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February 15, 2005

The ineffectiveness of the legislature

The best idea Jesse Ventura ever came up with was his idea for a unicameral legislature. One body in the legislature would almost certainly make our government more efficient and maybe even capable of getting some meaningful work done. Having said that, the only downside to this plan is that the one body we would end up with would probably be the House of Representatives.

The Minnesota House of Representatives ... Is there a more ineffective bunch of stiffs than this bunch? Sure, there are a few legislators that care more about Minnesota than themselves, but for the most part I would argue that almost all of them are driven, no hellbent on sticking it to each other. It doesn't matter if a bill actually makes sense, or it would improve our dear state, if the House gets a chance to play partisan politics, or they just get a chance to be plain stupid, they take it with a goofy grin.

The latest example of this is more perplexing than most. I don't know if you saw this, but the Northstar LRT line is pretty close to never happening. The StarTrib wrote a great editorial today explaining in the simplest terms who has done their part to make the Northstar a reality, and why the blame of the resulting inactivity can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the House (yet again).

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has done heroic work in restructuring the project to improve its cost-effectiveness. Rep. Jim Oberstar has worked tirelessly in Congress to keep Northstar in the running. The state's congressional delegation -- Democrats and Republicans -- have rallied behind it. The state Senate has already passed its Northstar bonding commitment. Local officials in Anoka, Sherburne, Hennepin and Benton counties are for it. The public, in numerous polls, favor Northstar and other transit improvements, especially in the wake of the Hiawatha light-rail line's big success.

Only the Minnesota House remains cool. It seems not to have fully absorbed the message, even after losing 13 Republican seats last November, most notably several key Northstar opponents.

Are these people idiots? Do they not see what an overwhelming success the Hiawatha line is? The new sense of urgency comes from the Federal gov't who have threatened to take away their commitment to pay 50% of the cost of the line if Minnesota doesn't act now. 50%. That is half of the $256 million cost. And it would only be the beginning of vastly improving transportation system throughout the metro:
If approved, the diesel-powered Northstar trains would begin rush-hour service in 2008, sharing 40 miles of existing freight track between the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake, with stops in Fridley, Coon Rapids, Anoka and Elk River. Northstar trains would connect with current Hiawatha light-rail trains to the airport and Bloomington, and future light-rail lines to St. Paul and the southwest suburbs. Plans include eventually extending Northstar to St. Cloud.

But no. Legislators in the House, led by Phil Krinkie, have thwarted this effort just like they've thwarted so many other things. Why? As far as I can tell just because it costs money. And this is regardless of whether or not it improves our lives, or even if it doesn't improve your life at least the lives of your fellow Minnesotans, if it costs money it is something to fight against. Why have we become so selfish? You know, there was a time when Minnesota was a "can-do" state. We had something to prove, we solved problems, and we created solutions. However, now we have gone from a "can-do" state to a "what's in it for me?" state. It seems that if people in our state can't see a direct benefit to their own wallet they want nothing to do with the plan. Is anyone else troubled by this development? Am I the only one who sees that Minnesota is changing?

Posted by snackeru at February 15, 2005 12:57 PM | Stadiums


I have also become increasingly frustrated with politics and life in general in Minnesota, I always used to be proud to be from such a progressive and forward thinking state. However, the one thing that has frustrated me over the last few years is the state's lack of vision for the future. I think everything is set up to make the Twin Cities one of the most vibrant metropolitan areas in the country with just a little expenditure by the state. The Northstar is a must, as is the connecting light rail to St. paul, I would also love to see a circle loop like in Chicago that connects all of the major entertainment and business spots in the TC. And of course an architecturally beautiful ballpark in Twinsville and a home for the vikes connected by transport would be spectacular architectural gems (along with the new library) that would further grow the Twin Cities.

However, I digress and am getting ahead of myself, I'm afraid. I just get frustrated with the incredible potential of the Metro Area and how are congressmen keep flitting it away. Right now, I am a 2nd year law student in chicago and always thought that I would be returning to the Twinc Cities upon graduation, but if the legislatre does not step up in the next couple of months either supporting one of the two rail transportation initiatives (How can we turn our back on funds from the fed govt) or a stadium bill, I will likely defect from Twins Territory and opt to stay in Chicago where sports, culture, and public transport are all seriously valued.

Posted by: Vince at February 15, 2005 1:15 PM

I smell a petition for a unicameral legislature coming.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at February 15, 2005 1:52 PM

OK, you just KNEW I would chime in here.

One, I totally agree about the call for a unicameral legislature. I thought that the chowder-head known as Jesse was 100% spot-on with that issue. I mean, I might not agree with the man on everything, but when I do I'm man enough to admit it.

Two, I think to pin the blame on T-Paw and the elephants is a little hypocritical, don't you think? We need both sides to stop all the dinking around and come to some common ground. Finger-pointing and such has become common place lately at the MN Legislature. They cannot get anything accomplished without party lines coming into play. I mean, I could flip this on you and state that it was the DFL-controlled Senate committees that have blocked Tim Pawlenty's appointees for public safety, transportation and education. They have even blamed Pawlenty last year for the fact that it actually snowed (remember that uproar?), even though Minnesota Department of Transportation's statistics on snowplowing show no significant differences in clearance times from past years. The Braying Donkeys were hoping to show that budget cuts affected snowplowing.

As far as the LRT system, yeah it is nice but only time will tell. The only way it will work is if it is expanded beyond the city center and into the suburbs. I kept an old link on why LRTs have failed in other cities and the link is still active: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/351jldsx.asp

It is a great read. And if you need a petition...you have the site from the infamous Tom Ridge link!

Posted by: Brian Maas at February 15, 2005 3:58 PM

Sorry that I blamed the Republicans totally for the lack of legislative effectiveness in the House, Brian. Believe it or not, that was unintentional. I totally agree with you that it is the partisan politics that bother me the most. I don't care which party a person is from, I just want them to do their jobs. I am very happy with the leadership Pawlenty has shown towards the LRT issue and how much he has fought for it. But Krinkie and the rest of the Taxpayers League are the bane of my existence. I feel they are doing more harm than good for the state of Minnesota.

Posted by: Shane at February 15, 2005 5:32 PM

Ah, no need to apologize for idiots. Yep, we Republicans have 'em too. Partisan politics is just sickening and can take the wind out of the best intentions and plans. Same for those stupid public service annoucements like the Taxpayer League that holds me captive while I drive in my car. Thank God for Sirius Radio!

Anyway, I love using the public transit whenever we're overseas but I doubt we'll see such a thing built to its maximum potential in my lifetime. But you're still young.....

Posted by: Brian Maas at February 15, 2005 5:55 PM

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