Molnau should leave MnDOT post, legislator urges governor
Article by Mark Brunswick
"In an escalating war of words, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday said Gov. Tim Pawlenty should fire Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau -- who is also lieutenant governor -- for what he said were numerous examples of incompetence.
A Pawlenty spokesman said the governor's office would not fire Molnau, who has faced criticism and renewed calls for her ouster since the collapse of the Interstate-35W bridge in Minneapolis on Aug. 1.
While he did not directly blame Molnau's stewardship for the collapse of the bridge, Sen. Steve Murphy, D-Red Wing, criticized Molnau and other MnDOT leaders for their actions following the collapse. He pointed to MnDOT's choice of the highest bidder for the replacement bridge, lawsuits and complaints filed by losing bidders, and the agency's emergency manager failing to return from a business trip to the East Coast for 10 days after the collapse as evidence of a need for change.
"The public has completely lost confidence in the leadership at MnDOT and so has the Legislature," Murphy said, standing near the LaFayette Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Paul. The bridge is one of about 100 in the state with nonredundant, fracture-critical components like the I-35W bridge, and which are rated "structurally deficient."We have a serious problem in the state of Minnesota and we need serious people with serious answers. We need someone in there who is a professional, that knows engineering, that knows transportation and that is not Carol Molnau," said Murphy, with several other legislators standing nearby.
Murphy said the full Senate would likely consider refusing to confirm Molnau as transportation commissioner as one of its first duties when the legislature convenes in February and that the Senate has the votes to reject her confirmation. A commissioner may serve without confirmation, but if rejected, Molnau could be forced from the MnDOT post but she would retain her elected position as lieutenant governor.
The request for Molnau's termination comes in the midst of a larger debate over transportation funding and questions about a cash flow problem in the department, with the possibility raised of postponed projects to fund the I-35W bridge reconstruction.
Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung dismissed Murphy's remarks as personal name calling and said the governor is interested in moving ahead on a comprehensive transportation plan when the Legislature convenes in February. McClung said Molnau has been working through significant issues in a department that has historically generated controversy.
"From our perspective, Senator Murphy has been holding out this confirmation issue. We hope that legislators are going to take a fair approach to looking at her confirmation. We believe she should be confirmed," McClung said.
McClung said Pawlenty continues to express support for Molnau and that Pawlenty has had no reservations about Molnau serving a dual role as lieutenant governor and transportation commissioner."
Senator Murphy’s call for Molnau’s termination is obviously the voice that Rep. Kalin (17B) wants. Kalin’s press releases (links previously noted) demonstrate the itch to be rid of her.
Rather than pull together to overcome the crisis caused by the bridge collapse, the Dems play political games. Someone must be blamed. That is especially convenient when the other party is in administration. You can bet your last dollar that the libs would not be making this call if they were holding administrative power.
Why is the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee now faulting Molnau for "...about 100 [bridges] in the state with nonredundant, fracture-critical components like the I-35W bridge..." when that is his jurisdiction as well? How is it that the sudden collapse of one bridge brings all these other bridges on his radar screen? Doesn’t he read Mn/DOT reports? Isn’t it his specific job to keep tabs on the condition of bridges and the schedule for repair or replacement? The very fact that he can identify bridges with "...nonredundant, fracture-critical components..." implies he has read reports. Did he just now read the reports? If he read them earlier, where was his and his committee’s plan for repair or replacement? After all, the average citizen has known for years that the backlog of bridge repair/replacement has been growing. It doesn’t require being a senator to know this. And the Dems could have been in power when this bridge collapsed. Oh wait! He is in power.
While pointing out Molnau’s failures, he points out his own. If Molnau should go, then so should he. If there can be no confidence in Molnau, then how can we have confidence in Chair Murphy? He must accept responsibility for all bridges in Minnesota as part of the Transportation Committee.
Blaming is a childish game that the Dems have mastered. It diverts attention from one’s own failures to another. It appears to address the problem, satisfying the party base, but does little or nothing to correct the problem. It disheartens the very team that must solve the problem, while the jackals gnaw their political bones and the hyenas laugh with glee over the sacked teammate. Blamers don’t remember that what goes around, comes around.
Suddenly all the backlog of potential calamity is hyped because of one crisis. Dems make a crisis of a crisis in order to dig deeper into the taxpayer’s pockets. The next months will be filled with Democrats moaning about the need for billions in transportation dollars to get voters convinced to open their pocketbooks. Talk about creating a culture of fear!
We voters get disgusted that so many of our elected leaders are so childish and such fear-mongers. Quit pointing fingers. Get back to work. Do the job. Solve the problems and get the bridge replaced as a team. The new bridge will not be a Democrat bridge if it falls down. You can be sure of that!