Reader David Brauer responds to Payments on Minneapolis' spending bender are coming due, and it's not pretty:
I'm glad Cory wrote this piece — the dumb spending of the recent past deserves to be called out, and Rybak owns a lot of that — but there are some counter-arguments I'd make.
First, Rybak did pay down a ton of debt from the previous administrations. Google "Minneapolis" & "Internal Services Fund deficit" to get a flavor of that. It was one reason parks and public works got shafted. The mayor prioritized police, fire, and debt repayment. These were tough choices, not venal ones.
Second, Target Center was the folly of the previous Sayles Belton/Cherryhomes era. Rybak (and all of us) inherited that flaming bag of shit, so again, the city had to make a very tough choice about how to fund it. I'd love to rip the place down, but honestly, it's probably costlier to do that now.
The part of the Vikings deal I like the best (and I hate the deal) was getting Target Center repayment off property taxes and onto the sales tax (where out-of-towners pay a higher percentage, justified for a regional asset).
Third, I think the piece errs in conflating the Neighborhood Revitalization Program with crumbling infrastructure. I was a neighborhood board president, and we did a lot of great stuff with the dough, but it wasn't super-efficient, neighborhoods sat on the money, and a good chunk went to preserving neighborhood staff.
I favored cutting the program specifically because, after 20 years, it was taking money away from basics like infrastructure that are better handled citywide. In a sense, cutting neighborhood revitalization freed up dough to be spent on parks and public works.
These aspects of the piece sound like the usual re-litigation of the Rybak haters and NRP loyalists, many of whom have ties to the Sayles Belton era. Doesn't make them invalid, but there's a consistent ax ground here that omits stuff.
Rybak screwed the pooch at the end with some bad spending decisions, i.e. Vikings. He argues that building the stadium allowed the city to leverage a state-subsidized parking ramp (across from the stadium) that resulted in an expanded Wells Fargo presence downtown, jobs that legitimately might've left the city. It also, in his view, locked in the Convention Center sales tax (the chief city subsidy here) into the 2040s; the legislature was threatening to kill it after the Convention Center was paid off around 2020.
As a stadium hater, I acknowledge that the legislature turning off a major tax source for the city WAS a risk; I just don't think Governor Dayton would've allowed that particular trigger to be pulled. You never know.
Sadly, HAD the Convention Center been paid off AND the legislature not knifed the tax, it would've freed up a ton of money for streets and parks WITHOUT the need for more property taxes and reserve-account draining done this week.
Thanks for the chance to vent.