Minnesota State Fair West End Transit Hub and Gate: Let’s Not Let This Happen Again

The much ballyhooed improvements at the Minnesota State Fair fairgrounds west end has one significant flaw:  It’s lack of a functioning design and character.

West End Parking LotThe West End Market itself is ok.  Nothing to get overly excited about, but it is new and will evolve.  I am willing to give that time.  The newly installed transit hub and gate, however, is inexcusable and needs to be reworked right after the last pronto pup is sold.

The new West End Transit Hub and Gate doesn’t welcome visitors, it insults them.  In fact, it goes out of the way to cast its insult.

Whether you choose one of the increasingly popular park-and-ride shuttles that the transit hub serves or park your car in one of the area parking lots, you will encounter the same bleak stretch of steaming asphalt — acres of it — and see the colorless, drab ticket office far off on the horizon.

The lot and entrance is void of character, color, and interest.  There is no shade, only asphalt, and given that this is a new design, there still are long lines; you might think they would have worked out the logistics of getting tickets to visitors a bit faster, especially if the fair expects them to stand under a glaring sun inhaling bus diesel while waiting their turn.

Eliminating the Dan Patch entrance shows the extra effort the fair seems to have put on making getting into the fair so miserable.  Dan Patch was a comfortable walk down Commonwealth Avenue on the south side of the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota.  Bicyclists, too, could get close to the fair at a much more conveniently located bike corral.  Now they have to navigate the bus traffic and find the new location before facing the 300 yards of bleak asphalt.

Why can’t that broad apron of asphalt be broken with islands of trees or a pedestrian walkway?  And the gate itself could use trees or shelter of some sort.

On Dan Patch, a couple of pedestrian bridges to go the flow of traffic that turns on to Randall Avenue en route to the awful new entrance, would have been thoughtful and prudent.

I know the lot has been there for years.  It wasn’t much to look at in the past.  But when you have a chance to make something better, don’t make it worse.  Especially if it costs money to do so!

Mike McFadden is Qualified for the United State Senate Because…?

Mike McFadden

Mike McFadden

Mike McFadden seems like a decent guy.  From all accounts he has done many good things for his family, church, and community.  I’ve been told he even save Allen Edmonds Shoes, something I certainly appreciate.  He has been successful and there is nothing damning about that.  But why, especially considering that he is political novice, qualified for higher public office, indeed one of the highest offices one can hold in this country?

Mike McFadden has no political record and listening to him speak it sounds as if he really doesn’t have much in the way of specific ideas either.  He is going to cut this, reorganize that, and put America back on the right track.  There is no what or why in his speeches.

Plus, he is a businessman.

Now, I am not making the knee-jerk condemnation a successful businessman.  I don’t hold those views.  In fact here is a nice little write up from June 2013 by Lee Shafer at the Star Tribune defending businessmen in public office and McFadden in general. But it seems to me that if your primary qualification for office is success in the private sector, that might not be good enough, especially if you are running against an incumbent who does have political experience and a successful political record.

Al Franken has experience and a successful record.

Al Franken has experience and a successful record.

True, Al Franken came to the game without experience in government, but he had a very well-known and well-established record on where he stood with the issues.  And, I would say, he has pretty much delivered on those positions.  Candidates like McFadden try to condemn Franken for voting with his party, but these are issues Franken supports there shouldn’t be any surprise in this.

With McFadden, on the other hand, it isn’t so easy to see where he will fall.  He sounds heavily coached on policy talking points, however, and does have the support of preceding GOP senators from Minnesota — and the enthusiastic endorsement of Michele Bachmann — so one might draw some conclusions.

It seems that anything Al Franken, Barack Obama, or the Democrats generally have done in recent years is bad, bad, bad.  McFadden argues incessantly contrary to the evidence.  Amazingly, guys like McFadden seem to think going back to 2008 is the winning solution.   But for what ends?

Take for example health care reform.  McFadden, like most Republicans, argue for a “repeal and replace” answer to the Affordable Care Act.  Why should we buy into this argument.  For decades Republicans have fought reform, now they claim to have better ideas.  Really?  Who’s that naive?

