Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Abolish the MPD Poll is Full of Terrible Ideas

Post by Jeff Skrenes, photo is from my front porch.

This post has been edited from its initial publication.  A list of candidates who voted "yes," "yes then no" or "did not respond" has been added, those candidates have been added to the "labels" section, and language was adjusted at the hyperlink to better reflect a narrative flow.

Recently a group called Pollen put out a survey and candidate questionnaire for the upcoming Minneapolis municipal elections.  The questions are pretty standard fare, if a bit left-leaning even for Minneapolis, with two notable exceptions.  "Do you believe we could ever have a city without police?" and the follow-up to that, "What would you do, as an elected official, to bring us closer to police abolition?"  What is exceptional, and not in a good way, is that two DFL-endorsed incumbents and two of the leading mayoral candidates answered the first question in a way that at a different time or place would be considered political suicide.

"Yes."  (With a caveat:  Mayoral candidate Jacob Frey initially answered "yes," and has now retracted that.  His answers now state "no," with an explanation that the initial questions differed from those on the submission form.)

The other candidates that answered yes, as of this posting are:  Ray Dehn (mayor), Ginger Jentzen (Ward 3), Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4), Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5), Janne Flisrand (Ward 7), Alondra Cano (Ward 9 incumbent), Lisa Bender (Ward 10 incumbent), and Jeremy Schroeder (Ward 11).

Mohamud Noor (Ward 6) answered the follow-up question about what would be done to abolish the police department, but did not answer the initial yes/no question.

There is a guy running for mayor under the political banner "Rainbows Butterflies Unicorns" and EVEN HE said abolishing the police department is unworkable.

Whether this is an indictment of how much work must be done to reform many aspects of our police force, or it's demonstrative of how far to the left at least some are trying to take our city, this question is not normal or healthy.

I suppose reasonable people - or maybe we don't see each other as reasonable right now - may disagree on the value judgment above, but let's not sugarcoat these two questions.  In many a Facebook comment thread I've seen or participated in, defenders of posing such queries state that the vision is merely aspirational, and asks candidates to envision a city where police are not necessary because everything else is so great.

No.  That is not what the questionnaire is getting at.  One of its authors, Ashley Fairbanks, is quoted in the Star Tribune as stating that the police force is so rooted in white supremacy that it is irredeemable.  Whether that's true or not isn't my immediate point, but rather we need to acknowledge that the people behind this question are very much in favor of dissolving the police force.  Not radically reforming it, but "abolition."  The very next question asks for specific actions that would bring us there.  That should make it crystal clear that the questionnaire is not leading candidates or voters to sing John Lennon's "Imagine" while casting ballots in hopes of a world with no religion, wars, or greed.  The survey and its authors unapologetically advocate for the abolition of a police department, and anyone who answered yes is tacitly supporting that view.

There are more than a few other problems here...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Conscience of a Moderate


Post by Jeff Skrenes, photo is stock photo from my Facebook profile.


Minneapolis politics have taken a sharp turn to the left and I'm not sure I recognize my own city anymore.

I don't make that statement lightly, and I don't base that sentiment solely on the political positions that seem to have the wind in their sails for the time being.  There is an undercurrent to this shift that feels different than other political differences and disagreements I've seen in the past.  And to be honest, it's the shift in tone that concerns me more than a potential shift in policy.  Politics do make leftward and rightward shifts over time, and in the long arc of history I like to think the push and pull of those tides helps us to get it right.

I still consider myself a liberal and a progressive, certainly a Democrat.  On a national scale I probably favor government regulations and spending more than most, but locally I would be to the right of many of my compatriots in that regard.  Still, this sentiment of a political sea change for the worse does come from an understanding of left-wing activism and tactics.

My first job out of college was working for Minnesota ACORN, the predecessor to Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.  I've been on my share of marches, most recently to protest the Philando Castile verdict.  I've organized a direct action that once got my organization sued - a badge of honor of sorts in that world.  Which is to say I've been in the far-left activist sphere before and I understand its philosophy and methods perhaps more than others who would self-identify as moderates.

I'm not sure exactly when the left-wing meanness started to manifest itself, but I first noticed it during...

Monday, May 1, 2017

"Appointergate" Wakes up NXNS

*post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, stock image from GIFsme.  I was going for a stock photo of "tempest in a teapot," but a shot glass seems a whole lot better.


It's been almost a year since my last blog post, and my writing has been sporadic before that.  I've made several statements that I was returning to regular writing, although this time I can't say if that will be the case.  But I tend to write about things in my neighborhood and city that I want to see changed and that I think may be impacted by writing.  Recent current events have caused me to dust off the blogspot and see what we've got under the hood.

