BY DAVE TILSEN
The burning and looting is terrible. It alienates the workers, it causes pain and suffering to many, it makes life in the city more difficult, and it increases support for the police.
These are questions that dominate all conversations. The burning and looting does amplify Trump’s messaging, but joining with the law and order crowd and criticizing them is certainly no better, possibly worse. It is not enough to simply share King’s quote about riots being the language of the unheard.
I think it is not hyperbole to say that Minneapolis is in crisis. We have refugee camps in our parks—refugees from Covid, from unemployment, from capitalism. Our Covid cases are on the rise, the police are the same police that murder our citizens, and have responded to the inept City Council’s rhetoric with a severe case of blue flu. Citizens are afraid of and angry with the police but are being subjected to a wave of crime and violence and have nowhere else to look for protection. There are lawsuits by poor neighborhood groups asking for more police protection! We have very high unemployment, and trust in the government is low.
I woke up this morning to news that my neighborhood Walgreens pharmacy was set on fire last night. The second time in two months. My seven prescriptions will need to be transferred to another, more distant, store and are a week away. Mailing has become too slow for my many medications. The business street near me is full of destroyed shops, some owned by friends, including the science fiction and mystery bookstore I have been relying on for decades, and my favorite restaurant and lefty meeting space.
The overwhelming observation is the incompetence and bungling, pandering response of our liberal Democratic city, county and state governments. The lack of courage, of real problem solving, of intellectual honesty by our mayor and the City Council chair is displayed daily in press conferences where they argue about defunding the police and use of force policies that are tone deaf. The poorly-explained and unsuccessful charter amendment was an embarrassment. We need public safety, but we simply cannot continue to hire murderers, racists and bullies that are not consistent with the values of our city.
Our mayor told a business group that the needs of the homeless encampments were infinite, in explanation, it seemed, for his inaction. Besides not being true (the needs are most definitely finite, identified, and the cost per year would be less than the interest on our new billion-dollar stadium), it is insulting to our intelligence and is the opposite of the problem-solving we need from a city leader. We need them to roll up their sleeves and get things done.
The only groups that have responded with humanity are the neighborhood associations and the Park Board. None of these groups have the resources to solve homelessness, and it is not their job. The city responded by arresting folks in the park and using riot control tactics on demonstrators.
So—angry people in the streets? People willing to risk arrest, tear gas, rubber bullets, billy clubs with frustration and anger are hard to condemn. But it’s not an insurrection. What’s missing, of course is leadership—intelligent thoughtful, charismatic people with a strategy. The Left isn’t providing it, the Urban League and Urban Coalition are defending the Black police chief, and the anti-police organizations are drunk with the fact that they can get City Council members to pick up their phones and even occasionally spout their words.
The people need food, jobs, housing and protection from criminals. The blue flu is epidemic among the police and it has left neighborhoods in fear.
We need to:
*Make tax forfeiture and foreclosed houses available—very low-income when possible. There are empty houses in our city; creative experts need to find a way.
*Build more housing and explore community partnerships. Tiny homes at Kmart site, East Phillips Urban Farm and the Harbor Terminal redesigning should be explored.
*Make U.S. Bank stadium a true people’s stadium. It’s an indoor park, sitting empty. The mayor appoints two of five members of Minnesota Sports Facility Authority. The governor appoints three.
*Appoint a people’s lawyer for city attorney.
*Publicly investigate all police shootings. Especially hold public hearings on the facts of and lessons learned from the killings of Terrance Franklin, Jamar Clark, Thurman Blevins, Travis Jordan and George Floyd.
*Hold a hearing on what the National Guard really accomplished when they were deployed here.
*Reduce fossil fuel usage by city vehicles and buildings, and renegotiate the Xcel contract, under real threat to municipalize utilities.
*Save MayDay. Revisit city expenditure on Holidazzle and The Loppet.
*Revisit zoning for neighbors owning rental housing. We need neighbors owning rental housing, those who know their tenants and value the neighborhood.
*Provide free public transportation within the city. Also, to and from employment outside the city.
*Provide free city Wi-Fi to all students who need it for remote learning. It’s no different from textbooks.
*Repurpose stadium tax to give property tax relief (explore challenge to stadium financing).
*Redesign 2040 plan to benefit all the citizens as we respond to climate change. The 2040 plan is full of lofty goals, and lacking in commitments. The lack of serious exploration by the city in the Phillips Urban Farm proposal, and instead using the site in a way that will degrade the environment of the city, is in direct contravention of the plan. The rezoning will be a boon to developers and will deny citizens any control over the future.