When the guy arrived carrying a box labeled “non-poisonous snakes,” the reporters gathered for a Cam Winton news conference knew they were in for another show.
Inside the box was an African spur thigh tortoise Winton had rented for $150. It came with a reptile professional, to illustrate how slow the process for obtaining licenses and permits from Minneapolis can be.
Then the bunnies arrived in a crate, to illustrate how Winton would speed up the process if he is elected mayor. The bunnies were also rented, $20 for both, and came with a rabbit professional who kept a keen eye on his charges.
After everyone went nuts taking pictures, Winton got down to the business of explaining how he would speed up the process of dealing with the city. The faster system, he said, would create jobs and affordable housing.
“I’m the one candidate clearly saying, ‘To achieve more jobs, to achieve more affordable housing, we need to streamline our process of business licensing and streamline our process of issuing building permits,” he said. “It’s by getting City Hall out of the way of the private sector that we can achieve out worthy goals of more jobs and affordable housing.”
“Right now in Minneapolis, if you want to get a jukebox, you have to have a license to have a jukebox,” said Winton as someone from the campaign unfolded a cardboard picture of a jukebox. Winton listed dancing schools and bowling alleys as examples of activity also needing a city license to operate. “That to me is silly.”
He agreed that there are some businesses that need city regulation, offering as examples those handling hazardous waste or storing fireworks.
Some professional licenses are issued by the state and require a duplicate certification by the city. Winton used the example of a plumber, who must be licensed by the state and approved by the city. The catch, according to Winton, is that the city does not call its certification a license. The plumber gets a “competency card” from Minneapolis.
“If it walks like a license and talks like a license, it’s a license,” said Winton. “It takes time and money and headache to get it, and when I’m mayor, you won’t have to get it.”
“I know that business expands into places where the level of taxation and regulation is predictable and reasonable,” said Winton. “Right now in Minneapolis, it’s not either of those things.”
Winton also would eliminate the need for most building and repair permits that are now required as a safeguard to keep construction in compliance with the building code.
“It’s requiring someone to come down here to the Public Service Center, take a number, just like they’re in a butcher shop, to wait their turn and plead their case,” said Winton.
Instead, he would require most small projects, those under 10,000 square feet, to be registered with the city — online or by telephone — and would have random inspections of completed work to enforce the building code.
“That keeps them honest,” said Winton of the random inspections.
He acknowledged that the process of issuing permits and licenses has improved in recent years. “It used to be really bad, and now it’s just bad.”