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About Don Samuels, "slumlords", and crime

a debate on Minneapolis e-democracy forum

Bill McGaughey, August 9, 2009, 12:39 p.m.

It amazes me the types of issues that members of this list choose to discuss
and not to discuss.

In the category of nondiscussed items, we have the lawsuit reported in
yesterday's Star Tribune in which a north Minneapolis landlord, Morris Klock,
and his parents were suing Council Member Don Samuels for an alleged physical
assault against Klock in the Butter Roll Bakery on West Broadway in the summer
of 2007. Klock alleges that the Council member had him physically pinned
against the wall, threatening to rip one of Klock's body parts, while an aide
stood guard at the door. Samuels, who chairs the Council's Public Safety and
Regulatory Services Committee, reportedly told Klock that he would have
inspections harass him and, if the city inspectors couldn't find anything wrong
with Klock's property, Samuels would send his own inspectors who presumably
would.

This is pretty vile stuff. In fairness, the incident described above remains
an allegation. It has been taken to court and one would imagine that in time
the truth will come out. However, it's not too soon to start asking questions
considering that Minneapolis residents have only a small window of opportunity
- at election time - to express themselves effectively regarding the conduct of
their elected officials.

I attended the City Council hearing on the day (August 13, 2008) when the
Public Safety and Regulator Committee, chaired by Don Samuels, revoked the
rental license for a building in north Minneapolis managed by Klock which was
owned by Klock's parents. There are some interesting details.

The rental-license revocation, if I remember correctly, arose from the fact
that drugs had been brought into Klock's building on two occasions. Under
Minneapolis ordinance, a single incident of this type allows city officials to
demand that the landlord present a "management plan" to make sure that
incidents of this kind did not happen again. Klock had failed to submit such a
plan on timely basis. Worse yet, Klock's plan said that, to prevent drugs
being smuggled into his building, he would need to have a guard at the door 24
hours a day who would strip-search all visitors.

That was the last straw. Klock was obviously not cooperating with authorities.
To add insult to injury, Klock pulled out a small plastic bag filled with a
mind-altering substance which turned out to be tobacco. He said he had just
smuggled this substance into City Hall. If Minneapolis city government could
not prevent such things from happening at its headquarters, how could
individual city residents do it at their properties?

Finally, Klock described the incident at the Butter Roll Bakery and requested
that two police officers stationed in the Council chambers arrest Samuels
immediately. This obviously was not going to happen. I believe the reason
given by the officers was that the case was more than a year old. Now there is
a civil case in federal court whose outcome is not so predictable.

A number of issues are raised.

First, if Klock's allegation is true, what does this show about Don Samuels'
character and his fitness to chair the Public Safety and Regulatory Services
Committee? We don't allow police officers to assault people physically
(although some do) and neither should we allow the people who supervise police
to do this. The Council member is up for reelection in November.

Second, the city council might consider splitting the public safety (police)
and regulatory services (inspections) functions in its committee structure.
Too often police and inspections functions are confused. If we had different
people supervising those two functions, it would be more difficult for
inappropriate actions (inspectors carrying out police functions) to take place.

Third, Klock was making a lame protest against the absurdity of the system when
he proposed that all visitors to his building be strip-searched. Yes, it would
take such a measure to guarantee that no drugs came into the building
undetected. But the idea that a "management plan" could prevent this is
absurd. A landlord can no more guarantee that his building will remain crime
free by submitting a management plan than the Minneapolis police could
guarantee that no more crimes would occur in Minneapolis if it submitted a
management plan to the Council. We're playing games here.

We need more straight shooting from the Council and Mayor, and less game
playing. The appropriate response is for city police to sit down with property
owners whose buildings are plagued with crime and jointly come up with a
" plan", using the police's crime-fighting expertise. When Rybak was first
running for mayor, we property owners submitted to him, at his request, a
written list of suggestions along those lines. In eight years, there has been
no response from the city. They're back to doing things the old way. We need
closer cooperation between police and property owners, not ultimatums. City
inspectors should not be involved in such situations.

