Monday, August 06, 2007

A union take on the bridge disaster

Steve Share of the Minneapolis Labor Review has this take on last week's bridge collapse tragedy in Minneapolis. Like Katrina, the disaster was in part a result of political decisions:

In statements today, government officials (and union leaders) expressed sympathy for everyone whose loved ones happened to be on the bridge at just exactly the wrong moment.

A common refrain: let’s know the results of the NTSB investigation before casting blame.

Few public figures, however, are stating what most Minnesotans know: in each of the past two legislative sessions, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed a transportation bill that would have provided funding for road and bridge repair and construction as well as funding for mass transit. Pawlenty vetoed the bills, in part, because he would not support an increase in the state’s gas tax to fund state transportation needs — even though the tax hasn’t been raised in almost 20 years.

(Pawlenty, by the way, also has cut Local Government Aid to the state’s counties and cities, resulting in cuts to police, fire, public works and transit — all now the agencies responding to yesterday’s disaster).

Even if the NTSB investigation holds the Pawlenty administration faultless for the collapse of the I-35W bridge, Pawlenty surely must be held accountable for the state’s lack of investment in transportation. That lack of investment now impacts the region’s ability to cope with the loss of the I-35W bridge.

We’ve been warned for years that our state’s — and our nation’s — infrastructure is in dire need of investment. Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, in Minneapolis today acknowledged that 70,000 bridges nationwide fall into the same safety category as the bridge that fell in Minneapolis.

President Bush today urged prayers for the victims of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but then, moving on to remarks about the federal budget, went on to say he opposes new federal spending and tax increases.

If the I-35W bridge had been attacked by terrorists, we would be condemning a small group of individuals, driven by ideology, for their act of violence and destruction.

What do we say when elected officials, driven by ideology, oppose investment in public infrastructure and the taxes to pay for those investments?

Iraq is not the only place where Americans are dying so that the right-wing agenda might live.


Superman said...

No tolls though, because they are regressive taxes and hurt the poor disproportionately.

The murder toll is spiraling this year in Oakland, but this does not receive the attention of the bridge catastrophe, what are your thoughts about that?

Koko the Clown said...

I do think the spiraling of the murder toll in Oakland is a cause for major concern, and the fact that it is not getting attention is a problem. But that is not to say that the catastrophe in Minn. shouldn't get the attention it has been getting. The issue of deaths that don't seem to be purely "accidental" (murders, war victims, etc.) not getting the attention they deserve is much broader than the specific example that you pose, Superman. But it is a good point.