Cash-strapped Minneapolis, Minnesota, is reportedly demanding that riot-wrecked businesses, including those that were burned to the ground in the protests following George Floyd’s death while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, pay their property taxes before being allowed to rebuild.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Minneapolis city government is not issuing permits to remove ashes and debris leftover from arson attacks until business owners pay their 2020 taxes in full.
“In Minneapolis, on a desolate lot where Don Blyly’s bookstore stood before being destroyed in the May riots, two men finish their cigarettes and then walk through a dangerous landscape filled with slippery debris and sharp objects,” the Star-Tribune said Wednesday. “The city won’t let Blyly haul away his wreckage without a permit, and he can’t get a contractor to tell him how much it will cost to rebuild the store until that happens.”
Dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed in widespread looting in the days following George Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in a separate report, noted that 1,500 businesses were damaged and 150 were burned to the ground. TwinCities.com said, in June, that the damage could cost business owners as much as $55 million – and that was nearly two months ago.
Minneapolis officials say they’re bound by a law that “prohibits the removal of any structures or standing timber until all of the taxes assessed against the building have been fully paid,” but Hennepin county, which enforces that law, says they’ve suspended enforcement of that law for “riot-damaged properties.”
“We don’t feel like we have an ability to block these permits, and I don’t see why we would,” one of the managers of Hennepin’s property tax division told the Star-Tribune. “One of our missions in the county is to reduce disparities, and if we took action to block these permits, that would arguably be creating more disparities instead of reducing disparities.”
Business owners argue that Minneapolis is standing in the way of rebuilding – a task which is already prohibitively expensive.
“Most property owners must pay $35,000 to $100,000 to clear their sites of debris, with larger tracts — such as strip shopping centers — costing as much as $400,000, according to property owners,” the Star-Tribune reports. “That doesn’t include the money those owners must pay to get their permits. On average, the owners of properties destroyed or significantly damaged owe $25,000 in taxes for the second half of 2020, which come due in October.”
The Minneapolis City Council and city government are already in hot water with residents after voting this week to strip funding from the Minneapolis Police Department in the midst of a violent crime wave. The city recorded a massive spike in homicides in June, logging 42 homicides already this year. The city saw only 48 homicides in all of 2019.