Hennepin County Floats Funding for Bottineau with No Promise of Repayment

November 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

by Jason Bradley

The Hennepin County Railroad Authority (HCRA) approved $18 million towards development of the Bottineau Light Rail line on November 5th. The development phase of this project is projected to cost $46 million when it’s all said and done. The HCRA’s membership is made up of County Commissioners. Why can’t they handle this in a County Commissioner meeting, then? Because they need to hide this stuff under layers of bureaucracy, so that you either can’t a) find the information unless you know where to look, or b) stand a far less chance of attending their meetings. By breaking things like this up into sub-committees, it gives the County Commissioners a chance to engage in what is a classic shell game. You (the mark) need to try and keep your eye on what committee the issue is being hid under. Is it the County Commissioner Board, the HCRA, or the County Transit Improvement Board?  Can you tell me? That’s the entire purpose of this whole system. It allows cowards to hide behind layers of administration, rather than take accountability for decisions and have to face their constituents.

I’m leaving something out you say? The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) might pay us back for the $18 million. Might… Might? You mean to tell me, that we’re thinking about spending money we don’t have yet without a guarantee from the party we hope to get it from? Would you trust the “let me pay you Wednesday for a hamburger today” guy? In fact, Mike Opat was quoted in last week’s Sun Post as saying, “And it’s never easy to vote to spend some money hoping you’ll get it back and your project is going to be approved. But we’ve done it before, and we’ve done it with some success. And we’ll do it again with this project.” Words like “hoping” and “some success” don’t exactly breed a lot of confidence. In fact, it’s downright irresponsible. I love how he exclaims that despite the risk they’ve done it before, and will do it again. It’s that hubris… that smarmy attitude that drives me nuts. How have we not held this guy accountable?  This is the same guy that says your “rights to do stupid things stops at his property line” (“his” meaning Hennepin County’s (the people’s) property, not his personal property). So the HCRA is floating our tax money in the hopes that the FTA will pay us back with our tax money… (sigh). (This is yet another shell game for a future discussion.)

How will we get the FTA to use tax money to pay back our tax money to the HCRA? It is by doing this project to meet Federal standards. I’d like to know how much Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal, or Brooklyn Park were used as case studies in the creation of these Federal Standards (as if a blanket covering on those cities were appropriate anyway). The problem is this. The homogenization of communities in FTA standards decimates suburbs, as the large metro area counts on the money, workers, and land of the suburban population in order to funnel these resources into the city to keep it economically viable. With light rail, they have decided that they want to control how those workers get to the city, as well.

What is included in the development stage, you ask? What do we get for $46 million? They will begin engineering plans, an environmental review, and obtain Cities’ approvals. The development phase lasts for about two years from when they file with the FTA. We still have time to kill this thing. I’m telling you this, however, if you are seriously opposed to this project, the best way to have a voice is to run for office. You cannot wait until the filing deadline to run. You must start to put a campaign together no later than February. The sooner, the better. If there are enough votes at the City level, we can shut this thing down. According to Joe Gladke (of the county’s Engineering and Transit Planning division) in the Sun Post article, the FTA wants to see local support before they provide funding. The Southwest Corridor is set to receive funding from the state before Bottineau, and state support might not be there. Local funding may not be available. If we can say no locally, both the FTA and state funding may dry up for this project. The choice is clear. Do you want to shell out $1 billion plus for a light rail line that will tear down homes, shut down small businesses, and tear parks and neighborhoods apart, or do you want to keep $1 billion plus in taxes in your own pocket, keep your neighbors, keep local businesses open, and keep neighborhoods and green space intact? Let me be honest with you. In order to stop it, it will require you to take a stand. If ever there was a time to do something, that time is now. Now is our best shot.


Entry filed under: Brooklyn Park, City Government, County, Crystal, Golden Valley, Hennepin, New Hope, Robbinsdale, Taxation, Transportation. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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