Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ed Kohler Agrees: Unsolicited Phone Books Are The Devil

Photo by Lulu Vision

Ed Kohler is my hero because of his kick-butt volunteer graffiti abatement efforts, which have inspired me to colorful new extremes, but here's another reason I like Ed.

We are kindred spirits when it comes to loathing unsolicited phone books. Check out this entry on Ed's blog which includes some content from right here on Johnny Northside Dot Com.

Plus it turns out Ed likes my North Side Marketing concept. Maybe when Peter Teachout, Kevin Gulden, Jeff Skrenes and I all get around to having beverages and talking about the wonders of porous concrete, we should invite Ed.

(Do not click "Read More")

Friday, June 27, 2008

In Regard To Thomas Banks (An Open Letter To Judge Mel I. Dickstein)

Fair comment and criticism

Summary: Judge Mel I. Dickstein gave Thomas A. Banks approximately 7 days in jail for disorderly conduct instead of 90 days, and a short while later a "Thomas Banks" was involved in an incident with a bunch of gang members and a TEC 22 pistol. I believe it's the same Thomas Banks who got a "slap on the wrist" sentence from this judge. Click below for his campaign website.

Dear Honorable Judge Mel I. Dickstein,

Defendant Thomas A. Banks is near and dear to my heart, because I submitted a community impact statement about him on May 1, 2008, and it was the first time I'd ever submitted such a statement...

Since then, I've submitted dozens of statements about various defendants. I imagine the prosecutors now say things like, "We don't have any community impact statements about this guy...well, except for one from Johnny Northside, of course."

Why don't more people submit community impact statements? Because we are held hostage by crime on the North Side, and it scares the [expletive] out of most people to confront it so directly. Why are we held hostage? Much of it has to do with the consistently puny sentences these offenders receive in court for stuff like openly selling crack, not to mention many inexplicable dismissals for "discretion."

But Thomas, he was my first. Thomas was...special. My spunky, spirited Thomas committed disorderly conduct at 3119 4th Street North, a building with a long and troubled history rather like Banks, himself, has a long and troubled history. That was Thomas for you!

Sir, on May 15, 2008--after receiving my heartfelt statement about what this guy was doing to our community and how we needed a geographic ban on him--you gave Banks a 90 day sentence, with 83 days stayed, 5 days credited. I assume Banks did two more days in jail and then was let loose to walk the streets as a free man.

(Oh, and let's not forget the $50 fine. Way to break his gonads, Your Honor)

Seriously, this is hardly what I was hoping for, Your Honor, when I stuck my neck way the heck out and submitted that community impact statement. I had hoped that by doing so, and by being public about it, and by hopefully living a few more months without being rubbed out, I might instill courage in others to submit similar community impact statements.

Last Saturday, a guy named "Thomas Banks" was part of a group of self-identified gang members caught with a TEC 22 pistol at West Broadway and Irving. I wrote all about the incident in a blog entry (click here, Your Honor) and it includes a picture of a TEC 22 pistol.

Pretty serious piece of hardware, wouldn't you agree?

(Yes, I know, there's a bunch of other stuff in that particular blog entry, including my scathing review of "The Interpreter" with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. I'm sure you understand such freewheeling writing is standard for blogs, Your Honor)

Back to my main point:

If Thomas Banks had been before your bench and received the full 90 day sentence on May 15, he would still be cooling his heels in jail instead of hanging out with a bunch of homeys, one of them packing a stolen TEC 22 pistol, and wearing T-shirts broadcasting their gang affiliation and--oh, here's the rich irony--support for a gang member in jail.

They must have produced those t-shirts quickly, Your Honor, because (with deference as I make my pointed point, sir) judging by the sentence you handed down to Thomas A. Banks, those gang members don't stay in jail very long!

Sir, I will be watching your future actions in regard to sentencing offenders. I will be watching your election efforts, as well. I will be watching with interest and, as you correctly suspect, I will probably be commenting.

But, of course, it's not just you, Your Honor.

Sir, you are not the only judge on the bench who hands down "slap on the wrist" sentences. In fact, since you gave Thomas A. Banks almost a week in jail instead of two days, you are practically a "hanging judge" compared to some others.

The Sex Offender Who Lives On My Block (Or Does He Actually Live On YOUR Block?)

MN DOC photos

It appears Junaid Daulah Maalik may simply use 3024 6th St. N. as his "official" address, while actually spending most of his time elsewhere. Exactly where? Who knows? Maybe right next door to where you live, if you live in the Twin Cities...

I've known about this situation for a while, but people in my neighborhood were working behind the scenes to resolve exactly what it going on at 3024 6th Street North. There was concern other sex offenders and parolees might be "using" the house as their official address. There were, in fact, consistent rumors to this effect in the neighborhood.

However, currently it appears Maalik is the only offender living at that address. And after July 2, he might not be living there. Where will he live?

Before I get into all the nitty gritty of his apparent living situation, let me tell you what Junaid was convicted of doing, according to a Minnesota Department of Corrections website.

[Junaid Maalik] engaged in forced sexual contact with 12-year-old female victim. The contact included kidnapping victim, transporting victim to other locations, and penetration. Offense occurred over a 24-hour period. Offender used physical force and a weapon to gain compliance. Offender was unknown to the victim.

It should be noted he was later accused of committing a similar crime, but the accusations apparently didn't stick. Junaid has used the following aliases: Jeffrey Daniels, Gerald Andre Long, Jerry Long.

The house where Junaid maintains his "official" address is in foreclosure. Apparently, 3024 6th Street North will be beyond the period of redemption on July 2, 2008. Yesterday, I observed an individual with a mop bucket giving the house what appeared to be a thorough cleaning, and I assumed it was in preparation for the final evacuation coming up in just a few more days.

I once called Maalik's supervising agent, Mary Ann Mowatt, to express concern about the way a Level 3 sex offender is apparently allowed to use a "front" address and actually spend the majority of his time elsewhere. Mowatt didn't deny this was the situation and, in fact, seemed to verbally confirm it by trying to reassure me Maalik wasn't around my block very much. so why be worried?