Mike McFadden Wrong for MinnesotaUnfortunately, that’s about all that the Republican Party has for an answer is “change.”  Change to what?  (Remember Sarah Palin mocking the Democrats about change?  Even more funny now, isn’t it?)

The truth is Democrats — in spite of GOPs best efforts to prevent ANY change — have changed a lot in this country, a lot for the better.  Does it really make sense to support a change in senator at this point, especially to a candidate who has no record and one whose primary credential is an endorsement by the obstructionist Republican Party?

Mike McFadden fails to make any argument whatsoever — outside of rehearsed GOP talking points — why we should change course when we are on a path far better than the one we were dragged down in 2008.  His party had its chance and it did not work.  The last thing we need now is a man who will be beholden to those failed ideas in our future.

Why one guy will “stand with the Koch brothers”: A view from a far distant somewhere

I want you to read this opinion piece written by a guy named Fritz Corrigan.  He tells us why he stands with the Koch brothers, two men whom he feels are misunderstand and abused by the media and politicians.  They’re really solid Americans with nothing more than opportunity for all in mind.

IQT_03-08-2011_NEWS_01_KING03B_fct501x308x62_t460I disagree.  And I think even Fritz Corrigan would disagree if he understood a larger reality and a more complete history of where we have been as a nation, where we are today, and the direction toward which we are heading.

Corrigan’s support for the Koch’s mostly aligns with his view that there are too many regulations and other obstacles to business and industry in the United States.  People should be free to “grow a small business into an economic powerhouse” and do so “without politicians and bureaucrats blocking the bath.  Pretty family stuff, right?  We hear these arguments constantly.  They are arguments without cause or solutions.  They’re simply red herrings, meant to distract people from the good that we do together through government and focus instead on so-called lost freedoms.

Corrigan’s primary targets in his essay are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  He gives examples — some undefined, really — of how these agencies inhibit freedom and growth “with excessive and burdensome regulations.”  In the end he argues that “individual innovative genius trumps any rule or regulation.”

Fritz Corrigan, a successful climber in the corporate world, presents himself with impressive credentials.  He succeeded in the supposed “free market.”  He should know what he is talking about.  Right?

Let’s start at the end.  Corrigan sa15131factoryys — and it is a quote and it is indeed worth repeating — that he and the Koch brothers and others like them believe that “innovative genius trumps any rule or regulation.”  Think about that.  Can we really say that “innovative genius” — whatever that is — trumps ANY rule or regulation?  It is preposterous and it doesn’t take much thought to draw that conclusion.

You can look at the world today, complete with what Corrigan sees as excessive regulations, and find examples of people pursuing “innovations”, i.e., choices and actions, where those innovations cause harm.  I mean it isn’t too early to forget the financial crisis, right?  But let’s stick to Corrigan’s targets, the EPA and OSHA.

Do we really think if we reduced environment or safety regulations we would see more opportunity across society as a whole?  Would we all be better off…or even have the opportunity to be better off?

There are places in the world right now where one could go to see what this world would be like.  The undeveloped world is too easy.  What about a country like China or India or even Brazil or Mexico?

A week doesn't go by without news of environmental catastrophe or worker abuse and even worker death.  Even here in the United States, where regulations have been relaxed in some ways, we see environmental damage, worker safety issues, and all the other problems you find in the third world.  Consider, for example, just the mining industry.  Do we really think that industry would be safer and cleaner without the OSHA and the EPA?
Killing opportunity, one safety helmet at a time.

Killing opportunity, one safety helmet at a time.

Or take a look at history.  In the era of the robber barons, the early Industrial Age, were workers safer and the environment cleaner?  What about opportunity?  Did the child laborer working in textile factory have a better shot at opportunity than today’s child attending school?

Ok, you get the point.  If standing with the Koch brothers and their ilk relies on removing regulations…well, you haven’t convinced me that you should be standing with the Kochs.

But let’s look at more general and more subtle ways that Corrigan is profoundly out of touch.

First off, he proudly tells us — without irony, I’m sure — that he got his start in 1966 and built his career in a period of more than 40 years.  He got his start — his opportunity — during an era of regulation.  In fact government both OSHA and the EPA were founded in 1970.  And now these things stand in the way of progress?  How so?  Let’s look back a little further…

If Corrigan was getting into his career in 1964 after graduating from Dartmouth he was likely born in the early 1940s.  He lived through the heart of an era of government expansion and it seems it would have suited his family and eventually himself quite nicely.

