Monday, July 12, 2010

A Call For Discussion and Action - How Do We Stop the Violence Now? Part 3 - City Council Starts to Respond

City Council Swearing In Ceremony, January 2010

In Part 1 I shared my "call to action" email. And in Part 2 I shared some responses from police officials.  Here I will share some of the responses received from city council offiicals. Note: I received a response in the form of a phone call from Don Samuels, 5th Ward, but it's hard to share that here, I mean it's not like I'm recording the phone calls or anything! Don and I talk often, matter of fact we had talked after the "7 shootings" and before my "call to action email".  I was actually preparing to go protest at the Guv's mansion and take anybody along with me, but Don talked me down from that ledge. Thanks, Don!

Here's a response received from Elizabeth Glidden, Ward 8 (parts of south, both east and west of 35W)

Dear neighbors:

Let me first say that YES, the health and safety of Northside residents is a priority for the entire city. The Chief and Inspector Martin, who have already responded to you, are more appropriate to talk about tactics of the police that are both responsive to and proactive in addressing unacceptable levels of violence that are again affecting children and young adults. As a policymaker, I support budget decisions that have prioritized public safety and economic development in North Minneapolis and will continue to do so.

I want to tell you about efforts I am personally involved in that impact the health and safety North Minneapolis. As a current member and the recent past-Chair of the Youth Coordinating Board, a joint powers board with the City, County, Schools, Parks and Libraries created by Mayor Fraser, I am focused on how to better support young people throughout Minneapolis. Supporting challenged youth is a critical aspect of addressing public safety. Here are some initiatives of the Youth Coordinating Board I want to highlight for you:

* Youth are Here Bus: Creating a transportation initiative to help youth get safely from activity to activity -- we have prioritized the northside route, which has been widely seen as successful for kids and organizations on the northside

* 500 under 5: this is a critical early childhood initiative that focuses on working with the entire family so that good parenting is taught with providing quality early childhood ed. The project area is in North Minneapolis.

* We want you back: This year, the YCB is teaming with public and private parners in an important effort to get kids who have dropped out of school to get back in school. This is based on a successful model from Houston, Texas. I've attached some descriptions of this program here that are hot off the press -- we are working now to build community support and seeking voluteers for this effort.

Please let me know if you have questions on any of the work of the YCB. Yes, my colleagues and I are very concerned about violence on the Northside. We must continue to review our actions and ask if we are doing all we can. I appreciate your taking the time to contact me.


ELizabeth Glidden
Ward 8 Councilmember
(612) 673-2208

Here is a response I received from Cam Gordon, Ward 2( parts of NE and SE)



Thank you for writing me about safety in North Minneapolis and thank you for your efforts to make this a safe city. I wanted to add my perspective the responses you have been getting.

I too feel angry and sometimes hopeless in face of what is happening. The story about 7 shootings in 7 hours was especially painful and the young ages of those involved especially disturbing. The story reminded me of how in early January of this year, three people were murdered by two young men in the Seward neighborhood, which I represent. The problem of youth violence clearly affects us all, though it certainly hits some neighborhoods harder than others.

This kind of news is even harder to hear because so many of us have been focusing on reducing youth violence for years, and I am saddened and frustrated that we have not been able to make more progress. Preventing youth violence has been a priority of mine for at least three years. I helped with the development of a long-term Blueprint for Action to prevent youth violence that is gaining national attention as a model for addressing youth violence. Unfortunately, much of it is unfunded or underfunded.

The Mayor and my colleagues on the Council have agreed to compliment the work of the Blueprint with an immediate, on-the-ground violence interrupter mechanism called Project Ceasefire. The city has allocated $100,000 towards this and we are trying to leverage that amount and solicit another 200-250,000 to launch it. This model has been shown in other cities to reduce homicides between 25-48% in the first year of implementation. Ceasefire staff have indicated to us that they believe there is an even greater probability to address the violence in Minneapolis than in other cities. Unfortunately, this doesn’t address the problem now, but we are moving aggressively to implement what has been shown to be the best model at preventing shootings and homicides in the country. We hope that we can get this up and running by January of next year. Our staff are also looking for creative ways to find more funding for youth violence prevention from every level of government and from foundations.

This story was also especially disturbing because it came just after the Supreme Court has made it significantly more difficult to enact local gun control laws by ruling the Chicago handgun ban unconstitutional. We actually call this out in the Youth violence Prevention Plan that was passed unanimously by the City Council. One goal states, “Support sensible illegal gun laws and work to change community values around the acceptance of guns. This includes seeking stronger penalties for people who sell and distribute illegal guns, and profit from the sale and distribution of illegal guns to young people.”

