Minneapolis snow emergency delayed again

Over the years we have continued to see the city of Minneapolis wait to call a snow emergency.  This time, it wasn’t too much of a burden upon me, as my street had at least one plow through by this morning.  But I have noticed this trend for a few years, where they wait until all the snow has stopped before declaring.

Far and away the worst example of this was the 2009 Christmas storm.  This was one where we got a lot of wet snow, then the temperatures dropped.  That time, I pulled into a slushy unplowed parking spot, and after the temps dropped my axle got frozen to the cooling snow/ice mix.  My only remedy was a plow.

I realize the city must consider the cost of and effectiveness of when to plow.  However, these decisions that are to help us, often can be quite a nuisance for us citizens.  I don’t know what the solution is, but I expect that we will see Minneapolis call a snow emergency later than the rest of the twin city municipalities.

Granted, Minneapolis typically does a better job than St Paul who will usually call the emergency quicker, so maybe there is a method to their madness.  However, I think that disparity in effective snow removal predates the frequently delayed snow emergencies.

-Josh

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I don’t get the U’s complaint

On Monday we saw another complaint from the U about the route of the Central Corridor and its impact on labs in a Strib commentary.

Now this commentary comes from Tim Mulcahy VP for Research at the U.

What gives us pause about this important development is the harm it poses to our critical research mission unless appropriate measures are deployed to protect our research facilities and equipment from harmful vibrations and electromagnetic interference (EMI) associated with the constant passage of 195-foot trains, each weighing 265,000 pounds.

You may remember that the U prefered a route through Dinkytown, not on Washington Ave.  But for the Washington Ave route, they preferred a tunnel.  Looking at this archive from a Pioneer Press article in February 2008, we can verify that.

 The U gave up on hopes for a tunnel beneath Washington Avenue on the East Bank campus.

 Now, I am not a VP for Research, but I have sat in the Cumberland theater adjacent to the Bloor subway line in Toronto, and a tunnel does not mean vibration free.  So my question is why all these complaints when their 2nd choice, a tunnel, was acceptable.  Maybe EMI would be more manageable as there was more solids between the power lines and the equipment, that makes sense to me and I can buy that.  But vibrations, a tunnel would have had the same problem.

Not only that, but the timing seems off, after all they accepted this compromise in February 2008, but there Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) was issued on June 13, 2008.  Wouldn’t you want that demand met before you made the compromise in June 2008.

Later in the commentary we see this, comparing to the situation in Seattle and the University of Washington:

Seattle’s decision to heed its university’s concerns provides a precedent confirming the legitimacy of the same issues raised here and, more important, demonstrates that it is possible to manage such issues to mutual benefit — if only there is a willingness to do so. For the university to throw its support behind the Central Corridor project, we must be reassured that our concerns have been adequately addressed — we need the same consideration that our sister institution in Washington state received when confronting the same challenges. To allow construction on the Central Corridor to move forward before the U’s concerns about the impact on its research enterprise are resolved would be a risky, unnecessary gamble and would place the public’s enormous investment in the university in jeopardy.

So when you accepted the compromise in February 2008, did you do that without assurances, and if so, why did you agree to it?  That would be very stupid.  If the Met Council did agree to things and are now backing out of it, then air the promises.

To try and claim that this instance as precedent is nice, but I wonder if the Met Council could find an example where the University’s demands were not met.  We all want to use an example that tries to make the other party seem less reasonable and your own demands more reasonable.  But with the timeline, and the supposed compromise that the University entered into without the apparent assurances, you have to wonder if this some belated demands or not.

Now I am fan of both science and mass transit, but in case like this we need to figure out what is reasonable.  Right now, based on the facts at hand, I think that the U is not being reasonable.

Now if the U wants to present the dates of their solutions as they list them here, and there better be ones pre-dating the February 2008 compromise, then I open to re-evaluating who is being reasonable.

