By Matt Johnson
In November 2017, the voters of Minneapolis will be voting to affirm the current members of the Minneapolis city council and Mayor Betsy Hodges or they will be voting to replace the current set of policy makers with new council members and a new mayor.
For Mayor Hodges, she will have her hands full with Nekima Levy-Pounds who is a civil rights advocate and former president of the Minneapolis NAACP. Levy-Pounds, who is also a former professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, was a staunch advocate for the prosecution of the two Minneapolis police officers who were in involved in the death of Jamar Clark in November of 2015.
But her run for the mayorship is prescient because as mayor she would have direct access to the department of civil rights and the Minneapolis police department. A Levy-Pounds mayorship would have direct access to both areas of the criminal justice system and would provide the local civil rights leader and lawyer with a unique opportunity.
If Levy-Pounds were to win in November of 2017, she would be the first Black Lives Matter member or leader with direct access to criminal justice policy, which has been one of the main objectives for the movement. As she retorted after the police shooting of Philando Castile just outside of St. Paul earlier this year,
I’m tired of the laws and policies on the books being used to justify murder. This is completely unacceptable. Somebody say, ‘Enough is Enough.’
But these criminal justice challenges don’t exist on their own. They interact with the economic system and other systems to create these depressed environments. So what additional challenges would a Mayor Levy-Pounds and the new city council have to deal with in North Minneapolis?
North Minneapolis, specifically parts of the 4th and 5th Wards under the leadership of Barbara Johnson of the 4th Ward and Blong Yang of the 5th Ward, has been contending with exacerbated levels of crime, unemployment, education, and housing issues for the past three years. In fact, North Minneapolis has been dealing with these socio-economic challenges for much longer than both council members have been in office.
I have been analyzing this data for more than a year, and although socio-economic factors such as unemployment and foreclosures have been decreasing overall in the city, when compared to the other wards in Minneapolis, both the 4th and 5th Wards have been retaining larger populations of unemployed and foreclosures. In fact, according to the data I’ve collected from the City of Minneapolis, the 5th Ward remains the ward with the highest number of crimes and unemployed.
In addition, the North side is still contending with hundreds of empty residential and commercial lots. And unfortunately, each day these lots are empty, the people of Minneapolis, especially those who reside in the most systemically depressed areas in the city, miss out on increased economic activity, stability, and vitality from tax payers, tax revenues, business revenues, and additional jobs those hypothetical businesses might create in those depressed North Minneapolis neighborhoods.
In short, if Nekima Levy-Pounds wanted to say that those residents in many parts of North Minneapolis experience a different economic and criminal justice reality from those not in parts of North Minneapolis, she wouldn’t be wrong. The crime and economic data are clear.
And it’s doubtful the current mayor or the city council could produce any examples of policies they have put forth or passed over the past few years that have produced any tangible results. The data and mathematics favors Levy-Pounds’ arguments.
It’ll be interesting to see how this mayoral race proceeds over the next 11 months. And if Levy-Pounds defeats Mayor Hodges, then it will be interesting to see how policies influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement affect the depressed and non-depressed systems in Minneapolis.
Will these policies be able to cut through the bureaucracy that is government? And will they be able to improve the lot of those groups who have been historically disenfranchised?
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