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Winton calls for fewer biz licenses, fewer permits

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Politics and government Updated: October 1, 2013 - 9:40 AM

Mayoral candidate Cam Winton made a pitch Monday for slashing the number of types of licensed businesses, changing how buildings are permitted and changing zoning rules -- with the help of a tortoise and two hares.

Winton said he'd like to slash the number of businesses that are required to get city licenses from about 160 to around 10. He said he'd reserve city licenses for businesses that have the potential to affect public health, such as transporting hazardous waste, funeral homes, and liquor and food businesses.

He derided the need of businesses that don't deal in liquor to get a license to have a jukebox, or a licensing requirement for bowling alleys or dancing schools. "It gets in the way of people generating economic activity and creating jobs," he said. He also questioned the city requiring "competency cards" from plumbers already holding a state license.

Winton also proposed that construction projects of less than 10,000 spare feet should be absolved from having to obtain a building permit, and that code compliance for such projects should be determined by after-the-fact spot checks.  The fear of such an inspection would motivate compliance, he said. He proposed that a property owner merely have to leave a phone message saying that work was commencing.

He argued that the city's 23 zoning classifications and 17 zoning overlay districts stifle development, and argued for "form-based" zoning instead. That tool defines the interplay between buildings and the public realm, the massing of buildings and the scale of the streetscape.

Winton continued his habit of spicing his news conferences with imaginative props, which have included a pothole, a garbage truck and a metro bus. He rented a 25-pound African spur-flanked tortoise named Phoebe tortoise for $150, and two rabbits for $20, trying to draw a tortoise-and-hare contrast between current practices and his approach. Advised to hold the tortoise so as to avoid collateral damage, Winton quipped: "I've got a toddler and a baby."

The event reinforced Winton's theme that the city needs to streamline its business and construction regulation in order to create more jobs.  The August unemployment rate for Minneapolis of 5.1 percent is slightly higher than those for Hennepin County and the seven-county metro area.

(Photo: Phoebe, an 25-pound African spur-thighed tortoise, appeared at the news conference but did not endorse Winton.)

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