Urban Dynamics Blog

Perhaps the Minneapolis City Council is just bad at economics

By Matt Johnson

To be honest, this was going to be a very different article. I was going to lay out an argument with the following line of reasoning. First, the city council members seem to lack a business and economic acumen because of the rather perplexing idea of exploring options to halt business with Wells Fargo due to the firm’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Hence, as the  Star Tribune reported,

The Minneapolis City Council on Wednesday asked staff to explore ways the city could ‘stop doing business with financial institutions that invest in the fossil fuel industry and in projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline,’ including Wells Fargo.

Council Members Alondra Cano and Cam Gordon proposed that city staff report back by July on how the city could end its relationship with banks like Wells Fargo.

And then I was going to follow this disturbing economic policy by sharing with you a possible reason for why they may be making the decisions they do, at least when it comes to economic matters. That is, as the table below illustrates, there isn’t one economist who sits on the council, although there are three council members with graduate degrees in business. So that certainly begs some questions about this decision, doesn’t it?

Council Member Undergraduate  Graduate
Kevin Reich (Ward 1) Philosophy/Asian Studies None
Cam Gordon (Ward 2) Education Early Childhood Development
Jacob Frey (Ward 3) Government Law
Barbara Johnson (Ward 4) Health (Nurse) Unknown
Blong Yang (Ward 5) Political Science Law
Abdi Warsame (Ward 6) Business International Business
Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) Political Science/Labor Relations None
Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) English/Government/Int’l Affairs Law
Alondra Cano (Ward 9) Politics of Identity/Chicano/Latino Studies None
Lisa Bender (Ward 10) Biology/Spanish City and Regional Planning
John Quincy (Ward 11) Business Administration MBA
Adnrew Johnson (Ward 12) Political Science None
Linea Palmisano (Ward 13) Pre-Med/Physics MBA Strategy and Entrepreneurship

And finally, I was going to finish with a Neil deGrasse Tyson type of conclusion where perhaps the city council would be a bit more judicious in their decision-making if they had a couple of economists as council members. But then I realized, does anybody know what exactly are the qualifications to serve in public office?

For instance, would it not be fallacious for me to critique Council Member Cano’s economic policy decisions because she doesn’t have a degree, or a minor, in economics? Wouldn’t this be the Dr. Ben Carson argument? That is, Dr. Carson is unqualified to lead HUB because he’s a surgeon? Or rather, would it be more reasonable to critique her questionable economic reasoning in matters of economic policy because her policies are terrible, and here are the reasons why?

In addition, wouldn’t the council’s poor decision to even consider such a hasty and irrational economic policy have more to do with a lack of homework and possibly group think? Twelve of the council members belong to the Democratic Farmer Labor party (Minnesota Democrats for my national readers), while one belongs to the Green Party of Minnesota.

If they had done their homework, they may have known that the Financial Industry is one of the most prominent and prosperous industries in Minneapolis. Not only does the Minneapolis market house some of the most well-known and respected financial institutions in the United States, but the Financial Industry is one of the largest industries and the most well paid industries in Minneapolis.

According to the Minneapolis Trends Report, Second Quarter 2016, the average weekly wage for the Financial Industry was one of the highest for all industries in Minneapolis throughout the 2015 year. For example, the average weekly wage was $3,503 in the 1st Quarter of 2015. On average, that’s not bad take-home pay for a week. And over the course of a month and a year, that’s not too bad.

Moreover, the industry employed about 27,000 employees in 2015 according to the Minneapolis Trends Report; and according to the same Star Tribune article linked above, Wells Fargo today employs 11,000 of those workers ranging from entry-level to executive positions. And of course, this doesn’t include the accounts Wells Fargo manages for the city or all of the other accounts Wells Fargo manages for other businesses inside and outside the city, nor does it include the customer base.


Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist, and a mathematical scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

Photo credit: The Systems Scientist




Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist



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