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by Steve Timmer
Sep 8, 2021, 11:00 AM

On comments: the Yes 4 Minneapolis initiative

Reader Rosalind left a comment to Kristen Boldon does not win a Spotty™.

Look, a guy was tortured to death four blocks from my house by city employees. Don Samuels doesn’t care but I do. Arrondondo may care but he can’t control the MPD any more than any of the chiefs before him could.

If you lived here and paid taxes here, you might care about the financial toll even if you didn’t care about the moral toll. Justine Damond’s family got a $1 million judgement [it was more than that, but it was a settlement, not judgment]. George Floyd’s family got a $26 million judgement [it was a settlement, too]. How much will the next egregious police killing cost the city? The current situation is not sustainable.

Look (in the words of the comment), there are multiple things to unpack here.

1. If one reads the the editorial that is the genesis of Kristen Boldon’s spittle-flecked letter to the editor, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that Don Samuels “doesn’t care.” I’ve had serious disagreements with Don and Sondra Samuels over charter schools and public education, but I never called them “tokens” or “tools” as Boldon does. Nor did I accuse them of not caring about the education of children.

When people write that Samuels is uncaring, or that he and the other plaintiffs to the suit are tokens and tools, I think the authors of those kind of ad hominem remarks should be dismissed out of hand; they have nothing useful to say about the issue or policy being discussed. It’s just venting.

2. Rosalind makes it sound as though the Yes 4 Minneapolis proposal is the only path forward, while that is clearly not the case. Everyone seems to agree that the police federation is a, or perhaps the, problem. If the police department is abolished or reorganized, the officers and other employees will unionize again, as is their right, and the city and its citizens may be right back where they started.

I cannot see how the proposed changes will turn a city that is unable to negotiate effectively with its police union into one that can. And I can’t resist referring to one of my favorite, because I wrote it for MinnPost, opinion pieces on law enforcement discipline.

Rosalind, I don’t think you can lay the problems with the federation at the chief’s feet; he’s just an administrator of the contract he’s given, after all. He’s not a party to it. (Update: The current contract was negotiated before the chief got the job or Mayor Frey was mayor.)

There are other possibilities; one is the city mums and dads just develop a backbone in dealing with the federation.

The Yes 4 Minneapolis initiative also really puts the cart before the horse: instead of making a plan and then voting on it, it votes on the promise of a plan, a plan to be developed by the endlessly squabbling city council. They can’t even figure out the language to describe the referendum; heaven help us when they try to implement it. It’s a recipe for chaos and dysfunction.

You can read more about the cart before the horse problem in the Star Tribune’s latest editorial, in the paper today, here.

3. Lastly, there’s the charming “you don’t live or pay taxes here, so butt out, buster” argument. Well, Rosalind didn’t say “buster,” but I think it was sort of implied. This is just another form of ad hominem argument.

If I had a better arm, I could hit Minneapolis with a rock, not that I would. But I am close to the city, both physically and emotionally.

I’ve paid a lot of property taxes in Minneapolis for decades. That’s because firms that I was part of inhabited downtown office building on net leases; in other words, the firms paid property taxes on their leaseholds, at much higher than residential rates. There are certainly lots of people for whom that is true now, too. I think it is untrue and unfair to say that people who don’t live in the city but work there, own a business there, or have family who live there have no interest the public safety or financial strength of the city.

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Rosalind. I hope you will continue to read and comment here. Steve

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