It seemed to throw Mowatt for a loop that a citizen with property on the same block as a Level 3 Sex Offender would be concerned about unknown people on some other block, where the sex offender is really spending a lot of his time. Mowatt made some vague and mealy-mouthed promises to look into things. Her main concern appeared to be finding out how I knew poor widdle Maalik's specific address instead of just "3000 Block of North 6th Street."

"Most of the houses on my block are vacant," I said. "It's not hard to figure out. He sure isn't living in my house, he's not living in the house of the nice Hmong family next door...he's not living in the vacant houses. Hey, people on the block know where he lives."

But where will Maalik live after July 2? Well, I'm guessing he will turn up in the area where he has actually been all this time.

You know--speaking once again as a bleeding heart liberal who isn't going to allow himself to bleed to death through a hole in the head--I think if a Level 3 sex offender "uses" other addresses, then those addresses should be a matter of public record, as well.

I shouldn't use myself as an example--being a law abiding, aggressively good citizen--but I need an example, and the facts of my living situation come to mind.

Consider: I still use a small town in rural Minnesota as my permanent address, based on where I receive mail, vote, and have interest in property. Sometimes I spend weeks there, such as last summer when I had visitation with my son. But where am I all the time? In the Twin Cities. At my other address in St. Paul. Also, I own a house in North Minneapolis. Soon I will own a different house in North Minneapolis, if all goes as planned.

So that's, like, four different places where I spend a lot of time, basically other houses I can call "my home." If I were somebody like Maalik, somebody who goes around kidnapping and sexually assaulting, wouldn't people who reside near those locations I call "home" want to know of my habitual comings and goings? Wouldn't they have a right to know?

Yeah, I (expletive) think so!

Hasn't the State of Minnesota learned anything from Dru Sjodin? Dru Sjodin is near and dear to my heart. Check out these this column I wrote. And this one.

Considering the way sex offender addresses in the state of Minnesota are overwhelmingly skewed toward North Minneapolis, this is very much a North Minneapolis issue, especially if some of them are just "using" North Minneapolis.

Getting "used" by sex offenders is the last thing North Minneapolis needs.

Street Cement That Cleans Water Run-off (How Cool Is THAT?)

Fair comment and criticism

I learned about this on and it got me so excited I sent a link to the article to my Green Party homeboy, Cam Gordon of Ward 2.

We need this stuff for the Eco-Village project.

ADDENDUM: I emailed Kevin Gulden of PPL, who is very involved in the Eco-Village project on my block, and this is what he said:

One of the general contractors PPL works with installed a porous asphalt area at their new office in St. Paul. I like it. The question is how long will it last? Our plan is to do something similar in EcoVillage--porous concrete, asphalt and even pavers where drive aisles, driveways and sidewalks are required.

He started out his email by saying, "I am always interested in more information about porous surfaces."

Well, I'm thinking me, Peter Teachout and Kevin Gulden all need to have beverages together with porous concrete coasters, and talk about public policy and, of course, Star Wars.

Oh, yes, and Jeff Skrenes can come along, too, if he can "talk concrete" with the big boys.

Hanging Out At Broadway and Irving, Rock Hard Pizza, A Stolen TEC 22 Pistol, "The Interpreter" Is An Awful Movie, And North Side Marketing

So I did have my interview with the North Side Marketing Task Force at 1501 West Broadway (Broadway and Irving) and it was actually kind of fun. I won't say anything about what was discussed, because...

...keeping board matters within the board is apparently a priority, as well as separating one's board roles from one's other roles.

Rock Hard Pizza and Building A Civilization

I will say that Jake and Gabe of 612 Authentic were with me, still making their movie about the mortgage crisis in which I am something of an amusing personality engine pulling the train. Jake and Gabe weren't allowed to film but it was pretty cool having them along like a "posse."

HACC Chairman Peter Teachout was kind enough to watch my son while I interviewed, and when I came back they were intensely involved in some kind of "building a civilization" simulation on Peter's laptop computer.

I paid Peter back for his childcare services with a "big box" meal from Taco Bell, but when Peter didn't finish everything I managed to score a big bean burrito and cinnamon crisps. Some of the Little Caesar's pizza we'd enjoyed together a few days ago was still hanging around, grown too hard to be worth microwaving except in more desperate situation, so when I walked across the street to check the security of my house I gave it to a roving pack of squirrels.

"The Interpreter," What Were The Movie Producers THINKING?

While I watched "The Interpreter" on Peter's DVD, there was constant drug dealing on the street outside. The intersection of 30th Avenue North and 6th Street was a [expletive] pharmacy with gang members in distinctive clothing, sitting around and dealing dope.

In regard to "The Interpreter," the movie had points of interest but was so intent on throwing psychological twists and turns at the viewer that it grew confusing. There were numerous points at which I found myself disappointed or openly scoffing, including:

1.) Secret Service agents seemingly being given the run of the United Nations building. As if--!

2.) The made-up African nation with made-up traditions and customs. Whenever the movie needed Nicole Kidman's character to be more complex, they just pulled more of this made-up crap out of a hat from the imaginary African nation where she supposedly grew up.

And then, oh, yeah, right...she was the girlfriend of the rebel leader and ALSO took up arms back in the (imaginary) African nation, but then she moved to New York and became--from what we see in the movie--a rather fragile little urban woman riding around on a vintage motor scooter, sipping wine in her apartment.

3.) The leader of the made-up African nation being allowed to bring his trademark pistol into the United Nations building. Ridiculous.

4.) The would-be assassin was a dying AIDS patient. Surely this guy must have been a complex character with complex motivations, but the movie just uses him like a minor pawn who can be disposed of easily to move the plot forward. Other characters were treated in a similar way while the movie lingered over conversations, interrogations and/or verbal S&M between Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn.

The verbal sparring was apparently supposed to be full of smoldering sexual energy. But it wasn't.

There were actually characters brought up and violently disposed of who WEREN'T EVEN IN THE MOVIE. Nicole Kidman talks about shooting a boy while she was taking up arms on behalf of her rebel boyfriend.

