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.