Tom Sheck at MPR has a snippet from a fundraising letter Gubernatorial candidate, Marty Seifert, recent emailed where he makes an extraordinary light-weight argument regarding fiscal responsibility.
Tomorrow, the city of Minneapolis will lay off 25 police officers as a part of budget cuts. You may recall that just last year, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak spent $500,000 of taxpayer money on ten artist-designed drinking fountains. With Rybak’s putting the priority on drinking fountains over police officers, imagine what he’d do as Governor of our great state.
Perhaps Marty Seifert should take a look at Minneapolis’ recent city elections to get a feel for whether people think this is a big issue: Not one of the “OMG, RT spend money on artsy drinking fountains!” challengers came close to unseating Mayor Rybak or any city council members. Perhaps Minneapolis’ voters have better accounting skills than Rep. Seifert?
As I see it, Rep. Marty Seifert isn’t taking a shot at Rybak’s decision to provide public access to drinking water. The problem for Seifert isn’t the public drinking fountains; it’s the fraction of the cost of the drinking fountains spent on artwork. If that’s the case, the “waste” in Seifert’s definition of wasteful spending is significantly less than $500,000..
Marty Seifert doesn’t mention that the “artsy waste” is only a fraction of the $500k because, well, that level of accuracy would dilute his alarmist fundraising argument.
How Many Cops Can You Pay for $500k?
Notice how Rep. Seifert compares “wasteful” artwork spending of something well South of $500k to a reduction in 25 police jobs. It makes me wonder whether Rep. Seifert has any idea what it costs to pay, gear up, and provide benefits to a cop these days.
It’s intellectually dishonest to suggest that a fraction of a $500k one-time expense is responsible for the loss of 25 cops’ jobs, but I imagine it makes for decent fundraising fodder if you’re willing to mislead your constituents for money.
If Rep. Seifert’s math was correct and we could actually keep 25 more cops on the streets of Minneapolis indefinitely for a fraction of $500k, I’d fully support it. Say, 10 years of service at $2,000 per year each for salary, benefits, and equipment. Hmm, it might be tough to find cops who’ll work for <$1/hour. Were Rep. Seifert to attempt to counter this, he'd likely say something like "it's the symbolism. Artsy drinking fountains are emblematic of the waste we see in Rybak's city budget." However, it's not symbolism. Rep. Seifert chose to use a concrete example of real money spent and real jobs lost to make a misleading case for waste in an attempt to raise real dollars from mislead constituents. Maybe it's too much to ask, but I hope our next governor can make a case for why they're the right candidate for office without misleading the public about government spending. The next governor of our great state should be able to understand that you can't pay for 25 cops on a fraction of $500k.