Friday, April 16, 2010

More on Light Rail

University of Minnesota (finally) Agrees to Easement

(Just a spoon full of sugar - $12.5 mil - makes the easement go down?)

Yesterday, in response to an Op-Ed, by my friend, Professor Dave Thomas, of the U of M in the Pioneer-Press, I wrote:

Dear Dave-

Thanks for your well thought out arguments. One would expect nothing less from a world class scientist, which you certainly are.

However, I think it would be amiss not to point out that the University has handled this light rail business badly and wasted a lot of our political capital. The NMR lab would have to be moved whether we had an underground tunnel or whether we had the siting above ground. Recall that the U was perfectly fine with the tunnel option.

What should have happened - and did not - is that the cost of moving equipment should have been specified explicitly as part of the mitigation costs. For whatever reason this was not done. Lack of foresight and leadership? So we put ourselves in the unenviable position of insisting that mitigation take place in a manner that the equipment is operable without being moved. A tall order, don't you agree?

I'd suggest that the administration make an offer that involves moving equipment like the NMR lab and spelling out how much this would cost.

Your thoughts?

With best personal regards,

Bill Gleason
U of M alum and faculty member

Coincident with movement today on finally granting the easement was a move afoot at the state legislature to give the Metropolitan Council the right of eminent domain over the disputed land. For reasons that are not worth going into here this would be the first step in removing the U's Vatican-like city/state privileges. They do not want to see this happen. How, otherwise, could people like our Chief Financial Officer tell the legislature to mind its own business?

As MinnPost put it today:

Today's agreement means some work can begin on road improvements in the university area, with temporary easements.

And the Met Council will "implement a construction management plan to protect university research facilities during this summer’s road work, and to join with the university in seeking $12.5 million in state bonding authority to assist with the relocation of certain U research labs from buildings along Washington Avenue," the agreement says.

Given the way the University has already behaved in dealing with local politicians and the leadership at the state legislature they had better pray that this proposal does not meet with outright refusal.

A little more honesty in dealing with the situation from the beginning was called for. There was never any doubt that some labs or equipment were going to have to be moved. To insist that all labs be made functional in situ was an absurd demand.

But that would have taken leadership, foresight, and an ability to play well with others. All of these qualities have been lacking in Morrill Hall for some time.

Leadership matters.

Let's not make the same mistake twice.


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