Sunday, March 28, 2010

[Front page, Saturday March 27 - St. Paul Pioneer Press]

Another Bad Decision

on Light Rail

by the Morrill Hall Gang...

The Gang likes to talk about forging a new covenant with the citizens of the state and the state legislature. Not bloody likely while this sort of stuff continues.

From the Pioneer Planet:

Negotiations between the University of Minnesota and officials backing the Central Corridor light rail line have collapsed, and elected officials from both sides of the river today are accusing the U of costing taxpayers at least $1 million.

"Arrogance and pettiness," "flimsy excuses," "myopic" and "dead wrong" were among the descriptors Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough used this afternoon to sound off on the U in what appears to be the largest skirmish of the cold war that has hung over the nearly $1 billion project for more than a year.

"They're wasting taxpayer dollars," said McLaughlin, a key player — and often the biggest optimist — in months of negotiations between the university and the Met Council, which is responsible for building the line that will run through campus. "We're talking about real money — cash — right now, being lost."

University officials were not immediately available for comment.

On Thursday, McLaughlin and McDonough, who had been acting as "shuttle-diplomats" between a middle-man and U General Counsel Mark Rotenberg and Vice President for University Services Kathleen O'Brien, threw up their hands.

"The combination of their arrogance and pettiness puts them in a position where they can't come to an agreement," McDonough said today.

The university's stated reasons for denying the temporary easement includes concerns over the spring construction work, said McLaughlin and Bell.

Bell, a former university regent, called that a "red herring."

He issued the following statement:

"The University's refusal to grant the temporary construction easement defies any rational explanation. This will delay the project. This will cost the taxpayers money. This reveals the U's true colors when it comes to this important transit improvement. Those colors aren't maroon and gold - they're stop-sign red."

"The U's professed concern about the impact of these traffic improvements on its labs is just another red herring. This is low-impact construction work that has been discussed with the university staff on multiple occasions, and the U never has raised any concerns."

McLaughlin said if the spring work can't be salvaged, he believes it will hurt the university.

"They're just dead wrong on this, and it's an odd, myopic notion of their own self-interests," he said. "What this does for them is beyond me."

On Friday, Susan Kimberly, interim president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Bruininks urging the U to grant the temporary easement. When Kimberly learned of the U's refusal, she issued the following statement:

"Peter Bell has been telling me for the past several weeks that the university is being unreasonable in these negotiations. The university's decision ... proves that he is right."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also expressed frustration.

"Like virtually every other partner involved in the Central Corridor, I am fed up with the U. We are not siting a nuclear reactor here," he said.

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