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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Will Legislators Still Fund Madison's Place $189,000 despite it's on track to be fully funded in two months?

6-2016 update: The park opened and they did it without tax dollars. HF2183 did not pass. 
Back in May 2015 I reported how Local Government Jeopardizes Local Private Fundraising Effort with a bill to over fund the future Madison Place Playground that has started to be built at the Bielenberg Sports Center in Woodbury.

As of December 2015, the park is 97% fully funded by private donors.

Local State Representative Kelly Fenton authored House File 2183 to fund the project $189,000, the amount the project needed when the bill was authored. I asked the local legislators named on the bill why they would fund a project that had already raised over 75% to their $830,000 goal (at the time)... Senator Karin Housley (R) responded and took her name off the senate version of the bill SF2032 and thanked me for informing her.

I also explained to legislators that since Fenton authored the bill the Madison Claire Foundation had posted on their Facebook timeline on March 31st they were only $130,000 short of the goal... A $59,000 gain! Still Representative Joann Ward (D), Representative Kathy Lohmer (R), and Senator Susan Kent (D) refused to pull back from spending tax dollars on the park.

Don't get me wrong, the park is a great idea and very worthy of private donations as the park will serve all children, including those with disabilities. The people who manage the fund raising are close to the cause and have never advertised that they wanted the park funded with tax dollars by sharing the funding bill is active in the legislature.

What this article is about is an update: As predicted the fund raising is on track to raise the money 100% on their own within two months! According to their website, madisonclairefoundation.org, they are just $25,000 short closing out 2015, meaning they have raised over $150,000 since Representative Fenton wrote the bill!

I emailed Representative Fenton and her administrative aid with this impressive update. I asked if she would congratulate the fund raisers and kill the $189,000 bill she authored to fund the park. Fenton has not responded, nor have the other co-signers of the bill that is dormant as "recessed" in the legislature until they reconvene in 2016 according to https://legiscan.com/MN/drafts/HF2183/2015 

This is significant because in the blur of the legislature where bills are grouped together in omnibus packages and most given very little discussion on the floor when they're voted on... it could easily get passed by the uninformed representatives. Yes, one could argue that a true republican would understand the slippery slope of funding private charity with tax dollars and could possibly vote no... but on the election year that is 2016 many politicians like Fenton have no problem putting principles and campaign promises aside to pass a feel good bill with the language of the bill having you believe the funds will go towards the park.

This leads us to the second point. I confirmed with House and Senate finance committee staff that bills such as this are completely legal even if they are requesting money for a project like this that could be fully funded privately. The funds can be used by the group that receives the funds for whatever else. YES, it is legal in Minnesota to lie to the public and the rest of the legislature to write an unethical bill requesting money to fund something not described in the language of the bill, just as long as the organization named gets the tax dollars. 

As of December 2015 the Madison place playground raised over $100,000 in seven months, with just $25,000 left to go. Yet the Bill still exists to fund it. That's a staggering $14,000 a month average and at this rate the park could easily be fully funded before the legislature reopens!

Representative Fenton is up for reelection in 2016 and could likely face defeat by an actual fiscal conservative republican in the summer primary for the spot on the November ballot. Decisions like this and her choice to abandon her constiuents by authoring the bill to fund the controversial Gateway/ Gold Line Corridor makes this a likely possibility:




Susan Kent (651) 296-4166 (D)
John Hoffman (651) 296-4154 (D)
Ann Rest (651) 296-2889 (D)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Washington County Refuses to Disclose Latest Red Rock Corridor Cost Analysis


1-14-16: Last open house on the Red Rock Corridor was yesterday regarding the massive route change to DOUBLE the station stops  We were there, but the technical analysis data to help residents understand the detailed cost and other differences between the routes was not. Lyssa Leitner, the corridor planner said they plan to post them for the public in two days. See Part 2 to this article: Proof Washington County Mislead us all about the Red Rock Corridor

2-26-16The Implementation data was finally posted nearly a month after the January 28th Commission vote.


