Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dick Day is right ... there is a Leadership Failure

Dick Day’s Op-Ed piece : Leadership failure? Look to the DFL aptly uses a variety of phrases – “shifting blame is laughable”, “It's good theater” and ”I suggest we stop the grandstanding”.

Day’s right … but he’s doing all those things in his editorial.

Frankly, it is embarrassing that someone of Day’s stature would resort to comments that might be more attributed to a “political hack” or blogger.

The calumny used by Day in describing Congressman Oberstar “-- whose name never appears in print unless it is accompanied by "the powerful chairman of the House Transportation Committee"” is childish.
I have never meet, nor spoken with, Congressman Oberstar although I have written negative and positive commentaries about his proposals … yet it is inappropriate to mock how the news media may describe Oberstar. Petty personal attacks may be best described as "grandstanding".

What is outlandish is that Day complains that Oberstar's proposal of a “5-cent federal gas tax, but we know now that's not going to happen. Congress has been unwilling to raise the federal gas tax in 15 years” yet Day in February 2005 proposed a nickel-a-gallon gas tax hike to pay for transportation projects, which would violate Pawlenty's staunch no-new-taxes pledge. link . If Day “knew” that 435 members of Congress would not approve a tax increase, Day certainly knew that Pawlenty would not approve a Tax Increase.

Transportation has been a major issue for Day, yet his Leadership has failed.
Day was the Minority Leader in the State Legislature from 1996 to 2006. When Day abdicated his party leadership position, Sen. Steve Dille (Republican from Dassell) thought it was time for a change in leadership. "I think we need to decrease the partisanship and increase the bipartisan decision-making around here," Dille says.
The I-35 bridge catastrophe was such a massive event that all the world could see. The lack of investment in transportation infrastructure did not start August 1, 2007 … it has been a constant complaint for Minnesotans for decades. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has lead the charge and argues that Minnesota's transportation funding is running approximately $1 billion a year behind what is needed to maintain and expand the existing transportation network.
It is the failure of leadership to resolve these issues … and also the failure of the citizens to actively vote for officials that would address these issues. Alas, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce needs to evaluate its priorities when making endorsements ... if elected officials are not funding transportation as deemed required, why do you continue to endorse those candidates?

But shifting blame is what this is all about. Day and the other members of the legislature for years have underinvested in transportation. Day complains about Highway 14 … and those of us who have traveled it know that this is not a new problem … but decades old. But Day knows that.

Day blames Senator Murphy for “jeopardizing important projects”. Yet, it was MNDOT that testified before a legislative panel, the Contingent Appropriation Group, on Monday, October 1, that it would have to delay or defer projects link to fund the I-35W bridge replacement. Projects delayed would include $4.8 million for right-of-way acquisition for the expansion of Highway 14 between Waseca and Owatonna. It would seem to me that MNDOT decision-making is putting projects in “jeopardy” - NOT Senator Murphy.

It cannot be ignored that Day is campaigning for the Republican nomination for Congress. It also cannot be ignored that the present Congressman Tim Walz and Tim Kuntz, the mayor of Owatonna and the president of the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership, penned an October 30th Op-Ed piece in the Winona Daily News which chastised MNDOT’s threat and concluded “For the sake of rural Minnesota and the communities that Highway 14 serves, we hope that some real leadership will be shown in St. Paul this year.

The timing of Day’s delayed response to the Walz/Kuntz Op-Ed proves why Highway 14 has taken so long to be upgraded … no leadership ! The First District suffered through all the years of Gil Gutknecht failing to deliver on Highway 14 funding … we don’t need Dick Day's leadership representing us in Congress.

Day’s equivocation that this is “good theatre” may only be true if you like tragedy !


Anonymous said...

Great post! I'll being posting about it at BSP, and including a choice passage from Day's campaign site about Highway 14.

Ollie Ox

First District Resident said...

The I-35W bridge is a federal bridge. Congress is responsible for funding the bridge. If any project is delayed in Minnesota it will be because Congress didn't fulfill its promise to Minnesota.

As for Steve Murphy and the Democrats in the state legislature, their conduct is no better. Minnesota has a fund with $190 million that it can spend towards the bridge. Murphy and the DFLers on the special transportation board only authorized MNDOT to spend $70 million of the $190 million prior to February 12, 2008 when session begins. It appears that Murphy's reckless failure to allow MNDOT to spend money on the bridge may also put projects in jeopardy.

But I ask, when has the DFL ever been interested in funding roads and bridges? Certainly not in the last 20 years when money has been taken away from roads and bridges and put into transit, bike trails and other spending unrelated to our infrastructure problems. The three biggest road and bridge spending years in Minnesota history have been under the Pawlenty administration.

Froggie said...

The I-35W bridge may be on an Interstate, but the individual states are responsible for maintenance and upkeep of their portions of the Interstate system, with funding help from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

So while Congress holds the purse strings for FHWA, it's still MnDOT's responsibility, not Congress.

And the Legislature ultimately holds MnDOT's purse strings.

BTW, money has not been taken away from roads and bridges and put into transit. The money that went to transit came from the general fund, though it is true that said money could have gone for roads instead.

Lastly, the 3 biggest road/bridge spending years have been under Pawlenty for two big reason: one is ongoing construction inflation (which of course is going to drive the costs/overlays up), and the second is his bonding plan. Yeah, it increased the current construction spending, but it's going to tie up *A LOT OF MONEY* in paying off those bonds. We're already seeing a big slowdown in highway projects as a result.