Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Details Emerge in

Pioneer Press Article

About U's Beef With Light Rail...

Primarily, the suit claims that in planning the project, the Met Council violated the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act by not addressing the U's concerns about "environmental impact."

Met Council Chairman Peter Bell responded Tuesday by calling the suit "premature and without merit," saying the planning agency had taken all necessary legal steps to move forward with the rail line connecting the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

A spokesman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said, "We are fully confident the project office is taking all necessary steps to resolve the U's concerns and this lawsuit will prove unnecessary."

The suit also alleges the project will detract "from the current setting and esthetic quality of the University's historical districts," including places listed on the National Register of Historic Places and places eligible but not listed.

[Now this is a new one, unrelated to noise and vibration affecting research instrumentation. Pay attention to what they do - this suit - rather than what they say...]

"When determining whether to list an area as an historic district, the University's Board of Regents also considers an area's setting," the suit states, adding that "the increase in average daily (car) traffic associated with (the light-rail line) will adversely affect the existing setting and esthetic quality of the (campus)."

[So here is the hidden agenda. The U administration does not like the route. They've never liked it, unless the thing was in a tunnel or the Northern route used. What is being stated above has nothing to do with mitigation for research equipment.]

The suit also claims that under state law, the Met Council has no right under eminent domain to use the U's property for the project, because it is already being put to public use.

[Wow! Now this is big and everyone should wake up and pay attention. Seems that the President does, indeed, have a Vatican complex. Will he still have one next Spring when the U has to pay for this arrogance?]

"We need a binding agreement on how those (environmental impacts) are going to be addressed — which we don't have," said university general counsel Mark Rotenberg. "It's not OK to be told, 'We'll still keep talking, we'll still keep talking'; meanwhile, they issue all these formal benchmarks."

[There is true irony to Rotenberg making a this statement. This has been the University (administration's) very own modus operandi lately. As the saying goes about gored oxen...]

Replied Bell: "The university is expecting a level of detail today that normally would not be achieved in a project such as this until much later — when the project moves into the final design phase.

"The U has said to me that this is principally done to preserve their prerogative. ... I really do wish, however, that the U would show more concern about the budgetary restraints we're under."

If the application for the final design is not submitted by early November, builders will miss the spring construction season — which with inflation would add $30 million to $40 million to the cost of the $941 million project, Bell said.

[I suggest that any cost due to delay be born by the university in such a way that the cost is not passed on to students. At least one state legislator knows how to do this.]

Jeremy Hanson, a spokesman for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, said in a statement, "Although we have not had a chance to fully review the lawsuit from the university, Mayor Rybak is concerned that any delay risks a huge inflationary cost increase to the project, which could put the entire light-rail line at risk."

Comparing the Central Corridor to a highway project affecting farm owners, Rotenberg said, "If the project can't deal with the harm to adjacent landowners, then it can't move forward. That's part of what you budget for."

While saying the U was working with the Met Council to make the budget work, "It's fundamentally not the U's responsibility to come up with a budget that is adequate to the project that they want to build."

[These are stupid, arrogant, and insensitive words to use, Mr. Rotenberg. They will come back to haunt you. Wait until you hear something like this from the legislature: "It's not the legislature's responsibility to come up with a budget that is adequate for the buildings they want to build." ]

Since 2001, the university's position has been that it wants a tunnel beneath Washington Avenue. If not that, then a detour around the northern edge of campus through Dinkytown. The tunnel was deemed too costly, and a university-sponsored study found the Dinkytown detour would draw too few riders to score well on the FTA's "cost-effectiveness index," a key benchmark required to secure federal funds.

It certainly does appear that the University is trying to have it their way, and how this is accomplished really doesn't matter.

We were told that the objection was based on problems with research equipment. These problems could be alleviated. The University seems unwilling to spell out what needs to be done and how much it would cost, but rather insists on a blank check into the future.

We learn upon reading the suit that the old complaints about traffic and other matters related to the historic nature of the University campus are now back on the table.

And finally there is the threat to be uncooperative because the U is some sort of Vatican-like entity not subject to arguments about the public good.

That the University would operate in bad faith on this matter is no surprise to those who have been watching the behavior of the current Morrill Hall crew. Look at the conflict of interest situation, the Graduate School, General College, the double dippers, and the generally poor priorities set by this administration. Given our current situation, mumbling about ambitious aspirations and third greatest yadda, yadda pretty much says it all.

President Bruininks will be leaving us right about the time we go over the cliff. There is a lot of similarity between him and Governor Pawlenty.

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