ENews from Gary Schiff March 28, 2012


March 28, 2012  















Building community wealth at Breakfast with Gary this Friday



Financial advisor Cassaundra Adler will speak at Breakfast with Gary, and share examples of what other cities are doing to expand the financial literacy of their residents.

April is National Financial Literacy Month. From young child to seniors, everyone can benefit from increased financial education, whether dealing with college loans, the cost of raising a family, or planning for retirement. “Cities across the country are now recognizing financial literacy as an important economic development tool,” says Council Member Schiff. “All too often cities rely on real estate tools developed in the 1970s to grow the economy and ignore human development.”


Join City Council Member Schiff this Friday, March 30th and financial advisor Cassaundra Adler, Department of Commerce specialist Anne O’Connor, Executive Director Ramon Leon from the Latino Economic Development Center, and Executive Director Hussein Samatar from the African Development Center. Panelists will give their perspective on what should be done to promote financial literacy, build wealth, and economic independence in Minnesota. “Many individuals do not have a relationship with mainstream financial institutions, and use alternative financial services such as check-cashing facilities, payday lenders, pawnshops, and rent-to-own centers. People in these situations are unbanked or underbanked, with either one bank account and utilizing alternative financial services or no bank account at all. Efforts to increase financial education help individuals, families, and communities increase financial security, reduce loss of income, and promote economic self-sufficiency,” says Adler.


Breakfast with Gary is a monthly meeting held from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. the final Friday of the month at the Mercado Central, 1515 East Lake Street. There is no charge to attend. $5 buys breakfast.


City Council support grows for stadium subsidy, but Capital action lags


Click on the image above to sign a petition against subsidies for the Vikings Stadium.

Seven Minneapolis Council Members signed letters of support this week for a new subsidized Minnesota Vikings stadium, which awaits action at the State Legislature. A number of hurdles remain for the $975 million project. At the State Capitol, the plan currently has a lukewarm reception from Republicans, who hold the majority in both the House and Senate. In the few remaining weeks of session, the plan would need to be approved in multiple committees, yet no hearings are scheduled.


The state has offered electronic bingo and pull tabs to provide $398 million of funding for the state’s share of stadium costs, but charitable gambling officials have raised strong concerns about the proposal, and the potential use of state general funds as a backup source if gambling projections are not met. Upfront and ongoing city contributions for the stadium would come from both city-wide and downtown sales taxes that currently fund the Target Center and Convention Center. The total city subsidy would surpass $600 million total by 2030.


The State bill, Senate File 2391 includes a section that invalidates the Minneapolis City Charter requirement for a citizen vote. The section reads: Charter Limitations Not To Apply: "Any amounts expended, indebtedness or obligation incurred, or actions taken by the city under this article are not deemed an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any law or charter limitation. Notwithstanding any ordinance or charter provision to the contrary, exercise by the city of its powers under this article does not affect the amounts that the city may otherwise spend, borrow, tax, or receive under any law. Any tax exemption established under this article shall not be deemed an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any charter limitation."

Council Member Schiff said “The very presence of the language that invalidates the City Charter requirement proves that the authors of the bill think the Charter limit of $10 million would otherwise apply. Thus, this bill denies citizens their right to vote. This bill should not pass.”


The Charter Amendment requiring a citizen vote for professional sports facility subsidies was approved by 70% of Minneapolis voters and was co-authored by Gary Schiff in 1997, four years prior to his election as Ninth Ward Council Member. Click here to sign a petition against subsidies for the Vikings Stadium.


Animal Care and Control launches rewards program


Minneapolis pet owners have something new to purr about. All pet owners who license or renew their license will receive a “I Love My Pet Rewards Program” card for free. The card can be used at participating businesses to receive special discounts and promotional items. Perks include a 10% discount off pet toys and treats at Urbanimal, as well as discounts on pet grooming, pet training, and pet daycare. For pet owners, there are 10% discounts available at Longfellow Grill, Edina Grill, or Holy Land Deli, a free wine tote bag from Surdyk’s, or 10% off any item at Corazon.


The city requires all dogs and cats over four months of age in Minneapolis to be licensed. Rabbits and ferrets are also required to be licensed. Licensed pets found in Minneapolis get a free ride home instead of going to the shelter, and are three times more likely than unlicensed pets to be reunited with their owners. A full list of license fees can be found on the Minneapolis Animal Care website. Owners can license their pet online, by calling 311 or by calling (612) 673-3000. License applications can be downloaded and mailed, or picked up at your local veterinary clinic or pet store. For a full list of licensing locations, look at the MACC website.    


City holds landlords accountable



The city holds landlord Spiros Zorbalas accountable for numerous violations. His poor record as a landlord was highlighted in this cover article from the City Pages in 2008. 

In the biggest ruling yet against a major landlord, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed the City of Minneapolis’ revocation of three rental licenses owned by Spiros Zorbalas. Under city law, anyone who has two or more licenses revoked can lose all of their licenses for five years. This means that Zorbalas may soon be out of business, affecting 752 apartment units city-wide and nearly 2,000 people.


Zorbalas, a resident of Florida, owns 38 buildings in Minneapolis that have brought hundreds of complaints in the past five years. Low-income and immigrant renters have endured unpermitted work, exposed wiring, leaking plumbing, and failure to provide hot water and adequate heat during the winter. The court agreed that significant violations at three of his properties warranted revocation. (Zorbalas tried to deny his ownership of the three properties, but the court found the companies were shells established so that Zorbalas could avoid creditors.)


“Public safety is my top priority,” said Council Member Gary Schiff, “and that includes ensuring that people of all incomes have access to safe, quality housing. Most landlords in our city are responsible, but this case sends a strong message that Minneapolis is not a place for absentee landlords who do not follow the rules.


According to Tom Deegan, director of housing services, the city will proceed slowly and cautiously in enforcing the revocations. “We will do all we can to prevent tenants from being displaced because of the actions of their landlord,” he said. If relocation is necessary, preventing homelessness will be the top goal, with adequate time and notification given to renters to find new homes. If the buildings are sold to a new owner, relocations will be unnecessary.

Zorbalas has not yet decided if he will appeal the Court of Appeals decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.