Gophers cry "Don't Fence Me Out" in Murderapolis Alley-Oop

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The Gopher State's own Jeff Yager ducks into a shady side street to let us know that the great city of Minneapolis is considering banning all pedestrian traffic in city alleys. Civic leaders note, with some pride, that this would put the city ahead of the rest of America in the race to make everything suck. Houston, Oakland, and other metropoles have banned alleys in certain neighborhoods, but the City of Lakes will vote today on whether to close all 455 miles of alleys in town. The big sticking point seems to be whether all Minneapolitans should be banned from walking down alleys or whether the restriction should only apply to the poor:

"They want it in my part of the world," [Council Member Robert] Lilligren said Wednesday. "This would give the police and the community an additional tool to hopefully eliminate that kind of traffic to help ensure the safety of all of our citizens."

[Rutgers University criminal justice prof.] Clarke, on the other hand, said a more targeted solution is more sensible.

"Why does it have to be city-wide? I don't think there is much sense in that," said Clarke, author of a 2002 U.S. Department of Justice report, "Closing Streets and Alleys to Reduce Crime: Should You Go Down This Road?"The best thing to do is to focus on alleys in poor areas that are often exploited for crime," he said.

I've always liked the Mini-Apple, and the North Star State generally, for its blend of blue-state living and red-state prices (or maybe it's that Minnesota offers Canadian style right here in America), but who can defend a city council that has deadlocked over this issue because they have their public safety committee has an even number of members? The council committee voted 2-2 on this issue last week, prompting council president Barbara Johnson (voting in favor) to declare, "This is a tale of two cities"—an inspired witticism in a metropolitan area universally known as the "Twin Cities."

And in one last thing that makes you go hmm, consider this cri de coeur from a local resident:

At last week's meeting, Rosie Cruz said she supports the proposal. She's tired of seeing the prostitutes harassing her son and loitering near her backyard in the Phillips neighborhood.

"I'm sick of it," Cruz said.

If nothing else, we'll get to test the old law school stumper: If you get a legal abortion in an illegal back alley, have you broken the law?

Update: Go go, Gophers! The full council has rejected this silly bill with all the force of 1,000 10,000 lakes.

NEXT: Any Day Now, Kids Will Be Sipping Martinis in Math Class

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  1. “At last week’s meeting, Rosie Cruz said she supports the proposal. She’s tired of seeing the prostitutes harassing her son and loitering near her backyard in the Phillips neighborhood. ‘I’m sick of it,’ Cruz said.”

    Yes, but how does her son feel about it?

  2. “At last week’s meeting, Rosie Cruz said she supports the proposal. She’s tired of seeing the prostitutes harassing her son and loitering near her backyard in the Phillips neighborhood. ‘I’m sick of it,’ Cruz said.”

    Yes, but how does her son feel about it?

  3. Are they gonna have Alley Monitors? Do you have to have an Alley Pass to cut through an alley?

  4. Some stream-of-consciousness thoughts:

    Probably for the best it failed. Enforcement would’ve been haphazard at best, and socioeconcomic-class-oriented at worst.

    However, for the ultrapure “all roads should be toll roads” libertarians, the result would be in line with an all-roads-private situation. At the very least, the ordinance would have made the alleys explicit defensible space (http://www.defensiblespace.com/start.htm).

    If rich people can have gated communities, why not poor people?

    Though it would have been even better if the proposal was for the city to relinquished ownership or alter easement definitions on the alleys and returned them to adjacent properties. The (fully public and township maintained) street of one of my childhood houses was an easement on my parents’ land; their property line was the center of the street.

  5. Thank God they voted this down. Oh, Tim, there are 10,000 lakes in MN (okay, really closer to 14,000) not 1,000. We take pride in those lakes.

