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POVERTY AND CRIME IN MINNEAPOLIS

 

The population of Minneapolis, Minnesota is composed of 63% whites, 10% Latinos, and 18% African Americans. The city has been governed exclusively by mayors from the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFLP)the state affiliate of the Democratic Partysince 1978.

Prior to the permanent Democratic takeover of Minneapolis (in '78), the city's poverty rate had been consistently lower than the national average. Then, through most of the 1980s, the ripples of the Reagan economic boom had a positive effect on cities nationwide. This trend included Minneapolis, which added some 3,000 new jobs to its downtown area each year from 1981-87. As of 1983, only 8% of the city's metropolitan-area population lived below the poverty level, as compared to approximately 15% of the national population.

In 1981, then-mayor Donald Fraser—a member of the DFLP—collaborated with the Minneapolis City Council to create a privately funded Employment Strategy Task Force where 39 business and civic leaders brainstormed to find ways of stimulating the creation of local employment opportunities that would not be dependent upon public-sector resources. After 9 months of discussions, the task force published a detailed Employment Strategycalling for the creation of neighborhood-based job banks that—under the leadership of private-sector business partners—could each provide employment and job-training services to narrowly targeted sections of the city. According to the University of Minnesota's Center for Urban & Regional Affairs, “By 1986, the cumulative positive impact and significance of the affiliated neighborhood job banks began to be felt throughout the city.”

But by 1988, Mayor Fraser had grown highly troubled by the stark contrast that existed between those sections of his city that were thriving economically, and a number of African-American neighborhoods where crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency were widespread. Fraser believed that the proper remedy for the income inequality that he saw, would be to revamp the way in which social welfare expenditures were allocated. Specifically, Fraser held that federal and local agencies needed to focus more of their attention and financial resources on the economic and social problems confronting unwed mothers (who were disproportionately black) and their children. Toward that end, he stated that the Head Start program and other early-childhood-education and day-care initiatives could be invaluable for imbuing young girls with a measure of self-esteem that would subsequently serve to prevent them from becoming pregnant as unwed teenagers.

Fraser's successors as mayors of MinneapolisSharon Sayles Belton (1994-2001), R.T. Rybak (2002-2013), and Betsy Hodges (2014-present)have shared this same core belief in the importance of massive public expenditures on social-welfare programs and wealth-redistribution initiatives. The result has been disastrous. As of 2015, the poverty rate in Minneapolis was 25.3%, nearly twice the 14% statewide rate for Minnesota and the 14.3% rate for the United States as a whole. Moreover, 8.4% of Minneapolis residents in 2015 had incomes that were lower than half of the official poverty level, as compared to a mere 4.4% of all Minnesotans who fit that description. These differentials are consistent with a longstanding, well-documented trend: Virtually all of America's poorest cities have been led politically by Democrats for many years, even decades.

By no means is financial hardship in Minneapolis limited solely to low-income residents. Indeed, the city's homeowners pay higher property taxes than their counterparts in most other metropolitan municipalities across the state. In a study of 142 metro areas in Minnesota, for instance, only 15 bore a heavier property-tax burden than Minneapolis as of 2010, and that was before the city raised its property taxes by 4.7% in 2011. More recently, Minneapolis property taxes increased by 3.4% in 2016, and by 5.5% in 2017.

Notwithstanding these onerous taxes, the government of Minneapolis has proven to be incapable of covering its own expenses within the confines of a balanced budget. In 2015, for example, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s budget included $84 million in federal subsidies and grants. In 2017, the Metropolitan Councilwhich describes itself as “the regional policy-making body, planning agency, and provider of essential services for the Twin Cities metropolitan region”—received $91 million in federal funding. That same year, the Minneapolis Public Schools operated with a budget deficit of nearly $17 million.

But massive deficits, coupled with ever-increasing dependency on federal assistance, have done nothing to persuade the political leaders of Minneapolis to question their leftist political value. Consider, for instance, their commitment to “sanctuary” policies that prevent city employees from alerting federal authorities to the whereabouts of the many illegal aliens who reside there. For example, when President Donald Trump in 2017 announced that he planned to cut off all federal funding for sanctuary cities, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges defiantly said: “Donald Trump is doing his best to punish cities that have separation ordinances by threatening funding to cities. That is a big problem. As long as I stand as Mayor, he’s going to have to get through me.”

Just as Minneapolis residents face significant economic challenges, so must they deal with the city's sizable crime problem. In the early 1990s, crime began trending downward in much of the U.S. for various reasons, including the decline of the crack cocaine epidemic, more aggressive policing strategies, and harsher punishments for criminal behavior. New York City, under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and police commissioner William Bratton, led the way in this regard with their CompStat crime-tracking system and their use of the so-called “broken-windows” approach to crime-prevention. In comparison to other cities, Minneapolis was slow to adopt the new law-enforcement and criminal-justice strategies and thus lagged behind the national trend for several years. But once the city changed its ways (e.g., by incorporating CompStat) in the late 1990s, it likewise experienced a significant reduction in crime.

Nevertheless, crime rates in Minneapolis remain far higher than statewide and national figures alike. For example, in 2015 the violent crime rate in Minneapolis was 2.9 times the national average. Included in this figure was a murder rate of 2.3 times the national average, a rape rate of 3.5 times the national average, a robbery rate of 4.5 times the national average, and an assault rate of 2.1 times the national average. All told, Minneapolis ranks among the most dangerous 5 percent of all U.S. cities.

 

This piece was posted in 2017.

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