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Monday, April 10, 2006

A green roof?

There appears to be quite a discussion about the green roof.

Now, ignoring any personal comments about David Strom's appearance, sexual proclivities, or ability to relate to other people (since they are absolutely irrelevant), I do have to wonder what the real issue is here. The cost of this green roof really isn't an issue, especially in terms of hiring police or anybody else. I know that David Strom, Mitch Berg, and most other commenters here are smart enough to understand the difference between capital outlays and a recurring operating budget. Money spent on a roof, being an expenditure of the former, certainly can't be applied to the latter, any more than the legislature could stick another $100 million on the bonding bill and use it to fund teacher pay next year.

The only thing that I can think of is that this is nothing more than stereotypical liberal bashing. For Republicans, Minneapolis is full of flower-child liberals who think that they can solve all of the world's problems by eating vegan, wearing hemp, and singing "Kumbaya". It's the modern equivalent of all of those hippies trying to grow food in the desert in Easy Rider: a bunch of idiots doomed to failure.

Which is pretty sad considering what we are talking about here. A "green roof" is not some pie-in-the-sky untested theory. They have a long track record, and they have very real benefits. Storm water runoff is just one of them: the issue of treating stormwater is a very real one, and green roofs help delay costly upgrades to treatment plants. Besides, it's not like this is going to be the first green roof in Minneapolis. I'm sure that the experts who are designing this have already taken into account things like weight, low temperatures, etc.

What really bothers me, though, is when people say things like "Have you not noticed that people are dying in large numbers on Minneapolis streets, and Rybak has cut police since he first became Mayor?" People are not "dying in large numbers" on the streets of Minneapolis, and as a resident I find that to be quite dishonest. I have been by the scene of the shooting in Uptown many times, both before and since the murder. I never feel unsafe anywhere in Minneapolis, be it Uptown, Downtown, along the river, or anywhere else. I think most of the residents of Minneapolis would agree with me.

In addition, the people who make these comments, like the one about Rybak cutting the police, largely do not care about Minneapolis except when there is a tragedy to politicize. There are a great deal of Republicans (not all of them), especially from suburbs and exurbs, who consistently try to defund Minneapolis and St. Paul. It was Republicans who passed the cuts in LGA funding, which is why the Minneapolis police force has diminished: police aren't free. It is Republicans who want to take equity aid and ESL aid and desegregation aid from Minneapolis schools.

Simply put, there are a lot of people out there, and I would argue that David Strom is one of them, who believe that government by definition can do no good. Thus, they argue that government needs to be cut; when it is services are reduced, which leads to problems, which leads to more calls for cuts...in a never-ending spiral. The complete dissolution of government is their goal. It is happening on the federal level for agencies such as FEMA. It is happening on the state level too, where Republicans can cut LGA funding, leading to fewer police, and then claim that Minneapolis is failing as a result (of course, if you argue that Minneapolis should raise taxes to fund more police, Republicans are against that too).

Fortunately, the disasters of the Bush and Pawlenty administrations are leading the public to catch on to this scam. Few people believe that the government needs to be everywhere; I certainly don't believe so. But the vast majority of people in this country and in this state think that the government has many roles to play that benefit the citizens as a whole, and that demagoguing all of government only leads to a poorer quality of life. Republicans have been able to get away with this for a while, but failure is starting to catch up to them.

And in the end, trying to make a big deal out of a "green roof" in Minneapolis isn't going to turn the tide in Republicans' favor.


At 9:02 PM, April 10, 2006, Blogger David said...

Not to burst your bubble, buy my wife and I live in Minneapolis. North Minneapolis, in fact.

We know more than a bit about crime in this city, thank you. We chose to build a house in North Minneapolis, in a neighborhood that used to be improving, and have watched the crime situation deteriorate before our eyes.

We don't THINK that Minneapolis is run by clueless hippies, we KNOW this.

Look at the facts: the schools are losing students at an alarming rate, crime is soaring, our fire chief is a serial sexual harassment machine, and our city council is more concerned with global warming than dying citizens.

If the crime hadn't crept out to uptown, they'd still be ignoring it. We in the Northside have been at the bleeding edge of the crime wave.

Think about your emotional investment in the green roof: why do you care so much? Compared to Minneapolis' real problems?

At 9:33 PM, April 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, when you amortize the cost of the green roof over it's expected life, you wind up having more money to spend on other things in Minneapolis, including fighting crime. It is not a win-lose deal for you or anyone else, despite what David Strom is saying about it. Toronto has gone into green roofs in a big way, and Minneapolis would have no problem doing so as well.

Link: http://www.toronto.ca/greenroofs/index.htm

At 5:30 AM, April 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chicago too!

At 7:12 AM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright, this has officially turned into the stupidest discussion of the 06 season.

