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Twin Cities Daily Planet

A recent episode of Public Radio's Future Tense alerted me to an interesting Twin Cities news source - Twin Cities Daily Planet.

This site aggregates all kinds of news from news sources around the metro area, including minority newspapers and that sort of thing. Looks like they get a lot of stories.

Central Corridor

LRT is the preferred option according to the Met Council. Another step closer to rail down University. Don't plan on riding on 2010 though, it is far from being a slam dunk.

Minnesota Environment

What is the most pressing issue for Minnesota's environment? The Minnesota Legislative Commission on Natural Resources is asking for input from citizens to answer that question. This is a very short survey - please help out.

Minnesota, NO!

The land that I love is falling into the video game stupidity trap. A new law apparently fines children and teens (as if this would be enforced?) for accessing certain video games.

The trade group representing the video game industry sued the state of Minnesota on Tuesday to overturn a new bill that would fine children and teens for buying or renting mature or adults-only games.

Parenting needs to be done by PARENTS, not state government!

Cental Corridor Light Rail

It looks like the public hearings regarding the Central Corridor Light Rail project are done. The Pioneer Press covered the story - revealing a major imbalance between those supporting and those opposed. However, it appears that yet another public forum ended in disatisfaction for many.

Later in the night, Hamline-Midway resident Linda Sullivan bellowed from the crowd, asking the committee to schedule another meeting. "It's really hot in here," she told the moderator. Many of the residents who wanted to speak up against light rail had already gone home, she then added.

When I attended the Ayd Mill comment forum, 2 thoughts sprung to mind.

  1. Wow - lots of people want to speak about this
  2. Wow - most of them are saying the exact same thing

When it comes to public comments - a remarkably small number of people can each talk for a short period and make the event mind-numbingly frustrating. I this is primarly a lack of leadership by the facilitator. Situations like this call for creative queuing. Perhaps a couple of mics - one for those in support, one for those opposed, one for those in the middle? Then alternate among them based on the size of the lines behind them?

At any rate, I find it sad that people leave these comment periods feeling disenfranchised as the whole fricking point to setting up such things is supposed to be to get people involved. Granted many of these are geared toward convincing people they are involved when they reallly are not - but that is a different problem entirely.

Light Rail! Back on the track.

So it looks like most people are in favor of light rail. Those opposed have legitimate concerns about the damage to small business - primarily businesses run by minority groups. Remember, I too am a small business owner, so I have to pay attention to these things. The flip side of this coin is that the City and State open themselves up to criticism if they only build LRT in affluent areas. Then they would be attacked for ignoring communities of color. Which they do seem to do.

The best solution would be working to engage these communities and helping them to plan the transit strategies that would best help them. In the interim, I have to believe that LRT on University will be a net gain for communities of color along the line. I don't think we can know how many businesses will suffer as rising property values will increase rent, but we simply have to develop feasible transit.

After watching the promo video from the Public Works Department, I am more excited than ever about this project.

Transit for Livable Communities has a ton of info about this project. Also, the CentralCorridor.org site is mostly up to date. You can read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement there.

Finally, you can still make comments to the Committee until June 5 if you have feelings about this project. If you live in the area and want it, be sure to tell them!! Make sure you let them know that you live in the area - include your address.

Gas Prices and Sprawl

Do high gas prices reduce incentives for urban sprawl? Probably. But they have to be really high! Although current gas prices may seem high, they really only add up to maybe $300-$500 extra per year for a commuter from the suburbs. Hardly enough to compensate for the cheaper housing options outside of the city.

An MPR piece examines urban sprawl and its relation to gas prices and land prices. Interesting. The more I see people adjusting the current gas prices, the more I realize prices can go still higher without seriously hurting the economy.

Nonetheless, we must invest in transit now to give everyone options once those prices do start to significantly change habits.

Gas Holiday?

Some Minnesotan legislators are proposing a 20 cent gas tax holiday for 6 months. Apparently, this would cost the state about $300 million.

Gas prices would drop by about 20 cents per gallon. Great, right? Lower gas prices!

This will send consumers the wrong message. People need consistently high gas prices in order to make proper decisions for the future. High gas prices are here to stay. Americans are used to cheap gas prices. It takes years to unlearn those habits.

While dropping the price 20 cents is not a huge decrease, it is a totally wasted loss of government revenue. It is not enough to actually make a difference to consumers - and actually most rewards those who have made the poorest choices.

The average American drives 12,000 miles a year. More in the summer, so let's say the average American will drive 7,000 miles over this period. The average car gets 23 miles per gallon. The average driver will save around $60 from this measure.

But honestly, what do we care about averages?

Let's look at people who have chosen to drive different types of cars.

Car MPG Savings
15 $93
20 $70
30 $47
40 $35

To be clear, this is a proposal to give gas guzzler owners a tax break 2 times larger than those who have made responsible decisions.

Should those who have purchased inefficient cars be rewarded with greater savings? This is a shitty holiday.

MoJo Blog discusses the political suicide angle of actually applauding high gas prices. I don't mind. I like slowly rising gas prices over time.

