Letter to Mayor Rybak after a Meeting about the Drop-in Center

March 10, 2007

R.T. Rybak
Mayor of Minneapolis
City Hall - 3rd floor
350 S. Fifth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Dear Mayor Rybak:

Yesterday, during your “Open House” period, I brought you a proposal for a drop-in center in north Minneapolis that would serve the social needs of disaffected young people who are vulnerable to being lured into a life of crime.

The outlines of this proposal were developed by Spike Moss, a long-time activist on the north side. It called for the annual expenditure of approximately $200,000 to employ four to five staff persons and pay maintenance expenses for a facility located near Broadway which would be open much of the time and be available free of charge to persons off the street with activities of interest to today’s young people. The idea is to put out the welcome mat to all in our community, especially those in a certain age group who are made to feel they are part of an unwanted “surplus population”, and perhaps steer them in another direction than life in gangs.

Your administration has recently budgeted an increase in police, which most in crime-ridden neighborhoods would support. The fact is, however, that many whom the police arrest are soon released without meaningful punishment. Some judges are averse to sentencing offenders to prison; and, in any event, jail and prison space is in short supply.

Under those circumstances, the best and most cost-effective crime-fighting strategy is to prevent crime. It is to provide resources on the front end that would give young persons a “place” in respectable society where they can socialize with their peers, develop contacts and social skills, follow their dreams, and thus become peaceful, law-abiding members of society.

I met with you for ten or fifteen minutes. My general conclusion was that you were not inclined to offer any help to this project. You expressed certain opinions which, I believe, show a misunderstanding of what I was proposing. Let me address each of these concerns.

First, you said that no single program would do. The city already had a range of programs to serve youth. I was not asking you to abolish the other programs and put their resources into my proposal. All I was asking was that the city have a drop-in center, or something like it, that would provide direct, hands-on services to young people on their terms.

The $200,000 estimated annual cost was a modest amount considering what is already being spent. In fact, I was not even requesting that the city provide the money. I wanted your personal support for such a project and, perhaps, suggestions on where to go to find the money. Your endorsement would go a long way in making this project happen.

Second, you said that you preferred to put money in existing programs and not start a new one. I am told, however, that the city of Minneapolis does not have a single drop-in center for young people. You yourself were unable to name one although you did name several “youth programs”. I don’t care what you call it - there needs to be a place, with some supervisory staff, where young people can simply spend time socializing with their peers, equipped with some of the electronic gadgets or other amentities that young people enjoy. The idea is not that they be court-ordered to spend time at such a facility, or be enticed by material incentives, but that people want to be there.

If the city does have such a program, I would support it. If there is no such program in the city, then this is a serious hole in your crime-fighting program. I will insist, and I’m sure the organization which I represent (Metro Property Rights Action Committee) will insist, that you have such a program if you are serious about dealing with youth crime.

Third, you said that the city has a $500,000 annual “youth violence grant” for such purposes and Spike Moss was welcome to apply for it. You gave the impression that you thought I was asking for preferential treatment in wanting you to endorse a particular drop-in center.

Let me say that I have no financial interest in this proposal other than that which might result from improved property values if my neighborhood were a bit safer. I also have no long-term association with Spike Moss. He was a guest at our Metro Property Rights Action Committee meeting where the crime problem was discussed. I thought our discussion was too important not to take action. I asked Moss to put together a specific proposal for a drop-in center which he said was needed. He did that. Spike Moss used to run such a center and he has credibility with the types of people whom such a center would serve. I thought it better to bring something specific to you as a proposed solution than talk with you in general terms about youth services.

Let me put it another way: The issue is not that Spike Moss or I are seeking any financial “goodies” from the city and are wanting you to put us at the head of the line ahead of the other applicants. The issue, in my eyes, is that, in failing to have a drop-in center for young people in north Minneapolis, the city is failing to provide an important, cost-effective deterrent to crime. That is your responsibility.

If one of the existing programs already provides this service, fine. Show me and I’ll support it if that program is effective. But my understanding is there is no such program. Holding meetings about crime is not such a program - you need to provide direct services for the people who are or might be involved. The city has a responsibility to do that. I am asking you to exercise leadership in this area.

I am also asking you or your staff to provide that list of existing youth programs which you said you would provide. I want to make further inquiries to see what is available.


William McGaughey

cc: Spike Moss


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