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MNDOT Junk Science: A Study of Ayd Mill Road EIS by Gary Barnes and Peter Langworthy


"Junk Science" can be used to describe "studies" done with a predetermined goal usually paid for by an interest group. This is an analysis of a set of studies done at the University of Minnesota Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, tracing the money, the architecture of the biases and the way the study is written for media use to smear enemies which in this case are the citizens of Saint Paul, Minnesota. The analysis shows that the methods used in this study can be easily reproduced to flexibly cover all "public input" for almost any project and studies such as these can be easily produced for black propaganda using a few simple techniques.

Who Paid For It?

After revelations of payoff of Armstrong Williams to plant stories to push controversial policy of the US Department of Education, the US military planting propaganda in the media and the drug companies cherry picking data in biased studies of drugs it should come as no surprise that the Minnesota Department of Transportation, ( MNDOT ), is doing the same thing to shove freeways down our throats with the help of the media.

MNDOT funded a junk science study of the Ayd Mill Road Environmental Impact Statement, (EIS) at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs by egghead mercenaries, Gary Barnes and Peter Langworthy during July, October 2003, March 2004 titled,

"Increasing the Value of Public Involvement in Transportation Project Planning".

It is also published as

"Understanding and Managing Conflict in Transportation Project Public Involvement"

In an Armstrong Williamsy style editorial the study was then quoted in the rabidly pro-freeway paper, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press published by the now disgraced right winger Parr Ridder. The aim of the study seems to be to prejudice against non-freeway alternatives in the Ayd Mill EIS, particularly the Linear Park alternative through lies and distortion and explain away the Ayd Mill EIS Task Force, (the public involvement) decision to put a park at the top of the EIS alternatives and any four lane connections to freeways at the very bottom of the EIS alternatives.

Postulate: A Freeway Must Be Built

"Increasing the Value of Public Involvement" must be an ironic joke for the title of this paper as the paid off authors Barnes - Langworthy denigrate and ridicule the many year work of the public's Ayd Mill Road Task Force and the choosing of the park alternative as quote, "extreme and unrealistic". To do this the paper sets up unfounded, untrue and prejudiced postulates about the situation: Quote, "a shallow trench ... the corridor was well suited to be a highway, it did not seem as well suited for any other purpose." Also quote, "the corridor was not appealing as a park", "[would not] have a way of connecting to or expanding [the park system]." This framing of the issue violates Minnesota statutes covering EIS procedures which specifically say that prejudicing alternatives in the EIS is not allowed. Although the MNDOT is not the RGU it may be an alternate RGU choice in the then current Ayd Mill EIS and that violates the statutes.

My analysis is that for a Junk Science Study to be set up correctly, choose the proper postulates to limit the arguments and the analysis to the target conclusions. The postulates of the study need not be grounded in reality, it is more important to support the target conclusions of the study than to have a setting that reflects reality. The authors seem to have a rather ham handed approach in this paper, many times well done propaganda blends in partial truths to get a wider acceptance of it basis for analysis, these hacks do not even try for any semblance of truth, even partial.

No surprise that the truth has a different set of postulates. The creek that is the subject of the "trench = highway" postulate was part of the park land plan of Saint Paul decades ago but never implemented because of lack of money. The "no connection to the park system therefore not suited for a park" postulate is also negated by the same fact, the linear park would have connected to a park, Crosby Lake and the Mississippi River few blocks from the bottom of the old Ayd Mill creek, which drained to the Mississippi River and is a huge linear park itself. False postulates were needed to support the predetermined conclusion, that is why they were inserted into the Barnes - Langworthy study.

The land was bought by the railroads instead of the city and used as a rail corridor. Other "trenches" and rail corridors serve well as trails and linear parks here in the metro area, just look at the 29th Street Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis a successful trail and "trench" which, by the way, connects to the Ayd Mill Corridor from the Mississippi River including an existing rail bridge over the Mississippi river which is an expensive resource not easily used for the freeway-type alternatives. Other successful trails operate in rail corridors for example, the Dakota County trail between Mendota and Saint Paul are a few feet away from an active rail line. These historical and physical facts as postulates directly contradict the phony junk postulate propaganda of the "study".

This shoddy and prejudicial scholarship shows a lack of research of original documents and a reliance on corporate media and road proponents as sources and seems to be a purposeful mangling of the facts. A simple Google search by these mercenary scholars would reveal most of the above obvious contradictions, it seems these scholars have a finely tuned "filter" on what facts get included, just like some drug company sponsored studies seem to have.