Part 3 to this story: 

Over 40 Red Rock Corridor Decision Makers Unable to Provide Answers About New Route



The Red Rock Corridor (RRC), a planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor in South Washington County has been in the planning stages for over 8 years. We've covered how the corridor is already troubled with major problems: Red Rock Corridor Faces Delays as 7 Facts Become Undeniable. The greatest problem is proving ridership will be enough to meet even the low standards of Metro Transit. (State average for a corridor paying for just the operating costs is only 30%) In an attempt to pick up ridership they needed to adjust the route off highway 61... one big problem... that makes the corridor not so "rapid."

From:
Red Rock Corridor Faces Delays as 7 Facts Become Undeniable
.


Washington County Commissioners and Public Works Director Don Theisen added another major stumbling block for the project when they backed corridor planner Lyssa Leitner after she refused to explain inconsistencies between their own corridor studies. Leitner responded on 12-9-15 with the aid of a county attorney in this email (also below) refusing to directly answer fair questions requesting clarification regarding the cost and impact of the newest RRC route known as Alternative 2 in the "implementation plan". 

The email was also sent to the County Commissioners, Leitner's supervisors, and South Washington County legislators . None of them spoke up in defense of tax payers.

There is an open house in January before the final approval yet citizens have no hard information comparing the route options side by side. The information was planned to be released for the public months ago and is still unavailable (sourced below under number 2). Leaving tax payers blind.

We found the following massive problems on initial inspection of what little corridor planners have decided to release and we asked Leitner to explain in the letter below (also linked above):
I: Diverting Alternate 2 way off 61 totally loses it's title of being a "Bus Rapid Transit" route (by definition) into being like an express bus route... which the area already has 3 of. Taking over an hour to go from Hastings to St. Paul is not "Rapid" (64 minutes according to p. 15 of 11/2015 RRC meeting).  According to google such a trip from Hastings to Union Depot by car would be 4x faster at about 20 minutes: https://goo.gl/maps/DArYfhXaVcK2... add the time BRT riders would take driving to a BRT station and walking to their final stop from the destination and you have the nightmare ridership of 835 people a day on the Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley (MNDOT Status Guideways Report p. 26).

II: This new alternative Route 2 which diverts further off 61, doubles the amount of stations from 6 to 12, and goes further into Hastings over doubling the "acreage served" (750 to 2,100some how costs less than the original BRT plan of $45.8 million in the Alternative Analysis Update(p.14 of AAU pdf)?
III:How can this new route possibly cost 62% less  than the $112 million dollar Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley, have the same number of stations, yet be over twice the length (13 vs 30 miles)?

Read the simple questions asked and Leitner's responses below (or on this link) to show as sourced proof the answers were not only evasive by avoiding the questions through the guidance of the assistant County attorney, but also manipulating us all by making it appear the answers were in front of us the whole time. I assure you, they are not, and prove it.




-Matt Behning


At Her Own Crossroads: Will Representative Fenton Lead or Appease



From: Matt Behning
Sent: Monday, December 14, 2015
Subject: Re: Red Rock Corridor Alternative 2

To Ms. Leitner: 


I'm surprised at your responses for all of us. In front of the County Commissioners and area legislators that hold the keys to the project funded by our tax dollars. The six questions were thoroughly thought out and sourced to show every effort was made to find the answers independently. The questions stem from the inconsistencies between the 2014 Alternative Analysis Update (AAU) and your most recent estimates for the same route option (alternate 1) in the 2015 implementation plan. Your responses are no different than what the senior citizens in Oakdale experienced from you on October 15th when you were brought to tears when caught smirking while they pleaded with you to listen and answer similar questions about the Gateway Corridor: http://alphanewsmn.com/2015/10/oakdale-residents-speak-out-against-the-485-million-bus-route/ and: this bulletin op-ed account

Your copy and paste response answer for every question to view past meetings on the surface appears helpful. However, you know as well as I know, the meeting minutes and agendas you reference just show the items were discussed rather than a resource for the information behind the discussion that could answer the questions. Below I source each of your references and include why each response is unacceptable even compared to the quality of information provided from the Gateway Corridor Commission (which I admit is adequate). Follow up questions are in Maroon for you to consider.

