Every city’s budget is limited. Even large cities, like Minneapolis, must make difficult spending decisions that match the anticipated revenue throughout the year.
Unexpected expenses, like those incurred in repairing a bridge collapse or a new facility furnace, create all kinds of headaches for the elected officials charged with balancing the budget, much of which comes from property owning taxpayers.
But the idea of taxpayers paying for any part of any election campaign — Republican or Democrat — disgusts many people, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
That’s why Frey was right to call attention to the costs the city could be liable for when our president last week made a campaign whistle stop in Minneapolis to stump for himself and other Republicans. Perhaps the campaign knew it would stop in Minneapolis in October 2019, but it appears the city did not until it was recently announced.
What Frey did wrong was to mix city business with his own political thoughts as he criticized Trump and his campaign, while at the same time seeking more than $500,000 in security costs involved in the visit.
Trump held his rally at the Target Center, which is publicly owned but privately operated, making the issue a little cloudier.
A city representative recently confirmed to news media that the city hasn’t previously charged campaigns for rallies held in the city.
The problem is the city does not yet have a policy on the books about when it will pay for the costs, and when it charges others for the costs associated with public activities.
Frey pointed to other cities waiting to be paid for the costs associated with hosting Trump rallies, as he called out the Trump campaign about the Minneapolis security bill.
But Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal has reportedly said the city has been in discussions for some time with organizations including the Twins, the Vikings and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority about sharing public costs of hosting games or major events. She said the city plans to be more proactive in the future with AEG, the management firm for the city-owned Target Center, about public costs.
In this case, because Frey discussed his dislike of our president’s policies and behavior, it gave the perception that the city would bill the campaign.
As this campaign season heats up quickly, the Minneapolis City Council needs to develop and establish a policy that keeps partisan politics out of the equation and starts charging costs for all events, including campaign events.