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Stories relating to the Twin Cities and Minnesota

Global Warming Coverage

Looks like WCCO is following Kare 11's lead and doing a series on global warming and energy stuff.

Local viewers, check out WCCO 4 tonight at 10:00 for coverage. I hope to post a link to the video if they have it available online later.

Rail

Some updates on local rail issues.

A step forward for the central corridor - the Federal Transit Administration has agreed it would be cost effective.

Now the Metropolitan Council and the Ramsey and Hennepin county regional rail authorities may take the next steps in the approval process. Local officials will seek public comment about a draft environmental impact statement for the line and decide whether they prefer to operate a light-rail or a bus-rapid-transit system, according to the Metropolitan Council. Officials could decide on a "preferred alternative" early this summer.

I desperately hope they don't go with the bus-rapid transit. It would be cheaper now - and probably implemented more quickly but will scale poorly. Its poor scaling factor won't be that much of an issue though, because buses will attract fewer riders than a train would following the same route. Call it the bus-stigma effect. Most of us would rather ride a train.

The other major rail project, the Northstar Commuter line from Big Lake to Minnneapolis (map) is coming closer to opening in 2009 following the Senate's recent passing of $60 million in funding. However, the Northstar line is far from definite.

In talking with one of my friends at the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, he said he opposed this line because it encourages people to continue moving to exurban areas. One of the biggest reasons to stay close to the city is commuting time. These trains will get rid of that.

I'm not sure that I agree with his final assessment. While it may encourage further exurban growth, I think that growth will be occurring regardless and removing thousands of commuter trips each day strikes me as more important.

Meanwhile, a recent Strib article explains why Metro Transit has not yet implemented a fare system which allows for easy transfer between bus and train. The company responsible for creating the system has had tons of problems and they are way behind schedule.

Amendment Addendum

Minnesota's Senate Judiciary Committee killed bigot Bachmann's bill to allow the voters to decide whether gays/lesbians get the same rights as straight couples. MPR offers good coverage, including the fact that Bachmann has a lesbian sister. They don't talk much.

Looking at one of the sites of the groups pushing for this amendment, I found this:

Our message is simple -- the people of Minnesota should be allowed to vote on matters of constitutional importance. We need to elect state legislators who understand this basic premise of our democracy.

So, I wonder how many of these legislators would support a referendum to decide if people should retain their constitutional right to carry/own weapons. The simple fact is that in a system such as ours, we do not put constitutional rights up to a popular vote. This is good for all minorities.

Over the long haul, I believe the Supreme Court will strike down the various state constitutions which discriminate against same-sex couples because it is imcompatible with equal protection. This is not inevitable. It will take a lot of effort (sadly, probably by a minority of the population) to raise this issue and work for equal rights. As it has been, so shall it be.

Marriage

Can you believe this? First, "Christian" conservatives are conspiring to prevent gay marriages. Now this from a local group:

Time is running out to protect marriage in Minnesota. For over two years, a group of Minnesota state senators has stonewalled the marriage amendment by bottling-up the bill in committee and blocking attempts to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate. These senators claim to be "following a legislative process", but in reality, they seem to be willing accomplices in a scheme designed to deny Minnesotans the right to vote on marriage. By virtue of their actions, these senators are essentially paving the way for inter-racial marriage in our state.

Sound pretty horrific? Well it is. Only I made up the bit about inter-racial marriage. Well, let's say it is more of a historical reference than pure fiction. Afterall, it has been well within our living history that inter-racial marriages became normalized.

This quote is mostly from the "Gang of 12" website - gangof12 d com - which I do not link to as I don't want to help it gain legitimacy (via search engines). You should check it out though - it identifies the key people who have prevented this attack on civil rights from gracing the MN ballot. 10 of these people continue to work and 2 have succumbed to the pressure of bigotry. I called each on Friday to let them know I appreciate their work - several thanked me because they have overwhelmingly heard from the other side. I let the 2 who have changed their position know that I was disappointed.

It does look like a majority of Minnesotans would reject the ban. That is marginally reassuring. However, the very idea on voting on whether someone else should have equal rights is offensive. We do not vote on whether to allow Japanese couples to marry - and such an initiative should horrify our sensibilities.

