Why is jaywalking three times costlier than blocking a fire station?

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January 12, 2004 // UPDATED 2:22 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Terrell Brown
Terrell Brown

Misplaced priorities from the crackdown on the light-rail line

To paraphrase the governor, where are all the dead pedestrians?

That question arises because the latest police crackdown is on jaywalkers. The police have announced that jaywalkers present a danger to themselves, thus our government will do what government does best: protect us from ourselves.

They claim it is because we might walk into a light-rail car. Gosh, those things are big. Even without the aide of my glasses, I can see a light-rail train; these cars do, after all, travel in packs. They even have headlights to attract our attention.

My mother taught me to look both ways before I crossed the street. I think a lot of mothers teach their kids that.

Over at the Capitol, MNdot has a state pedestrian coordinator. The heading of MNdot's pedestrian plan says, "Pedestrians are a part of every roadway environment, and attention must be paid to their presence in rural as well as urban areas." The plan includes this among its philosophies: "Other modes cannot exist at the expense of the pedestrian mode."

Either MNdot isn't talking with the cops, or the pedestrian coordinator forgot about light rail. Bets here are that they're not talking.

Maybe it's a conspiracy to doom light rail. There's a crowd out there who just doesn't like the idea that someone might take a train into Downtown. They're not just parking lot owners. Is this a conspiracy to make us think that light-rail isn't safe?

Back in 1997, there was a Minneapolis City Council candidate who had printed campaign literature telling us that the Downtown section of light-rail would need to be underground. We didn't get our subway, but maybe seven years ago, someone foresaw the problem coming down the tracks.

Why did the cops choose winter's coldest week so far to start harassing pedestrians who want to minimize exposure to subzero temperatures and even colder wind chills? Chief Olson has just told us that crime is down again. Perhaps the workload is now so low that we now need to send cops out chasing pedestrians on a cold January day?

Given the city's budget situation, if we're working this far down the priority list, maybe we've got extra cops.

Or is this a revenue-raising measure? A jaywalking tag costs you a hundred greenbacks. That's three times the $33 cost of a tag for blocking a fire station entrance. Weird priorities, aren't they?

Are we going to see more silliness in policing? Mayor Rybak went out to Ohio to find a new police chief. The Sunday New York Times earlier this month told us about a 14-year-old Ohio girl who was handcuffed and taken to jail for violating her school's dress code. Say what you want about school dress codes, but cops who take kids to jail because of the way they dress have way too much time on their hands. This kid stayed in a jail cell until her mother got off work to pick her up.

Hopefully, that is not the type of idea that Mayor Rybak went to Ohio for.

Do a Google search on "pedestrian mall Minneapolis" and you find a string of references to Nicollet Mall. The Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association on www.minneapolis.org describes it as "the city's famed pedestrian thoroughfare."

Yes, we're out promoting our pedestrian-friendly city and then sending cops out to harass pedestrians for doing what pedestrians do: cross streets. How long does it take until this effort moves to Nicollet Mall, where we practically have a Constitutional right to cross the street wherever we please? Are we going to hear that it's for our own safety; we might get hit by a bus?

Like the arrest of Michael Jackson and a collection of other celebrities, this sweep became a media event. Invites were sent to Channels 4, 5, 9 and 11. The cameras showed up just like they would for a big drug bust. Why is it necessary to humiliate someone who may have done something wrong? The public stocks disappeared in this country a couple of centuries ago.

Once again, we have a solution looking for a problem. Too bad we don't have better things to do with our tax dollars.

Terrell Brown lives in Loring Park and works Downtown. He can be reached at terrell@terrellbrown.org. Letters to the editor may be sent to dbrauer@skywaynews.net.