Monday, August 17, 2020

Minneapolis Taxes Businesses' Rubble, Patience

First, Minneapolis officials let rioters burn down and otherwise destroy nearly 100 businesses over the course of several nights. They told police to stand down. Since then, incredibly, they have refused to let the owners remove the twisted wreckage of their demolished businesses without a permit. A permit they would not grant unless the owners of the now defunct shops, service outlets and eateries prepaid the second half of their 2020 property taxes. And contractors cannot provide an estimate of how much it will cost to rebuild their businesses until the debris is removed. St. Paul, the Minneapple’s sister city, has waived the tax requirement.
Don Blyly, owner of a bookstore destroyed in the riots, told the Minneapolis StarTribune: “Minneapolis has not been particularly friendly toward business for some time.” This is a candidate for Understatement of the Year, akin to saying that “Joe Biden hasn’t been the most eloquent person on the face of the Earth lately.” Blyly prepaid $8,847 in second half taxes a week ago, yet still hasn’t received his permit. Minneapolis officials lamely cited a state law for their intransigence. However, the law clearly leaves enforcement up to the counties, and Hennepin County officials say they made it clear to the city of Minneapolis earlier this summer that they would not enforce the requirement for any riot-damaged or destroyed properties.
Large stretches of Lake Street and other areas of the city have been reduced to piles of rubble. Piles of rubble that are still there, ugly, depressing and filled with hazardous materials. Basim Sabri is the owner of several properties on or near Lake Street. He told the StarTribune: “You can’t just allow a bunch of rubble and hazardous material to sit in the middle of Lake Street. People could get hurt. Where are our City Council members? What are they doing? Have they seen it?” They are too busy virtue-signaling and hiring private security for their own protection to tend to the needs of their city’s business community, Mr. Sabri.
On average, the paper reported, the owners of properties destroyed or significantly damaged owe $25,000 in taxes for the second half of 2020. Moreover, most of these owners will also have to pay $35,000 to $100,000 to have their sites cleared of debris. For many, their businesses were their only source of income. Already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the riots have left them unable to comply with the city’s mandates. Unsurprisingly, owners say the lack of progress has discouraged reinvestment and is forcing customers—and businesses—to look elsewhere.
To recap, businesses pay property taxes in large part to secure the services of the police and the fire department. City officials took the business owners’ first half 2020 taxes but then refused to let the police and fire department protect their businesses. Talk about a breach of contract. They didn’t demand any payment or recompense from the thugs and criminals who looted and plundered the businesses, but did demand payment of second half taxes from the businesses they let be destroyed, before they would “let” them clean up the mess the thugs and city created. Try to wrap your mind around that.
Shortly after the paper published the article, the city waived the pre-paid second half 2020 tax requirement. Mayor Jacob Frey announced the change and said, “I recently learned about the predicament and took quick action to fix it. For the sake of our businesses, we need to be removing every last possible barrier to recovery and reopening.” He recently learned about “the predicament?” That seems odd, him being the city’s mayor and all. Plus, Andrew Johnson is the one City Council member who has been sympathetic to the business owners’ plight. Frey issued a statement saying that he consulted with Johnson before deciding to waive the collection of property taxes as part of the debris removal process. Johnson has been lobbying city (and county) officials to address the issue and rectify the situation since June. And this is the first the feckless Frey had heard about it?
The wealthy are fleeing New York due to exorbitantly high taxes and a drastic increase in crime. The state’s clueless governor attempts to woo them back by offering to buy them a drink. Businesses are leaving New York, Illinois and California for the same reasons.  Now Minneapolis has joined the list of leftist-run states and cities seemingly determined to erode their tax bases to appease the frenzied mob.
Better raise taxes on the remaining businesses, right Mayor Frey?

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