The university has shared these concerns — along with some proposed solutions — with the Metropolitan Council, the governmental unit responsible for the Central Corridor project, on numerous occasions and in four official document filings.

-Josh

Question of the Day – July 14, 2008

Is there a special circle of hell for those drivers that drive 5 mph below the speed limit, then speed up just enough to beat the red light, while your frustrated self is stuck at the red light?

What can taxes do?

What can taxes do, well fund infrastructure improvements.

Back in February I had blogged the construction on the Devil’s Triangle was going to be delayed for a year (to 2009) because of a lack of funding. Well, that construction project will start this July 16th, as reported in the Strib.

A MnDOT construction project that begins July 16 will create a diamond interchange that should relieve congestion and reduce accidents. But it won’t happen overnight. The project is expected to be completed in 2011, raising new concerns along with the sighs of relief from drivers who have had enough already.

I am not sure why the original reporting had a start date of 2009 and completion date of 2011, while this has a start date of 2008 and still ending in 2011. Probably a change in how the project will be done.

A bypass will be built the first year, Roy said. Once traffic moves onto that, then Hwy. 169’s new southbound lanes will be built — between Brooklyn Boulevard and 93rd Avenue on County Road 81. After that, the northbound lanes will be built.

The Devil’s Triangle isn’t the only construction project that has it’s start time moved up, a number of bridge projects do to.

Nearly 90,000 drivers a day got welcome news Monday, when the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced a major bridge improvement plan that would move up by a year the replacement of the Lafayette Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul.

Construction of a replacement for the bridge, which carries Hwy. 52 drivers into the heart of downtown and has a lower sufficiency rating than the Interstate 35W bridge had before it collapsed last summer, is now slated to begin in 2010.

You would think that replacing an urban bridge, less than 1 mile from the RNC at Xcel would get some priority, but it costs money. Where did that money come from?

State Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel appeared before a House-Senate panel on Monday to share the proposed bridge improvements and other plans for a $6.6 billion transportation package the Legislature put into law over Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto this year.

It is amazing when you invest your money, for the government that is called taxes, what can be done.

By 2018, 120 bridges that lack structural redundancies or rank poorly on a federal bridge rating system would be repaired, replaced or under construction.

Replacing the 11 major bridges would consume about three-quarters of the money. Work has already started on a replacement for St. Cloud’s Hwy. 23 bridge, which officials closed in March. But another bridge that closed recently and reopened on a restricted basis — the Hwy. 43 bridge in Winona — would have to wait until 2014. Crews are set to repair the bridge’s gusset plates this year.

Yeah, that is right, folks in Winona can be happy to know they don’t have to wait 6 years for their work.

I just don’t get the anti-tax crowd, that want to starve government. For our society to function we need to invest in infrastructure to make things work. Fortunately 6 Republican state represents overrode Governor No Pawlenty’s veto.

-Josh

Cold calculation in chasing the cheapest gas prices

I know that seeking the lowest gas price can be about getting the good deal, or just a psychological victory in coping with the shock of $4 a gallon of gas.  But with more and more Americans feeling that pinch in the pocket book we need to do the math in figuring out whether to chase those low gas prices.

Last fill up, I was averaging 25 miles per gallon, which I don’t understand as the previous fill up I was getting 30 mpg with the check engine light on.  Maybe I should have forgone that repair!

So at 25 mpg when gas is $4 per gallon, I am averaging 16 cents per mile in my gas costs.  Now my gas tank holds 13.2 gallons, let us say I fill up when there is 1.2 gallons left, so I am filling up 12 gallons, how far out of the way should I drive for how much savings.

Well if I know of a gas station that is 8 cents a gallon cheaper which means I save a whole 96 cents when filling up 12 gallons, means that I shouldn’t travel more than 3 miles one way or 6 miles roundtrip to break even.  Now if you are thinking green, if you are only driving out of the way to save some pennies on gas, then just give it up because of the greenhouse gas emissions.

