16 July 2021

NOTE FROM NORM: A New Generation of Leadership

The death of the big American City didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen on purpose.  It happened because increasingly “progressive” politicians re-purposed their obligation to lead their communities forward to leading them into the ground.

America’s great cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Paul, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York City, Portland, and elsewhere have gone off the rails as elected officials have abdicated their duty and responsibility to keep their cities safe, clean, and affordable.

Seattle spent considerable time preparing to enact a so-called “Poverty Defense” policy into law and effectively giving a free pass to anybody who wanted to steal to turn around and say, “I did it because I was poor.”

The District Attorney of Los Angeles made it clear he will not prosecute, according to an Opinion piece in The Hill Bernard Goldberg, “… Trespassing, disturbing the peace, a minor in possession of alcohol, driving without a license, driving with a suspended license, making criminal threats, drug and paraphernalia possession, being under the influence of a controlled substance, public intoxication, loitering to commit prostitution, resisting arrest.”

Under the guise of “Progressive Prosecution,” cities across America, aided and abetted by elected officials, district and county attorneys, and a host of other organizations and institutions, have increasingly ignored “quality of life” crimes despite clear evidence that doing so undermines law and order.

The Twin Cities of Minnesota – one the home of the worst American riots in a generation, the other home to a steady decline of law and order – are increasingly beset upon by a myriad of escalating and accelerating crime problems brought on upon them by advocates pushing to abolish their police departments, County and City Attorney’s refusing to enforce basic quality of life laws, and elected officials who think they are above the law.

One of St. Paul’s State Representatives pulled over for failing to properly have his car equipped with license plates, cried “Racism” when a Saint Paul cop, simply doing his job, pulled him over during the offense. The City’s Mayor has been silent while the State Representative attacked the cop doing his job as a racist. Yet, at the same time, the City’s Police Chief, perhaps one of a handful of the only adults and leaders in the Capitol City, rushed to publicly support his officer and call the offending State Legislator to account.

The State Representative who attacked law enforcement before, during, and after his campaign for public office finally allowed body camera footage of the traffic stop to be made public, but only after failing to explain why he didn’t pay child support, had no apparent legal address in the state or district in which he ran and was elected to represent and why he had a Wisconsin driver’s license but not a Minnesota driver’s license.

Elected City and County Officials have been attacking the Ramsey County Sheriff, one of the most forward-leaning law enforcement professionals in the country, for having the audacity to be transparent with the people he serves by showing them what life looks like for a member of law enforcement every day and night.  His “Live On Patrol” live-streaming program, seen by millions across the country, has a goal, “, to help inform and educate the public regarding the job of law enforcement in hopes of building community trust and relationships through transparency.”

Those elected officials and activists protesting his show cry foul. Saying “their” communities don’t want the Sheriff in their neighborhoods, showing them what the people they represent already know to be true:  That crime is increasing. Violence is escalating, and fewer and fewer of them feel safe in their own homes.

It isn’t the citizens who don’t want the Sheriff pulling the mask off the violence in their neighborhoods.  It’s the politicians who want to keep it a secret and want the Sheriff and his show taken off the air.

One of the most violent cities in America, Baltimore, now has a State’s Attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby, who is touting the fact she will no longer prosecute, according to the Washington Post, “…drug possession, prostitution, trespassing, and other minor charges.”

“The era of ‘tough on crime’ prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” Mosby said. “We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system, and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.” 

San Francisco, which has seen an explosion of homelessness and, along with it, increasing levels of crime, also chooses not to prosecute these crimes and allegedly wants to focus on “violent crime.”

We’ve seen this show before when in the 1950s, New York City’s Mayor Robert Wagner relaxed police enforcement of quality-of-life crimes.  By withdrawing police from subways and many neighborhoods, the Mayor’s policies simply allowed crime to flourish, travel, and ultimately decimate neighborhoods that were already beset upon by many social and economic problems.

The promise by these “progressive” politicians and prosecutors to focus on “violent crime” has done nothing but result in increases in violent crime.

So, what are the American people living in these cities to do?  Mayors who won’t stand up for cops, city councilmembers who attack cops and law enforcement, state representatives who cry
“racism” when they break the law and potentially have broken other laws, and prosecutors who won’t prosecute crime are all breaking the back of America’s largest cities.

