FREE SPEECH ZONE | Will Basic Health and Safety Concerns Prevail?


The Minneapolis City Council is expected to revisit the recent 8-5 vote that failed to override the Mayor’s veto of the Council President’s own proposal to keep 10 fire fighters on the City’s payroll until the end of the year. The Council Vice-President’s vote to sustain the Mayor’s veto was crucial in that tally.

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Many concerns have been raised about the wisdom of slicing away at an already understaffed Fire Department and tomorrow’s reprise by the City Council may communicate the product of some rather pointed “consciousness raising” that seeks to defend the need for retaining fire personnel as a compelling priority.

Ward 6 is home to hundreds of seniors whose basic health and safety are being jeopardized by intemperate actions in city hall. We live in a delicate balance between the medical realities of increasing age and the capacity of various supportive services to keep us from needless and sometimes deadly harm.

The City’s budgetary challenges are daunting and likely to grow more insistent no matter who is in charge of the official processes involved. It is a violation of the City Charter not to produce a draft budget document by August 15. This is meant to give the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation time to review the document and to hold hearings if need be before recommending a property tax levy level to the City Council who in turn are charged with enacting the budget in a timely way – the funding year ends at the close of October and there are revised assessments to be communicated to the City’s property owners soon after.

It is increasingly apparent that the current Mayor’s Administration is not daunted by the statutory language enshrined in the City’s Charter in these matters. One may therefore ask what other inconvenient charter provisions might next fall victim to this official arrogance. One may also wonder what possesses City Council Members to go along with this breach of the public trust. On other occasions, breach of the public’s trust has landed errant City Council Members in federal prison.

Recall that the voters of our City insisted on retaining the Board of Estimate and Taxation in the recent municipal election cycle (in 2009). Recall that the State Auditor is barred from examining the City’s financial records. Recall that the Mayor and City Council have preferred to establish an internal auditing system whose personnel serve at the pleasure of these same elected individuals. Recall that the City Attorney who also serves at the pleasure of these same elected individuals seems patently indifferent to claims of official malfeasance in these matters – my own feeling being that ignoring the Charter opens a pandora’s box best left firmly closed and that without doubt members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation are well advised to seek a judicial remedy to this pattern of bad behavior. Criminal behavior in high office isn’t that rare a disease and a uniform standard of justice seems needful here.

To be sure, the voice of the people can be heard on election day. One may certainly wonder what leads to such official hubris and ask that dread question “Cui bono?” – certainly not the thousands of seniors and near-seniors, the families and children of whatever age and domestic circumstance, or the municipal personnel who have demonstrated their sense of professional responsibility many times over. The built environment is also put at increased risk by the misalighed priorities that have been shown elsewhere to be very much at variance with national norms. How much easier to resolve cash flow problems by simply putting a given property to the torch? Who indeed can benefit from such radical clearance solutions?