Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the city was hoping to avoid public safety cuts. But Rybak said when the state cut back on local government aid it forced the city to make a tough decision.
“I talked with a number of these guys and told them how much we want them back and if we have retirements that could happen. Public safety is very important, but every part of this city has to make due during a very tough time,” said Rybak.
Rybak said he is asking the city council for contingency money to soften the blow. But Mark Lakosky, president of the Minneapolis Firefighters union, said the city has already taken too much from the fire department over the years. He said the department has lost dozens of positions and he worries in some emergencies, the department could be out-manned and out-matched.
“It’s coming and I don’t want to be out front talking about how that rig didn’t get here for 10 minutes so I couldn’t get up to that fire and pull that family out of that fire because no one was there yet,” said Lakosky.
Rybak’s statement that “every part of this city has to make due during a very tough time” reads like an indictment. It’s totally, utterly shameful. Why would any chief executive, whether it’s the city, state or federal government, put its citizens at risk? That’s the first and most important responsibility of mayors, governors and presidents. If they fail that responsibility, they’ve totally failed.
According to this document, the biggest part of Minneapolis’s budget is the public works budget:
The Public Works Department makes up the largest part of the City’s budget (22.8 percent, $310.3 million). The main tasks of Public Works include the following: offering safe transportation to residents by maintaining streets, bike paths and sidewalks; offering high-quality drinking water to residents and visitors by managing the sewer and water system, and facilitating the collection and disposal of garbage and recycling.
First, is it possible to trim the street, bike path and sidewalk maintenance budgets to keep these firefighters employed? Next, approximately $35,000,000 is spent in the city coordinator’s office. Part of the city coordinator’s budget pays for communications. Here’s what that entails:
We tell the stories of Minneapolis City Government, gathering and distributing information to keep folks informed about city policies, programs, services and neighborhoods. If you want to watch your city leaders in action but can’t make it down to City Hall, we air City Council meetings on TV and stream them on the web. That City brochure or poster you’re looking at? We likely produced it. But we’re doing even much more behind-the-scenes. We’re always planning and collaborating with city leaders departments, and outside organizations to make sure that residents, businesses and visitors of Minneapolis understand what is happening in Minneapolis city government and how it affects their lives.
How much money could be trimmed from the communications section of the city coordinator’s office budget? Shouldn’t that budget be trimmed instead of laying off firefighters? Is R.T. Rybak putting a higher priority on the communications operation in the city coordinator’s office than he’s putting on firefighters? Shame on him if he is.
If that’s what he’s doing, he’s unfit for office. That can’t happen. Ever.
Putting people at risk to pay for lower priority items is first degree mismanagement and gross incompetence. Minneapolis residents are getting ripped off. Their property taxes are getting increased to pay for low priority budget items.