Bill would require that Met Council get Legislature’s OK on housing plans, funds

The Legislature would gain control of the Metropolitan Council’s housing purse strings, under a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Vogel (R-Elko New Market).HF1969 would also make the Metropolitan Council’s long-range plans and goals for affordable and life-cycle housing in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area subject to legislative approval.[Right: Rep. Bob Vogel]The House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee laid the bill over Wednesday for possible inclusion in a later bill. There is no Senate companion.Kim Crockett, chief operating officer at the Center for the American Experiment, questioned whether housing falls under the Metropolitan Council’s legislative authority. She praised Vogel’s bill for “reasserting the prerogative of the Legislature in the area of housing.”Judd Schetnan, Metropolitan Council government affairs director, agreed with Crockett that housing isn’t like the sewage or transit systems his agency runs. But Vogel’s bill would make housing more of a system than it is today, he said, and he asked whose interests the bill served. “We’ve not heard from cities who have asked for these changes.”One local official backing the bill is Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik, who told committee members the Metropolitan Council goal for her city — 932 new units of affordable housing in the decade ending in 2030 — “doesn’t make sense. Continue Reading

Metropolitan Council water plan gets feedback; new plan addresses Twin Cities concerns

A new plan aimed at preserving water resources in the metro area is set to begin next month.A public hearing for the Metropolitan Council’s Water Resources Management Plan, which is part of a larger 30-year plan, called Thrive MSP 2040, was held Tuesday.The council will adopt the new water resources plan in April, and it will address treatment of waste water, as well as prescribe steps to protect surface water and conserve water supply, said Judy Sventek, Metropolitan Council’s manager of the water resources assessment.“It’s all of us working together to get that end goal of sustainable water resources,” Sventek said. “It’s a very high goal, and it’s going to take a while.”The full 2040 plan will also focus on transportation, housing and public parks in the city.The plan will serve as a blueprint to find the best use of infrastructure and resources, and it highlights Twin Cities areas that need funding, Ward 1 Minneapolis City Councilman Kevin Reich said.Patricia Nauman, executive director of Metro Cities, a community group tasked with overseeing the Metropolitan Council, said at the public hearing Tuesday that she is concerned the new water resources plan doesn’t define what the council’s role would be in its implementation.“Making sure that there is clarity around those roles will be very important,” she said at the hearing.City officials recently discussed the plan and prepared comments, which were approved at a Transportation and Public Works Committee meeting last week.Reich said the plan misjudged Minneapolis’ growth in the next 10 years.City researchers think population and development will increase in the Twin Cities in the future, which is contrary to the plan that says growth will occur outside the cities in suburbs, he said.Reich said misallocating resources to the suburbs instead of the city could lead to monetary losses for local governments.Lisa Cerney, director of surface water and sewers for Minneapolis Public Works said the new plan is centered on viewing issues related to the region’s water resources as a whole.This water plan focuses on cooperation between local governments and nonprofit organizations, Sventek said.The full City Council will prepare its feedback to the plan next week and submit it to the Metropolitan Council.[See original article here: http://www.mndaily.com/news/metro-state/2015/03/10/metropolitan-council-water-plan-gets-feedback] Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | North Minneapolis Transit Forum: SWLRT

A little after 4 pm on Wednesday April 9, the Met Council will consider a slightly revised recommendation for the scope and budget of the Southwest Light Rail Project.  When completed, the new light rail line will become the westerly length of what the Met Council has branded “The Green Line.” It will link St. Paul’s Union Station to Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie – and the hundreds of businesses and scores of communities along the line.Over the past year, major regional media has obsessed on controversies prompted by recommendations by planning engineers and SWLRT project committees of citizens, businesses and municipal, county and state officials, to route light rail along an active freight line through the so called “Kenilworth Corridor.”   Hundreds of recreational and commuter bicyclers travel through corridor between Kenwood and Cedar Lake neighborhoods every day.Teams of planners, consultants and citizens have addressed the challenges of co-locating freight, light rail and bike trails though what folks have come to think of as a recreational area.  The prospect of moving the freight trains to St, Louis Park or Chaska has now been rejected as unfeasible several times.  Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback and frosh Mayor Betsy Hodges (in a SWLRT Project committee) have consistently argued against Kenilworth co-location plans called for running LRT through tunnels hidden by the bike trail and vegetation.With pinched sound bites and careless headlines, bolstered by hundreds of reader comments (caustic spitballs for the most part) in the Strib’s coverage, the Kenilworth controversy trumped all other aspects of the $1.6 billion project.  Light rail, if one only browsed Minnpost, the StarTribune and TV news one of the following:1. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The future of Southwest Transit and light rail

