Forget Brett Favre; We got Larry Fitzgerald and Marion Barber

With most of Vikingland obsessed with the new quarterback, your Mayor has been focused on getting REAL talent to work for our us.

Today was the draft for the Fantasy Football Leagues that pits me against Mayors from around the country….including the Mayor of Green Bay who, get this, picked Adrian Peterson. (May as well pine for our ENTIRE backfield.)

Working with my son Charlie…(o.k., Charlie did all the work….) we drafted Minnesotans Larry Fitzgerald and Marion Barber. We also got Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe, Ryan Longwell (take that, again G.B. Mayor), Philip Rivers, Thomas Jones, Antonio Bryant and….get this….the entire Minnesota defense.

So cheer real loud at the game Friday…and I’ll be there with Charlie to welcome Brett….but know that when Mayors from around the country are drafting also rans….YOUR Mayor is bringing home the bacon.

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Tornadoes, strong neighbors and fast response

When the horrible weather hit I was surprised—like most of us—but also proud that almost the moment the tornado hit, city crews were on the scene and neighbors were fanning out to help each other.

With the rain still pouring down, our police and public works employees were on the streets, assessing the damage and beginning the process of opening streets.

My first stops were downtown, esp. the Convention Center, where we saw water coming into a corner of an exhibit hall, and Central Lutheran Church, where one of the beautiful historic steeples was bent. I also checked in on the Electric Fetus music store, which had roof and water damage but, true to form for a store that has survived pretty much everything, they were planning to be open again by morning.

The worst of the damage was concentrated in south Minneapolis, roughly south of Lake, east of Portland, west of 35W and north of 47th.

Traveling with Chief Dolan and Asst Fire Chief Fretal, we spent most of our time in the area around 41st. St. and 5th Av. That intersection had serious loss of trees but here—as in most of the city—almost every tree fell between houses. A couple in this area had garages that were completely leveled…one smashed by a tree, the other seemingly blown directly into the back of the house.

In spite of all the visible damage, police and inspections staff who were going door to door didn’t find a single person seriously injured….which was a real blessing.

Mostly what I saw this afternoon was neighbors checking in on each other, helping others pick of the debris and being very thankful nothing was worse.

I also was so appreciative of the great response by the city team…and that wasn’t an accident…..The Emergency Operations Center was activated immediately, the teams in the field knew what to do, Regulatory Services had people in the neighborhoods making sure all the contractors who showed up were licensed and bonded.

So far so good….at least all things considered. Please tell anyone that if they have any questions they should call 311….which will be open until 11 tonight. We also want everyone to check in on their neighbors. Even in a house where there may be no damage, a person may has sustained an injury so check in on those who could be alone.
And be thankful that while we lost some beautiful trees…we didn’t lose more.

My Statement on the Police Traffic Stop Video

We take incidents like this very seriously. We hold our police officers to high standards of conduct because it is essential that people know they can depend on the police to protect and serve. It is my hope that our police officers and community members always trust and respect each other.  

I have discussed the situation with Chief Dolan and I believe that the Chief is taking the right steps to address this incident by asking for an outside review by the FBI, as well as immediately conducting reviews by our Internal Affairs and Training Units.

Chief Dolan has a record of taking tough disciplinary action against officers when our high standards are not being met, and he has supported officers when they have acted appropriately in dangerous situations.

The video footage of this incident was captured from a police squad car video only because the City of Minneapolis has made the decision to place video camera technology into our squad cars. That decision to install cameras allows us to have the necessary tools to provide visual evidence to clarify complicated situations like this one.

Park Board Amendment Should Fail

Minneapolis voters should reject an attempt by the Park Board to gain unlimited taxing power. Sadly, it looks like a campaign has presented enough signatures to put this question on the ballot in November. 

Earlier this summer I opposed the failed ballot initiative that would have eliminated the MPRB, and now I also oppose this amendment, which would give an independent body unlimited power to raise property taxes without fixing the core challenges facing our parks.

Instead of trying to put half-baked ideas on the ballot, people need to focus on fielding youth sporting teams, building soccer fields, cleaning the lakes, and fixing other critical park issues. We have serious challenges facing our parks that I’m ready to help address, but people need to stop playing petty politics and spreading false fears about non-existent threats and instead focus on real problems.

This charter amendment is not about who loves parks or about an independent Park Board. The move to eliminate the Park Board failed overwhelmingly on June 3, in part because Council President Johnson and I helped kill it. We don’t need more distractions; we need to stay focused on fixing our parks and recreation centers.

As a lifelong resident who loves parks, I believe that our parks are an essential part of what makes Minneapolis great. But it is a mistake to think that because people love parks that they want huge tax increases without accountability. I am confident that voters will see through the misinformation used to collect these signatures and reject this amendment.

Bill Blake: Planting seeds of safety

(My comments at Friday’s memorial for Minneapolis Police Sgt. Bill Blake.)

RED LAKE, MN:
It’s fitting we celebrate the life of Sgt. Bill Blake in August – because if you understand August in Minnesota you understand his life, and his life’s work.

Those of you lucky enough to live here in northern Minnesota, and those of us who drove up from the Cities, know how beautiful August in Minnesota can be. August is what reminds us why we put up with winter. Fields and forests that had been cold and bare are now lush and green. Seeds planted in tougher times are beginning to flower.

