Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Tinklenberg problem

AAA over at Residual Forces fired off a post this week that many of us in the 6th CD knew was coming, tying together Elwyn Tinklenberg's work as a transportation lobbyist, his time as Transportation Commissioner, and his Congressional campaign with Transportation as a focal point.

A simple google search will pull together a slew of articles on this subject to choose from, many of which do not portray one of our Congressional Candidates in a very positive light.

Reading about the Michael Barrett kerfuffle last night, I came across a great line on one of the righty blogs.

We may as well put this story out there, because it'll be us, or it'll be the Left, and I'd rather we police our own.
I could not agree more. Who is vetting our candidates? It would appear to at least this novice political blogger that Tinklenberg is being fast tracked to the 6th CD DFL endorsement without the rank and file DFLer knowing what's in the "Tinklenberg Files".

A cursory scan of the Tinklenberg website introduces 6th CD voters to a new and improved Elwyn Tinklenberg, Tinklenberg 2.0 if you will.

“To that end,” he said, “I am running to provide the people of the sixth district more hope and fewer hassles. Hope for an immediate long range plan for safer and less congested transportation systems, hope for better jobs, secure health care for their families, and policies that protect and preserve our natural resources. And finally, hope for more professionalism and results.”
If Tinklenberg is elected to Congress, what will happen to the Tinklenberg Group? Although I am a staunch supporter of public/mass transit, I genuinely wonder how much Tinklenberg's cronies will profit off his seat in Congress.

A bit cynical? Perhaps.

What's that saying about history repeating itself?

Recall Tinklenberg's struggle with no bid contracts during his reign as Transportation Commissioner.

When the Minnesota Department of Transportation lost a $17-an-hour employee, it quickly hired her as a $100-an-hour consultant and gave her a string of contracts, despite repeated warnings from regulators that others should have been considered for the work.

When MnDOT was in a hurry to clean up a site that was to become a maintenance yard for the state's first light-rail line, it put an engineering firm to work without having a binding contract or money in place -- admittedly violating state law.

Under pressure to build roads and rail, MnDOT increasingly has turned to outside consultants, paying them nearly $60 million last year. Laws and regulations exist to ensure that consulting contracts are reached fairly and competitively and that tax dollars are spent prudently. But the Star Tribune has found that MnDOT -- the third-biggest spender among state agencies -- has played by its own rules.

One example of many.

Speed plays a role In its efforts to accelerate projects, MnDOT insists that it must sometimes violate statutes that prohibit contractors from starting work before money is set aside or before a contract is signed. "It takes too damned long to get a project developed and on the ground," Tinklenberg said in an interview last spring. The Star Tribune found dozens of examples in which the agency acknowledged breaking the law by starting work before contracts were signed or money was set aside.In addition, Pickett complained in an internal document that MnDOT often steps around the rules when it decides it wants a particular consultant. The agency frequently asks for approval of no-bid contracts long after the work has begun, she said, even though "working without the benefit of a contract creates liability for the state."

In 1999, the agency wanted to hire Barr Engineering of Edina to draft a cleanup plan for part of the light-rail corridor. One reason it gave was that the company could produce a "scientifically and politically acceptable product the first time." The Administration Department initially rejected MnDOT's request for a$125,000 contract, saying the agency had failed to meet criteria for avoiding competitive bidding. MnDOT eventually got permission to negotiate a contract with Barr after explaining that cleanup funds from a settlement with a previous owner were about to expire. The agency then put Barr to work without a binding contract and without dedicated money. MnDOT later acknowledged that it broke the law in doing so. Barr did not finish the job in time to capture the cleanup funds. A MnDOT official later downplayed the failure, explaining to Administration regulators that the most important reason for moving so quickly was to avoid delays in light-rail construction. Pickett ultimately signed the contract after much of the work was completed.

The Pioneer Press took Tinklenberg to task for failing to fully disclose the full costs of LRT, through an editorial dated October 26, 1999 titled TRAIN SECRETLY LEFT $500 MILLION STATION MONTHS AGO.

Throughout the 1999 session, officials of MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council said the LRT line linking downtown Minneapolis, International Airport and the Mall of America would cost $446 million in 1997 dollars. On the basis of that estimate, lawmakers narrowly approved the second installment of a $100 million state contribution for the line before adjourning in late May.

