Alex Pham, owner of Pho Ca Dao restaurant on University Avenue, makes a point about the economic impact he expects from light rail on his business. (AAP staff photo)
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (June 1, 2011) – Capital City Business Council held a meeting for affected business owners of the Central Corridor Light Rail project last week at its 10 River Park Plaza Office in Saint Paul.
The participants spoke about what they felt is “mistreatment, abuse, and hinting at corruption along the Central Corridor” in the light rail transit and other long term planning. They felt the rezoning efforts will make their businesses worthless; that the beautification will be assessed to businesses and that the rising property taxes will further drive out small businesses that are the backbone of the corridor.
Eva Ng, President of Capital City Business Council, announced the launch of a Subcommittee of Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE) to work federally to stem the tide of subsidies and if they can – to stop light rail in its tracks.
“Citizens and businesses across Minnesota can ill-afford the unchecked rise in the cost of government due to frivolous transportation projects that will become perpetual drains on our households and our economy,” stated Ng.
Alex Pham, owner of Pho Ca Dao restaurant on University Avenue, makes a point about the economic impact he expects from light rail on his business. Pham said he cannot take a government handout because he expects it would mean something he wouldn’t like later on.
Another participant said that by agreeing to any type of assistance might require an agreement not to file suit or be part of a class action later on. They pointed to Wisconsin’s refusal of federal funds to cancel the high speed rail effort as one way that a state saw a lot of liability and continue encroachment on several levels.
The group consensus was that the cities were favoring the big project over the very business that have restored the avenue. They were especially upset about being invited to take part in the curb-scaping and beautification planning only to find out their businesses will be assessed for the improvements.
Last April members of CCBC went to Duluth to talk with new Minnesota 8th District U.S. Congressman Chip Cravaack, who defeated Congressman James Oberstar last November. Oberstar had chaired the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and came to St. Paul in January 2010 with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff to announce a federal government payment for three additional LRT stations on University Avenue at Hamline, Victoria and Western.
“We’re working both the Minnesota State legislature as well as the Federal legislature,” said Ng. “We will continue to work until the very last moment, leaving no stone unturned.”
Other participants included Steve Ellenwood, citizen; Ryan Wilson, owner of the UPS store on University Avenue; Richard Easton, citizen; Joe Salmon, citizen; Jennette Gudgel, Capitol City Business Council Membership Director; Tetra Constantino, Elsa’s House of Sleep; Dorothy Fleming; Eva Ng, and Tim Holden, owner of Added Value Improvements.