Notes from Norm – A Minneapolis Tax Revolt

The catalyst for my successful campaign for Mayor in 1993 was predicated on a singular event which took place at a “Truth in Taxation” hearing in which more than 1,000 St. Paul residents turned out to object to double-digit property tax increases.
The people of Minnesota’s Capitol City weren’t opposed to paying their fair share – they were tired of paying for the pet projects of the city’s politicians – the demands of the city’s public employee unions – and seeing an increase in crime, a loss of business and with it, a decrease in the number of jobs in the city.
In a Minneapolis Star Tribune story, dated January 3, 2015, we learn that there is a growing unrest in Minneapolis as property taxes continue to climb – making it more and more difficult for middle-class families to foot the bill for the city’s political class and their respective pet projects.

Protestors were enraged by a proposal by Minneapolis Council Member Linea Palmisano to eliminate about $1 million from Mayor Betsy Hodge’s proposed budget which would have had a small impact on reducing the city’s tax levy.
According to the Star Tribune these protestors referred to the savings as nothing more than protecting the “Latte Levy” when it came to reducing the size and cost of government.

A Minneapolis resident, Emily Knight, wrote to the City regarding her proposed tax increase which will result in $6,000 a year in combined taxes for the city, county, parks, school district and other taxing districts: “My husband and I believe in good causes, but we are retired educators with no hope of getting a 7 percent increase in our pension or Social Security accounts.”

Two other paragraphs in the Star Tribune story went on to reinforce the concerns by Emily Knight:

“This is really becoming a hardship for our family,” wrote social worker and consultant Jennifer Bertram of their nearly $1,000 increase, which will bring their total tax bill close to $10,000. She added in an interview that they now set aside more per month for taxes than for mortgage payments.

“It’s difficult not to compare our taxes with Edina,” wrote Jeffrey Peterson, a retired Ecolab lobbyist paying upward of $8,000. “Some new programs may have to wait or be limited in order to have some semblance of competitiveness with suburban neighbors.”

The very Councilmember who proposed the most modest of modest cuts to an ever expanding Minneapolis City Budget has been pilloried and vilified by her colleagues – and by liberal activist groups – who believe her willingness to give voice to taxpayers is an affront to racial equality, community engagement and – yes – global climate change.

I don’t know much about Councilmember Palmisano but I am guessing she is not a conservative or a republican. She represents the same ward that extremely liberal Mayor Betsy Hodges hails from.

But, I sense she is starting to hear from her constituents there is a point at which funding every social cause, or liberal pet project of her colleagues, is starting to take its toll.
It starts to take its toll, as it did in St. Paul, in the choices people make about where they are going to live – work – start a business – raise their family.
Those who scoff at these realities are also those most quick to accuse those who raise concerns about the rising cost of government as being concerned about only themselves.

The Star Tribune noted that the Minneapolis City Council “…eventually struck a compromise that lowered the levy increase from 2.4 percent to 2.1 percent, but that restored funding for the clean energy partnership and a minority leadership program. Two new racial equity positions in the city coordinator’s office were spared from cuts, while new communications staffers were axed, along with some funding for Minneapolis Convention Center marketing and a racial-disparities study.”

The Councilmember who proposed the $1 million cut made the same argument that those of us in the early 1990s were making about taxpayers in St. Paul who were being called upon to make greater and greater sacrifices or stand accused of being against progress in the City:

She said, “…it would have been nice for the council to hear the constituent tax complaints her office fields every week. “I think they didn’t show up [to the hearing] because people would label them like they were labeling me: You must be against us, you must be against racial equality…Nothing could be further from the truth for all these people.”

The beginning of every revolution begins with the truth. Kudos to Councilmember Palmisano for giving the taxpayers of Minneapolis voice to their truth. It may just be the beginning of a tax revolt in one of the most liberal cities in America.