News of a civil rights complaint by Asian business owners along University Avenue over the planned Central Corridor light-rail project has whipped Minnesota conservatives into a bloviating frenzy, albeit one marked by confusion over which of their prejudices to focus on.
Do we deprecate another minority group claiming special privileges to petition the government? Or, on the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, do we grab one more opportunity to rip into a 21st century transit improvement that will boost the Twin Cities’ global competitiveness? It’s hard to tell which reactionary theme is at the heart of many of the 50+ reader comments appended to the startribune.com report of the complaint.
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The 30-member Concerned Asian Business Owners and their right-wing cheerleaders are upset over traffic disruption light-rail construction will cause and the loss of most on-street parking. Those worries are legitimate to a point, but they ignore the considerable mitigation efforts already underway as well as the proven benefits to residents and businesses along light-rail lines.
Only the hopelessly auto-centric deny that increased traffic via light rail will enhance business prospects in the corridor. The thousands of riders projected for the Central won’t need those lost parking spaces to patronize the restaurants, groceries and beauty salons on University. And more traffic means, as repeated studies have shown, that property values will increase for businesses and homes alike. What’s wrong with that?
Yes, four years of construction will bring some hardships before the benefits accrue with the line’s scheduled opening in 2014. But both government and the private sector are committed to helping businesses of all ethnicities through the tough times. Ten foundations have pledged at least $5 million to a 10-year effort to mitigate adverse effects of the project. Organizers hope to raise $15 million more. The money will go to preserving affordable housing, counseling businesses, improving their marketing and possibly offering them stipends to replace lost sales if construction keeps customers away.
Asian entrepreneurs aren’t the only group standing in the way of the Central LRT. Other minority residents and the University of Minnesota have lodged their own federal complaints, despite significant concessions already granted them. It would serve all of them and the rest of Minnesota to get off the victimization track and board the train to a prosperous future.