Strom was quoted in a KSTP article about a possible green roof in Minneapolis. With his media appearance, he takes the opportunity to make an obvious non sequitur:

"I think it's all about symbolism," he says. "They want to send a signal that Minneapolis is a progressive city, while the neighborhoods are crumbing."

This sort of statement could be applied to virtually any politically disagreeable funding project at any level of government; if x is spent on project y, project z will suffer. It is meaningless and void of context and content. Of course, the same could be said about arts funding, small business tax cuts, military family support programs, and so on and so forth.

MDE then links to the quote and he fills out Strom's quote with numbers:


Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is complaining that he needs more money to fight crime , yet the city has almost $2 million to spend on a grass roof.

Once again, a statement completely void of any real legislative/policy context. Let me try: Minnesota republicans want to eliminate the marriage penalty with a one time deferral of funds to make up for lost revenue, yet the penalty's elimination is a long-term funding issue that goes beyond the one-time fix. Oh wait, that actually has context and is relevant to the subject at hand and it deals with issues that evolve from the same pot of money...let me try again: Minnesota Republicans are complaining that they need to put more education money into teacher merit pay, yet they also are backing a University of Minnesota stadium.
Minnesota Politics points out the silliness of this line of thinking here:

I clicked on the KSTP article again and right before Strom's non sequitur I was treated to this:

The building is in need of a new roof

Let me put it in simpler terms: The building is in need of a new roof.

Unfortunately, instead of taking the discussion down a path...well, some idiot said something stupid in the comments section...something about sex or whatnot. Of course, responding to anonymous comments that make no sense is much easier than defending public accusations that make even less sense. Witness Mr. Strom:

Do you people not know that what you are saying is public? Are you really that dense?

The always-entertaining cut-and-paste Bergian response:

Sorry, kiddles; Republicans have better sex lives:


Anecdotally, this is absolutely true.

His idiocy must be coming from being fat and incapable of relating to other human beings.

Dunno, bigfella. I've known Strom a couple of years; he relates just fine.

As opposed to, y'know, another anonymous snarkoblogger. One not fit to carry Strom's cigar case, in this instance.

David's wife even posts about it on her and David's site:

Debate tactics of the left

Keep in mind these ruses that moonbats use when competing against better arguments and actual facts:
Not only have we gone beyond responding to what essentially amounts to bathroom graffiti, we're now assigning anonymous comments in the comments section of a semi-moderately read website as "debate tactics of the left".

MN Politics Guru is the one who gets this all back on track with this post. Thank God.

Now I'm not one of those people who thinks David Strom is a stupid person. I think he has a particular point of view and he's quite good about going after it. I'm not too up on my city budget reading, but I'd be pretty interested in finding out which pot of money the roof will come out of. Do police salaries come out of this pot of money? Is this pot of money built into the budget with yearly cost increases? Has the money been set aside for the roof? If so, how much? Is it over the $1.7 mil that is required for the green roof? What FY is that budget figure based on? Are planning amounts included in that cost and can those planning dollars be rolled over into future Mpls green roof projects? If so, will this further reduce future roof costs? The questions can go on and on. Instead, no questions get answers because all of this was started when (I assume) Mr. Strom used his media appearance to make a political point about a progressive/liberal/whatever city government that wants to build a "green" roof. He played the situation (a 5 second blurb, no less) to his political advantage...it's what he does and should do. Green=progressive=wasteful spending=Rybak doesn't care about crime.

MN Politics Guru is right, Strom and Berg should be smart enough to realize this sort of stuff. The point here is that whether they are smart enough to realize it or not, they willfully ignore the policy questions at the heart of this issue when given the chance. As for KSTP...this probably had something to do with format, but it sure didn't look like David was too adverse to drive home a political point with the short amount of time he was given. However, here in blogland, he's spent more time talking about sex lives of Republicans and anonymous comments than anything else. David plays this to great effect; not only does he get to bring the subject up in a flippant and unsubstantial manner on KSTP, but he tries to throw any legitimate concern about the roof in MPG's face with this comment:

"Think about your emotional investment in the green roof: why do you care so much? Compared to Minneapolis' real problems?"

Give me a break. Maybe if MPG got to go on TV or radio to counter Strom's misrepresentation of the problem we could have a discussion on this point. Surely Strom knows enough about the day-to-day operations of city government to know that things like water, gas, road maintenance, and...yes, whether or not roofs have

Instead of dealing with the issue at hand by clearly laying out the options of finding the best way to fix a roof that needs to be repaired, Strom and MDE talk about crime. Instead of taking time to look through the proposal to see if it represents the best value for his favorite group of all--the taxpayers--Strom carelessly tries to link the word "green" with the word "progressive" with the concept that parts of Minneapolis is falling apart. Parts of the city are falling apart...the roof of Minneapolis City Hall is one of them. How can we best build this roof so that we can save taxpayer money? Talking about how big of a boondoggle this is because of crime in North Minneapolis is nonsense...yes it's a problem, but a separate one. If there was any clearer reason why you should never vote for or support someone who doesn't respect government to run government...well, I don't know where else you can look.

