City Council Member Don Samuels is a crime-fighting, phone-recovering, civic superhero
"Not your toilet drunkie."
Jason Tester | Flickr Creative Commons
Don Samuels is the City Council member who represents Ward 5, better known as north Minneapolis. But on Sunday morning, he used a long editorial on the front page of the Star Tribune's opinion section to suggest he might also be the closest thing to Walker Texas Ranger you're going to find in City Hall these days.
At the start of Samuels's story, he's just a guy trying to do his neighborly duty, an elder reminding kids not to pee on the street. By the end of the essay, though, he has: 1. Successfully gotten a string of abbreviated curses into print ("Get the f' outta here before you get your f'ing ass kicked, M.F."), 2. Enlisted the cops in a sting operation ("I have no idea if they knew I was a City Council member"), 3. Dropped some serious moral tutelage, complete with this line, straight from the mouth of Chuck Norris: "'You were punking the chair of the Public Safety Committee. The police department reports to me!'"
Let's take a closer look at Samuels's saga, (at least according to the council member's retelling):
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The evening starts innocently enough. "It was light dusk," Samuels writes, "as I left home to fetch my daughter from the movies in south Minneapolis."
He's driving along when he sees a tall guy, "about 6 feet 2," peeing against a building, with a shorter friend waiting for him to finish his business. "They were in a good mood."
Samuels rolls down his window and says, "'Guys, peeing in public is illegal. You really shouldn't be doing that.'"
Surprisingly, the two men don't thank him for this advice. "The big guy, the pee-er, bent at the waist and glared at me as he walked. 'What you say bitch? You talkin' to me?' he asked. 'Yes, I am talking to you, and I'm saying that I saw you pissing on the wall, on busy West Broadway, and that is illegal. You shouldn't do that.'"
Already, Samuels has coined "pee-er." But this is where things start to escalate. After a few back-and-forths, the "pee-er" threatens to kick Samuels's "f-ing ass," and Samuels's "street outrage and savvy [kick] into overdrive."
Samuels jumps out of his car. The pee-er tells Samuels he's acting so crazy that he "got to have a piece." As they're talking, Samuels writes, "I knew something was getting out of control."
In the meantime, the small friend has sidled up to Samuels's open passenger window. As soon as Samuels realizes this, the two guys take off laughing, and Samuels sees that his iPhone's gone.
He races home, calls the cops, goes to pick up his stranded kid, and then grabs his wife's phone to activate the "Find My iPhone" app. Then, "the miracle began, and the night switched from gritty urban tragedy to a story of tech magic and reclamation."
It's debatable whether a City Council member getting his iPhone jacked qualifies as "gritty urban tragedy," but after waxing about the wonders of maps and trackers for a while, Samuels gets to the part of the story where the cops recover his phone and advise him not to press charges. Samuels agrees, as long as they bring the thief to "the scene of the crime" to deliver a "heartfelt apology."
Now that he's not with his tall, peeing friend, the iPhone thief is contrite. Samuels tells him his side of things, and the thief agrees, responding to everything, according to Samuels's account, with "yes, sir." Then Samuels launches into the moral of the story.
"'Now,' I said, 'consider this. Here I am, a 63-year-old black male of this largely black community. I see two young black men breaking the law and pull over to caution them, and I am cussed out, threatened, intimidated and chumped. I did not call 911, I didn't have a gun, and I was simply interacting with you as an older man to two men. Now, two hours later, here we are with you saying 'yes, sir' to everything I say. But the reason I am earning your respect is not my age or the respect I gave you but the respect you have for two white cops with guns. What has become of our community?"
The lecture continues from here, with Samuels extrapolating into domestic violence and child abuse, and calling the guy "scary." The thief thanks Samuels for sparing him his "first felony."
Then comes the moment the readers have been waiting for: The big reveal. Samuels goes to his car, gets one of his business cards, starts talking about school, work, and housing opportunities, and tells the thief that he's been a city council member all along. (This is where that "The police department reports to me!" line comes in).
There is, yes, something over-the-top about all of this. But if the whole confrontation happened anything like Samuels says it did, there's something kind of awesome about it, too. Don Samuels, serving up the lessons that everyone always wants to serve up when they see some idiot peeing in public.
And for the record: No, it's not City Council campaign season. Samuels isn't up for re-election until next year, though we hope this story makes a second appearance for fall 2013.
Two questions remain. To the other 12 City Council members: Have you fought urine for your city recently? Meg Tuthill's already on this beat, crusading against the patio pee-ers afflicting Uptown nightlife. But the rest of the council should consider the bar raised.
And more importantly: Nice that the thief got taken down. But what happened to the pee-er? Good citizens of Minneapolis, keep an eye out.
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