COMMUNITY VOICES | Eden Prairie’s SWLRT Municipal Consent Hearing


The recommended preliminary plan to align light rail and freight rail through the Kenilworth corridor in Minneapolis or (during earlier considerations) routing freight rail through St. Louis Park, has so fascinated the scribes at the StarTribune and MinnPost and local television news assignment desks that Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie have attracted minimal reportorial interest.  Journalistic coverage of their light rail issues has only been generated by Sun and Eden Prairie News community weeklies and occasionally by the excellent Finance & Commerce.

That changed somewhat this week.  The City of Minnetonka held its SWLRT “municipal consent” public hearing on the recommended preliminary route and station location within its city boundaries on Monday June 2nd.  Residents and owners of the stately looking Claremont Apartment complex were among those who requested a slight re-route and an LRT station. 

The current alignment in their neighborhood cuts along the top of a forested escarpment within earshot of the rambling south side of the apartment complex.  Even though residents and owners have had more than a decade’s worth of SWLRT community meetings to lobby for an alignment and (more recently) a chance to sit on the project’s citizens advisory committee, it seems that few if any of them were dutiful in representing their interests in an ongoing manner to City and SWLRT planners. 

That said, the purpose of the municipal consent hearings in each of the five SWLRT cities is to provide residents and businesses at this early stage of the project a formal opportunity to comment on track alignments and station locations to possibly make them better.  Both elements, of course, are subject to environmental, cost, safety, engineering and political concerns. Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider and his City Council colleagues and staff will seriously consider the Claremont requests but unlike Minneapolis, Minnetonka will not stop the entire light rail project for a local problem that is either unsolveable or could be fixed after the municipal consent votes. 

The Strib and Finance & Commerce did report on the Minnetonka hearing but they and the rest of the regional media ignored the far livelier municipal consent hearing in Eden Prairie two weeks earlier.  The embedded video is my take on that hearing and is featured in the current edition of Democratic Visions, the independent, cable access and Internet program I produce with help from other un-paid volunteers.  (See below for cable schedule.) 

I was interested in the tone and content of my hometown’s municipal consent hearing.  With our in-your-face, right wing Republican Party and Tea Party operatives, Eden Prairie politics are edgier than those of our suburban neighbors.  EP’s right wingers have attacked light rail as vigorously as the anti-light rail, DFL insiders and PBS liberals said to live along the Kenilworth Corridor.   Who would have thunk it? –  Bill Moyers viewing NIMBY’s in Kenwood and Fox-TV News addicts in Eden Prairie on missions with the same goal – kill light rail.  From reading the objections to light rail of each platoon, one can assume that light rail transit would be as sure an end to La Vida Minnesota as an Al Qaeda incursion into both the city of lakes and the suburb of cul-de-sacs.

Municipal consent kinds of public hearings do attract folks who have reasonable requests for change as well as the smug, self-involved, anti-government, Bill O’Reilly populists of our times.  This was the case at the Eden Prairie hearing.  Local bullhorns Sheila Kihne, Donna Azarian, Frank Lorenz and Steve Smith spoke of their disdain for light rail.   Collectively, they were an unintended homage to that academe situated, Groucho Marx warbled tune “What ever it is I’m against it” from the 1932 comedy “Horse Feathers.”   

The foursome and their confederates applauded one another after each one’s respective turn at the podium; it is one that faces the officious Eden Prairie City Council bench with its department chiefs and electeds including the adept and cordial Mayor, Nancy Tyra-Lukens.  The LRT opponents did generate a few laughs but employed O’Reilly inspired rhetorical technique.  Bill, however is a highly paid pro.

Attending the hearing too, was a smaller but much more realistic and reasonable crowd of pro-LRT representatives from Eden Prairie’s business and minority communites.  They and a majority of all Eden Prairians (according to a City of EP survey) do want light rail to serve Eden Prairie.


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