Monthly Archives: August 2016

Hennepin County Approves More Southwest LRT Funding

The following article by  Janice Bitters was published in the August 30, 2016 issue of Finance and Commerce.


The Southwest light rail transit route between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie would be an extension of the Green Line starting at Target Field Station in downtown Minneapolis. (File photo: Bill Klotz)

Hennepin County Approves More Southwest LRT Funding

The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority agreed Tuesday to provide an additional $20.5 million for the Southwest light rail transit line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, bringing the agency’s share to $185.5 million, or 10 percent of the line’s costs.

The 6-1 decision was the first of three votes within two days by local planning and transit agencies on funding the project needs to continue moving forward.

The Hennepin County vote sets the stage for a discussion next month on gradually increasing property taxes to cover the additional Southwest light rail costs, Peter McLaughlin, the Regional Railroad Authority chair, said Tuesday.

Planners are also asking the Metropolitan Council and the Counties Transit Improvement Board to help cover a $144.5 million gap left behind after the state Legislature couldn’t agree to fund the line last session.

Met Council officials want an answer from each agency before August ends to avoid delays and cost increases on the $1.858 billion project, Met Council Chair Adam Duininck told the Hennepin County board Tuesday.

To continue reading click on the link to Finance and Commerce


Attend Sept. 6 Meeting to See Concept Plan for Improvements at Bassett’s Creek Park

The following item has been issued by the Park

Attend Sept. 6 Meeting to See 

Concept Plan for Improvements at Bassett’s Creek Park

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is hosting a second public meeting for an upgraded play area and site improvements planned at Bassett’s Creek Park on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Uptown Community Room, 400 Cedar Lake Road S

The final play area concept will be presented along with a plan for trail improvements, the play area cost estimate and next steps for the project. MPRB staff believes it has a solid design that both kids and adults will thoroughly enjoy after considering public input at the first meeting in May, an online survey and intercept survey at the Theodore Wirth play area. Please join the MPRB, Bryn Mawr residents and other Bassett’s Creek Park users at the public meeting on Sept. 6!

Public Meeting

Date: Sept  6, 2016

Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Location: Uptown Community Room

Address:  400 Cedar Lk Road S

Topic: .View final concept for the upgraded play area at Bassett’s Creek Park

Button Visit Project Page

Hennepin County Approves Extra $20.5M for Southwest LRT

The following article by Janet Moore was published in the August 31, 2016 issue of the Star Tribune.

Hennepin County Approves Extra $20.5M for Southwest LRT

The extra funds are part of a last-minute funding patch intended to keep the controversial $1.9 billion project afloat.


Hennepin County officials agreed Tuesday to give the proposed Southwest light-rail line an additional $20.5 million, part of a last-minute funding patch that is intended to keep the controversial $1.9 billion project afloat.

The county’s Regional Railroad Authority is already on the hook for $165.3 million for the 14.5-mile line linking downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. But since legislators did not come up with their 10 percent share last spring, the Metropolitan Council is now scrambling to make up the resulting $145 million shortfall.

While voting 6-1 Tuesday in favor of the cash infusion, some Hennepin County commissioners — who sit as members of the rail authority — appeared to find their own action distasteful. Commissioner Mike Opat went so far to call it “ulcer-inducing.”

To continue reading, click on the link to the Star Tribune

Hennepin County approves extra $20.5 million for Southwest LRT

SWLRT Under Siege: Lawsuits, Soaring Costs, Skeptical Funders

The following article by Mary Pattock has been published in the August edition of the Hill and Lake Press.

SWLRT Under Siege: Lawsuits, Soaring Costs, Skeptical Funders

On August 11 the lawsuit challenging the planned Southwest Light Rail route through the Kenilworth Corridor and the Chain of Lakes received a trial date: September 17, 2017.

As many HLP readers know, the suit claims that the Met Council violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by deciding to run the light rail through the Kenilworth Corridor before analyzing less environmentally damaging alternatives as required by
NEPA. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in September, 2014, by the Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis.

