October 23rd, 2020
Quote of the Week: “For nearly a week at the end of May, Minnesotans watched in horror each night as Minneapolis descended further into chaos. They were begging for leadership that took far too long to arrive — an unacceptable reality that must be addressed and fixed.”
Quote of the Week: “Northstar, even on its best days, was under duress. Now it’s close to bleeding out.”
Factoid of the week: In their final Minnesota poll (conducted 10/22/16), KSTP/Survey USA had Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 10 points in the state.
Factoid of the Week: In their final Minnesota poll (conducted 10/20/16), the Star Tribune had Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 8 points in the state.
Factoid of the Week: On Election Day, Hillary Clinton won Minnesota by 1.5 points.
In This Issue:
HARD TO BE RIGHT
Pop quiz: what public policy issue caused Harold Hamilton, way back in 2005, to start a weekly commentary entitled, “The Anoka County Watchdog?”
Long-time readers know that the failed Northstar commuter rail line is the answer.
Harold thought back then that the line would be a disaster.
And he was right.
The latest ridership numbers from the line are downright appalling.
Ridership is down a whopping 95%!
While there is some dispute regarding the precise number, the average passenger subsidy is somewhere between $445 and $794.
These brutal numbers are even causing the unaccountable, utopian bureaucrats to rethink the line’s future.
Of course, the governor’s response to COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated these problems. That can’t be denied.
Having said that, this situation has only reminded taxpayers that the line was a debacle to start.
Recall that Northstar has never, ever, met ridership projections. The projections were a lie and a scam from the start, designed only to fool citizens into supporting the project.
Readers of this publication clearly recall boosters telling them that “the studies” all supported Northstar from a fiscal and transportation perspective.
Readers also know that these studies were never produced for their scrutiny.
Second, Northstar rail has always been the most highly subsidized mass transit line on the Met Council’s system. It’s been a money pit since day one.
This is all because of two fatal flaws.
First, commuter rail running through far exurban counties was always a bad idea. The population density needed for rail to be successful simply isn’t present along the line.
A romantic vision of trains and the insatiable need of certain elected officials to be different and have a shiny new toy different from what the other kids had.
Second, rail is inferior to busses for a variety of reasons that are haunting the line, especially in a pandemic.
Rail, by definition, is on a fixed guideway incapable of easy realignment. You pick your line and the die is cast. With busses, lines can be easily re-routed to adapt to changing commuter patterns and tastes.
Next, rail has overhead that can’t be easily dealt with. The locomotives and passenger cars are grossly expensive to own and operate.
Also, rail has to share the crowded rail lines with freight trains, owned by the same people who own the line. Timetables are far less flexible and thus less accommodating to customers.
Finally, let’s all remember another lie about Northstar that continues to make the rounds and will continue to do so.
Legislators, are you listening?
Northstar rail wasn’t originally planned to end in Saint Cloud as its western terminus. The line was slated to end in Rice, Minnesota, population 1,400.
Second, the line wasn’t stopped in Big Lake because funding ran out.
The line was dropped at Big Lake because running the line beyond that point caused the ridership, time to travel, and other crucial Federal Transit Administration metrics to fall below required minimums, which would have denied federal funding and killed the line.
The plan for Northstar boosters was always to take what they could get and then come back to the public trough later on.
This is precisely what happened with the Fridley station, which was the same situation. Building it would have caused problems with the FTA metrics, so they ditched the stop early on and then came back later.
Don’t let anyone, especially a politician, propagate the lie that the line should have gone to Saint Cloud but didn’t only because of federal funding.
Northstar is a horrible white elephant.
The Watchdog takes no pleasure in saying, “I told you so.”
Actually, we do. We will be holding a ticker tape parade in Anoka County the day the line is shut down.
Former commissioner Dan Erhart will be the invited grand marshal.
All Anoka County politicians who voted for the debacle will be invited special guests, especially the Republicans who defied their party platform and the wishes of their delegates.
Throwing good money after bad is never a good idea.
A SILVER LINING
There is no question that the virus and the government response thereto has been a tragedy.
The pain and dislocation felt by millions of people is real.
Having said that, there have been some silver linings that have come about that will serve people better.
One of those is silver linings is school choice.
The government’s horrific decision to deny children the ability to learn in person and confer the benefits of “community” that happen when students are present in the classroom on a daily basis has caused parents to examine what government schools have to offer compared to what other types of schools have to offer.
The numbers are starting to show up.
All over Minnesota, kindergarten enrollment is down by double digits in many government school districts.
On the other hand, private schools are seeing corresponding enrollment increases, along with other education platforms, such as “learning pods.”
Perhaps this tragedy will help more parents see that competition in education, like any other market, benefits the consumer.
The government monopoly over schools is an anachronism that should be eliminated.
School choice benefits students – all of them.
The challenge will be to also make sure that all students, especially impoverished ones, are offered choice.
The Education-Industrial Complex, which has never helped these students, will want to sentence them to failing schools regardless.
Truly, no child should be left behind and none sentenced to a school that fails them.
Welcome to my web site!
I created this website in response to governmental waste and abuse in Anoka County.
Many taxpayers don’t know that our local governments spend millions of tax dollars every year on things like public relations teams, lobbyists, and junkets to places like Hawaii.
Since there seemed to be no place to turn for the “other side” of these issues, I created the Anoka County Watchdog. My intent is to create a one-stop-shop where concerned taxpayers can find fact-supported information and other resources to counter the governmental machine. Many people want to confront their elected officials regarding waste and abuse but feel they don’t have the information they need to make an effective argument. This web site offers that information.
Some of our elected officials in Anoka County have become arrogant and unresponsive, forgetting that they work for the very people who put them in office. It’s high time to hold them accountable for their decisions.
Harold E. Hamilton
US Mail: Anoka County Watchdog
C/O K Solutions LLC
3083 Victoria Street
Roseville, MN 55113
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