Local government aid (LGA) is so critical to St Paul because we have many impressive Minnesota state buildings like the capital, which are served by St Paul city services, yet those buildings pay no contribution in property taxes. Add to this, the abundance of churches, colleges and other state-mandated tax exempt buildings and you have the most valued property NOT supporting the city. St Paul has 28% of its property value exempt while North Oaks has 5.9% exempt. Traditionally, the state has made up for the missing property taxes of state buildings by providing local government aid (LGA), until recently when the Republicans have forced LGA cuts.
The Chambers of Commerce have supported LGA cuts and other Republican issues to the extent that a Chamber of Commerce endorsement is considered a Republican endorsement. The Star Tribune said on March 16, 2011 that “The umbrella organization, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, marched in lockstep with Gov. Tim Pawlenty for eight years on cuts to local aid and most other issues.” The St Paul Chamber of Commerce even stayed in step with the state even when other Chambers of Commerce broke ranks to support LGA. The St Paul Chamber of Commerce follows the state in refusing to raise the tax rate of the wealthiest Minnesotans to pay the same overall Minnesota tax percentage as the rest of us. Yet that same anti-tax St Paul Chamber of Commerce supports raising taxes for the Vikings. Clearly the St Paul Chamber of Commerce is for the richest among us. No state tax help on police, fire, parks and street maintenance but taxes to help a millionaire make more money off of sports is alright. Clearly, the Chamber and the people of St Paul have very different interests.
So what can you say when the DFL endorsed Ward 3 Chris Tolbert is also endorsed by the St Paul Chamber of Commerce? It is clear that interests of St Paul Chamber of Commerce and the people of Ward 3 are very different. The real question is which master will Chris Tolbert serve? Will Chris support LGA or oppose it? Will Chris at the same time support raising our taxes to support the Vikings stadium when we cannot afford even maintaining public safety that Chis claims is his top priority? If you look closely at Chris Tolbert promises, they are very vague. Chris could be representing the Chamber of Commerce. Certainly their endorsement says that.
Now the question of who Chris Tolbert serves is even more interesting if Chris gets the position. Chris has a more than a full time job as Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, which he says he will keep when he also takes on the more than half-time city council position. Yet Chris promises “responsive, first-class constituent service.” So who is the master and who will really be served – the people of Ward 3 or the Hennepin County Attorney job? It is pretty obvious that it cannot be both.
Ward 5 does not have a DFL endorsed candidate since the convention could not come to a 60% vote. So two candidates are running under the DFL label: Lee Helgen and Amy Brendmoen. Amy Brendmoen, running under the DFL label also has the St Paul Chamber of Commerce endorsement. So does Amy Brendmoen support LGA or the Chamber? Does she also support positions like Vikings taxes while not supporting taxes for basic government services? Amy Brendmoen again has one of those vague websites that does not state where she is on LGA, so she could be supporting the Chamber of Commerce positions. Again that is what an endorsement means.
The point is not just saying “I support LGA,” and all the other polices that the people of St Paul, the point is doing it! And given the track record of the Chamber of Commerce opposing what the people of St Paul want, I think any percentage of commonality with the Chamber of Commerce and a candidate should be questioned!
So the real question is what did Tolbert and Brendmoen do, say or promise to get the Chamber of Commerce’s support?