Cries out for a flashback, I say. This isn't a television sitcom, this is a movie. GIVE ME A FLASHBACK. Hey, there was a flashback of Kidman's parents being killed, so how does it make any sense she would talk about the incident of killing a person in combat and there wouldn't be a flashback?

5.) I can't believe Sean Penn's Secret Service character put up with Nicole's constant lying, withholding truth, double-dealing. It makes no sense how Sean Penn's character didn't blame Kidman's character for causing his security team to be on a bus--following her around, while she won't reveal where she's going, what on earth is she doing--when the bus was BLOWN TO SMITHEREENS.

I would have thrown her ass in jail for obstruction of justice fifteen minutes into the movie. And a whole lot less people would have died as a result.

6.) Why do I say "Sean Penn" and "Nicole Kidman" instead of using the names of the characters? There is something about the movie which makes it impossible to buy into the characters. So the viewer can never put aside the identity of the actors.

Nicole is playing the same beautiful but freaked-out fragile urbanite she plays in most of her movies. Sean Penn is in a role which doesn't fit, which requires him to compress his amazing on-screen energy, and it just doesn't work.

I loved Sean Penn in Casualties of War and I've always found Nicole Kidman ethereally pretty and convincing enough when she's acting terrified, which she so often is. I am not in the habit of ripping on these actors. I blame this fiasco on the producers of the movie.

7.) There is no way in hell the African leader would have just sat there and let two armed people bicker about whether or not to kill him. He would have made a move for one of the two loaded guns, neither of which was firmly controlled at all times. Ridiculous.

8.) An American citizen can't be deported. No, not even one with dual citizenship. Kidman's character can't be deported. No, not even if she is agreeable to the situation. Therefore, the end of the movie makes no sense. Are audiences now expected to be so dumb we can be depended upon not to know stuff like that?

9.) It is unfair to the audience to set up this whole "smoldering attraction" thing with Kidman and Penn, but then not clearly resolve whether he will follow her to Africa to pursue a relationship once he is done mourning for his wife. (Violently disposed of off screen without so much as a flashback, AGAIN)

If a future relationship is implied, it's not implied clearly enough. Talking on a phone while she lies in bed is the closest the movie gets to delivering the little somethin' somethin' it appears to be lavishly promising the audience. OK, Sean Penn used to be married to Madonna, so I can understand why Nicole Kidman might be reluctant to put her mouth on Sean Penn's mouth but COME ON. This is why Kidman gets paid the big bucks.

It's certainly worth paying $1 to rent "The Interpreter" from one of those DVD dispensers at your local McDonalds, if you enjoy mentally slicing a movie to ribbons as much as I do.

A "Charming Event" At Broadway and Irving

While I was killing 15 minutes out in my car, waiting to be interviewed about the North Side marketing matter, I noticed I was in a rough part of town. That area could have used a lot more paint and a lot less hanging out.

The next day, Gabe sent me an email with an image attached of a TEC 22 pistol. What could this be about, I wondered?

Gabe wrote, "Just stumbled across this charming event from last Saturday. It was at Broadway and Irving, where we were hanging out today. I didn't know what a 'TEC 22' was, so I Googled it. Attached is a picture for your enjoyment. Happy times!"
Here is the police report Gabe is alluding to:


Stop Officers were checking at DIST call with a possible PERGUN. ("Person with a gun" but what is "DIST?") Officers stopped a group of suspected and confirmed gang members and recovered a TEC 22 w/ 100 round magazine, a Cass County stolen.

Males were wearing shirts clearly displaying their gang involvement and support for fellow gang members currently incarcerated. Arrested were Dashawn Jenkins, Gregory Brown, Marvale Murphy, Thomas Banks (!!!!) and Henry Moore, 21, 18, 19, 20 & 18 year old black males with 25, 26, 34, 6 & 32 CAPRS. Marvale Murphy was later found to be a non-compliant sex offender.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Theory of North Side Marketing Explained

The sight of a modern skyline can fill me suddenly, overwhelmingly with a sense of civic pride, but in particular my own city's skyline from atop Farview Park, North Minneapolis.

Well, tonight I have an interview with the North Side Marketing Task Force, so I'm hoping I will manage to post my theory of North Side marketing, which I call "Market and Romanticize the Struggle."

The following is a class assignment I turned in to Professor Sally Kenney at the Humphrey Institute. I have polished up and revised the assignment a bit more since I first wrote it, but it's essentially still what I turned in for homework in PA 5012, the Politics of Public Affairs.

Footnotes are at the end of the document.

Encouraging Home Buyers In North Minneapolis

A variety of government and non-profit organizations are involved in "marketing" North Minneapolis, and have settled on four talking points as the most effective strategy. Some of these organizations include the various neighborhood associations and councils, non-profits such as Project Pride in Living, and the city government itself. All appear to be in concurrence about the four talking points.

These points, which are indisputably an example of "framing," are as follows.

1.) North Minneapolis has a surplus of affordable housing stock in the best buyer's market in 30 years. Prices have never been lower due to current market conditions. Now is the time to buy, buy, buy.

2.) North Minneapolis has an abundance of parks, including such treasures as Farview Park. From the top of Farview Park, there is a spectacular view of the Minneapolis skyline. Hence the name "Farview."

3.) North Minneapolis is rich in community organizations, all open and welcoming to new residents who bring positive energy. There is a place for your talents in North Minneapolis.

4.) Last but not least, North Minneapolis is full of businesses. There is fantastic and close economic opportunity everywhere you turn. (FOOTNOTE ONE)

One can't help but think this sounds good. Exposed only this framing, who wouldn't want to get a good deal on a house in North Minneapolis and move there immediately?

The problem is the four talking points aren't the only frame which exists. If you are familiar with North Minneapolis, already numerous counter-arguments must be forming, most of these centered on rampant and horrifying crime and notorious issues surrounding the "abundant housing stock," including break-ins to steal copper pipes and sell the pipes to buy, it appears, crack cocaine. (FOOTNOTE TWO)

What are alternative framings?