It is useful to remind people like Fritz Corrigan that the lack of opportunity coincides with the reduction of regulation and government that started in the 1980s.  It isn’t the government that is hobbling business, but it might be business that is hobbling business, especially the interests of big business.  Let me explain.


Once upon a more enlightened time, this is where opportunity began…

In recent decades speculation and consolidation have become a huge enterprise.  We not only don’t have local business on the scale of the past anymore, we don’t even have regional or national enterprise on par with the years that fostered Corrigan.  The rules have changed.  Some of that is organic.  As the world progresses economically, the markets will change.  We have a global market now.

However much of the change is political.  The reduction in regulation includes the opening of free trade treaties, more fluid international markets, and … yes … the reduction of regulation, especially in areas of finance which enable the process of consolidation.

But I’m afraid that this is something that people like the Koch brothers and Fritz Corrigan won’t understand — willingly won’t understand.  It doesn’t fit their worldview.  The impact of their freedom on the lives of people excluded from their privilege is lost to them, whether deliberately or not.   This is a class case of a successful business veteran absolutely being the wrong person to give advice about such manners.

Amazingly, Corrigan isn’t even addressing these very real and not-so-subtle realities.  He makes the completely outrageous claim that genius and innovation should always trump rules!  That is his argument!  Never mind the facts and the reality that exist here and now to prove otherwise.  A view like Corrigan’s is truly is a view from a far distant place.  It is so inane and naive it is hard to believe it resonates with anyone.  But it does.  And that is the problem.

[This is a draft.]


The Real News Guys

Kolls has engaged me in a short discussion about his story.  I appreciate that.  It seems that the people who take their work seriously do.  I have had long exchanges with Kessler and Shelby at WCCO.  Hauser at KSTP responds from time to time.  Even that knuckle head who walked off his radio show — God, what was his name?  How quickly we forget! — would send long — and I mean LONG — emails to me in an effort to defend or explain his whacking opinions.

English: The Jason Lewis Show Talk Radio Host ...

I can’t remember this knucklehead’s name.  And he should wear undershirts with poly-blend white dress shirts.

What was his name?

As I am writing it occurs to me that journalists see and create a story from the facts.  An obvious observation, I know, but we’re all subjective creatures.  And I believe denying that has created some of the problems we have with news and information.

Let’s take a common target of criticism, Fox News, which is largely agreed from persons of both conservative and liberal leanings to be conservative.  In my opinion a lot of that network’s efforts is crap.  (Judge Jeanine Pirro…really?)  But it is still news.  In fact it betrays an element of newsworthiness that less opinionated crap might not.  It gives one a glimpse into the thinking of other people.  It adds a layer of subjectivity that in itself is newsworthy.

Therefore I think — and thinking off the cuff — that the real news guys (and news gals, of course) is each of us, public and reporter alike.  Information is a process.  It is about dialogue.  Those who participate in this process of dialogue are “real”, in whatever way that I am trying to frame that idea now.  And I think when a reporter takes the time to respond to opinions about his story, he is partaking in that sort of newsworthy dialogue.

Sadly, I don’t think there is much of that on the professional side of news reporting and definitely not enough on the public side.  Without dialogue, we are divided.

Even Jason Lewis gets this.  (Jason Lewis!  That’s his name.)  It might be the only thing upon which he and I would agree, but it is better than nothing.

What Do Running Aces Property Taxes Have To Do With It?

KSTP journalist Jay Kolls reported tonight that Running Aces notified employees today that there would reassignments, but no layoffs, due to a list of factors that Running Aces suggests have had a negative impact on its business.

Whatever the reasons, among those not listed is property taxes.  And yet, Kolls — reporter for perennial conservative, anti-tax KSTP — introduces the story by pointing out that Running Aces is the 12th largest payer of property taxes in Anoka County which implies that Running Aces is reorganizing because of the property taxes.  [waiting for link]

Therefore mentioning the company’s property taxes begs the question:  What do property taxes have to do with the decision to reorganize staff?  While it certainly is true that taxes are an expense the company must pay, is it the journalist’s job to suggest the connection, especially given the fact that the company itself chooses not include property taxes as a reason for reorganizing its staff?

