Sunday, December 11, 2016

Libertarian city council shakes up Crystal, MN

Libertarians shake up Minneapolis suburb of Crystal - Steve Karnowski, Associated Press:

November 1, 2016 - "When most cities want to build something — a water plant, a convention center — they borrow the money on the bond market and pay it off over time with interest. Not Crystal, a middle-class suburb of Minneapolis.

"It paid $13 million in cash when it needed a new public works building, taking the money from its savings accounts and shrinking the city’s reserves by nearly one-quarter.

"Pay-as-you-go wisdom or long-term financial folly? However it eventually works out, the decision is just one example of how the Crystal City Council approaches civic issues a bit differently. The reason: A majority of its seven members are Libertarians or are sympathetic to the party’s philosophy of maximum personal freedom and minimum government....

"In addition to paying cash for civic improvements, Crystal has undertaken a cleanup of the municipal code to get rid of ordinances considered outdated, unenforceable or just plain silly. And it has all but eliminated the city’s human rights commission. At the same time, in a seeming departure from Libertarian principles of thrift, the city has raised property taxes and water and sewer fees.

"'I know a lot of fears that are out there: If Libertarians get into government, they’re going to be cutting government,” Libertarian council member Casey Peak said. “The reality is we just think differently because we come at it with a different core mentality'....

"Peak was elected in 2012 and recruited other Libertarians and like-minded people to run for the council two years later, leading to the current five-member majority.

"Peak defended the project to overhaul the code, which is as thick as an unabridged dictionary. He said several parts had become 'almost unenforceable' because they referred to state laws that have been eliminated or rewritten. None of the revisions fundamentally changed policy, he said.

"'Finally, the pool table at the community center is going to be legal,' said Mayor Jim Adams, who is not a party member but considers himself 'liberty-minded.' 'Because you [couldn’t] have a pool table within so many feet of a city building.'

"As for the human rights commission, which was set up in the civil rights era to advise the council on eliminating discrimination in the city, it still exists on paper, but there’s nobody on it.... Peak said that even under the previous mayor, it was difficult to find people to serve on the commission and that it no longer had a clear purpose....

"The Libertarian bloc was united on a vote to raise water and sewer charges 25 percent, saying it was the most cost-effective way to save for repairs and pay the higher rates Minneapolis is charging to tap into its water. Peak said the increase works out to only a few dollars per quarter for most households....

"Crystal’s experiment with Libertarian governing has drawn little attention, even within the city. Because the council is officially nonpartisan, few residents seem to have noticed."

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