They Broke It, but We’ll Have to Fix It
Minnesota's government officials are going to have to face their failures
December 10, 2020
The big question that always seems to pop up the moment that chaos has at least somewhat settled is “Who is going to pay for this?” This was the case when the riots in Minneapolis slowed at the end of this summer. Many people said that these costs should be left to insurance companies. For many large businesses, this was an adequate solution. Some had insurance policies large enough to cover the damage, while others were able to pay the difference with money earned in other locations. Unfortunately for small businesses, it wasn’t nearly that simple.
In the aftermath of the destruction, the average insurance payout limit for demolition in the most heavily affected areas was only about $25,000 – $50,000, according to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Star Tribune. Demolition costs are rarely that low, especially in cities where extra care must be taken not to disturb neighboring buildings in densely packed neighborhoods. While a lot of the demolition costs are calculated by the demolition companies themselves, they must obtain a permit for the project. The Twin Cities take different approaches to the issue of permits. In Minneapolis, the expectation is that the owner of a property must prepay the remaining amount of property tax for a given year before a permit can be issued. This is not the case in Saint Paul.
However, most people seem to be content with the actions taken by Saint Paul city officials, including Mayor Melvin Carter. This does not extend to their sister city. Mayor Jacob Frey and other Minneapolis officials have faced more than a little criticism, which has likely been made far worse by their childish finger-pointing.
Minneapolis city officials claimed that they could not waive the prepaid tax requirement due to state law. Minnesota State Law does not claim this power but rather grants it to each county. And so, the finger-pointing shifted to Hennepin County. While Hennepin County usually enforces this policy, county officials made it clear that would waive this requirement for riot-damaged properties. Towards the end of the summer, Minneapolis did finally allow permits to be issued before property taxes were prepaid, but the delay left Lake Street in shambles for months before a lot of the demolition work was even allowed to begin.
Even with permits in hand, there is still the issue of the costs not covered by insurance. In July, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz turned to the Federal Government for help, asking for a disaster to be declared and for emergency financial relief to be given. I’m not sure why anyone was surprised when this request was denied. If city and state government officials haven’t noticed, the entire country is currently undergoing a disaster. The amount of money needed to bail out millions of failing businesses and keep thousands of families fed while their places of work are indefinitely shuttered is in the trillions of dollars. The federal government does not have millions of extra money on hand to give to Walz because he and Frey failed to take control of their jurisdictions. The state? Fresh out of cash as well.
I’m not saying that those areas should not be rebuilt. Of course, they should. The majority of people in the area committed no crimes but are still suffering consequences. The problem comes back to “who will fund this?” The entire country is still dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Raising taxes now would only hurt families that are already struggling more than usual. The federal government doesn’t have the money to pay for this. Outstate Minnesota doesn’t have the money to pay for this. We can’t look at Minneapolis city officials either, seeing as they have already proven their general incompetence. Thus, the burden will likely fall on the rest of the Metro Area. Yes, I’m fully aware that we don’t have the money either, but our government officials can’t foot the bill themselves. It’s about time that our state, county, and city officials bite the bullet, take responsibility for their failures, and admit to their constituents that they will have to pay to rebuild. Hopefully, we all learn our lesson and elect more competent folks next time around.