Government investment in the Light Rail would create jobs, support small businesses

The following column by Sirish Samba was posted on the Sun-Sailor website October 18, 2017:

Sirish Samba is a Minnetonka business owner.

I am convinced that the best opportunities come at the most challenging times.

The year 2008 was not the best year for small business owners. The Minnesota economy, like that in many states, was hit hard by the Great Recession and many companies faced the reality of insecure funding streams.

Our company, Sambatek, was no exception. We were primarily a land development/municipal engineering firm that specialized in designing retail stores, apartment buildings, hotels and municipal infrastructure projects. Our services were not of much use in an economic bust.

But as a civil engineer, I was trained to see the solution that might be hidden to others. And I saw the recession as an opportunity to grow our company in a new direction. We decided to create a new specialty in transportation, including public transportation.

It has been almost 10 years and we have never looked back.

By 2014, we were the 48th fastest growing company in the country, with offices in Minnesota and North Dakota. We could not have become as successful as we have without a devoted staff and, strange as it may seem, sustained public investment in our public transportation systems.

When our government prioritizes public transportation, it not only keeps our systems running, but it spawns job creation in companies all along the supply chain.

Our firm employs 100 professionals in what we often refer to as the “Sambatek family.” Plain and simple, we would not be able to provide sustainable careers for these individuals without local, state and federal investment in public transportation.

Currently, we are working on several projects with Metro Transit including the Blue Line Extension and Southwest LRT projects. Not only do these projects provide jobs for hardworking Minnesotans, but they will spur economic growth in our state once they are completed.

Already, the Southwest LRT corridor has experienced more than $515 million in new development in anticipation of the project’s completion, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association. Once it’s done, estimates hold that the line will create 16,600 jobs near the new stations and 18,500 jobs in downtown Minneapolis.

The Blue Line Extension corridor’s development has grown from $358 million in spring 2016 to $489 million today. It is estimated that, once completed, the Blue Line Extension’s 11 new stations will mean 4,600 new jobs along the route – a 30-percent growth for the region, not to mention the 20,000 jobs created downtown.

So when the federal government invests in public transportation, it’s doing much more than creating a rail in a vacuum. It is supporting small businesses, creating jobs within the supply chain, and facilitating long-term economic growth and long-term jobs.

When politicians fund public transportation, they are investing in our communities and in economic development.

Both the Southwest and the Blue Line Extension LRT rely on several different funding streams, including federal investment. They are both recipients of Capital Investment Grants (CIG grants), which come from the federal government.

Yet federal allocation for public transportation is far from secure. I am calling on Congressman Erik Paulsen and others to designate vital transportation resources in the federal budget next year.

Our politicians often speak about their focus on job creation and economic growth. They can act on these priorities and create real change in their districts and across the country with designated funding for public transportation.

After all, it is more than just the transit systems that benefit from this investment. Our employees would not have jobs without federal investment in Metro Transit’s system.

It was federal investment in public transportation that set our company on a pathway of growth back in 2008 – and what has kept us successful all these years.

I hope that if our politicians truly care about job creation and supporting small businesses in our country, they will support and fund public transportation.

Sirish Samba is a Minnetonka business owner.

View the post here.

Republican Tax Plan is a Bad Deal for Working Families

The following column was written by State DFL Chair Ken Martin:

As Congress turns to tax reform, details surrounding the Republican tax plan remain blurry. But we know one thing for sure: The plan balances massive handouts for the wealthy on the backs of working Americans.

The Republican tax proposal is written by Wall Street, for Wall Street. Literally. President Donald Trump tapped two former Wall Street executives—Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn—to secretly craft a tax plan and force a partisan vote without the American people knowing how much they’ll be harmed. Read More

First meeting of Trump’s voting commission makes clear that suppression is the goal

The following article by Kira Lerner was posted on the ThinkProgress website July 19, 2017:

Yet Mike Pence claims the panel has “no preconceived notions.”

Vice President Mike Pence claimed during the first meeting on Wednesday of the White House’s Commission on Election Integrity that the group will go about its work with “no preconceived notions.” Just minutes later, commissioners took turns insisting there is mass fraud across the country that could influence elections.

