Would you like a pint with that?

I was very happy today to sign a new City ordinance that will allow local Minneapolis brewers to sell pints of beer on site. This change makes it easier for Minnesota beer drinkers to drink Minnesota beer and create jobs here.

Beer is part of Minneapolis’ past, and the growing business of beer is Minneapolis’ future. Sales of pints on site will grow the local beer economy by creating new jobs and lowering the barriers for entry for new breweries, which will allow them to hit the ground running. And it complements the burgeoning local food economy that is creating new businesses and more jobs.

The business of beer is also close to my heart, because my great-grandfather owned and operated Rybak Brewery in New Prague, Minnesota in the 1920s. Back then, someone who drank a beer from New Prague helped create a job on Main Street in New Prague. The ordinance I signed today helps revive that tradition and update it for the 21st century.

The ordinance creates a new type of liquor license called a taproom license. To be eligible for the license, breweries may not produce more than 250,000 barrels of beer a year. The ordinance follows a recent change to State law that lifted restrictions on breweries’ ability to sell pints on site and allowed cities to license the practice. You may have heard the bill that created that change called the “Surly bill.”

I had all the more fun signing the ordinance as I invited Omar Ansari, president and founder of Surly Brewing Company of Brooklyn Center, and Ryan Petz and Jim Diley, co-founders of Minneapolis-based Fulton Beer, to join me. They are great businessmen who are creating great products in a growing local industry that our entire region can be proud of.

Last Friday, the City Council unanimously passed the ordinance, which was co-sponsored by Council Members Gary Schiff and Elizabeth Glidden. As Gary put it, “A great city deserves great beer, and with this ordinance, Minneapolis will become a beer destination.” I couldn’t agree more.


Significant cut to property-tax growth

Minneapolis residents have told me many times that your property taxes are too high, and I’ve heard you. This is why yesterday, I proposed cutting the previously-projected 6.7 percent increase in next year’s property-tax levy to just 2 percent. Along with that, I proposed holding spending for basic City services nearly flat next year.

Just one year ago, when we finalized the 2011 budget, we projected that another property-tax increase of 6.7 percent would be necessary for 2012, due to skyrocketing closed-pension costs and other costs. This was even after we cut spending significantly this year, when we’re eliminating around 100 full-time positions.

That projected 6.7 percent increase for next year was unacceptable to me and unsustainable to homeowners who want to stay in our city. Through working hard to keep holding the line on spending, and to reach a compromise agreement to merge two closed-pension funds that have been the source of large tax increases in recent years into the State’s professionally-run PERA retirement system, I am able to propose cutting the size of next year’s tax increase by $13 million.

In my view, this solution goes a long way toward meeting the need to cut the growth of property taxes and the need to continue providing the core services that keep our streets safe and paved, our neighborhoods clean and healthy and our economy growing for the future, all of which our residents, commuters and visitors rely on.

All this comes at a time when we continue to be squeezed by rising costs, such as for health care, and by the Legislature’s unwillingness to balance the State’s budget sustainably.

Despite these challenges, it’s important to remember that over the past decade, Minneapolis has been fiscally responsible: we now spend 8 percent less a year than we did 10 years ago, we have 10 percent fewer full-time positions than we did 10 years ago, and we’ve paid down $130 million in debt and restored the City’s AAA credit rating. In this time of financial turmoil at so many levels of government, this record reflects well on Minneapolis.

The process of building the City’s 2012 budget has been underway for some time. I got started right at the beginning of this year when I organized a series of public forums in the neighborhoods most affected by property-tax increases so that I could get your feedback in person about how we could do more to hold the line. You gave me a lot of great ideas that will be in my full budget proposal, which I will release on September 12.

We’ve also worked hard at the State Capitol to hold the line on property taxes, whether through fighting for the Local Government Aid that Minneapolis deserves or reaching a compromise to end the broken closed-pension system that has overcharged taxpayers for years. It’s been a tough environment and we haven’t won everything we’ve wanted, but we’ve made progress.

But the 2012 budget process is far from over. After I release my full budget proposal next month, the City Council will hold many hearings on it, and you should express your opinion to your Council member. There will also be public hearings on the budget later this fall, so watch your mailboxes for that information.

Finally, let me know what you think. City Council members and I can’t solve our complex, many-layered budget challenges by ourselves. When we work in partnership with residents, however, we have a much greater chance of striking the balance we need.

I value that partnership and look forward to working with you over the next several months to hold the line on property taxes and keep Minneapolis a city that works.

Links to media coverage of 35W Remembrance Garden dedication

I wanted to share with you some links to media coverage of yesterday’s dedication of the 35W Remembrance Garden, a beautiful new public space that is a permanent memorial to those who were lost in the 35W bridge collapse, those who survived it, and those who responded with heroism, compassion and humanity. We dedicated the garden yesterday on the fourth anniversary of that terrible day, ending the dedication at 6:05 p.m., the moment the bridge collapsed and all of our lives changed forever.

As you look through these links, I hope you will focus above all on the words and images of the loved ones of those who were lost and of those who were on the bridge that day and survived. To say that is has been an honor for my wife Megan and I to know these strong, inspiring people for the last four years is a great understatement. Sharing their grief, pain and strengh with them in some small way has been one of the most meaningful experiences of our lives.

Now this Remembrance Garden is woven into the fabric of our city forever. It is the part of common ground that we all share. If you haven’t visited it yet, I hope you will have the opportunity to do so soon, and I hope you will let us know what it means to you.

Star Tribune: Loved ones honored at I-35W dedication
Pioneer Press: Four years after I-35W bridge collapse, a community remembers disaster’s victims
MPR: Hundreds turn out to dedication of 35W bridge memorial
MPR: Slideshow: Dedication of 35W Bridge Remembrance Garden
WCCO: I-35W Memorial Remembers Dead, Celebrates Survivors
WCCO: Bridge Survivor Recalls Collapse, Remembers The Dead
WCCO: Victims Of 35W Bridge Collapse Continue To Inspire
Fox 9: 35W Bridge Collapse Memorial Dedicated
KARE: Honoring the bridge collapse victims, four years later
KSTP: New Memorial Honors Victims on 4th Anniversary of 35W Bridge Collapse
KSTP: SLIDESHOW: 35W Bridge Collapse Memorial
MinnPost: New 35W bridge memorial honors those who died — and the community that disaster brought together
CityPages: Victims families speak at I-35W bridge memorial [VIDEO]
CityPages: I-35W Bridge collapse survivor Mercedes Gorden shares recovery photos
InForum (Associated Press): Minneapolis dedicates bridge collapse memorial
InForum: Pollie Parnell and her nephew look at the memorial