FFM Bulletin 7/17/09

Learn the facts about Washington's health care plans before it's too late!

The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is hosting a health care event at 7 pm on July 28th featuring Dr. Regina Herzlinger, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and author of Who Killed Health Care? Tickets are $10 if you register by Friday, July 24th, or $15 per person at the door.

St. Paul considering public art mandate

The St. Paul City Council is preparing to vote next week on a public art mandate, which would require one-percent of all capital project funding to be spent on public art. According to the Pioneer Press, "The proposed ordinance would mandate that the art, which could include performance art as well, be integrated into the project from the start."

Mayor Chris Coleman plans to sign the ordinance if it passes. You may remember that just a few months ago Mayor Coleman claimed his city's budget had been "cut to the bone" and "there is no more room for us to cut." Keep that in mind when the city takes up the public art mandate next week.

And if you're wondering what kind of public art you might be seeing in St. Paul sometime soon, here are some samples of the city's recent "sidewalk poetry" project, which was done in conjunction with the nonprofit organization Public Art Saint Paul. Believe it or not, the City of Mankato liked the sidewalk poetry idea so much that they're now following St. Paul's lead.

City Spotlight: Red Wing

The latest Minnesota city to announce that they face a budget crisis due to cuts in Local Government Aid (LGA) is Red Wing. According to the city's website, "LGA is paid to less affluent communities so those communities are able to offer basic city services at an affordable price to residents." They go on to state that "Red Wing is certified to receive $1.45 million in LGA annually."

Yet, according to a March 2009 editorial in the Red Wing Republican Eagle, Red Wing "has the state's second highest spending per capita at $853. The ranking is for communities with 5,000 people or more that receive Local Government Aid. Only International Falls spends more per capita at $869 or $16 more per person than Red Wing does."

So, what are the "basic city services" that Red Wing can't afford to live without?

  • The Sheldon Performing Arts Theatre which, according to the city website, is the "country's first city-owned theatre";
  • The Mississippi National Golf Links, a 36-hole professional golf course; and,
  • A heavily subsidized regular, fixed route and dial-a-ride bus service (Red Wing RIDE) that charges $1 per passenger per ride, to name just a few.

Red Wing also has two lobbyists currently registered to lobby legislators in St. Paul and the city recently announced their intention to seek funding from the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" (better known as the economic stimulus package), for their planned citywide fiber optic network.

Yet this week, city officials in Red Wing suggested that LGA cuts threatened their ability to provide adequate public safety, due in large part to the presence of one of Red Wing's largest employers and property taxpayers, Xcel Energy. No doubt city officials thought their "sky is falling" timing impeccable: Xcel Energy has a proposal pending before the state's Public Utilities Commission. Red Wing has been home to one of Minnesota's two nuclear power plants. The Prairie Island Plant has been safely operating for over 30 years. Furthermore, Xcel is a generous local employer which pays an enormous annual amount in taxes and reimbursements to Red Wing that they maintain "exceeds the city's cost of providing emergency services."

But apparently all of their local elected officials are crying wolf. State Senator Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, responded quickly and harshly to the city's threat of diminished public safety abilities. According to the Star Tribune, Murphy said "the city had adopted an anti-nuclear strategy that was troubling" and that the city's budget woes should have nothing to do with their ability to adequately protect its citizens.

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