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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Katherine Kersten ostensibly writes a kolumn for the Metro section of the Star Tribune. Rarely, if ever, does she address actual Metro-area issues. Does she even live in Minneapolis? Who knows? In any case, she tries to do so in her latest kolumn, with less than stellar results.

Wingnuttia Factor: 4 (Innumeracy ahead!)

As most people in Minneapolis and surrounding areas know, a person was fatally shot after a robbery in Uptown on Saturday. The killing was completely senseless, something that most people in Uptown rarely have to deal with. Does this mean that crime is out of control in Minneapolis or Uptown in particular? The way Kersten writes, that's what you would think. The reality? Something a bit different.

Robberies are up this year and last year in Minneapolis. According to her statistics, serious crimes were up 13 percent in 2005. This is after a 40 percent decrease between 1997 and 2003. "Thirteen percent!" people scream. "What an epidemic!" But if my calculations are correct, even if serious crimes went up 13 percent in 2005, they are still down more than 30 percent from 1997. Of course, any uptick in crime is something that needs to be dealt with. But crime is nowhere near as bad in Minneapolis as it was in the 90s, to say nothing about it being worse.

She then starts hammering on outgoing police chief Bill McManus. That's bravery, taking shots at somebody out the door, let me tell you. Anyhoo, she pans his suggestion of "better lighting" in the area to reduce crime. While she may have some kind of issue with this plan, calling it a "band-aid for cancer", this is in fact what people who actually live in Uptown are calling for. Does Kersten live in Uptown? Does she ever visit it? Can she make any valid criticisms of crime-fighting plans for the neighborhood?

Former city councilperson Dan Niziolek believes that the police department is seriously underfunded. And that's all she has to say about that: one sentence. Nothing about Governor Pawlenty's and House Republican cuts to Local Government Aid that took millions from Minneapolis. Nothing about short-sighted tax cuts. Of course not; that would get in the way of Kersten's beliefs that the entire problem is due to McManus.

Niziolek dutifully helps Kersten with this belief, saying that a large part of the blame lies with McManus. According to him, "For years until 2002, we had both beat officers and a crime prevention team here in Uptown. They knew the problem properties, the neighbors. But you don't see them on the street now. They've been taken for a centralized unit to deal with brush fires citywide." I'm pretty sure that happened because budget cuts reduced the number of officers available. Niziolek also takes issue with how CODEFOR performed under McManus, but not enough information is given to prove that point either way. Niziolek also takes a few parting shots at McManus's time spent creating relationships with "community leaders."

The kolumn concludes with Niziolek saying that morale has suffered as a result of "a high-profile investigation of Police Department brass that caused consternation in the department." Again, not enough information is given here, but I'm assuming that he is talking about the investigation into the handling of the Duy Ngo case, where an officer working undercover was shot by another officer. Call me crazy, but I think that's exactly the kind of thing that should be investigated, even if it causes "consternation."

I have nothing against Niziolek, but I do think it's pretty funny that a former councilperson is talking about a former police chief. Where are comments from Ralph Remington, the current representative of the Uptown area? Couldn't he be reached for comment? Or wouldn't his comments bolster the conclusions that Kersten has already drawn?

I guess that after two kolumns harping on teh gay, Kersten thought that she should do what she was actually hired to do. Close, but no cigar.


At 11:07 PM, March 22, 2006, Anonymous mnblrmkr said...

I'd question her claim of low morale too, at least as related to McManus. At some point during all the hullabaloo over whether the Mayor still supported his chief, One of the StarTribune articles made note of the initial resistance put up by the Officers Federation to McManus' appointment. They then quoted Federation President Sgt. Delmonico, who really came across as having done a 180, and become a supporter of McManus.

I would suspect that most of any loss of morale is a result of the repeated budget cuts that have resulted in Mpls. having almost 100 fewer officers than in the 90s. (that's the figure I remember reading in the StarTribune)

At 9:58 AM, March 23, 2006, Anonymous evan said...

If street lights don't make any difference to public safety, why don't we turn them all off. Written like someone who gets dropped off at the door and uses valet parking all the time.

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