The Beard that won’t quit

Mike Beard's vision for Minnesota

Bible-thumping Mike Beard won’t rest until he’s chased every last Minnesotan off of transit.  You’ll remember the somber mood last summer when his transportation bill basically eliminated transit, proving once again that the Republican leadership doesn’t pay attention to what their committee chairs are doing.  At some point, the suburban contingent of the legislative majority must have explained to their redneck colleagues that middle-class white people take the bus, too, and draconian cuts were avoided.

One piece of last year’s transportation bill (vetoed by Gov Dayton) would have required the Met Council to raise fares by a quarter.  Mike Beard won’t let the extra quarter drop, and has brought it up this year as an independent bill.  I’m not certain if the state has directly specified the amount of transit fares before; I couldn’t find any by searching the historical statutes but certainly the TCRT co’s fares were regulated, although possibly by municipalities rather than the state.  But regardless of whether there’s precedent, a politically-driven fare increase contradicts existing policy, which states that:

Fares and fare collection systems shall be established and administered to accomplish the following purposes: (1) to encourage and increase transit and paratransit ridership with an emphasis on regular ridership

MN statute 473.408 subd. 2A

Although Mike Beard – whose occupation is “Business” – and Senate companion bill author and “Home builder/land developer” Joe Gimse are both clearly transit experts, they may need a refresher course on economics.  Raising the price of a service typically does not encourage people to buy it, and since operating costs for transit do not increase or decrease by the passenger but rather by the vehicle, fare changes don’t have a direct relationship to operating efficiency.  In fact, if a fare increase lowers ridership but not enough to cut frequency, it will worsen Metro Transit’s relatively good farebox recovery rate.  In other words, a 25 cent fare increase will probably make transit less efficient.

So although the bill duplicitously titles the fare hike subdivision a “Farebox recovery adjustment”, the real purpose of the bill is to make transit less competitive.  Unfortunately, if passed, the real effect of the bill would be to increase transportation costs for people in poverty, who are already disadvantaged by the region’s extreme job sprawl.

The bill hasn’t yet received a hearing – it was just introduced this week in both houses.  Hopefully the rational minds that compose our professional legislature will recognize this bill for the destructive politicization of a public utility that it is.  Seems unlikely.  In fact a legislated fare hike is painless stab at transit for suburban Republicans who are ideologically opposed to transit but who have to deal with the inconvenience of constituents who actually use and support it – the fare hike will damage transit overall but will be less hurtful to relatively affluent riders (although the text currently requires a “proportional” increase for express buses, so the hike will likely be more than a quarter for most suburban riders).  We’ll find out on March 12th, when the first hearing in the House is scheduled (the Senate hearing hadn’t been scheduled as of the ranting of this post).

Mike Beard’s persistence in legislating his perverse interpretation of Christian teachings in the form of unrestrained resource extraction and emission of climate-changing gasses has earned him the nickname “Bible-thumping” Mike Beard (by me, anyway).  But his tenacious antipathy for public transit suggests a more fitting alliterative epithet: “Bus-bashing” Mike Beard.  Eh?  Eh?

6 comments on “The Beard that won’t quit

  1. Matt says:

    I don’t think it does any good to marginalize Christians or assume they are anti-environment or anti-transit.

    • Alex says:

      I agree – Mike Beard should stop marginalizing Christians by pretending that his opposition to transit or climate change legislation has a basis in the Bible.

  2. mulad says:

    I’d kind of forgotten about Beard’s unusual leanings. When I first read about his views on natural resources and the environment, it seemed like I’d come across a creature of the Dark Ages — Literally. His thought processes are akin to what Christianity taught back then. After a while, people began to realize that Europe and the British Isles suddenly didn’t have any trees anymore, and ideas shifted a bit. London had already shifted to using lots of coal by the time of the Black Plague. (Incidentally, air quality got a bit better after all those energy consumers died, though it did periodically get worse and worse all the way up until the 1950s when the Great Smog killed 12,000 people.)

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure fares had been regulated by the cities for TCRT, though I suppose it’s possible that the legislature specifically gave that power to the cities (as the law appears to give that power to the Metropolitan Council today)

    That bill seems to have pretty haphazard wording — simply increasing the fare by 25 cents (or a proportional increase for peak fares) without any reference to current fares or what a target value would be, and without striking the existing wording in Subd. 2a. (not to be confused with Subd. 2. (a) that you quoted above) which gives the Met Council the ability to establish fares.

    Still, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a system where an increase was forced by some government entity — usually it’s the other way around as governments try to block transit agencies from making increases on their own.

    • Alex says:

      While I’m far from a theologian, my sense is that pre-industrial Christian thought didn’t really explicitly define its relationship with the “natural” environment but nonetheless leaned more towards the Stewardship Model that only recently has been explicitly expressed by some Christians. This sense is based on a general reading of the history of ecology in Western Europe, a slightly-better-than-vague familiarity with the writings of St Augustine, and the fact that the Bible has more literal support for stewardship than mindless exploitation (I heard a Buddhist speaker once who said that Christianity has more doctrinal basis for modern ecological principals than does Buddhism). Ironically, while the industrial era has provided a more fleshed-out expression of the Stewardship Model that may have been more prevalent in the pre-industrial era, it has also given rise to a theology that I think has a better corollary for Beard’s “burn it and let God sort it out” position towards the environment. That would be the Prosperity Gospel, which although I’m not aware of a specific stance towards the environment implies at best indifference and at worst outright exploitation of the sort Beard advocates. But I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on the Christian stance towards the environment – and Matt’s too, if I haven’t offended him so much he’ll never read my blog again.

  3. […] of major league stadiums to foster urban development, the topography of parking lots, or the propriety of legislating transit fare increases, please join us at the Republic of Seven Corners.  They also have cheap booze and […]

  4. […] turns out I may have misjudged Mike Beard when I accused him of being a fundamentalist ideologue; instead it seems he’s a energetic, charismatic and persuasive fundamentalist ideologue.  […]

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