(full original questions with supporting data as well as your full responses are on the email below this one or on this link)

1.) First question
 asked you to please send out raw data to your email pool on the info used to come to the alternate route decision so they can be better prepared at the open house. Your answer is not only no, but you acknowledge that the data is not readily available (as you offer to allow an appointment with the data rather than post it online). Furthermore you do not indicate that the "technical data" will be posted. The data requested is not an outrageous expectation. It's posted for every other corridor study in the past for this corridor and the gateway. ie: the AAU study for the RRC:  2013 Technical Memorandum #4 Capital Cost Evaluation  Why not post the implementation plan data too? Especially if you are not willing to answer any questions?

At the time of sending my e-mail I wasn't aware the December 2015 meeting you directed me to was posted. I appreciate the tip, it was the only piece of data in all your answers I have not poured over. However it revealed you didn't spend $400,000 on this new route study you're spending a total of $550,000! p.45 of December 2nd RRC meetingWhat's the point of a contract with Kimley Horn if they can't do a job for the contracted cost?

2.) Question 2 on why there are no feeder lines so it doesn't take over an hour to take a trip that would take 20 minutes in a car... instead of writing a sentence or two kindly explaining (perhaps a logical reason) you direct me to another dead end. I reviewed the link to the July meeting agenda you reference and it includes a presentation from the special interest group East Metro Strong sharing Met Council survey data not collected from South Washington County about how great transit can be in an ideal urban setting (starting on p. 24 of pdf)... nothing on answering any of the questions. I reviewed the July meeting minutes... no data, only evidence it was discussed (hardly a recording of minutes). With the cluster that is the RRC page it's not surprising the meeting minutes for July is also the link for the September meeting agenda off the Corridor page: http://www.redrockcorridor.com/agenda-meeting-min/

Again, it does state that the alignment choice was discussed at all the outside TAC, BAC, and "map meetings"; however the Red Rock Corridor doesn't share any of those meeting minutes like the Gateway corridor does

Interestingly at the September meeting agenda p.15 of the pdf it states "The results of the analysis will be previewed with the TAC, B-CAC, and Commission in October. Once all committees have reviewed the technical information, it will be released for public comment" (the committees have reviewed it and that hasn't happened... I asked you to release it.. and you say no, I have to come in to see it [your answer to question 1]

In October Ms. Turner states the data would be released for the public on page 6 of the pdf for the October meeting minutes... why would I have to go to the County offices to review the data your commission promises to have released last month?... kind of important since you are making all these heavily impacting decisions that are worth tens of millions of dollars.

3.) Will it cost tax payers at least $400,000 every time you come up with a new route option? Followed up with providing the fact the Gateway corridor plans are more organized to group route studies together. You arrogantly respond "There is no public data responsive to this question no[r] does the inquiry seek existing data." I can't begin to explain how condescending and disrespectful that response is for tax payers to hear. 

4.) Why are the cost and ridership data of Alternate 1, aka the BRT route in the AAUway off in your references to it in your new implementation planYou again refuse to simply answer a legitimate question by referring to meeting minutes void of hard data or to watch an entire meeting that may or may not be available from SWCTV... Who do you think you are responding to citizens like this? Especially after your rebuke from the man in Oakdale who said: “Please don’t laugh at me. This destruction of my home is serious business to me.”