The smartest thing you can do is pay attention to the prices of gas stations on your routes and when you need to fill up, go to the one that is usually the lowest.  On days when all the stations go up, well they all go up usually to the same price.  On the other days after they have started to fall, that station will likely be lower than the others as is usual.  For me this means never filling up at the Holiday Station on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis, it is almost always the highest station on my commuting and shopping routes.

-Josh

Minneapolis’ Pedestrian Master Plan

On Wednesday the city and consultants had their first public meeting.

I had something later in the evening, so wasn’t able to stay the whole time. The meeting was well attended, with all seats taken and 10-20 people standing. The consultants only spent 10 minutes on their presentation, focusing more time on comments from the public.

With the pressure to leave early to get to my other thing, I was lucky to get the first questions after the presentation.

My two biggest issues for pedestrian safety are painted crosswalks and law enforcement.

In the fall of 2006 (I think November) all but the final layer of pavement, was completed on Lake St between Minnehaha Ave and about 37th Ave S. At thins point March 2006 (14 months later) that final layer has not been laid, and the crosswalks have not been painted. There was a 4-5 month delay on other segments getting painted crosswalks, and a really horrible situation at Lake and Chicago where the new left turn lanes weren’t painted.

Throughout Minneapolis, the painted crosswalks at controlled intersections, particularly those with stop lights, there is chronic fading issue. The area near my work (in St Paul) has probably been painted 7 times in the past 10 years, some out of it driven by lane marking changes.

The other huge issue is lack of enforcement of Minnesota Statute §169.21 Subd. 2 which is summarized here,

  • Do not enter the crosswalk if approaching vehicles cannot stop. While Minnesota’s Pedestrian law says that motorists must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, it also says that pedestrians may not enter a crosswalk if it is impossible for a driver to stop. The word “crosswalk” applies to both marked and unmarked areas where pedestrians can gain the right-of-way.

Now the city of Saint Paul made a big deal out of this law, and enforces it. City of Minneapolis has been silent on it.

On these two issues, the city of Minneapolis could sure learn from St. Paul. In exchange we could tell St Paul about better methods of snow removal from the streets.

-Josh

Understanding the gas tax through math

Here is the first follow up blog on the gas tax increase in Minnesota that recently passed and survived a veto.

Throughout this blog, I am using historical data from the Energy Information Administration which is part of the Department of Energy. Now because I am lazy, I am going with what I found in a quick search. This is weekly averages over the Midwest starting May 11, 1992 through March 10, 2008. This average is over multiple states, who may or may not have a higher state gas tax than Minnesota, so it is far from the perfect data set, but it will still serve to explain the gas tax as part of the cost of gasoline.

First we shall look at the state gas tax as a percent of the total cost of a gallon of gas. You may have recalled in a previous post I had quoted a letter by Al Sands,

Why are gas taxes pegged at cents per gallon, instead of a percentage of the retail price of a gallon? Most taxes are based on dollars: the sales tax, the income tax, the property tax. Pegging the gas tax on gallons dooms it to constant underfunding. Maintenance costs go up every year.

The point Sands is making, is that the state gets the same amount of money per gallon of gas, regardless of the increase in costs.

So looking at the data between May 11, 1992 and December 27, 1999 the range of the gas prices was from $0.853 and $1.266, I know it makes me cry to see how long these prices were relatively stable and lower. So looking at the maximum and minimum, a 20 cent gas tax would take between 23.4% or 15.8% of the price of gas during this time period.

Today, with the gas price at $3.187 the gas tax at 20 cents per gallon is only 6.3% of the price of gas. Going back to Sands question, if we had maintained the gas tax at a percent of the price of gas, like the sales tax, then the gas tax at 15.8% would capture 50.4 cents per gallon when gas costs $3.187, far less than the 28.5 cents it will be at after the phased in increases.

The next way to see how 20 years of a stable gas tax, not tied to inflation, but volume, has lessened its purchasing power is to look at inflation. Using the calculator on Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis web site we find this,

  • $.20 in 1988 adjusted for inflation equals $.36 in 2008, or

Once again, the gas tax increase we are talking about, will still be less in inflation adjusted dollars than the amount in 1988.