One of the most compelling alternative framings comes from the "affordable housing real estate tycoon" who wants to buy my property and convert it to a Section 8 rental using Mexican labor. (FOOTNOTE THREE) He states North Minneapolis will not change because poor and criminally-inclined people have to live somewhere, and this is where they already live.

Furthermore, private entities are buying up housing stock at an amazing rate and turning it into Section 8 rentals faster than slow-moving entities like neighborhood associations can effectively compete with limited dollars. "The slumlords will win every time" says this tycoon, in a variety of ways, and presses his points with rhetoric and examples.

The future of North Minneapolis is a low-income wonderland of Section 8 rentals and gang culture, according to this frame. The media frame is simple and direct: North Minneapolis as a dark pit of social despair, getting worse all the time.

Who controls the framing? And what are the possible frames?

To a degree, all entities and individuals who care to frame the issue control the framing, including [this blog].

Those vigorously attempting to control the framing include the neighborhood associations, other non-profits, and the City of Minneapolis with its "four talking points."

However, the media appear to have their own powerful and convincing frame, which is "North Minneapolis as a scary theme park of crime and social decay." The slumlords appear to have their own frame which is "here comes low-income rental wonderland, better get out of the way."

But through my blog,, I have put forward my own framing which I think is more effective than the four talking points, and can compete on a strong footing with both the "media frame" and "slumlord frame."

How should the issue be framed and why?

My frame--and it is not merely theoretical and academic, but something I have been trying earnestly to put forward--is called "Market and Romanticize the Struggle." (FOOTNOTE FOUR)
There is no effective way to counter the framing of the slumlords and the media with the four talking points. The four points are rooted in "positive thinking" and don't address the compelling question of "How shall we counter the reality of, for example, open air drug dealing and crack-addicted squatters breaking into houses, actually defecating inside?"

Indeed, the four points appear to be "pure spin," and a Pollyanna response to reality. Reality is if you go to the top of Farview Park for an hour, alone, there is a significant statistical possibility you'll be mugged or asked if you want to purchase drugs and/or the services of a prostitute. In a best case scenario, you will spend half your time looking over your shoulder for your safety.

Thus, anybody who is exposed to the four points and contrasts this frame against the media frame or the slumlord frame will say to themselves, "The four points are a lie and the media have it right. My own experience just driving around tells me this."

Instead of pretending the other frames don't exist or are not legitimate, I am putting forward my own talking points which assert brave and adventurous types should leap into the fray to "secure the North Side" because "with risk comes reward." (This is "Johnny Northside Talking Point One.")

Thus, my frame accepts the reality of the "media frame" and the "slumlord frame" but then asserts, "No! We will fight and we will win. What we need are brave risk takers to secure the North Side and share the bounty. With risk comes reward, in this case charming Victorian houses just minutes from downtown Minneapolis selling for $15,900! And this in an era of rising gas prices."

I am suggesting the "first wave" of new residents should consist of "adventurous" personalities who have some security training, such as police, security guards, and current or former members of the military. (This is Point Two) The first wave will see an opportunity to buy valuable real estate on the cheap, and then clear out the crime in the area through vigorous grassroots efforts as one would clear litter and weeds from a vacant lot, thus making their own properties more valuable and opening a safe path for second and third waves of residents. (POINT THREE) (FOOTNOTE FIVE)

The future waves will consist of students (especially grad students) who can't afford places like Uptown and Powderhorn Park for their first homes, and individuals from depressed rural areas who are desperate to gain a foothold in a major metropolitan area and escape pathetically low wages and lack of cultural opportunities in small, dying rural towns. (Point 4)

Thus, for purposes of easy recollection, I describe three groups all beginning with the letter "S," namely Soldiers, Students and South Dakotans. (FOOTNOTE SIX)

I am pointing out to all who will listen that Minneapolis is growing, and now real estate so close to the downtown retail core is too valuable to remain a depressed area. (FOOTNOTE SEVEN) Dramatic change has already happened in North Minneapolis. Even more dramatic change is inevitable. I believe positive change requires grappling with cold, hard reality instead of plugging one's ears to bad news and singing la-la-la-la-la.

Other organizations such as the military use a form of "Market and Romanticize the Struggle" to gain recruits. When faced with negative facts, sidestepping and spinning "alternative facts" hardly ever works. It is far better to somehow turn a negative into a positive. In military recruitment commercials, recruits are shown sweating and struggling, yet emerging triumphant and transformed by their struggle.

These ads work, especially when combined with the economic reality of college tuition payments through the Montgomery GI Bill and a steady, decent paying job in the military, not to mention (in many instances) valuable vocational training. In a similar manner, "Market and Romanticize the Struggle" would work, especially combined with things like the Minneapolis Advantage Program to help individuals buy homes.

Revitalization and renewal of the Central District in Seattle is a model for what is possible in North Minneapolis. Back in 1999, when I lived in Seattle, the Central District was in a situation rather similar to North Minneapolis. However, through the efforts of visionary activists (including my friend Chris Gilmore) that whole area turned around, and folks who had courage and vision obtained fantastic deals on Victorian homes with lovely interior features. (FOOTNOTE EIGHT)

That is my exercise in framing. But, more so, that is my vision.


(Apologies in advance for the tendency of Star Tribune links to go dead, not by accident but as part of a lame attempt to get consumers to purchase articles from their archives. See my opinion column "Avista Capital Partners Is The Devil." )

FOOTNOTE TWO: See Minn Post, "Minneapolis North Side copper theft epidemic adds to mounting house problems."

FOOTNOTE THREE: For the record, I currently have a signed purchase agreement with a "non-slumlord" buyer promoting positive development in my neighborhood. I plan to buy another house on or near the same block with the proceeds from the sale.

FOOTNOTE FOUR: In the original homework assignment, this footnote said, "Indeed, this memo will soon join the content on my blog."

FOOTNOTE FIVE: Marketing appeals might include posters done in the style of World War II propaganda posters, urging individuals to "Secure the North Side" and reminding them "with risk comes reward." Any "Wild West" appeal should be avoided, however, as insensitive to Native Americans.

