I recently helped my oldest daughter move into her new place in Saint Paul. It is a large Victorian-style house that had up until recently, usually been rented by students who attended the nearby Hamline University. Due to the whole WuFlu muddle and concerns over reopening schools across the country, many of the rental properties around the university are now vacant. Of course, the upside to all that is that the rents on properties like these have been drastically reduced, which is good news for my daughter and the six other people she is sharing the house with.
However, it's not just the lack of students that has caused the decline in occupancy in this part of Saint Paul, but the fact that a lot of people are starting to move away and out of the city. Half a block from my daughter’s house, you can clearly see an empty lot where up until two weeks ago, the burned out and crumbled ruins of a pharmacy once stood. The building was yet another casualty in the riots which followed in the wake of the death of George Floyd on the 25th of May. And while Minneapolis saw the worst in terms of the size of protests and the sheer amount destruction, BLM’s Saint Paul “chapter”, along with their “allies”, and the neighborhood’s most effective ”reparations” acquisitions specialists made sure their presence was felt on this side of the river in Saint Paul.
The epicenter of those riots occurred about two miles away from my daughter’s house along University Avenue, which is one of Saint Paul’s oldest and most prominent commercial streets where major stores like Sears and Montgomery Wards used to be back in the day. However, in an age of Amazon Prime, many brick and mortar stores along University Avenue have passed into obscurity, and what remains are mostly locally-owned shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. Since my daughter works at a Target store that was right in the thick of the destruction, and who had its front windows smashed out, I have witnessed the destruction firsthand whenever I have gone to pick her up from work.
I’ve seen an Asian grocery store and the local Goodwill shop with boarded-up front windows, so that it is hard to know if they are open or not. I’ve seen the light-rail train that connects Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and the Mall of America, the one we paid close to a $1 billion to build and which even before 2020 never collected enough in fares to cover its costs, running along the street with nearly empty cars since there is not much to stop and see.
Saddest of all however, was the fate of an Ethiopian restaurant called Bolé. Owned by a married couple from Ethiopia, they had offered free meals to the neighborhood’s residents during the Covid lockdown, but apparently neither their generosity nor their skin color was enough to protect them from the crowd’s overzealous attempts to seek “justice” for George Floyd. When said crowd was unable to find any “justice” in the adjacent auto parts store, they lit the oil on the shelves on fire, which in turn spread to Bolé. As of this writing, the restaurant still lies in ruins. What can you say? The owners probably didn’t know that it’s black lives that matter, not their livelihoods as the pervasive spray painted “BLM” or “No Justice, No Peace” up and down University would seem to indicate.
Trying to Pick Up the Pieces
While major cities across the country such as Portland, Seattle, New York or Chicago are still reeling from Loch Ness monster-style “peaceful protests” (i.e. there have been sightings and grainy pictures taken of these alleged Summer of Love-style protests, but no one has actually witnessed one firsthand), the tumult in Saint Paul and Minneapolis have grown quiet.
Nevertheless, the cleanup has been slow going. It certainly didn’t help that both Minneapolis and Saint Paul initially told business owners whose buildings had been destroyed, that they needed to pay their 2020 property taxes in full before they would be issued a permit to cleanup and rebuild. Needless to say for businesses who had just reopened after a state-wide lockdown, they did not have a lot of cash on hand to pay their taxes. Eventually this demand had to be walked back. Finally, after our governor Tim Walz’s request for federal relief aid was rightly denied by President Trump, the Democratic-controlled state house recently voted to raise taxes to pay for the cleanup and rebuilding of the destroyed areas of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
However, just as many news sites and commentators mocked Walz for asking the American people to pay for damages caused by the riots he did nothing to stop, here at the local level it is equally hard to see how farmers out in the Red River Valley or struggling communities up north in the Iron Range country would be any more keen on paying for damages they had no part in making. Of course, from a cynically political point of view, making the tax hike a state one makes sense. After all, if the tax was a local one that fell strictly on the residents of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, then those who could afford to, would simply move out of the city. And herein lies the problem that will be the real fallout from all of these riots.
The Twilight of the Cityscape
As far back as two years ago I knew people who wanted to move out of Saint Paul, a city I left eight years ago and moved south across another river to smaller city. In addition to a rise in crime in certain areas, there was also the issue of the city’s continued budget short falls and those pesky unfunded liabilities that would engender either a rise in property taxes, a hike in the sales tax, or both. This has resulted in a rise in the cost of living in Saint Paul while at the same time seeing a decrease in the amount and quality of public services.
Skip ahead to today and we see a city that has suffered a huge economic setback and has and will continue to lose more of its taxpayers, while at the same time talking about defunding the police. Given all that, it is not hard to see why perhaps all the BLM and SJW graffiti that’s been spray painted all over the burned out areas, is both literally and figuratively the "writing on the wall" signaling yet another American city entering into a nadir of its life-cylce.
Recently, former hedge fund manager and entrepreneur James Altucher, wrote that New York City, a city he has lived in all his life and spent millions of his own money developing businesses there, is dead and not coming back. He wrote that even in the crime-ridden days of the 1970’s and 80’s, New York was still the center of so many industries that helped support and grow the city. Now however, because of the Covid pandemic, governmental mismanagement at the state and local level, and a continuously rising crime rate, people who can afford to and work remotely are leaving New York in droves. Meanwhile, the schools, theaters, and bars and restaurants are empty and left to fend for themselves. According to Altucher, this is just not something you can bounce back from, and historically speaking he is correct.
My guess is that in some form or another Saint Paul and Minneapolis will in time suffer a similar fate. After all, even if the state manages to collect enough taxes to repair and rebuild the parts of the cities damaged by the rioting, what sane business owner would want to invest or remain is a city where both the governor and the local police have shown no desire or ability to manage civil unrest, let alone local crime? This will over a short period of time, cause a downward spiral as more and more people leave the city, which will in turn create an ever-diminishing tax base with which to fund public services. Then what? Any sort of recovery could take decades, if ever.
During President Trump’s inaugural address, he talked about Americans living in two realities. One was of those chasing and living out the American dream and the other was those who were, for a whole host of reasons, living out a nightmare of social and cultural dysfunction which he termed an “American carnage”. He was excoriated by Democrats and the mainstream media to no end for using that phrase, and yet here we are!
Regardless of how the upcoming Presidential election goes, one thing is certain. The radical Left and all their allies and supporters, have so internalized their hatred of Trump that they have in essence manifested the very state of affairs they claimed didn’t exist, while nonetheless blaming it on Trump. They are using the destruction they have caused and continue to cause, to assuage their pride in losing the 2016 election and to change the course of the upcoming one.
Moreover, as the death and destruction in major cities, like Saint Paul and Minneapolis, across the country demonstrate, they are also perfectly willing to walk over the lives and livelihoods of anyone who gets in their way of what they want. The price for such nihilistic hubris will be the passing away of many major American cities, like Detroit already has, as well as the livelihoods and lifestyles of those who live within them. In the end, all we can is to prepare yourself accordingly.
Photo Credit- taken by author on location.