Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cluck cluck

Are those chickens I hear in the distance, on their way home? The clucking reached a feverish pitch last Wednesday as St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced his 2007 budget plan, which included at the crux of it an 8.5% property tax increase, off-set by a reorganization of libraries and rec centers staff and hours. This comes as our elected officials at Ramsey County are considering a 5% property tax increase, and voters are going to be asked to approve $30 million for our schools this fall. It takes a brave soul to have one of your first major acts in office be a tax increase on homeowners, especially given what has transpired at the state in the last few years.

But back to those chickens. I half-expected them to head over to Mayor Coleman's house. I mean, the citizens of St. Paul elected a democrat after all. Is it really a surprise he wants to raise our taxes? But no, some of them made their way to former Mayor Norm Coleman's house, realizing that under his 8 years of rule there was a price to be paid for "holding the line on taxes," while at the same time increasing city services and handing out major subsidies to a few businesses. Some of those chickens were looking to roost on the East Side, at the home of the previous mayor, Randy Kelly, who had an affinity for fees and assessments rather than an honest budget discussion.

And the bulk of the chickens ended up at 1006 Summit Avenue, pecking at the steps of the Governor's Mansion. State cuts to local government aid have crippled many cities like St. Paul, forcing leaders throughout Minnesota to enact massive cuts and property tax increases. It was perhaps one of the most clever moves by the Governor, precisely because it lacks transparency, making it even more complicated to explain to the average citizen.

That's the real challenge come November: connecting the dots and ensuring the voters know where those chickens are going. And recognizing it's going to take honesty and the ability to make difficult decisions about our future to get our state back on track. As the Mayor said in his budget address, "Politicians who stand before you and tell you that there are simple answers to complex problems are either lying to you or they don't really get it. Solving a....deficit cannot be done without making tough choices."


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