bridge delays intensify, the man in charge will eventually be held accountable.

Pawlenty has political capital. He can use it to fix this mess or he can waste it on catering to special interests. So far, he has only done the latter.

Somewhere likability and accountability will cross paths.
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