Now you may have remembered this part of the letters I quoted, this one from Richard Meixner,

The price of gasoline isn’t high enough already, so our legislators are going to make it even more expensive.

So for our history lesson.

  • On May 18, 2005 the Senate passed a bill that would raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon.  Governor Pawlenty vetoed either that day, or the following day, May 19, 2005.  The price of a gallon of gas on May 16, 2005 was $2.06.
  • On May 15, 2007, Governor Pawlenty signed a veto of the transportation bill that would have raised the gas tax by 7.5 cents per gallon.  The price of a gallon of gas was at historic highs on May 14, 2007 at $3.158.
  • On February 22, 2008, Governor Pawlenty vetoed the transportation bill that would have raised the gas tax by 8.5 cents per gallon.  The price of a gallon of gas on February 18, 2008 was $3.041.  Of note, the price of a gas of gasoline went up by 10.1 cents per gallon from a week earlier.

When does Meixner expect the gas tax to go back down?  Why isn’t he mad that the increase didn’t come when the gas was closer to $2 a gallon?
At this point your eyes may be glazing over at all these numbers and what they mean to car owners and Minnesota residents, so I will summarize some things for you.

Unless you are looking at absolute dollars, the actual dollars captured in revenue, which have increased (more people, more driving, less efficient vehicles), we are getting less bang for the buck.  The percentage of the price of a gallon of gas that is paid to state taxes has gone down.  Also the value of the gas tax at 20 cents per gallon has diminished due to inflation, to keep up with inflation, the 20 cents in 1988 would now be 36 cents in 2008.

Governor Pawlenty has his opportunity to raise the tax in 2005 when the cost was close to $2 per gallon, instead he vetoed, then he used the much higher prices as the reason against raising it in 2007 and 2008.

At what point in time does  he think the price of gas will go down significantly?  At what point will he think that funding is inadequate enough to warrant an increase?  Does he really think that Wimpy’s pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today is the proper way to fund large scale transportation projects, which had no takers.

With the MN Department of Transportation building falling down, with I-35W bridge having collapsed.  With potholes on highways and city streets leading us down the road to challenge Manitoba for the label Land of 100,000 Lakes.  The state legislature, including the crucial six House Republicans voted to override Governor Pawlenty’s veto, which Minnesotans, and especially the suspension and wheel alignment in our cars, will benefit from it.

-Josh

Transportaton funding in Minnesota

If you are in Minnesota, these two past weeks have been all about transportation. We had a report from the state auditor, we had a comprehensive bill passed by the state legislator, followed by a veto from Governor Pawlenty, followed by the legislator overriding the veto, and finally an ouster of Lt. Governor Molnau from her position as Commissioner of Transportation.

I am going to look at all of these issues in a number of future blogs, but in this first blog I am going to focus on what we the people are saying in letters to the editor in the Strib and Pioneer Press.

From the Strib on Feb 25, written before override vote, (this is the only letter that is not in its in entirety, the rest are),

This transportation funding bill is a compromise and reflects the legislative process at its best. This compromise has the support of not only the Itasca Project and its 45 CEOs of the state’s largest companies, but it has the support of virtually all of the state’s major business and trade organizations.

We understand and respect Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s philosophical views and his opposition to any tax increases. However, the Itasca Project participants and the Minnesota business community leaders recognize the need to invest in and maintain our state’s vital transportation infrastructure. We see daily how growing congestion makes it increasingly difficult to move products in our state’s economy.

JIM CAMPBELL, MINNEAPOLIS, COCHAIR OF THE ITASCA PROJECT AND THE RETIRED CEO OF WELLS FARGO BANK, MINNESOTA REGION; AND Mary Brainerd, Minneapolis, cochair of the Itasca Project and CEO of HealthPartners

So Minnesota business leaders are saying that Pawlenty is against any tax increases, and they are calling this increased taxation an investment.

