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Latte Levy Funds Dwarfed by MPLS War Spending

The kazillion dollar error ridden Lockheed Martin F-35, which "won't be able to fire its gun until 2019."

The kazillion dollar error ridden Lockheed Martin F-35, which “won’t be able to fire its gun until 2019.” (Daily Beast)

By JT Haines — January 3, 2015

The City of Minneapolis has been embroiled in an important, but ultimately standard, tax vs. community investment kerfuffle as of late. Basically, there was a reaction to some property tax increases particularly from higher-cost Minneapolis neighborhoods like Linden Hills. The City tried to dial some of those increases back with spending cuts, some of which landed on important community investment programs including a racial equity program and a clean energy initiative. The cuts had a minimal impact on tax bills to boot (thus “latte levy”). This, of course, drew a reaction as well, bringing hundreds of people out to City Hall. Some of the cuts have since been reversed. Good news. (For more details, TC Daily PlanetNOC, and Strib.)

More than the details of the compromise, though, what I’d like to take a minute to reflect on is this:

The total Latte Levy amount in dispute: $620,000 (TCDP)

Minneapolis residents’ share of the 2014 US Department of Defense Budget: $683,970,000 (National Priorities Project).

In other words, the amounts in dispute in the Latte Levy are minuscule in comparison to Minneapolis’ share of out of control and privatized military spending (as well as corporate welfare generally).

Notably, the Minneapolis City Council has unanimously passed the MNASAP (Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project) resolution calling for a reduction in the bloated and increasingly privatized federal military spending. The point of the resolution is to connect the dots between, for example, Lockheed Martin largesse (F-35 Fighter, the most expensive and error-ridden US military project ever), and direct impacts on both the property tax payers in Linden Hills and community investment programs.

Obviously it’s hard to run a city and talk about the big picture at the same time. The immediate bottom line takes precedence, and most of the time that’s simply necessary. But “that’s not our budget” is too easy a thing to hide behind — it is our money. Given that these situations will forever arise, we should also highlight the real problem whenever possible.

The Latte Levy situation presents a great opportunity for the Minneapolis City Council and community groups on all sides of the issue to remind each other of the MNASAP resolution and what it could mean for the city. 

I look forward to a world where we spend less time choosing between investments in clean energy initiatives and racial equity investments on the one hand, and retired educators trying to make an admittedly large city tax bill on the other, and more time uniting in a much larger fight.

This quote from Zoe Holloman about the Latte Levy funds about sums it up: “This is not a lot of money. It’s kind of sad that we have to beg for it.”