However, a "gold rush" metaphor might work quite well, something along the lines of "Stake your claim to the riches of the North Side."

FOOTNOTE SIX: It should be noted I have been a member, in the broadest sense, of all three groups. 1.) Grad student, 2.) Former soldier and security guard, 3.) Desperate to avoid ever living in a depressed rural area ever again, albeit I lived in North Dakota instead of South Dakota.

I also considered adding "Southeast Asians" and "some gay people" to the frame. However, there appears to be no need to convince Hmong to move to the North Side--they are already doing so--and if gay people are convinced to move to the North Side it is my belief that direct marking appeals will backfire.

Either the North Side is the next happening place to get a great deal on a Victorian or it isn't. Low key, individual, one-on-one efforts are more likely to be successful than a semi-official marketing strategy which boldly announces "We're going to reach out to gay people to revitalize our neighborhood."

One can predict a backlash from conservative churches. It would get ugly. Gay people would get caught in the middle. Best to avoid that scenario, according to my best calculations.

FOOTNOTE SEVEN: Anderson Mitchell has articulated a good theory about how gas prices will drive North Side revitalization due to proximity of North Minneapolis to the downtown core. Again, the real estate is too valuable to remain in a depressed state. Now is the time to "buy stock."

Additionally, a new trend of "walkable urbanism" is emerging, according to CNN.

FOOTNOTE EIGHT: See this article in the Seattle times. It should be noted that, unfortunately, an incredible amount of diversity was lost in the Central District, with black residents pushed to outlying towns like Renton, Washington. Such a mistake should be avoided in North Minneapolis and the "Central District" of Seattle should serve as a cautionary tale.

(Do not click "Read More")

Lawn Mower Man's House Hits The MLS

Fair comment and criticism

I said to myself, "I know that house!" when it hit the MLS.

Axe marks on living room ceiling are a special feature you will rarely find anywhere...

When I wrote about "Lawn Mower Man" before, there were a few things I refrained from mentioning. Like, in addition to seeing somebody bang on the ceiling with an axe to wake up their sleeping relative, the place was kind of...well, it had an odd kind of dirtiness.

It was like the house had once been filled to the rafters with crappy old stuff, and somebody lived like that for decades, but then later other people came along and cleaned out all the stuff...and yet there was still kind of a "patina of filth" and "minor odds and ends of stuff" from the way the place was before.

Yeah. Exactly like that.

Oh, also, plaster was missing from the walls in a lot of places and the lathes were visible underneath. I don't think they had a working bathroom, but they were making do in practical ways, like urinating into 32-oz. plastic cups from Super America. (If the liquid you drink comes from a plastic cup, why shouldn't it go back into that same cup? Seems mighty efficient to me)

The folks in the house were friendly, decent folks and I must say the lawnmower was a heck of a deal. Peter Teachout, Chairman of HACC, still has possession of it under our neighborly arrangement.

A few weeks ago I was driving on Third Street North, and I recognized the white cargo van parked on the street, and a moment later "Lawn Mower Man" walked past. I stopped my vehicle and called out to him, "Hey, lawn mower guy!"

He turned and recognized me. I noticed he had a new haircut, very short.

"How is it going?" I asked.

"I'm leaving," he said, glumly. "Actually, right this moment. We're done with the house."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. "What will happen to the house?"

"Don't know," he replied, peevishly. "Don't care. It's not my problem. I never owned it. [Expletive] it."

I wished him well in all his future endeavors and said it was good doing business with him. He nodded and gave me a grim smile, then walked back toward the house, shoulders slumped like he was carrying the weight of the world...or, well, the weight of several lawnmowers he probably had to abandon in the shed.

At least I have the comfort of knowing that, according to Lawnmower Man the nosy neighbor lady ("Mama") constantly makes calls on the house, so if dealers and gang members move in there it won't take long for that neighbor to call somebody. I hope.

Another house for me to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Live Ammo Music Video At 320 30th Ave. N. photo

This information comes from the Commander of the Fourth Precinct, Michael Martin, by email...

Martin says "We...executed a search warrant at 320 30th Avenue North today as a result of shots fired and 2 weapons arrests last night that led to the recovery of shell casings, ammo packaging and gang evidence.

"More than 20 [Name That Shall Not Be Glorified] gang members were filming a rap video there last night and fired shots in the air. Unfortunately the SWAT team had to shoot a large dog that charged them upon entry."

Martin didn't specifically say whether the music-video-in-progress was recovered as evidence.

UPDATE: August 12, 2008. Word on the street is the house in question is owned by Cynthia L. Fernandez, who does not approve of the methods I use to fight crime in my part of the neighborhood. (Well, not just me, but I'm the most public about it)

Fernandez apparently prefers the make-'em-smores and sing Kumbuya method of dealing with gang members, which I prefer to call "enabling." The arrest makes my point. Word on the street is Fernandez was hinting cops planted a weapon. Yeah, well, I'm still waiting to see the music video and I'm hoping to make that judgment for myself, but I already have a knee jerk reaction. It starts with "bull" and ends with an expletive.

Haunted House On The MLS

Fair comment and criticism

It must be haunted. How else can you explain the image of the house at 2508 17th Avenue South appears to be a NEGATIVE? Or is that a picture taken at night with auto headlights turned on the house? Police spotlights?

The thing just GLOWS BY ITSELF? (My guess)

Hard to tell, but I can't be the only one who finds dark fascination and amusement in the MLS listings, which have an undercurrent of disaster and desperation.

(Do not click "Read More")

Monday, June 23, 2008

"One Transaction Flipping" As Explained By HACC Director Of Housing Development Jeff Skrenes

Photo by John Hoff

About a week ago, during a meeting at HACC, Jeff Skrenes told me some of the dark history behind 409 31st Ave. N. and explained a tricky form of fraud called "one transaction flipping."

"Whoah--!" I said to Jeff. "Too complicated. I can't remember all this. Jeff, You need to write all this (expletive) down... I can put it on my blog."

