I recently had a chance to spend nine days in New York City, where I had lived for 18 years. When I left with my three-year-old girl, shortly after the tragedy of 9/11, my primary regret was that I was leaving a city with such intermingled diversity of communities.
I was pleasantly surprised to return to Minnesota in 2002 to find much greater diversity than when I had left. I picked an elementary school (Whittier International) that had greater diversity than my neighborhood school (Kenwood). However, as I navigated around New York City recently, sharing subway rides and sidewalks and coffeeshop spaces, it hit me hard to recognize how segregated my experiences in Minnesota actually are.
The Minnesota Women’s Press office is on West Broadway — a main artery in North Minneapolis. We have been surrounded by speeding cars, overdoses at the bus stop and parking lot across the street, and gun violence. It is a decidedly different environment than that of my home ten minutes away.
As I ponder the three major amendments on the Minneapolis ballot on November 2 — having spent the better part of the last six months learning from various people about public safety solutions and concerns — I have formed a few strong opinions that I would like to share, as publisher of a magazine that focuses on justice, equity, healing, and ecosystems.
Use the comments field below to offer your own opinions.
A recent Star Tribune endorsement for mayor took a pro-business approach to who should lead Minneapolis, which provides more financial resources to the state than any other city. [The city council and mayoral candidates who answered our question about public safety are here.] I took offense to the implication that city leadership is more about business than residents. Two comments bothered me enough to prompt this editorial of my own.
Mayor Frey was given a lot of credit in the editorial for not being intimidated by protestors who asked him to defund the police. While strength in the face of opposition is admirable — I also think it is arrogant that a large group of community members who care deeply about public safety are not part of the solution. The editorial also applauded him for “standing up to a City Council with other ideas” — a council that is elected (and voted out) to represent its constituents.
The editorial board quoted Frey: “I haven’t caved. I’ve refused to compromise on what I feel is best for Minneapolis.” Why would an endorsement for mayor not include the values of listening and taking steps with others to find solutions?
The other editorial comment that bothered me: “Will voters … elect a council with a majority of serious-minded representatives or one controlled by the ideological passions of activists? … [Minneapolis] can let itself be guided toward prudent reforms by traditional progressive values, or it can go in reckless pursuit of radical visions detached from reality.”
To that comment I ask: What are “traditional progressive values”? Why are ideological passions of activists who care about public safety a bad thing? What are prudent reforms, when it comes to transforming a police culture that has always been enabled for lack of accountability?
The system we have has not had public conversations about how to transform our city in public safety, even after the very horrific and public police murder of George Floyd. The editorial said Mayor Frey is said to have the skills and experience to heal the city — and criticized then-mayor Betsy Hodges in 2017 for failing to improve public safety — but I do not see evidence of that. With 13 elected members of the City Council, representing their communities, the public conversation has not started. I believe it is reckless to think the vision we have for public safety now is effective.
The editorial pointed out that we need a mayor not beholden to a “reckless pursuit of radical visions detached from reality.”
St. Paul recently convened a five-month process of 48 stakeholders who listened to hundreds of community members about public safety recommendations. As Acooa Ellis, co-chair of the St. Paul Community-First Public Safety Commission, put it recently in an essay for us, the commission recommended developing an Office of Neighborhood Safety — “to foster crime prevention and a deliberate space to engage neighbors and community-based organizations in the work to ensure that all residents feel safe.”
What conversations are planned in Minneapolis?
Our Voter Education section will soon include an exploration of Questions 1 (city charter), 2 (public safety department) and 3 (rent control) on the Minneapolis ballot.
Black Votes Matter MN has produced a voting guide that offers details on candidate priorities in Minneapolis and St. Paul around housing, economic justice, and police accountability reform. It includes information about the park board and board of estimates and taxation candidates in Minneapolis; the mayoral and school board candidates in St. Paul; a few key races in Hopkins, Mounds View, and Golden Valley; and general information about ranked choice voting, among other details.