FFM Bulletin 6/16/10

Statement from FFM CEO Annette Meeks

On Tuesday, June 15, 2010, Annette Meeks, CEO of the Freedom Foundation, released the following statement:  “Much of my life has changed since April 27 when it was announced that I was selected as a candidate for Lt. Governor.  While this is a tremendous honor, I realize that the essential work of the Freedom Foundation must continue in my absence. 

“Therefore, on June 7, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota’s Board of Directors accepted my request for an unpaid leave of absence as CEO.  This leave of absence becomes effective June 16, and will be in effect through November 2, 2010.  The leave covers my responsibilities as CEO as well as a member of the board of directors.   I am terribly proud that the board saw fit to continue all of our existing programs at the Foundation.  I sincerely look forward to watching the Freedom Foundation continue to grow and make an impact in the public policy arena.”

Evening watchdog training session in Rochester to be held June 29

Two weeks from today, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is taking its popular watchdog training program on the road. We’ll be in Rochester on Tuesday, June 29 for an evening session (5:30-9:00 pm) at a location to be determined.

The goal of this session is to train concerned citizens to become local watchdogs who track government activities in their own backyard. The event will feature instruction and panel discussion on:

  • Government Transparency: Legal issues involving the Freedom of Information Act, Minnesota Data Practices Act, and Minnesota Open Meeting Law
  • Researching Local Government: What to look for, where to look, and how to find it
  • Getting Your Message Out: Effective strategies with traditional and new media to get your message heard.

Space is limited, so register soon if you’re interested. To register for the session, or for more information, please e-mail FFM or call 612-354-2192.

Tough truths about transit

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) chief Peter Rogoff recentlyspoke at a summit on the future of transit, and his remarks were, to say the least, surprising:

Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don't want to hear.  One is this -- Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive. Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail.  But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a "special" bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet. Once you've got special buses, it turns out that busways are cheap.  Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system.  Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.

A little honesty about the differences between bus and rail can have some profound effects … Communities deciding between bus and rail investments need to stare those numbers in the face.  Some communities might be tempted to pay the extra cost for shiny new rails now.  But they need to be mindful of the costs they are teeing up for future generations.  

While it’s heartening to see this kind of sober analysis at the top levels of the FTA, especially by an appointee of the president, it does not appear that Mr. Rogoff’s skepticism of high-cost rail projects is shared by the rest of the Obama administration.

administration abandoned the so called “cost-effectiveness index” in early 2009. The CEI measured how much time transit riders would save on the train versus other options, and at what cost. The administration’s rejection of this common-sense measure has unfortunately opened the door to hugely expensive rail projects that would serve just a select few.

Short Takes

Glenn Beck’s brand new novelThe Overton Window, is named after a concept developed by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a fellow state-based free market think tank. According to Mackinac, the concept originated with the late Joseph Overton, who “observed that when public policies in a given area, such as education, are arranged from freest to least free, only a relatively narrow window of options will be considered politically acceptable.” Click here to learn more about the concept.


FFM was featured in a St. Paul Pioneer Press story regarding the St. Paul fire department’s new headquarters. The station features a $500,000 “green roof” which, according to the project’s architects, will “host a state-of-the-art Green Roof Interpretive Center and Garden Classroom” and provides “rooftop gardening opportunities for the fire fighters.” A traditional roof would have saved taxpayers approximately $400,000. For a city with perpetual budget problems, that’s real money. No word on if there will be city-sponsored sidewalk poetry carved into the concrete in front of the firehouse.


KSTP-TV covered the Northstar Commuter Rail project’s purchase of yet another “backup” locomotive. It is the rail line’s unexpected sixth locomotive, and will cost taxpayers nearly $3 million of Northstar contingency funds – that could have been returned to its rightful owners: Minnesota taxpayers. FFM was featured in the piece.

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