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Mayor Carter didn’t have $100k for Independence Day fireworks but does have $225k for a “human-powered gliding” competition

On Independence Day last year, there was no “rocket’s red glare” or “bombs bursting in air” to give “proof through the night that our flag was still there” in Saint Paul. The city’s mayor, Melvin Carter, cancelled its fireworks for the first time in recent memory. He explained

“As I’ve considered the budgetary priorities we manage across our city in the first year of my administration, I’ve decided I can’t in good conscience support spending tax dollars on a fireworks display in St. Paul this year”

Bluntly, he said “The fact of the matter is that we just don’t have $100,000 to spend blowing up rockets over our city”

To some extent, Mayor Carter is to be applauded for such deliberation before spending taxpayer dollars. Such fiscal rectitude is all too rare from our politicians these days.

Of course, he could have let others pay for it. The Star Tribune reported that

Mayor Melvin Carter’s office declined multiple offers to help pull together a July 4 fireworks display in St. Paul after he announced in late June that the annual event would not happen.

The St. Paul Saints baseball team rounded up corporate sponsors for fireworks at CHS Field. Hiway Federal Credit Union offered to donate $50,000 that could be matched by other businesses. Council Member Jane Prince asked if she could solicit private donations.

The mayor and his staff considered these offers but ultimately decided against accepting them, according to e-mails and voice mails obtained by the Star Tribune through a public records request. “I’m moving on from this & not going to ask anybody for money for it,” Carter said in a June 28 e-mail to Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher, adding that they would soon be raising money for other city initiatives. “Let’s not make competing asks.”

Suspicions that Mayor Carter’s snubbing of Independence Day weren’t motivated solely by a concern for taxpayer dollars have now been revived. As the Pioneer Press reports, ‘To make Red Bull Flugtag soar at Harriet Island, St. Paul is on the hook for $225K

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter skydived into Harriet Island Regional Park last month to announce the return of Red Bull Flugtag after a nine-year hiatus. What wasn’t announced at the time was the public price tag for the “human-powered gliding” competition and how the Sept. 7 event will be paid for.

Red Bull Crashed Ice wasn’t free to bring to St. Paul, and Red Bull Flugtag won’t be, either.

The energy drink’s extreme-sporting events come at a cost of roughly $225,000 in public sponsorship, money that the city and its tourism bureau have searched for “under every seat cushion,” according to Visit St. Paul Chief Executive Terry Mattson.

Last year Saint Paul didn’t have “$100,000 to spend blowing up rockets over our city” to commemorate the country’s birthday. This year, it has $225,000 available to spend on a “human-powered gliding” competition. That’s some turnaround.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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