Fighting for the American Dream in D.C.

I had the privilege of speaking at the 2017 American Dream Conference held in Washington, D.C. August 6th-8th.

In past years, my colleague, Katherine Kersten has had that privilege. Our participation has grown out of friendships with Randal O’Toole from CATO and Wendell Cox from Demographia.

The American Dream Conference is held each year to share research and provide encouragement to policy people like me and Kathy, but also boots-on-the-ground citizens fighting bad transportation and housing policies. And there are plenty of bad policies and projects like Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) to fight.


This year I was asked to speak on what the Center has done to push back on Southwest Light Rail and the Met Council’s “Thrive MSP 2040” plan for the metro area. I focused on how the Center has recently reached out to metro commuters and citizens all over the state with our far reaching “MN Congestion: It’s no accident” campaign.

As you may know, since 2014, Kathy Kersten and I have given dozens of presentations to hundreds of citizens, local and state officials and their staff, of our “Minnesota Policy Blueprint” paper on Gov. Dayton’s plan to transform the Twin Cities, and the State of Minnesota, for decades and generations to come.

DFL Governor Mark Dayton’s plan, like many “blue state” governors, uses “transit oriented development” or TOD, to pull money out of the suburbs and greater Minnesota to fund and re-enforce a city centric power model. That model shifts how and where people live, and how they get around, to change the political landscape in favor of left-wing control of local and state government. If “Thrive” succeeds, we will effectively lose self-governance at the local, and even state, level in favor of unelected bureaucrats.

We will also have more congestion.

These TOD plans rely on crony capitalism to thwart citizen opposition to these billion-dollar boondoggles. There are construction and engineering firms and armies of lawyers and consultants, lined up to take their cut of the $2 billion for SWLRT. And that is just the start: then comes Bottineau LRT and others. They press their case with help from the business chambers and K-Street lobbyist here and in D.C.

The Met Council even wants an LRT from downtown St. Paul to the airport. Even if there were hordes of travelers coming from downtown St. Paul (and there are not) haven’t these folks ever heard of Uber or Lyft?

At the conference, I shared how we placed billboards at key metro choke points, fun radio ads, and videos—all in an attempt to show how good research can be turned into a retail marketing campaign. I met other people around the country fighting light rail boondoggles, and subsidized housing schemes. We are not alone– which means Congress is not just hearing from us.

Speaking of Congress, I also explained how our effort has shifted to Washington, D.C.

While we are keeping an eye on the Met Council and interrupting their relentless PR campaign that makes SWLRT seem inevitable (it is not), we are meeting with members of Congress and staff at the Federal Transit Administration (DOT) to press our case.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who has lead the Met Council’s foray into light rail transit, recently admitted, “We haven’t won the argument.”