‘Fully staffed’ police may
not have the same presence
Letter writer Carter McCoy’s response in the September 2 Villager Inbox to my earlier letter to the editor confuses “officers on patrol” with “police presence.” It’s an important distinction.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Mr. McCoy claim that the Minneapolis police force is “fully staffed” and that “the same amount of officers are on patrol,” respectively. But credible news sources have reported multiple times since late May that Minneapolis residents have had fewer interactions with the police. And not because crime is falling.
In a June 3 National Public Radio story, a Minneapolis resident noted that in the first days of mass protests following the death of George Floyd, “the city seemed to descend into a security vacuum. The police disappeared from the neighborhood…. There were no cops that would come around.”
On August 1, the Star-Tribune reported Minneapolis residents saying “that the police are taking longer to respond to emergency calls, even as homicides, shootings and robberies have all increased by double digits from last year.”
Just days later, on August 4, Minnesota Public Radio reported that the uptick in violent crime in Minneapolis “is happening at a time when the number of police officers on the street is declining.” As of the publication of that story, Minneapolis had recorded 42 homicides, more than double the amount at that point in 2019. Mayor Jacob Frey stated in the story that response time data show that it is taking officers longer to respond to certain 911 calls.
Even Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called out the city. Friedman, who was born in North Minneapolis, noted on September 1 that his old neighborhood “has experienced a surge in gang shootings, lootings and drug dealing—all exacerbated by the pandemic, spiraling unemployment and demoralized police officers who, after the Floyd killing, don’t always have the numbers or the will to show up.”
Which is unfortunate, because research has shown time and again that communities are safer when there is an active police presence and a steady dialogue between and among cops and residents. The number of cops “on patrol” at any given moment is not the appropriate measure of police effectiveness.
The job of a police officer is difficult even on the quietest of days. And I’m grateful to those Minneapolis and Saint Paul police officers who continue to work their beats.
But just as with the falling tree in the forest that no one is around to hear, if a cop doesn’t enter a neighborhood, get out of his or her patrol car and start talking with residents, did the officer really come to work that day?
Soured on the Ford site
While I had once looked forward to the redevelopment of the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Highland Park, the words of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo still linger in my mind. On May 3, during his daily coronavirus update on CNN, he said, “…now you have that density in New York. And density is the enemy here, and that New York dense housing, dense transportation, dense sidewalks—in that density, it takes off like a fire through dry grass. And then it spreads. It’s in New Jersey, it’s in Connecticut, that whole area.”
The number of people living on the 122 acres of the Ford site, when fully developed, could approach 5,775, or 1.5 persons for each of the planned 3,850 homes. One hundred twenty-two acres is approximately one fifth of a square mile. That gives the fully developed Ford site a density equivalent of 28,875 people per square mile, or more than the density of 27,013 people per square mile in New York City.
About 10 years ago the Saint Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development gave a presentation at Lumen Christi Church on what the Ford site would look like when fully developed. It featured quaint-looking townhouse and condo buildings, none over four stories high, mixed with some single-family homes near the river. Based on this vision, complete with fountain and stream, my wife and I thought it would provide a pleasant retirement option. We could sell our Highland homestead of 30 years and downsize into a townhouse or condo at the Ford site.
Then the picture began to change. Future presentations at Gloria Dei Church and Highland Junior High showed taller buildings with talk of greatly increasing the number of residential units. By this time, the “density demons” at City Hall had gotten hold of the Ford plan and zoned the site for 4,000 units. When built out, the Ford site will be as dense as a land-locked coronavirus cruise ship and I fear just as deadly. We are now quite hesitant to consider buying property on the site. Had the City Council been more reasonable with their zoning ordinance, say 2,500 instead of 4,000 units, we would be more inclined to move into what I’m sure would be a nice home, given master developer Ryan Companies’ solid reputation for building.
We have been told by the City Council that density is a good thing. I don’t buy that ideology.
No peace in Highland
Summer evenings in Highland Park can be magical. Take a walk around Fairview, Saunders, Beechwood and Howell streets and you’ll see what I mean: Tranquil, quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods, beautiful lawns, a few crickets chirping, a friendly dog coming to greet you as you walk down the sidewalk.
