Why Minneapolis Needs to Balance the DFL’s Checks with a GOP Balance

The DFL is still stinging over its recent losses in the 2016 election. But if you are a Republican (supporting the man in charge or not), this reversal of fortune gives us hope that Conservative concerns will be heard at the state level. The GOP is finally able to hold the Governor and his appointees (minions) accountable. But in the Twin Cities and Hennepin County, the DFL still dominates at all levels with 100% of elected positions and 75% of the vote in any given race. Wouldn’t it be great to have even one Republican on our City Council to create a debate and break the mandate? Imagine if there was one city council member that presented a different point of view? At the recent Mayoral Debate – the candidates are all slightly different varietals from the same vineyard, making things like more bike lanes a foregone conclusion.

If you have any doubt that we need to continue to “Hold our Gains” and make more progress in 2017/18, here are some examples of what has happened recently under unchecked DFL power:

Activism vs Leadership

DFL legislators become more interested in forcing undebated social agendas rather than demonstrating fiscal competence (spending restraint that keeps taxes reasonable and focuses on efficiencies). When this happens, the city does not run well. Bike lanes sparkle while crosswalks are badly in need of paint. Criminals are empowered while police are scrutinized. Dollars pour into programs supporting “equity,” yet outcomes seem never never improve. Park Board infrastructure “needs” $20M annually for 20 years to keep Rec Centers from falling down, then once taxes go up “land bridges” between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles are right back on the table.

Many legislators in the twin cities are not representatives of the wishes of the whole of their constituents, who support the latter positions above. They have “listening sessions” but then listen to whom they want, and then push their activist agenda. One needs not look further than the $15/hour minimum wage. Listening sessions were held, and small business owner pleas were ignored. The ordinance is coming. Every DFL mayoral candidate supports it.

DFL Leaders dehumanize Conservatives

DFL legislators, when unchallenged, become arrogant and have no fear of showing disdain for their conservative constituents. “Our” Congressman Keith Ellison gloated on January 17th, 2017 “There’s no Republicans in (Minnesota’s) Fifth Congressional District at all. We have chased them all out.” This is from the party of “inclusiveness.” How exactly does this rhetoric help the DFL? Liberals perceive Republicans as sexist, racist, ist, ist, ist. And unfortunately some are. But the “ists” aren’t getting 80% of the vote in Minneapolis, Ellison is. You all know Republicans that are reasonable people. They are your friends and family. How does it make you feel when “our” Congressman has this attitude that your family and friends should be/have been chased out of our district?

The DFL never met a tax they didn’t like, and reach beyond the top 1%.

The DFL controlled legislature said in 2010 “make the wealthy pay their fair share,” and then passes tax after tax on everyone via our overall tax burden: state/county/city income/property/sales tax. All while there is a $3.6B overcharged surplus. The GOP is trying to return the surplus to the taxpayers, and the DFL not only wants to spend it but also wants to raise the gas and sales tax on top of it. The surplus is not the government’s money, it is our money that we were overcharged, and it should be returned to us. Rather, Governor Dayton is calling for a $46B budget. When he took office 8 years ago, the budget was $34B. Are we 35% better off than we were? I do not see the return on my increased investment. All I know is our taxes are much higher. When Mayor Hodges is submitting a city budget, she says we haven’t improved outcomes enough and must tax and spend more. But when facing her opponents, she says we’ve made significant progress. Which is it?

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

An unchecked DFL over-reaches and flexes its power, because it can. It made sure that the most powerful authorities in Minnesota are appointed with DFL insiders: The Met Council, CTIB, Sports Facilities Commission, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and more. This has led to taxation without representation, runaway spending, corruption, arrogance, and a complete lack of accountability. It is the GOP that is now working to reform these groups to ensure bipartisan viewpoints. CTIB votes to dissolve so they can increase the sales tax above current limitations to fund light rail. The appointed MCWD rubber stamps the Met Councils SWLRT permit, despite their duty to protect the Creek against disturbing contaminated brown fields in our parks during construction. The MSFC chair doesn’t see a problem with letting friends, family, and DFL buddies into luxury suites, and then the Governor has her back saying the issue is “blown out of proportion.” It is GOP Rep Sarah Anderson that led the charge to restore accountability to MSFC.

In closing, with power comes responsibility. And Power Divided is Power Checked (Thank you Congressman Jason Lewis). The next time elections roll around – all Minneapolitans should challenge themselves to send a Republican from Minneapolis to the Senate, the House, and City Council. How about just one just to see what happens! Or has the DFL done so well by us that they deserve to hold every elected office in Minneapolis? The above points would indicate they have not. Let’s balance that check.

Views and Opinions from SD61 Republicans

During the 2016 election cycle, we asked Republicans in our Minnesota senate district (roughly Southwest Minneapolis) for their views on a range of items via a survey.  We emailed people who attended the caucus in 2016 and shared their email address.  We had 140 people share their views with us – all individual responses were anonymous.