For those who claim it is an abomination or that God doesn't want it - well, I guess you really can't argue with that. Except that our government is not supposed to promote their religious ideas. If some religions do not want to allow same sex marriages - fine. However, using the powers of the state to deny rights (such as tax advantages and health care related privileges) to same-sex couples that are granted to hetero-couples violates not only the Constitution, but the ideas behind it.

Those who claim this is the first step to polygamy or marrying animals have had too much koolaid. The government has an interest in considering same-sex couples equal to such hetero couples. Same sex couples form the same tight family bonds which are necessary for a stable society - or at least as well as the 50% of hetero couples which do not divorce.

The government is certainly interested in promoting stable families. In effect, it must defend marriage. The question is how to defend marriage. Should the government bar same-sex marriages because some people believe God hates it? Or should the government pursue policies which promote healthy families which are the buildng block of stable societies? Important factors in stable marriages are whether the people care for each other, whether they are truly willing to commit to the well-being of the other. Important factors are not what small-minded neighbors think God desires.

Tomorrow, 4 April, the Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing the honorable Senator Bachmann's bill to prohibit marriage between same sex couples.

Then language of the proposed referendum to amend the Constitution:

The question submitted shall be: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that marriage or its legal equivalent is limited to only the union of one man and one woman?"

To those who say that the Minnesota voters should decide, I want to remind you that the founders of this country conspired specifically to prevent majorities (moral or otherwise) from denying minorities equal protection of the law. Putting certain groups' civil rights to a vote is offensive to the ideals enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

OutFront Minnesota has more on this specific issue. Please contact your Senator and let them know how you feel about it. That OutFront page has a district finder if you are unsure who repesents you. If you don't know who represents you, how do you know if you being represented?

The homophobes campaigning against marriage are actually using some of the same graphics used in the 2004 campaign to suggest Kerry would have banned the Bible. Can you believe that? According to that Gang of 12 site, the implications of not amending our Constitution to deny civil rights to gays and lesbians (and some bi-sexuals) are:

Schools would be forced to teach all aspects of homosexuality

Everyone subject to public displays of homosexuality

Children in same-sex households deprived of a mother or father

Laws extended to include polygamy and group marriage

Restrictions on freedom of religion

People silenced from speaking out against homosexuality

Schools are not even allowed to teach hetero sexual practices to students thanks to these crusaders. Everyone subject to public displays of homosexuality? This has what to do with marriage? Who do you see making out more often in public - married people or those who are fresh into a relationship?

Children in same-sex households deprived of a mother or father? Time to outlaw divorce. And force re-marriage in case of an inconvenient death. Polygamy and group marriage - well, that really has nothing to do with prohibiting 2 people from enjoying the same civil rights regardless of whether they like boys or girls.

Restrictions on freedom of religion? I don't think Minnesota can overturn the First Amendment. This also covers people speaking out against homosexuality. Freedom of speech remains - to the extent it ever did anyway.

Clearly, these are bullshit arguments trumped up to cover up the fact that there is no single reason to amend the Constitution which does not come from Bible (and general distortions credited to it). And with the country 85% Christian in name, I don't see the Bible gettin' banned anytime soon anyway. Although, as many of those Bible-thumpers (more thumpers than readers) are the experts at banning books, maybe I should defer to them.

As if this wasn't long enough and I didn't have other things to do, I'll continue. The GOP has made the marriage amendment a major campaign strategy.

In order to keep marriage from being redefined by liberal activist judges, Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature have tried to pass a constitutional amendment to allow the citizens of Minnesota to define marriage as between one man and one woman. While the bill has passed in the GOP controlled State House, it has been blocked repeatedly by the DFL Senate and their liberal special interest friends.

Liberal activist judges? Let's see, I was just reading something ... about those horrible activist judges. Oh yeah - it was Governer George Wallace in his 1963 inauguaral address:

I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

At other times, he called federal judges

a bunch of atheistic pro-Communist bums ... bearded beatniks and faceless, spineless, power-hungry theorists and black-robed judicial anarchists

This comes from a book looking at the Brown V Board Decision - The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? by Gerald Rosenberg. My impression of the courts is that they do not stick up for minority rights have as often as my reading of the Constitution suggests they should - but when they do, they get crucified by these pious pricks.

Moral of the long post? Time suggests that while gays and lesbians will still be dealing with discrimination for decades, things will improve. It doesn't say anything about the what will happen with Minnesota's marriage amendment - but if MN chooses to turn its back on gays and lesbians, I think I'll be finding a new place to live.

