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Body cameras benefit the police

Whether or not they care to admit it, I am positive that every student, professor and community member has an opinion on body cameras for police officers. Perhaps a body camera would have been useful in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson this past summer. But while body cameras are certainly useful in situations like Brown’s, they also reward the police officers who are doing a good job. Therefore, I am glad that many police departments are moving toward using them. Having cameras available for law enforcement officers is important for several reasons. First, it enables their superiors to determine whether the officers are doing their jobs well.  Most importantly, the use of cameras will help the fight to end racial injustice. A report by the Washington Post found that in three-quarters of fatal shooting cases since 2005, the police officers were white, and two-thirds of officers’ victims were black.  Prosecutors won’t press charges against officers unless there is a substantial amount of evidence. Continue Reading

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Bill proffered to unseal expunged criminal records for prospective teachers

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of Americans who have had contact with the criminal justice system has increased dramatically in recent decades.The agency estimates that about one in three adults has a criminal record. However, the records often consist of a non-violent crime, an arrest that did not lead to conviction or the convicted person was not sentenced to a term of incarceration.Judges can seal, or expunge, criminal records, including arrests, prosecutions and convictions for people who have demonstrated changed behavior after completing punishment.Expungement is especially helpful for job seekers whose offenses may show up on criminal background checks.Criminal records that remain sealed for those applying for teaching positions concerns Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton). She thinks it would put children at risk.She sponsors HF1401 that would require school districts to unseal expunged criminal records for prospective teachers.   Continue Reading

Mike Griffin of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) leading a chat of "black lives matter" on the steps of City Hall during last week's "People's State of the City" rally.  Photo by Bill Lindeke.

Dueling State of the City Events Reveal Rift Between Rhetoric and Reality of Inequality

These days it’s hard to tell whether Minneapolis is united about being divided. Last week, two contrasting “state of the city” events — Mayor Betsy Hodges official speech at the American Swedish Institute, and a rally the next morning organized a North-side grassroots group — illustrated the ongoing tension between the rhetoric and reality of racial inequality in Minneapolis.Hodges’ speech, an annual tradition for mayors across the country, emphasized the themes that led her to an easy victory in the 2013 election. As Gino Terrell wrote on the Daily Planet earlier this week, Hodges stressed education, income inequality, and climate change, as part of her plans for the upcoming year. But the well-received speech comes only months after Hodges’ efforts to devote city resources to addressing inequality became surprisingly contentious. During budget debates at City Hall, Hodges’ plans to address racial inequality sparked a small controversy, particularly in parts of the city that are struggling the most with foreclosures and racial inequality. While debating the budget, Council Members Yang and Warsame and other Council Members  voted to defund part of Mayor Hodges’ key proposals in favor of more “meat and potatoes” issues that impact neighborhoods like Jordan or Cedar-Riverside, home to many  of the highest proportions of people of color in the city. Continue Reading

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St. Patrick’s Day disturbances create concerns

“Banish bias, but keep downtown livable,” blared the Star Tribuneeditorial of Monday, March 23, 2015, warning about unacceptable public behavior threatening urban revival while avoiding the frustrations of exclusion felt by African Americans.Since 2006, I have written over 100 columns and blog entries about the need for plans to deal with this, which have gone unheeded (they are listed in our “Solution Paper #47”). The Star Tribune is belatedly reinforcing what this column and newspaper have reported (see column of January 14, 2015: “Promises, Promises, Promises…with no follow through”). We need to signal to young African Americans that the broader community is listening to their expressions of frustration, concern and anger.The solution is not to continue touting prosperity for one segment of the population while carrying out calculated bias against another segment hindering their prosperity. Backlash will dramatically drop if paths to prosperity are open through education and jobs.The St. Patrick Day flash-mob “fun entertainment” disruption (over 300 young people enjoyed fighting with each other for over two-and-a-half hours on the streets of downtown Minneapolis) also caused injuries, including the shooting of two individuals, one in front of Target Field, the other one on West Broadway. Continue Reading

A warning at the #blacklivesmatter demonstration at the Mall of America.

MOA outwitted after Twitter fiasco

 Black Lives Matter exposes U.S. economic hypocrisyThe Mall of America (MOA) got caught with its underwear around its ankles last week when it tried to launch a #itsmymall Twitter campaign to promote the mall and to try to overcome the black eye it gave itself after its inane, but predictable, response to the peaceful anti-police violence protest last December.MOA has been trying to prosecute, persecute and defame activists from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, primarily because its protest took the position that the mall is public space, because it takes and receives public dollars and public subsidy. In an absolute stroke of genius, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis with its pro-Mike Brown, Eric Garner and anti-police violence protest in December, exposed the hypocrisy of private enterprise receiving public funding and public subsidy while enforcing private property rights.By hosting a protest at the mall, Black Lives Matter treated the mall as a public space, a town square, since receiving public dollars makes it, well, public. Ironically, by launching a campaign (#itsmymall), implying that the MOA is the people’s mall, it makes the point of Black Lives Matter, which is, it is a public space. So which is it, MOA, our mall or your mall?It also reveals that the MOA is experiencing financial pain as a result of the Boycott Mall of America campaign launched by Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter and all of us who joined the protest are correct: So-called private entities that take public monies (or public anything) that comes from taxpayers should not be afforded the rights of private property or private enterprise.What Black Lives Matter inadvertently exposed was the slick underbelly of U.S. economics, and that is that this system uses its citizens and their money to support the enrichment of big business. Continue Reading

Crosswalks at 40th Street and 28th Avenue Are Heavily Used

We Can Make 28th Avenue Better for People

Driving 28th Avenue from 38th Street to Minnehaha Parkway in south Minneapolis is a pleasure, a little too much so. Traffic is relatively light compared to so many busy streets in the city, the speed limit is 30 MPH, the road surface was repaved last year and is nice and smooth. The only likely place you have to stop is the signal at 42nd Street, but even there you have close to 50/50 odds of a green light. There is the occasional cyclist trying to cross at the Minnehaha Creek crosswalk. Otherwise 28th Avenue is clear sailing. Continue Reading