Downtown Voices

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December 15, 2003 // UPDATED 11:09 am - April 30, 2007
By: Terrell Brown
Terrell Brown

Fox in Downtown's coop

Why the alarmism about crime?

It's that December holiday season. We're reminded of it by the nightly parade up Nicollet Mall. It's that gift-giving time of year; at least that's what our local retailers are telling us.

I was sitting one evening, staring blindly out the window, thinking of the perfect gift for Minneapolis. More precisely, I was thinking what we would be looking for in that new mayor, the savior, the Lord of Minneapolis. Then the phone rang.

The caller was reading from the latest scare blitz from our Downtown Council about the dangers of Downtown Minneapolis. Crime is up, they tell us.

City crime reports show a 12 percent decrease in Part I, or serious, crime during the first nine months or 2003 compared to 2002. Part I crime includes murder, aggravated assault, robbery and larceny. The increase is in the category of "Other Part II" -- the catch-all which includes so-called "nuisance crime": stuff like people relieving themselves in an alley, asking for spare change, maybe even riding a bicycle on -- of all places -- Nicollet Mall.

Our friends at the Downtown Council would like us to believe that people are handing panhandlers money and then calling the cops to report a crime in progress. Ya, right. Next, we are going to hear them demand that the benefactors be arrested for being an accessory to panhandling. Oops -- new crime; crime is up again.

The alarmism fit with another new wrinkle: Night court.

Night court is when you treat accused petty criminals like terrorists. You haul them into court without the benefit of legal counsel and try to get that quick guilty plea. Fortunately, our judges nixed the Night Court idea, though the city will try fining offenders and using collection agents to get the money.

Downtown has lots of neighborhood organizations, but who is this Downtown Council anyway and who do they represent?

Turns out they are not one of Minneapolis' many neighborhood groups made up of residents, property owners and people working in the area. They describe themselves on their Web site as "a private, nonprofit corporation that promotes the growth and development of Downtown Minneapolis and serves as the voice of the business community." The same Downtown businesses that fail to provide public restrooms. The Downtown Council is a collection of businesses that has gone out of town to hire a mouthpiece to help them get their way.

How to get the word out? Call the brand-new columnist at the local daily newspaper. The guy who's just come back to Minneapolis. Perfect combination isn't it? Guy rolls into town to explain the problems of Minneapolis to the guy who is still trying to figure out Minneapolis post-1985. Is this a great country or what?

Yes, the perfect holiday gift is a new Downtown Council whose rhetoric doesn't sound like the Democrats and Republicans each talking about the other. Toss in a few public restrooms for stocking stuffers. We need a Downtown Council whose spin doesn't sound like a Fox News tag line.

Who should be running the city anyway, the people that live here or a bunch of out-of-town business people? Who said that the company town was a relic of the 19th century?

Vibrant Downtown? It's more than tourists from the suburbs. We have more people living Downtown than in many of those 'burbs. We urban dwellers have fewer acres of lawns to mow and are far more tolerant of things around us than those who flee for the wide open spaces.

Now, about that new mayor....

Terrell Brown lives in Loring Park and works Downtown. He can be reached at Letters to the editor may be sent to