Great Lakes Climate Change

The Union of Concerned Scientists, with the Ecological Society of America, has released an interesting report: Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: Impacts on Our Communities and Ecosystems.

This report has a specific section on Minnesota. Overall, I found the Minnesota specific summary to be fairly obvious. Of course, there is undoubtedly interesting stuff for anyone who wants to dig in.

Some notable passages from the regional executive summary:

Nighttime temperatures are likely to warm more than daytime
temperatures, and extreme heat will be more common. While annual average precipitation levels are
unlikely to change, the seasonal distribution is likely to, increasing in winter and decreasing in summer.
Overall, the region may grow drier because any increases in rain or snow are unlikely to compensate
for the drying effects of increased evaporation and transpiration in a warmer climate.

These changes in temperature, precipitation, and humidity will strongly alter how the climate feels to
us. Within three decades, for example, a summer in Illinois may feel like a summer in Oklahoma does
today. By the end of the century, an Illinois summer may well feel like one in east Texas today, while a
Michigan summer will probably feel like an Arkansas summer does today. Residents in Toronto could
experience a shift from a southern Ontario summer to one that by 2030 may feel more like one in
upstate New York, and by the end of the century more like one in northern Virginia today.

Regarding the conservative mantra that higher CO2 levels will spur increased plant life which will scrub the air,

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration is likely to spur forest growth in the short term, but
the long-term response is not clear at present. Increasing ground-level ozone concentrations,
for example, will probably damage forest trees, potentially offsetting the positive effect of CO2.

Additionally, regarding ag

Elevated CO2 levels are also likely to exacerbate pest problems because CO2 changes
the quality of crop tissues, making plants themselves more susceptible to pest damage

Kare11 Climate Change

Kare11 ran a piece on climate change which it claimed was apolitical. I'm actually quite impressed with it - it takes a look at alarmist predictions for the future of Minnesota. It focuses on the moose herds and fishing. There is little good news.

They also have a website on the climate issues and supposedly a forum - though I cannot find it right now.

St. Paul Joins Kyoto

Mayor Chris Coleman has begun to distinguish himself from previous mayor Randy Kelly by joining 5 other Minnesota cities (over 200 U.S. cities) and signing the Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. This basically commits St. Paul to implement the terms of the Kyoto treaty which the U.S. is not participating in as a country.

These are good policies that will promote clean growth. This is not to suggest that I totally buy into the possible fallacy that humans are failing if they are not growing but I believe this path could be one toward clean growth. Some local conservative bloggers are suggesting this will somehow ruin St. Paul and lead to economic devastation. To adopt their line of reasoning, if they don't like it, they can move to one of China's polluted cities -- China leads the world with more than half of the world's most polluted cities because they have prioritized economic growth over a healthy environment.

Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy have worked on this issue and have some good resources if you want to learn more or get involved.

Mac Alum -> State Gov

A very recent Macalester grad is looking to make a run for the State House.

"It is going to be an uphill battle," Mortenson said. "There is still age discrimination out there, and we are going to have to work harder than any of the other candidates."

I'm not sure that I believe the age discrimination is a bad thing. In general, it seems that people who are elected are totally out of touch with the lives of everyday people. I'm not sure that running for a government position immediately after graduation is a good thing. I, myself, graduated from Mac with a number of ambitions and ideas which have changed quite a bit during my four years out of school.

The Humphrey Institute, where I am now pursuing a Masters of Public Policy degree, strongly encourages students to gain work experience between leaving undergrad and enrolling in the program. Though many people work while in college, it is a totally different experience to be out of college, paying off loans, trying to figure out what to do, where to live, and how to do it.

Come to think about it, I think people should be strongly encouraged not just to work between college and a life of politics, they should be forced to work retail. Working retail gives a future policy maker an appreciation for just how lazy and evil people can be on a daily basis without even realizing it. This is a valuable lesson.

Central Corridor

I just found out about the centralcorridor.org website which has information about the proposed rail line down University Ave between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

A business partnership also maintains a web site with information encouraging a light rail line along the strip.

Central Corridor Article

I've been trying to keep up with the possibility of light rail on the central corridor between St. Paul and Minneapolis. I have been talking with some folks that are studying it here at the Humphrey Institute and I hope to post some information about it soon. In the meantime, the MN Daily has an article about local business concerns over the project.

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