In this day and age of sales pitches, it’s easy to ignore a knock at the door, but the person pounding on my door wasn’t in the mood for being ignored.
It was a knock of authority that rattled walls and windows.
When I opened the door, I was relieved to see that it wasn’t the police tactical squad, but it was a diminutive gentleman in a suit and tie who introduced himself as Shep Harris, mayor of Golden Valley. The product he was pitching was an apology for the ordeal that I endured 50 years ago at the hands of the Golden Valley police.
Way back at that time, I must have driven a valley too far. Mayor Harris wasn’t born yet when I took the police to federal court for civil rights violations. The all-white jury decided that the police were wrong, and Mayor Harris took it upon himself to come over and surprise me by saying he was sorry for their misdeeds.
The hourlong amicable sit-down chat was part of the ripple effect of healing from the George Floyd killing.
I accepted the mayor’s apology, and Floyd would be happy to know that his death is starting to roll the rusty, creaky and stubborn wheels of change.
Oliver Lyle, Golden Valley
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Recommending that errant police are required to “attend a mandated re-education program,” as recent letter writers suggested, has merit; however, it is very unlikely to change an officer’s behavior on the street. In fact, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said, “Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there.” (“Police chief says ‘This was murder,’ ” front page, June 24.) Classroom education provides knowledge of what is proper behavior, but research has proven that it has little impact on the attitudes that drive behavior; it shows that new experiences are needed to change attitudes.
Because only about 8% of Minneapolis police officers live within the city limits, they have little opportunity to personally know their constituents, to see them as unique individuals. In the recent special session, some recommended that Minneapolis police be required to live within the city limits.
This is untenable on multiple grounds. One, forcing someone to sell their home and move will breed resentment against their new neighbors, much like forced busing did in Boston decades ago. Two, unless specified, the officer could live in a part of the city outside their precinct, negating the intended objective of knowing their community. Instead of pursuing a required change of residence, I recommend that police who don’t live in the precinct where they are assigned perform a certain number of hours of community service in that precinct each month. These can be negotiated and perhaps be included as part of the standard shift hours officers perform each month.
The goal is to get police officers immersed in their precinct’s community, not in the classroom. This should change their attitudes toward those they are assigned to serve, as they work with those people in a nonconfrontational activity. This will be much more effective than hours in a classroom, which will have little, if any, effect in how police perceive those they are hired to serve.
Phil Anderson, Burnsville
Rule ensures better treatment for us
The notion that the upcoming sick leave rule hurts jobs is just more anti-employee propaganda by a business industry that complains bitterly any time it is forced to provide reasonable accommodations to its employees (“Sick leave rule hurts jobs,” Opinion Exchange, June 22). For too long, wealthy business owners have controlled the narrative that anything that helps their employees live a better life is bad for business, things like rules against bullying or sexual harassment or in this instance, paid time off when an employee is sick.
These employee mandates are necessary for a very good reason: the unwillingness of employers to provide a humane working environment for their employees. Instead of the employer vs. employee dynamic, the commentary writer complains the focus should be on growing jobs and healthy individuals and families. However, it is not the employees who have for generations skewed the priorities away from paying a living wage and providing paid time off for rank-and-file workers; rather, it is the business owners themselves who have devalued their workers, paying them pitifully low wages while providing lavish salaries and perks to senior management. If business owners don’t want mandates forced on them, then it is up the them to treat their employees better.
As a member of the working class, I am glad that government is on the side of the working man and woman, especially since it is clear that American business most decidedly is not.
Donald Voge, Robbinsdale
History, as always, is complicated
A recent letter writer is correct that Theodore Roosevelt — whose statue in New York City outside the American Museum of Natural History is set to be removed — was the first president to invite a black person, in this case Booker T. Washington, to dinner at the White House (“Watch what you call ‘troubling,’ ” June 25). But there’s more to the story, as I learned from the new book “The Black Cabinet” by Jill Watts.
When white politicians later heard about the dinner and complained, the White House put out the story that it wasn’t a dinner but just an “informal, impromptu working lunch,” writes Watts. Black leaders called on the president to correct the record, but he refused.
Beyond the lunch vs. dinner flap, Watts points out, “Roosevelt’s overall record on race was far from progressive.” Among other examples, she notes that he refused to send federal troops to protect black residents of Atlanta from violent white mobs in 1906. Later, he blamed African-American “criminality” for the violence there and elsewhere and made excuses for those who committed lynchings (whether he ever used the phrase “very fine people on both sides,” I can’t say).
What is that old saying about those who cannot remember the past?
Anne Hamre, Roseville
BUS RAPID TRANSIT
A faster way to transit equity?
I question how current transit planning of the D and E bus rapid transit lines leads to equitable outcomes (“Transportation access creates real change,” Opinion Exchange, June 19). Under the current planning paradigm, routes would run from downtown to suburban park-and-rides.
To back up a bit, Minneapolis consists of two types of neighborhoods: legacy streetcar neighborhoods and postwar neighborhoods. Streetcar neighborhoods are lined with duplexes, fourplexes, small apartments and small businesses while the latter are largely single-family homes. Line D south of E. 50th Street and Line E south of W. 36th Street are where neighborhoods transition to largely single-family homes until the lines terminate at suburban park-and-rides.
Would equitable outcomes be more quickly achieved by a broader focus on streetcar neighborhoods over the next three years? This could include lines along Nicollet Avenue, Central Avenue or Broadway Avenue. Then later, if warranted, the D and E Lines could be extended to the suburban park-and-rides.
I don’t know the answer. However, this seems to be a good question to ask leaders of these neighborhoods.
Ronald Hobson, St. Louis Park
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