Prove you’re not a hypocrite, Betsy Hodges

Betsy Hodges’ remarks on SWLRT, delivered at the vote today on the staff recommendation for the Kenilworth corridor and freight reroute, strike me as hypocritical at best, childish at worst. She castigates the staff recommendation as entirely favoring St Louis Park (although acknowledging that SLP opposes freight rail proximity to station locations), but the “other, better alternatives” Hodges has publicly acknowledged are freight rail relocation alternatives, which, of course, only favor Minneapolis. So it’s duplicitous of her to imply she wants a compromise.

Now I can understand that as mayor of Minneapolis she wouldn’t want a compromise, but one thing she should want and claims to want is LRT. Her position opposing the staff recommendation carries the very real risk of stopping the SWLRT project, which is the only remaining opportunity in this region for massively improving transit in one fell swoop. Bottineau, Gateway, Rush Line and of course the streetcars are all peanuts without SWLRT, and probably depend on its completion for their success.

If Hodges had any record whatsoever of supporting transit in any way, I might believe her that she supports transit but is opposed to this particular project. But in every transportation decision that she’s had any part in, no mode but driving has been advanced in any significant way, so it seems more likely to me that Hodges is just another suburban politician blowing smoke to get the urban vote, all too common in Minneapolis (cough RT cough). The real test will be municipal consent, of course, but I don’t see any reason to celebrate a statement that opposes a badly needed step towards improving transit in the Twin Cities, and appears to do so for entirely parochial reasons.

In her short mayoralty, Hodges’ primary accomplishment seems to have been finding $1m to make driving in Minneapolis even easier. If she’s serious about transit, she has one of two options:

  • actually come up with an alternative that would somehow both please Saint Louis Park and Minneapolis, despite the fact that their disagreement is essentially binary; or
  • recognize that the immense benefits of SWLRT overshadow the minor problems with the Kenilworth route, that the legitimate process issues she identified in her remarks are can now only be useful to bring up as teachable moments, that a real leader would be gracious rather than petty in defeat, and lead her people towards the next step of mitigating their losses but also accepting the benefits of the situation, which in this case are substantial.

How Hodges speaks leading up to the municipal consent vote could make a difference, but to make these hypocritical remarks in the face of certain defeat, and then to publicize them, doesn’t give me hope that she’ll grow up, let alone act like the leader of a major American city.

4/3 update: Laura Yuen’s piece for MPR diminishes what little hope I had that Hodges will suck it up and do the right thing:

Andy Hestness, vice president of the Native American Community Development Institute in the Phillips neighborhood, suggested dropping the northern tunnel to preserve the 21st Street station, which he said is the best way Franklin Avenue buses in south Minneapolis could access the proposed light-rail line.

“It’s all about connectivity,” Hestness said.

Some committee members, eager to shave up to $60 million by eliminating one of the tunnels, seized on the idea. They asked Hodges her thoughts on the plan, but she said defending the shallow tunnels in any form put her in a difficult position.

The difficult position to which Hodges refers is, of course, deviating in any way from the position of the wealthy DFL donors that live along Kenilworth.

5 comments on “Prove you’re not a hypocrite, Betsy Hodges

  1. Reuben says:

    I assume that her remarks were just grandstanding. The writing on the wall is very clear that we’re building shallow tunnels. She is smart enough to know this. I assume that she knew she’d be outvoted, and that she assumes the Met Council will approve the shallow tunnel alternative. She knows a lot of folks in Minneapolis feel like they’re being screwed over, so she wants to create a record of voting against this. However, she knows full well that we’re building shallow tunnels and that a no vote yesterday didn’t change that trajectory. I predict that when faced with a municipal consent vote to support shallow tunnels, she and the council will be all in.

    • Alex says:

      Right, but is grandstanding good politics at this point? How does pouring scorn on the body managing the project (omitting, by the way, Hennepin County, which deserves at least as much blame as the Met Council for the mistakes which led to this debacle) set her up to work with that body to mitigate her concerns?

  2. Matt Steele says:

    True progressive leadership would mean scrapping this and starting over on a line that actually serves people.

    • Alex says:

      How would Betsy Hodges do that? Also, I’ve never understood why you consider the 76,000 people and 86,000 jobs that will be within a half mile of SWLRT stations in the 3A alignment to be not actual people. Can you name an alignment that would serve more people for less money? What exactly is the problem with building 3A now and taking advantage of the immense improvement in transportation patterns it will bring to the SW Metro and building 3C later?

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