You wouldn’t know it by the stillness in the air, but there’s going to be a City Election on Nov. 3 to elect a mayor, City Council members, Park Board commissioners and two members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation (B. E. T.). There’s also a proposal on the ballot to eliminate the B. E. T. There was no Primary Election in September because there will be instant runoff voting in the general election next month. That, combined with the decision of the Star Tribune to only screen and endorse candidates in races where there is no incumbent, will probably mean we should have the lowest voter turnout for a municipal election in the city’s history. Nobody knows and nobody cares. It is as though a large blanket has settled over the city smothering any voices of dissent. It would be amazing if any incumbent were defeated. With the exception of Dave Bicking offering a spirited challenge to Gary Schiff in the 9th Ward, the election isn’t a race at all-it’s a slow walk.
There is a proposed change to the City Charter on the ballot that would eliminate the Board of Estimate and Taxation and replace it with the City Council subject to the powers and duties of the mayor. It’s a proposal dreamed up by Rybak and the City Council to virtually eliminate the Park Board.
They tried to eliminate the Park Board with a Charter amendment earlier this year, but the Charter Commission (which is mostly appointed by
the mayor and the City Council) wouldn’t go for it. This amendment is a little sneakier. It doesn’t really eliminate the Park Board, it just lets the City Council and the mayor veto their budget, and the power of the purse is the power behind the throne.
The mayor has been quite outspoken in trying to eliminate independent boards. His and the City Council’s representatives on the B. E. T. voted to deny the Minneapolis Library Board the power to raise additional money through a mill levy and the result was that the library system got taken over by the county. Carol Becker, the incumbent at-large member of the B. E. T., was one of the few to resist Rybak’s move and support additional funding for the libraries. There are two at-large seats and Phil Willkie, well-known local progressive, is running for one of them. He says, “Vote for Carol first, but I would appreciate it if you’d vote for me next.