Cops leaving the force, taxpayers leaving the cities, and crime and criminals filling the void is not perception for millions of Americans; it is their reality.

It’s not the wealthy who are under attack in America’s biggest cities. It is the middle class and the poor.  It is minority communities – communities already devastated by poverty and lost opportunity – that are now being preyed upon by those who know that there are fewer and fewer obstacles to stop them.

The panhandlers on the corners, the homeless living in tent cities within cities, the drunk and disorderly and mentally ill that wander the streets need help and treatment and the hand of the government to get them into shelters that provide a real opportunity for recovery and a better life.  Not the smug condescension of liberal politicians who believe leaving them alone and ignoring them is the moral imperative of our time.

The moral imperative of our time is to take back our streets in the name of the American citizen.

The moral imperative of our time is to return law and order to our neighborhoods, to support law enforcement, to reform the criminal justice system, not ignore it, to bring treatment and hope to the homeless who need drug, alcohol, and mental health programs and treatment and not shove them into a homeless camp or street corner and leave them alone.

Above all else, it’s time to speak up, speak out, and take action.  Support candidates for local office who understand that the first priority of government is to protect its people – all of its people, not just the privileged and powerful.  Speak up and speak out against those public officials and the policies they support that undermine the rule of law, make our communities less safe, and care more for virtue-signaling platitudes than they do for policies that grow jobs, create economic opportunity, and protect all of our citizens – not just those with the means and resources to take care of themselves.

If necessary, run for office yourself.  You may not win, but you will be heard, and your ideas, beliefs, and passion account for something.  Perhaps it will give voice to thousands, perhaps millions, of others who know that things are going in the wrong direction in American cities but feel powerless, hopeless, and voiceless.

In 1992 I ran for Mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, because I saw the City I loved being turned into a laboratory for liberal experimentation.  A city where the Mayor and others wanted to follow the twisted logic of the current Hennepin County Prosecutor, who, as a State Senator, implored us not to call gangs involved in criminal activity “Gangs” because it would stigmatize them.

But St. Paul wasn’t the only place being damaged by this type of thinking. There was talk of the death of cities. Crime was rising, the middle class was abandoning the cities for the suburbs, and the future seemed bleak.

In response, Mayors across America – Giuliani in New York City, Rendell in Philadelphia, Riordan in Los Angeles, Daley in Chicago, and me, in St. Paul, adopted a strategy based upon the “Broken Window” philosophy of law enforcement and community safety.

The premise being that if you stay on top of the so-called “minor crimes” such as vandalism and loitering – you create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness. But, on the other hand, if you don’t fix the broken window, if you leave the graffiti on the sides of buildings, if you ignore the gangs, you create an atmosphere of disorder and lawlessness.

My progressive predecessor, as Mayor, told the cops not to bother the panhandlers in downtown St. Paul, and the result was a disaster for the downtown, for retail, and for the employees who worked in the central business district.

When I got elected, my direction to our police department was that it didn’t make a difference if you had .50 or $50.00 in your pocket – you can’t urinate in the streets, harass shoppers, or torment workers.

The results were transformative.  Downtown began to recover, it began to prosper, and the entire City benefitted from the improvement.

Citizens in every neighborhood, regardless of race, income, or class, party, or ideology, supported my campaign for Mayor because I wasn’t afraid to make it clear that my first job as Mayor was to return law and order to our streets and safety and security to our communities.

Nearly 24 years since I left the Mayor’s Office, the City I love, live in, pay taxes in, vote in, and still care deeply about has City leaders afraid to take on the crime and the criminals in its streets.

America, the country I love, live in, pay taxes in, vote in, and still care deeply about, has national leaders unwilling to take on crime and criminals in our streets.

Those of you reading this, agreeing with it, wondering what you can do, I tell you this:  Don’t just “Like” this post – don’t wait for me, or somebody else, to take up the mantle of leadership and change things.

Years ago, John F. Kennedy told us, It is time for a new generation of leadership, to cope with new problems and new opportunities. For there is a new world to be won.

Yes, share this post with others – but more importantly than that, share your passion with others and get involved, make a difference, speak up, speak out, run for office, and above all else, remember every moment of great change in America didn’t start with a movement.

It started with one person.

May that person be you.