Bill Blake was a man who planted seeds, whose work in those tougher times is beginning to flower for the rest of us.

Bill Blake came onto the Minneapolis Police Department almost two decades ago. He saw tough challenges. At one point the neighborhoods he was protecting had become so violent they were called “Murderapolis.”

Those of you who knew Bill knew he saw firsthand what violence did to neighborhoods. I remember one night a number of years ago when both Bill and I were at a community meeting at Little Earth. A mother came up, understandably angry and frightened, and told about seeing an assault weapon in the unit next to where she was living with her young child. “How would you like YOUR child to see that?” she asked.

I knew what that meant from my own mother, who had to sell our family’s drug store, a few blocks from Little Earth, after she was held up several times at gun point. Bill knew even more directly, when his own daughter was killed in neighborhood violence.

For many people, probably most people, that would have been enough. They would have left, taken another job, transferred somewhere else. But Bill Blake planted seeds. He reached out to neighbors and brought them closer than they had been to police. He built bridges between law enforcement and American Indian nations that were stronger than any that had been built before.

Now those seeds he planted in bare ground are beginning to flower. The neighborhoods around Little Earth are now significantly safer. Great progress is being made to reduce American Indian violence.

A young American Indian child who plays safely in her neighborhood may not know Bill Blake in his life, but she will know his life’s work.

This should be the August of Bill Blake’s life. He should be able to walk into a gathering like this filled with his friends and know how loved he was. He should be able to see people walking safely in the neighborhoods he helped protect and feel a sense of pride.

Bill Blake died way, way too young.

But sometimes those who plant seeds leave the harvest to others. On safe walks and quiet nights we will reap what Bill Blake sewed.

And in those moments, if we resolve to plant seeds of our own, Bill Blake’s life, and lifework, will live on for seasons and seasons to come.

It takes a community to fight crime

Many thanks to Minnesota Public Radio for running the following commentary from me on their new website:

To this day I remember what I felt three years ago at the funeral of Brian Cole, a star North High basketball player getting ready for college, who was killed in Minneapolis at the hands of another young person.

I stood at that funeral, one in a string of similar funerals that year, and watched a line of Brian’s peers walk by. In anguish and despair, I pledged to get to the bottom of what was driving youth violence in Minneapolis.

Since then we have invested millions of dollars into public safety. We have implemented cutting-edge strategies now being copied by other cities. And we have rallied this community into action.

In the process, we have broken up dozens of gangs, taken violent criminals off our streets, closed down problem properties that sucked police resources, and injected crime prevention into the center of our public safety strategy.

Now I’m proud to see that crime in Minneapolis is not only falling for the third straight year, but is at the lowest level it’s been in nearly a decade. Violent crime midway through 2009 is the lowest in eight years, and the city’s homicide rate is the lowest in 25 years.

For the first time since 2001, none of the homicides in Minneapolis so far this year was of a juvenile. Other types of violent crime — robbery and aggravated assaults — have seen double-digit percentage reductions every year for five straight years. Even lower levels of “livability” crimes are down more than 22 percent.

This progress on reducing crime was no accident and it wasn’t easy. We made safety our top budget priority, we gave police the tools they needed to be more effective, and we paired tough law enforcement with aggressive crime prevention. Working together, we made Minneapolis much safer — in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

While we’ve made great progress, we shouldn’t stop working at it. These are tough fiscal times, but we must continue to pursue our strategy with proactive, community-oriented policing and by involving the community more directly in our efforts.

To keep crime falling in Minneapolis, our residents and businesses must become part of the solution. Everyone has a role to play. We need residents to join block clubs and work with our police officers to build neighborhood-based safety plans.

We need businesses to do their part and partner with police to keep crime from gathering in any of our commercial corridors. We need community organizations to invest in programs that help struggling families keep our kids on track and out of harm’s way.

Working together we can continue to make this city and this region a safe place to call home. In the process, we can be a model for other cities plagued by crime, to show how a community pulls together in a time of need.

What you can do at National Night Out to make this a Safe Place To Call Home

Neighbors carrying hotdish, Jello, brownies and all kinds of foods will be setting up tables and chairs tonight in streets across Minnapolis….part of the largest National Night Out in the country.

This will be a great time to talk with your neighbors, but this year Night Out will be even more important for our goal of making every part of Minneapolis a safe place to call home.

We will be coming together to celebrate remarkable progress is driving down crime. We are also asking everyone in Minneapolis to use this night to build an even stronger connection with our police.

We are asking everyone in Minneapolis to sign up for our new Safety Alerts that you can receive by cell phone, through e-mail, or online. Anyone can sign up to stay connected with public safety news in their area, including crime alerts, community updates, and important advisories. Signing up http://www.nixle.com/. (On the page, you can find Minneapolis under the “Featured cities” section.)

This is one more step in our drive to spend this next few months developing neighborhood safety plans for all parts of the city…using input from residents and block clubs to impact where we put our police resources.  So have a good meal, meet more new neighbors and take a minute to sign up for alerts that can make you another partner in our effort to build, and protect, safe neighborhoods.

To find the full list of events, visit the City’s National Night Out web page .