Just six weeks later, transportation officials revealed that the costs had risen and that they would try to build the line for $548 million. That represented the original $446 million price tag, plus inflation to the 2001-03 construction period and $31 million for contingencies.

The documents produced Monday by Krinkie and Stone show that MnDOT officials were well aware the costs were rising during the legislative session, but did not share that information with lawmakers.


Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg and Metro Council Chairman Ted Mondale each told me there was no updated estimate for the total cost of the LRT line as it was approved by the Legislature. "There is no secret number floating around," Mondale insisted.

The June 1 cost estimate unearthed by Krinkie and Stone indicates that simply wasn't true. It apparently triggered the mad scramble to cut costs, and netted a new $1.4 million contract for Parsons, Brinckerhoff to assist in the effort.Tinklenberg acknowledged Monday that during the preliminary planning, as MnDOT consulted with local officials and community groups, the scope and cost of the LRT project grew as "everyone added an ornament to the tree." But he said he personally took responsibility in May to rein in the project and establish a "definitive budget."

Bluewoman and I have our tree up, can we get a new "ornament"?

To be clear, the Legislative Auditor found that Tinklenberg and MnDOT did not break the law, at least when it came to the Hwy 55 and 62 deal, but that they did fail to follow proper procedure.

We found no evidence that MnDOT violated state statutes in acting to address a safety concern at the interchange of Minnesota Highways 55 and 62. However, MnDOT did not show adequate consideration for the oversight role of the Department of Administration when selecting a contractor to build the temporary bypass. Also, in authorizing Minnesota Transit Constructors to begin work before a contract was reviewed and approved, MnDOT did not comply with certain aspects of contracting and accounting policies established by the departments of Administration and Finance. In addition, the Department of Administration was left with few options regarding approval of the agreement, and the state was exposed to potential legal and financial risks.

MnDOT’s failure to promptly consider contracting alternatives may have contributed to the need for emergency action. We found inadequate communication between MnDOT’s field personnel and its contract management personnel, as well as with staff of the Department of Administration.

Juxtapose Tinklenberg's statements via is 2008 campaign announcement and his actions as Transportation Commissioner.

“Clearly,” Tinklenberg went on, “our current representative from the sixth district did not get the message that people want action and accountability—not acting. They want facts—not fiction. They want production—not pandering. They want hope—not hassle. And they want it now—not later.”
Accountability? Pandering? Really? Some would call his 35W Bridge collapse comments pandering.

Compare Tinklenberg 2.0 to the 2005 model, Tinklenberg 1.o where during his campaign announcement he discussed his socially conservative stances.

Tinklenberg opposes legalized abortion, favors gun rights and supports a federal ban on gay marriage, provided there are some legal protections in place for gay couples. Those views are to the right of many Democrats, but could play well in the socially conservative 6th district.
It didn't in 2002 when a socially conservative Democrat lost to Mark Kennedy 57%-35%.

Bob Olson will appeal to the Klobuchar Republican's in the 6th, those Republican's who voted for Pawlenty and Klobuchar. It's a key demographic that will swing the 6th and a demographic out of reach for Tinklenberg.

Tinklenberg 2.0 appears to be a significant improvement over the 1.0 version. However, apply some mineral spirits to the exterior and the true colors appear once again.

It looks like the same old "good ole boys" network, with backroom deals and flip flopping stances being the status quo.

I'm tired of status quo.

Last night on AM 950, Minnesota Matters was talking about the AFSCME endorsement screening that happened late last night. Mark Heaney only mentioned Elwyn Tinklenberg in is discussion of the 6th.

Thank goodness for Colleen Hogan. Colleen called in and set the record straight, that there is another candidate in the 6th, and the only one viable in the eyes of many.

Bob Olson.

I know some in the 6th will be a bit ticked off that I posted this rant about Elwyn Tinklenberg and his past.

I had hoped that groups that endorse our candidates and others would have properly vetted our candidates.

If you don't think Congresswoman Bachmann's people can't find this stuff...I have a light rail project I want to lobby you for!

1 comment:

Political Muse said...

Great Comments Blue Man!