Met Council approves Southwest LRT, but Minneapolis can still block

Your move, Minneapolis … . Pat Doyle’s Strib story on the Met Council’s overwhelming vote in favor of Southwest LRT’s “tunnel version” says, “The Twin Cities’ biggest transit project passed a major milestone Wednesday with approval of a $1.68 billion design that emerged from years of planning and quarreling and now faces a showdown with Minneapolis that will likely decide its fate. The Metropolitan Council, the agency in charge of the project, voted 14 to 2 in favor of a plan to hide the light-rail line in twin tunnels through the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis, despite complaints that it will disrupt and transform the neighborhood.”

Minneapolis still has the power to stop the project, state leaders note. MPR’s Laura Yuen says, “Over the next couple of months, Minneapolis will need to negotiate with the Met Council if the project is to stay on track with a key deadline by the end of June. [Met Council chair Susan] Haigh said it’s important to find out in the coming weeks how to get the largest city in the state to ‘yes.’ ‘I cannot imagine this region moving forward with a $1.6 billion project to move 30,000 people a day into the city of Minneapolis without the support of the city of Minneapolis,’ she said. Haigh said the plans for Southwest could change in the coming months as Minneapolis and the Met Council try to find common ground.”

I hope none of them ever complain about out-of-control government spending. Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt of the Strib report, “The federal government spent a lot of money in 2012 on specialty eye care at 7760 France Av. S., Suite 310 — $13 million to be exact. Seven ophthalmologists practicing at that location received more than $1 million apiece from Medicare — an amount matched by only five other Minnesota doctors — according to Wednesday’s first-ever release of data showing Medicare payments to the nation’s doctors. … .” As interesting, but unexamined, is that the new dataset allows comparisons of docs’ fees.

Mother Strib editorializes in favor of the go-slow approach to driver/vehicle database restrictions: “Services like it are a mainstay for law enforcement and fraud investigators. Insurers and the car industry rely on the information to quickly notify vehicle owners of safety recalls. News organizations, including the Star Tribune, also rely on the data for watchdog journalism. That’s why it’s so disturbing that the state Department of Public Safety is rapidly moving forward with an untested policy that would hinder timely access to the data for organizations with public-minded uses.” As long as bored cops can check out good-looking TV anchors.

It’s law. Says Rachel Stassen-Berger at the Strib: “On the steps of the Minnesota Capitol in the breezy spring sunshine, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a measure that he said would make clear that bullying ‘just can’t happen in Minnesota’. … some opponents likened the measure to the totalitarian society George Orwell depicted in his novel 1984 or fascism. Dayton on Wednesday smacked back against those critics. … ‘The first amendment guarantees free speech. But it doesn’t distinguish between intelligent speech and unintelligent speech,’ Dayton said to whoops and applause.”

Kinda lost in the “bullying” shuffle … . Dave Peters of MPR writes, “The Minnesota Senate last night passed legislation that would allow state officials to penalize anyone who uses large amounts of groundwater without a permit. The measure would give the Department of Natural Resources authority to fine unpermitted groundwater users up to $20,000.”

Solidarity! ESPN’s Ben Goessling says, “As the debate about whether the NCAA should pay college athletes continues, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson offered his strongest comments yet Wednesday in favor of players receiving compensation. Peterson, speaking on a conference call Wednesday to promote a recovery icing device called Hyperice that he endorses, said players ‘are the ones making these universities money’ and surmised that both he and Johnny Manziel brought in astronomical sums of revenue for their respective schools.”

Speaking of the Vikings … . Goessling also notes, “The Minnesota Vikings will kick off their 2014 preseason the second weekend of August at TCF Bank Stadium, and after their second preseason game, they won’t see their temporary home again until the start of the regular season. The Vikings will play their first two preseason games at home, against the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals … .” Those, by the way, are “must win” games. Check your personal seat licenses for in-seat beverage service.

For strictly “personal use” … . The AP story says, “A Minnesota man arrested at O’Hare with 85 pounds of the illegal drug khat told investigators he did not know the drug was illegal. Dominic Running, 20, was taken into custody over the weekend by U.S. Customs and Border security agents. … Investigators say he told them he bought the drug in London.” Is that what they grow in Kensington Gardens?

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/10/2014 - 07:38 am.

    Myopia

    I initially read that first sentence as Met Council’s “tunnel vision”. Which maybe kinda’ fits, in a way.

    Or perhaps I should head off to 7760 France myself for a checkup . . . . . . .

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/10/2014 - 07:55 am.

    To be fair to the ophthalmologists:

    In the case of the Edina ophthalmologists, for example, payments were high largely because of their frequent use of ranibizumab, an injectable drug used to treat age-related macular degeneration and prevent blindness.

    “The drugs that we use are very expensive,” said Dr. David Williams, a partner at VitreoRetinal Surgery, “but they are actually miraculous in the benefits that they have.”

  3. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 04/10/2014 - 08:58 am.

    Certain specialties like ophthalmology, and oncology, have arrangements where they get to buy drug at wholesale price, and then add on a small percentage markup when they sell it to patients. This is rather unique– I’m in infectious diseases, and I don’t buy antibiotics to then sell at a higher rate to patients– I just suggest a drug and write a prescriptions (or more typically, say no antibiotic is needed and stop the one(s) already started). Only oncology, ophthalmology, and a few other fields are allowed to do this.

    They also use drugs that are VERY high-priced– some cancer drugs (and this monoclonal antibody used for macular degeneration) cost tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment. So even a small percentage of mark-up adds up very quickly to big absolute dollar numbers.

    This also creates a conflict of interest– if there are 2 drugs that have performed equally well in randomized trials, but one costs $1,000 and the other $10,000, an upcharge of 5% means that the doctor has to pick between a treatment where the extra payment is $50 or $500. Tempting. Probably too tempting. As detailed in a NYtimes story on this, there is such a cheaper drug for macular degeneration that works equally well and could be used for a much cheaper price– but it’s a distant second to the high-priced option. Similar examples abound in oncology.

    This is just one more reason why how we pay for our current medical system is toxic– it’s so confusing and has so many exemptions that no one really can keep track of it all– and in the meantime people find these loopholes and exploit them. Another argument for single payer healthcare, with no special billing rules.

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