Last Wednesday was a bit of a wild one way out in Nisswa.
The sleepy Minnesota town (population roughly 2,000) 20 minutes north of Brainerd and two-plus hours away from the Twin Cities had not one, but two reports of suspicious activity in that single day, according to a crime blotter in the Brainerd Dispatch.
In one instance, someone reported receiving phone calls that were evidently unwanted. A sheriff's deputy gave the person a rundown of "options" to pursue about the calls.
In another, a car was seen stopped in a turning lane, not moving, for a full half-hour. "Deputies checked on vehicle and driver," the Dispatch reports, ending the narrative there.
Whew! What a crazy day!
Somehow, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) found the generosity of spirit to look past this madness in his own backyard to express deep concern about crime in cities more than a hundred miles away.
"I think Minneapolis and St. Paul should really think about the number of police they have available," Gazelka tells Minnesota Public Radio.
House Minority Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Zimmerman, 40-some miles north of the Twin Cities metro) joined Gazelka in his concern trolling, specifically as it relates to... sports tourists from his district.
Said Daudt: "People want to be able to visit a Twins game or a Vikings game, and they want to feel safe while they're there, not worrying about being attacked or mugged in broad daylight right in front of the Twins stadium."
The statement alludes to a disturbing video of a robbery and assault that took place near Target Field this summer, and was widely circulated in local TV coverage and on right-wing media nationwide.
Neither city is denying this year's been a rough one for crime: St. Paul's had 28 homicides so far this year, its highest figure since 1992, and the string of highly publicized muggings this summer saw Minneapolis' downtown robbery rate surge, year-over-year. (The subsequent arrest of 18 people suspected of involvement in a slew of robberies saw those numbers fall.)
Never mind that crime, locally and nationally, has decreased significantly over the decades. Statistics be damned, damn you: These men from far away are concerned!
To address these issues, Gazelka suggested disrupting the cycles of gang criminality through community-based solutions, common-sense gun control, and—
No just kidding. He wants more cops, expressing this idea in particularly vague "there goes the neighborhood" lingo: He doesn't like "the trend of where it's going," and "adequate police" would help "stop that."
Gazelka floated two ideas to put more law enforcement on Twin Cities streets. One would bring in the Minnesota State Patrol, a move used by two past Republican governors (Arne Carlson and Tim Pawlenty); another would force Minneapolis and St. Paul to use Local Government Aid (LGA) funding (a combined $150 million of the two cities' budgets) for public safety.
Neither is going to happen with a Democratic governor and DFL control of the House. But it is nice to hear a conservative finally go against the obsessions with local control and limited spending. At last, Paul Gazelka found something cities should spend money on: arresting their residents.
If you have advice for what his town of Nisswa should do with the $0.00 of LGA funding it's set to receive in 2020, apparently now's the time to speak up. Maybe that's still enough to figure out why that car was sitting in the turn lane?