Mayoral candidates debate policing procedures, housing

Mike Oakes

Thirteen Minneapolis mayoral candidates exchanged ideas with each other and with area residents at the Plymouth Congregational Church in south Minneapolis on Thursday night on how to make Minnesota’s largest city safer and more livable.

More than 100 community members heard one-minute answers to questions focusing on community policing and on how best to prosecute livability-crime offenders.

Most on the panel agreed Minneapolis needs a better community member-police relationship and that direct interaction every day coupled with education measures aimed at both groups is the best way to foster that goal.

Republican Rodney Johari said he would get police officers into area schools to make them recognizable to youth.

Tim Connolly of the Social Justice Party said, “I think policemen on beat need to be alone” to ensure officers don’t interact with each other only.

Marcus Harcus of the People’s Party said he would establish community liaisons who would be given resources similar to those of the police departments to protect communities.

Independent candidate Mark Stenglein said he would take the 70 police cars not in service and put them on the street because “it’s a travesty” that communities are suffering without them.

Mahamoud Wardere of the New Voices Party cautioned against penalizing offenders of livability crimes too harshly if jailing them would mean taking a parent away from a child.

Candidate Jeffrey Booty criticized DFL candidate Lisa McDonald for her opposition to graffiti, saying the art form can brighten the city. He pointed out the difference between graffiti art and tagging: “Tagging is more like if you put your name everywhere – like you, Lisa.”

“Old Skool” candidate Steven Houdek called for more early-morning enforcement, saying those are peak hours for livability crimes.

Independent candidate John Hartwig said racial profiling will only escalate without extensive reform in police training. Without that reform, he cautioned, Minneapolis could end up with gestapo-like policing.

Protect the Earth candidate Leslie Davis said dirty streets bring about social misfits and that youth mentoring is important and less expensive than jailing criminals.

Candidate Mark Koscielski said allowing police officers more options would reduce police brutality. “I’d give cops two or three non-lethal weapons so they have more options besides shooting (the mentally ill) with a shotgun,” he said.

When the audience asked about the public safety effects of supportive housing and social services on the community, most candidates agreed safety is not the issue. The panel agreed mentally ill and poor people are not the source of crime – criminals are.

DFL candidate R.T. Rybak said the city needs to deconcentrate supportive housing and affordable housing, saying spreading those types of housing will make for safer communities.

Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton was criticized for voting against a 1998 affordable-housing resolution. Sayles Belton said she voted against the resolution because the housing negatively impacted areas where it was already located. She said properly managed supportive housing makes public safety less of an issue in those neighborhoods and that the city needs to hold its social services department accountable.