St. Paul residents speak out against transit cuts coming from state budget battle

The first public hearing on possible cuts to Metro Transit drew more than 50 residents to the Metropolitan Council Office chambers in St. Paul on July 6.While it remains unclear how much funding for mass transit the final state budget will contain, said John Levin, Director of Service Development for Metro Transit, the cities are planning for the worst. If the most recent proposed budget of the Republican legislature is passed, Metro Transit will lose $109 million over the next two years, about 85 percent of its state funding.That cut would require Metro Transit to make an “unprecedented” 50 cent fare increase, Levin said, in addition to a 25 percent reduction in hours of bus service. More than 130 of 146 bus routes would be affected. Some would have less frequent bus trips, while many less popular routes would no longer run on weekends or be eliminated entirely. Continue Reading

Hundreds protest impending shutdown at Capitol in St. Paul

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol today at 10 a.m. to protest the impending government shutdown while representatives of Governor Dayton and the Republican legislature negotiated inside.The shutdown will officially begin tomorrow if the governor and legislature do not reach an agreement on the budget by midnight.Protestors demanded a budget that would avoid a state government shutdown, raise revenues, and preserve services.Among the protestors were state employees who face job loss during a shutdown, and many residents who stand to lose access to state services.“I have a lot riding on this. My housing, my medical care,” said Cherise Payton, a resident of Duluth. “I have a lot to lose if they don’t pass a budget.”Payton rode in from Duluth by bus to speak at the rally. She told the crowd she had been homeless due to health issues until she was able to receive state funded medical treatment, which gave her the stability to find work and afford housing.If the government is shutdown or state health care services are cut, she said, she might lose what she had gained.“No one should have to choose between medical care and housing,” she told the demonstrators.Other protestors echoed her sentiments.“A lot of programs that affect me are on the chopping block,” said David Johnson, a Minneapolis resident who said he is afraid he will have to put off treatment for his hearing loss. “It will be a hardship.”Speakers and demonstrators also called for the new budget to include new revenue.“A potential government shutdown is only a symptom of the problem,” said Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. Continue Reading

Skyline Tower residents demand lights, street signs

UPDATED 6/15/2011 • The Capital Improvement Budget Committee of St. Paul approved a $154,000 project to add lights, signage, and green space to Skyline Tower as part of their final budget recommendations June 13.Skyline Tower, a low-income high-rise on St. Anthony Avenue near Interstate Highway 94, houses more than 1,000 mostly immigrant residents, but does not have a sidewalk, lights, or street signs.Funding for the sidewalk has been approved and is set to begin this summer, said Jessie Lieb, a HECUA intern and Union Park District Council organizer, but the process for approving lights and signs for the street is still a long way from over.The CIB’s recommendations for the St. Anthony Safe Streets Initiative will be sent to the mayor and city council for approval said John McCarthy, budget analyst for the CIB committee. They will take it up with the rest of the budget in December.Fifteen residents of Skyline Tower attended a public hearing of the Capital Improvement Budget committee on Monday, June 7, to demand that the city add lighting, safety signage, and green space for their building.In addition to Lieb, three residents spoke at the hearing in Somali through an interpreter.“Without the green space or public art, it’s like a factory area,” said resident Hadi Kalif at the meeting. Continue Reading