BY ED FELIEN
Mayor Frey is proposing a $1.8 billion budget for 2024, with a property tax increase of 6.2%.
Where does all that money go?
Mostly to the suburbs to pay staff to come in here and tell us what’s wrong with us.
Consent of the governed?
“Governments are instituted among men [and women], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”—The Declaration of Independence
The City of Minneapolis planning department will decide what is good for you. “Consent of the governed” be damned!
They decided we should all live in high-rises and ride bikes.
Their 2040 Plan is to eliminate single family homes in the inner city and replace them with multi-story apartments—displacement of multi-ethnic homes and families, replaced by Young Urban Professionals.
Do we get a say in this?
And the fanatical cyclist planners are carving up our streets. They want half the road even though, according to their own statistics, they’re only 15% of the daily traffic while cars are 50%.
Why won’t they hold meetings and talk to people in the communities that are going to be affected—those communities that will lose half the street in front of their homes to bicycles?
And some planners are outright liars. Michael Schroeder, a Minneapolis Park Board planner elevated to assistant superintendent, has convinced Superintendent Al Bangoura and a majority of the Park Board commissioners that we can’t possibly remove all the barriers blocking water leaving Lake Hiawatha, because there are “16 to 20 natural and introduced features in the creek, any one of which or all in combination have the ability to control the elevation of Lake Hiawatha.” Aside from the dam at 27th Avenue, the unused gas line at 28th Avenue and the rock weir/dam at 30th Avenue, the only introduced features that cross the creek are city and Metropolitan sanitary sewer lines. City sanitary sewer lines have to be 9 to 11 feet below ground level to prevent freezing, and the 10-foot-wide Metropolitan sewer line has to be buried below that. They do not “control the elevation of Lake Hiawatha,” and Michael Schroeder knows that.
It gets worse.
The City of Minneapolis planning department has just published a 143-page action plan that presents us with a dystopian nightmare worthy of “1984” and “Brave New World.” The “Minneapolis Safe and Thriving Communities Report: A Vision and Action Plan for the Future of Community Safety and Wellbeing” describes how an increasingly bloated bureaucracy can create Big Brothers from the Ministry of Truth that will protect the established social order. If you have neither the time nor inclination to wade through the tedious arguments for more staff, for more studies, for new departments and more meetings, then go to the conclusion and read their recommendations: “Comprehensive List of Action Steps Toward Safe and Thriving Communities” beginning on page 115.
Phase One: Near-Term Recommendations Governance and Leadership.
Create a Collaborative Practice Model.
Develop a practice model that will govern the collaborative work of the Offices of Public Services and Community Safety.
The practice model should define the following, amongst other items:
• A vision for the future and integration of services, as discussed below in the Defining the Vision for the Future Action Step of Rules of engagement.
• A regular cadence for meetings.
• How disputes are resolved and escalated (as needed).
• Coordination with external partners (including the county and community-based organizations and recruiting members from BIPOC communities).
• A template for resource sharing.
• Collaborative training.
• Accountability and continuous improvement processes, as described below.
• Investments in trust building.
• Engage departmental heads in the development of the collaborative practice model.
It’s all top-down. They will create a “Collaborative Practice Model,” their idea of the ideal citizen, and they will bring all the power of the city and the county to force those of us who live in the inner city to conform to that model.
Coordination with external partners (including the county and community-based organizations and recruiting members from BIPOC communities).
Engage departmental heads in the development of the collaborative practice model.
• Implement a Community Communications Plan.
• Develop a multi-year community engagement plan which supports co-creation of ecosystem services with communities most affected.
• Hire community ambassadors who are tasked with actively engaging with the community to gain ideas and insights on service design and delivery.
All power and all wisdom springs from the brow of the planning department. Of course, they will hire BIPOC as collaborators.
Whose idea was this? Whose Great Plan is this?
The mayor, Jacob Frey, has to take credit for it. It must be his plan on how to spend the blank check we just got.
According to Katie Topinka, Director of Intergovernmental Relations: “The Tax Bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor included $300 million statewide in Public Safety Aid to counties and cities. Minneapolis will receive $19 million in public safety aid out of the tax bill.
“In addition to that direct aid, there are a number of competitive grant programs that were included in the Public Safety package. Specifically, there is $70 million in violence prevention grant funding, $10 million in criminal investigation/crisis response funding and $7 million for youth intervention programs. These funds will all be made available statewide and the City of Minneapolis can apply to receive a portion of the funds.”
So that’s Frey’s plan—to spend the money to create more bureaucracy downtown, to hire more suburban planners to monitor and guide us poor lost souls in the inner city.
We know that the greatest cause of crime is poverty. It is a shame that those millions couldn’t find their way to those people who need it most.
Why can’t that money be used to hire block captains in the most troubled neighborhoods? Someone who could act as a nosy aunt or uncle to people on their block. Does someone need a job, help with homework, connections to health care? They could be a resource person for their block, and the first person to call in case of trouble.
Why can’t some of that money be used for scholarships for kids in the inner city to study law enforcement? Why can’t we have people from our community protecting and serving our community?
We need to stop listening to trickle-down ideas from the top of the mountain and begin to listen to bottom-up ideas from the grasslands below.
Many people believe the greatest threat to American democracy is the racist and misogynistic fascism of Donald Trump. I would argue there is an equally dangerous kind of fascism developing in the upper echelons of government bureaucracy. Those enlightened liberals will decide which inner-city neighborhoods will survive. They will take away our roads. They will flood our golf courses to create artificial swamps. They will create a new government bureaucracy to monitor our social behavior. This is the kind of dystopian nightmare George Orwell understood when he said: “If you pretend that it is merely an aberration which will presently pass off of its own accord, you are dreaming a dream from which you will awake when somebody coshes you with a rubber truncheon.” They are busy creating their special world, and they believe they don’t have to ask for our permission.
Whatever happened to “consent of the governed”?
We need to stop and rethink this. We need to get a lot more people around the table. The only way to ensure genuine consent is to guarantee the active participation of those most affected by government policy.
Let’s find out what the people want before we decide what they need.
The MPD and me
On Saturday, Aug. 19, my oldest daughter’s birthday, I went to a community engagement session sponsored by the MPD.
Their promise was irresistible: “This is your opportunity to shape the Minneapolis Police Department that you want! Implement police policies and procedures that meet community needs. Improve MPD oversight and accountability. Facilitate an improved relationship and trust between MPD and community.”
There must have been 60 or 70 people who showed up. There was free pizza, and there were a lot of city staff running around trying to make you feel comfortable.
Chief O’Hara took charge. He admitted right off that this was a requirement of the consent decree between the city and the Department of Justice. The MPD was ordered to explain its policy on the use of force in a series of community meetings in all parts of the city. But he assured us that this was just the beginning: “Be patient.”
Their handout talked about glittering generalities like “professionalism,” “duty to intervene,” “objective reasonableness,” and the “sanctity of life,” but O’Hara explicitly told us that the chokehold Derek Chauvin used to kill George Floyd was not an MPD-approved use of force.
The commander took over the meeting and she urged us to recognize that “we are all community,” which was reassuring coming from a Black woman until you remembered that 95% of MPD officers live in the suburbs.
They told us they wanted to be accountable to the community.
They had a handout with a comments section, so I wrote, “What about holding the officers responsible for killing Terrance Franklin accountable? What about the protocol in the tackling and killing of Jamar Clark?”
I left early. I had to get back to the party.