Film

Thanks to my friend Gabe, I got to see the new documentary "Al Franken: God Spoke" on Thursday night at the Riverview Theater. This is a great theater - with great popcorn - in Minneapolis. And it was packed. Sold out and then some.

Al was there, spoke for a bit after and took some questions. The film was hilarious and his comments afterward were just as much fun as he ever is (you can read a recent City Pages interview with him that covers some of his comments). It was a great time, hanging out with Steff and Gabe was an incredibly bright moment in a tough week.

It is playing at the Riverview for 2 more shows at least. They just added the Sunday one. Sunday, April 23, at 7:20 pm and Thursday, April 27, at 7:00pm. Get tickets early but get there early to get good seats also.

This event did kick off the 2006 Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival (City Pages previews it). I would like to highlight a couple that seem interesting and I hope to see.

Who Killed the Electric Car? plays at Riverview on Friday, 28 April, at 5:00. 90 Minutes.

Fashioned like a tongue-in-cheek murder mystery, Who Killed the Electric Car? sets out to uncover just who is responsible for the demise of this ill-fated vehicle. The spirited film runs through the prime suspects, including car companies, oil companies, the government and consumers.

Wild Blue Yonder plays at Oak Street Cinema on Saturday, 29 April, at 7:15. 81 Minutes.

This brand-new Werner Herzog film follows a hypothetical proposition: a group of astronauts are circling the earth in a spacecraft, but they cannot return since our planet has become uninhabitable. The film doesn’t reveal why – all-out war, outbreak of a new disease beyond control, radiation after the complete disappearance of the ozone layer, or whatever.

The other two go together.

Divine Persecution plays at Bell Auditorium on Tuesday, 25 April, at 7:00. 10 Minutes.

This documentary is a meditation on injustice and what it means to fight for your rights in a country where oppression is subversive. Focusing on a 2004 grassroots campaign staged in Ohio, this documentary brings attention to the threat posed by amendments to the constitution against same-sex marriage as well as attacks on partner recognition. By illuminating the messages purported by fundamentalist religious organizations, this film reminds us of the power of the voter, no matter how threatening these groups seem. In the end, it is the ordinary citizen, either swayed by extreme messages or just ambivalent, who poses the most concrete threat to the civil and human rights of their fellow citizens.

Immediately followed by Same Sex America which plays at 7:10. 89 Minutes.

In Same Sex America director Henry Corra has documented the story of the legal battle to secure permanent equal rights status for gays and lesbians to form legally binding marriage contracts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He fleshes out some of the social, ethical and emotional dynamics by profiling seven lesbian and gay couples and a couple of anti-gay marriage activists from the Christian right.

Energy on WCCO

WCCO continued its Project Energy coverage on Tuesday night with a focus on transportation. Overall, I was more pleased with their coverage tonight. Though they continued down the oil scarcity path, they did not take the easy way out in dealing with transportation.

Coverage of transportation issues in a post-fossil fuel world all too often looks toward fuel cells and other technologies which would allow us to maintain our poor transportation infrastructure. WCCO looked not only to innovations to improve fuel economy, but also to increased mass transit. Less sexy perhaps, but it is really the best solution to reduce emissions.

Transportation systems based on individual vehicles scale really poorly and allow only the biggest risk takers the luxury of reading the morning paper while commuting. We need to improve our bus and rail systems - particularly light rail as future electricty can be generated via cleaner technologies. Reminds me of a saying about the plug-in hybrid. It is the only car which can emit less over its lifetime because the grid can become cleaner.

We have the technologies. I think we are starting to develop the willingness thanks to oil price spikes. May the spikes continue.

Traveshamockery

I am deeply disappointed by WCCO's coverage of energy issues in their Project Energy special. It was based mostly upon Deffeyes' work on peak oil without ever mentioning that peak oil is highly controversial.

They did end strongly by asking people about energy and morality. Asking if deciding on a car purchase is a moral question - most tend to answer no. However, when asked what would happen if everyone drove an SUV, people viewed it differently. They similarly implied that lightbulb choice is a moral choice.

Note to everyone: installing efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs is the first step. It is not enough to stop rapid climate change, nor is it enough to address the fundamental energy imbalances of the world in terms of who uses what.

I snapped off a quick letter to 'CCO about their story. It is below. I'll be tuning in on Tuesday night to see what they have to say about the future of transportation.

I watched your energy special this evening. I am a Master's Candidate at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, studying Energy and Environmental Policy.

While I applaud your coverage of energy issues because it is important, I was disturbed that you presented the peak oil theory as though it were commonly accepted. By selectively quoting a U.S. gov report, you gave the mistaken impression that the U.S. gov believes peak oil to be valid. It does not. In fact, peak oil is quite disputed - something the casual viewer would not know by watching your unbalanced report.

While I am swayed at times by the peak oil argument, my quarrel with your coverage is not on its merits. I am merely upset that you gave no time to those who believe that peak oil is not imminent.

There are many reasons to move away from fossil fuels - peak oil is one of the weaker ones.

Nonetheless, I am glad that you are covering energy issues - especially through the lens of morality. Such an angle is often overlooked.

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