Next in the Strib on Feb 26, we have this letter,

Pay as you go?
The Legislature and the governor agreed that our transportation system needs fixing. The only question was how to pay for it — raise the necessary funds through taxes, or borrow money and go into debt, adding interest to the cost, and postponing payment into the future?

Gee, our children only have the egregious national debt, a troubled Social Security system, health care for an aging population and global warming to worry about. Why not saddle them with roads, too?

LISA WERSAL, VADNAIS HEIGHTS

This letter is getting to the heart of the funding process. Do we want to pay for the needs as we go, or do we want to borrow? I suspect that continued borrowing will hamper our ability to deal with our roads and we will discuss this further issue in further detail in later blogs.

Next we have this one in the Strib from Feb 27,

VETO OVERRIDE
Odd timing

How grimly ironic! The federal government is sending out tax rebates to stimulate the economy and ease the recession, but before the checks are even in the mail, our local government has decided to steal our rebates by raising our taxes with the help of a few Republican turncoats.

The price of gasoline isn’t high enough already, so our legislators are going to make it even more expensive. This nation is facing the worst recession in decades. The cost of food and energy is skyrocketing, and people are losing jobs and their homes in record numbers. Bankruptcies are setting records, people can’t afford health care or medication, and lawmakers raise our taxes to build a ballpark for a private enterprise and fix a few bridges.

Simple economics dictate that when finances are maxed out or stressed, one should cut back on spending. Not so with our local legislators — they do just the opposite and spend more of our money.

RICHARD MEIXNER, CHANHASSEN

Ah, the standard Republican frame of taxation as theft. On the issue of timing, apparently Mr. Meixner has a very short memory. This legislature tried to raise the taxes in 2007 and in 2005, in 2005 the price of gas was around $2.00. In another blog, I will discuss the issue of the amount of taxes in terms of inflation adjusted dollars, and as a percentage of the price of a dollar of gasoline.

In the Strib on Feb 29, there were two posts. The first questions our education system, the second is a very valid point.

Repeat of 1776?
Once again, there was a tax levied without a referendum. The 0.025-cent increase in the metro-area sales tax is reminiscent of the tax increase that was levied on Hennepin County for the new Twins ballpark.

There was a time in our country’s history when colonists went to war with Great Britain over taxation without representation.

JON MCCOLLUM, PLYMOUTH

Maybe Mr. McCollum has been watching the View too much, or maybe Whoopi Goldberg has a book on Civics that should be burned, but he has been represented. The legislator has two bodies, one is the House of Representatives (hmmm, that seems ironic) and the Senate, both are representative forms of democracy. Now I will cut him a little slack because there are provisions for direct democracy, in the form of the referendum, for stadium funding. I would have liked to have the chance to vote on the Twins stadium funding, but the representative body, the legislator has the ability to override that.

The second letter that day,

The hidden cost
To all those who think the gas tax will cost us no more than $4 a week, please consider how most products travel — by road. This tax will trickle down into most products and services. Suppliers now have an opportunity to raise their current delivery charge because of the tax. Don’t fool yourselves, it will cost you more for the few it will benefit.

JOE KOHAUT, BURNSVILLE

I think the overall concept is very dead on. Increases to energy costs will be passed on to consumers. There are two issues I have with the letter, it isn’t $4 per week, it is $4 per month. On the issue of suppliers now have the opportunity to raise the costs, apparently Mr. Kohaut has his head in the sand. Costs have been going up already, the rise in the cost of gasoline, independent of any increases in gas taxes, over the past decade, has driven this, they have not been waiting for this tax increase to justify it.

Over in the Pioneer Press we have these letters.

Note: since they don’t list the date in the paper on the web page, I am going by the last time updated on the web page

On Feb 20 we have this one,

Unsafe investments
During the past two years, my wife and I invested more than $50,000 into our East Side home. This included energy-saving systems for heating, cooling, water and new windows. We calculated hundreds of dollars a month in savings. That allowed us to finance it all.

