11.5.08

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Sidewalk Rating: Exquisite

We are the sidewalks we've been waiting for, as they say. From the songs of birds each morning on the corner to way the maple leaves double in size every day, these sidewalks are a joy to walk upon.

Enjoy the spring.

And may it put a spring in your step!



[What color green are these tiny leaves? Yellowgreensunlight?]



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[A young man demonstrates one use of sidewalks.]


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There's a lot of speculation about whether or not this Central Corridor LRT is going to be built. I think Rich Goldsmith over at the RakeMag has it almost right, in that Pawlenty is using the CCLRT as a big-ass bargaining chip to slowly torture the DFL (and esp. St Paul Rep Alice Haussmann). As Rich writes:
In any case, the legislative session continues on unabated despite the governor's hand wrapped firmly around the collective genitalia of the DFL caucus, squeezing more tightly every day. The only question remaining is just how much will the legislature sacrifice to preserve its precious precious light rail. And whether Rep. Kelliher and Gov. Pawlenty agreed on a safe word. The variable that still remains to be determined, of course, is what DFL legislature has to give up in exchange for freedom. Delicious. Tantalizing. Freedom.


Despite the ubiquitous links to antiquated pop music, it's clear that the Governor realized he only had one tool in his toolbox, and the question really is how much leverage he can get with it. Property tax limits have been a GOP wet dream for years, particularly given Pawlenty's "no new tax" pledge, and measuring its chances of passage in past years would have required a Kelvin thermometer.

As Rich points out, a Statewide cap in property taxes would be a disaster for local governments, expecially Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the first-ring suburbs. Not only would schools, emergency services, parks and libraries get cut, but cities would become so desperate for money that they'd do just about anything that businesses or developers asked of them. It would add to the already stratified metro area map, exacerbating the differences between wealthy areas and poor areas.

But I don't think the DFL would ever agree to a meaningful property tax cap. They're too close to a huge political victory that would make the governor irrelevant: a veto-proof majority in both houses. It's definitely doable! All they need is five or so more seats in the State House.

In other words, there's no way that they would make any real long-term compromises while in this weak position. I think that most every decision that Speaker Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Pogemiller make will revolve around make will revolve around that goal, and any current budget compromise be the mere exchange of minor, short-term political chits. The question is, how much good can come out of this session, while keeping the focus on this fall's pivotal election.

And, as Rich correctly points out, the biggest casualty of this year's negotiation is likely to be the Central Corridor. And call me naive, but I'm not convinced that Pawlenty will block the money. Not only does it represent a huge pot of federal money for the state's economy ($450M), but it's a key part of the regional economic growth plan. In order to compete with other regions like Denver, San Diego, or Dallas, the Twin Cities needs to invest in transit oriented devleopment, and the local business and development community knows it. Particularly in an era of high concern for climate change, and record gas prices, it would be a big F.U. to Pawlenty's business pals to stand in the way of this train. At the very least, it would even further alienate the state's Chamber of Commerce at at time when Pawlenty could really use their state-wide support.

So, count me in the optimistic camp (along with Alice Hausman). I predict some sort of minor budget cutting compromise that does NOT involve a property tax cap, but doesn't significantly cut Palwenty's pet projects (performance pay for teachers, JOBZ).

(On the other hand, I don't see the Gov. signing a Central Corridor bill before the budget is decided. That would seriously compromise his bargaining position, and he's no dummy.)

Update:

Apparently there will be a (hopefully) meaningless property tax cap, I'd bet in exchange for the passage of the CCLRT gets built. As Polinaut says:

DFL Sen. Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said they would also send him a bill that included funding for the Central Corridor Light Rail Line.

Gov. Pawlenty and legislative leaders met around 5 pm to discuss the budget. They met for less than an hour. They say the main sticking point is over the size of a property tax cap. It's uncertain whether they will meet again tonight but both sides said they hoped to meet again.

