Why is Paul Bunyan’s Chair Empty?

One of our earlier posts, http://grandrapidsvoice.com/2013/12/07/dont-kill-the-messenger-2/, was so popular that I am going to expand the scope of the comparison of Grand Rapids and Bemidji.


The pictures here, in a way, are there own comparisons of the two cities. On the one hand, Paul Bunyan’s empty chair in Grand Rapids, on the other hand, the busy lighted skyline of a Bemidji night.
Below is the 2011 fiscal comparison between the two as found on the State Auditor’s website, http://www.osa.state.mn.us/Search/CitySearch.aspx.


In the top section of the chart we find that the total taxes are similar, but only because Bemidji derives revenue from a sales tax. The property tax in Grand Rapids is much higher than Bemidji, being $273.31 more per person. The other significant difference in this section is the fact that Grand Rapids borrowed $1,655,000 while Bemidji borrowed nothing.
Looking at the last section of the comparison chart, we find that capital outlays for Grand Rapids were more than double those for Bemidji. This is the principle reason that Grand Rapids spent $2128.21 per person, ranked 10th in the state, while Bemidji only spent $1246.66 per person.
Were you aware that in 2011 Grand Rapids spent 70.7% more per person than Bemidji? Is this part of the reason that business growth in Grand Rapids has seemingly stagnated in the last several years while Bemidji has a much healthier economy? Can this also have contributed to the fact that unemployment in Grand Rapids is 11.8% higher than unemployment in Bemidji? (Unemployment statistics derived from search comparison found at http://www.homefacts.com/unemployment/Minnesota/Winona-County/Minnesota-City.html)
Does the fact that property taxes are 61.4% higher in Grand Rapids cause the overhead for businesses to be so much higher that potential new businesses choose to locate somewhere other than Grand Rapids where they can find a lower tax rate? Could it be that the tax and spend policies of the city are the real culprit behind our local economic troubles? Just look to the number of people who choose to live in areas outside of Grand rapids, such as Coleraine, due to the fact that it is cheaper to commute from outside the city limits than to pay the taxes charged for living inside the city. We can also look to the number of empty businesses in Grand Rapids for possible evidence that the cost of doing business there is prohibitive.
Perhaps that is the reason that Paul Bunyan’s chair is empty. Is it cheaper for Paul to stand in Bemidji than to sit in Grand Rapids?

11 thoughts on “Why is Paul Bunyan’s Chair Empty?

  1. Pingback: The 2012 Report Is Here. How Did Grand Rapids Do? | Grand Rapids Voice

  2. Pingback: How Much Did Itasca County Spend? | Grand Rapids Voice

  3. token liberal

    Not trying to be contentious at all, and I know that wasn’t the main point of your post. But it was a claim that was made, and clarification was needed.


    1. The facts were accurately stated, and a fair question was raised. More facts are being gathered for future posts, but the question remains, is the inordinately high rate of per capita spending by the city, being outspent by only nine cities on a per capita basis in the state, in conjunction with the need to raise that level of revenue, hurting the local economy? The evidence which will be presented in future posts strongly suggests that the answer is affirmative. Now I must caution you, I am we’ll accustomed to this sort of thing, but some members of our group are exceedingly wary of trolls using alias’s to distract from the points which we present, and they may decide to delete all such posts which can be perceived to be made with a hostile attitude. I do not share in that approach, but I can be overruled.


      1. token liberal

        Ok, so that you know I am not a troll, here is a friendly suggestion. You may be surprised, but I actually agree that property taxes are rather high, though we may disagree on why that is so. What I would be interested in knowing is whether or not a significant disparity has existed between GR and other communities over time. If it is a short-term spike, that raises one set of questions; if it is a long-term trend, other questions come to mind. I suspect that the site where you found the budget information regarding various communities would probably have data extending back a few years, though I may be wrong. At any rate, if you know where to find this informations, I would e very interested in seeing it.


      2. It is linked in our sources, right there at the State Auditor’s website. The chart is simply a screenshot for convenience. We are waiting for the 2012 data, currently the 2011 is the most current available.


    1. What bearing does that have on the fact that Grand Rapids chose to spend more per capita than all but 9 other cities in Minnesota? Or that the per capita spending in Grand Rapids was 70.7% higher than Bemidji, and 86.6% higher than Hibbing?


      1. token liberal

        You suggested that the reason the economy in Grand Rapids is not doing as well as it might is that taxes on businesses are too high. So, if businesses can in fact locate in GR and be exempt from taxation, that has a lot of bearing on the issue.


      2. You’re being contentious and trying to shift the subject to a limited area. Stay on focus, please. Why is Grand Rapids spending money at an inordinately high rate, and showing less benefit than other cities which are spending less per capita? That is the question which has been raised.


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