I once had that, too. But now I don’t because I live on Rome Avenue across the street from Highland Park Elementary School. About a year ago, a basketball court was added to the school. Now each evening is filled with the noise of a bouncing ball, kids yelling obscenities, loud music and trash dumped on the street. This goes on at least until sunset and many times well beyond. The only remaining peaceful evenings are those with pending thunderstorms.
I not only have to experience this, I have the pain of paying for it, too, with my property taxes. Can something be done? Is anyone else the same bundle of frayed nerves that I am?
Putting incivility to rest
The current civil unrest throughout the country has reached the point that to march in protest of anything might result in a punch in the face or worse, by someone in a group that believes differently. How did we get to this point?
First, we have a leader who promotes division, an us-versus-them attitude, at a time when, having become a pariah among other developed nations, divisiveness is not helpful to us as a nation.
Additionally, we have people who rely on all the junk masquerading as fact on social media for their information. Perhaps it’s time for everyone to step back from social media for a while—I mean, completely disconnect from social media until this nation cools down.
One of the main lessons I learned from a professor in school: Never accept only one source; verify with another or with several sources. That was a valuable lesson that has helped me many times to make a more considered response to a situation rather than a knee-jerk reaction that might be completely inappropriate.
We all live together in the oldest republic in the world with laws that work when people act in a civilized way. We’ve already had one civil war. We don’t need another.
Contain spread of litter
When the pandemic began, I changed my exercise routine to long walks along trails that run by the river. I carried garbage bags, and over a few weeks I collected over 150 pounds of garbage and left most of the site clean. It is sad to see how much of that trash has returned. Much of it is packaging from food and drink, but some is household trash that people have dumped in bags. At a time when it is clear that we all have a personal responsibility to help contain the coronavirus, it is sad to see this visual example of irresponsibility building up along public trails.
Protect U.S. from future floods
As a veteran and schoolteacher, I’ve dedicated my life to serving and protecting. That’s why I’m speaking up now to support stronger building standards so that Minnesota communities can withstand a future with increasingly severe weather and flooding.
Flooding has become the costliest and most frequent natural disaster we face. Sadly, too often it’s folks in rural communities and people of color who experience the worst of these devastating floods, because their communities have not seen the same level of resources or planning to keep them safe. That’s why we need Congress to require tougher building standards that meet future flood risk, especially where public tax dollars are being spent. This would ensure that buildings are elevated, roads built out of the floodway, storm sewers can handle larger rainfalls, and critical infrastructure like hospitals, schools and fire stations are protected from future flooding.
Research shows that stronger building standards are fiscally smart, that every dollar spent on resilience saves society $5 to $7. It would also create more jobs, boost economic recovery following a disaster, and strengthen communities that may be struggling. It’s no wonder recent Pew polling found 85 percent of Americans back stronger building standards.
Congress should act now. Representatives Emmer, Phillips and Craig of Minnesota all serve on key U.S. House committees and thankfully have shown support for legislation to address severe weather and flooding. Their bipartisan leadership on building standards would be applauded.
Eastview, Saint Paul
A matter of economic justice
With all I’ve read lately about the massive amounts of money pouring into Black Lives Matter, and being that the civil unrest was proudly sponsored by BLM, they should donate financial assistance to those businesses damaged by the unrest.
Landmark has been left behind
The University of Minnesota’s first library (circa 1909) is located at 192 W. Ninth St. in Saint Paul. This stately building is a landmark and once was a conversation piece. Now, however, it sits in the middle of a Catholic Charities development with no real purpose. I’d like to see its landmark status reversed and the building readied for demolition. The Mary Hall building across the street has seen better days, too, and is ready for the same fate.
Downtown Saint Paul
Flashing lights, big city
I am hearing a lot more emergency sirens around the Highland Park neighborhood. It used to be that I heard them maybe three or four times a week. Now it seems like three or four times a day. I realize it could be medical first responders, but it is getting a little spooky. I hope Saint Paul is not going down the same road as the other rainbow-and-unicorn big cities.
Do write, won’t you?
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