  6. I live in a city that’s heavily “alley-ed.” And the prospect an ordinance that ….would have prohibited all but property owners, tenants, their guests, police, garbage haulers and others with business on the block from alleys. … actually strikes me as attractive. To have street people who help attract rats by rooting around in the recycling carts and dumpsters behind the apartment buildings on my block disappear, along with the drivers using the alleys as a way to avoid the traffic on the city streets – often to the peril of residents trying to toss the trash or walk to their parking spots – would be no bad thing. But I’m not naive enough to believe that our city’s police force has the manpower to actually enforce such a law, at least not uniformly. It’s already illegal to filch aluminum from those carts, and driving through an alley merely to beat traffic is also against the law.

    What I’d like to see is the city issue tickets to the guys driving pizza delivery from the joint directly across the alley from my building for failure to make a full stop before turning onto the city streets, speeding in the alley, failure to signal, failure to yield to pedestrians and the aforementioned use of the alleys as shortcuts.

    Even better, make the alley a condominium-type property for the adjoining buildings, and let the homeowners decide how it is to be used.

    Kevin

  7. I’m sorry they voted it down.

    Think of all the fun we could have had mocking them.

  8. Lakes? They’re frozen too much of the year to call them lakes. Slushies would be more accurate.

    I’m lucky I survived my tenure there. Florida to Minnesota is not a smooth transition, let me tell you. And I was there for the infamous 1991 Halloween Blizzard after living there for all of six weeks. My first real snow. Thirty-one inches in one day.

    My brother and I were both treated like exotic visitors from Tahiti. I was involved with a girl back here at the time, but he was extremely popular with the ladies. Probably because they were hoping that he’d take them back with him. I know Minnesotans officially insist that they live in paradise, but 80% of the people I met from there asked me why I would leave Florida to live in the tundra. Good question. It’s a nice place, but humans shouldn’t live there for more than two months a year.

  9. If the MPLS city council was serious about reducing crime in the city, they’d disband. They’ve produced 3 felons in the last 5 years.

    More so, this is a reaction to the city’s sharp jump in crime recently. It should be no suprise. The city council and the voters got a stick up their butts and constantly repeated over and over again that the police department had a problem with racism. No one I ever asked about it could explain why they beleived it. It seemed ot be based on faith. In the mean time they let the nbr of police drop by over 100 officers (too busy cuttings sweet tax breaks for condo developers) and brought in a new police chief to address the alleged race problem. Suprise, suprise, a mild winter and a warm summer and crime goes up sharply. The answer isn’t trying to control alleys (unlikly to hold up in the courts, anyway) but in getting some officers back on the street.

  10. Now I know why NYC has the lowest crime rate of any large American city: no alleys! We put our garbage out front where it belongs, and reap the benefits of low crime!

  11. of course the idea that the ally ways could be deeded to the adjacent land owners (which most allys were originally set up as but over progressive years stolen by municipalities) with a common easment completely flew over the heads of the planners who came up with this bullshit…

    One way to keep the hookers and drug dealers out of YOUR ally would be to charge them with trespassing.

  12. joshua – thank you, that’s what I was thinking but didn’t know enough about it to really comment. Seems like a property rights/tragedy of the commons kinda thing.

    Good luck convincing the city to give land back to people who could actually exert some control over it, though. They’d rather be able to write citations and collect the fines themselves.

  13. lowdog,

    Actaully Keith said it before me:

    Though it would have been even better if the proposal was for the city to relinquished ownership or alter easement definitions on the alleys and returned them to adjacent properties. The (fully public and township maintained) street of one of my childhood houses was an easement on my parents’ land; their property line was the center of the street.

    I didn’t see it before so I didn’t copy but he did say it before me so credit is due.

  14. joshua – duely noted! 🙂

  15. Hey, what’s this got to do with me? I’m busy travelling through time with my girlfriend Ooola, beatin’ up bad guys.

    Alley Oop

  16. We actually do have a few back alleys here in NYC, but they’re not the norm citywide.

  17. I’m happy that it failed. City cops have better things to do than patrolling the alleys, demanding id to know whether people walking through actually live there. Maybe they can spend their time actually investigating crimes that are committed. The local paper noted last week that in almost half violent robberies and felony assaults, no investigator is assigned to the case.

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