“Deja vu all over again”


“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” — George Santayana
Metempsychosis—the Buddist theory of transmigration of spirit-lives.  The spirit of Charles Stenvig (remember him?) has landed on Chief Janee Harteau.  How deliciously ironic.
In 1980 I was hired to exorcise the spirit of Stenvig over the Minneapolis Police Department. He had created a political spoils system that lasted a decade.  The police union ruled.
And today we entertain a reprise.  The current police chief sought to promote the longtime union head into a higher rank and command of the department’s key unit—the 4th Precinct—in a mostly Afro-American community.
The confluence of events beggar the imagination.  The promotion and assignment not only elevates a former union president into a key post, but the act serves as an insult to a community that saw that official as an apologist for cops accused of brutality and worse.
The mayor—and, parenthetically, let me say the controversy involves two women in top positions (any feminist’s dream, or, perhaps, nightmare)—alleged being blindsided and insisted the action complied but insisted she’d texted the mayor.
To us troglodytes this simply illustrates the illiteracy of an age that relies on dumb technology for communication—a sterile and intellectually bankrupt exercise.
Under our system the civilians, elected representatives of the people, rule the military.  The analogy extends to the civic arena of mayor and police chiefs.  There must be no surprises for the mayor from the police chief.  That is the first law.
And matters of great pith and moment get smoke screened by such tempests as these.  Bloat, brutality, enormous and repeated judgments against the city, racism, lack of productivity and accountability result.  Management issues that no one can, or cares to, address go blithely ignored.  Such questions as residence in the city you are hired to protect and which rewards you get ignored.
In my nine years at its helm our mayor was never once surprised by any of my actions.  This is just fundamental, and please don’t tell me you texted—the last refuge of the semi-literate.
I know these are the classical fulminations that inevitably attend geezerhood, but I simply can’t help it.  Perhaps death will resolve the question and free us all from the grip of senior persiflage.
So, welcome back to the Stenvig Era, for which we all wax nostalgic.

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