We conducted this survey to identify key issues and positions held by local party participants.  Our local Republican party and local candidates will be able to utilize this information to inform our approach to engaging with our base and to connecting with additional voters.  And we need to engage with additional voters!  Our local candidates hovered around 20% of the vote in 2016 which was well above the Presidential vote.  Losing is no fun – we would like to change that over time and impact statewide races too.

Based on the results of the 2016 caucus in our senate district (Rubio over 50%, Kasich in second), you may have suspected that our local Republicans may have different positions on some issues than the national or state party.  To appeal to a larger portion of our district (more than 20%!), we may need to stake out some positions out of sync with the national/state Republican positions.  The survey answers suggest that we can rally our shared core values and identify opportunities to broaden our appeal while representing our supporters.

You can see the survey results for yourself here.   We look forward to discussing as a group at upcoming local events.

A City that Works for Everyone

By Shawn Smith, of Kenwood

Our city’s elected officials reiterate often that Minneapolis should be a city that works for everyone. This is a worthy platform. All people that live here should have equal opportunity to live their lives in liberty and pursuit of their dreams. But, are city budgets constructed in a way that will not work for all of us after all?

In Mayor Hodges 2017 recently approved budget, there are line items intended to work for everyone. Increasing police enables foot patrols and engagement. Hiring small business navigators is a noble initiative to help small businesses navigate the perhaps too-complex city licensing and regulations. Providing resources to improve economic and educational outcomes is inspiring to many. Street paving programs will keep cars out of the tire shop. It is hard to argue against these.

But even within some of these priorities and others not mentioned, there are questionable expenditures. And it’s time to give a “woot woot” to those that make this possible, the taxpayers. Why can’t this group get a break so the city continues to work for them too…and be good shepherds of our money.

City leaders have imposed a steady march of increased property taxes over the years, with the only exception this century being 2014. Taxes for many in Minneapolis increased 50% or more from 2007 through 2012 due to a declining residential tax base and a sluggish commercial base. Residential homeowners were asked (#notasked) to shoulder the burden to keep the city afloat. For homeowners, these were painful years because monthly mortgage payments increased and put significant pressure on household budgets. We had to cut back, and the city government continued to grow and spend.

But now values are up. Hundreds of shiny new condos are online downtown. Office space is near capacity. Where is the relief and payback for shouldering the burden of those lean years? In a year where the city is flush with cash, the city is choosing to spend 7.6% more, adding 59 positions and an incremental annual spend of $90M for 2017.   Opinions will vary on whether each new spending item is outrageous (some are) or justified (some are). But while no one budget item is overtly outrageous to most taxpayers, it is the sum total that should be.

Property taxes are a real problem. Just talk to people. It is a problem regardless of whether the voter is a downtown Millennial or a Kenwood near-retiree; Democrat or Republican or Independent. Real estate agents talk about how the taxes are a reason not to buy in Minneapolis and drives buyers to Edina, Golden Valley.   Many of my neighbors look at the future and wonder if they will be able to live in their family homes even after the mortgage is paid. Cities that we model, such as Portland, Seattle, and Denver have tax rates less than ½ of what we pay.

And then there is the issue of transparency. In the Truth and Taxation notice, the city chose to say, “Thanks to growth in the tax base, 1/3 of all residential properties may see a decrease or no increase in the city portion of their property taxes.” But this phrasing avoids the reality: 70% of residential property owners will bear an increase or see no decrease. Was relief ever a consideration at City Hall?

Even if we don’t get a tax cut, consider these points on how the city has set its priorities:

The city has millions when it comes to bicycling infrastructure, but our alleys are in disrepair and even unpaved.

The city is spending millions on outreach programming when our schools have to be funded by a special voter-approved levy.

The city is adding positions at City Hall when most mature companies require that head count be kept neutral.

The city is retrofitting our streets with pedestrian bump-outs but we are assessed to repair our sidewalks.

Hennepin County doesn’t fare much better on transparency. Their Truth In Taxation notifications, which are supposed to be our source of truth, are inaccurate. At first glance, total property taxes appear to be going down. But on closer inspection, the notices do not include the voter approved school levy. A Correct “Final Truth in Taxation notice is not going to come. This means that many homeowners will not know their true level of taxes until it is time to pay them.

Back to Minneapolis. We need a city that works for all of us. Many appreciate that the city is trying to work for those that need some help along the way. But that must be balanced with working for the people that own homes and make initiatives possible. And we hear all the time that we are not doing enough.

The city responds to citizens that take the time to engage. Join me in vocalizing the need for lower property tax levels and spending accountability. Study your Truth in Taxation statement so you know where your money is going. Vote with your voice before you vote with your feet, as some are doing by moving to neighboring Golden Valley. Then, we can truly accomplish a city that works for everyone.