Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Ever Minnesota Governor's Race Candidate Forum on Transportation, Land Use & the Environment

This event was at Macalester College on Monday night. It was sponsored by TLC (Transit for Liveable Communities), as well as by MPTA, Isaiah, Sierra Club, MPIRG, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Fresh Energy, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and 1000 Friends of Minnesota.

This forum had the highest energy level of any event that I have been to yet. Everyone was there. Well, Matt Entenza wasn't there, or Tom Bakk, or Steve Kelley, or Paul Thissen, or even Ole. It was high energy without them, though. I missed Thissen because he always has something new and refreshing to say and because he always makes sure to say hi to me, not for Brownie points, but because he's interested in what I have to say. I hear he's really, really smart...

This forum was a bit different than the others I've been attending because there were several Independent Party candidates. Rob Hahn, Tom Horner and John Uldrich all took part. On the Republican side, there was Leslie Davis. Davis brought copies of his book to give away. He autographed a copy for me. He said he won't forget my name. Honey, none of the candidates will forget my name. I told him I wrote a book, too. He said he would read it. I told him it's a romance novel. He said he'd read it anyway. I wonder if Dayton read his copy yet? I forced it on him for a Christmas present. With an inscription in the front that said, "because all guys ought to read at least one or two romance novels in their life." Right, ladies? Ok, now I sense Tom Rukavina rushing out to buy one.

I felt good tonight at this forum. I felt really crappy all day at work. With hepatitis C there are flareups. The viral load fluctuates. When it flares up, the immune system kicks in along with the flu-like symptoms that accompany it. There was so much energy in the room tonight, though, that I felt great. Gosh, I think I'll quit my job and join somebody's campaign. I haven't felt this energized since my hippie days on the West Bank when I was protesting the Viet Nam War. Or when I was a member of the Twin City Federal Drum & Bugle Corps/Color Guard. We took first place in all the parades for our Headchopper routine. We had a guy who arranged all the Henry Mancini songs to fit our special parade march step. Pink Panther, Peter Gunn, Baby Elephant Walk. Sigh. What great memories.

This event was chaired by Dan Hoxworth. The moderator was Steve Berg. Orrie was there, of course, and the table next to Rukavina's was Dayton's. Brian (not Klaas) was staffing it tonight. What an enjoyable young man, full of energy and enthusiasm and good cheer. There were friends from reNEW Minnesota and TakeAction Minnesota, as well. And I can't forget to mention Craig Stellmacher from The Uptake. I just love him even if he does talk your ear off.

First, each candidate was given time to give a brief introduction. Mark Dayton was the only one who stood up. He'd make such a great Toastmaster. He's already got the techniques down. The other candidates remained seated. They didn't say anything I haven't heard before or won't hear again. The introduction formality was mostly for first-time forum attendees.

After that we got right into the questions and answers. I'll state the questions one at a time and then give each candidate's response.

Question #1: What will you do as governor to expand our transportation infrastructure?

Rob Hahn - He likes the idea of the Central Corridor and wants to expand it into the suburbs as well as outstate to cities such as Rochester.

Tom Horner - He thinks the new governor will need to invest more in transportation and understand the value of commuter rail. The fundamental role of government, he said, is to provide all kinds of infrastructure.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She's been working on infrastructure issues for 20 years. Her mantra is reforming the MetCouncil. She wants it to work closely with MNDOT.

John Marty - "Every community needs affordable transit," he said. He wants to invest in roads and the maintenance of roads. Also important to him is making sure that roads have places for walking and biking.

Tom Rukavina - He wants a big bonding bill (it's nice to hear Rukavina use alliteration) for transportation to pass in the upcoming legislative session.

R. T. Rybak - Transportation and land use have been the key focus of his work as mayor of Minneapolis. He reworked 35W after the bridge collapse. He wants Minneapolis to be the #2 bike city in American and Minnesota to be the #1 bike friendly place in the world.

John Uldrich - He asked, "Can we afford it?" He said that if he is governor, his administration will be pragmatic. He's a big believer in mass transportation and stated that we must maintain highways and byways in environmentally safe ways.