If LPA wins the lawsuit, the Met Council will have to re-scope the project and conduct environmental impact studies on alternatives to the Kenilworth route, in order to provide public officials with sufficient information to make informed decisions about the project.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Steven Rau, assisting Chief Judge John Tunheim, who is in charge of the case, issued the order.

In recent weeks, LPA attorneys have been reviewing thousands of Met Council documents as part of the discovery phase of the lawsuit.

The Met Council had several times resisted surrendering the documents, arguing that LPA must wait to sue until after the agency took final action, and that LPA should make its case solely on public documents like agendas and minutes.

Last spring they asked for an order for protection to allow them to keep the documents secret, but Judge Tunheim denied the request

To continue reading, click on the link to the Hill and Lake Press

MPRB Names New Assistant Superintendent for Minneapolis Parks’ Recreation Division

MPRB Names New Assistant Superintendent for Minneapolis Parks’ Recreation Division

Tyrize Cox
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) today announced the new leader for its Recreation Division. Tyrize Cox joins the Park Board following a national candidate search. Cox begins her duties on September 6, 2016.

“I’m excited for Tyrize to join the Park Board team,” said MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller. “Her commitment to public service and the communities of Minneapolis will serve the organization and community well. Tyrize will help further our work in making our outstanding park system accessible and in service to all residents of Minneapolis.”

The Park Board’s Recreation Division provides expertise to lead, provide and create affordable recreational, cultural, educational, and leisure opportunities to benefit and enhance the lives of all Minneapolis residents. The division oversees recreation facility operations, including recreation centers, golf courses, aquatic facilities and beaches, ice arenas, cross-country skiing venues, and the Wirth Winter Recreation Area; recreation, education, and interpretive programming; use and event permitting; and athletic fields and complexes. The Recreation Division also provides support to the Recreation Committee of the Board of Commissioners.

A life-long resident of Minneapolis, Cox brings leadership and community and relationship building experience to the MPRB. Since 2011, Cox worked in the Office of Family Engagement and Community Partnerships at Saint Paul Public School, most recently as director. Prior to her time with Saint Paul Public Schools, Cox also worked with Minneapolis Public Schools, Robbinsdale Area Schools and the Minneapolis YMCA. Cox is currently Vice Chair of the Minnesota Educational Equity Partnership and sits of the Board of Directors of Resource, Inc., a nonprofit which assists people with employment, recovery from chemical dependency and mental illness.

“I’m thrilled to join such a team of experienced and passionate people,” Cox said. “I’m honored to be a part of the greatest parks and recreation system in the country and proud to serve the community I live in.”

Counterpoint: Dayton Chooses Light Rail over Some Pretty Good Legislation

The following Counterpoint by By Greg Davids and Paul Torkelson was published on the editorial pages in the August 26, 2016 edition of the Star Tribune.  Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, is chair of the House Taxes Committee. Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, is chair of the House Capital Investment Committee.

Counterpoint: Dayton Chooses Light Rail over Some Pretty Good Legislation

Good leaders would direct their attention to where they can help, not to where they’ll meet head-on with unaddressed costs and litigation. 
Much has been said in the Star Tribune’s opinion pages the last few days about Southwest light rail and its role in sinking a special session for middle-class tax relief and a transportation-heavy bonding bill. On Thursday, it was appalling to watch Gov. Mark Dayton hastily convene a meeting to attempt to advance the controversial train anyway, without regard for Minnesotans waiting on the tax relief and road and bridge repairs he buried just days earlier.

The decision by Dayton and the Democrats to walk away from tax relief and transportation funding over a controversial metro-area train has left Minnesotans scratching their heads. As chairs of the House tax and bonding committees, we’re equally frustrated.

Democrats claim that it’s just the metro area that would pay for the Southwest line, and that’s simply not true. Minnesotans across the state would be forced to pay for the tens of millions in ongoing operating losses. At no time did Democrats propose a plan to fund construction and operating costs solely with local dollars. They say we need the line to ease congestion. However, the environmental-impact statement shows that this $2 billion train will have very little impact on travel times for commuters. In fact, the average weekly total transit times from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie are identical whether or not Southwest light rail is built.

To continue reading, click on the link to the Star Tribune

Dayton, Met Council Seek to Revive Southwest Light Rail Prospects

The following article by Patrick Condon was published in the August 26, 2016 edition of the Star Tribune.

