Shrinking budgets mean longer voting lines

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June 30, 2003 // UPDATED 10:51 am - April 30, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

If Minneapolis citizens upset about budget cuts want to throw the bums out, it will take them longer to do it.

Voting lines will get longer in 2004 because a $246,000 cut to the Minneapolis City Clerk's office means election judges will be cut from the normal 1,200-1,500 to 900. That means one or two fewer judges per precinct. "It will translate into longer lines," said Steve Ristuben, assistant city clerk.

The city cut the clerk's budget 11 percent, eliminating the equivalent of 9.5 full-time positions, said Ristuben. The cuts reduced the election judges' budget by 6,000 hours, the equivalent of three full-time positions, he said.

The city is also closing the Minneapolis Municipal Library on City Hall's third floor. Students, historians, residents and City Hall departments used it as a reference room and research area. It will be empty by September, when it will become an archive area for old City Council committee paperwork.

The two-story room is ringed with wooden bookshelves and a catwalk. The collection has 21,000 items, not counting old maps, newspaper clipping files and slides of city scenes, said Mary Jo Laakso, a Minneapolis Public Library librarian working on contract for the city. Her job and an intern's position were cut. She will return to work at Central Library.

The collection includes old reports, census data and various items of municipal government, such as the Board of Public Welfare's 1937 report "Housing of the Relief Population," "Evaluation of Cable Communications Proposals for Minneapolis, MN" done in 1979 by the Cable Television Information Center, or the Department of Public Works equipment study report of 1992.

"It's sad to be breaking it up," Laakso said.

She is going through the collection item by item, divvying them up among various departments and libraries. The collection didn't have a lot of one-of-a-kind items, but it centralized those things related to Minneapolis government.

The municipal library staff also did research for city staff, such as recent work on snow-plowing policies or community policing in Hispanic and Latino communities, she said.

The Clerk's office eliminated 2.5 staff who formerly did data entry for voter registration, Ristuben said. That shifts the cost to Hennepin County, which is required to do it. It eliminated a City Council committee coordinator and an office support position, which could delay processing City Council agendas and paperwork.