The Star Tribune described Chief Medaria Arradondo as having "guided the Police Department through the worst crisis of its 154-year history" ("Arradondo: Stepping down 'best' for MPD," front page, Dec. 7). It is more accurate to say that he "guided the Police Department into the worst crisis of its 154-year history."
If Chief Arradondo and his bosses at City Hall had been better at their jobs, George Floyd would still be alive today, and there would have not been a crisis.
Matthew Byrnes, Minneapolis
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who already has an official body, the Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC), to make recommendations regarding public safety issues, now appoints another ad hoc body to do the same thing ("Onetime rivals will advise Frey on policing," Dec. 3). The difference? The PCOC meets in public; this new work group will be meeting in secret, so that people will "feel free to speak bluntly."
Let me be blunt. This is precisely what happened in 2015 when the city appointed five committees to come up with ways to implement the recommendations a Department of Justice study made regarding accountability procedures within the Minneapolis Police Department. Those committees too met in private, outside of the public eye, and in part because of that, the DOJ's recommendations ended up being scuttled instead of implemented.
Those DOJ recommendations included finally establishing an early intervention system (EIS) within the MPD, which still has not yet happened. Had those EIS recommendations been implemented, Floyd might well be alive today.
If there's anything we should have learned over the past few years, transparency — which includes such committees or work groups meeting in the open, not behind closed doors — is crucial on police-related issues. The mayor's new work group is déjà vu all over again, and its recommendations could well have little credibility in large segments of the community.
Chuck Turchick, Minneapolis
I really do not understand having a separate mental health team that would arrive after the police ("Would law have averted shooting?" Dec. 4). Why wouldn't the mental health experts be part of the police? We currently have police officers who are specialists in SWAT, crime scene investigation, hostage negotiation, homicide, narcotics, etc., so why not have a mental health expert specialty? They can have separate uniforms, equipment (including armaments, or not), could ride with regular patrol officers or separately, be either the initial police on-site or arrive at the same time, later and otherwise be utilized in the most flexible way possible to fit each situation. Practically, the mental health specialists also need to be sworn officers as in many cases they may need to formally arrest the person for both the person's and others' immediate safety (e.g., potential domestic violence victims). Finally, this would also help with funding of mental health specialists and overall balancing of the skills within the force, as everyone would count as a police officer position under the city charter's officers-per-capita requirement. We would not be searching for an entirely new budget.
Miles Anderson, Minneapolis
Minneapolis and St. Paul will be choosing new police chiefs.
My work many years ago was in charge of maintaining radio communications services for many law enforcement groups. A police chief once told me they relied more on their radios than their guns.
Over the years I gradually got to know many individuals from both county and city law enforcement. On average — and only on average — the performance for counties was better. The adherence to the code "To protect and serve" was better. I pondered this question and wondered if it's the difference in how leaders are chosen: sheriffs elected by the people, police chiefs hired by city officials. City councils add a potential layer of politics. I have no factual data, just many observations.
When people vote for city leaders, the people seldom realize they're also choosing their police chiefs. In the counties, sheriffs are elected directly by the people. It may influence them knowing they are answerable to the people rather than to a select group of possible friends. Should police chiefs also be elected positions, rather than appointed?
A. Martin, Merrifield, Minn.
With that, I'm out
The repercussions of the 3% rent restriction vote in St. Paul have begun. The $70 million project on Lexington has been mothballed just weeks before construction was to begin.
I recently sold a duplex on Lexington Parkway North in St. Paul that provided affordable housing. Each level was a three-bedroom unit, and I charged $1,200 per month for rent, or $400 per person, per room, if one had roommates. The building has been remodeled and off the renters' market. It's beautiful now with fancy granite countertops and stainless steel appliances but is no longer an affordable housing unit. The eviction moratorium ended my rental business in St. Paul, as my tenants decided they didn't have to pay any rent even though they didn't lose their jobs with the lockdown. Three able-bodied young men who all worked landscaper jobs (one of the young men in the National Guard) occupied my building and could not come up with $400 apiece to help me pay my mortgage, let alone taxes.
So, I'm out of the business in St. Paul, never to enter again. I also note that the city of Minneapolis has raised the taxes on my last remaining duplex by 13% this year. I'm thankful that this 3% rent cap did not happen (yet) in Minneapolis, but I will be also selling that duplex. My open unit in that duplex will remain open until I sell, as I never want to be in this position again — of owing mortgage, taxes, insurance, garbage and water bills on a property, and my tenants lawfully squatting in my unit. With the government's consent.
Expect St. Paul to slowly deteriorate, as investors will no longer be motivated to do any capital improvements on any rental housing in the city. It will take awhile, but 10 years down the road, expect St. Paul to be looking pretty shabby — and with an affordable housing problem. I hope and pray that Minneapolis does not go down this road.
Fonda Broekhuis, Minneapolis
Minneapolis has 8,000 families on its public housing waiting list and is spending $34 million to build 84 affordable units (around $405,000 each). According to Minneapolis Public Housing Authority leaders, these units "could serve about 420 families over three decades." This number apparently assumes an average family occupancy of five years.
Applying basic arithmetic to the stated numbers suggests another solution to the city's affordable housing crunch. What if instead of building new public housing units, Minneapolis implemented a voucher plan? The $34 million could provide thousands of dollars of rental assistance to each of the families on the current waiting list.
The applicable monthly rent subsidy could be adjusted based upon family size, income and/or other factors. Is anyone in the Public Housing Authority considering rental support as an alternative to building expensive units?
Jerry Anderson, Eagan
Looks good, but not so fast
The projected surplus in the state budget forecast may seem too good to be true ("Minnesota projected to have historic $7.7 billion budget surplus," Dec. 7). In fact, it is too good to be true — when you read the fine print. Looking to the next biennium, inflation will reduce the general fund surplus by more than $1 billion. The reason the inflation caveat is not officially included in the forecast calculation is that it was outlawed back in 2002. Now that the state expects boatloads of money again — and with inflation clearly on the rise — the fiscally prudent move would be to allow the inflation impact to be correctly calculated. Truth-in-budgeting based on an accurate forecast should be a painless bipartisan cause in 2022.
James Robins, St. Paul
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