Leslie Davis - He was happy to get this question. He told us that it's right up his alley. He gave a kudos to Tom Rukavina. He said to check out his transportation plan. It's on the paper tucked inside his book. I guess if you didn't pick up your free copy, you're out of luck.

Mark Dayton - He started out getting a laugh like he always does when he refers to Jesse as a wrestler turned libertarian. Dayton was in top form tonight with his quick humor and witticisms. He said transit should be focused on, and in response to someone else's comment on this question, said that nothing is free.

Susan Gaertner - She grew up on the East Side of St. Paul with public transit. (Did she really say she was a transit nerd?) Gaertner stated that we need to invest in transit. It's a core function of government. "We need bold government and initiatives," she said.

Queston #2: What role, if any, should land use regulations play in relationship to expanding transportation choices and protecting Minnesota's natural resources?

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She's been a conversationist since birth. (Or did she say conversationalist?) And a dairy farmer, too. Boy, that was one smart baby. She said that the state and the governor have a role to play in smart planning. She prefers a MetCouncil that is elected.

John Marty - His take is that we must preserve land or there won't be any left. We must be more aggressive in land use. I think he means we must be aggressive in regulating how we use land so that there is some left for our children and grandchildren and beyond.

Tom Rukavina - He was at his entertaining best again tonight. Where does he get all these one-liners? I think they're entirely original. On a serious note, he said that it sickens him and saddens him to see urban sprawl. He hates to see the land being destroyed to make cities spread out. His solution is to look at revenue bonds and to fix up old houses for affordable rental units.

R. T. Rybak - "Land shouldn't be treated as a disposable commodity," he stated. He wants to restore the connection between the city and the country. He wants a new food economy.

John Uldrich - He's into stewartship. He wants to figure out what the greatest use of the land for the greatest number of people is. He will keep this mantra up in front of everyone. Well, John, let us know when you figure it out. Or you could ask Mark Dayton. He always knows the answers to questions like that. Can I get you to vote for him?

Leslie Davis - People can be wherever they want. They may all want to come to Minnesota, but where will you put them all? He wants population control in Minnesota. I don't think he's talking about birth control. Maybe he's talking about immigration control.

Mark Dayton - He gave his famous talk on his favorite state agency, Pollution Control Agency. When he is governor, he'll change its name to Pollution Reduction Agency. Good one. Good thing the Toastmasters Club housed there is not called Pollution Control Toastmasters. I'm not sure Pollution Reduction Toastmasters would work either. That's ok; it's called Lafayette Park Toastmasters. A good Toastmaster never pollutes, so Dayton should feel right at home giving the club a visit. Anytime. Wednesday at noon. Seriously, though, I have no doubt that Dayton will revamp this agency and make sure it does what it's supposed to do. Go Mark!

Susan Gaertner - Her values, she said, are about preservation of the environment. She's all for the Legacy Amendment. She wants a "prism of stewartship of the environment." (Wow, that's almost as good as Rybak's "laser-focused.")

Rob Hahn - He hates urban sprawl. As governor, he would reduce it through legislation. He also thinks that you should be able to sell land if someone wants to buy it. I think I missed something there.

Tom Horner - He thinks we need a governor who can engage people and get them talking. Leadership means getting people together. Gonna have a party. Get down Saturday night...

Question #3: The Twin Cities region has a larger regional highway system and a smaller public transit system than most peer regions. What relationship, if any, do you see between development and maintenance of roads and transit and economic growth?

Tom Rukavina - He said that making 4 - 5 lane highways is very expensive. He advocates more mass transit.

R. T. Rybak - He said that another choice is to do a better job with what we have. As mayor of Minneapolis, he insisted that the new bridge have transit capabilities for future use.

John Uldrich - He is not in favor of emminent domain.

Leslie Davis - He's the founder and president of an environmental group. He supports nuclear power and energy development.

Mark Dayton - He stated that the relationship between development and maintenance of roads/transit and ecomonic growth is crucial. He also said that failure to invest in infrastructure is catastrophic. The audience noted the good point he made.