This little dust-up reminds me a lot of the Simpson's episode where Homer runs for Sanitation Commissioner. The basic thrust of the show was that Homer did something stupid and his trash wasn't picked up. He went to the SC's office and threatens to shake things up (the only thing he shakes is the parrot cage). In the end, he runs against the SC (played by Steve Martin) and he wins the election based on a whole bunch of promises that have no basis in sound city management. Homer eventually blows the entire SC budget within the course of a month. The town begs the SC to come back and he doesn't. The end.


At 9:10 AM, April 12, 2006, Blogger David said...


Nice long comment, but you get a few things wrong.

1) I haven't made a big deal of this, you lefties have. I was asked to comment and I did, giving my perspective.

2) None of you guys seem to know the basic fact about the roof expenses, so let me enlighten you. The green version costs about $500,000 more than the standard, assuming no cost overruns. Nobody is disputing that the roof should be fixed, only the type of fix.

3) It is a constant liberal tactic to say something "saves money in the long run" or "that comes from a different pot of money," but that doesn't make the waste any better. If all the money we were supposed to "save in the long run" had materialized, government would be sending us huge rebates by now. And as for the separate pots of money, those are created by the government and not set in stone.

4) As for the non-sequitur of referring to crime, it is not. Minneapolis city government expresses its priorities all the time, and they clearly are not related to crime. Rybak cut cops when he got in (and no, that is not due to cuts in LGA--he could have cut money-losing theaters, for instance), and only started hiring again when the election came. The city council has a greenhouse gas policy, for Christ's sake!

5) The assertion that a 30-45 second TV story substitutes for a public policy debate is absurd. I talked to the reporter for 30 minutes, and he chose the bite to use. That is how it works.

At 11:53 AM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In his post, MnPolitics Guru said:

A gravel roof will last 20 years and cost $1.2 million; by my math, that's $60,000 per year of life. A "green" roof, which covers the roof with several kinds of plants, will last 36 years and cost $1.7 million; a bit more than $47,000 per year. Plus, the green roof is better for the environment by providing wildlife habitat downtown and reducing storm water runoff. So it's cheaper over the roof's lifespan, nice for the environment....

Do you dispute these facts? That 1) the annual cost over the lifetime of the green roof is $13,000 LESS than the annual cost of the gravel roof, and/or 2) a green roof is more environmentally friendly?

If you dispute these facts, what is your point of dispute? I'm willing to listen. If you don't dispute the facts as they've been stated above, just what is it that has your undies in a bunch?

As a consumer, I'm always on the lookout for a better deal. If I have to buy something in greater quantity (in this case, a roof that will last longer) in order to get a decent price break, I'll do it. I'll buy 5 cases of soda at $4.50/case rather than a 6-pack of soda at $2.99/pack because 1) I know I will eventually drink 5 cases of soda and 2) by the time I've consumed 120 cans of soda, I'll have saved upwards of $28.00 on the purchase (or more than the 5 cases cost me in the first place). I'd be even happier if I could work out a way for the entire transaction to be environmentally friendly, which is why I recycle the cans.

So, again, what is your point of dispute?

At 8:19 PM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


1- The point here isn't whether or not anything is a "big deal" or not. The point is that the City Hall roof is a legitimate policy issue that has nothing to do with a separate policy issue of crime in Minneapolis. Yes, there is a finite amount of money in the city's budget, but this does not preclude city government from spending valid dollars on things like maintenance at the "expense" of extra cops and neighborhood watch programs. This sort of compartmentalization is evident in the city's budget, which is available to the public, TV/radio pundits included. Here's how they break down the funds:

Financial Plans
General Fund
Special Revenue Funds
- Convention Center Special Revenue Fund
Enterprise Funds
- Municipal Parking Fund
- Solid Waste and Recycling Fund
- Storm Water, Sewer, and Flood Mitigation Utilities Fund
- Water Treatment and Distribution Funds
Internal Service Funds
- Public Works Stores Fund
- Intergovernmental Services Fund
- Equipment Fund
- Property Services Fund
- Self Insurance Fund
Now can they fiddle around with the overall numbers of each fund to allow for a greater prioritization of police dollars? Sure, but I'm pretty sure that you've read enough budgets and reports to know that shifting dollars away from maintenance is a short-term solution that can fix temporary gaps but offers no pragmatic long term solution. If they don't' build the roof (gravel or green) this fiscal year, the chances of a normal gravel roof climbing over the $1.7 mil mark within a year or two are pretty high.

