So This Is Swaggerapolis
“I think it goes without saying but we’ve had a massive uptick in violent crime, specifically shootings. And some of the worst community/police relations in a long time. And that’s the mayor’s job. The police report exclusively to the chief. And the chief reports exclusively to the mayor. And that’s how it works.”
In October of 2017, at the height of the campaign for Minneapolis mayor, I wrote a piece called “Swaggerapolis: is it what we really need?”. The article led with this quote by then candidate Jacob Frey:
“The mayor’s job is to set the tone and to set the vision. We need to regain our citywide swagger.”
Given that Frey was a first term councilperson running against two-term councilmember and Minneapolis’ second female mayor, Betsy Hodges, I took issue with the gendered language and arrogance of his statement. Frey was largely running against what he deemed as Hodges’s failure to lead during the occupation of the 4th Precinct following the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark by a Minneapolis police officer. In this context “swagger” seemed a not-so-subtle inference that it was time for a man to take over. (See this brief clip of candidate Frey.)
Well what goes around…. now the tables have turned, and Frey is the incumbent facing ongoing criticism for his mishandling for the nights of arson and violence that destroyed whole sections of our city following George Floyd’s murder. I have compassion for any mayor who has to deal with officer-involved shootings, but Frey’s inaction and misreading of the realities on the ground made a tragic situation much, much worse — and continue to this day.
The StarTribune and PACS like All of Mpls — run by a former Frey campaign staffer and funded by his wealthy donors — are trying mightily to paint a picture of a strong mayor held back only by the ineptitude of the Minneapolis City Council. While I won’t give the council a free pass, this is untrue; according to the current city charter the Minneapolis Police Department answers ONLY to the mayor and the city council has no power over the police.
The inability of Mayor Frey to rise up and meet the challenges facing our community continue to cost this city in every conceivable way: homicides are up 108%, shootings up 153% and carjackings up an astonishing 222%. Hotrodders are taking over city streets, choking regular traffic and causing danger to both onlookers and nearby residents. The explosive rise in crime is not the only impact: the City of Minneapolis is self-insured and paying out huge settlements to the Floyd family and other victims of police violence, including journalists and protesters who were seriously injured by law enforcement’s irresponsible use of “non-lethal” rounds during the 2020 protests. These settlements are so large that the monies set aside for the city’s self-insurance fund cannot cover them, and settlement dollars have been taken from the city’s general fund.
For over a year we have lived in a city in turmoil with a mayor too often missing in action. The issues at play are complex and evoke strong emotion. Words like “defund” and “abolish” have been used in emotional settings, perhaps unwisely, but Frey and his All of Mpls PAC have willfully exploited this moment in the most cynical of ways. As he said, the mayor sets the tone, and it is at this that Frey has failed most spectacularly.
Four years ago Jacob Frey bragged about bringing swagger to the mayor’s office, to which I responded, “Minneapolis doesn’t need swagger… Swagger is an empty suit. Minneapolis needs substance, strength, and unwavering commitment to build a city that will not just grow and prosper, but will embed Wellstone’s vision of our collective betterment in all its endeavors.”
There is no reasonable measure by which Jacob Frey has earned a second term as mayor of Minneapolis.
Camille Gage, an artist and writer, lives one mile from the intersection where George Floyd was brutally murdered. She is supporting former Minnesota state representative Kate Knuth for Minneapolis mayor.