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Report on the August 2007 Monthly Meeting

The August 2007 meeting of Metro Property Rights Action Committee was held on Wednesday, August 15, at the Martin Luther King neighborhood center (Nicollet and 40th St. S.) starting at 6:30 p.m. The featured speaker at this meeting was Jeff Fine, who owns three rental-properties in St. Louis Park and properties in other communities. The City of St. Louis Park has recently enacted an ordinance that applies increased penalties against landlords renting to persons who have engaged in criminal acts.

According to Fine, that city requires landlords and tenants to include an addendum in their lease that would force the landlord to evict tenants accused of criminal activity. The landlord would be fined each month that the tenant is not evicted. A problem is that the St. Louis Park ordinance does not distinguish between persons accused and convicted of crimes. In effect, landlords would be forced to violate tenants’ right to presumption of innocence in having to punish them before they are tried in a court of law. Whatever liability might result from this procedure would be the landlord’s. Presumably the crime problem in St. Louis Park would be solved as potential criminals were denied places to live within the boundaries of that city. Maybe they would go to Brooklyn Park or Minneapolis.

In St. Louis Park, as elsewhere in the Twin Cities, the city police assume little or no commitment to do effective police work. They hold landlords to a high standard of results in eliminating crime from their buildings while they hold themselves to no standard. The moderator suggested facetiously that, if an ordinance were enacted similar to that in St. Louis Park or Minneapolis targeted at the city police, the state of Minnesota might withdraw the charter from city government after a certain number of fatal shootings occurred on city streets in a year’s time and the city administration might be placed in receivership for a certain period. But, of course, government seldom accepts responsibility for its failures; the I-35W bridge collapse demonstrates that. Instead, local governments treat small businesses as entities beneath them on the food chain with respect to crime fighting.

The Star Tribune editorial board did its customary cheerleading for the St. Louis Park ordinance. Meeting organizers invited the writer of that editorial to debate Jeff Fine. Mr. Fine was willing, but the Editorial Board supervisor demurred with the observation that vacation schedules were especially heavy at that time of year. She would, however, pass along the invitation to her charges to see if there was any interest in attending the meeting. There was not. No one showed from the Star Tribune. Ill informed on this particular issue, its writers were apparently content to remain that way.

In the interest of a balanced discussion, officials of St. Louis Park government were also invited to debate or discuss the issue of its new ordinance with Jeffrey Fine. It seemed for a time that someone from the city might attend. But then, the chief of police, the logical candidate, decided that he did not wish to participate in this discussion. There was also no lower-ranking person available from the city. It was explained that city officials would be willing to meet with St. Louis Park residents; but since this was mainly a Minneapolis audience, the line had to be drawn somewhere.

The group did invite a community representative with the Jordan neighborhood up to the front table for purposes of holding a balanced discussion. Also, audience members participated freely from a side microphone. As always, the meeting was videotaped in half-hour segments for later broadcast on MTN Channel 17, Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Persons in attendance agreed that this meeting had successfully refocused Metro Property Rights Action Committee on its core issues.

 

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