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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Airline Oversight: We Can't Compromise on Safety

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 04/11/08 11:11

by Dave Mindeman

A lot of airline passengers are grumbling and staring down the departure boards at airports these days. A crackdown by the FAA on inspection reports has been a set back for the flying public.

In a way, Congressman Oberstar may have been slightly responsible -- in a small way. He seems to be taking his job of oversight seriously....and its about time someone did.

We have not had a major airline incident since 2001 (although we have had a disturbing number of small plane crashes), but that may be more happenstance luck than giving kudos to the airline industry. The recent revelation that Southwest Airlines had skipped inspections was an eye opener for many. And it begged the obvious question -- how many more "shortcuts" have been taken?

I flew to New Orleans over spring break and on the flight back while sitting on the tarmack waiting to take off, we got one of those little captain "announcements" ---

"Ladies and Gentleman, the co-pilot will be walking through the cabin to get to the rear of the plane. He will be making a visual inspection of a puddle of liquid underneath the wing. We want to make sure we are not leaking hydraulic fluid."

Now, I am not a calm flyer and my knuckles turned a new shade of white as I watched the unifomed pilot march to the back. My mind gets unusual thoughts in these situations -- "Why don't you have somebody lick the tarmack? You can taste oil for pete's sake? A visual inspection? What's that going to tell you? Are you guys crazy? You can't let this fuselage of death take off!"

Well, after about 15 minutes, the captain's voice came back and the ground crew had indeed, tested the puddle, and it turned out to be only condensation from high altitude during the previous flight.

My knuckles went back to their normal shade of white and the plane flew back to Minneapolis without incident.....although I was listening carefully for any unusual landing gear sounds.

The point here is, the flying public is completely dependent on the airlines and its overseers all doing their jobs. The profit margin in the industry is tight and temptation is high to cut back on costs whereever they can. It's just that safety can't be one of those places. The FAA has to make sure that shortcuts aren't taken in that area.

That is why Congressman Oberstar is the right man for the job.
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Minnesota Politics: Around the Horn #2

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 04/10/08 18:23

by Dave Mindeman

Steve Sarvi: The Rochester Post Bulletin reported the campaign finance numbers on DFL challenger in the 2nd district, Steve Sarvi...
... DFL challenger, Iraq war veteran Steve Sarvi of Watertown, was to report donations to date of $114,946, including $42,111 in March, his spokeswoman Bridget Cusick said. He ended the quarter with $38,672 in cash on hand. She said she expects fundraising to quicken after Sarvi steps down from his job as the city administrator in Victoria effective May 9, just after the district nominating convention on May 3.
Have to hope he can do better than that in the future.....

MN Presidential Polling: In case you missed it.. a March 20th poll by Survey USA had these results in head to head matchups for Minnesota:



In the state of Washington on April 7th, these were the results:



Shows that Clinton and Obama matchups with McCain produce very different campaign maps.

Twins Stadium: Yes, it is April 10, and we have yet another storm watch. Just one more opportunity to point out the virtues of outdoor baseball!

Bonding Bill: It has a tinge of irony. The governor vetoed the $70 million for Central Corridor; but he approved $74.5 million for hockey arenas in Duluth, Bemidji, Crookston and St. Cloud. Maybe we need skates on the trains??????
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Minnesota Transit: Do We Move Forward or Backward?

Category: Transportation
Posted: 04/10/08 04:43

by Dave Mindeman

Two steps forward, one step backward. That's the ongoing story about mass transit in the state of Minnesota.

Maybe some of you think gas prices are going to "hold" at $4.00 a gallon (yeah, right!).... or that commutes are going to get easier (dream on!)....or that construction costs won't keep going up (that's a negative!).

The rest of us are looking at the hard realities of a future that is going to have to provide more transportation options. But the old ideas keep taking their toll; it's like trying to move a boat while the anchor is still dragging on the lake floor.

There are several "potential" light rail lines on the drawing board. They are going to cost a lot of money and the benefits will not be realized for some time. But they can never give us that benefit if they are stuck in the blueprint stage. We have got to move on this issue and as they say, time is money.

Pawlenty's veto of the Central Corridor funding is yet another short sighted politcal stunt that will cost us more in the long run. He thinks the price tag was high before --well, just wait, governor.

But it's not just the light rail issue. Here in the South Metro area they have been talking about Bus Rapid Transit for years. Study after study and delay after delay...it still hasn't been started. For years, legislators in our local districts complained about costs, complained about value, complained about real benefits. And though, they are finally giving lip service to supporting BRT, there has been little in the way of action.

And then there is transit taxing districts. Two south metro communities, Lakeville and Farmington, think that transportation issues are always "somebody else's" problem. Even though residents of these communities use the park and ride facilities in other cities, city leaders continue to fight tax district inclusion.

Oh, they will eventually do it... they will have little choice in the future. These two communities are the fastest growing suburbs in the area and at some point, their citizens will demand some options. The number of commuters keep growing and these "civic leaders" stand and watch as the problem escalates.

They managed to block a legislative amendment that would have forced them to join the surrounding cities in funding transit options.... a hollow victory at best, because the problem only grows.

Transit opponents (especially of light rail) keep fighting these projects to the bitter end. Critics of light rail keep using figures that show a small percentage of transit use involves light rail. They leave out the small detail that we have managed to BUILD ONLY 11 MILES OF TRACK! Central Corridor is back to square one. Northstar is just now getting its funding. The progress is painfully slow.

I have used the mass transit systems in other metropolitan areas. To many of them, it is unthinkable that they could survive without it. We think of Minnesota as a modern, progressive state... we think of ourselves as leaders and innovators. But, we have a problem... a serious problem... in our transporation system.

We have to take more than two steps ahead at a time and we have to stop allowing the one step backward slips. We need a serious, long term committment to getting a modern, efficient system in place. That will take money; it will take community leadership; it will take a certain amount of sacrifice.

The benefits to a modern transportation system are real. Less pollution.... reliable commutes....economic development along the lines....more efficient movement of goods and services. But none of those benefits can be realized if we don't move ahead.

Let's take those two...three...four steps forward and don't look back.

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