In other words, we made a huge investment in our future and in the city of St. Paul. Now, politicians want to steal it away, saying we are also responsible to make a huge investment in everything they dream up.

Our property taxes are going up by double digits. The DFL plans a 38 percent increase in the gas tax, a 13 percent increase in sales taxes and a drastic, expensive overhaul of health care. St. Paul schools, with enrollment falling by 1,000, want more money, instead of making necessary cuts.

Truly, 2008 is the year of political insanity. Politicians have shown there is no reason to invest in the future, because they plan to steal from it as soon as it arrives.

DAVE RACER

St. Paul

First, we get the taxation as theft again. Second, we use accurate, but extremely misleading numbers by using percent increases, it makes it seem much bigger than it is. Third, apparently investing is okay, but only on a personal level, not on a societal level. Unless they go out and fund an off ramp that benefits them and others, I just can’t get this selfish hypocrisy.

On Feb 25 we have this one,

Don’t raise tab fees
Regarding the Minnesota transportation funding law, I have noted numerous comments about the proposed increases in gasoline and sales taxes, but little about possible effects of the increase in license tab fees. We need to raise more tax dollars for transportation purposes, but I feel strongly that license fees on new motor vehicles should not be increased.

The increase will discourage me and probably many other potential buyers from buying a new car anytime soon. It had this effect the last time the license tab fees were outrageously high, and it will again.

The economy appears to be in a pre-recessionary state. The U.S. government is planning to send “rebates” to encourage spending, thereby stimulating the economy. The Minnesota law may have the opposite effect, adding to the problems of an already-struggling automotive industry.

Richard Fayling, White Bear Lake

When Jesse Ventura reduced the license tab fees I thought it was a huge mistake. As my friend Rick would say, “no one put off buying a car because the tab fees were too high.” Now apparently he was wrong if Mr. Fayling is being truthful. My best guess though is that Mr. Fayling took advantage of reduce tab fees post Governor Ventura’s action, and may be looking at getting new car in the next few years. If the tab fees go up, and don’t change in the future, it will just be a part reluctant part of his calculation. The automotive industry is hurt by more things then a gas tax increase or license tab fee increases.

On Feb 27, we have this letter,

Unpleasant but necessary
Been to the dentist lately? Like it? They sit you down, make your head numb, and drill your teeth. Unpleasant but necessary. If we don’t go, our teeth rot. I knew a man who never saw a dentist. He died from an infection caused by tooth decay. Unpleasant.

Nobody likes taxes, either. Unpleasant but necessary. We need what they pay for.

The irony surrounding the gas-tax increase is striking. We bellyache about our roadway infrastructure, yet scream when people we elect say it’ll cost 8.5 cents a gallon in tax to fix. This while we meekly drive our SUVs to gas stations and pay price gouges of 25 cents a gallon whenever some oil potentate has flatulence.

Oil executives go from wealth to obscene wealth while our bridges and highways crumble.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty says borrow the money. Let the grandkids pay for it. Brilliant, Tim.

Maybe an adjustable-rate loan?

C’mon, get real!

A.T. Chapman, Cottage Grove

This letter writer makes a good point about increases in gas prices in comparison to the permanent increase in gas tax that our government will capture (not steal) to invest in our transportation system.

This following letter is the far and away my favorite one from the past week. I think the writer hits a huge and important issue, how we calculate the tax. This from Feb 27 in its entirety,

Revising gas-tax collection

Why are gas taxes pegged at cents per gallon, instead of a percentage of the retail price of a gallon? Most taxes are based on dollars: the sales tax, the income tax, the property tax. Pegging the gas tax on gallons dooms it to constant underfunding. Maintenance costs go up every year.

Changing to a dollar base might not be enough. When I buy a hybrid that uses half the amount of gas, your funds will decrease. And when I buy a “plug-in” that goes on electricity, what then?