A few nights later, battling a bout of insomnia, Jeff composed an email and explained "one transaction flipping" just as he did for me on the sidewalk outside the HACC office. Without further ado, here it is.

The lending practice called "One-Transaction Flip" has contributed in a large part to the problems we're seeing in north Minneapolis.

The last time we saw "flipping" in north Minneapolis, it involved buying a house on the cheap, putting in minimal repairs (if any) and selling it quickly for top dollar to an unsuspecting buyer. One-Transaction flipping is different because it only involves a single transaction and it takes multiple parties collaborating to take advantage of multiple people.

Let's say Mr. Smith is trying to sell his house for $100,000 but for the last six months it hasn't sold. He's desperate to get rid of the house because he has to move. A realtor sees this and says, "I can sell your house in as little as a few days to a few weeks. The sale price will be $150,000 but the fees involved will make your net profit the same as if it sold for $100,000."

Well, why should Mr. Smith care if he can sell his house for the net gain he was looking for? Smith can't pass up the deal.

The realtor next goes to Mr. Jones, an unsuspecting buyer, and says, "How would you like to buy a house and get $10,000?" This may be presented as an owner-occupied deal, but more often it's sold to the buyer this way: "We'll manage the property for you, putting renters in, paying the utilities, etc. We just need your name on the credit to make it happen. Since we're taking care of everything, it's a risk-free investment. Plus, you get the $10,000 and any appreciation in value."

On the technical side of this, it usually takes collaboration from a realtor, mortgage originator, (broker) appraiser, and title company. The realtor is usually the one initiating contact with the unsuspecting buyer and seller.

The realtor does duel representation, which is legal in Minnesota but very rare. This keeps another realtor from being part of the transaction and calling them out on the fraud. As an added bonus, the realtor gets his regular commission from both sides of the transaction.

The mortgage broker must falsify documents or find a "no doc" mortgage product that works. One borrower who was a victim realized only after closing that the broker created a job for a time when he was actually in prison. I've heard stories of mortgage document "chop shops" or "arts and crafts sessions" where brokers literally create pay stubs and W-2s for a borrower, frequently without the borrower having knowledge this was happening.

Also, a broker can send this same borrower for 4-5 loan approvals at different companies. The appraiser has to be in on the deal, of course, so an inflated appraisal can be written up.

The title company is where it gets tricky.

(Wait, you mean it hasn't gotten tricky YET?--JNS)

In most cases, a title company is used to insure the transaction closes properly. So title companies want to be on the lookout for fraud. Let's go back to that $50,000 difference that's going to be left over. Usually the realtor or broker (whoever takes the lead in recruiting victims, usually) creates a shell limited liability corporation, with a name that makes it seem like they do some kind of home repair/general contracting. A title company is supposed to look out for red flags, such as large payouts to LLCs without evidence of the work actually being completed. So the fraudsters usually get a title company involved, finding someone who can and will fudge the necessary closing info.

Everybody gets a cut in the parking lot after the deal closes.

So how do you spot one-transaction flips? First, check to see if a realtor on the MLS does an inordinate amount of dual representations. This is so rare that even 2 or 3 a year are enough of a red flag. Next, check the properties on which the realtor did dual representation. You'll probably see they move in as little as 2 days to 2 weeks, meaning that the seller already has borrowers lined up.

If you were to go farther in your MLS research, you'd see that the houses all sell for a lot more than the should have, and were listed earlier well below the final selling price. If you've got closing papers in front of you, you'll see the shell LLC come up as a fee on the seller's side of the transaction.

This is happening a lot less than it used to, simply because 100 percent loans are going away. But it's still there, if for no other reason than a lot of the perpetrators haven't been caught yet.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

HACC Chairman Peter Teachout Assassinated With Grenade

Photo by John Hoff

My 11-year-old son and I went over to Peter Teachout's place, where we played video games and watched "X-Men 3." My son pretty much mopped the floor with Peter playing "two player duel" in X-box "Halo 3."

In fact...

Peter never won a single round against my son. Peter tried going into the game settings to change the rules, attempting to create a scenario of weapons and terrain which would allow him to beat my son. At one point, Peter led 4-0 in a 25 point game and announced "I rock."

"Then why is there a plasma (grenade) stuck to you?" my son asked, as Peter's character was blown apart in a blue explosion of light.

In one instance, my son won a game 25 to 0. My kid was always getting his hands on a superior piece of equipment--like a Banshee jet fighter--and running the game. It was pretty ugly. Peter's numerous corpses littered the ground of the virtual world, and my son would scavenge weapons from the dead.

"Plasmas, mostly," my kid explained.

Peter, to his credit, is a self-confessed glutton for punishment; which is why he kept playing my kid for hours.

"Don't be holding back on him just because he's a child," I told Peter.

"I'm NOT!" Peter said. "That's the PROBLEM!"

The game was interrupted once by a need to call 911 over "shots fired or possible firecrackers" on 6th and Lowry. Another time, Peter went over to check on a neighbor and insisted on walking instead of driving, saying, "I don't like to feel as though I live in a war zone."

"That's really too bad," I replied. "Since you do, in fact, live in a war zone."

Peter and I are both working to clean up the neighborhood, but we have different approaches. Like my son, I believe in bringing too much to the fight, rather than too little. Peter was brought up to have faith in God, and I was brought up to have faith in ammunition.

Peter said when he and his brother used to play duel-player Halo, they had a "no screen peeking" rule. I say, "When screen peeking is outlawed, only peekers will have screens."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lurking Ordinance Upheld photo

According to a City Pages blogger, who appears to have scooped all the major media outlets, the Minneapolis lurking ordinance was NOT repealed by a vote of 7-5.

City Council Member Cam Gordon is my Green Party homeboy, and I'm sorry to see him on the losing side of this issue, but I hope the police department will soon use the "classic" lurking ordiance to arrest notorious pimp and druggie Khameron NMN Lake, who was strolling 6th Street yesterday in a truly outrageous manner, saying, "I got it right here, I'll break it off for you" while little children were playing in a nearby yard.

In light of this action by the council, I hope the ordinance will get a lot more use against "open air drug markets" in very well known and constant locations.

