By David Pascoe, JD/MBA

The transit options for twin-cities residents are lackluster at best. Infrequent busses, traffic gridlock, and a few light rail lines demand a solution. Unfortunately when the leaders in power put their heads together their marquee project is: a streetcar line.

I won’t go into all the details on why a streetcar line is bad. Just ask Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation member Carol Becker or former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Cam Winton and they’ll tell you all the point by point negatives. In general streetcars are inflexible, slow, and vastly more expensive than other projects.

They are popular because they are a vanity item for city officials (no one wants their name on a bus stop). Streetcars are a nice boondoggle for connected construction companies. They are also a bit of corporate welfare to real estate developers who can buy up property along a proposed route.

I understand that busses have several negative connotations, but would it not be worth it to try and change that? Busses are relatively inexpensive and extremely flexible modes of transit. What if a city like Minneapolis decided to be a trend-setter instead of following a streetcar full of lemmings off a cliff?

First, busses on downtown routes could be-redesigned to look like...streetcars. All the kitschy vanity you want at a fraction of the cost! On the inside they could be redesigned to look like a train-car with several access/egress points. All of the money that would have been dumped into a streetcar line could go towards building bus shelters in less frequented areas, and these new shelters could be equipped with a system tracking the next bus’s arrival time.

I did not enjoy waiting for a late 17D bus on a street corner in mid-January. I think we can do better.

The major issue preventing a bus renaissance is the perception that busses are for less affluent people. Trendy twenty-somethings (and want-to-be twenty-somethings) desire sleek and modern. We could make that happen. Unfortunately, instead of modernizing the most cost-effective transit system, we’ve been sold the lazy lie that a 100+ year old technology is the best hope for the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m putting a spoiler, racing stripes, and some futuristic sound effects on my covered wagon so I can sell it to the MET Council for a billion dollars.

by Tim Bohl

The traditional June wave of controversial United States Supreme Court decisions is wrapping up, and, while this was an eventful year on several fronts, one decision in particular presents Minnesota with a golden opportunity. The Court's 6-3 ruling in support of the supposed spirit of the Affordable Care Act legislation over the rigidly literal interpretation of the text effectively ensures that the federal healthcare exchange is here to stay.

Whatever your opinion of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, this decision opens the possibility for Minnesota to unload the endlessly expensive boondoggle that is MNSure in favor of the federal exchange system. Admittedly, the federal exchange had a rocky start of its own, but the money necessary to fix those problems has been and will continue to be spent regardless of which path Minnesota lawmakers choose. Forging ahead with a deeply flawed system—and any website that needs to close every night is clearly several steps removed from reality—amounts to nothing more than throwing good money after bad. It's time for Minnesotans to cut their losses and put the MNSure funding to better use; legislators could even use the extra cash for that hypothetical tax relief they agreed upon in the final hours of session.

by Mark Fox

Our City Council recently resolved that nobody who works hard should remain in poverty. That's a moral statement, not an economic one. So let's stop pretending that economic answers like a minimum wage can solve the problem.

It is not fair to workers to lie to them about what their work is worth. Setting wages is an economic problem. One that markets can solve, if we let them.

But we have to remember that a person's wage does not determine the whole of their value to family and community. Minimum wage becomes a political issue when there are gaps between earning power, the cost of living, and our intrinsic worth as members of society.

These gaps are an opportunity. By closing these gaps, all of us, together, demonstrate our commitment to that moral statement about what hard work should be worth.

It is unfair to place the burden solely on employers. Employers do their part by offering people the dignity of a job. When a job is not enough, we all must step up to help. It is what good people are called to do.

Instead of adopting toothless resolutions, or worse, interfering in economic decisions, I ask Minneapolis, both citizens and City government, to look at better ways to close the gaps between worth of work and value of life.

How we close those gaps deserves a larger conversation. Helping people learn new skills, and helping them get to where the jobs are is certainly important. And there will always be need for some direct assistance. But we should be honest about what we're up to. Minimum wage is a lie. We will find more justice by serving the truth.

by Dave Pascoe

On Sunday March 15th a few friends of mine and I drove into Wisconsin to purchase alcohol. This was no ordinary beer run. It was a protest organized by those in favor of repealing the ban on Sunday liquor sales in MN. This ban is an inconvenience to many but more importantly it is damaging to our in-state retailers.

Most people agree that the law is out-dated and the event I attended on March 15th included both DFL and GOP legislators advocating for repeal. It’s amazing to me that repeal has broad bi-partisan support but still can’t make it past a few special interests. Please contact your state representatives today and encourage them to repeal this nonsensical law!

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