Some folks I know who used to work in Minnesota sent me this link while I was at the beach last week. In light of the radical anti-government, anti-tax stuff that tends to hold sway in this state, I thought it might be worth sharing, even this late:
Coleman: Public anger will follow our sorrow
Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
The cloud of dust above the Mississippi that rose after the Interstate 35W
bridge collapsed Wednesday evening has dissipated. But there are other dark
clouds still hanging over Minneapolis and Minnesota.
The fear of falling is a primal one, along with the fear of being trapped or of
Minneapolis suffered a perfect storm of nightmares Wednesday evening, as anyone
who couldn’t sleep last night can tell you. Including the parents who clench
their jaws and tighten their hands on the wheel every time they drive a carload
of strapped-in kids across a steep chasm or a rushing river. Don’t panic, you
tell yourself. The people in charge of this know what they are doing. They make
sure that the bridges stay standing. And if t! here were a problem, they would
tell us. Wouldn’t they?
What if they didn’t?
The death bridge was "structurally deficient," we now learn, and had
a rating of just 50 percent, the threshold for replacement. But no one appears
to have erred on the side of public safety. The errors were all the other way.
Would you drive your kids or let your spouse drive over a bridge that had a
sign saying, "CAUTION: Fifty-Percent Bridge Ahead"?
No, you wouldn’t. But there wasn’t any warning on the Half Chance Bridge. There
was nothing that told you that you might be sitting in your over-heated car,
bumper to bumper, on a hot summer day, thinking of dinner with your wife or of
going to see the Twins game or taking your kids for a walk to Dairy Queen later
when, in a rumble and a roar, the world you knew would pancake into the river.
There isn’t any bigger metaphor for a society in trouble than a bridge falling,
its concrete lanes pointing brokenly! at the sky, its crumpled cars pointing
down at the deep water! s where people disappeared.
Only this isn’t a metaphor.
The focus at the moment is on the lives lost and injured and the heroic efforts
of rescuers and first-responders – good Samaritans and uniformed public
servants. Minnesotans can be proud of themselves, and of their emergency
workers who answered the call. But when you have a tragedy on this scale, it
isn’t just concrete and steel that has failed us.
So far, we are told that it wasn’t terrorists or tornados that brought the
bridge down. But those assurances are not reassuring.
They are troubling.
If it wasn’t an act of God or the hand of hate, and it proves not to be just a
lousy accident – a girder mistakenly cut, a train that hit a support – then we
are left to conclude that it was worse than any of those things, because it was
more mundane and more insidious: This death and destruction was the result of
incompetence or indifference.
In a word, it was avoidable.
T! hat means it should never have happened. And that means that public anger
will follow our sorrow as sure as night descended on the missing.
For half a dozen years, the motto of state government and particularly that of
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been No New Taxes. It’s been popular with a lot of voters
and it has mostly prevailed. So much so that Pawlenty vetoed a 5-cent gas tax
increase – the first in 20 years – last spring and millions were lost that
might have gone to road repair. And yes, it would have fallen even if the gas
tax had gone through, because we are years behind a dangerous curve when it
comes to the replacement of infrastructure that everyone but wingnuts in
coonskin caps agree is one of the basic duties of government.
I’m not just pointing fingers at Pawlenty. The outrage here is not partisan. It
Both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and both have
dithered and dallied and spent public wealth on stadiums! while scrimping on
How ironic is it that! tonight ‘s scheduled groundbreaking for a new Twins
ballpark has been postponed? Even the stadium barkers realize it is in poor
taste to celebrate the spending of half a billion on ballparks when your
bridges are falling down. Perhaps this is a sign of shame. If so, it is
welcome. Shame is overdue.
At the federal level, the parsimony is worse, and so is the negligence. A
trillion spent in Iraq, while schools crumble, there aren’t enough cops on the
street and bridges decay while our leaders cross their fingers and ignore the
rising chances of disaster.
And now, one has fallen, to our great sorrow, and people died losing a gamble
they didn’t even know they had taken. They believed someone was guarding the
We need a new slogan and we needed it yesterday:
"No More Collapses."