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Budget cuts: #LatteLevy gets some Minneapolis residents steamed

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A proposed property tax cut that would have saved Minneapolis homeowners $3 a year prompted dozens of activists to flood an annual budget meeting Wednesday night, because it could have resulted in the elimination of clean energy and minority leadership programs.

That $3 savings earned the tax cut the nickname "Latte levy" – since that's about how much a latte costs – and #LatteLevy became the unofficial hashtag of activists against the cuts, trending on Twitter through the evening and into Thursday morning.

Minneapolis City Council ended up ultimately restoring some – but not all – of the cuts, the Star Tribune reports. The lower levy increase was maintained however, by nixing a couple of new communications jobs, and shifting some of the costs to the Convention Center's marketing budget, the paper says.

So what's the deal?

The #LatteLevy opponents were upset about the budget the city council mulled a week ago, MPR reports.

In it, cuts were made to a clean energy program, a racial disparity study was scrapped, and home ownership outreach funding decreased – in order to lower the property tax Minneapolis homeowners paid by about $3 apiece.

Those cuts were to the $1.2 billion budget Mayor Betsy Hodges initially proposed, and approved by a 7-6 vote.

The threat of losing those programs drove supporters to city hall Wednesday, when the budget was being finalized and voted on, volunteering the $3 a year in order to keep the programs they cared about intact.

About 60 people spoke, KARE 11 reports, of the 200 or so people that showed up.

"We can create a Minneapolis that works for everyone," Neighborhoods Organizing for Change wrote in a blog post. "But it might mean some homeowners have to give up a latte."

Activists on Twitter criticized city council members who they say ran on a platform of equality and environmental responsibility, yet when it came to the budget initially voted to cut programs that affected those two things.

Two council members – Blong Yang, the city's first Hmong representative, and Abdi Warsame, its first Somali representative – were for those cuts last week. But MinnPost notes they both motioned Wednesday to reverse some of those cuts, which seemed to quell the frustration of some activists.

What made it through?

The final budget passed 12-1, after 11 p.m. Wednesday.

It includes $150,000 for the One Minneapolis Fund (to foster diverse leadership opportunities in the city), $150,000 for the Clean Energy Partnership, and $180,000 for a racial equality study, KSTP reports.

In a news release Thursday morning, Hodges called it a "great budget" despite the cuts, adding the activists' advocacy “made a crucial difference in retaining other key equity and energy investments. I am grateful that they put action behind their passion and helped craft a stronger budget for all Minneapolis residents.”

Two positions activists fought for did get cut though: communications specialists that would have served non-English speaking communities, KSTP notes.

"Although this was a difficult battle to have and to hold, we did it," council member Alondra Cano – who first mentioned the cost of a latte in response to the tax savings – wrote on Facebook. "Some things may not be as certain as others but after tonight one thing is for sure clear to me and many others - Mayor Betsy Hodges' racial equity agenda is here to stay because our community beckons, demands and calls for it."

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