Counterpoint: Kersten isn't a credible critic on MSP growth

  • Article by: Marc Hugunin
  • April 14, 2014 - 6:18 PM

Apparently, there are no credible critics of the Metropolitan Council’s proposed growth plan, “Thrive MSP 2040.” The only critic the Star Tribune could find to grace its Opinion Exchange section Sunday is simply not credible.

Katherine Kersten’s argument fails on at least four counts. First, she claims the “ best measure” of a region’s economic viability is domestic migration, and points out that more people moved away from the seven-county metro area than moved into it in 2000-2010. But Thrive 2040 was not in effect during this period. This only shows that some changes in policy may be beneficial. By itself, it does nothing to support either Thrive 2040 or her utopian alternative.

Second, Kersten describes a straw-man version of the council’s proposal. “If the plan follows typical ‘smart growth’ ideology,” then it will do this or that, she says, “though details are not yet clear.” But it’s clear enough: The policy doesn’t advocate for many of the things that Kersten implies that it does.

Third, the policies she prefers are the same ones the right has been hyperventilating about for at least 30 years. Taxes and “counterproductive government regulation” are suppressing our economy! People are moving to Atlanta and Dallas! Businesses are going to South Dakota and Wisconsin! Meanwhile, of course, the Minnesota economy consistently has outperformed the national economy and especially those of Wisconsin, South Dakota and other so-called low tax states. This argument flies utterly in the face of experience and logic.

Fourth, Kersten pretends to offer an alternative philosophy of government that, she claims, is absent “counterproductive government regulation.” But, based again on experience, unfortunately, her utopia is a place where, if you are gay, you are free to be discriminated against. If your children are gay, they are free to be bullied. If you move at an inopportune moment, you are free to lose your right to vote.

And, of course, Kersten’s is a society in which we subsidize highways and greenfield development in the countryside, making us free to live in suburbs and drive a car everywhere we go. This is just the way God intended us to live, she implies, while any alternatives to this vision are “social engineering.” This is just a bald partisan lie.

I don’t mean this as a defense of Thrive MSP 2040, by the way. It’s a program worth debating. But Kersten is hardly the person to start an honest, productive debate about it or anything else.

Marc Hugunin was a member of the Metropolitan Council from 1999-2003.

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