We need better solutions. Perhaps a quarterly or annual mileage report, with a tax based on mileage pegged to the current price of gas, might help. We also have the technical ability to assess road-use taxes based on cameras mounted in the metro area. What else?

Elwyn H. (Al) Sands, Roseville

Mr. Sands asked a question that no one else I have read this past week has, why is the tax a fixed amount per gallon, as opposed to a percentage of dollar cost for the fill up.  If it has been structured this way, the amount collected would have tripled in the past decade as the price of gas has tripled.  Both methods of calculating will have the same issue with increased fuel mileage standards leading to reduce gas consumption, and the corresponding reduction in tax collection.  However, he does offer a solution, in terms of taxation tied to miles driven.  Any program like that should have credits or breaks for rural drivers as they have less control over the their driving options than those of us in large urban areas.

This Feb 28 letter has a good point,

The Easy Way Out
Since the collapse of the I-35W bridge, I’ve read article after article on how MnDOT is mismanaged, lacks controls and doesn’t know how to prioritize projects, so the logical answer from our politicians is to throw more money at them. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are a number of residents who think that by overriding the governor’s veto the Legislature showed democratic leadership in doing the right thing. How is throwing more money at a mismanaged department showing leadership?

If I had to define democratic leadership, I would say it’s having the courage to face a department like MnDOT and its associated unions and tell them that before approaching the taxpayers for more money, they must become better managed, develop effective internal controls and learn the art of prioritizing.

Our politicians took the easy way out. I hope that there are enough voters like me who will show them how easy it is to show them the way out.

Terry L. Roepke, St. Paul

Do we want money to go to a broken department?  No, but there was an attempt to hold this department accountable, and that was through giving Molnau the boot from the top spot.  The acting and new Commissioner, whoever that might be, will need to be held to a higher standard.  Regardless, the money is needed.

As I said at the beginning, I will be posting more blogs on issues related to all of this in the coming week.

-Josh

Fixing the Devil’s Triangle

There was front page article in the Strib on the traffic congestion at the Devil’s Triangle.

In society, a common label for Democrats who wish to invest in society is tax and spend liberal.  Sometimes you can see the spittle coming out right wing pundits as they say it.

But if we take framing lessons, framing meaning how to present an idea in a positive light, then I think a better explanation of this position is tax and invest.  Supporting people at the low end of the income scale is an investment, building infrastructure is an investment, and funding public education is an investment.

A frame that we don’t hear is spend and borrow conservatives.  While it is harder to label state level politicians with this, after all most states have balanced budget requirements, so they can’t run up deficits like Republican presidents.

But Governor Pawlenty decide to come up with a unique plan to fund the Crosstown project, what I like to call the Wimpy funding scheme.  Did you ever watch the cartoon Popeye?  Remember the large figure Wimpy, who was always proposing that he will “pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”  Well Pawlenty had a novel idea, lets ask the construction companies to build it and we will pay you later for it.  As MPR reported,

When MnDOT said a few months ago it didn’t have enough money to pay for the project, it asked contractors bidding on the $250 million rebuild to loan the state the funds. The contractors rejected the idea and warned at the time they’d refuse to submit bids. That’s exactly what happened.

Unfortunately, this funding plan, which found no takers, has caused ripple effects that impact other construction projects including the Devil’s Triangle as the original article states,

Work that would lift Hwy. 169 above two county roads was supposed to begin last year, but the money got switched to pay for the Crosstown project.

The Legislature and governor didn’t come up with replacement funds for the 169 project during the 2007 session. Now the work is set to start in the second half of 2009, with completion late in 2011.

So the poor drivers that travel through the Devil’s Triangle are stuck in congestion for years on end because Pawlenty vetoed, not once, but twice a gas tax increase.  Oh, and those replacement funds, the Legislature passed a gas tax increase in 2007, that was Pawlenty’s second veto (first in 2005), so the Governor blocked the Legislature.

-Josh