Also, this has nothing to do with us "lefties". It has to do with people who care about reasonable policy taking objection to the fact that a necessary city improvement is being bunched in with an issue that has little to nothing to do with maintenance. Lengthy comments in a blog do not amount to 1/100th of the impact of a short blurb on KSTP and you know this.

2- Once again, what does that $500,000 buy? How does it play in the overall allotment of dollars for the new roof? Was the roof contract rated at $2 mil and the $1.7 is still $300K under the baseline estimate? Is the extra $500K for planning costs that can be reused for other city projects? You are debating the worth of the cost in no other context but an increase in the budget number allotted for the project. This simply isn't sound policy. However, I understand where you slip up in comment #3...

3- OK, can we get over the "liberal" stuff? This is about pragmatism, pure and simple. Where do you buy your pots and pans? Do you buy them at Wal-Mart or do you buy them at someplace like Marshall Fields? I ask because over the past 5 years my wife and I have bought 3 separate Wal-Mart chili pots. Why 3? Well, they have either scratched, burned, or fallen apart. Each one ran at a cost of about $29.99. 10 years ago, my dad bought an All Clad chili pot on sale for $60. He still has it. It is in perfect condition. I'd be very surprised if you have not made any similar purchases around your house in the past few years. Granted, this is over simplified, but it is a good general example of how this isn't a "liberal" idea, but an idea that sensible people use all the time in their daily lives. I'm going to assume that the "liberalness" you are talking about would be similar to if we go out and buy a $600 7-piece All Clad set when all we really need is a chili pot. The guiding philosophy behind that sort of nonsense would be financial stupidity, not liberalism. As in the case of the green roof, you have yet to address the real costs associated with the additional money. What value does it hold to the city and for how long? Does the extra cost have a dual-use purpose that can be spread and shared with private enterprise? Stuff like this matters and it should be treated sensibly...without broad accusations of "liberalism". eriously, that sort of crap is just stupid.

Now, there's clearly a line between $60 chili pots and $600 stainless steel pot sets...or, for government's sake, green and gravel roofs and entirely new buildings. Determining where the line is drawn is why we need to elect professional public servents who understand and respect the role of government...not people who think that any spending based on such a proposition is "liberal" and therefore bad.

You are quite right about those pots of money not being set in stone, but surely you know the troubles associated with changing them. This is a problem of bureaucracy...maybe even a problem of human nature...who knows? No argument here.

4- Priorities are expressed in budgets. No argument. However, you made the leap from expressed budgetary priorities to political hammering with an example that ignored realistic and possible (sensible) cost saving measures. In order to slam the priorities with any sort of substance, you need to prove that the extra cost in this fiscal year will not play out in any future benefit that will allow future dollars to possibly be diverted into things like police salaries. You didn't even bother with this. Instead, you just said Minneapolis, progressive, green, crime, city bad. I understand this. I've been around these sorts of things long enough to realize that you are talking to your constituency and that certain inferences are left undefined. I think a more constructive way to attack something like this would be to say, "OK Minneapolis, I understand you think that this will save money. Will you promise to roll the saved money into extra law enforcement? What are your savings estimates? Will that money be rolled over into the part of the buget that will help fight crime in my North Minneapolis backyard?" Ask them to shit or get off the pot. There...a tactic that is both political and ground in the basic assumption that yes, sometimes cost isn't just determined in basic dollar figures.

5- I know. That's why I said this: "it's what he does and should do." You're not the editor and no one is disputing this point. It's clearly not the place to discuss policy. I thought that was clear. However, being the leader of the Taxpayers, and having done these sorts of things before, you have to have some idea of what's going to fly. After all, as a pundit, you play a role on TV for those folks. Editor: An issue that involves tax dollars? Bring me Strom!!! Having read your site, I know that you are much more substantial than this, but on TV, you're a character actor for quickie news items. This is a shot at the news, not you.


At 6:57 AM, April 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Strom is an ugly man who has ugly ideas. You can see his thinking process in his fat and slovenly appearance. imple really, the man is a glutton who wants to destroy the quality of life of all minnesotans so he can be a tax cheapskate.

He really should not reproduce. It is bad enough that he has convinced other tax cheapskates to follow him.

At 11:52 PM, May 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I have been homeowners in South Minneapolis for 22 years. Yes, crime is a BIG problem that Minneapolitans have to stop sticking their head in the sand about.

Green roofs, though, are part of the solution to things like crime. The whole environment of the city contributes to how people behave, including criminals or would-be criminals. Just as it's been shown that piping classical music into areas where criminals hang out can alter their behavior, so can things like green roofs.

A more concrete, immediate positive effect is that of curtailing pollution and the heat island effects of flat tar roofs. If you live near one like we do, and have to close your windows when the sun is hot and the wind is carrying fumes from the offgassing tar into your home and back yard, the green roof has great appeal as a potential solution.

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