Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Shame of Minneapolis

I just finished reading a number of articles written by Lincoln Steffens.  Briefly, Lincoln Steffens was a journalist at the beginning of the 20th Century who wrote stunning exposes on corruption in city and state government.  He wrote for a number of magazines and newspapers, one of the famous being McClure's which these articles I refer to appeared in.

To get accountability, transparency, and openness of government was definitely no easy task for the public in the early 1900's.  Some people today would say its the same, "no easy task".

I read Tweed Days in St. Louis, Pittsburgh: A City Ashamed, and Rhode Island: A State for Sale among others.

But I was struck by the one he did entitled, the Shame of Minneapolis. 

"Minneapolis is a New England town on the upper Mississippi. The metropolis of the Northwest, it is the metropolis also of Norway and Sweden in America. Indeed, it is the second largest Scandinavian city in the world." is how Steffens describes the largest city in Minnesota in 1903.  There it was corruption and shenanigans in government at its best in Minneapolis.

Those events, behavior and people that Steffens describes 108 years ago can be parallel to today.  Not to the extreme as characterized in the 1903 article, but favoritism, greed, opportunity, use and gain of money, bribery, look the other way when the law is broken, continues and exists in all forms of government presently.

By reading Steffens articles, it's reemphasized to me that transparency and accountability are not new issues with government.  It has been a continuous fight between the public and the institution of government since our country's beginnings.  The institution of government which is to serve the public.

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