here for PDF format
Participants' Responses to
Summary of Meeting
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland (by phone), Jim Olson (by
phone), and Clarence Shallbetter
Context of the meeting--After
several solid weeks of receiving input on transportation issues, the Civic
Caucus core group paused for discussion about where we are and should be
and Verne said that our next meeting will be Friday, June 6, with David
Broden and Marianne Curry, both of whom are regular participants and who
will be sharing their detailed thoughts on the future of the Civic Caucus.
Approval of summary--The
summary of our meeting with Conrad deFiebre was approved.
Status of implementation of Civic Caucus recommendations--As
a follow-up to the 2008 Legislature, Verne and Paul summarized the status
of implementation of several recommendations.
1. Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)--The
Civic Caucus itself has not yet taken a position on IRV. The Caucus
recommended that political polling organizations start asking respondents
to rank candidates in order of preference. An IRV proposal is likely to
be on the ballot in St. Paul this fall. No action was taken in the
Legislature this year on a bill for uniform IRV procedures among charter
cities. That bill is likely to be proposed again in 2009. IRV is
scheduled for implementation in Minneapolis next year.
2. Judicial selection--Faced
with considerable opposition from district judges, the Legislature didn't
act on the Quie commission recommendations (supported by the Civic Caucus)
for a merit-based appointment process to replace partisan elections of
judges. Our report also noted that the Minnesota Supreme Court could
consider some changes in its rules relating to the conduct of courts. It
is expected that another effort to implement the Quie recommendations will
occur in 2009.
3. Legislative redistricting--No
action occurred in the 2008 Legislature on the Mondale-Carlson
recommendations, supported by the Civic Caucus, for a bi-partisan panel of
judges to draw redistricting plans. The proposal may be in front of the
4. Environmental constitutional
amendment--The Civic Caucus recommended that the Legislature
try to enact a law, not a constitutional amendment, but the Legislature
went ahead and placed the amendment on the ballot, without trying the
legislative route. The Civic Caucus likely will be preparing its
position paper on the amendment this summer
5. The precinct
caucus/endorsement/nominations process--The Civic Caucus is in
the information stage on a larger look at elections-related issues. No
major action in this area occurred in 2008. Efforts to move the primary
date forward were unsuccessful in the Legislature.
6. Changes in the media--The
Civic Caucus has held several informational sessions on changes in the
media, but has not moved to any recommendations.
Status of transportation issues--For
the last couple of months the Civic Caucus has devoted most of its time
looking at issues of governmental structure in the transportation area.
As an introduction to its discussion today the Civic Caucus first
reviewed major changes, including increasing the gasoline tax, giving
metro counties the authority to levy a sales tax for transitways, and
approving funds for the Central Corridor light rail line between the two
downtowns. The group then listed what appear to be significant issues
remaining on the table.
1. Extent to which new funding
addresses unmet needs--While
the magnitude of funding, some $6.6 billion over 10 years, seems large, we
have heard that unmet needs will still be very high. For example, the
new law gives MnDOT about $400 million more a year, but one source
estimates its unmet needs on the order of $2.4 billion a year. It appears
as if unmet needs always will be with us, meaning, therefore, that the
process of deciding which needs are of greatest importance will be key.
2. Complication on metro
transportation structure--A new joint powers board of metro
counties has been established to approve grants for proposals for new rail
and bus transitways. New transitways are to be consistent with the
policy plan of the Metropolitan Council, but it appears that the county
organization will be more influential in determining which transit
improvements are undertaken in which order.
3. Covering operating deficits--Legislation
provides that the county-based sales tax may be used for operations as
well as construction, which likely will cause pressures on the Metro
Council, which will be responsible for finding funds to cover operating
deficits. The county organization, however, might be more interested in
building new transitways. The size of such deficits could grow,
depending upon numbers of riders attracted to new transitways.
4. Making the Central Corridor
LRT project work--Several questions remain, including whether
enough money will be available, whether additional stations will be added,
whether the route through the University of Minnesota can work to the
benefit of all parties, and whether LRT and other vehicles can
satisfactorily co-exist on University Avenue.
5. Whether state transportation
planning structure is adequate--Beyond the question of why the
I-35W bridge collapsed is a question of the adequacy of the
decision-making process on transportation at the state level. For
example, how do three key state participants--the Governor, the
Legislature, and MnDOT--inter-relate?
6. Whether changes in the
private sector role are desirable--Some states appear more open
than is Minnesota to a larger role for the private sector in
7. Whether planning principles are taking a
backseat to availability of money--The
list of needs is so large for both highways and transit that some persons
wonder whether a systematic priority-setting process is possible.
Instead, special funding sources--such as a newly-enacted county-based
sales tax for transitways or earmarking specific projects in state or
federal legislation--seem to be growing in importance.
8. Whether LRT and commuter
rail should be primarily deliberate tools for economic development--Increasingly
those individuals and groups that advocate on behalf of LRT and commuter
rail seem to be highlighting the importance of using such improvements to
guide economic development. If so, what of the role of city governments,
traditionally the level that makes land use decisions? Would some higher
level of government make the economic development choices? If rail is
used to guide development, why would additional public funds, such as
tax-increment financing, be needed?
What has happened along the Hiawatha LRT line? Has
development occurred as anticipated, including along 5th Street in
Minneapolis and through the Hiawatha corridor, as well as near the airport
and the Mall of America?
9. Whether the objectives of
promoting mobility and easing congestion are less important than those of
guiding economic development--If
guiding development becomes the main objective, how does easing congestion
fit in the picture? Doesn't the existence of excessive congestion have an
effect of guiding development to lesser-congested locations?
10. Whether a corridor-based
transportation strategy accurately reflects travel patterns today and in
the future--LRT and commuter
rail are planned along traditional corridors from suburbs to central
cities. Such improvements benefit from a concentration of jobs at one
end of the corridor and an ability to be near large numbers of homes at
the other end. However, job locations are spread across the metro area,
with the vast majority located outside the downtowns. Are transportation
planners giving adequate attention to helping people get from where they
live to where they need to go?
E. Civic Caucus planning over the summer months--Verne said that we need to be looking at the future of the Civic Caucus
during the summer months. We need to establish priorities for areas in which we'll be involved. We've developed a very effective
process for sharing information and for receiving input from our participants. We have received suggestions for expanding our
activities, but real financial constraints are present.