density&diversity: Independence Party Transit Meetup

Curt Johnson, who was MetCouncil head (among other things) under Gov. Arne Carlson, spoke at an Independence Party meetup at the Loon Bar and Grill in Downtown Minneapolis earlier this week. It's been boom time for Transit meetings these days, as Pothole Pawlenty seeks re-election, and everyone and their mother tries to get some traction in the effort to unseat the Gov.

Third parties, though, are a tough nut to crack, and your intrepid reporter was in attendance as Johnson gave a very sensible lecture to the IP audience. I was curious how the third party crowd would react . . . Is the Independence Party for or against well-funded mass transit? Their official party principles seem rather libertarian, emphasizing things like local control and personal responsibility. How does that fit with a Light Rail train?

But first, a few quotes from Curt Johnson's speech (apologies in advance for the rough crib notes version of the talk):

Nothing is ever going to cure congestion except a really bad economy [ . . . ] If you want to move somewhere with predictable travel times and no traffic, move to Toledo. [ . . . ] Beyond a certain point, congestion is a problem. Choice matters. Having an alternate system matters. [ . . . ] Right now, the State of Minnesota has two transportation systems. One[, roads, and the gas tax,] is equipped with a fiscal faucet, and it's always on. And. even so, for the first time we barely have enough money to keep the potholes filled.

Transit is even worse. Transit advocates have never been equipped with anything other than a bucket. [ . . . ] We will make no progress on transit in this region unless transit has a faucet too.

We in Minnesota are better than anybody in the nation at admiring our problems. [ . . . ] It's particularly Minnesotan to be stuck in inertia.

[Then Curt Johnson talked about LRT programs in "conservative" areas of the country, like Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Phoenix, Dallas and Denver. He pointed out how only here, in Minnesota, has transit become such a partisan issue.]

Something's gone wrong in Minnesota in the last 10-15 years where we have lost our confidence in our ability to invest in the future.
It was a nice speech, and I thought he did a great job of making such a complex situation simple and straight to the point.

Of course, then the people in the audience started peppering him with questions about PRT, people's inherent desire to be "independent," how nobody likes being around other people on a bus or a train, and how we should really be building a monorail.

But those were just the outliers. I think about half the audience was pretty receptive to his arguement, and I'd like to think that even the Independence Party is getting behind mass transit in the Twin Cities.


Peter Hutchinson made an appearance. I do like him, but I can't stand the fact that his run for governor will cost the DFL candidate the election -- and likely put Pothole Pawlenty back in the Governor's office. If Hutchinson gets more than 7% of the vote, I'll eat my hat.

1 comment:

mike said...

Just a couple notes. The core of the Independence Party is with Curt Johnson on this issue. Clearly we need to build alternitive options beyond more lanes. The questions are really in the details, when we do it lets make sure we do it right basically.

As for Peter Hutchinson the funny thing is he will actually help the Democrats take legislative seats, so while the possibility exists that Pawlenty gets reelected the Democrats will probably be able to controll the action. I'm convinced Peter easily exceeds 7%, but thats another story. Just seeing the response to our convention indicates something is going on with his campaign. You have to remember that Tim Penny while he finished at a mediocer 16% was in the race polling around 30% almost the entire time.

Huge numbers want to vote Independence Party, it's just a matter of them having a candidate that will give the voters the courage to vote their convictions.