consultants are sandburs

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This sort of thing leads to this sort of critique.

Thing. Critique.

The ultimate test of any government program or policy is whether it is worth what it costs. Arguments over negative worth, impact being bad the more the policy is pursued, can always be made and are strongest when planning is viewed as a religion. Do not question, hire one of a cadre of Comp Plan consultants, tell people - or "guide" them toward embracing of foregone conclusions, and demand growth planning far in excess of any actual feasibility, again and again, and you have towns authorizing Comp. Plan scenarios that allow developers to cherry pick where to try maximizing profits, consequences be damned, and developers love Met Council. As do land speculators. But what about us?

From page 6 of this,

Transit Oriented Development Defined
“A moderate to higher density district/corridor located within easy walking distance of a major transit stop that typically contains a mix of uses such as housing, jobs, restaurants, shops, services and entertainment. These districts/corridors enable people of all ages, backgrounds, and incomes abundant transportation choices and the opportunity to live convenient, affordable and active lives.”
~ working definition from Metropolitan Council Think Tank,
September 2012

Yes. That sounds exactly how Ramsey Town Center was postured in advance, and sold, part cramdown. Here is a a Wikipedia image from Father Knows Best (sometimes mother too):

Something left from the original post because a bit of web research was entailed before continuing ...

Comp plans are hateful and costly, and of little value vs. cost by how they are cabined, cribbed, confined, bound-in by transit orientation, and by growth at all costs, one way, that being dense to service transit planning by the bureau having jurisdiction over, guess now, transit. Or not?

Certainly the Hwy 65 corridor in north metro is shameful, wholly automobile oriented with each major cross street pockmarked with a traffic light hosting appended shopping opportunity to where each intersection looks like the others, and with nil stuff a mere bit of a distance away. However, that Gestalt was grown with Met Council functioning throughout it all, from the mid 1970's on, and with a past mayor along that corridor as one of the consultant cadre.

Yes, things could grow better than that, but it is hubris to say "smart growth" as if all required is short term adherence (with long term mouthings) to an "engineering exercise" outlook when that exercise ignores that over fat growth projections cause the kinds of community concessions in terms of permitted land uses, and restraints, that have led and will lead to developers having free rein, along Hwy 65 to cherrypick intersection by intersection for a quick build-and-count-dollars response. Surely the Met Council planners can say, "That's not what we mean, not what we intended," but it's what their Comp Plan quota setting yielded.

Ramsey, to its shame, last comp planning cycle, authorized growth amounts beyond the insanely inflated projections of Met Council, and now we see some pumping of the Armstrong interchange (i.e., automobile orientation), as if it would salvage the Town Center failure. So, view that in light of the TOD definition above; and look at that Flaherty uber-monstrosity by the railstop, and scratch your head and ask, "Is this what 'smart growth' means and looks like?"

Where a Highway build out project is viewed by many as a salvation of a quite poor plan? It did not work, yet the leopard cannot or by act of blind will does not change one single spot in the course of litany and follow-up concessions, backing and filling.

The Armstrong interchange buildup proposal does have community benefits, with that current intersection placed as it is right at the rail crossing, but that's mop-up from how the Hwy 10 corridor was planned and built. Now TOD is the belief system that is making funding of fixing that traffic nightmare a lower priority than it might otherwise be, with the community waiting and with those stoplights still in place, all of them, from the Main Street interchange in Anoka westward.

And then, there was Darren ...

Darren who begat the Flaherty gamble, Cronk being a name along the way ...

Does anyone know where John Feges is these days? John who fronted for Bruce Nedegaard? Remember James Norman and the decision to build the Norman castle [a/k/a Municipal Center] the rationale being it was planned to "catalyze" and "anchor" the Town Center paradigm.

All those things, methodically planned. Even an RFP, interestingly before Netflix and Hulu took root:

How did that hummer prosper - Answer: Hardly, as TOD as it was - And what might TOD be ignoring? Hint: What did Netflix and Hulu offer? Stay at home film viewing, specifically, technological change in general, as in a what's the future of telecommuting as affecting our plans and outlook, and how might that square with a cadre of Met Council planners collecting paychecks for transit system oriented priorities, for TOD-think, that being the force cutting the planning cadre's paychecks, and coincidentally earning their loyalty and belief entrenchment? One voice from the wilderness aside, Brauer's, conventional wisdom "back then" thought and pitched the marketing view that Town Center success was around the corner, with officials mainly to focus on implementation shepherding, putting the skillfully planned pieces cleanly into a jigsaw puzzle interlock, month-by-month, beautiful when complete:

Sort of a hoot. The Brauer consideration was fobbed off by the Jacobson guy's disarming developer-speak, assurance, "Their intention is to design the site to be compatible for 2010 and beyond."

