Stacked

Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds wasn’t writing about the Twin Cities’ Met Council in his USA Today piece, “Why Politicians Love Cities”.   But in another sense, he was precisely writing about the Met Council.

Reynolds cites urban theorist and “New Urbanism” critic Joel Kotkin’s new book (we’ve met Kotkin on this blog before) in getting to three reasons why politicians – like the Met Council – loooove big cities;  snobbery, graft and politics.

I’ll commend Reynolds’ article to you for the first two.  As to the politics?

Cities tend to repel – and, ultimately, exclude – people who intend to raise children; it’s become something of a phenomenon.   What it’s not, it would seem, is accidental:

Politicians like to pursue policies that encourage their political enemies to leave, while encouraging those who remain to vote for them. (This is known as “the Curley effect” after James Michael Curley, a former mayor of Boston.)  People who have children, or plan to, tend to be more conservative, or at least more bourgeois, than those who do not. By encouraging high density and mass transit, urban politicians (who are almost always on the left) encourage people who might oppose them to “vote with their feet” and move to the suburbs.

This isn’t necessarily good for the cities they rule. Curley’s approach, which involved “wasteful redistribution to his poor Irish constituents and incendiary rhetoric to encourage richer citizens to emigrate from Boston,” as David Henderson wrote on theEconLog, shaped the electorate to his benefit. Result: “Boston as a consequence stagnated, but Curley kept winning elections.”

But that’s OK. Politicians don’t care about you. They care about power, in urban planning and in everything else.

Pushing people who tend more conservative out of the city/ies is just plain good politics for the DFL that the Met Council exists to serve.

Rewarding Failure

Not long before the 35W bridge collapsed, the bridge was inspected by an engineering company that gave the bridge – and its ailing gussets – a clean bill of heath.

And we know how that turned out.

Last week, a couple of cables on the Sabo pedestrian/bike bridge snapped, closing the bridge and, for several days, the Ventura Trolley.

The incidents have one thing in common; the inspectors on the old 35W bridge and the engineering consultants on the Sabo were URS Corporation of San Francisco.

What better way to hold an engineering company with this kind of track record accountable than award it a consulting contract for the state’s next big make-work money pit project?

That’s right – Mark Dayton’s Met Council is in negotiations with URS to consult on their Southwest Light Rail line   According to a source in the engineering industry with direct knowledge of the Southwest LRT bidding process, the Met has gone through a round of cuts in selecting engineers, andURS is one of the contenders, if not the finalist, to get the job; the source used the term “final negotiations”.

I sent a request for information to the Met Council over the weekend, specifically asking what stage the Council was at, what firms were in contention, and if URS was one of them.  I got the following response on Sunday afternoon:

The Metropolitan Council is in the midst of evaluating proposals for the preliminary engineering contract for Southwest LRT with a recommendation to the Met Council targeted for mid-March.

I’ll give ’em points for speed.  But it didn’t really answer the question.

Let’s leave aside for a moment whether the SWLRT is a good idea (although it’s not); With the collapse of so much civil and government infrastructure work, local civil engineering firms are hurting; those firms employ a lot of good people.  At least one local firm was counted out of the race to work on the new LRT project, while San Francisco’s URS, with its record of failure on local projects, is apparently still in the running.

Why is the Dayton Administration denying work to local firms in favor of a San Francisco firm with two strikes against it in local civil engineering circles?

I’ll try the Met Council again later today, to see if they want the public to know what firms are in, what firms are out, and where they’re from.