Minneapolis is too important to leave in the hands of its own elected officials.
I received an extraordinary amount of positive feedback from my column in the fall issue of Thinking Minnesota, which suggested that Minnesota’s business community—particularly members of the Minnesota Business Partnership— should move beyond political pandering to rioters, looters and thugs and help Minneapolis get its act together after the George Floyd riots.
That cause is even more urgent today.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and his band of city councilors will undoubtedly descend on Minnesota’s State Capitol in early 2021 to persuade legislators to pay for some—or all—of the city’s still-unrepaired damage inflicted by five days of unrestrained riots in May. They’ll argue, I’m sure, that Minneapolis deserves statewide resources because of the way it benefits the economy and culture of the entire state of Minnesota.
More than any other city in the state, Minneapolis is the connective tissue that ties together so many elements of our state’s quality of life: the companies (large and small), sports, universities, philanthropies, theaters, shopping, nightlife and dining. And there’s more, whether it’s hi-tech or ag-based.
So, why is it that so many Minnesotans don’t want the legislature to help Minneapolis financially? The most recent edition of our Thinking Minnesota Poll reveals that 46 percent of Minnesotans want the state to allocate nothing for Minneapolis. Not one dime. Thirty-two percent think the state should pay for part of the damages, only if it is within a coalition that includes the federal government, private donors and the city itself.
The answer is obvious. Most citizens of our state still feel outraged about the disorganized and cowardly way our Minneapolis city leaders laid down and let arsonists, thieves and vandals lay siege to their city. But more than that, they have watched in disbelief as the Minneapolis City Council compounded the ongoing harm by proudly becoming home to the national “defund the police” movement. Instead of recognizing that they had become the object of national ridicule, these minions of Ilhan Omar instead choose to listen to a small echo chamber of praise from their tone-deaf admirers.
We’re all aware of Minneapolis’s dramatic post-riot upturn in murders, property crime and car hijackings. This increase in crime is having a devastating effect on our lower-income citizens. In a Star Tribune op-ed written by Sondra Samuels and her husband, former City Council member Don Samuels, they described the disintegration of safety in their north Minneapolis neighborhood. Gunplay is growing, they said. Assailants shot eight bullets into the car of a mother and her infant; another car was shot four times. Attackers shot through the front door and a wall of a neighbor’s home. Muggers “kicked and stomped” a local woman to within “inches of her life.” The drug trade has proliferated to “unprecedented levels.”
“The thousands of other incidents of crime and violence across our city are causing people who love Minneapolis to leave or consider leaving,” they said, for the sake of their children.
These are not isolated stories. The pre-election version of the Thinking Minnesota Poll discovered that the No. 1 concern among Minnesota voters was “personal safety.” Over my long experience in Minnesota politics, personal safety has never even been on the list of voter concerns, much less occupy the top position. Minnesotans have all seen the statistics, but more overwhelming are the personal stories. We’ve all watched the home video that captured two young thugs shoot into a car as they attempted an 8 a.m. car hijacking in a Minneapolis neighborhood. The victim, God bless her, evaded them by punching her accelerator and driving away.
And there are thousands of similar stories out there. Here’s mine: One Sunday afternoon a few months ago, I drove to my office in downtown Minneapolis and parked my car right on Marquette Avenue, across from the Minneapolis Club. I was in my office for about an hour and came down at about 2:30 p.m. to find that two “youths” were in the process of breaking into my car. “Hey,” I yelled. “That’s my car.” They looked up for a moment, almost peeved at the interruption, and then returned to their business, either trying to figure out how to hotwire the ignition or whether the car contained anything worth stealing. I went inside the building for a moment to call the police, and when I returned, they were gone. This incident occurred in broad daylight in downtown Minneapolis on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Because of the dramatic increase in carjackings in my south Minneapolis Lake Harriet neighborhood, I recently decided to sell my house and move out of the city. It’s not worth taking the risk. Thank God, I was able to sell my house before this public crisis gets even worse.
All levels of government, the Minneapolis Council in particular, have one primary responsibility: to protect its residents. Incredibly, the mayor needed to strong-arm the council into a 7-6 vote that kept the current police force at 888, rather than cutting it to 750. Even with that, the council cut $8 million from the police budget.
The ultimate price for their professional misconduct will play out in the city’s economy, but not immediately. American Experiment Economist John Phelan has done a commendable job of following the economic fallout of the riots. He has reported how companies are quietly looking to move out of Minneapolis, how other companies have canceled efforts to relocate into Minneapolis, and how investors are reconsidering Minneapolis-based real estate and businesses. I have personally heard the same thing from one real estate broker who told me that many companies in Minneapolis are looking to move as soon as their leases expire. A Fortune 500 company can’t just up and move, he said, but the street-talk is unmistakable that early planning has already begun.
All these circumstances should compel the members of our business community to convey their concerns to City Hall and to our state legislators— both in public testimony and in private conversations. The Minneapolis business community, particularly the Minnesota Business Partnership, should take the lead to demand that elected officials provide better policing. They should not be intimidated by the thugs and thieves who currently control our streets. And we, the taxpaying citizens of this state, should demand that our legislators tie any state financial relief to the city to strengthening the safety of Minneapolis. If the city’s policymakers won’t do their job, we should do it for them. Minneapolis is just too important not to.