Also the authors say "Ayd Mill Road.. was intended to provide a link between [I35E and I94]..." No where is it shown in the study that that is true. For the study, the history of the land in question seems lost in an early dim and misty time, long long ago. In fact, MNDOT was quoted in the paper that Ayd Mill "was a city street, not a regional highway" a direct contradiction. So, is there a purposed prejudiced lie in this paper or just more shoddy scholarship? Again the scholars "forget" history. Well, it was built as a city street, similar to the Pierce Butler Route, it was built to bring traffic from West 7th to the Midway and was not used very much, just a bad idea, badly done, a good candidate for a tear down.

A rewrite of history seems to be one of the main tools used in this set of clumsy fabrications. Easily done in local history where the newspapers can serve as the 1984 type Ministry of Truth, easily changing what happened by printing a different version, then shoddy and venal scholars can quote that version as a "real source."

Demonize the Public Input With Phony "Controversy"

To show that the public input was without any value so it can be "increased in value" the authors dismiss the linear park EIS alternative by bringing up a phony Ayd Mill Task Force "voting" controversy, a phony "many road alternative" vs "one park alternative" issue and a phony "packing the membership of the Task Force" issue. The truth is that the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU) of Saint Paul by state law closely controlled every aspect of the public input and the appointment of Task Force members, task force rules, procedures and schedule.

Fixing the Vote

The "controversial" voting method (as noted way down in the references) was actually chosen by the Chair of the Planning Commission and Task Force, Steve Gordon a freeway proponent, as a way to make the freeway alternatives look good, but the results of the Task Force vote were so lopsided against a freeway or any road upgrade that the voting method made no difference. The "vote controversy" was a phony issue to smear the Public Task Force by Barnes and Langworthy.

The "Packing the Task Force Membership" Issue

All members of the Task Force and Planning Commission were appointed by the City of Saint Paul Mayor, including freeway proponent Mayor Norm Coleman over a many year period, the Task Force was not in some way infiltrated by Al-Queda, in fact the last member appointed to the task force was Joan Nyborg the leader of the Lexington Avenue neighbors who had the traffic problem at Randolf and who supported connecting Ayd Mill to the freeways. Barnes and Langworthy were correct that packing of the Task Force was tried, but it was by the freeway proponents, the Mayor and Public Works, the RGU who controlled the Task Force appointments, chairman, rules, and procedures.

Result to be discredited: All the Non-Road Alternatives BEAT all the Roads and Freeway Connections in the Public Task Force Vote

The "Linear Park" was not the only non-connect alternative as implied by the authors. There was the "No Build" (required by law) and the Traffic Management alternatives. The Traffic Management alternative would have used transit and traffic routing to alleviate the traffic problems that were the premise of the Ayd Mill EIS. These "No Build" and "Traffic Management" alternatives were also highly ranked by the Public Task Force members, above any road building alternative.

After the public input results were finished and the freeway lost badly the RGU (Mayor of St. Paul) attempted to do a 1984 style rewrite of history as can be shown in the Planning Commission minutes by bitter public works officials and Steve Gordon who blamed "extremists" on the Task Force for not approving a freeway.

The proponents of no-connect alternatives were characterized as booing and hissing extremists, yet then described as completely silent. Usually extremists are head chopping, bomb throwing, torturing warmongering evildoers, not task force meeting attendees and involved voting citizens, normally characterized as civic do-gooders. But possibly one could say that that the corporate media, the RGU and these mercenary "scholars" were paid off by the Chamber of Commerce to build the road aided by Robert-Moses-freeway-nutcase bureaucrats, the fix was in, and any other alternative than a freeway was not considered, public input be damned. The vote for a park and not a freeway is the reason this study was written to smear the Public Task Force. Public input has no value if it does not agree with the premise that a freeway should be built.

Why Barnes and Langworthy Left out the Public Task Force Results From the Study

Of course, the result of the "no value" public input, the Ayd Mill Task Force results, were never reported in this paper by the authors, Barnes and Langworthy. The Park came first, Traffic Management came second, No-Build third, 2-lane low speed roads next, dead last any 4-lane highway with connections, indirect or direct. Why would the authors leave out the actual results of the Ayd Mill Task Force? Maybe, just maybe, the public input results would make clear that the findings and conclusions of this paper are prejudiced and contrived. It also shows the lies of the phony "voting" issues and the bogus "One Park Alternative vs Too Many Road Alternatives" arguments described by the authors Barnes and Langworthy. Three non-road alternatives ranked before any road alternatives. All of the four lane alternatives ranked at the very bottom of the Public Task Force vote.