There are two posts in the hopper.  Part One is "What the Hell was the police chief thinking?  No, really, I am honestly baffled because there seems to be no part of 'appointergate' that was handled with any degree of forethought."  Part Two is something of a "I am a political moderate in a city that doesn't seem to have a voice of moderation" manifesto.

Chief Harteau, you're up first...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Where is BLM After Northside Shootings?" That's a Loaded Question.


One of the refrains I see on social media after shootings in north Minneapolis is the question of why people associated with Black Lives Matter aren't out protesting against that particular shooting, or why BLM isn't speaking out against issues like Black-on-Black violent crime.  I've felt that most of those queries, especially coming from Caucasians or those not affiliated with BLM were misguided at best.

That chorus began again after the tragic shooting death of Birdell Beeks, and I can tell you where Black Lives Matter was...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Moving Houses Can Make Minneapolis "Greener" Than a Plastic Bag Ban

A house on Broadway and Ilion that may be torn down as development comes along.

And the vacant lot immediately across the alley from this house, which is not part of the proposed development.
Four and a half years ago, I was at a Hawthorne environment committee meeting, and the icebreaker was to say our name and the "greenest" thing we did that day.  "I picked up trash around Farview Park," or "I recycled a pop bottle" were common introductions.  When it was my turn, I said, "My name is Jeff, and today I had an offer accepted to purchase and rehab a home that would have otherwise been demolished."  I think I won that round.

On April 1st, the Minneapolis City Council wasn't playing a joke when they adopted a ban on plastic bags that are ubiquitous at most retailers.  They received a fair amount of criticism for taking up the issue in the immediate aftermath of the decision not to prosecute the officers involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark.  Personally, I found the timing to be a bit tone-deaf, but I don't mind an elected body that can focus on more than one hot-button issue at a time.

But if they ban plastic bags, how will I be able to use plastic bags to pick up the plastic bags that accumulate in my yar--ohhhh.

I'm not entirely opposed to a plastic bag ban.  I do use them occasionally, but would just be more conscious of taking tote bags with me if I must.  But there are two main issues I have with this proposal...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Small Mistakes Will Cause Big Problems for Bikers on 26th Ave

Northwest corner of 2nd St and 26th Ave N
Last fall, several northside bicyclists got together to see how the 26th Ave bike path was shaping up and to take a look at possibilities for riverfront connections at the end of 26th.  That's when we noticed the curb cut above.  The problem with this design, in case it's not obvious enough, is that the sidewalk and the bike lane bottleneck right at the point where we also have a fire hydrant.  There is literally no way for a biker to get on or off the bike path without either jumping a curb into traffic or jostling for sidewalk space with pedestrians.  Thanks to the building that abuts the sidewalk, there isn't even anyplace else for bikers or pedestrians to go to avoid conflicts with vehicular traffic.

We chalked that error up to the possibility that larger trucks along the industrial corridor may need a wider berth for their turns.  And for the time being, there will be very few pedestrians and bikers starting their route on the east side of 2nd.  Until a 26th/riverfront connection is cemented, there isn't much of a reason for bikers to be on the other side of this intersection.  So we chalked this up to one more mistake in a series of bad designs between Washington Avenue and north Minneapolis river connections.

That is, until we saw...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What Happened to the Alondra Cano Ethics Complaint? (And Why It Matters)



Late last year, Minneapolis Council Member Alondra Cano found herself in a controversy of her own making when she attended a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America, and used her Twitter account to publish the names and addresses of several of her constituents.  One of them filed an ethics complaint, or at least publicly stated his intentions to do so.  The issue was picked up nationally, and even on a global scale, with mainstream media calling it "doxing" and local bloggers offering a spirited defense of why this was not a violation of that nature. (The link to that particular post has gone dead, and will be added here if it gets back online.)

On a personal note, I think it's great when elected officials join the public in direct action such as protest, and wish more would do so more often.  I especially applaud Cano for taking part.

When that post was published, it took the story to a completely different place than what Minneapolis needed it to be, if we're to learn from it and arrive at better local governance.  Cano's actions weren't "doxing," and almost certainly didn't violate any laws.  They may, however, rise to the level of an ethics violation.  And that's where Minneapolis needs its elected officials to aspire to behavior that better facilitates constituent interaction with local government.

From Cano's post-Twitter interviews where she refused to apologize and even insisted she would do it again, it's clear she doesn't understand the implications of her actions.

I do not think the Council Member acted out of ill intent, but instead...