Minneapolis Focuses on Threat to Environment Over Public Safety

Minneapolis just became one of the first 100 cities in the world to hire a chief resilience officer. The new employee, former DFL legislator Rep. Kate Knuth, says it will take a year to figure out her newly created city job. The Rockefeller Foundation will pay Kate Knuth’s $114,000 salary during her on-the-job-training as she learns to “address such challenges as sea-level rise, extreme weather, crime, and public health threats.”

But Knuth could start earning her benefactor’s exorbitant pay much sooner by paying more attention to the environment in south Minneapolis.  Rick Groger, a south Minneapolis resident, issued an urgent plea to City Hall for help in today’s Star Tribune.

We’ve been struggling for months with a homeless camp in south Minneapolis. It’s not the usual liquor bottles, beer cans and piles of trash — we’re used to that. This is much more: knives, drug paraphernalia, numerous bikes in the area along with severed bike cables and bike locks, and the destruction of public property.

Groger says he’s tried calling everyone he can think of in city government but has never gotten a response to increasing concerns over a safety threat in his neighborhood.

We called the city’s nonemergency number, 311, but nothing happened. We then tried calling the neighborhood police precinct’s Community Engagement Team, but they never answered their phone or returned messages. Then we tried calling the head inspector of the police precinct. Again, calls were not answered and messages not returned. So we tried going to the top, sending an e-mail to Mayor Betsy Hodges’ office, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Metro Transit police (not a city agency, but the camp is near a light-rail station).

Maybe Minneapolis should hold off on tackling the 30,000 foot issues like global warming and ocean levels until someone gets a handle on crime and public safety concerns. At least that’s what Groger and his neighbors say.

Not one of them even bothered to reply. It is now weeks later, and the situation has only gotten worse. So I would suggest that the mayor first try ensuring that city employees know how to answer the phone and respond to an e-mail, then maybe try the tough stuff.