Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Read Nick Coleman Today

Yes, you read that right, "Read Nick Coleman's column today". Don't read it any other time, but read his column about the Block E slaughter of Alan Reitter in today's Red Star.

This hurts me to say this, but, even though Nick is wrong most of the time, he's technically a good writer. And today he almost got it right. Here's the article from the Red Star: "Parking-lot video shows rage, shock, death on Block E".

Video from a parking lot security camera shows last Friday night's murder in Minneapolis in black and white, and without sound. But the horror comes through loud and clear: A 31-year-old from the suburbs, out for a night on the town, ends up dead. Watching it, you get angry about the damage-control operation in which city officials lamely argued that most people make it home to Minnetonka alive.
I don't blame city officials for trying to put the best spin on this case. They want people to continue to visit the city. The problem is, there is no way to diminish the horror and implications of Friday night's killing.

This all happened across the street from tourist banners on a lamppost: "Block E," they say. "Let Us Entertain You."

It is that painful juxtaposition that has city officials tying themselves in knots to make sure -- despite the fact that two visitors to two of the city's prime entertainment areas have been shot to death in the last two weeks -- that the party doesn't end.

So we are told: Friday's shooting was "an aberration." (Would it be OK if it were routine?) That it was random. (Would we feel better if the killer had shot the guy he was trying to kill, instead of a bystander?) That the killer was "a deeply troubled person." (Mayor R.T. Rybak said that.)

Well, Your Honor: Duh.
Sometimes an act has such a profound impact that it can bring opposing sides together in a united front. There have been an enormous amount of such acts in Minneapolis over the last year, but this one, as with the Uptown murder, hit very close to home for many who have previously stayed on the sidelines.

It remains clear that Mayor Rybak and the City Council are in over their heads. Tracy from Anti-Strib has a nice commentary here, in which he notes the poor relationship the city leaders have with local businesses. That lack of a coordinated, mutually beneficial relationship has hurt the city.

While Nick coleman shows some good, old-fashioned anger (justifiably so) about the Minneapolis violence, here's where he goes wrong, or at least doesn't get the bigger picture:

Minneapolis has gangs of unruly youngsters hanging out on the streets, some selling drugs, some using them, some of them homicidal. This is not a public relations problem. It cannot be fixed with spin.

It needs cops. More cops. Smarter cops. Visible cops.

True, as the mayor says, there are too many guns on the street. (If people are bringing a .44 Magnum into a movie theater in the heart of the city's entertainment district, where are the metal detectors?)

Yes, there are too many guns. But there are too few cops, too. And despite all the glib talk about lots of cops in "the area," you too often do not see cops until trouble has occured.

Afterward is too late.

Tuesday, city leaders were practically crowing about arrests in last month's murder of Michael Zebuhr, shot during a robbery in Uptown.


Solving murders is good. Preventing them is better.
More cops is good, of course. Less guns in the hands of criminals is good. But as I and others have pointed out ad nauseum, the Minneapolis problem is systemic. There is a culture of crime and violence that has been allowed to fester.

The band-aid solutions are fine for the short term. However, we've got a big problem with the ever-growing criminal class, which I have previously addressed here: "Importing criminals".

Today, Nick almost got it right, and for that he gets credit. Who's in Rybak's corner now? Is It Time For Mayor Rybak To Step Down?