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A letter to members of the Minnesota legislature

January 5, 2011


Dear legislator:

The Minnesota legislature this year is faced with tough choices regarding taxation and spending cuts. Before raising taxes or cutting into state programs, we suggest that legislators first take a look at activities on the local level of government which “shoot ourselves in the foot” with respect to Minnesota’s tax base. The state may need to rein in certain activities of local-government officials and quasi-governmental groups that needlessly burden or even ruin legitimate businesses.

Metro Property Rights Action Committee (MPRAC) was founded in 1994 by Charlie Disney, a former ten-time state ping-pong champion and rental-property owner, when Minneapolis landlords felt abused by city inspectors. We’re about public disclosure and make our point mainly through case histories. MPRAC maintains an online repository of documents to show what local officials and others have done to hurt small businesses.

We are familiar with misdeeds occurring in the state’s two largest cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. For Minneapolis, you can find links to a number of stories at http://www.landlordpolitics.com/horrorstories.html. For St. Paul, you can find links at http://www.landlordpolitics.com/stpaul.html. It may be, however, that similar activities are taking place in other Minnesota municipalities.

Neighborhood associations, acting as quasi-governmental bodies, have also adopted anti-business policies that may need to be addressed. In December 2010, for example, one such organization in Minneapolis killed an attractive business proposal brought before its board because board members thought that the proposal did not sufficiently meet its vision of revitalization which included providing jobs for neighborhood residents. (See http://www.landlordpolitics.com/HNArejections.html.)

Maybe you’d also like to know how the city of Minneapolis killed Porky’s restaurant on Central Avenue by requiring an expensive concrete wall to be built behind its lot. Some neighborhood residents also felt that a ‘50s-style fast-food restaurant promoted an unhealthy lifestyle. Before that, Minneapolis elected officials blamed a convenience store (“Uncle Bill’s Food Market”) for bringing crime into a north Minneapolis neighborhood. Eventually it was torn down. (See landlordpolitics.com/porkys.html and landlordpolitics.com/unclebill.html.)

Over in St. Paul, Diva’s bar on Rice Street was similarly closed down after a shooting. In this case, a nearby church wanted its property. Also a St. Paul city inspector ordered a woman’s home demolished after she refused to sell it to an associate for $40,000. (See landlordpolitics.com/divas2.html and landlordpolitics.com/osterman1.html.)

Maybe hard times can be an opportunity for the legislature to clean up long-standing types of abuse. Maybe limits can be put on the inspection powers of municipalities linked to local government aid? Maybe a state appeals board can be established? We have no firm proposal but do suggest that you take a look at this problem soon.

William McGaughey
co-director MPRAC

Note: This letter was delivered personally to each legislator (201 copies) through the Capitol mail rooms.

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