Susan Gaertner - She said that jobs are important and that building a good infrastructure creates jobs. She noted that rural Minnesota cannot survive without transportation.

Rob Hahn - This is the first time I've seen or heard Hahn. He's got a nice voice and is a good communicator/speaker. He will ask business leaders what would give them the most incentive to hire more people.

Tom Horner - "Of course we need good transportation. That goes without saying." (Don't say it then. That's a major faux paux of public speaking.) He feels that an improved transportation system will create new jobs. He wants to ask lots of questions in regard to jobs.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She has been working on this very issue (she's been working a long time on every issue that is mentioned at these forums). She maintains that we must get this work done together. (Note how reNEW Minnesota has brought us all together, at least in the jargon of the candidates...) She wants to complete the commuter rail system, have passenger rail and lots of busways. Personally, I'm a train person. I wonder if any of the candidates have ridden the rails? You guys have got to get out more.

John Marty - He wants to address these issues in smart ways as far as preserving energy. He thinks we should be stewarts of the future. He wants to look at the long term future of land use.

Question #4: Bicycling and walking are the least polluting and healthiest forms of transportation. What, if anything, would your administration do to make it easier for Minnesota residents to walk and bicycle?

John Marty - He wants to invest in bike/hike paths. He tried biking from his home in Roseville to downtown St. Paul and found that it was too dangerous.

Tom Rukavina - He supports setting money aside to be used only for road projects. He also supports education that gets kids outside and away from their computers.

R. T. Rybak - He says we must move aggressively now. He wants Bike Share like they have in Europe. He talked about using the money Oberstar brought in.

John Uldrich - Uldrich could use Toastmasters. He used quite a few crutch words. His favorite were "uh" and "um." He claims to believe in physical activity.

Leslie Davis - Says he doesn't own a car. He wants to help people by getting them a bike and walking shoes. Ok, I'll take one of each. I loaned my bike to someone and that was the last I saw of it.

Mark Dayton - He told of a woman he knew who was hit by a bicycle in Minneapolis and killed. No one should have to put their life at risk because we don't have good bike/hike paths/trails. He supports a bus/bike connection. (Some buses already have bike racks. Hopefully they all will soon.)

Susan Gaertner - As Ramsey County Attorney, she dealth with people who were hurt while walking or biking. She believes profoundly (now where did she get that word?) in bike trails.

Rob Hahn - He doesn't think that the government needs to step in on this issue. Parents need to lead kids outside and away from computers. (Good luck with that one. My youngest son was a WOW addict. I couldn't get him off unless I pulled the circuit breaker.) Hahn told the audience that he sweats a lot. Ewwww! TMI!

Tom Horner - He said we need more sidewalks and safe, lighted trails. He worked with Dave Durenberger on these issues.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - As a mother she's against all the deaths and injuries. She thinks we should stripe the roads to reduce injuries and deaths. She supports investing in bike and walking paths.

Question #5: Minnesota needs new jobs and a new and revamped infrastructure. No one wants to invest money. What will you do about this?

Mark Dayton - He will raise money on the wealthy. Even though that probably won't get the vote of his family, he's going to do it anyway. Good for him. It's about time they paid their fair share. I'm not good at finances, so I think I'll leave it at that. I can write, though. Mark was very passionate and Wellstonian in this answer. He excels on this question. He told of how hard it is to teach in overcrowded classrooms. He said we have to invest in education because kids are our intellectual future. He did a superb job on this quesiton. The audience loved his answer. We weren't supposed to applaud until the end, but we did it anyway. Against the rules? Tough!

Susan Gaertner - She stated that taxing the rich is not enough. Her goal was to disagree with Dayton. No one paid any attention to her. All focus of the audience was still on Dayton. Gaertner stated once again that she can get the job done. Whatever that means. From a Toastmasters perspective, she uses too much slang. She drops her g's a lot and says "gonna" instead of "going to." We might as well have Joe Pesci be governor.

Rob Hahn - He's all for using free federal money when it's available. He wants to look at how these issues and ideas for resolving them are presented to the people of Minnesota. What's in it for them?

