Buying Influence

January 22, 2013 at 7:26 am Leave a comment


The Chamber is out with another poll that reveals the love for light rail.

No surprise .. when you buy the opinion.

Last fall, the Metropolitan Council handed out $323,000 to ten different groups to promote transit. Most of the programs have similar goals: they want targeted audiences “to be better informed and more engaged about transit issues that affect their communities and individual lives.”

The monies were allocated to:
Bottineau (light rail) – $163,000*
Gateway (bus rapid transit) – $25,000
Hiawatha (“development”) – $35,000
Robert Street (transitway) – $20,000
Southwest (light rail) – $40,000*
*An additional $40,000 was allocated to two projects, shared by Bottineau, Southwest and “The Exchange”

In most of these projects, the activities are anticipated to:
“heighten public awareness and increase understanding translated into sustained support”
“train and prepare resident leaders to advocate for their community in upcoming DEIS process”
“engage corridor-wide efforts armed with positions with community consensus”
“create awareness and then educate our constituency”
“do education, community surveying and data dissemination, transit related research, community events, and making connections”
“outreach to neighbors through individual door knocking; meeting with resident and church groups”

In other words, the Met Council hands out money to seed the community with light rail advocates. No wonder people say they like trains when they only hear one side of the story.

Do you think Gov. Dayton’s proposal to triple metro sales taxes to subsidize transit will be mentioned in any of these engagement or outreach activities? Sales taxes, the most regressive of taxes, fall hardest on these target audiences, mostly minorities. The Met Council knows it doesn’t have enough money to run their full wish list of projects: $150 – $200 million of new revenues need to be identified to subsidize the full system by 2030 (see page 156).   Which “new revenue” are you ready to pay for a train you probably won’t ride?

There would not be as much support for light rail if the people these projects are supposed to benefit knew how much they will cost them.

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Entry filed under: Transportation.

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