Blue states and cities struggle with crime and economic decline, facing deep-rooted safety and order issues.

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CAN BLUE STATES AND CITIES RECOVER?

Blue states and cities are usually unconcerned about the throwaway culture when it comes to people, anyway. They’re usually “solving the climate crisis” or perhaps solving the Middle East, tasks that are not within their job description or their competency. Meanwhile, their actual tasks of providing safety and public order are often left in the dust.

Minneapolis, which makes its twin across the Mississippi look relatively sane, is in a world of hurt. Center for the American Experiment president John Hinderaker wrote on the fourth anniversary of the George Floyd arrest about the “world of hurt” that is a city he came to in 1974 because of its “easy commutes, low crime, pleasant neighborhoods, cultural amenities and relatively good schools.” Now, if commutes are still ok, that’s only because the city is a hollowed-out shell of itself with a high percentage of vacancies and very little foot traffic. One local at the conference told me he met someone for lunch in Minneapolis for the first time in years. He described it as many do—a “ghost town.” At the very nice restaurant he went to, there were only about five tables with customers. He shook his head and muttered, “This can’t go on.”

Another old friend who works in Minneapolis described his own company’s downsizing of their office space due to an inability to get workers to come into town. He is six feet, four inches tall and about 240, but he’s afraid of becoming a crime statistic, too. As Hinderaker observes, the declines in crime over the last year or so still haven’t brought the city back to pre-2020 levels. Even before I left in 2021, a colleague told me that police wouldn’t respond to his daughter’s mugging because she wasn’t hurt. Indeed, the recent ambush and murder of Minneapolis Policeman Jamal Mitchell happened in part because the hero was working without a partner on a mandatory overtime shift due to the staffing problems.

As James Lileks told Jon Gabriel last year when Gabriel asked if Minneapolis was going to the proverbial dogs:

Big question, and so many different ways to answer it. Is there hope? Yes of course there is. Are we going to the dogs? No. Are things worse than they were? Yes.

People believe somehow that downtown is in a state like San Francisco, where it’s just hordes of drug addicted zombies and the mentally ill staggering about accosting people. And that’s not the case. I mean I work downtown, and I never felt unsafe downtown walking around anywhere. It’s not particularly populated; it’s emptied out in a horrible fashion because of the pandemic, and everybody who went to work from home didn’t want to go back, because they hate to commute, and they like their jammies and their dog and the rest of it, So why go downtown? Well, you know the knockoff effects on that have been catastrophic to the local economic ecosystem.

We have all of the buildings downtown here connected on the second floor by skyways, which is great when it’s 20 below — really great when it’s 20 below. But unfortunately, the loss of something we used to call customers means that all the little shops that had the things to buy; the stores, the drugstores, the shoeshine places, the restaurants, have been just hammered.

So, what was a vibrant (and I hate to use that word because it’s always overused) and bustling — another cliche — but what was vibrant and bustling is now 20, 30 percent of what it used to be. And it’s hard because you walk around, and you see empty storefront after empty storefront. And you recall what was and you think, well, that’s not coming back is it, for an awful long time?

Now the solutions that are being put in place are the usual usual, usual. Nobody ever says, hey tell you what, we get a bad thing going on here let’s drop rents, let’s drop our tax rates, let’s cut regulations, let’s make it really easy for somebody to start up a business. Noooo. No, we have plans to, well, if we move the buses from this street to this street , we can create a vibrant and bustling Entertainment District in the night. And liberalize the liquor laws a little bit so people can walk around without fear of getting tagged if they’ve got a mango margarita. Maybe that’ll do it!

No, that’s not going to do it.

What’s going to do it is to have a sense of safety. And what we have, unfortunately, is a sense that there are feral elements at the margins, and nobody really seems to know what to do about that. I mean, you might say, okay your light rail system is a moving homeless shelter, with people just nodding off and doing meth and people feel really unsafe there. You might go back to your old Dragnet-era prescriptions and say okay well then, we should send people in there to remove them. But now you can’t really do that, because homelessness is a problem; economic inequality and the rest of it, and until we solve these problems, we’re just moving them around from one place to the other. So, we can’t do anything about the immediate disorder, because we haven’t solved the structural problems that created it in the first place.

Okay how about crime? Well we can’t really put people in jail. I mean, incarceration is a sign that we as a society have failed these people. So we can’t do that. And policing is good but if we let the police pull people over for what used to be the usual (now regarded as specious) reasons: You got a taillight out; you’ve got an equipment violation; you don’t have your tags on you; you’ve got no license plate. And if you pull them over, well, if there’s a disparate impact, with that then it shows that structural racism is the impetus again behind our law and order campaign. So we really can’t do that until we eliminate the problems with structural racism et cetera. So everybody knows what can be done; I mean, it’s not hard to have basic civil order in a society. But the will to do it is hampered by a little sort of squick factor that  it’s not right to do these things. We did these before and  what happened? We generally had a clean, well-ordered society with a social compact and high social trust and all the rest of it you know, but we don’t have that much anymore. Yeah that’s all really unfortunate. But like I say I don’t feel unsafe, I don’t.

But at the same time, my wife was almost held up at gunpoint about two blocks from our house…

 

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