Update Again:

Things look headed toward a cliff. This train might need a jetpack! Via the Political Animal:

At 10:15 p.m. Sunday, Gov. Pawlenty sent a letter back to DFL essentially reiterating his position that if they don't make a deal on the budget, he'd put the kibosh on their plans for Central Corridor and health care reform.

MN Campaign Report reports.



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In the meantime, the U of MN is not helping things. Here's the latest round of baseless threats from the U's Kathleen O'Sullivan, this time directed at the Feds. This kind of behavior can only hurt the Twin Cities' attempts to get federal transit investment:

In the memo, the U raised concerns about the line's Washington Avenue routing and argued that the law requires consideration of the northern alignment. The university is funding a study of that alignment, but Bell says changing the route would delay the project by at least a year and increase the cost, and he called on the U to retract the memo.

Part of the problem is that the U of MN has devoted a great deal of past resources to auto infrastrcture. A large proportion of students drive to campus, and live all over the Twin Cities. A large proportion of the staff, administration, and faculty drive to campus and live all over the Twin Cities. Just like the rest of the United State, the U has a long legacy of auto-dependence, and shifting to more transit-oriented infrastructure is going to be a big change that will take a long time.

The problem is that the Washington Avenue alignment may represent a quantum leap that would push the U into the 21st century of high gas prices and sustainability whether they like it or not. Plus, it would do a great deal to alleviate some of the administration's long-held misanthropic tendencies.

For example, I saw this sign on campus the other day:

DANGER
This person is...
Choose from the following:

a. uneducated
b. violent
c. angry
d. a thief
e. a human being

[Sign on the University of Minnesota campus pavement in Minneapolis.]


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Five links to elsewhere:



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[If we did have a Pothole Photo Contest, the Roadguy's new entry would be tough to top.]

Just when you thought that the pothole trend had played itself out, along comes more gripping pothole coverage. Like a small pebble rolling down a hill, and creating an avalanche of pothole attention, we've entered a bold new era of pothole blogging.

Meanwhile, the city of Saint Paul has cut its transportation budget, including severe cuts to the Public Works pothole-filling budget.

Thanks to Pothole Pawlenty, we are entering a new Golden Age of pavement pits!

An epoch of asphalt abyss!

A legacy of gaping gaps!

Attention all suspension mechanics... Your dreams have come true!


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Here's another sidewalk website fo you: the Minnesota Astronomical Society (of) Sidewalk Astronomers.

They do astronomy on the sidewalk, in the hopes that people will come by and want to look through their telescopes.

Obviously there's a tradeoff b/w good astroonomy conditions and sidewalks, but I think this makes a lot of sense!


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Three photos:

1) Las Vegas -- via Where



2) North America -- via Strange Maps





3) I forget where I got this photo

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

awesome

dug said...

I can only guess that you write this blog while standing up, because you obviously pull most of it out of your ass without doing any real work. For example:

Rather than being a “GOP wet dream,” levy limits on local governments were reality as recently as 2003-2005.
http://www.lmnc.org/pdfs/LawSummaries/lawsumms03.pdf

The University’s spokesperson on LRT is Kathleen O’Brien, not Kathleen O’Sullivan. I know; those Irish folk all look alike to you…
http://www.uservices.umn.edu/contacts.html

According to the U’s Parking and Transportation website, two thirds of the commuters to the U arrive by bike, bus, carpool or on foot. At the same time, there are about 10,000 parking spaces on campus for the people who do drive to campus. Looks to me like a transportation system as opposed to a “long legacy of auto-dependence.”
http://www1.umn.edu/pts/mission/PTS%20Dept%20Guide.pdf

Here’s a suggestion: go back to writing your pretend-poetry like describing the Washington Avenue Bridge as an “…unusual space, a bridge of mystery and paradox housing endless riddles…” At least I can submit that crap to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

Bill Lindeke said...

Thanks for the constructive criticism, "Dug"!