(Do not click "Read More")

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good Grief! Now Is Not The Time To Repeal The Minneapolis "Lurking" Ordinance

Joseph Sodd III, stabbed to death on the West Bank yesterday

So about a month ago I was walking on my campus and I noticed purple fliers had been posted all over the Washington Avenue Bridge, crying out against the "lurking ordinance."

The fliers were urging naive college students (the vast majority of which had never before heard of the ordinance, much less been personally oppressed by it) to instantly form a strong opinion and send emails to Council Member Hofestede telling her to vote for repeal of the ordinance....

I think I found the fliers useful. It seems to me I may have sent an email to Hofestede urging her NOT to vote for repeal, and mentioning the fact of the "Tinky-Winkie purple" fliers posted all over the bridge.

There are no indications people are being picked on for their characteristics and arrested under this ordinance, contrary to the hyperbole and "what ifs" put forward by the well-meaning folks who want to repeal the law. But the recent murder of Joseph Sodd III on the West Bank should show the value of an ordinance which prohibits lurking about to do crimes. If Sodd was killed in a robbery--and the indications look a lot like robbery--then the robber probably spent some time lurking about with a knife, looking for a potential victim.

As my recent blog post about "slap on the wrist" sentences shows, "oppression" by police isn't a huge problem in Minneapolis. Certainly all systems could use some improvement and may have some bad actors, some unfortunate incidents. More diversity would greatly improve the ranks of MPD and I'm glad there are sharp critics keeping the police honest.

But this idea of "repeal the lurking ordinance" is a solution in search of a non-existent problem.

You know why we need the lurking ordinance? We need it because of bad actors like Khameron NMN Lake, who reportedly has a rap sheet as long as the arm of a full grown man and who boldly stakes out street corners to do his deals, even if he's been arrested before on those very corners. The naive little latte-sippers crossing the Washington Avenue Bridge, sending missives with their Blackberry devices, have NO FREAKING CLUE why North Minneapolis needs a tool like the lurking ordinance.

But maybe somebody like Joseph Sodd III getting stabbed in the neck on the West Bank and bleeding out his young life on a cold, hard sidewalk before he's old enough to drink might give the latte-sippers at U of M reason to reconsider their innocent outlook, might quench the insane desire to hold hands with well-known pimps, hookers and crack heads and sing "Kumbaya."

Why do we need the lurking ordinance? Jeff Skrenes of HACC was kind enough (per my request) to put it in an email, as follows.


The ordinance prohibits "lurking with the intent to commit a crime." So if someone who doesn't belong somewhere is hanging around a vacant house, looking for a chance to get in when nobody is around, or waiting for an opportunity to do any number of illicit activities such as drugs or prostitution or mugging someone, they can be cited for this activity.

It's a small offense, but it gives our law enforcement officials an essential tool to combat suspicious activity. With the dramatic rise in vacant homes, this tool is needed now more than ever.

However, a civil rights group consistently tries to get this ordinance lessened or taken away. They're back at it again this year and the vote is coming up at this Friday's (tomorrow's) council meeting.

The group held a meeting recently and only one person spoke up in favor of this statute. What does this tell you? They were better organized at that time. Since many of our council members have begun to raise awareness, more and more messages from neighbors have been pouring in asking that this ordinance remain intact.

I can certainly see where, from a purely abstract civil liberties argument, something like this ordinance can be abused. But it's a needed tool without any major instances of abuse or misuse coming to light. This proposal [to repeal the ordinance] is a solution in search of a problem. Even if the law needs tweaking, now is not the time to weaken it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Commander Tough Glove" Offers An Amusing Anecdote

The high-ranking police officer I call "Commander Tough Glove" sent me an email about my recent blog post about petty "slap on the wrist" sentences for drug dealing...

...saying it gave him a "good laugh" and it's "great when people discover for the first time how the justice system treats the people who hold it in contempt."

Tough Glove then adds the following.

Several years ago, one of the most notorious gang members of the late 1990s was a young man named Isaac Hodge. He was forever on the edge of major incidents (shootings, murders, etc.) but we were never able to get him charged, often due to the way gangs keep people from cooperating in our investigations.

The police were finally able to get him dirty with a quantity of crack cocaine and he was convicted of a FELONY. The judge gave him the usual extended sentence and probation, but to show how serious he was the judge ordered Hodge to take his mother to dinner and spend at least $40, and to bring the receipt to court to prove he had done so.


Mortgage Fraud On My Block (409 31st Ave. N.)

Larry D. Maxwell is a
bad, bad man.

Yesterday, Jeff Skrenes of Hawthorne Area Community Council told me some of the back story on 409 41st Ave. N., the "House of the Soggy Bears." It turns out there was some rather notable and high-profile mortgage fraud at that address perpetrated ... Larry D. Maxwell, pictured above,

In my photo of the house, which was built in 1886, you can see the graffiti left there before I painted it over in black, and now I've "painted over my paint-over" in gray. This is the house where a bunch of teddy bears, flowers, and one rain-ruined Sharpie marker were left to grow moldy and sloppy in the rain in a makeshift memorial to some guy who was shot for unknown reasons...but he was not actually shot right there at the house.

So I'm told.

According to Jeff, the house has tax liens on it from the IRS due to Larry D. Maxwell's fraudulent (but profitable) activities, which makes matters complicated for anybody to try to buy the house in question.

So 409 31st Ave. N. sits, subject to break-ins and vandalism. Furthermore, the feds are very difficult to deal with because of the sheer volume of mortgage fraud. So if somebody like Jeff Skrenes were to call the appropriate fed and say, "Hey, we have this empty house in our area, and it's becoming kind of a problem and a magnet for crime" the answer would be, "Get in line behind the 10-foot pile, sir."

According to a blog about mortgage fraud, Maxwell has a history of mortgage fraud going back to 2001, when he was sentenced on a federal mortgage fraud charge. (All of this info, below, comes from the mortgage fraud blog, which obtained its info from an article by Steve Brandt of the Star Tribune)

Maxwell, age 52, currently faces charges involving $1.2 million or more in mortgages in an area "from Bloomington to Blaine."

