Downtown Council President Steve Cramer recently wrote of the dangers of a sharp leftward lurch in Minneapolis governance politics (Opinion Exchange, July 23). Until two months ago, I was a moderate alternative — seeking the GOP endorsement for mayor and concentrating on our opportunity to radically improve transit. Republicans have supported me strongly on that issue the past three legislative sessions.
However, the continuing “Trump disaster” prompted me to write and publish a book advocating his impeachment — an unpopular position among Republicans. To make a long story short, on July 18 a small remnant of the once-mighty Minneapolis Republican Party officially made me the only “GOP not-endorsed” candidate for mayor. I’ve suspended my campaign.
Both politics and nature abhor vacuums. Unfortunately, with the filing period closing Aug. 15, the Minneapolis ballot might have a giant vacuum to the right of liberal Democrat. The current mayoral field is Exhibit A. There are exceptions on some issues — as one example: Captain Jack Sparrow opposes any minimum wage. But overall, there is simply no active candidate who is anywhere close to the political middle.
The mayoral ranked-choice menu for moderates and conservatives is: left, lefter and left out.
So I’m issuing a general appeal to citizens of Minneapolis: Will some moderate, reasonable candidates please step forward and file for mayor, the Park Board and City Council seats? Today we need you more than ever.
To assess what’s at risk, we need to consider some history and basic facts. During Mayor R.T. Rybak’s three terms, the average annual Minneapolis budget increase (adjusted for population and elimination of the Library Board) was about 2 percent — just a little below inflation. In the last four years, that has bumped up to about 4 percent (adjusted for population) — or about 3 percentage points above inflation. Today, the Minneapolis budget is about $3,400 per person. Compare that with the two biggest neighboring cities with stable populations since 1970: St. Paul is at $1,800 per person and Bloomington is at $2,100 per person.
We need a robust internal audit department to better understand why Minneapolis spending is so much higher than those comparable cities. But the trend line shows Minneapolis can and in fact has controlled spending — and our municipal debt has been decreasing. The city is also growing fast. That’s the good news.
However, spending isn’t the whole picture. The progressive local government agenda isn’t along the lines of more local government spending; that’s measured, and a big increase would prompt a strong backlash when taxes inevitably increased. Instead, their plan obscures the costs — by using regulation and ordinances to increase the minimum wage, require more employer benefits and so forth.
We need a reality check. The whole structure of municipal government is unsuited to attack challenges like income inequality. Cities and suburbs haven’t been in competition because states have set uniform rules. If that is fundamentally disrupted, both the cost and the potential damage — especially to job-creating small businesses — could be enormous and immediate. The drive at the state level to pre-empt these local initiatives will continue. But that’s a last resort at best.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board may also be “taken over” by the newly dominant, organized and energized “Our Revolution” DFL faction — a spinoff from the Bernie Sanders campaign. The DFL endorsed six “Our Revolution” Park Board candidates — three at-large and three district candidates. Here’s another reality check: The independent Park Board controls a $111 million budget. Fortunately, longtime citizen activists are organizing to field a group of alternative candidates; Republicans have also endorsed two people.
Here’s the bottom line: We have ranked-choice voting, and for moderates and conservatives, some choices will be better than others this November. But if there is no mayoral candidate to the right of “liberal Democrat” on the ballot, moderates and conservatives will stay home. That would be a disaster. Are you up for this challenge? The filing fee is $500 for mayor, $250 for City Council and $100 for Park Board. Filing closes Aug. 15.
Bob “Again” Carney Jr. lives in Minneapolis. His new book is “Break Glass Impeach Trump.”