Light Rail Anger on the Left

Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Pat Doyle uncovers a lot of disturbing facts in his piece “Light-rail meeting stirs anger.”  Now I know what you’re thinking: light rail? anger? the Tea Party strikes again.  Not this time.

Doyle reports on a community meeting in Minneapolis called to discuss the routing of the proposed Southwest Light Rail project, which (if built), will take commuters from downtown Minneapolis through some of the city’s southwestern suburbs.

There is a lot not to like among the facts Doyle packs into the short article that leads the paper’s Metro section this morning.  It’s tough to know where to begin, and the headline on the web version, “Southwest light-rail gripe session stirs some anger,” is as good a place as any.

The “gripe session” meeting was called “to help calm critics” in the wealthy enclave of Kenwood, which—not coincidentally—is the permanent home of Minnesota’s Democrat Governor, Mark Dayton.  (Minnesota’s Democrats style themselves DFL—Democrat-Farmer-Labor.)

The Governor’s former neighbors are apparently whipped up into a good-old-fashioned NIMBY (not in my back yard) frenzy.  To quote Mongo from Blazing Saddles, the dispute has “got to do with where choo-choo go.”

Not near them, seems to be the Kenwood consensus.  Doyle writes of the Governor’s formerneighbors,
A common argument of Kenwood residents opposed to plans for running the line through their neighborhood, one of the city’s more affluent, is that it won’t provide enough service to poorer communities.

Of course.  Mass transit is a poverty-relief program, so why would you run trains in areas where rich people could hear or see them?  It makes no sense.

The Kenwood meeting was facilitated by consultant Dan Kramer of the firm Grassroots Solutions.

As Doyle reports,

The decision to pay Grassroots for “facilitating” public meetings grew out of closed-door strategy sessions this fall involving Dayton, a DFLer, Met Council officials and leading DFL legislators in response to opposition to the project.

Notice who is conspicuous by their absence:  Republicans.  Democrats, exclusively, got together—behind closed doors—to figure out what to do about their difficulties in selling their Democrat-developed mass-transit project to Democrat voters living in Democrat neighborhoods.  As Doyle reports,

Some of the most vocal critics are DFL activists in the corridor area, who urged Gov. Mark Dayton to intervene.

Intervene he did.  And the solution?  Use taxpayer funds to hire a public relations firm.  And not just any public relations firm, as Doyle reports about Cramer and his firm,

He’s a former aide to Sen. Paul Wellstone, and the firm works for prominent labor unions and DFL politicians.

Maybe it’s just me, but if Gov. Dayton and his fellow Democrats are having difficulty selling the this light-rail project to the Governor’s wealthy, liberal neighbors, perhaps they should not be using taxpayer money to resolve an intra-party squabble.

Cramer’s firm is being paid $22,000 by the government agency Met Council to facilitate a series of public meetings along the route and judging by the headline, he’s off to a shaky start.  Minnesota boasts a plethora of well-financed, left-leaning advocacy groups who support mass transit.  I’m sure any number of these would be happy to facilitate such meetings for free.