Tom Horner - He blatantly disagrees with Dayton. The statement he then gave told me he must have listened to Tom Hauser. Tom and Tom had a little conference. While they're off doing that, I'll give you a play by play of how Dayton runs off with the governorship. In spite of Horner/Hauser tossing about a figure of $120,000/year. I don't think that amount is correct. Horner claims he's running as an Independent so he can bring DFLers and GOPpers (lol) together.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - "People wanna know!" She's getting Dayton's passion in her voice now. She must be reading my blogs. I've been talking about how the DFL candidates need to get the passion, enthusiasm and excitement of Paul Wellstone in their voices. A couple of candidates already have it. Marty and Dayton both excelled in that tonight, and with this last question, so did Kelliher.

John Marty - His voice was very bold and passionate about the things he believes in. He's got the courage of his convictions. He says that Minnesota has thousands of tasks that must be done to make this a better state. Thousands of people are out of work. He challenged MAK regarding her remark about changes in the legislature. He wants to undo all the tax cuts that were previously made and add new taxes. Well, we have to get revenue somewhere. I still don't see why we can't have just one temporary lottery ticket where all the proceeds go to the budget deficit. Or take donations...people would rather donate than have it forced from them in the form of taxes. Pawlenty asked for ideas from state employees on how to balance the budget. Of course he rejected every idea.

Tom Rukavina - He will raise taxes based on income. He's the Farmer Labor part of the DFL. He buys American made and passed legislation so that only American made flags can be sold in Minnesota. Rukavina got a big laugh from the audience when he quipped, "When you make millions and send 12 vikings out to the huddle you deserve to be taxed."

R. T. Rybak - He told the poignant story about the bridge collapse. He wants to build communities together. He thinks toward the future. He wants street cars. (Isn't that the same as light rail?) He doesn't agree with those who think no one will use it. They've already been proven wrong. Reminds me of my stepfather when they put in I694 next to my grandparents' farm. He said, "I don't know why they're building it. No one will ever use it." So shortsighted. Rybak, on the other hand, looks to the future. He wants commuter lines going in many directions. Rybak gave a great public speaking performance tonight.

John Uldrich - I kind of zoned out on his answer to this question. I'm looking at my notes and all it says is blah blah blah. I did catch his statement that he will have his plans ready for fixing this in one month.

Leslie Davis - He recited a tax poem. Gosh, I've never heard a tax poem before. He then stated that we don't need taxes in Minnesota. What we need is conservation of energy, he explained, in order to save billions of dollars. He claims that interest makes the debt grow but doesn't increase the money supplied. Seelah.

Question #6: If you become governor, what legacy do you want to leave?

Susan Gaertner - Environmental, because when we're all gone, that will be left; educational; ethical leadership.

Rob Hahn - Fresh leadership; bringing both sides together. And finally, mass transit as a way of life.

Tom Horner - Never argue with Iron Range math (huh?). He said that we need a leader with vision and courage. Everyone should take responsibility together.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She wants her legacy to be early childhood funding, closing the achievement gap and new jobs.

John Marty - He wants his legacy to be a state in which all the people care about each other. He also wants his legacy to be the Minnesota Health Plan and living wage jobs. He quoted Paul Wellstone: "We all do better when we all do better."

Tom Rukavina - He wants all new immigrants to get a good education too.

R. T. Rybak - He wants to leave safety in Minneapolis and in Minnesota. He wants his legacy slogan to be "Transportation builds communities." He wants to build great neighborhoods.

John Uldrich - He stated that gubernatorial means steerman. Is that like Entenza means governor in Norwegian? I'm never sure what Uldrich is talking about. He said something in German. Sounds like sinus problems to me.

Leslie Davis - He wants his legacy to be environmental. I get the impression that he's really in to that. Could he be another Ralph Nader?

Mark Dayton - Mark talked about Zen and Chief Seattle. Great ideas! Those are subjects I've studied myself. He also talked about his campaign slogan: Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota. He then elaborated to state that a better Minnesota means better jobs, better environment and better education. Sounds excellent to me.

That's it, folks. That's all for now. I'm going to bed before my head clunks down on the keyboard. I'll post more about the candidates in new and interesting ways very soon.


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