Where the Buck Never Stops

Missing jobs and development in Jordan; cops' union leader blasts Olson

In recent weeks, the Jordan neighborhood has received an unusually generous dollop of media attention. Vigils for the murdered have been held, police patrols stepped up, community activists heralded. To hear the local press tell it--stop me if you've heard this one before--residents are reclaiming their neighborhood from gang violence one step at a time.

But amid all the ink and airtime, little has been said about the economic realities facing Jordan. There is empirical as well as intuitive evidence that gangs and crime gravitate toward areas that lack jobs and feature lots of run-down rental housing, two traits Jordan possesses in abundance. While the passing of the latest heat wave holds out the prospect that the neighborhood may get through the summer of '03 without major incident, there's no question that long-term change for the better requires an influx of jobs and development dollars.

And in that regard, Jordan has suffered more setbacks in the past year. Both a Target store and a Kodak plant bailed out of the West Broadway corridor, taking with them around 250 jobs (though Cub Foods, which will move into the Target location, promises to offer as many as 120 better-paying, unionized jobs).

River Run is awash in cash, while Jordan survives another drought
River Run is awash in cash, while Jordan survives another drought

The city does track jobs for residents on the north side, but results have been underwhelming at best. The Minneapolis Community Development Agency oversees "job linkage agreements" with small businesses around town, working in conjunction with welfare-to-work, dislocated-worker, and youth-training programs. Last year the program found nearly 332 jobs for unemployed north siders, but only 62 of those jobs were in the area. (Other city programs have notched similarly paltry numbers.) There's just no work on the north side, where nearly half the children live in households below the poverty line.

As vexing as these numbers are, city council member Natalie Johnson Lee and others point out that similar, once-blighted parts of the city have seen an influx of jobs and new housing in recent years, most notably across the river. While rapid redevelopment all over the city has led to much hand-wringing over gentrification in some neighborhoods, it's safe to say some communities would welcome such a problem.

"You've seen the transformation of Northeast," notes Johnson Lee, whose Fifth Ward borders West Broadway. "How do you get those strategies going over in Jordan?"

Gary Schiff, council member for the Ninth Ward, believes the answer lies in retail and housing redevelopment, which he claims has cleaned up troublesome blocks along Lake Street in his ward. "I don't think we have an aggressive economic plan to eradicate the problems on the north side," says Schiff, who has long questioned simply adding more cops to problem areas. "The city does not focus its resources there, but we've got development going on all over the rest of the city."

For instance, Schiff points to a proposed housing complex for the Sheridan neighborhood in Northeast, overlooking the Mississippi River. The 119-unit River Run housing project, which is set to receive $12.6 million in tax-free bonding from the city, has met with opposition from neighbors since it first surfaced in October 2000. Construction was to begin this fall and be completed by next August, but the council has delayed the project until several misgivings from the neighborhood association have been addressed.

"It's like the neighborhood doesn't want it or need it, so I say let's look into putting the money into Jordan," Schiff says. "But developers have no interest in people living in Jordan; they believe people all want to live on the river."

Third Ward council member Don Samuels, who represents both Jordan and Sheridan, says it's not simply a matter of shifting money from one neighborhood to another, and that it's too late to turn back on River Run anyway.

Besides, Samuels figures in other factors when talking about redevelopment in Jordan. For one thing, there aren't many vacant lots ripe for the picking on the north side, and any redevelopment would likely involve razing houses. Further, Samuels notes, he has a fear that higher-density rental housing in the area would only make Jordan's crime problems worse. "We need to be very careful and find out which kind of housing is right for the area," he says.

But this doesn't mean Samuels doesn't see Schiff's point. "If we are being honest about it," he says, "Minneapolis has had its racist past, and city leadership does need to play a role in changing that mindset."

"This may be something that the last two summers have shown everybody around the city," Samuels concludes. "We badly need jobs in that neighborhood and we badly need African-American dollars going into the black community." (G.R. Anderson Jr.)

 

Black and Blue

Everyone was on their best behavior last week when Sgt. John Delmonico came to Lucille's Kitchen to discuss police-community relations during a weekly Insight/KMOJ Public Policy Forum. After excoriating interim Minneapolis schools superintendent David Jennings for being a white male "non-educator" in the forum's first segment, a panel of black community leaders treated Delmonico, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, with kid gloves by comparison.

Even as the leader of the police union was recounting numerous instances of brutality and harassment by officers, the panel maintained a respectful tone and qualified its complaints with interjections like "I know some very good white cops."

Delmonico, for his part, sought to place the blame for police-community tensions on police administrators and local politicians. To demonstrate his case, he distributed copies of a "Community Relations Plan" the cops' union had proposed after last year's Jordan melee; the document called for measures such as video cameras in squad cars, public debriefings to explain the outcome of use-of-force investigations, and regular public forums to discuss community-police relations. "This document went to the chief, the mayor, and all 13 council people," Delmonico claimed. "I haven't heard one phone call back from it."

"It took the police administration 10 months to investigate [allegations of wrongdoing against an officer] and come out with a finding. That's unacceptable," Delmonico said later. "The complaint I have always had with the chief is, he doesn't always hold his command staff accountable. There used to be a lieutenant on every shift in every precinct of the city. They're gone. You're lucky to find a lieutenant on the street in this neighborhood after 12 o'clock at night." (Contacted by City Pages through a police department spokesperson, Chief Robert Olson did not respond to Delmonico's comments.)

Not all of Delmonico's one-note criticisms of the Olson regime passed muster with the panel, however. At one point he remarked, "We have asked the chief to lay out clear expectations of the department....In the nine years Chief Olson has been here, he has never addressed one roll call of officers and said, 'This is what I expect of you and this is what I am going to hold you accountable for.'"

The problem could not all be laid at the chief's door, countered one panel member. "Nobody [should have] to tell you to respect people when you stop them, not to beat them down when you see them, not to chase the children when you have issues. You need to realize that there is a history between us, and it is not good." (Britt Robson)

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