Governor, Minneapolis play blame game over crime

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Memorial to victim
A makeshift memorial to victim Michael Zebuhr, who was shot and killed in the Uptown area of Minneapolis last month.
MPR Photo/Art Hughes

Last month's fatal shooting in the Uptown neighborhood, and another fatal shooting last weekend outside the Block E entertainment complex downtown, are causing many people to ask whether the city is safe for visitors. Both victims were young men who didn't live in Minneapolis, and were enjoying a night out in the city.

Gov. Pawlenty responded to the killings by questioning Minneapolis' budget priorities.

Pawlenty says "Move on"
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has questioned Minneapolis' spending priorities, saying the city has "frittered away" money in other programs which could have been redirected to public safety.
MPR Photo/Laura McCallum

"They got a lot of money, for example, sitting in the neighborhood revitalization programs that in my view are getting frittered away, or at least not spent on high-priority items," said Pawlenty. "One suggestion amongst others is, quit putting the money into the neighborhood revitalization programs, at least part of it, and get it into more concentrated efforts, particularly in the north side and some of the troubled neighborhoods in downtown and in Minneapolis."

"I think the governor forgot his own actions," responds Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis.

Ranum says Pawlenty should stop blaming the city.

"He's the one that went after local government aid. He's the one that fought against the increase that we got last year," said Ranum. "No one can underestimate what has happened to public safety in the community of Minneapolis, or for that matter, in other communities."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak responds to Pawlenty's criticism by pointing out that Pawlenty's budget cut the city's state aid by more than $30 million.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Pawlenty pushed for local government aid cuts when the state faced a $4.5 billion deficit. He said then that cities and counties should tighten their belts along with the state. In the case of Minneapolis, local government aid was reduced by some $37 million, or about one-third.

At the same time, the city lost some federal funding, and eliminated about 120 police officer positions. Last year, the state partially restored the city's LGA funding, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says the city added 71 new police officers.

"Our highest priority is to put money into officers on the street," said Rybak. "Any money that comes back from the state, we will guarantee it will go into public safety -- and especially, first and foremost, into presence of police officers."

Rybak says he has no authority over neighborhood revitalization funding because of state law, but says he's talked to the neighborhood programs about working with the city on public safety.

Gov. Pawlenty is the one that went after local government aid. He's the one that fought against the increase that we got last year.

Apart from the blame game, state leaders have different ideas on what to do about crime in Minneapolis. Three of the city's DFL senators say the state should spend $180,000 to expand a camera surveillance program being used in downtown Minneapolis. The money is included in a Senate public safety budget bill.

Sen. Linda Berglin says the state should pay to link the program to cameras in high-crime neighborhoods.

"In downtown Minneapolis, they have reduced the number of incidences. They've reduced purse-snatchings, they've reduced panhandling, they've reduced nuisance crimes, they've made downtown more livable," Berglin said.

The Minneapolis lawmakers say they want people to feel safe coming to their city.

Gov. Pawlenty didn't fund the Minneapolis camera program in his supplemental budget this year.

Since Pawlenty accused the city of "frittering away" money, his office has talked to the mayor's staff to schedule a face-to-face meeting later this week. Rybak says he looks forward to talking to Pawlenty about the city's efforts to fight crime.

A Pawlenty spokesman says the governor wants to meet with Rybak, Interim Police Chief Tim Dolan and other law enforcement officials to see if there are ways the state and city can work together to lower crime.