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I attended the Minneapolis mayoral candidates debate today at the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota. The best part was the excellent questions asked by the moderators, Larry Jacobs of the Humphrey School and Lee Schafer, business columnist for the Star Tribune. Their common-sense questions called the candidates to account for all the anti-business craziness that’s been coming out of City Hall in recent years. Here’s what they asked:
Are you seeking the support of business owners?
What do you say to business owners who say that their complaints about hostility in city government toward the business community has fallen on deaf ears in City Hall?
Who is going to pay for an increase in the minimum wage? Why not $20 an hour? Are you worried that raising the minimum wage and sick leave will make business in Minneapolis too costly?
Do you support Minneapolis starting their own bank so they can sever their relationship with banks involved in the fossil fuel industry?
Are you worried about the mounting costs of living in Minneapolis, such as property taxes going up 5.5% last year?
It’s tough to quiz seven candidates in 70 minutes, the only glaring omission was no question about Minneapolis’ worsening crime problem. But if that was the price to expose so much economic silliness, it was well worth it.
Easily the most refreshing new voice was that of Aswar Rahman, a filmmaker and small business owner who worked for Mayor R.T. Rybak. He also is an “User Experience Designer” who works with non-profits to design software that optimized products and user experience. Born to a Bangladeshi military family, he graduated from the University of Minnesota at age 19 and he wants to fix the many systemic inefficiencies he sees in city government.
It’s a little tough to issue grades with so many of the candidates existing so far left of center, but the least anti-business candidate looks to be Aswar Rahman, with Tom Hoch of the Hennepin Theatre Trust and Downtown Council a few paces behind.
For those interested in Full Monty leftism, Rep. Raymond Dehn may be your candidate. He said he thought a $20 an hour minimum wage was reasonable and seemed to open the door to having government give assistance to businesses that needed help paying such a high wage. Also, he not only wants to end the city’s relationship with banks who lend to fossil fuel companies but also who engage in other practices he finds offensive.
Mayor Betsy Hodges seemed quite proud that under her leadership people no longer need to purchase jukebox licenses in Minneapolis. Also, she had a decent, thought provoking response on the minimum wage, asking “Who’s paying now for our low minimum wage?”
Council member Jacob Frey, an attorney, community organizer, and scholarship track athlete, is seen as an ambitious up-and-comer. Community organizer Al Flowers struck me as a little out of his league in this policy arena. Jonathan Honerbrink, the only declared Republican candidate was ruled ineligible for the debate by the Humphrey School. Also, Captain Jack Sparrow was not included.
Governing seems like it will be easy for law professor and NAACP leader Nekima Levy-Pounds who will just “do the right thing” and give people the “wages they deserve” which she says are $23 an hour. I’m sorry but high school students don’t “deserve” (and are not worth) $23 an hour.
With so many Minneapolis city leaders pushing harmful minimum wage fantasies, I can’t say I’m optimistic about the future prosperity of Minneapolis.
Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.