Meeting with Star Tribune editorial board representative

On October 22, 1996, a delegation of Minneapolis landlords associated with Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee met with Denise Johnson, an editorial writer at the Star Tribune. The delegation included Charles Disney, Judy Adams, William McGaughey, Robert Anderson, and Alan Morrison.

They presented the following types of landlord grievances:

(1) Neighborhood politics in Minneapolis is basically a politics of hate directed against private owners of rental property. Landlords are regularly called “absentee landlords” or “slumlords” in its discussions. They are blamed for the crime occurring in or near their properties. This message of hate, whipped up by certain City Council members, serves as a cover for various harsh and sometimes illegal activities directed against landlords by city officials. it breeds an attitude of contempt for landlords within the police and inspections bureaucracies, from top to bottom.

(2) On the theory that tenant misconduct or damage to rental property is a “civil matter”, the Minneapolis police refuse to intervene in crimes in progress in certain rental properties. Sometimes they refuse to issue written reports. In certain neighborhoods, the quality of police work is poor. The officers do not wish to put themselves at risk or do work any more than is necessary; and, where rental property is concerned, they can get by with very little work.

On the other hand, the Minneapolis police department has an aggressive public-relations arm called CCP-SAFE which undertakes “community policing”. This unit’s main message seems to be that “problem properties” rather than individual criminals are responsible for the visible crime in neighborhoods. The solution is to punish buildings or their owners, not the perpetrators of the crimes. This is also a devise to shift the blame for the city’s inability to control crime away from city officials and the police and toward private-sector landlords. In effect, landlords are held to higher standards for doing police work than the police themselves.

(3) City inspectors are sometimes tyrants who do the political bidding of elected officials. No one knows what meets minimum standards under the Minneapolis code. Inspectors, given arbitrary judgment, have the power to ruin landlords.


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Judy Adams’ Summary of Issues

A disproportionate amount of rental property is located in crime-ridden areas of the city where there is a concentration of criminals and poor people.

Rather than ticketing tenants for property damage they have caused, police and judicial action in response to community livability crimes is to charge rental property owners with crime-enforcement duties, responsibility for tenant-caused property damage, and tenant screening in nondiscriminatory ways. The consequences of crime fall on the property owner as properties are closed downor condemned.

We want effective police work in all neighborhoods instead of “redlining” crime to particular neighborhoods. We want public housing to take some of the “bad tenants”. We want inspectors to ticket tenants, not landlords, for the tenants’ property damage.

The city’s housing goal is to promote owner-occupied housing or rental property managed by nonprofits. The nonprofits sometimes purchase properties for a few dollars and then pour huge sums of money into renovation.
City officials say they want to get rental property “in the proper hands.” Their method of obtaining property from private owners sometimes amounts to confiscation. This is a real problem. The city is taking our properties without due process or just compensation as the Minnesota constitution requires.

The city has statutory authority to ticket tenants for their property damage but elected officials will not allow inspectors to do so.

City police officers are not enforcing trespassing, loitering, property damage, and drug dealing that occurs on the street.

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