Kraft clarifies his Red Line stand
I just had a pleasant chat with Councilman Jim Kraft, the District 1 councilman who is walking a tightrope on the issue of building the Red Line.
Kraft disputed my earlier posting that said he had come out against the east-west transit line, which was based on an email that said in part: "Consequently, I am, and will continue to be, opposed to any above-ground alignment on Boston Street."
Since Gov. Martin O'Malley made his choice of a plan that includes above-ground light rail on Boston Street, and since that plan will be Maryland's official submission to the federal government, that seemed pretty clear cut. But Kraft said his position is more nuanced than that.
Kraft told me he is and has long been a supporter of the Red Line as long as it is in a tunnel on Boston Street as far as Clinton Street. In solidarity with the west side allies of his Canton constituents, he said he also supports tunneling under Edmondson Avenue.
Officially, that option is now off the table -- if it ever was a real option. The price tag was just too high. Some other city elected officials have taken the governor's selection of a locally preferred alternative as a cue to either fall in line with the governor or to express outright opposition to the Red Line.
But not Kraft. He said he understands that the maximum tunnel option does not fit within federal funding guidelines. He said he's not faulting the governor for the choice he submitted to the Federal Transit Administration -- light rail with tunneling under downtown, Fells Point and Cooks Lane but otherwise on the surface.
"In that it focuses where we are, it's the decision that needed to be made," the councilman said.
What he's looking to do is change the guidelines by calling on the supposed clout of the Maryland congressional delegation. He's still hoping for a win-win, and that the money ccan be found to give everyone who wants a tunnel a tunnel.
Kraft's challenge is that there are parts of his district where the Red Line -- as proposed -- is as popular as it is reviled in Canton.
"I'm not avoiding a decision. I am trying to reach an accommodation that is acceptable to everyone," he said.
Fair enough. But Kraft faces the politician's most vexing dilemma: In trying to please everybody, do you risk pleasing nobody?
At Kraft's request, I am posting the full text of his email to city NAACP chied Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham:
Thanks for getting in touch with me about this.
Based upon the correspondence, e-mails, telephone calls and personal contacts/conversations, that my office and I have both received and had about this important issue facing our community to date, with the exception of those who work in government, the number of folks who have requested that I support an above-ground alignment on Boston Street appears to be less than 50, while those who are opposed to it seems to be around 500.
This is not inclusive of, what I believe to be, over 1,500 signed post cards in opposition that were collected door-to-door throughout the greater Canton area and presented to Governor O'Malley.
There have been very, very few who are in outright opposition to the Red Line as most recognize the need to find an appropriate way to move people rather than move automobiles; however, one message continues to ring true:
Keep it underground.
My position on this important issue is as with all others that face my district, I look to the organizations most directly impacted and attempt to respect their wishes. Consequently, I am, and will continue to be, opposed to any above-ground alignment on Boston Street.