Running Aces has struggled in recent years.  Attendance and sales are down.  The letter Running Aces sent to employees tells them that uncertain economic conditions in recent years is to blame.  They further explain that popularity of poker has declined while the company faces increased competition.  Yes, they do complain about government statutes and costs — some of that due to improper Running Aces payments the state’s gaming commission identified and corrected — but this is last on the list anyway and still does not blame county taxes specifically.

Kolls story includes an incognito interview with a nervous Running Aces employee and tells us that the mood among workers at the business is down.

One might reasonably conclude from this story that the company’s staffing changes are a factor of its property taxes and could potentially cost jobs.  However the company’s own statement makes neither of these claims.

Is this is sloppy journalism or something else?  Or am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?

Obama’s Vacation: Give it a rest.

President Barack Obama is back on the job.  No more vacation…and so no more ignoring America’s problems and world chaos.  And still the critics can’t let it go.

When the president goes on vacation it doesn’t mean he is sleeping until noon and spending the rest of the day getting drunk on pina coladas.  It basically means he isn’t participating in a lot of the ceremonial duties of his office.  The president is more or less synonymous with the office he holds.  Where President Obama goes the White House goes with him.  In part, at least, that is literally true, but most certainly in any practical sense it is the case.

America is a country neurotic about work.  We shun vacations like no other advanced nation in the world.  (Some of it increasingly by desperate necessity.)  And we always seem to worry that some other guy isn’t working hard enough, especially the president these days.

The truth is we all need a little time a way.  We all need vacations.  Many of us — though not all — enjoy the benefit of a vacation of some form or another.  Of all the people in the world who have earned and deserve a real vacation, the president’s vacation is probably less of a vacation than most.

So let’s just give all this vacation whimpering a rest.

Hey, McFadden! What Exactly is “Back on Track”?

Mike McFadden, GOP candidate for United States Senate in Minnesota, is out campaigning on the line that he will get our country “back on track”.  What can McFadden mean?

Mike McFadden Wrong for MinnesotaDoes he mean positive economic and job growth?  Check.  We’ve got that.  Instead of a devastating recession and millions of lost jobs, economic growth as measured by GDP hovers around 2% and the economy has added nearly 2 million jobs, cutting unemployment to by more than 2%.

Maybe McFadden wants to cut government and spending.  Well, since we Al Franklin has been in office, our deficit has been cut in half, spending is down, and government is smaller than then previous GOP years.

How about that health care Mike promise’s to cut?  Is removing a popular program that has already helped as many as 10 million Americans get health insurance and has expanded protection and coverage to millions more a way to put America “back on track”?  Probably not.  McFadden is correct.  Al Franken did vote for this and he likely did represent the “deciding vote,” so to speak.  Why is that a bad thing?  People who pay attention love Obamacare!

Maybe the good old days were days of energy production, reduced oil imports and so on.  Hmm…what could a good Republican like McFadden change?  Oil production is up 29% and imports are down 33%.   We have also seen a 156% increase in alternative energy sources, but Republicans, naturally, don’t like that.  Anyway, McFadden is right…Franken supported Obama‘s energy policies.

Al Franken

Al Franken is doing a great job for Minnesota and the country.

Of course foreign policy is a messy, dark area.  It will be decades before the United States — long past my lifetime — will fully get itself free from the messes and mistakes made by hawkish Republicans.  Iraq is just the surface.  A multi-trillion dollar mistake that will cost thousands of lives for years to come.

So I suppose if we want a more unstable economy, McFadden gets your vote.  Of if you want to cut — as Mike says — insurance coverage for millions of Americans, smiling Mike is your man.  But it is hard to see how any of this could be good for anyone.

McFadden is a political light weight, an empty ideologue, and one of the many who belongs to a party that represents  the past — and increasingly representing the failures of the past — and not the future.  It is necessary for them to talk in broad strokes, painting the other side as failures and they as success, because that’s all they’ve got.  The facts speak otherwise.

Help me keep Mike McFadden out of the United States Senate.


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