Minneapolis DID: Ambassadors or vigilantes?


Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID) took Melissa Hill’s bike, which was next to Melissa as she was chalking on the sidewalk. The tail light was even flashing. Fortunately Melissa was able to capture video. As you watch the tape, you can see that they knew it was Melissa’s bike since she was right there chalking. They don’t like the chalking but they can’t get police arrests for chalking. So they claim her bike is abandoned and take it. It is punishment without pesky law enforcement or due process of law.

Since special assessments on corporate property taxes pay for these folks, they are essentially government. Yet their mission is described as

“The Clean Ambassadors also focus on making downtown shine again. And, the Safe Ambassadors are on hand to keep an eye out for you and your surroundings.”

Hmm, that sounds like code for if we like you then we help you. It also sounds like code for harassing people like homeless. Indeed, Melissa is lucky in that she is always ready to record and therefore defended her rights. Melissa prevented DID from taking her bike because she was recording. So I wonder what has happened to less fortunate folk.

Here is the full description of DID “Ambassadors” from the website:

The DID Ambassadors are the friendly faces of downtown: people who are approachable and welcoming. They can offer suggestions for things to do, help with directions, and even open a door for you if your hands are full. The Clean Ambassadors also focus on making downtown shine again. And, the Safe Ambassadors are on hand to keep an eye out for you and your surroundings.

(Minneapolis DID Website)

If the ambassadors were truly “friendly faces of downtown,” then when Melissa asked for her bike back,  they would have said “Oops sorry, it looked like it was abandoned, please lock it up next time.”

Furthermore, they were authoritarian and accusing, “You were defacing property!” They were bullying and confident in their bullying. Behavior like this does not just happen once. The confidence expressed here tells me that this happens often. So I wonder what would happen if we put an undercover cop looking like a homeless person in front of this group.

And what is sadder, is that when we cannot pay for basic services like fixing streets and funding police, that we have a commercial property tax that pays for this helpful/harassing group of people. The bolding is mine.

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID) is a non-profit entity that maintains a higher standard of care and behavior throughout downtown. It was formed in early 2009 after 5+ years of formative planning and advocacy by the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

The DID’s mission is to support, preserve, create and enhance a vibrant, competitive and thriving downtown that attracts and retains businesses, employees, residents and visitors. To that end, the DID pursues several goals: to create/support a competitive and thriving downtown through effective provision of clean, green, safe and better services; to pool resources and bring more effective implementation of services and initiatives; to bring a sustainable funding source to long-term initiatives; and to create and sustain an ecosystem that encourages a thriving public space in support of retailers, businesses, employees, visitors and residents. The DID encompasses over 120 blocks of downtown. By eliminating the contrast of conditions throughout downtown the DID can make a noticeable impact.

The Minneapolis DID is funded largely by charges to commercial properties that are included as special assessments on property tax invoices. Voluntary contributions are also collected from exempt properties, including government, certain non-profit and residential parcels.

(Minneapolis DID Website)

Just like our government stole from the tobacco fund, maybe Minneapolis can steal from this fund and fund a few more police officers. If you dare, you can suggest that to Mayor Rybak here.