The fact is that there were 7 shootings that took place in 7 hours all on the north side, despite all our existing laws, despite all out education efforts and despite all the efforts to get guns off the streets including a gun buy back initiative in North and South Minneapolis just over a week ago. We must do more to get guns off the streets and keep them out of the hands of our children and young adults.

First, we need to start reframing gun violence as a public health crisis. Preventing firearm injuries is a public health imperative and, nationally as well as locally, the costs to society are alarming when examining the intersection of homicides and suicide related deaths involving firearms. We need serious and significant public education efforts that can shift our thinking away from using violence to solve problems and seeing guns as acceptable and worthwhile.

Next we need to improve the laws/regulations that ban or at least regulate the acquisition of unreasonably hazardous and ammunitions and firearms in light of what others cities are doing and in response to the recent Supreme Court case. Chicago has already responded with its own new ordinance.

Chicago’s new city ordinance does the following:
· Bans gun shops in Chicago.
· Prohibits gun owners from stepping outside their homes, even onto their porches or garages, with a handgun.
· Limits the number of handguns residents can register to one per month and prohibits residents from having more than one handgun in operating order at any given time.
· Requires residents in homes with children to keep them in lock boxes or equipped with trigger locks.
· Requires prospective gun owners to take a four-hour class and one-hour training at a gun range. They would have to leave the city for training because Chicago prohibits new gun ranges and limits the use of existing ranges to police officers. Those restrictions were similar to those in an ordinance passed in Washington, D.C., after the high court struck down its ban two years ago.
· Prohibits people from owning a gun if they were convicted of a violent crime, domestic violence or two or more convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Residents convicted of a gun offense would have to register with the police department.
· Calls for the police department to maintain a registry of every handgun owner in the city, with the names and addresses to be made available to police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders.
· Those who already have handguns in the city — which has been illegal since the city's ban was approved 28 years ago — would have 90 days to register those weapons, according to the proposed ordinance.
· Residents convicted of violating the city's ordinance can face a fine up to $5,000 and be locked up for as long as 90 days for a first offense and a fine of up to $10,000 and as long as six months behind bars for subsequent convictions.

I am convinced that it is time for the people of Minneapolis to look closely at of Chicago and D.C.’s provisions and figure out how we could pass such similar legislation in Minneapolis.

Finally, if we admit that hand guns and ammunition are a public health threat we need to start looking to ways to hold the industry and users responsible for the costs associated with that.

There is already a federal excise tax on bullets and sporting arms (11 percent) and handguns (10 percent) that gets split among the states. The tax goes into the Pittman-Robertson Fund, which was created in 1937 for conservation purposes. Imagine what a modest state tax on bullets and hand guns could offer to help cover the health costs associated with gun violence and provide funding for gun violence prevention efforts throughout the state.

I know theses are only partial solutions and I am ready to admit that I don’t have the answers to the persistent problem of violence we have in Minneapolis, but I am ready and willing to share the potentially good ideas I find and work with you and any one who is willing to join the struggle to end the violence that plagues our neighborhoods and make this a safer city for everyone.

Thanks again for writing and I welcome your continued input on these and other ideas that are being considered to improve life in Jordan and throughout the city.

In peace and cooperation,

Cam Gordon
Minneapolis City Council Member, Second Ward
673-2202, 296-0579



  1. What a great response Counselman Gordon. Chicago and D.C. have shown great success in keeping violence in the streets down.

    That is the problem with our elected officials. A problem is addressed to them. Their solution does not address the problem.

    I would put money on it that if Minneapolis enacted a Chicago like gun ban that the violence would not change one bit. A few weeks ago in Chicago there were 50 people shot in one day.

  2. I'm sure the anonymous commenter above was using the sarcasm font in the first paragraph and switched back to reality font in the last 2 paragraphs.

    I sort of agree and disagree with the above comment. I really did appreciate Cam Gordon's response and the work and effort Cam is putting into many things, including gun control, youth violence epidemic and police brutality issues.

    I'm not a gun control expert and I'm somewhere in the middle on gun control issues. I'm very anti-handgun but at the same time I also feel like if criminals are running around strapped with handguns then decent people need to be too. I really wish youngsters would duke it out in a good old fashioned fist fight like back in the day.

    And the violence in Chicago is absolutely astounding. And scary. Scary to think the streets of America are so lawless. Scary to think we are spending billions and billions to protect and instill law and order in other countries yet we seem to be completely complacent with lawless and out of control violence in our own neighborhoods.

    This inner city thug world must be drastically and positively altered. Complete intervention. I'll be writing more about my thoughts on why this thug world underclass is a total drain on society and why we must all be involved in the solutions to help rescue some people from their own lifestyle choices.

  3. When guns are banned only criminals will have them.