Dayton, Met Council Seek to Revive Southwest Light Rail Prospects

Advocates fear losing out on federal funds, but critics say it’s time to pull the plug. 
Gov. Mark Dayton and Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt earlier in the month when talk of a special legislative session bogged down over the Southwest light rail project.


Taxpayers in the Twin Cities area would be on the hook for an additional $145 million to salvage the Southwest Light Rail Transit project from State Capitol gridlock, under a newly unveiled plan that Gov. Mark Dayton endorsed Thursday.

Dayton led a three-hour public meeting Thursday about the future of the beleaguered Southwest line, a proposed light-rail link between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. Supporters touted its benefits and critics questioned its cost and effectiveness as a deadline approaches to secure needed federal funding for the $1.9 billion venture.

“We’re at the point where we need action or we’re in trouble,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, a key player in the push for the project.

The fate of SWLRT, the next spoke of an envisioned metrowide transit system, has been in question since Dayton, his Senate DFL allies and the House Republican majority failed to agree on a much larger package of tax cuts, transportation and infrastructure improvements. GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt in particular has harshly criticized the project, and its funding is poised to be a campaign issue in legislative elections around the state this fall.

To continue reading click on the link to the Star Tribune

Dayton, Met Council seek to give Southwest LRT $145M boost

A Sorry Finish to an Unproductive Legislative Session

The following editorial by the Star Tribune Editorial Board was published on August 20, 2016.

A Sorry Finish to an Unproductive Legislative Session

Consider one more try for tax relief and a bonding bill.

The long, twisted tale of the 2015-16 Legislature apparently has come to a sorry but not unexpected end. Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton announced Thursday that they had reached no deal on Southwest light rail and, without it, there will be no special session to complete the year’s lawmaking work.

That means no tax relief, no building projects (bonding) bill, no new transportation funding — and no reason for confidence in the ability of this cast of lawmaking characters to produce a different result next year if they hold their seats in this fall’s election.

To continue reading, click on the link to the Star Tribune

Special Session Negotiations Break Down with no Deal

The following article by Ricardo Lopez was published in the August 19, 2016 edition of the Star Tribune.

Special Session Negotiations Break Down with no Deal

Gov. Mark Dayton won’t call legislators back after impasse over light rail. 

Gov. Mark Dayton said he has given up hope of calling a special legislative session to pass tax breaks and millions of dollars in statewide construction projects after last-ditch negotiations with legislative leaders failed to break the deadlock.

“I am not going to call a special session,” Dayton said Thursday after a brief, 30-minute meeting with legislative leaders.

Dayton and top legislators have met for three months after the spring session collapsed without agreement on millions of dollars in construction projects. Legislators were seeking a special session to pass the construction measure and to fix a tax package that included an error that would cost the state $100 million.

The breakdown in negotiations ends hope for $260 million in tax breaks for veterans, farmers and students with college debt, at least for this year. It also kills a property tax break and liquor license for a proposed professional soccer stadium in the Midway area of St. Paul.

To continue reading, click on the link to the Star Tribune

Minnesota Leaders Get Testy over Light-rail Deadlock

The following article by J. Patrick Coolican was published in the August 13, 2016 edition of the Star Tribune.

Minnesota Leaders Get Testy over Light-rail Deadlock

Battle over Southwest line boils over at news conference after a meeting to discuss a possible special legislative session. 


DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt clashed Friday over light rail after meeting to break an impasse on a possible special legislative session to pass a menu of tax cuts and a public works package.

Dayton, Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk emerged from a closed-door meeting laughing and jovial but without an agreement.

Both sides said the conflict holding up the entire deal — which would entail a special legislative session to give tax cuts and borrow about $1 billion for roads and other infrastructure projects — is whether to fund the Southwest Light Rail project from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

The transit line is hugely important to many DFL legislators, but Republican opposition has been unwavering and firm.

Dayton and Bakk, DFL-Cook, say there can be no deal without the light-rail line, but Daudt, R-Crown, insists there can be no deal with it.

To continue reading, click on the link to the Star Tribune