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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Transportation As An Election Issue

Category: GOP Politics
Posted: 08/20/16 16:42

by Dave Mindeman

Fritz Knaak is a former Republican State Senator...a long time ago. But he is still sought out by local media, especially the Almanac couch, to have him gauge the state of Republican opinion. He dutifully complies.

He interjected his opinion in the Star Tribune yesterday with a Counterpoint opinion on transportation and the legislature.

Essentially, he is telling us how petulant Metro representatives are being in regards to their support for light rail as part of transporatation....

The Star Tribune's implicit threat to Republicans and others that if Minneapolis does not get its way on light rail, the metro area may take what it wants "and maybe a lot more" in the future ("Transit impasse puts more at risk," Aug. 18), clearly shows it's time somebody tells the emperor to put on a pair of pants.

Darkly noting that "since the Great Recession, nearly all of Minnesota's population growth has occurred in this metro area" the editorial suggests that Greater Minnesota would simply be outvoted and ignored in the future if it didn't give Minneapolis the light-rail funding it wants now.

Fritz is apparently buying into the House GOP strategy of divide and conquer. Rural vs Metro. Farm vs City.

The trouble with that reasoning is that it really isn't rural Minnesota that is blocking light rail - I doubt they care as long as the Seven County Metro sales tax is the funding source. No, it isn't rural MN - it is the Minnesota Republican Legislative GOP.

For years the House and Senate Republicans have been putting obstacles in the way of light rail and expanded transit. They have delayed these projects contending that they cost too much -- and by the very act of delaying they make them cost more.

The Hiawatha Line started all of this, even on the limited basis that it was allowed to be built - but it exceeded expectations. The Green Line has done even better and will soon be a vital connection between the two Twin Cities. The NorthStar wasn't a huge success but cutbacks forced it to end the line at Big Lake instead of the intended hub in St. Cloud. Many St. Cloud residents would like to see it finished.

Rail projects could connect the Metro to Duluth and Rochester, allowing more of the outstate areas to participate in the growth that follows the rail lines.

But the dire warnings of Fritz Knaack say that this is not going to work.

Of course, this argument goes, all sensible people in the metro area support light rail as part of a "broad and integrated transit system."
This, of course, is utter nonsense. Increasingly, east-metro business leaders and even St. Paul DFLers have recognized that they have lost out on a transit plan that is centered on building rail into Minneapolis. Rail advocates have been unable to point to any measurable impact on congestion in the metro area as the result of the billions already being spent on rail, much less the hundreds of millions now being proposed.

Fritz had to specify "east metro business leaders" because most of the other Chambers in the state give full support to light rail. They want it. They know it is good for business. The objections are that the slow rollout of the light rail puzzle are just not keeping up with the demand.

SWLRT is plagued with problems...I'll grant that. But those problems have been encouraged by the House Republicans as a means to obstruct and as Daudt puts it..."kill the train".

As for Knaak'scontention that it hasn't had a measurable impact on congestion, I would say that our congestion problems have grown beyond what the current rail system can help with. I would argue that without commuter rail I would be shuddering at the prospects of Metro commutes right now.

And besides, Republican intransigence in the legislature has slowed the maintenance of our highway system as well. You probably noticed a lot of construction going on this summer...and maybe you are thinking, yeah, it looks like we are really working on it. Truth of the matter is that so many projects have been delayed for so long that it is all catching up with us. The I-494/I-694 corridor has been needed upgrades for a decade. We still seem to be just doing patches to stay within budget.

No, if transportation is going to be an issue for this fall's election, then let's tell the truth. The business community and the public sector agree - this state will need a major transporation overhaul - a comprehensive one including all transportation options - in order to continue our economic growth.

That is the real issue here. Republicans can run on the idea that they want transportation on the cheap. That is their political perogative. But then they should tell people that those roads and bridges will continue to be delayed and cost more to fix -- and those commutes will continue to get longer and less cost efficient. They'll blame the Democrats and Daudt will blame the Choo-Choo trains, but the fact is this House GOP piecemeal and patchwork approach is wrong for our state.

Let's get something done. Allow Democrats back in charge and get things actually working again.
comments (8) permalink

Urban Vs. Rural Is The MN House GOP Strategy

Category: Transportation
Posted: 08/19/16 12:37

by Dave Mindeman

The special session is dead and that means that this year's legislative work will not get done. That's too bad. But we are already into the general election and politics is hard to avoid.

The Republicans are gambling that they can make the DFL insistence on light rail inclusion for the special session the reason it did not happen. They have decided on yet another political division....Metro vs Rural.

It seems the GOP in Minnesota doesn't know how to operate a political campaign without some kind of "us vs them" scenario. For years, they have used social issues as their litmus test. Now, they want the rural communities to blame the metro for any of its own problems.

The truth is that rural and metro are interdependent. The agricultural economy of rural Minnesota is a vital economic engine for the State. But rural infrastructure is still dependent on metro taxes for payment.

