Mayor Rybak’s Minneapolis budget tour

I had a chance to catch Mayor RT Rybak’s Minneapolis city budget tour last week at the Becketwood senior home. Overall, the city is pays its bills and has a great credit rating, but I found a few nits to pick. For example, check out the blurry chart I snapped a picture of with my phone:

mayor's chart of road miles maintained
Photo by Ed Kohler

This is a chart of how many miles of roads the city has been improving by year. As you can see, the chart is trending up and to the right with 14 miles in 2008, 26 in 2009, 51 in 2010, 76 in 2011, and 104 in 2012. However, what you probably don’t realize is that the miles of roads represented in each of those bars are CUMULATIVE. As in, the 26 miles in 2009 represent the 14 miles from 2008 plus the 12 additional miles of roads refurbished in 2009. The chart mentions this at the bottom, but is unconventional in its approach. Are roads built in 2008 still considered new? What would this chart look like in 30 years? 50 years? Would we have solved road refurbishing for good by then?

This is a highly misleading chart. A more intellectually honest representation of that data would be something like this, where we can see how many miles of road were refurbished by year:

As you can see, the miles or road in Minneapolis receiving attention has still increased. It’s just not increasing at the rate the first chart suggests.

An audience member asked how many miles or road their are in Minneapolis. I’m pretty sure they were trying to compare the numbers of miles reported to how many miles or road there are in the city to see if the city is keeping up with routine maintenance. Clearly, if one can see how many miles or road are being maintained annually, one can make a better judgement of where the city stands.

Ward 12 City Council Member and Vikings corporate Wilfare supporter, Sandy Colvin Roy, mentioned that the city has 1,064 miles of roads. At the 2008-09 road refurb rate, it would take 81 years to refurbish the city’s roads. At the 2010-12 rate, it would take 40 years.

That’s a significant improvement that’s partially due to the city’s improved credit rating. However, if people are mislead by the chart presented to them in Rybak’s presentation, they may assume that every road in the city will be upgraded in the next 10 years. That’s not going to happen. What’s the right rate for refurbishing roads? I don’t know. Anyone have some thoughts on that?

Vikings stadium fallout

Rybak mentioned that property taxes are under control this year because the city managed to avoid having to pay $5 million toward the Target Center this year. That’s great. People seemed excited about that. But, the Target Center expenses didn’t disappear. We’ll just be paying for them through sales taxes instead of property taxes collected in Minneapolis.

Rybak also didn’t mention that the reason we didn’t have to pay $5 million toward the Target Center this year is because we’ve borrowed from the future. The sales taxes going toward the convention center’s mortgage that will be used to subsidize the NBA and NFL can’t be used for that purpose until the convention center’s debt is paid off in 2020. So, property taxes are staying steady because we deferred NBA subsidies and shifted the funding source.

Twin Cities rivalry

Rybak mentioned that it’s time to lay the Twin Cities rivalry to rest. I’m cool with that. We could have done that and saved a boatload of money by sending the Timberwolves and Lynx to the Xcel Energy Center. Instead, we’ve decided to double down on the Target Center, which lead to St. Paul crying foul, which lead to St Paul getting funding for some Xcel Energy Center debt relief and funding for a new Saints corporate welfare project/stadium.

As Finance & Commerce reported back in March, Minneapolis’ bailout of Target Center was supposed to help attract an NHL team to the stadium.

Local developer Steve Minn was a member of the City Council in 1995. He recalls sitting in the office of then-Minneapolis City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes for a conversation with Gov. Arne Carlson and Taylor, who were both on the telephone.

At the time, efforts were under way to lure a professional hockey team back to Minnesota.

“The commitment was that the Minneapolis Target Center would also get hockey, and that’s what was supposed to support the revenue model for Target Center,” Minn said. “Hockey was supposed to be committed to Target Center … the city got screwed.”

Los Angeles has two NBA teams and one NHL team all using the Staples Center, but the Twin Cities “needs” two arenas to host a mere 82 events (NBA & NHL combined) per year.

As mayor of St Paul, Norm Coleman created a net loser or a NHL stadium that competes with Minneapolis’ net loser of an NBA stadium.

So, the rivalry’s not dead. We have two construction projects in Minneapolis and one in St Paul that haven’t even broken ground yet that are stoke the rivalry. Maybe next generation?

Overall, the city is doing well, but could do better if we focused on the things that cause people to move to a city, GREAT SCHOOLS, rather than subsidizing professional sports franchises.

This post was written by Ed Kohler and originally published on The Deets. Follow Ed on Twitter: @edkohler

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/16/2012 - 09:57 am.

    Don’t worry about the money

    Hey, the electronic pull tabs are a huge success! They made a little over $100,000 last month. I know I know they need $40 million a year but it’s baby steps, little tiny baby steps.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 10/16/2012 - 02:15 pm.

    What budget “tour”? The Mayor is visiting the Southwest and South areas he feels comfortable in, not the city at large. He evidently believes that the rest of us either don’t understand budgets or we’re already disillusioned with his mayoralty and don’t deserve his time.

    As for how long streets should last: Minneapolis, since it began a regular paving schedule, has regarded 30 years as the time period a street lasts before it has to be redone. At least, for regular residential streets that aren’t truck routes or state highways, etc.

    However, the mayor is misleading us here, too, and not just with the cumulative figures on numbers or miles of streets paved. Minneapolis has begun to do temporary fixes of streets, a shallow grind and re-asphalt job that will only last half as long (15 years) as a full street re-do would last. It’s like buying a cheap sweater instead of a good one: the cheap one pills and pulls apart, where the good sweater would last decades. Plus, residents are being forced to pay the full cost of the reduced-cost paving, rather than the one-third of traditional paving costs.

    So, really, the street repair situation is is very bad shape. The mayor can talk all he wants about cumulative miles done, but they’re being done on the cheap and won’t last, and (because of LGA cuts and budget shifts by the mayor) people are paying more for them, the city less.

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