PROXY APOLOGY: Mayor Hodges Aide “I’m Sorry”
By Susu Jeffrey June 29, 2015
Peter Wagenius, Senior Policy Aide to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, apologized at the final Southwest LRT public hearing on June 18—final for this round. The SWLRT budget is approaching $2 billion. It is the largest public works project ever proposed in Minnesota.
In an effort save the project proponents are slicing stations, suburban parking, landscaping and public art. The “equity” argument, providing transportation for predominantly black American Northsiders to suburban jobs, was abandoned months ago to bussing riders to a downtown LRT stop.
Wagenius focused on reneged promises by the Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County Commission to remove freight rail co-location with the proposed LRT trains. The heavy freight rail currently transports ethanol which puts the LRT, and businesses and residences along the route, in the blast zone.
Wagenius asserted that the LRT plan as it now stands is not the same project that Minneapolis City Council members approved in August 2014. Council President Barb Johnson along with members Lisa Goodman and Cam Gordon voted 10-to-3 against municipal consent, then priced at $1.65-billion.
SWLRT is splitting the Democratic Farmer Labor Party into constant growth vs. quality of life.
Wagenius testified: “Thank you Mr. Chair [Adam Duininck, Metropolitan Council chair] and thank you Met Council members for your willingness to hold this [legally required public] hearing.
“I work for Mayor Hodges and she would like to extend her thanks to everybody here—the citizens present for their remarkable politeness and thoughtful comments in the face of this project’s transformation from what it was promised to be, into a totally different project that it is today.
“I will share this experience with Mayor Hodges as a refreshing tonic compared to the collective amnesia which permeates the conversation that takes place at the Corridor Management Committee. At the CMC they were saying it is time, now, for the burdens of this cost cutting to be shared equitably among the five cities along the line, as if the burdens of this project have been shared equitably up to this point.
“At those meetings there was no recognition whatsoever that the burden of freight fell 100-percent on one city.
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“At those meetings there was no recognition that this project was planned to be and promised to be totally different than it is today with freight relocated from the corridor. This is beyond dispute. Whether or not St. Louis Park acknowledges their promise, the fact that Hennepin County promised to reroute the freight is not disputed.
“Ms. [Jeanette] Colby and Mr. [George] Puzak are absolutely right about the origin, the root causes of all these challenges. Southwest LRT has been a project to avoid accountability. Why did the federal government have to force the project to incorporate [the] freight issue into the project’s scope and budget? Did anyone ever think there was going to be a solution to the freight problem which was free?—which did not cost money?
“How much more has it cost the project and the residents of Minneapolis because the freight issue wasn’t dealt with five, 10, 15, 17 years ago. If neither of the government agencies [Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County Commission] responsible for this situation are willing to tell the community, let the City of Minneapolis do it.
“You are right to be angry and frustrated. You are right. Your politeness in the face of this is entirely amazing.
“This is the opposite of what you were told this project was going to be. So if no one else can say it—I’m sorry.” (applause)
Transcribed by the author from Robert Carney Jr.’s meeting audiotape at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUMJyXCa3lg&feature=youtu.be
The Twin Cities Daily Planet published a 38-minute pro-Southwest LRT video with Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin on 6/14/15 in Community Voices. (http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/video-the-future-of-southwest-light-rail/).
The long McLaughlin interview is beyond a “puff piece.” It is propaganda and without balance regarding the controversial SWLRT, the most expensive public works program ever proposed in the state of Minnesota.