Kansas Secretary of State and commission co-chair Kris Kobach claimed in his introduction that as many as 18,000 non-citizens could be registered to vote in Kansas, without mentioning the shady math and questionable studieshe used to arrive at that number. The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky insisted that massive fraud is occurring across the country. And even New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Garder, a Democratic commissioner, argued against making voting easier, saying it doesn’t require a massive amount of fraud to influence elections. Read More

Local Newspapers Uniquely Positioned to Promote Healthy Political Discourse

The following letter was submitted to the Lakeshore Weekly News June 27, 2017:

To the Editor:

The Lakeshore Weekly News is an important resource for local information that falls under the radar of state and national news feeds. Thank you to reporter Patty Dexter for the exception to this in the June 22 edition by providing Congressman Erik Paulsen’s reaction to the attempted murder of congressmen in Washington DC on June 14th . This terrible assault on our democracy is a local issue because it was an attack on all Americans. The article also demonstrated access community news organizations have to our elected representatives and the opportunity they have to report on them. This is especially important because Congressman Paulsen has chosen to ignore his constituents and refuse on‐the‐record open public discussions.

Lakeshore Weekly is uniquely positioned to promote healthy political discourse because of its access to Paulsen which is not afforded, or is affordable, to his constituents. Lakeshore Weekly has the opportunity to raise the bar in reporting on Paulsen by asking him rigorous questions on his positions affecting our district and demanding complete and truthful answers. For example, Paulsen voted for legislation (H.J. Res. 40) to make it easier for those suffering from severe mental illness to purchase firearms. This regressive legislation was rejected by over 70% of voters and his friend, Gabby Gifford. The reporter could have asked Paulsen why he voted to remove checks and balances on the purchase of firearms by those diagnosed as a risk to themselves and/or others. Read More

Senate Democrats shine light on health bill’s longer-term effect on Medicaid

The following article by Amy Goldstein was posted on the Washington Post website June 29, 2017:

In asking the Congressional Budget Office to take a longer view of Senate Republicans’ troubled health-care plan, the chamber’s Democrats maneuvered to train a spotlight on exactly what the GOP has sought to bury.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act relies on the time-honored political strategy of pressing a bill’s most profound effects years into the future — in this case, in severely constricting the main source of public health insurance for poor and vulnerable Americans.

Until Thursday, that scenario had been cloaked in arcane legislative language about per-capita caps and varying inflation adjustments. What Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeepers did, at the prodding of the Senate Finance Committee’s senior Democrat, is make clear that the GOP legislation would squeeze federal Medicaid spending by 35 percent by the end of two decades, compared with current law. Read More

Rep Erin Koegel Update: June 29, 2017

Rep. Erin Koegel (37A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

I hope summer is treating you and your family well. Here is an update from the State Capitol.

Home Improvement Assistance

If you are looking to address health, safety, or accessibility concerns in your home, help may be available from Anoka County. The county administers a pair of home improvement loan programs at 0% interest with deferred payments for residents under certain income amounts. The Minnesota Housing Home Rehabilitation Loan Program and Anoka County Community Development Block Grant Home Rehabilitation Loan Program are available for owner-occupied single-family detached homes, duplexes, condominium units, town homes or manufactured homes. For more information, visit or call 763-324-4650. Read More

Republicans the leading force behind nonsensical cuts

The following commentary by Rep. Linda Slocum was posted on the Sun-Current website May 20, 2017:

To the Editor:

In response to a recent letter by Metropolitan Council Member Steve Elkins (“Legislature’s transit cuts would be dangerous”), I write to provide a critically important clarification.

Mr. Elkins is right that the transportation budget that passed out of the House would cause draconian cuts to transit, amounting to a 40 percent reduction in basic bus service and thrusting thousands more cars onto our traffic-jammed streets. Read More

Losing federal transit funds would be a shame

The following commentary by Peter Dorsen was printed in the Eden Prairie News May 18, 2017:

I truly recognized why I was not a Republican when I was appointed to the WHite House Commission on Aging by former Sen. David Durenberger. They advocated discontinuing Meals on Wheels for us seniors. I quit.

Equally reprehensible in a different way is the GOP-endorsed transportation bill that contains cuts in funding to Metro Transit for the Southwest Light Rail Transit. All I know is now way I’m heading into Minneapolis except in a comfortable seat on a Southwest Transit bus with a friendly driver and WiFi. I confess, whoever, I love trains. Read More