It is the mathematics of population. Tax bases are population dependent. The more densely populated, the higher the tax base. Rural areas are simply going to need outside help.

But why does the DFL put so much emphasis on the SWLRT?

Because the House GOP has refused to cooperate on getting it financed. The Federal funding we need to move it forward can easily go elsewhere. All Minnesota needs to do is fund a small portion of it and the entire project can move forward. But the House GOP has put every conceivable obstacle in its path - with the result of making it cost more than the original plan.

The House Republicans are attempting to send a message to rural Minnesota that only "they" truly care about them - and use light rail as a prime example.

Except rural Minnesota is not being asked to pay for it. Metro county taxes will be the funding mechanism. Rural Minnesota will only be asked to share in some initial bonding.

And the House Republicans are also making the sketchy argument that rural Minnesota gets no benefit from light rail. I guess they assume that rural Minnesotans never venture out of their corn fields. That they have no business dealings with the Metro area. Never come here for recreation. Never have investments involved in the population center.

The truth is that light rail, in its metro entirety, needs to get done in order for the entire state to get the benefit. Rural visitors to the Metro want the ease of movement. To be able to expand their reach without the traffic jams and parking problems. Rural investors want to see the development projects that pop up all along light rail routes. Rural Minnesotans want to see their kids have the educational opportunities that are enhanced in the metro community....and want them to be able to commute in a safe and clean way.

And transportation itself is not just a rural or metro issue. Rail and mass transit needs rural political support and rural infrastructure needs the metro tax base to help pay for projects that run through sparsely populated areas.

Transportation should not be a divisive issue. This state is interdependent on its transportation infrastructure. We need roads and bridges. We also need mass transit. They are not separate issues....even though the GOP would have you believe that.

So when you get those flyers in the mail that say Democrats don't care about rural Minnesota because they only support trains, don't buy it. Go with the comprehensive plans that Democrats support. Make ALL of Minnesota important with a full and complete transportation plan.

A Democratic House and Senate will get this done - fully and completely and with a fair taxation plan that meets rural and urban needs.

Vote for ending the gridlock and vote for a Democratic House.
comments (0) permalink

The Clinton Global Initiative

Category: Hillary Clinton
Posted: 08/18/16 15:10

by Dave Mindeman

There is this ongoing criticism of the Clinton Global Initiative as if it is some kind of secret slush fund for the Clinton family. Another example of how everything with the name Clinton on it is fodder for attacks from their political opponents.

The truth is....CGI is working to change the world. Although the Clinton name needs to be attacked here at home, they have garnered immense respect and credibility around the world. So much so that many nations have partnered with them...not to add to the "slush" fund...but to solve real world problems.

As an example of this, here are some of the things that the Clinton Foundation is doing in regards to climate change:

Climate Change

Forestry: The Clinton Climate Initiative's Forestry Program works with governments and communities in developing countries to reduce these emissions by developing sustainable solutions for managing forests and lands. Our goal is to provide developing countries with the knowledge and tools to improve land-use while helping to reduce carbon emissions by planting trees, improving farming practices, and building carbon measurement systems. This work has been supported through government aid funding from Australia, Germany and Norway, with additional project-based funding provided by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Island Energy Consumption: As climate change accelerates, small island nations will suffer a disproportionate share of the global consequences already occurring. Island nations are highly reliant on imported diesel and petroleum, which are not only major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions but are also some of the most expensive fuels in the world. Furthermore, island nations are at higher risk of being impacted by rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns, exacerbating negative effects on our ecosystems and agriculture. The Clinton Climate Initiative has partnered with governments of island nations to develop renewable energy projects, and design and implement waste and water solutions that will reduce fossil fuel consumption and assist the transition to a low-carbon economy - with the goal of replicating and scaling this model to significantly reduce the impacts of climate change by creating resilient communities.

Energy Efficiency in Building: Energy use in the global building sector is significant and on the rise. In fact in the United States commercial and residential buildings accounted for over 40 percent of primary energy consumption. Reducing building energy use through energy-efficiency and monitoring strategies can have significant environmental, occupant health and economic impacts; yet achieving energy efficiency at scale in homes and businesses has remained elusive....we foster sustainable models designed to result in significant, measurable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while enabling economic growth. We design and test innovative market solutions in the commercial and residential building sectors with the goal of developing and scaling these models, nationally and internationally.


Hillary Clinton released her tax returns and was immediately criticized for her charitable contributions going largely to the Clinton Foundation. But why not? She knows exactly what they are doing and that they are making a global difference in the problems she wants to address.

CGI is a difference maker. When I visited the Clinton library in Little Rock about a year ago, I was amazed at all the projects they are funding or partnering with. These are good things. Necessary things. Game changing things.

If the Clinton foundation did not exist, we would have to find someone or some thing to replace it...because CGI is getting things done that quite frankly, everybody else is neglecting or delaying.

Yes, enormous amounts of money are contributed to the Foundation, but it takes enormous amounts to do the things they do.

And, quite frankly, the world is better for it.
comments (4) permalink


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