John Hemp has a particular interest in improved public safety because he is blind. As Hemp walked to a neighborhood bus stop a couple of years ago, a man attacked him. He was knocked to the ground, lost his white cane, glasses and sustained a bloody nose. His assailant then helped Hemp to his feet saying, ‘You really are blind,’” Hemp recalled.
Hemp was also the victim of identity theft. His credit card number was copied and used illegally by a cashier at a supermarket in his neighborhood.
Hemp serves on the Mc-Kinley Corporation Board, a neighborhood improvement organization that works to improve conditions for residents of north Minneapolis’ Mc-Kinley neighborhood. Like many communities, crime and public safety are key issues the board works on. Hemp is the board’s treasurer and was elected to the board two years ago.
Hemp has pursued his goals for improved public safety for McKinley residents who are aging and who have disabilities. As a leader of his community, Hemp has identified two key areas that need improvement.
One concern is removal of mounds of snow at bus stops, curb sides and curb cuts and removal of ice and snow on sidewalks. His second issue is to seek modifications to the design and implementation of speed bumps in alleyways and roadways. Obstructions on sidewalks and in streets and alleys can cause falls and injuries.
“When the snow plows come through to clean the streets… I know that they can lift their thrower at any time to not drop snow on a spot,” said Hemp. He would like Minneapolis Public Works to require plow drivers to lift blades and keep corners clear for pedestrians. Snow ridges can cause a tripping hazard.
“As for the sidewalks for those who prefer to be negligent, the city should fine them and use the money to hire people in the neighborhood to clean up the sidewalks,” Hemp said. He’d like to see more enforcement to keep sidewalks clear year-round.
One public safety issue that can generate debate is that of speed bumps on streets. Some people believe speed bumps will slow traffic and want them installed on streets and alleyways. Hemp said, “As for the speed bumps issue, I want speed bumps put away from carriage walks. In other words, when one comes out of their house and goes to step onto and off of their carriage walk to get into a car, and or to step into the street because the corners haven’t been plowed yet, they don’t need to trip over a speed bump and possibly sprain or break an ankle.” He wouldn’t oppose speed bumps if they are placed on streets and alleys in ways that don’t conflict with foot traffic.
Despite ongoing struggles to convince fellow board members of these and other much needed safety measures, Hemp remains undeterred and is more determined than ever to see that the McKinley Community Board holds up its responsibility to make the streets and sidewalks safer.
How can you work on similar issues in your neighborhood or community? In Minneapolis, St. Paul and other larger cities and suburbs, city government works closely with neighborhood groups. St. Paul has district councils. Minneapolis and other cities have neighborhood associations or homeowners’ associations. Contact your city government to find out what type of group represents your neighborhood.
These groups usually elect their members and residents are welcome to seek seats on a board or committee. In some communities business owners or people who work in the community can also serve on the board or committee.
Many if these groups have separate subcommittees that work on crime and public safety issues. With hard work and determination, maybe neighborhoods of the future will be safe places to walk where folks didn’t need to fear being victims of crime or injury.