Minneapolis Council Committee Approves $58 Million in Phase I Budget Cuts

On Thursday, the Minneapolis City Council’s POGO Committee took the first step towards closing a projected $156 million budget shortfall by approving $58 million in cuts across all city departments. A final vote will happen at next Friday’s City Council meeting. To put the cuts in context, the city’s total budget for 2020 was approved last December at $1.6 billion.

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Minneapolis CPED Reappointment Gets Contentious, Despite Unanimous City Council Vote

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to reappoint David Frank as director of Community Planning & Economic Development. Despite the consensus, the issue managed to spark the most contentious city council meeting of the last two years.

Last Wednesday, the Council heard public testimony on Frank’s reappointment. Some, including the Mayor, praised Frank’s performance; others expressed a desire for the department to do even more to address the city’s racial and economic disparities.

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Minneapolis City Council considers response to proliferation of tobacco shops

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Following menthol cigarette restrictions approved by the Minneapolis City Council in August 2017, the number of stores selling menthol cigarettes decreased from 354 to 82. This is according to a staff presentation to the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee last week.

The city’s updated flavored tobacco ordinance, which took effect in 2018, restricted availability of menthol products to tobacco shops and off-sale liquor stores. According to the city, “These changes are to prevent youth tobacco use, lifelong addiction to nicotine, the negative health effects of tobacco use and the tobacco-related health disparities between white populations and people of color.”

But as a result of these restrictions — with convenience stores looking to recover a lost profit center — the number of tobacco shops in Minneapolis increased from 25 to 52.

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Power Grab Hits Roadblock at Charter Commission

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A plan to alter the composition of the Minneapolis City Council had no support at the Charter Commission on Wednesday. This means the Charter Commission will not take up this issue again. The group behind the proposal will now need to collect and submit the required number of voter signatures if they want to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

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Seward Commons sparks debate about city-financed development in Minneapolis

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The Minneapolis City Council’s most contentious development debate since last year’s comprehensive plan has nothing to do with building height or parking, and everything to do with how it could be financed.

Last Friday, the council agreed to delay a vote to authorize an analysis of whether “tax increment financing (TIF) assistance is appropriate and justifiable” for Bessemer at Seward Commons. The delay was intended to give Ward 6 Council Member Abdi Warsame a chance to be present for an issue affecting his ward.

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Plan to eliminate City Council seats and overhaul district boundaries would empower wealthier, whiter south Minneapolis

March 6, 2018 meeting of the Minneapolis Charter Commission

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On Wednesday the Minneapolis Charter Commission was presented with a proposal to cut the number of city council seats from 13 to 9. The plan would also replace 3 district-based ward seats with at-large members elected by a citywide vote. This would reduce the number of wards (districts) by more than half — from 13 to 6.

Minneapolis City Clerk, and top elections official, Casey Carl, spoke bluntly about the “wealth of research” showing the racist effects of such a radical change to the way voters elect members of the city council.

According to Carl, “research and practice in other jurisdictions” shows that “at-large elections do tend to favor white, wealthier, homeowning, property owning, higher educational status people.”

Carl added: “Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg stated that along with racial gerrymandering… at-large elections are the primary means of diluting the power of the vote and denying equal opportunity for minority voters and candidates.”

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Police divestment a focus of Minneapolis budget hearing

At yesterday’s 2019 budget hearing a large contingent of folks showed up to Minneapolis City Hall to ask the City Council to divest 5% from police, and invest in community instead. Among them was Wedge resident Andrew Beeman:

“I’m also a public health worker. I can tell you an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let’s think about some of that preventative work we can do.”

Mayor Frey’s budget provides $40 million in funding for affordable housing programs. It also includes a 2.8% increase in funding for the police department, for a total of $184.5 million. The Mayor has proposed a total budget for 2019 of $1.55 billion. The City Council will amend and vote on Mayor Frey’s proposed 2019 budget next week. Continue reading “Police divestment a focus of Minneapolis budget hearing”

Lisa Goodman hates your minimum wage study

The Minneapolis City Council hired some economists from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs to produce this study on the impact of raising the local minimum wage. The study showed that raising the wage would not lead to economic apocalypse. The study did show that raising the wage to $15 would help a lot of people who need it–at the cost of an extra 50 cents to $1 for a $25 restaurant meal. Council Member Lisa Goodman was not happy with the results.

Goodman started her comments at yesterday’s hearing by accusing the University of Minnesota researchers of bias, asking whether if she were to “Google your names” she’d find evidence they’d written in support of the concept of raising the minimum wage. She made fun of their findings that a higher wage would alleviate the problem of food insecurity: “I don’t have to have an economics degree to figure that out.” She went off on a riff about expensive ice cream cones. She asked if the authors talked to business owners, as if to say a rigorous economic analysis needs plenty of anecdotes.

At a City Council meeting in 2015, Goodman called the idea of even studying the issue a waste of money because, in her estimation, an actual Minneapolis wage increase had no chance of ever passing with a majority (the City Council voted 10-3 in favor of paying for a study; Yang, Barb Johnson, and Goodman voted no). Her comments indicate she believes most of her colleagues are as impervious to evidence as she is:

If there were seven votes to create a minimum wage in Minneapolis only, we’d be doing it. So I’m just wondering why $175,000 for a study, what is that, like a political out? I’ll vote for a study but I wouldn’t really vote for the change itself?

Lisa Goodman just knows things. She doesn’t need studies or experts to help inform her opinions. Now that the minimum wage study is complete we get to see whether Goodman was correct in assuming her fellow Council Members operate the same way.

Lisa Goodman to economists: you’re all biased, and I could probably use google to prove it.

Your study is crap. Your economics degree is dumb. Here’s something I just made up about expensive ice cream cones.

Numbers are great, but where are your anecdotes? Have you talked to business owners?

Last year: opposes a study, on the grounds that evidence won’t influence the City Council majority.