The use of a set of several distortions, fabrications and omissions is interesting, one or two seems not to be enough for the study, many were created, possibly for each stage of public input, from the creation of the task force, the procedures of the task force, the issues and postulates of the task force and the conclusions of the task force. How the public input was demonized through "controversies" yet the public's conclusions were omitted from analysis is probably the best work in this this junk science paper. Many of the controversies had a bit of truth mixed in, the best way to slip in the poison. For example, there was a controversy over the voting method, it was obviously rigged by Steve Gordon to favor a freeway outcome, but this is not the controversy as described by Barnes and Langworthy. Of course the omission of the actual voting results kept any clarity away from the arguments pushed by the authors.

Paid for Study Results Predictable

The set up of bogus postulates that Ayd Mill Corridor is only suited to a high speed multi-lane freeway connection and the smear of the Public Task Force then drives full speed to the unsurprising findings that it is only a freeway that makes sense, all other alternatives are "extreme and unrealistic", the public input had no value and was infiltrated by "extremists", and the public input must be fixed to have "increased value."

Conclusion: Show How To Manipulate Public Input

The main conclusions of the paper seem to be methods of public relations and control, not public input in the public interest. Methods include: have people far away who may benefit but will not pay the costs of the road project as the main source of public input and control the decisions the public makes. God forbid alternatives such as a park should be injected by the public participants into the sacred road building process, instead let them decide "real important things", like the decorations on the overpasses and the types of flower plantings next to the freeway. The paper is nothing but a recipe book for manipulation of public input in the slimiest way possible and its phony contrivances are also a recipe for political smear job of public input that does not support a sports stadium, a freeway or any massive transfer of public resource to large corporations. This ready made smear is for the special interest connected media to boom through its echo chamber. Just fill in the corporate issue to be pushed, the public citizen targets to be smeared, then write the op-eds, columns, "analysis" and editorials.

When the prejudiced postulates and the phony contrived controversies are removed the findings and conclusions are different for the Ayd Mill Road EIS and the Public Task Force did come to the correct conclusion. The public Task Force input was credible, built on historically correct postulates with wide support and had value, but the fix was in and the RGU, the city of St Paul, deliberately prejudiced the EIS process. The RGU is prejudiced in favor of the freeway connect alternatives and pushed the most extreme freeway connection in direct contradiction to any public input, even the input of the city council that voted for a two lane low-speed road. It incrementally engineered and phase built the road using a bogus "Test Connection" that connected Ayd Mill Road to I35E and built over a million dollars of road construction during an EIS. The city of St Paul did land deals for the freeway with Concordia and the St Paul Water Works during the EIS process. All of these are illegal acts. But no one can fight city hall without several hundred thousand dollars for a lawsuit that has no monetary or lasting environmental rewards. The Ayd Mill EIS would just be re-done, but this time using Barnificent - Langworthless methods to "fix" the public input so there is "value", meaning a freeway result, not any "Linear Park" nonsense. And in fact, the final EIS was written to do just that.

Deliberate shoddy scholarship with prejudicial aims to jack a freeway down the throats of the public is the only assessment that can be made of this paid for MNDOT study. Armstrong Williams never claimed to be a scholar, just a huckster. The Humphrey Institute and Barnes - Langworthy make Armstrong Williams look like a two-bit thief.

One of the best parts of this propaganda effort was the use of public institutions to both fund and execute the junk science study. Not original, but well done. This would be a method that has already been used by Philip Cooney, a now resigned federal environmental official who changed global warming studies in a similar propaganda operation. MNDOT has recently used private investigators and intimidation to harass various perceived opponents, branching into think tank politics is a logical and less controversial method of operation. I have not done a comprehensive review of all studies funded by MNDOT or other government organizations, the patterns it may reveal would be interesting.

Must the public pay for this schlock "scholarship" with tax money from MNDOT? Must the public University of Minnesota supply the mercenaries? Can't the Chamber of Commerce lobbyist groups pay for mercenary studies themselves from their own propaganda think tanks? The irony of public institutions hired by other public bodies to destroy the public's rights in environment studies is truly the most amazing result of this type of junk science scholarship.