5.) How is it history is seemingly rewritten to make it look like this new alternative Route 2 which diverts further off 61, doubles the amount of stations from 6 to 12, and goes further into Hastings over doubling the "acreage served" (750 to 2,100some how costs less than the original BRT plan of $45.8 million? You respond "Data on the capital costs for both the BRT in the AAU and the BRT alternatives for the Implementation Plan can be viewed in technical  memos available by appointment at the Washington County Government Center. " Again, from your commission it's stated at the September and October Corridor meetings that the technical data was going to be public last month (sourced above)... 
6.) Perhaps the most fair question of all: How can this new route possibly cost 62% less  than the $112 million dollar Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley, have the same number of stations, yet be over twice the length (13 vs 30 miles)? Like your answer for question three regarding cost, you come up with an arrogant and insulting response: 
Washington County does not possess data in response to this request. 
How you can feel you are doing honest and responsible work Ms. Leitner is beyond me. How can you have any pride in the Corridors you are planning in Washington County if you can't answer six fair questions that should be easy to answer? These questions could just as well come from a County Commissioner should they not have the blind faith they have in you.

-Matt




On Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 4:09 PM, Rick Hodsdon <Rick.Hodsdon@co.washington.mn.us> wrote:
Mr. Behning:
  You email below has been forwarded to me for response as the Washington County Data Practices Officer. I reply to your inquiries in the green font directly below each inquiry. To the extent you desire to inspect any of the referenced data you may contact me to arrange for those logistics.

Richard Hodsdon
Assistant Washington County Attorney
15015 62nd Street North
Stillwater, MN 55082
651-430-6119 direct



From: Matt Behning
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 2015
To: redrockcorridor@gmail.cominfo@redrockcorridor.com; Lyssa Leitner; Jan Lucke; Transportation; Don Theisen
Cc: Lisa Weik; Fran Miron; Ted Bearth; Gary Kriesel; Karla Bigham; rep.dan.schoen@house.mnrep.denny.mcnamara@house.mn
Subject: Red Rock Corridor Alternative 2 is not in AAU...starting from scratch? cost and ridership info looks way off?

To: leaders involved in the Red Rock Corridor planning... it's complicated to say the least. Please ensure Ms. Leitner can "reply all" for us as it's in your best interest to also understand her answers to these six simple questions. Failing to obtain a response for all of us is an assumption tax payers should have blind trust and that you care not to understand that tens of millions of tax dollars could be wasted on this. I ask in this manner with all you involved because the corridor planners refuse to answer funding and logistical questions and respond by stating they are only required to respond to data practice act requests. I thank you ahead of time for your support:

To: Ms. Leitner,

Thanks for the info on the Alternative Route 1 vs Route 2 in the email that was sent for the RRC below. You promise that Route 2 is the "most efficient" and that the public has the opportunity to review the option at an open house after the decision was already "unanimously approved".

1.)    Could you please send out raw data to your email pool on the info used to come to that decision so they can be better prepared at the open house?... Now that the corridor is traveling far off hwy 61, doubling the amount of stations from 6 to 12, and going further into Hastings I'm sure the costs and impact data are far different since "BRT" routes require road enhancements on non-freeways.... ie: the $35 million dollar "preferred highway 61/ CSAH 19 interchange concept" on page 11 of the May 30th, 2013 RRC Commission meeting

The data provided to the Commission is included in the December 2nd meeting packet that is posted online. Technical reports on capital cost, operating and maintenance costs, and service plan are available for viewing if you want to set up an appointment at the Washington County Government Center.  

2.) According to the November 2015 RRC commission meeting (p.3) it looks like considering this one extra route is costing $400,000. Why is such a back roads route being considered? Why no feeder lines? Diverting Alternate 2 way off 61 totally loses it's title of being a "Bus Rapid Transit" route (by definition) into being like an express bus route... which the area already has 3 of. Taking over an hour to go from Hastings to St. Paul is not "Rapid" (64 minutes according to p. 15 of 11/2015 RRC meeting).  According to google such a trip from Hastings to Union Depot by car would be 4x faster at about 20 minutes: https://goo.gl/maps/DArYfhXaVcK2... add the time BRT riders would take driving to a BRT station and walking to their final stop from the destination and you have the nightmare ridership of 835 people a day on the Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley (MNDOT Status Guideways Report p. 26).


