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Minneapolis council decides that spending money on events doesn’t generate offsetting economic benefits after all

President Donald Trump is in town today, if you haven’t heard. He’s holding one of his rallies at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has taken time out from overseeing surging crime in the downtown to get stuck into more pressing matters: a Twitter spat with President Trump.

This is a new position from city officials. Usually, they can’t wait to spend taxpayer’s money hosting big events. As I noted after the Super Bowl last February, when the NFL submitted its wish list to Minneapolis, the phrase “at no cost to the NFL” appeared 200 times. The Star Tribune reported that

Organizers will not release their final bid for the event. But the league’s requests before Minneapolis was chosen were wide-ranging, from 35,000 free parking spaces on Sunday to free advertising in local media, police escorts for team owners, hundreds of hotel rooms, presidential hotel suites, 14,000 feet of barricades, and even the NFL Network on hotel TVs.

Other items “at no cost to the NFL” include a venue for the NFL Experience, 10 premier quality buses for eight days, use of one stadium suite for the season leading up to the game, public safety costs relating to official Super Bowl events, and catering including 800 pounds of ice per day at team practices. The document even delves into details like covering certain soft drink fountain taps at the game, or replacing them with “generic taps,” if the brand conflicts with an NFL sponsor.

The City of Minneapolis had no qualms about meeting each of these requests with taxpayer’s cash.

The argument is that this spending is more than compensated for by the spending the event brings to a place like Minneapolis. After the Super Bowl, it was reported that the event had brought $400 million into the local economy. But, if this logic applies to the Super Bowl it applies to President Trump’s rally also. True, the economic impact of spending on MAGA hats is unlikely to be in the region $400 million. But, if the pay out is smaller, so is the cost. After all, President Trump is not asking for 35,000 free parking spaces, free advertising in local media, and hundreds of hotel rooms and presidential suites

If Mayor Frey has developed a new found sense of responsibility to his city’s taxpayers it is to be welcomed. Sadly, I suspect that no such Damascene conversion to fiscal responsibility has taken place. Rather, he just doesn’t like President Trump. When something he likes comes along for him to throw money at in the future he’ll be at it like a drunken sailor. Except that drunken sailors spend their own money.

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

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