Both Minneapolis and St. Paul mayors have released their budget updates. Both call for increases in property taxes and reductions in some services. Mayor R.T. Rybak and Mayor Chris Coleman are Gary Eichten’s guests on Midday. Listen to the program here. React below.
11:07 a.m. – Coleman says the city is “relatively strong,” and looking at doing things “more efficiently.” Says the city is focusing on “what really matters,” which brings up the obvious question: “What doesn’t matter?”
11:09 a.m. – You can watch Rybak’s budget message here.
11:10 a.m. – Coleman says St. Paul is “down 40 officers.” Gives props to Obama for stimulus. Rybak gives props too, and criticizes state cuts to cities and says stimulus money will go away. “Every budget I’ve presented in five years has been balanced, which is in sharp contrast to the state.”
Rybak says more than 100 positions were eliminated yesterday.
11:12 a.m. – Gary plays sound bite of Pawlenty says some good things in Minneapolis wouldn’t have happened without him. He cites Guthrie, Northstar, Twins stadium, light rail, and “all of the money pumped into the University of Minnesota.”
11:14 a.m. – “I wish he’d stick around because I’d love to have him come on this program,’ Rybak countered. He says spending in Minneapolis increased 1 percent, during Pawlenty’s term, state spending jumped 12 percent. “I don’t need a lecture.” He says Pawlenty sat on his hands for Twins stadium. Rybak says he led initiatives and Pawlenty ‘was there for the signing.’
11:17 a.m. – Coleman says Pawlenty did not solve budget problems this year. “He just pushed it into the future.”
“This whole country has been engulfed in this negative tone where people get up and scream. I wish we could have a dialog about where we need to go and stop blaming everyone for our problems,” Coleman said.
Q: Are you running for governor?
A: Coleman: I’ve made no secret I’m exploring that?
A: Rybak: “I’m likely to do that.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: Have you laid off more firefighters? (Question from wife of firefighter)
A: Everyone is taking a cut, public safety taking less of a cut. Didn’t accept grant for firefighters because it required us to spend more money.
Q: To Coleman: How can you call a 6 percent hike in property tax, “more service at a better price”?
A: We have merged departments, invested up-front money to save money in the long run. We’re making long-term investments in which we’ll see huge paybacks. We’re asking employees to do more with less. Layoffs after the first of the year.
Q: Caller: In 1967 the Legislature passed first sales tax. 100% were to go to reduce property taxes. That was the purpose. Now the state is fighting increases in sales tax and has no regard for local property taxes.
A: Rybak: Correct. We should say “let’s have the sales tax but earmark it for property tax relief.”
Q: Without Gang Strike Force, will gang activity increase?
A: Coleman; We have great anti-gang cops. “Unfortunate that the sideshow has taken away from what our officers are doing.”
Rybak: “Doesn’t have a significant impact on what we’re doing in the city.” Says Minneapolis cops have lots of intelligence (informers?)
11:29 a.m. – Coleman just mentioned the Harlem Children’s Zone as a model. Here’s the Web site.
Q: (Caller to Coleman) I live in Highland Park. We can save money by not cleaning the streets in the summer. They’re not dirty.
A: Coleman: You’re going to get your wish; it’s one of the things we’re going to have to clean the streets (Ah, but will there be towing on days you’re not going to clean anymore?). It’s not all about aesthetics; it ends up in the river.
11:36 a.m. – Why do the cities have different policies on things like trash collection?
Rybak: There’s a whole long history of garbage in Minneapolis. It works well for us. St. Paul’s works well for them. Same with snow plowing.
(Of course, this brings up an old question: Why do we need two big cities? Why not just be like businesses and merge)
Q: Does downtown St. Paul have a future?
A: Coleman: “It’s unbelievable. I’m so excited it’s impossible to contain (bob: Is a lunch joint staying open after 2 p.m. downtown?). Cray is coming downtown. Microsoft wants to be a part of downtown. Light rail is a critical piece of that. High-speed rail is a critical part of that.
Q: Block E has reputation for intimidation and violence. When is the mayor going to do something?
A: Crime in downtown is dramatically down, Rybak says. Putting more people on the street — via the Twins ballpark — will help. So does all the residential properties “we’ve built.”
Q: Re: Central Corridor light-rail. There are still a lot of critics. Businesses are worried on University Ave., etc. Are these problems going to be resolved?
A: Coleman: “This line is going to be built. We’ve all but begun construction. I’ve sat through mitigation meetings at the University of Minnesota. Communities along the corridor have deep concerns and we are taking proactive steps — adding money for parking mitigation and beautification of University Ave., and another stop on Western Avenue. How we get there is an open question.
It’s like the 7 minute blackout when a rocket ship is coming back from space.
Rybak: We have to figure out how to get Uptown connected. We’re doing bus rapid transit on 35W. None of these will be easy. Everyone needs to bring their points to the table, but stay at the table.
Wrapping up, Gary asked how they thought Obama is doing. Surprisingly, they both think he’s doing great.