The data  provided to the Commission and conversations that lead to the decision making are included in the July and September meeting packets and meeting minutes. Both are on the Red Rock Corridor Commission website and I trust you have the skills to avail yourself of that resource as it thereby be at no cost to you..

3.) Will it cost tax payers at least $400,000 every time you come up with a new route option? The Gateway corridor you're planning had 3 BRT routes considered in it's AA study  and many more alignments for each in the Scoping data.


There is no public data responsive to this question no does the inquiry seek existing data.

4.) Why are the cost and ridership data of Alternate 1, aka the BRT route in the AAUway off in your references to it in your new implementation plan?
Because in the AAU it sates the BRT route, aka Alternative 1, would:
-Have a capital cost of $45.8 million (p.14 of AAU pdf) Yet has half the stations (6) compared to the new Alternate 2 route (12) p.15 of 11-2015 meeting
-Have an operating cost of $3.8 million/yr (p.14 of AAU pdf)
-Have a total combined (BRT and express) daily ridership of 2,420/day (p.13 of AAU pdf)


This subject was discussed verbally at the December 2nd Commission meeting. Data in the form of a video recording of that event  can be obtained from South Washington County Telecommunications Commission and meeting minutes will be posted  and available to you with the January Commission packet.

Yet in your new implementation plan you say the same route (alternate 1)
Only would have cost $28.6 million?
Had an operating cost of over $6 million/yr!
and combined (BRT and express) Ridership was 2,750?

5.) How is it history is seemingly rewritten to make it look like this new alternative Route 2 which diverts further off 61, doubles the amount of stations from 6 to 12, and goes further into Hastings over doubling the "acreage served" (750 to 2,100some how costs less than the original BRT plan of $45.8 million? To make this new alternate look even better on your page it looks like you nearly doubled the operating cost of the original route from the AAU ($3.8 million/yr) to what you now quote (as $6 million/yr)... The same for ridership... in the AAU ridership never separates BRT from express (wildly assuming no riders of express will be lost to BRT) and say ridership was higher than originally calculated for a number of 2,750 instead of 2,420... (if the answer is 2030 vs 2040 data than why do you only gain 330 riders over 10 years?)

Data on the capital costs for both the BRT in the AAU and the BRT alternatives for the Implementation Plan can be viewed in technical  memos available by appointment at the Washington County Government Center. 

6.)  How can this new route possibly cost 62% less  than the $112 million dollar Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley, have the same number of stations, yet be over twice the length (13 vs 30 miles)?
Washington County does not possess data in response to this request.
Please explain as to ensure a fair understanding is had by the public on what you are doing with tens of millions of tax dollars at stake... If I pour hours over this and can't understand your math I'm sure the legislature will continue to easily be convinced to refuse to fund this corridor directly (since 2011). 

If in two weeks you can't explain I'll see if the Met Council, CTIB, or the FTA can explain. Being on phase one of CTIB next to the Robert Street and River View Corridors looks like strong competition since both serve way higher density populations (p.366 of Met Council 2040 plan).

Thanks,
-Matt





From: Red Rock Corridor <info=redrockcorridor.com@mail213.atl171.mcdlv.net> on behalf of Red Rock Corridor <info@redrockcorridor.com>
Sent: Friday, December 4, 2015 3:24 PM
Subject: We Want Your Feedback!

If you are having trouble viewing this email, please click here to view our online version.
To ensure you receive future e-mails from Red Rock Corridor, please add info@redrockcorridor.com to your address book.
We Want Your Feedback!
The Red Rock Corridor Commission has made a recommendation for the corridor’s bus rapid transit route and is seeking feedback on the route and station locations for the project.

Two Alternatives
Prior to the Commission’s action, two bus rapid transit route alternatives were reviewed comparing travel time data, projected ridership, capital costs, and operating considerations. Route Alternative #1 travels primarily along Highway 61 while Route Alternative #2 provides more direct access to the corridor communities by deviating from Highway 61 in appropriate locations.