Ultimately, city officials will need to shoot straight regarding the question
of where criminals, people recently released from prison, and others thought to
have criminal tendencies are supposed to live. Should they live in public
housing? Should they live in particular crime-containment zones? Should they
go back to Chicago? If private landlords are supposed to reject such persons
in their tenant screening, why not pass an ordinance requiring this? Why not
set criteria? What is not acceptable is punishing landlords for offenses which
could be but are not yet on the books. A little more honesty is required from
our elected officials.

 

Carey Joe Howell, August 9, 2009, 1:19 p.m.

Several points immediately come to mind. The drug incidents you mention must be
a buy out of the property by a police officer, not simply an allegation of drug
activity.

Secondly, this generally happens after many calls from neighbors, reporting
ongoing problems over days, weeks or months of drug dealing activity on and
around that property. Then it is usually up to the folks in the neighborhood to
ask for the first letter to be sent. Don't blame Samuels, blame your own
tenants or blame their neighbors for not being the perfect victims because they
fight against crime in their neighborhood and sometimes against themselves.

Point of interest -

there are also homeowners who are dealing or harboring dealers as well,
it's not just renters. The council person gets constituent calls about those
properties as well.

Lastly, I am really curious why it took a year for these landlords to file a
lawsuit about this. It looks a little political to me.

Where were these renters and these landlords when Samuals was holding memorials
for murder victims in our neighborhoods? Where are the landlords when all this
dealing is going on? Really would it be too much to ask a landlord to maybe
show up on a Friday or Saturday night and see what his tenants are up to in the
neighborhood?

But it's not your problem is it? Although when there are consequences for
landlords for their choice of tenants they don't like it quite as well, do
they? Gives you a little taste of what the neighborhood endures when landlords make poor choices or just don't
care. Not very pleasant is it?

Most landlords are not slumlords but some are and if the name fits a slumlord
should wear it.

 

Guy Gambill, August 9, 2009, 1:49 p. m.

Greetings,

Jesus Christ...and there you have it...from just one of the great minds that
have
yielded the War on Drugs in America for nearly fourty years now... 30,000 plus
deaths last year in drug-related violence. 2.4 million people in prison... one
third of them for drug offenses. Hey, pretty sure we aren't winning this war right
now.

Can you give me any empirical evidence at all that this failed strategy will,
at some point, give us the desired results? What would happen if we legalized
the junk? Well, pretty sure we would survive just as we did for the rest of
recorded history. One thing is crystal clear... no poor people would be dealing dope if
it didn't pay, right?

Why can't they just get prescriptions for Benzodiazepenes and Vicodin like
responsible citizens...or get gassed on booze? Jeez, the nerve of these guys!
Oh, by the way, in addition to the City Ordinance there is the Federal
Provision governing trafficking or use in public housing passed under Clinton
in 1999.

And you said it loud and clear...if Samuels would quit pissing around with
the PEACE Foundation he would be at least passingly familiar with current
evidence-based practices around community policing...which he is not, surely.
I do believe that he is capable of the behavior that was described. I held an
Immigration reform public forum at the Urban League a couple of years back.
We all sat, 6-10 people per table and when I came to sit at his table he noted,
" you gotta pay to sit at my table." It was unnerving and did not fully smack of
jesting.

Can't possibly be? Really, in a city that has paid nearly 30 million in
misconduict civil settlements in just over 10 years. In a City that sent 2 Council Members
to prison in the same period. In a City where Inspections of low-income housing
are often sparse and about as arbitrary as one can fathom....??? In a City where
the DOJ intervened and damned near took over our Police Department? Nah, can't
possibly be. Gangster politics with a smile attending communty events for
show... as old as the hills. One of the side effects of mass arrest and incarceration
is lots of folks with criminal records who can't get jobs or housing....or much of
anything else...close the schools,; limit park and library services and don't
do a gd-ed thing to protect existent family housing stock....perfect recipe for
opening up neighborhoods to a bad element....ask Don, that's his recipe....he cooked it
up real good. Once everyone of standing is gone then you get out of politics and
cut deals with land speculators and investors,...it's happening all over
America right now...and more often than not there is some penny-ante pontifico just
like Don smiling on the sidelines waiting to cash in.

