A curious case, indeed. An anti-transit conservative ideologue, Molnau was elected as Governor Pepsodent's running mate in 2002. The governor appointed Molnau as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to serve concurrently with her job as lieutenant governor. Molnau was rejected for that post by the Minnesota Senate Transportation Committee, but a full-senate confirmation vote has never been held. Jeff Fecke muses about the desirability of holding hearings on Molnau's confirmation now, and Spot thinks it's a good idea, too.
Spot wants you to consider, boys and girls, the desirability of having someone so closely identified with the governor, and who has not been confirmed, serving as the commissioner of an important department in state government. Here are some questions raised by a commenter this morning:
Could people at MNDOT work with Molnau well? Was she able to compartmentalize her two roles? This seems impossible as Lieutenant Governor she no doubt had to support or not challenge the governor's position that Minnesota doesn't need to raise taxes in order to increase revenue for transit (even though there isn't a spare $3 billion in the general fund). It is true that the Governor selects commissioners - but given the dual responsibilities could she responsibly serve as Transportation Commissioner?
It seems that Molnau may have been at odds with staff at MnDOT over what to do with the 35W bridge:
A construction industry official who met with MnDOT about shortcomings on the I-35W bridge told the Star Tribune that there have been ongoing concerns among some MnDOT employees about the safety of this and other similar bridges.
"There were people over there that were deathly afraid that this kind of tragedy was going to be visited on us," the industry official said. "There were people in the department that were screaming to have these replaced."MnDOT has been trying to move these 'fracture critical' bridges up in their [budget] sequencing so something like this wouldn't happen," the source said.
According to the same article, concerns have existed over the 35W bridge for seventeen years:
[State bridge engineer] Dorgan said there was enough money in the agency's budget to pay for construction work on the underside of the bridge. But he and Gov. Tim Pawlenty acknowledged that transportation officials will face tough questions about the state's upkeep of the bridge, which has had known deficiencies since 1990.
This evening, Spot watched a clip from a press conference with a defensive and emotional Molnau who rejected the assertion that MnDOT might have done something to compromise the safety of the public. She said that she would never do that, and in fact, her daughter used that bridge twice a day. So maybe child endangerment should be added to the rap sheet.
Political movements often eat their own, and perhaps Molnau was emotional because she finally realized that her ideology had overcome her humanity and common sense and that she had contributed not only to a risk to the public, but to a member of her own family. That would be a sobering thing to learn about yourself.