Our most essential basic services concern public safety. The safety of residents should be the city’s highest priority. One of the most common concerns I hear about is the danger posed by the increase in car-jackings and break-ins.
One of my first acts on the council will be to propose a resolution to convene a blue-ribbon panel to analyze our public safety issues, including an analysis of data regarding uncharged felony offenses and our use of prosecutorial discretion. The purpose will be to identify strategies proven to reduce crime.
I support a fully staffed police force, positive police-community engagement, including social services to help residents in need to develop productive social connections and increase employment skills.
A community that feels safe is vibrant and more engaged. We need to provide for adequate police officers and firefighters. Our first responders are a resource that protects all of us, and remains a critical public need.
Stronger Municipal Infrastructure
Our City needs to take a fresh, common sense approach to its most fundamental purpose: the delivery of basic services.
We need to address how to pay for our basic core services before taking on additional costly programs. We have been neglecting an urgent need to fix our streets, in favor new programs with more taxes. We should prioritize our essential needs, set spending limits, and follow through with a more disciplined budget.
Much of the recent city development consists of multi-story apartments designed to increase density. These rental cubicles in the sky are touted as an “affordable housing” solution.
Unfortunately, much of this new construction is rarely affordable as it is priced at “market rates” well beyond the incomes of working families. It usually requires tearing down older, more affordable housing. Too much of our development has been funded with tax increment financing that diverts our property taxes away from city services, back into the coffers of the developers.
The relentless push for greater density also ignores the reality that St. Paul has been losing population. Nationally, we have a declining birth rate.
This push for more rental units ignores the fact that home ownership provides a truly more affordable housing. It is one of the most common ways of building financial wealth.
The high density brings adverse environmental impacts with loss of green space, traffic congestion, and increased urban heat island effect. High density creates a more intense level of human activity which imposes greater burdens on city services. High density often correlates with higher crime.
Prosperity for All
Our city is proposing to levy the highest sales tax found anywhere in Minnesota. We should not burden our businesses or our residents with more city sales taxes. On October 1, a metro-wide 1% increase in sales tax went into effect. This raised our local city sales tax to 8.875%. If the proposed 1% city sales tax is also enacted, it would push St. Paul’s rate to 9.875%–the highest in Minnesota. Nearby Wisconsin’s sales tax is 5%.
If St. Paul enacts this additional 1% sales tax, it would impose one of the highest sales taxes anywhere in the nation. This would create a disincentive for people to patronize St. Paul businesses. We need to support our small, local businesses and restaurants. They create financial opportunity and empower our residents.
In Minnesota, the sales tax rate for online sales and delivered items, is based on where the purchaser lives. Our residents would pay almost 10% in sales tax for any online purchases. This will include any big ticket appliance or other item requiring delivery.
Sales tax is a regressive tax; its greatest financial burden falls on our poorest residents who can least afford it. This proposed sales tax not only hurts St. Paul businesses, it burdens all who live in St. Paul.
Furthermore, there is no explanation to justify spending $738 million ($16.7 million per mile) to fix the 44 miles of streets listed in the resolution 23-33 describing the street projects; nor is there any way to ensure the city uses this revenue to fix our streets.
Our citizens have a right to expect a full and timely disclosure of government activity. Staged listening sessions are not a substitute for authentic public engagement.
The City’s attempt to link basic street repair to its new proposed sales tax shows how their communications are often misleading. In an effort to convince residents to vote for the new sales tax, the City falsely suggests that if the sales tax is not adopted, property taxes will have to go up. This ignores that fact that there are other sources of revenue to fund streets; it overlooks the common sense need to reset our priorities.
The Cattanach lawsuit initiated on behalf of Save Summit Avenue clearly shows the obstacles our citizens confront trying to obtain basic information. The City could not show what alternatives to Summit Avenue the City explored. As found by the Ramsey county judge handling this lawsuit, the City’s failure to comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, is due to its systemic deficiencies.