City leaders urge veto, Dayton vows veto

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally posted May 11 to reflect statements made by Gov. Mark Dayton later in the day.

Richfield City Councilmember Maria Regan Gonzalez appeals to Gov. Mark Dayton to veto a bill that would preempt cities from establishing certain labor ordinances, including as related to minimum wage. (Sun Current staff photo by Andrew Wig)

Cities last week urged Gov. Mark Dayton to veto bills that would limit their control over a host of matters. This week, Dayton vowed to do just that.

Richfield City Councilmember Maria Regan Gonzalez and Hennepin County Commissioner Debbie Goettel were among a handful of local government leaders who used a May 4 press conference at the Capitol to ask Dayton to veto House and Senate bills that would preempt city ordinances regarding labor practices – including raising the minimum wage and providing paid family leave and sick days.

Capitol reporters wrote May 11 that Dayton vowed to veto the preemption bills.

The Legislation was among several bills that would have preempted city control in certain realms. Goettel, the former mayor of Richfield, raised concerns over how cities could be impacted in their ability to enact greater equity standards, for instance.

“In Richfield and some of our other suburban cities, we are tackling the racial equity issue, and we need flexibility to do that. We need every tool in the basket to be able do this,” Goettel said.

Cities are uniquely positioned to respond to residents’ concerns, Regan Gonzalez added.

Cities are “acutely aware of the specific values and opportunities that we have to prosper as individual citizen communities,” she said.

“This is the essence of local government, and this is why the decision-making power of local government needs to be preserved and protected.”

“Local elected officials give a voice to the individual points of view that are often lost with the popular vote,” North Branch Mayor Kirsten Hagen-Kennedy said.

She added that citizens have greater access to local government, if only because it’s often easier to attend the city council and commission meetings that typically take place in the evenings, than to make it to the Capitol during the day.

Among cities’ concerns is legislation that would allow voters to trigger referendums as a way of challenging levy increases. Maplewood Mayor Nora Slawik warned that such Legislation could hinder critical city measures, such as when Maplewood instituted franchise fees to supplement road funding after a faulty pavement mixture was applied.

“We had crumbling roads,” Slawik said.

Worry expressed at the May 4 press conference wasn’t limited to city control. “It’s a slippery slope because counties are next on the hit list after the cities,” said Goettel, who represents, Richfield, Bloomington and Eden Prairie as Hennepin County’s District 5 representative.

As one example of the potential impact, she referenced light rail projects that are in the GOP cross-hairs. “They’re going to take away our right to do projects,” Goettel said.

Preemption bills could limit cities’ agility regarding commerce, too, she asserted. “So a new business comes to town, we need new project to help out these great businesses, and we’ve got to wait for a legislative session? Are you kidding me?” she said.

The representatives of local government pointed to a Star Tribune poll that found 60 percent of Minnesotans opposed the legislation regarding city labor ordinances.

“Minnesotans overwhelmingly support and want to protect local democracy,” Hagen-Kennedy said.

She also praised city council elections as non-partisan affairs. “Let’s protect that,” she said.

More than 50 city councils have passed resolutions opposing preemption bills. When Richfield did so in March, Mayor Pat Elliott stressed two areas of concern – minimum wage and cities’ rights to charge franchise fees for telecommunications equipment installed on public strips of land.

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.