Financial Fallout from Coronavirus Forces Cities to Cut Back Progressive Plans

At the national level the federal response to the coronavirus appears destined to make big government bigger. But the financial fallout at the local government level may serve as a check on frivolous spending on progressive programs, forcing cities to get back to providing truly essential  services, according to the Star Tribune.

Leaders in Minneapolis and St. Paul are focusing on the basics of city governance — repairing streets, responding to 911 calls and supporting residents through the pandemic — while putting off their big projects and major policy changes.

In Minneapolis, meetings to discuss the hotly debated Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment have been postponed. Discussions about millions in funding for neighborhood organizations and reimagining the city’s transportation networks have been pushed to the summer.

In St. Paul, the pandemic prompted the city to postpone public hearings on a tenant protection ordinance and a ban on conversion therapy. A community meeting on the future of Ayd Mill Road was canceled and replaced with an online video.

It’s amazing how quickly local politicians have acknowledged some programs they’ve been insisting on amount to luxuries when stacked up against the real needs of their constituents.

“It’s nice to want to change the way things happen, but we don’t have the luxury of promoting change at this point,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman. “We have the responsibility to make sure we provide the basic services of the city.”

And, when conversations on those more ambitious goals resume, they won’t look the same.

Preliminary revenue projections look bleak, forcing local officials to recalculate their  priorities with hundreds of millions of dollars in lost taxes anticipated. Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender warns the repercussions may far outlast the lock down.