Oh, and i am pretty sure the guy was kiddling about the strip-search...and
it sucks arguing history with people who don't know any.
"

Jim Graham, August 9, 2009, 11:36 a.m.

It may AMAZE Bill McGaughey but I do agree with him on some points.

Splitting inspections and police is one of them. Inspections and Inspectors do NOT have police powers, and should never be allowed to even intimate that they do. Which some most certainly have done in the past. One Inspector even threatening an elderly woman from my neighborhood with taking the grandchildren living with her away. That particular Inspector was singlehandedly responsible for a whole bunch of yellow Minneapolis Police "No Trespass" signs going up after I let it be known that an Inspector violating such a "No Trespass" sign was guilty of criminal trespass and could be charged. Those signs however DO allow police onto your property without cause or permission.

Now on to the rest. It could possibly have happened but I really have a difficult time believing Don Samuels was that threatening. Come on Bill you know Don, does it sound like him? Could Don have threatened him with the Inspectors? that is more possible. Heck, if that landlord were acting like one of the "Non-Profit" landlords and allowing his property to be used for criminal activity and not taking responsibility for it then I would also have threatened him with that as well as with charges of controlling a "Disorderly House" under State of Minnesota Statute 609.33. It was the second offense, remember.
-----------------------------------------------------

609.33 DISORDERLY HOUSE.

Subdivision 1.Definition.

For the purpose of this section, "disorderly house" means a building, dwelling, place, establishment, or premises in which actions or conduct habitually occur in violation of laws relating to:

(1) the sale of intoxicating liquor or 3.2 percent malt liquor;
(2) gambling;
(3) prostitution as defined in section 609.321, subdivision 9, or acts relating to prostitution; or
(4) the sale or possession of controlled substances as defined in section 152.01, subdivision 4.

Subd. 2.Prohibiting owning or operating disorderly house.

No person may own, lease, operate, manage, maintain, or conduct a disorderly house, or invite or attempt to invite others to visit or remain in the disorderly house. A violation of this subdivision is a gross misdemeanor.

Subd. 3.Mandatory minimum penalties.

(a) If a person is convicted of a first violation of subdivision 2, in addition to any sentence of imprisonment authorized by subdivision 2 which the court may impose, the court shall impose a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $3,000.
(b) If a person is convicted of a second violation of subdivision 2, in addition to any sentence of imprisonment authorized by subdivision 2 which the court may impose, the court shall impose a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $3,000.
(c) If a person is convicted of a third or subsequent violation of subdivision 2, in addition to any sentence of imprisonment authorized by subdivision 2 which the court may impose, the court shall impose a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $3,000.

Subd. 4.Evidence.

Evidence of unlawful sales of intoxicating liquor or 3.2 percent malt liquor, of unlawful possession or sale of controlled substances, of prostitution or acts relating to prostitution, or of gambling or acts relating to gambling, is prima facie evidence of the existence of a disorderly house. Evidence of sales of intoxicating liquor or 3.2 percent malt liquor between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., while a person is within a disorderly house, is prima facie evidence that the person knew it to be a disorderly house.

Subd. 5.Local regulation.

Subdivisions 1 to 4 do not prohibit or restrict a local governmental unit from imposing more restrictive provisions.

Subd. 6.Pretrial release.

When a person is charged under this section with owning or leasing a disorderly house, the court may require as a condition of pretrial release that the defendant bring an eviction action against a lessee who has violated the covenant not to allow drugs established by section 504B.171.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bill is also correct about the City, County, and State telling criminals where to live. Presently the whole State sends its worst offenders to Minneapolis to live and then harasses landlords for renting to them AND not renting to them. Personally I think the idea of sending them back is a good idea, but that is also not fair. We need a code of ethics for licensed "Rental Property Providers". One that specifically includes Non-Profits, who are there at public expense in ANY way.

