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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Misplaced Priorities by Mayor RT Rybak - Stadiums Over Transit and Planetarium

I posted the following to Minneapolis Issues.......

At 10:54 AM 3/16/2004, Laura Waterman Wittstock wrote:
David Strom: "We need to find a way to help low-income workers become less dependent upon government-run transportation, opening up to them the thousands of jobs available around the Twin Cities. Who among the working poor wouldn't rather have a car than depend upon the government to provide their transportation?"

On Tuesday, March 16, 2004, at 09:41 AM, Dan McGuire wrote:

David Strom should scare the livin daylights out of everyone living in Minneapolis. He and those creating this bus shut-down are very clearly willing and eager to see the transit system scuttled.

Strom's statement is probably one of the more absurd opinions we are going to see in a decade. It is quite clear that Mr. Strom has no idea what it means to be poor and have to balance the priorities of shelter, food, clothing, and nurturing. Some poor live in their cars but that is not possible in Minnesota in the winter. Gas is now what, $1.80 a gallon? Add the cost of the car, the maintenance, the insurance, and the percent that takes of a monthly budget for a family of four making $25,000 ($21,249.96 net of taxes) a year is 20%! ($144 for gas, $120 for car payment, $75 for insurance, $11 for maintenance).

Typically for the poor, rent is the biggest item, taking up to 40% of the month's income. Then utilities and food account for another 40%. That puts the choice of a car between clothing and nurturing. One accident. A snow tow. A couple of tickets. Some flat tires. These all spell ruin for the family.

I won't even go into the "thousands of jobs" he is speaking about. Try spending an eight hour shift in a factory that fries potato chips all day or extracts hazardous materials from computers.

Strom is living far, far from reality.

EY: Not to mention people who visit the city or who go to college in the city also like to use the bus system. When I went to Macalester, most students did not have cars. And the college certainly doesn't want all students to have cars.

One reason I really enjoyed my visit to London last summer, and my visit to Kyoto, Japan two years ago is that both of these cities had excellent public transportation systems. Minneapolis is sadly quite behind the curve here.

I also find it offensive that Mayor Rybak uses his bully pulpit to praise Pawlenty's stadium plan which funds the stadiums through TIF financing. What that's equivalent to is saying to a preferred city homeowner - ok - we really want you to live in the city, so we will allow you to apply your property tax towards your mortgage payment.

Why isn't Mayor Rybak working with the same amount of zeal to get the Planetarium through the legislature? This is something many suburban parents would want. I remember well field trips to the Milwaukee Horticultural Gardens (three domes) and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry when I went to the Madison Public Schools. Kids in the area deserve to have similar experiences visiting the Planetarium.

Also - why isn't Rybak challenging Pawlenty to come to the table and bargain in good faith with the Transit workers union. Negotiating through the media is not a good way to build long term good worker moral - and therefore good customer service. Why isn't Rybak putting his mayoral muscle into getting better mass transit funding to metro transit?

As far as stadiums improving the quality of life in Minneapolis - how? The only people who seem to want them are the fans and the team owners. Why not let the team owners pay for the stadiums.

I wonder if the timing of this strike - and that it looks like the Met Council baited the unions into striking - rather than working under the old contract - was a way to intentionally try to delay the light rail implementation. There are so many "we don't want no choo choo trains" fanatics who populate Republican caucuses - that there isn't much sensible discussion of transportation policy from that crowd - and that crowd was the crowd that endorsed Pawlenty - after he went far right on all their pet issues - including transit and light rail.

I wish Arne Carlson were back in the Governor's seat.

I'd suggest that while Strom is in New York City he do a tour of the city using the subway system.