On December 2nd the Commission unanimously recommended Route Alternative #2 as the most efficient manner to server the southeast metro communities.


Click on the image above to view full size PDF document. 

The recommended route will provide convenient access to the largest number of riders, offers the lowest operating cost per rider, serves the most jobs in relation to the station locations, and stays true to the overall vision for transit in the southeast metro.

Attend the Open House
The commission invites the public to attend an open house to provide their feedback:

January 13, 2016
5:00 to 7:00 pm
DeForth Community Room at St. Paul Park City Hall

A brief presentation and information boards will help participants understand the differences between the two alternatives. Staff will be available to answer questions.

Other Ways to Comment
If you are not able to attend the open house, comments will be accepted by phone, email or mail through January 20, 2016 at::

651-430-4314
redrockcorridor@gmail.com 
Project Manager – Lyssa Leitner, AICP
Washington County Public Works Department
11660 Myeron Rd North
Stillwater, MN 55082

















Thursday, December 3, 2015

Case filed against ISD833 to get all the Votes Counted

From South Washington County Citizens for Progress:

THANK YOU for your support and donations!  Because of the outpouring of community support, we were able to reach our first fundraising goal of $5000+ for the Court Bond Fund by Monday (11/30) afternoon! That was $5000+ raised in about three days - this is an amazing feat and couldn’t have been done without all the hard work of all of our supporters! Well Done!

Today [12-2] the  Notice of Contest and Election Contest Under Minnesota Statute § 209.021 documents have been filed at the Washington County District Court as well as served to South Washington County School District 833 School District Clerk, Dayna Bentdahl, the School Board Clerk, Katie Schwartz and the Washington County Auditor, Kevin Corbid. This marks the beginning of the community contesting the Canvassing Board’s decision to pass Ballot Question 2 thereby disenfranchising five voters when the Board failed to recognize the five challenged ballots as “No” votes. By contesting the election, we are not asking a judge to overturn an election result; we are requesting that the judge enforce the election result by recognizing that the voters’ intent on the five ballots was to vote “No” and that the Canvassing Board erroneously threw those ballots out.  The result of the court recognizing the five ballots as "No" votes will be the election ending in a TIE, which would DEFEAT the $96 Million (before interest!) bond!

That means that together with you and others in the community, we will have been able to defeat BOTH bond Questions 2 & 3, resulting in saving District 833 residents and taxpayers $146.5 Million (with interest, totaling $258.4 Million) in additional debt and property tax increases. That is HUGE!

Even though the complaint has been filed and served on the respective parties, our work is not done.  There is still much more to do, so we still need your help and support to see this issue through to the end.  That means that the $5000 Court Bond fund was just the beginning: in order to continue this fight, we will need to continue raising funds to pay for the work that has to be done, and we cannot do it without your help and support.

So…our next stage of fundraising begins NOW. We need to raise $9000 over the next two weeks in order to cover the additional legal fees that a case of this magnitude requires. Think that can’t be done? Think again: it was with YOUR help that $5000 was raised in THREE DAYS! Imagine what together we can do in two weeks!

Like the lesson learned from this election - EVERY VOTE COUNTS - we also know that every donation counts toward the pursuit of justice by rectifying the voter disenfranchisement caused by the Canvassing Board’s decision to not count the five contested ballots as “No” votes. Please join us by donating TODAY. Please also SHARE this information with friends, neighbors and local businesses so they can also have the opportunity to join all of us in supporting this important issue.

We will continue to use the SWC4P PayPal donation site to take donations as well as accepting checks/cash payable to SWC4P.  We will also set up a crowd-funding site to make it easier to donate to this cause, as well as organizing opportunities to call on local businesses (as a team in person and/or by phone) to encourage their participation with our fundraising efforts (dates tbd).

Won’t you please donate today so we can continue the fight? 

Thank you again for your support! We CANNOT do this WITHOUT YOU!

Sincerely,

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle – SWC4P Chair
Susan Richardson – SWC4P Treasurer
PO Box 251482
Woodbury, MN 55125