We're now "beyond" and it's not what you'd call a communications hub and beacon.

In light of that page from history, I find it interesting that the old centrally located city hall on Nowthen by the school is now still surplus city property, but with thinking on it being possibly a data center site - transportation of bits over fiber, not folks by rail.

Are we seeing a learning curve where developer profit making via land development hand-in-hand friendships might be viewed as one factor vs THE FACTOR? More pages from history can likely add little. The County has implemented the Zayo build out of fiber connecting government hubs, with an excess of data carrying capacity, and it was not prohibitively expensive. Wait and see. If there is to be a data center at that site vs. yet more dense housing vs. a pretty park for the neighbors that the rest of us would be subsidizing, there are cautions and worries such as possible noise and asthetics and community benefit by making a fallow site productively worthwhile, but those are dimensions of which officials and the site's residential neighbors are working to square in a productive manner. It is a promising question, but it could splat out just as the cinema RFP did. However, it seems a better thought out idea and a more skeptically explored possibility.

Perhaps it's smarter people calling the shots now, instead of learning curve, but likely a bit of both. At least James Norman's hand is absent, which I view as a plus, and we do not have an interested and coflicted land speculator on council influencing things, as was the case in 2003.

__________FURTHER UPDATE___________
Back to the opening, this link, this front page illustration:

Have you noticed the Met Council's ethereal propaganda shtick:

No motor vehicles -

No crowding -

No black people -

No graffiti -

No vacant lots -

No cops because crime is nonexistent in TOD land -

No grime -

No litter -

No disabled , only fully healthy live, work, play people -

Happy comfort, never argument nor discordant or unruly people -

Never harsh hot sunlight, but -

Never rains -

Perpetual spring and summer -

Never dark despite streetlights lit up -

Snow absent -

Winds abated -

Never winter -

Oz, not reality.

Met Council, the Wizard of TOD.

____________FURTHER UPDATE______________
To understand why Gary over in St. Cloud cares a fig about Met Council, this link. I see a Trojan Horse in that, Siefert being who he's been in the past, and do recall his losing frontrunner status among his folk in the past, to Emmer, and why. But the issue position, questioning Met Council, it is appealing, and the Met Council people should reflect on precisely why that is so. Fat chance, but they should.

It got Kersten's coordinated sanctimoniously indignant venom flowing again. Just by being who they are. Yet don't wait for Kersten's ilk to criticize Met Council for its slavishness to developer - land speculator interests; which has always been its core sin. That criticism will not happen. It's a hand that feeds those people, which they do not bite. And hey, Peter Bell, he's a senior fellow there with Kersten. Before that, I don't remember, but I vaguely recall he was not criticizing Met Council too much during Pawlenty days. Not demanding Met Councilors be elected rather than appointed. Correct me if I am wrong. Woo. ALEC, here and here. And, as a barometer - one to see who he's backing an then to guess what it means, Ron, pulling an oar with the money people:

Our Team.

Ron Eibensteiner, Limited Partner
Mr. Eibensteiner is President of Wyncrest Capital, Inc., an investment company for early-stage technology companies in the areas of telecommunications, medical devices and software. Currently, Mr. Eibensteiner is co-founder and Chairman of Arcola Systems, a software supplier to the gaming industry. [...] In 1983, Mr. Eibensteiner co-founded Arden Medical Systems and served as its Chief Financial Officer until its sale to Johnson & Johnson in 1987. From 1999 to 2005 Mr. Eibensteiner served as Chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota and holds a BS in political science from the University of Minnesota.

Whoa - Are we looking at Mr. Electronic Pulltabs, the man who'd finance Zygi dreams, if only enough cash flow were to have flowed? And should we look to which horses in the election day races he presently bets his money on so as to gauge GOP soft money anticipations? Reader help, am I barking up the wrong GOP-gambling tree, or is there a treed skunk that might cut loose any minute?

For now, a data dump, construct from it what you will: co-directors;  follow the money; opinion; birds of a feather; acquittal; sacking; cash flows; counteropinion; Spectre Gaming Inc. here, and here, and here; Thunderball Entertainment (not Thunderdome, that's different - credit card kiosks???).

It's for others to unpeel the layers of that gaming-affiliated onion. Only a data dump here. But I'd bet ...

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