Posted: 09/17/16 23:34
by Dave Mindeman
When it comes to general transportation, we have to think in a state wide context. All avenues of transportation need to be addressed as the need arises. When northern Minnesota needs bridge repair, general revenue has to be a part of the fix. We generally get that, although politics still gets in the way.
We have generally taken metro transit and laid most of the funding responsibility within the 7 country metro area. We have the Metropolitan Council that oversees the broader plan. And we have the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) board which deals mainly with projects within a condensed 5 county area via a local sales tax.
The CTIB has run into a problem.
Dakota County, saying they are not getting their fair share of Dakota County projects via the Board, in regards to the tax revenue they contribute, are leaving the CTIB. They are taking their revenue out of the broader mix.
Under the by-laws of the Board, Dakota County will continue its contribution until 2018.
Dakota County claims that they have contributed 13% of total revenue for the CTIB, but get only 7% worth of projects in return.
But how is that "getting in return" defined?
Here is one quote on that...
(The Board) pays half of the annual cost of operating the Green and Blue light-rail lines, the Red Line BRT in Dakota County and the Northstar commuter rail in the northern suburbs.
The Red Line BRT operates almost exclusively in Dakota County. The Blue Line (Hiawatha rail) connects directly with the Red Line and offers transit to downtown Minneapolis...which in turn connects with the Green Line going to St. Paul....and the Northstar that moves almost to St. Cloud.
Now how do you define your return on investment?
Do Dakota County residents want that transit access to the Mall of America? The South Metro Outlet Mall? The access to Target Field and the Vikings Stadium? Downtown Minneapolis? The Capitol? Is all that important to them?
Yes, you could say that a small percentage of these projects occur directly on Dakota County property (although the Red Line is almost all in Dakota Count)....but the object of building transit is a more complete access across the Metro. The Dakota County Board obviously has some small minded and limited vision Commissioners.
And if you look at who is on the list...there are former Republican legislators who have been fighting transit projects for years. Mary Liz Holberg and Chris Gerlach stand out the most. And Thomas Egan (not a legislator) who has been one of the more vocal supporters of moving Dakota County out of the CTIB.
The timing for this withdrawal is also odd because the Orange Line is in the mix for the next round of projects and that transit route comes down to Burnsville, directly benefiting Dakota County again.
All of this has, as you might expect, caused some hard feelings with other members of the CTIB. And surprise, surprise...Dakota County projects are having a hard time getting heard with the downsized board.
Tom Egan thinks this is "very unfair" and expressed his displeasure in a Facebook Post:
I find it astonishing that when the grossly unfair financial treatment Dakota County is - and would be - receiving from CTIB is so graphically clear, some CTIB board members still blame Dakota County for all CTIB's problems. Let me be perfectly clear: no matter how the figures are juggled, no other CTIB county comes close to Dakota County's unfair treatment. Thanks for many of you telling me you recognize this fact. And to demonstrate how interested they are in good regional planning, one CTIB county has refused to participate in a critically important East/West Transit Study just because it was initiated by Dakota County.
Let's be clear. I would question Egan's definitions of good regional planning. His definition involves affected county planning only...he refuses to look at a comprehensive picture. Transit is about looking at the metro as a whole...not who gets the right amount of investment return. If you believe that the Green Line and Blue Line do NOT benefit Dakota County, then you have blinders on. The idea that transit can be piecemealed into a patchwork of projects that come out of each individual county based on their own terms is ludicrous. The CTIB deals in a comprehensive transit vision - which Egan apparently has never been able to embrace in his own narrow scope.
And Egan also gets miffed that the East/West transit study gets shortchanged because of this controversy. Well, maybe if Dakota County is withdrawing their financial support from the board, then maybe the other counties might change the priorities. Why not? There is a multitude of projects to work on and if one county decides to take all its toys and go home, then it would seem they lose their right to complain.
The Dakota County Board of Commissioners will go to the voters and tell them how fiscally responsible they have been. And that will be a flat out lie. Just like the House legislative Republicans, they are nothing more than another obstruction to Minnesota transportation.
Chris Gerlach is up for election this time around. A vote for Gerlach is a vote against transit.
Vote Don Post.