Editor's note: This guest column is by John Mattsen of New Brighton, Minn., a retired federal law enforcement officer with a degree in secondary education, specializing in the social sciences, and a minor in psychology.
Gov. Tim Walz wants $35 million to pay for what he anticipates to be the potential cost for security during the upcoming trial of a former Minneapolis police officer involved in George Floyd’s death.
Wow! Could we get a discount if we had four events like this going on all at the same time?
There is a widely accepted myth persisting in rural Minnesota that rural tax dollars are being wasted by the city folk; they have all the power to fund projects like light rail that only benefit the people who live in the Twin Cities. If, in the view of rural Minnesota, this is all just a city of Minneapolis problem that has nothing to do with them, then the thought of spending $35 million on security must be especially repugnant. It seems likely that both the need for that much security and the cost of that security would do little to narrow the gap in Minnesota’s rural-Twin Cities divide.
There are solutions for this difficult situation that could end up reducing the amount of money spent on security while also narrowing the gap in the rural-Twin Cities divide. Let’s start with this: Set aside a dedicated fund of $35 million, making it unmistakably clear that every dollar spent for security is one less windfall dollar for solving problems that matter most to those creating the need for increased security now.
If this solution is adopted, demonstrators would have a choice between additional substantial funding for police-reform measures and other worthy causes (not of their choosing) or wasting $35 million on what the general public likely views as expensive, anger-fueled demonstrations — demonstrations that are likely to spread to other cities across the country and demonstrations that are likely to increase the gap in the city-rural divides nationwide.
Hmm, which to choose, which to choose? What would the public perception of a group like Black Lives Matter become if it chooses expensive anger over the constructive financing of solutions that could make things better for all?
Republicans blasted the governor for his measured security response to the George Floyd demonstrations and riots last summer, advocating as Monday-morning quarterbacks that the response should have been one with more overwhelming force. His requested $35 million now would buy a lot of overwhelming force. So, in theory, Republicans should be willing to pay for the extra security, right?
How can rural Minnesota make a gain from this $35 million expenditure on security? Every tax dollar not spent on security could be spent on something more constructive, like bipartisan efforts and programs that seek to repair the relationship between city folk and rural folk, a relationship that has been damaged by the negative effects of demonstrations and riots in Minneapolis. Repairing that relationship is something that needs to be done anyway, regardless of the $35 million expenditure for security.
More certainly, Republicans have expressed an interest in narrowing the gap in the city-rural divide. In the public interest and for the public good, right? Most certainly. Republicans wouldn’t stand in the way of a divided Minnesota becoming "one Minnesota," right? So, maybe, just maybe, this proposed $35 million cost for security could end up benefiting rural Minnesota, too.
This $35 million for increased security is emblematic of a much larger problem. If we put half as much time, money, and effort into working on solutions as we do working on problems, we would have half the number of problems. We don’t need to hear from all the people who can find ways to make this proposal fail. We need to hear from those who can figure out how to make this solution work.