Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Microcosm Reflects the Macrocosm

Notes on Local Politics in Our Town - Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Jacob Frey, whose qualifications for being Democratic Party mayor of Minneapolis seems to be his ability to jog, his young, prosperous, white maleness and his support by the Minneapolis Business Council, was elected mayor on November 7.  He claims he will do something about the housing situation in the city, but that is merely standard swill designed to fool a gullible public.  And the majority of the voting public is still gullible evidently, as class rarely enters their voting choices.

Here in liberal Minneapolis, we don't have the long list of Republican criminals and fools to deal with.  But we have their 'responsible' reflection.  Odd things happened in this election, which are probably happening in other places in the U.S. too.  

Tourist Shot - Stone Arch Bridge over Mississippi
Green Party
The 'second party' in Minneapolis is not the Republicans but the Greens, due to having one council member, Cam Gordon, on the City Council after 3 elections.  Cam is usually on the left side of issues.  However, the Green Party ran a woman in the 3rd Ward, an ex-executive for Medtronic, a local medical devices firm.  She was against rent control, against $15 an hour, and spent most of her time attacking the socialist who was running in the ward, Ginger Jentzen of Socialist Alternative.  Jentzen won the first round in the ranked choice voting election, but lost when 2nd and 3rd picks were tabulated.  Clearly the Green Party is coming apart at the seems, as their vetting process is non-existent.  They should be run out of the left in Minneapolis based on this performance.  A Green running in the Park Board was allocated funds by the Minneapolis Business Council, so it seems the corporate rulers of Minneapolis see the Greens as no threat at all.  Here the Greens are usually represented by small business men as candidates, which indicates their real class slant.

Union Candidate
A union officer in the Laborer's Union ran for Park Board, while also being a worker at the Park Board.  He was reluctantly endorsed by his own local and given $600 for his campaign.  AFSCME also said they would help him, and he got some money from them, but then they disappeared.  You see, the union officer was not endorsed by the Democratic Party.  Many people in Minneapolis still run without official endorsement and he was no exception.  He discussed this issue when he found his Local phone banking for one of the pro-business candidates, the above-mentioned Frey.  They said they would not phone bank for him because he would probably lose and - wait for it - they needed to back people who would give them business and jobs.  I.E. corporate business, officially-sanctioned Democrats.  A clear example of sbort-sighted business unionism and an example of why unions are on the ropes.

City Attorney
The Democratic Party-dominated Minneapolis City Council has a city attorney who has taken the wrong side in every single major issue.  1. She issued a legal opinion that public monies through sales taxes for the new Vikings stadium did not have to be run by residents of Minneapolis, though the Charter maintains that anything over $10M has to be put to a vote.  This allowed them to ram through an undemocratic tax increase to fund a private business.  2. She prosecuted Clyde Bellecourt, legendary American Indian Movement member for drinking coffee in the IDS Crystal Court as 'trespassing.'  She attempted to increase prosecution of environmental protesters for hanging a banner from Washington Avenue and pipeline protesters for hanging a banner in the Vikings stadium.  She attempted to prosecute peaceful Occupy Homes activists for 'riot.'  She also attempted to prosecute local Lawyers Guild members for opposing her.  3. She issued an opinion against the $15 minimum wage.  4. This year she handed out tickets to Vikings stadium suites and was cited on ethics issues.  Welcome to 'The Law'!

Corporate Welfare & Rentiers
The rentier class is plowing money into real estate and Minneapolis is no exception. Nothing easier than sitting back and collecting rents. The amount of building downtown is phenomenal.  The whole city is slowly being gentrified, first downtown, but now in almost every neighborhood.  Developers and investors have figured out that building in second-tier cities is more profitable than NY, LA or SF, and that real-estate is a good investment presently, as a haven for free cash.  All driven by rentier capitalism.

 The solution to the unaffordable housing  resulting from this seems not to be rent or building control.  What does our City Council majority decide to do with our tax money instead?  Spend $50m into a 'new' Nicollet Mall, which, to quote the Who, 'New Mall, just like the Old Mall."  This is supposed to be a benefit to the upscale citizens of downtown.  The new mall has more trees, some colored frame structures along one block, while downgrading the pavement from solid granite to concrete.  That is it. $50m!!!  It's construction disrupted downtown buses and pedestrians for more than 2.5 years, caused the closing of a number of businesses and can charitably be described as a vanity project, a facelift, and only later when you understand what just happened, a vicious tax boondoggle.  A few dozen people showed up for its 'grand opening' where it was christened 'The Main Street of Minnesota" by the irony-challenged leaders of the City Council.  

 A large amount of public funds was also spent on the Target Center, to move the door from the middle of the building to a corner atrium, while giving the whole building a new outside shell.  I.E. another facelift.  This again to mostly promote a privately-owned group of basketball teams.  Though one of them, the female Lynx, is routinely downplayed in spite of being the only consistent sports winners in this state.  Park Board money is now going to be plowed into a privately-owned "Commons" park near the Mississippi.  (Ironic that park name, what?)  The enclosure of the real 'commons' of tax monies into the pockets of corporations continues, thanks to a City Council dominated by corporate Democrats.  

And indeed, because of gentrification, nearly all real estate taxes in the city increased.  Real estate taxes are where the tax burden is falling, as income taxes decrease for the rich and corporations.  This affects both renters and homeowners, those on a fixed income and those who are barely making ends meet. Unless you sell your home, the possible 'increase' in home values is never realized, but the tax bills are 'realized' every 6 months. 

Architecture
The architectural and cultural sensibility of the rulers of Minneapolis seems to be somewhat like those of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, an upscale newish suburb on the edges of the Metro area.  Like those rich homeowners who have to update their bathrooms and kitchens periodically with marble, hot tubs and stainless steel refrigerators, or buy the latest car, the City Council seems to think that this 'newness' is next to Godliness.  Which is why all their projects - the City Center, Block E, the Mall revamp, the new Stadium, the Target Center 'upgrade' - try to turn Minneapolis into the equivalent of an Eden Prairie mall - souless, slick and corporate.  "We want to be a World Class City!'  Which is why the Super Bowl was invited - but the tax bill for that monstrosity has yet to come in.  The only thing 'world class' about Minneapolis is its provincialism.  But then, this reflects the real internal class reality of many of our council people.  One, we unfortunately have to dwell in.

Red Frog
November 25, 2017 

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