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Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Good Assessment

The following is a letter to the editor in the October 11, 2007 issue of the Chisago County press. Since it is not online, it is reproduced here for the benefit of our readers.

Kalin should redirect energy

To the editor:
Instead of working towards a solution in regards to the bridge tragedy Rep. Kalin continues to politicize the tragedy for partisan political gain. Unfortunately much of what Kalin had to say in last week’s paper was nothing more than speculation, innuendo, falsehoods and political spin.

Just four months ago Rep. Kalin voted to spend over $4.1 billion on various transportation related projects (few of which were related to safety) and now he can’t find the rationale for approving what he referred to as an "unprecedented" cash advance of $200 million to kick start the building of a new I-35W bridge until federal money shows up. It seems that Kalin thinks the public should be concerned because MNDOT didn’t have $200 million sitting in the bank on July 31 waiting for a bridge to fall down. Maybe someone should tell Mr. Kalin that a bridge falling down IS "unprecedented" in Minnesota and his help may be required to get a replacement bridge built.

Among the other complaints Kalin had from last week is that "excessive bonuses" of $600,000 are being paid to the losing bidders of the I-35W bridge rebuild. I realize that Mr. Kalin has no background in bridge building or finances, but that’s a poor excuse for not being truthful on the issue. The fact is that these payments are called "stipends" and not "bonuses". Stipends are common in very large design-build transportation projects and are paid out for legitimate public purposes. But, admittedly, the term "excessive bonus" sounds much more sinister in the paper.

Continuing on, Kalin then rightfully complained that a MNDOT employee responsible for emergency management stayed at an east coast business conference and couldn’t be bothered to come home for 10 days after the bridge collapsed. This is a good and important question and deserves, at minimum, an honest answer. However, not stopping there, he went on to make false accusations that this employee spent $26,000 of taxpayer paid travel on what Kalin referred to as "personal pleasure".

The rest of Kalin’s article was nothing more than an Eddie Haskell like exercise of telling people what he thinks they want to hear under the guise of sounding thoughtful and dispassionate. It’s too bad this energy can’t instead be used on the productive work of getting a new bridge built and making our roads and bridges safer.

Bob Barrett

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