This week’s Sounding Board: Ex-Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson; GOP state Rep. Pat Garofalo, political consultant Sarah Walker; Hamline University’s David Schultz, and GOP state Rep. Brian Johnson
Shutdown worries; a problem of transparency; UFO mystery
Query 1: MN House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt is warning members that the coming special session could keep them working through July 1, possibly beyond—into government shutdown territory. There’s a sense at the Capitol that negotiations, particularly in the judiciary/public safety space, aren’t so much progressing as back-sliding. Where is this thing headed?
Paul Anderson, retired state Supreme Court justice: There is a need for police reform, and it should get done. I think the Republicans sense, perceive or think that a part of their core base doesn’t like it and so I think they’ve dug their heels in. I would hope that they would think more rationally about the issue and get something done. Now, that said, on the other side there are persons who think rather radically. But from what I read, the circumstance is that those people can be brought under control. It’s the knee-jerk reaction of the Republicans that their people don’t want it. And so they’re not going to do it.
Pat Garofalo, GOP House member: It’s descending into a complete shit show. This is what happens when you jam everything into these huge mega-bills and then turn over lawmaking to two or three people to make all the decisions for everyone. This is a consequence of those decisions. And as long as legislators keep doing that—allowing that to take place—you’re going to keep seeing these disasters take place.
Sarah Walker, political consultant: My prediction is that they will still get a compromise. I think that legislators become very motivated when it comes to July holidays. [Chuckles.] That may be overly optimistic, I don’t know.
David Schultz, political science and law instructor: It’s looking more likely that the only people [in state government] who will be paid after July 1 are the state legislators, as they continue to work during the shutdown that they’ve created.
Brian Johnson, GOP House member, former cop: I have no idea where it is going to head, other than it sounds like it’s all going to “the tribunal”—the governor, [Senate Majority Leader Paul] Gazelka and [House Speaker Melissa] Hortman. It means that people who don’t understand law enforcement, public safety and the Judicial Branch are going to be making the decisions.
Query 2: The shooting death of Winston Boogie Smith at an Uptown parking ramp seems to be devolving into a real mess. There were no body cams deployed and now we find out that the BCA won’t ID the deputies who shot him because they were working undercover. Many community members are upset at the lack of transparency. What’s your take on this situation?
Anderson: Body cams are very important, whether you’re a state law enforcement official or a federal law enforcement official. Federal law enforcement should wear body cams. I am informed that the policy has been changed so that they can. I’m dismayed at the failure of communication and that the local BCA office here seems to be under the impression that body cams are not permitted [for federal officers].
Garofalo: It’s not a mess. When you’re a convicted felon in possession of a handgun that you are prohibited from having and you threaten the cops online, what the hell do you think is gonna happen? There are examples where there needs to be better policing. But this case is not one of them.
[Editor’s note: The statement about threats against police is based, in part, on an Instagram video, reposted on YouTube. It shows Smith calling on community members “to get ready for war” and coaxing “all the shooters” to “suit up.” But in a different video posted on Facebook, Smith seems to disclaim such sentiments, blaming them on stress from the gun possession charges he faced. In that second video, Smith urges viewers, “If you’re thinking like that, stop thinking like that.”]
Walker: I think, one, it shows the need for greater transparency about how law enforcement works and partners with the federal government. It also shows the weaknesses within the federal government system, and their need for not only incentivizing police reform in the states, but also for their own reforms.
Schultz: It’s suggesting to me two things. A.) That the police haven’t learned much since George Floyd’s death, in terms of what the public wants. And B.) that the public still has very little information regarding how police use force and how to hold them accountable.
Johnson: They were plain-clothes officers, in my understanding, trying to get him without incident. When they identified themselves to him, that’s when things went south. If you actually watch some of his videos that he’s posted, he was saying he was going to end up that way. These situations are unfortunate. And law enforcement does not like when they go this way; they try to do their best to avoid it. But unfortunately, sometimes because of the decisions that people make—not following orders from law enforcement—things go south.
Query 3: Ooh, Opie! Recent reporting in the New Yorker and 60 Minutes indicates that the U.S. government takes seriously the existence of flying objects that they can’t explain. They don’t say they’re from outer space, but no one knows where they came from or who possesses such technology. What’s your bet? Are we being visited?
Anderson: Probably not. There are all kinds of atmospheric and cosmic phenomena that happen. So they should continue their investigations to ascertain what’s going on in the atmosphere. Appears to be something there. But I doubt that it’s from outer space.
Garofalo: You know, if there was an alien species that was smart enough to figure out how to get to planet Earth to monitor us, they would be smart enough to make themselves invisible so we couldn’t see them. I’m thinking of the old George Carlin line: I don’t believe anything the government tells me. These are clearly military projects and they’re lying to us about that. And I have no problem with them lying to us—they don’t want our adversaries to know what we’ve been spending these trillions of dollars on. But it’s obviously military projects.
Walker: I fully believe we’re visited. And I will also say that I think it’s a combination of both—being visited by things we don’t understand, and by unidentified testing objects from other countries.
Schultz: I’m going to steal a line from a cartoon: Proof that there is intelligent life in the universe is the fact that they haven’t made real, physical contact with us yet.
Johnson: I have no clue. Personally, myself, I’ve never seen anything like that. So I have nowhere to go on that one.