Letter: Columnist was way off base with city services article

To the editor:
Looming on the horizon are elections of which it is no exaggeration to say represent a major crossroads for this country. But in the midst of our summer vacations most of us don’t wish to be bothered with the cogs and gears of government.
Our desire to be left alone is of no consequence to Don Heinzman, columnist for a conglomeration of small weekly newspapers, who decided it was time to hop up on his soapbox and start scolding Minnesota’s Republican legislators for doing exactly that which they were elected to do: reign in state spending. (Monticello Times, June 21, 2012)
With a missionary’s zeal, this self-appointed do-gooder felt duty-bound to preach to Republican legislators that their constituents wish to have their property taxes raised in order to receive more services from their city governments. How has this columnist arrived at his facts? Likely he followed the trail that many columnists do when gathering facts…. he quoted a press release. Heinzman’s irrefutable facts come from the League of Minnesota Cities. I humbly refute those facts and his assertions.
The high-minded columnist informs us that the survey was an “intense discussion with 740 people in 12 communities around the state.” Let’s examine components of the survey that the columnist so tenderly clutches. A primary function of the League of Minnesota Cities is to lobby the state legislature to cough up ever-increasing piles of money to be devoured by city governments. Typically the money that they seek is from the Local Government Aid (LGA) fund which is extracted from the Minnesota state general fund. Most of the general fund comes from Minnesota’s highly progressive income tax or from the federal government. In turn, most of the federal money comes from an even more ridiculously progressive federal income tax.
LGA is a major funding source of many cities’ budget. As a result of coupling progressive income taxes with the LGA redistribution scheme, many citizens do not experience the full cost of local government. You can see how important lobbying to get ever increasing gobs of money is to those cities’ bureaucrats. And lobby they do. Also, they send press releases to columnists who regurgitate the league’s talking points.
And so, our intrepid columnist bases his entire argument on a survey done by a lobbying group whose mission appears to include singing the praises of its members and getting money shoveled from the state into city coffers. He informs us that 740 citizens from 12 cities were intensely interviewed and their responses led to his remarkable assertion that people wish to have their property taxes raised in order to get city services. My calculations indicate that less than 0.014% of citizens residing in less than 1.4% of Minnesota cities were interviewed to generate these remarkable but predictable results. Don’t forget that the columnist assures us that these were “intense discussions.”
We’ve grown accustomed to incomplete reporting from the media and the columnist doesn’t reveal what these “intense discussions” involved. I’m thinking bright lights, sleep deprivation, good cop/bad cop techniques or even tickling with a feather may have been utilized. Perhaps water boarding was brought into play to get a response that the League of Minnesota Cities wanted, namely that people clamor to receive goodies paid for by other people.
I’m certain that an issue not intensely discussed was this, “Are you willing to pay more taxes so that your city administration is able to hire a dance instructor, skating instructor, recreation coordinator, or youth sports instructor/referee?” These are all job listings on the League of Minnesota Cities website. Check it out. Certainly Mr. Heinzman didn’t.
Kevin Christianson
Monticello

  • IPayMyTaxes

    It’s a great thing that you refute the cited study with your own personal opinion. I’m sure that’s much more valid of a resource to cite.

  • Carol S

    Mr. Christianson – I couldn’t agree with you more. Very well written. I wish more folks in government had the same common sense thinking.

  • Jim Andersen

    North Saint Paul LOVES LGA. It used LGA to construct a Community Center. The Community Center went broke and is now in liquidation, the town is attempting to rent/lease the Community Center to others.

    LGA was originally intended to lower taxes but in the case of North Saint Paul the LGA used to build a Community Center has actually RAISED taxes. You see when realestate is owned by Government there are NO taxes paid AND the town has been using resident paid revenue to keep the Community Center open. Much like Monticello using the town booze store profits to keep the wonderful (clear signal very fast) fiber network operating.

    The situation would be very funny if not so sad.

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