Why are taxes going up?

A member the obscure Board of Estimate and Taxation offers comments about taxes in our fair city:

As to the question of higher taxes, yes, taxes have gone higher for many homeowners. There are several reasons for that. For individual homeowners, they are paying a higher percentage of the overall tax bill. This is due to a couple reasons. First residential property values have increased relative to commercial values. The second reason is that the legislature made changes in the tax system to reduce commercial property taxes. Now it is like a balloon, squeeze down one side and the other pops up. Ten years ago, homeowners paid about 35% of the total tax bill while last year we were now near 60%. This year this is coming down as residential values decline relative to commercial values but not very much as commercial values have started to decline also.

This is merely a technical explanation of how part of the tax burden is borne. More directly, taxes are higher because the City government is spending more and exerting more control over our lives.

Property taxes are only one of the costs of government. The sales tax, various fees and licenses, and most nefariously, the cost of complying with City ordinances all drain productive energy from those who live and work in Minneapolis.


Is “Nordeast” a Good Brand?

I think “Nordeast” is not the best name for our part of town. It has become a term of endearment for many of us, but to outsiders, it is a put down.

The term comes from our Eastern European immigrant heritage and how those non-native speakers pronounced the “Northeast”. The people of Northeast are seen as a little slow-witted and maybe a bit too close-knit to kin and tradtition. “Nordeast” reinforces our place as a backwater part of the City, as a municipal afterthought.

97% Paved

Here’s an example of our City government’s failure to provide Core Services first:

Minneapolis has about 6 remaining miles of oil-and-dirt roads, although discussions are underway to finish off some of them, officials there said.

"There's no question that in a city such as Minneapolis that prides itself on being a beautiful and modern city, the idea there are places where streets have never been paved is obviously unacceptable," said City Council Member Paul Ostrow. "I personally was surprised when I learned it. ... How can we have streets that have never been paved?"

Minneapolis embarked on a program to pave all residential streets -- about 700 miles worth -- starting in the mid-1960s, said Mike Kennedy, director of transportation maintenance and repair for Minneapolis Public Works. That program ended in the late 1990s, he said.

"We probably got 97 percent of all of them.”

Department of Walking

Minneapolis is adopting a Pedestrian Master Plan. Elements of this plan aim to improve the function of Core Services: sidewalks and crosswalks. At that level, although not a critical priority, such an effort fits within responsible government.

The Plan, however, aims for more than infrastructure improvements:

Objective 1.1: Complete the Sidewalk Network (see also 5.2, 7.2)
1.1.2 Investigate funding sources and legal mechanisms to fill sidewalk gaps.

This is plannerspeak for raising taxes and developing costly legal mandates to achieve plan goals. I oppose more taxes in most cases, including this one. Passing laws that compel property owners to provide public amenities is worse than honestly and openly raising taxes.

Objective 4.4: Provide Street Furniture Appropriate for Pedestrian Needs (see also 5.3)
4.4.3 Continue to implement the Art in Public Spaces program.

Public art is not a need. It is a luxury. It is certainly not a Core Service.

Those who want to install art should pay for it themselves, including all costs for incorporating their wishes into the provision of Core Services. Given that a Public Art program has been adopted over my objection, I require Northeast receive its equitable share of art funding. The presence of the Northeast Arts District suggests there are opportunities for our part of town to enjoy more public art for our fair level of subsidy.


A Candidate for the Rest of Us

Do you think our city government needs to grow up? Are you tired of them spending your money chasing rainbows instead of providing competent core services?

Government’s job is:


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