Worst-Governed City In America?

I wrote here that Minneapolis may have taken over, from Portland, the title of America’s worst-governed city. Scott furnished more evidence for that proposition this morning, pointing out that Minneapolis’s parks have been turned into homeless encampments.

A friend adds to Scott’s dire depiction of the panic in Powderhorn Park with this letter, which he sent to the Minneapolis Park Board. Once again, the villain of the story is Minnesota’s far-left Governor Tim Walz:

Superintendent Bangoura, Commissioner Cowgill and Members of the Minneapolis Park Board:

In preparation for your Board Meeting July 15th to discuss a new resolution related the Encampments impacting approximately 38 parks under the jurisdiction of the Minneapolis Park Board, I am writing to urge you in the strongest possible terms to put aside partisanship, politics and ideology and focus on the Park Mission, which is to “preserve, protect, maintain, improve, and enhance its natural resources, parkland, and recreational opportunities” for people to “gather, celebrate, contemplate, and engage in activities that promote health, well-being, community and the environment”. This requires by administrative law and good conscience the Park Board to institute a zero tolerance policy for overnight Encampments on active Park properties and formally reject [Walz’s Executive Order] 20-55.

As you are well aware, the Minneapolis Parks have been a crown jewel of Minneapolis and a cornerstone of our City’s reputation for well over a century. Today, sadly, we read of a stabbing in the Sculpture Garden and multiple assaults in Powderhorn Park — and that is just in the last few days. The damage to our City’s reputation on a global basis cannot be overstated and the Park Board must look to its duty to pursue its Mission. Moreover, as a new wave of research emerges into the value of public parks to address areas of critical importance in everything from mental health to climate change to wealth inequality, Minneapolis has a chance to be a leader if it remains true to its mission and declines directives to get involved in areas far removed from its area of legal mandate and competence.

In that light, I ask the Board to consider the following:

The Governor’s executive orders are the subject of at least one federal lawsuit (US District Court File No. 20-cv-01100) and rest on grounds open to significant legal challenge by private, county, local and special jurisdictions. There is simply no reason why the Park Board should not challenge EO 20-33 and EO 20-55 as arbitrary, capricious and grossly inconsistent with the stated mission of the Park Board. The failure of the Park Board to address the Governor’s overreach is inexplicable. If the Park Board will not exercise its duty and authority and instead let other groups off the hook (like the Minnesota State Agricultural Society – Fair Grounds), then the Governor need not make any hard (or smart) choices, just politically convenient ones.

The Minneapolis Parks are not even remotely equipped with the mandate, budget, skills, capabilities, legal authority, permitting, staffing, overnight stay exception process, and expertise to address chronic homelessness, drug addiction, other health and safety issues, and crime associated with Encampments. The most recent Budget adopted by the Park Board is here, and nowhere does it provide for this effort. Further, the Encampment EOs are now mandating that the Park Board run roughshod over numerous state and federal laws (such as Drug Free School Zones) and expose the taxpayer to liabilities likely at odds with current liability insurance policies. Again, the Park Board MUST stand up to the Governor, who has opened up Minneapolis residents to large losses and a declining quality of life.

There is a long list of far better qualified alternatives to the Governor’s intrusion on the mandate of the Minneapolis Parks. Homeless and addiction experts universally condemn this dangerous exercise by the Park Board as the WORST possible solution for those in need, no matter how well meaning. While I am not here to defend the $billion+ spent over the last decade by the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, they are the ones with the expertise and have stated clearly that Encampments represent a “serious health and safety risk.” Even the Metro Council with its knowledge of the homeless on public transport is better equipped than the Park Board to deal with these very serious issues.

The governmental reaction and management of the global spread of the SARS CoV 2 virus has devastated the elderly AND the young in our society. The Minneapolis Park Board does have an ACTUAL role to play in assisting both of these groups devastated by Covid19 by providing safe, outdoor environments for the young and old — two groups that the Encampments interfere with the most. As the science pours in from around the globe, it is clear the risk of transmission outdoors (not in enclosed unventilated tents but actually outdoors) of the SARS CoV 2 virus is a small fraction of the risk indoors. Furthermore, in places such as Sweden and Singapore where schools remained open we are now seeing zero deaths from the virus. So, if anything should be urgent on the Park Board’s Covid19 agenda, it should be serving vulnerable and at risk young people AND making the parks safe for outdoor activity welcoming to the elderly. See your own document on serving youth attached. That is a much more valuable and appropriate priority for the Park Board in the time of Covid 19 than accommodating the Encampments.

In short, the Park Board should clearly and unequivocally REJECT the Governor’s executive order 20-55 and turn its entire attention and budget to its stated and lawful mission.

These days, it may be optimistic to expect a government agency to adhere to its “stated and lawful mission.”

As it happens, though, the deteriorating situation of the Minneapolis parks has a lighter side. Along with drug paraphernalia and human waste, the Park Board is apparently on the verge of legalizing toplessness:

One more incentive for parents to take their children to the parks! The only possible silver lining here is that before too long, the weather will make both encampments and toplessness too cold for comfort.