Southwest Transit CEO Len SImich and progressive broadcaster Nancy Nelson discuss the future of commuter bus service and light rail transit in the southwest suburbs on the current edition of Democratic Visions.Simich says that Southwest LRT project planners and the Met Council are expected to begin negotiating terms that would enable light rail to share SW Transit’s large station, parking ramp, restaurant and condo-apartment complex wedged between Highway 212 and Technology Drive and Purgatory Creek Park, Eden Prairie’s most heavily used, non-athletic park.But those negotiations, says Simich, will only occur if the Met Council chooses to run light rail as far as or beyond Southwest Transit’s large Eden Prairie hub at Technology Drive and Prairie Center Drive.  The publicly owned bus company serves Eden Prairie, Chanhassen and Chaska.  Simich and Nelson agree that the Met Council should not attempt to diminish this award winning commuter service to provide advantage to its own, much larger Metro Transit bus service or light rail.  Carver County, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen and Chaska have passed resolutions of support for Southwest Transit’s position, but Simich reports that to date, the Met Council has shown little interest in discussing the issue with Southwest Transit.This is a direct link to the story on YouTube.Democratic Visions is produced by volunteers through DFL Senate District 48 at the Bloomington Community Access Television studio by arrangement with the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission.Cable cast times:Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m.Segments of the program are posted on the web on YouTube’s Democratic Visions Channel. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Cast Your Vote for Met Council

Here on the planet earth, it’s a lot safer, a lot more efficient, and a lot less costly to move masses of people to and from school, work and other major destinations on mass transit than it is to move masses of motor vehicles into and out of overbuilt and misplaced parking facilities.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWIktemnocghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDlVeoCPwekCast your vote to end the misappropriation of public transit funding. Tell Governor-elect Dayton to appoint me to represent District 14 – St. Paul west of 35E – on the Metropolitan Council.http://daytontransition.org/share-your-ideas/Sheldon GitisDistrict 14 candidate for Met Council54 years old, lifelong Twin Cities residentAvailable full-time to study, report on and participate in Met Council activitiesFor questions or concerns, contact me @651-645-5941sgitis@yahoo.com Continue Reading

U, Met Council avoid federal lawsuit battle

The University of Minnesota will not file a federal lawsuit against the Metropolitan Council over the Central Corridor light-rail line after its 180-day deadline to file passed Monday. 
The decision came after a closed Board of Regents meeting. A lawsuit could have been submitted under the National Environmental Policy Act. The news evoked optimism from the Met Council, with spokesman Steve Dornfeld saying members believe significant progress has been made on the debated issues. Both Dornfeld and Kathleen O’Brien, vice president of University Services, said the Met Council and the University have reached agreements on the transit line running down Washington Avenue and essential agreements over vibration and electromagnetic interference mitigation standards. However, there is still disagreement over damages if mitigation standards are exceeded. Continue Reading

Central Corridor: Back on track or legal quagmire?

The embattled, but currently thriving Central Corridor light rail project is proceeding apace toward construction of the 11-mile line between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A singular victory for proponents of adding stations at the half-mile marks along University Ave. in St. Paul (Western, Victoria and Hamline avenues) came recently when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transportation Administration head Peter Rogoff revised a long-standing Bush policy to base federal funding on a convoluted formula called the cost effectiveness index (CEI), opening the door to meeting the needs and demands of communities along the corridor to make it easier for residents to use the line while not losing the speed and convenience of the rail itself. Continue Reading

Riding the bus, worrying about transit deficit, fare hikes

Sarah Sevcik works as an employment developer with Lifetrack Resources. In one year, she helped nearly 100 clients get work. Of those, one third were unable to take their jobs because they didn’t have a car or because public transit didn’t go to the job. In one case, a St. Paul woman couldn’t take a hotel housekeeping job because the earliest Saturday bus did not get her to work on time. Continue Reading