Monday, February 16, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: State Rep. Jim Abler Shoots Off His Mouth To Northside Youth (Accidentally Hits His Own Foot...What Will He Use To Plug The Bullet Hole?)

Cell Phone Photo, Jeff Skrenes

Today, at the State Capitol Building, the Northside Policy Action Coalition (NPAC) gathered to lobby legislators over North Minneapolis issues. One of the issues was different ways to approach youth violence. And that's when it happened...

A group of residents--both youth and adults--were discussing different approaches to the problem of youth violence in North Minneapolis. One suggested approach--not really tied to any particular legislative initiative, much to its detriment, but that's beside the point--was whether youth violence could be dealt with by reclassifying the problem as a public health issue instead of a criminal justice issues.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking...why? The logic behind this idea is apparently that a 13-year-old who commits a crime should not be thrown headfirst into the criminal justice system, just yet. And I would respond: they're not. "Juvie" is nothing like the adult criminal justice system. But regardless of the merits of either side of this issue, it was clear NPAC and a state rep named Jim Abeler did not agree.

Abeler, (R-48B) represents the cities of Anoka and Ramsey. During this discussion about different approaches to youth violence, Abeler took out some of his campaign kitsch--some wooden nickels, as picture above--and gave some to several of the youth and adults. Now here's where it got kind of bizarre.

Keep in mind, this is third hand info, so this may not be a verbatim quote, but somebody who was there actually did write down what was reported by somebody who heard it directly. This is what Abeler said, or words very close to this:

"If you get shot, use this to plug the bullet hole."

THIS apparently refers to the wooden nickels.

This offhand remark did not go over very well. In fact, one person (Cheryl Morgan-Spencer of the Urban League) brought one of the wooden nickels back to return to Abler, because she didn't want to have it after hearing that, to (in her words) show him how much it was worth to her, which was nothing. Abeler then tried to defend his utterance by saying that he "only said it to the boys," as if the girls just magically didn't hear it because it was only intended for "the boys."

Thus, it appears Abeler actually managed to get off two rounds, both hitting the same target--his political foot.

One person prominent in North Minneapolis affairs says that this is simply unacceptable, that it furthers a stereotype about North Minneapolis and, more importantly, it devalues the civic contribution that the youth were making that day by talking to elected officials. Members of NPAC are demanding a public apology from Abler--according to my source--and, furthermore, they encourage anybody who agrees to contact Abler and here is the contact info:

Jim Abeler (R-48B)
100 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
State Office Building #203
St Paul MN
651-296-1729 office
763-421-3722 business

This info is from the Minnesota State Reps handbook, which is public info. Also, please note, if you do contact Representative Abeler, do not cuss, or threaten, or be disrespectful, as that will only reinforce his stereotypes.

And, allow me to add this: wooden nickels? If there was a time in America when wooden nickels were actually funny, that time is not within the historical memory of the vast majority of American society.


Jordan Neighbor said...

thanks to you and Jeff for getting this unacceptable behavior out there. What Rep Abler needs to realize is that he is elected to a district, but he is responsible for making decisions for allllll of minnesota. Including the people that didn't vote for him, the people he doesn't 'like', and the people that, now, don't like him. He may think that what happens in north minneapolis doens't affect him or his constituents but guess what? His people are traveling to north minneapolis to buy drugs and meet prostitues. People from north minneapolis are traveling to his district, and perhaps even trying to move there. Youth violence is like a cancer, it may be more prevelent in minneapolis but it spreads.

Rep Abler should educate himself about the issues that plague his state.

Anonymous said...

this is really awful to hear that an adult who is in a leadership role would say something so stupid and insensitive. yikes!

Anonymous said...

Great scoop and weird, weird behavior by this rep.

And besides that, if this lobbying was done during regular legislative hours on state property why in the hell is he handing out re-elect Abler material to anyone? Aren't there legislative or ethics rules prohibiting this? If not, there should be.

veg*nation said...

i was shocked to go online and see that abler is a relatively young man! his dialogue has "crazy old coot" written all over it.

Anonymous said...

JNS~ I heard (loosely) that Jerry Moore was at the capital. Do you know who he was representing?

Johnny Northside said...

I can confirm from another source he was at the capitol, yes, but unknown who he was representing.

Paul Schmelzer said...

Thanks for the story and the quotes, John. Here's my follow-up at MnIndy. Abeler wouldn't talk to me, but he did send an email to a neighborhood resident sounding very apologetic. And perhaps the incident will actually win the northside an unexpected ally...