City Hall Monitor: lurking with intent to govern

Print

If elected officials hang around a public chamber with intent to take action but don’t actually decide anything, can they be guilty of governing?

Who “lurks” and with what intent were the questions of the day at Wednesday’s meeting of the Minneapolis City Council Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee. Council Member Cam Gordon said the council should repeal the city’s lurking ordinance (“No person, in any public or private place, shall lurk, lie in wait or be concealed with intent to commit any crime or unlawful act”) because it’s enforced with bias against minorities and the homeless. Committee members kicked Gordon’s idea around for hours, the Star Tribune said, but couldn’t make up their minds, so the issue will hang around until their next meeting.

Before the meeting, Gordon aide Robin Garwood used the council member’s blog to call out Council Member Ralph Remington for pledging support for the current lurking ordinance, as well as for backing new city restrictions on public protest. The post urged Web site visitors to contact Remington and “ask him to either vote like a progressive or stop calling himself one.” Liking lurking laws does seem to be at odds with what Remington said in 2006, when the Minneapolis Observer reported that “Ralph Remington argued that police have often used this as a way of harassing young black men. ‘The language here is disconcerting. Loitering and lurking can be highly subjective,’ he said. ‘It’s often used against people who look like me-African American men. It’s very troubling to me.’ “

Predatory car-booters who lurk in the shadows of private parking lots were also on committee members’ minds, as they revisited the idea of banning the use of wheel-locking devices as a means of extracting money from illegal parkers. The issue was a hobby horse of former Council Member Paul Zerby’s, who couldn’t get a ban passed in past years, and in his honor, the committee decided not to decide whether to recommend a ban to the full council.