Also we need to have much more support for those rental providers in dealing with criminals who slide through the crack and bring more than tobacco into their buildings. Presently good property providers are damned if they don't, and then damned if the do have rigid standards. It is definitely time that the City stop the hypocrisy and the scapegoating of "Landlords".

But Bill pay particular attention to the last part of that statute, "the court may require as a condition of pretrial release that the defendant bring an eviction action against a lessee who has violated the covenant not to allow drugs established by section 504B.171." and advice your fellows to use it.

 

Bill McGaughey, July 18, 2009, 12:07 p.m.

My internet connection was down all afternoon. The following was written after
reading Carey Howell's and Jim Graham's postings:

I'm not sure who is intended in Carey Howell's posting about bad landlords who
cause trouble for neighborhoods - me personally, many or most landlords, or a
small group of unspecified "slumlords". Of course, if one of my tenants killed
someone in my neighborhood, I would show up at Don Samuels' vigil remembering
the victim. Fortunately, that hasn't happened yet.

Besides being a landlord and the original poster, my connection to this
discussion is that I attended the Minneapolis City Council hearing on August
13, 2008, at which Morris Klock told his story. It is a significant story and
some details were available beyond what appeared in the Star Tribune article.

The main part of the story was Don Samuels' alleged physical attack on Morris
Klock at the Butter Roll Bakery. Samuels is an elected official. His
supervisory role on the Council with respect to the police and city inspectors
makes the event, if it happened as alleged in the suit, even more disturbing.

I'm not sure that I know Samuels well enough to say whether or not he would be
inclined to do such a thing. We do know that someone (Morris Klock) is
accusing of that, and the matter is being taken to court. To me, it seems a
classic case of "he said, she said" - hard to say who is telling the truth.

Fortunately, a third party was present: Samuels' aide. Assuming that Samuels
did what Klock said, that person would be torn between personal loyalty and the
need to commit perjury. If he did not, no such conflict would exist. It will
be interesting to see what happens. I assume that the trial will take place
after the November election.

Yes, Jim Graham and I do agree on some things - perhaps many things - and that
includes this situation. As a landlord, I would, of course, be willing to
evict a tenant credibly found to have violated the drug laws. The problem is
evidence. In situations such as this, tenants about to be evicted will come up
with explanations that seem plausible. They sometimes argue their way out of
the eviction. Maybe I'm too often a sucker for such arguments.

I remember as a new landlord, I asked the SAFE officer if the police could not
simply write me a letter stating that a particular tenant was using drugs; I'd
be happy to evict him. I was told the system did not work that way. I was
supposed to gather my own evidence. That way, the onus was on me, and I would
also be shouldering the legal risk.

I have always felt that landlords have a strong common interest with the
police, city officials, and neighborhood group in eliminating crime in their
buildings. Unless the property owner is himself involved in the crime, I can
see no reason not to want to have a crime-free facility. Contrary to some
opinion, landlords do not charge a premium rent for drug dealers or otherwise
benefit from illegal activities. You'd have to be crazy to want drug dealers,
gang members, and other violent people in your building, putting everyone at
risk.

The sensible solution would be for the police to lurk in high-crime areas and
make some arrests. If there is a "problem property", that means the police
should go there and try to find people breaking the law just as fishermen go to
fishing "hot spots" . I'm sure the property owner would be more than happy to
cooperate with the police. But, again, it "doesn't work that way". The city
has adopted a more confrontational attitude toward property owners. I would
suggest that the approach be changed.

Some politicians whip up their supporters into a rage against "slumlords", or
whomever, when we all ought to be concerned about the persons who actually
commit the crimes. Anyone who deliberately kills someone knows that he is
doing wrong and deserves punishment. The concept is simple.

 
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