A candidate, a crime, and a big, ugly mess in St. Paul

Why didn't Melvin Carter III think to have the serial numbers of his father's guns tattooed on his body?

Why didn't Melvin Carter III think to have the serial numbers of his father's guns tattooed on his body? Xavier Wang, Star Tribune

It’s tough days out here on the mean streets of St. Paul, with the winter winds blowing in early like the cold caress of an unfeeling matron.

You gotta pop that collar on the black leather jacket a little bit higher to keep the biting air out, which believe me, I know how to do, having learned from the best. But when you’re talking about politics, no amount of jacket manipulation is going to keep out the nasty influence that seems to have popped up, clearly from our dirtbag neighbors to the west who don’t even know how to build a stadium that works right or keep traffic flowing.

See, unlike you folks in Minneapolis — the dingy Gotham to our shining Metropolis — St. Paul doesn’t play with the kind of politics that ruins communities. We like our signage art deco, our industrial sites vacant, our buildings no more than three stories tall — more than that, and there’s too many for me and the Souche to tell. And unlike the sort of political nonsense the Mini-Apple gets up to, we like our local races to be good, clean, mostly white contests. Hell, we’ll even elect a Republican mayor every now and then, if his smile pulls on his earlobes like a crazed honey badger, and he was a Democrat when we first voted for him.

But this past week, we’ve seen the sort of Minneapolis-style nonsense that I can only characterize as the political version of a bunch of dodgy-looking characters, possibly furries, coming to my town and trying to wreck it. You can read all the details elsewhere because tough-guy journalists such as myself are Men Of Ideas And Imagining Action At Some Point, but I’ll summarize: The St. Paul Police Federation — not to be confused with the actual police department — sent a letter somehow connecting a burglary at mayoral candidate Melvin Carter III’s house, which had occurred back in August, with recent gun violence on our pavement. It seems that these thieves got their hands on a couple of guns that haven’t been found.

Now, why would one of St. Paul’s DFL stalwarts have — gasp — guns on his premises? (Answer: um, because they'd belonged to his dad, Melvin Carter Jr., a highly respected cop for 28 years.) Why didn’t he have them locked up? (He did, they were in a lock box, more security than a lot of owners use.) And why didn’t he have the serial numbers tattooed on his chest in case they were ever stolen? (Maybe he’s tattoo averse.) But clearly, this was something the leadership of the St. Paul Police Federation felt everybody needed to know.

Because when you’re a victim of a crime, it’s fair game for the police union to share those details publicly if you’re running for the same office as their endorsed white guy candidate, Pat Harris.

Of course, in this social media age, the shock was immediate, so immediate that Harris gave an apology so sincere he should look into a career as a troubled NFL superstar. So immediate in fact, that the mailer from a pro-Harris political action committee attacking Carter with the very same issue (using an out-of-context Star Tribune quote) didn’t hit mailboxes until the next day, prompting another round of outrage.

This mailer was put together by the nonsense-named “Building a Better St. Paul” PAC and a public affairs firm called Velocity, which is the sort of shop where people think it’s okay to pose for photos in sports coats and blue jeans, aka the “Political/Business Casual Mullet.” It was funded by a whole host of organizations and individuals — including the police federation, Chamber of Commerce, and the labor unions the 49’ers and Teamsters 120, many of whom then sprinted with *ahem* maximum Velocity to make sure everyone in St. Paul knows that they didn’t approve of the message they'd just paid for.

The flier and letter were widely condemned, including by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman — who’d probably rather be running his own campaign for governor or hanging out at the Palace instead of dealing with stupid party insider crap right now. Coleman demanded the SPPF board resign, and Harris followed, saying the same. Now Carter supporters are clamoring to note that Harris’ response time has been pretty slow. Harris supporters are defensively arguing that Harris did enough.

Maybe there are more scathing fights on social media happening right now. I don’t know, I haven’t checked Twitter in a couple hours because I’m not some goddamned millennial, and if I could find a way to blame them for this astronomical mess in my great Capitol City, I would. Because that’s what tough guys like me do, we blame millennials. And crime victims. And PAC donors with Minneapolis and Bloomington and Blaine mailing addresses.

Maybe you folks should stay out of St. Paul’s city elections. You already fill my town (and the bar at Kelly’s/Best Western) with enough of your crap when the Legislature is in session. Or better yet, go cause problems in Minneapolis. They’re used to it over there. And maybe the leadership of the St. Paul Police Federation, who are doing an A-plus job of making every rank-and-file cop in St. Paul look shitty right now, should stick to their job duties, like keeping tattooed women out of Joe Soucheray’s neighborhood.

In the meantime, I’m sure none of its members will mind a department-wide audit of how your personal firearms are stored, secured, and recorded, no matter who ends up being mayor.