And now from Bloomington, to Blaine, to Johnny's Block. He is charged with 10 counts of fraud. Charges were made against Realty Executive Advantage Group, which was operated from Maxwell's north Minneapolis riverfront condo. For the record, Maxwell's attorney Larry Reed says his client will plead not guilty. (As distinguished from saying his client is innocent) It should be noted Reed bought a house from Maxwell and represented Maxwell in the previous federal case.

There are four other "uncharged conspirators" in the racketeering count, which are Vickie Cox-Maxwell (Larry's wife) and Larry Scott, his son, both of which are agents of Realty Executive. Also charged is mortgage broker Terrece Large of Worldwide Mortgage Inc., where Maxwell was a loan officer (how cozy and intimate!) and Halisi J. Edwards-Staten, who is apparently the real estate broker for Realty Executive.

According to the criminal complaint, Edwards-Staten lives in Ge0rgia, which would violate state law requiring a licensed broker to monitor Realty Executive.

Edwards-Staten was an unsuccessful candidate for county commissioner in 1996. She resigned from a state supervisory position the following year after being suspended during an investigation into whether she had done anything improper in awarding a $50,000 contract to a non-profit group run by her then-husband, former legislator Randolph W. Staten.

According to the criminal complaint, illegal activity began in approximately June of 2006, right when Maxwell's five-year probation expired from his 2001 case, where he admitted submitting false documents so that a client could obtain a federally insured home loan. Maxwell's new (allegedly) criminal dealings came to light when a Plymouth resident complained his identity had been stolen to buy properties, first in Minneapolis and then in Bloomington.

Maxwell's attorney blames the criminal activity on the unidentified man, saying this man came to (poor, innocent, almost-off-probation) Larry Maxwell with a false identity. Maxwell found out about it--the attorney claims--and went to the mortgage company in an attempt to determine the man's identity. (Yes, that's always where I go when I want to determine somebody's identity, straight to a mortgage company) (Here there should be a type font for sarcasm)

According to the criminal complaint--and I'm not reading any explanation from Maxwell's attorney for these particular ugly facts--dozens of fraudulent loan applications were found after a search of Maxwell's home and office in November of 2007. Maxwell was arrested the same day and bail was set at $250,000.

Lender Centennial Mortgage and Funding, Inc., of Bloomington--where Maxwell obtained some loans--told investigators it suspected fraud in 10 property transactions.
I have to wonder at what point fraud was suspected, and how this timing might play out if a lawsuit for predatory lending ever came out of this. (Though, for the record, I haven't heard anybody suggest such a thing)

In the all rolls downhill to my little block, where Khameron NMN Lake and his prostitute, Kathy, break into 409 31st Ave. N. until it is securely boarded...where crap is dumped in the lawn as somebody in a truck sorts through cargo...where graffiti adorns the door of 409 31st Ave. North to memorialize somebody dead from criminal violence.

Meanwhile, people like Larry D. Maxwell made so much money the IRS is apparently trying to find some of it. (The owner of this particular house is listed as Vicki Cox-Maxwell)

And yet the block is turning around, and if there is nothing else true of 409 31st, at least this much is true right now: that house is secured.

Misc. info about the house:

Larry Maxwell and Vicki Cox Maxwell are listed at 2309 River Pointe Cir Minneapolis, MN 55411.

Sale history went like this:

June 7, 1996, the house was sold by somebody named Van Ryswyk to a guy named "Carter Edgar" for a mere $37,000. Some history appears to be missing, but in May of 2005 the house was apparently owned by a Bashir Moghul, who sold the house to Threshold Investments, LLC for $170,000. About one year later, in April of 2005, Threshold sold the property to Vicki Y Cox Maxwell for $175,000.

By the way...Jeff Skrenes has promised to send me an email explaining, in detail, a phenomenon called "one transaction flipping."

I am looking forward to receiving that and sharing it on this blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Only Witness To A Burglary

Photo by Pam P.

The burglary of a house north of my block was an event which stirred the neighborhood and, despite the outrage and sense of violation, a lot of good seems to have come from all the meeting with city officials and banding together....

Here is a picture of the only witness to the burglary, the cat of the resident in question. This cat--who is named Emmy, short for Emerald--was adopted as a stray and had the misfortune to be in the very bedroom which was burglarized by entry through a window. After that, the cat spent a lot of time hiding under the bed and hasn't been quite the same.

I tried to find some humor in the situation by telling the resident "Good thing it wasn't a CAT BURGLAR."

I've now been forced to replace both of the cool "disturbing cat" images I had on my blog with "nice, cute kitty" pictures under relentless pressure from cat-lovers. Well, Johnny Northside aims to least in this one instance.

Here you go, Pam! Your cat is a star in the blog-o-sphere.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

STILL Talking Back To The Star Tribune Article About The Apartment Complex of Anarchy

Photo by Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

I'm still not done telling the Star Tribune how incomplete and wrongheaded their article was, the one called "North Side foreclosure upends lives." I'd include a link, but I refuse to work with links ACTUALLY SCHEDULED TO GO DEAD, so I basically refuse to use any Star Tribune links.

Here's more info I turned up about the resident, pictured above in Jerry Holt's pretty decent photo, (used under "fair comment") who calls herself "A.J."

Her name is apparently...

..."Angie" and she has a reputation for hitting the bottle quite hard. One day Angie was all disheveled, hung over, and apparently quite depressed. A local resident (one of the decent people on the block) saw Angie in that sorry state.

Now keep in mind what I've asserted on this blog, about how it is VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE to live a life on the North Side and not have periodic interactions with your neighbors, even if your neighbors happen to be hoes and crack heads. Sooner or later, you'll have to tell somebody with a pit bull to scoop their poop, or politely ask a junkie to pick up her syringe.

"What's the matter?" this resident asked Angie. "Why so sad?"

"Oh," Angie said. "This is the anniversary of my son's death. That's why I'm so sad and drinking."

It was indeed sad. Her son is in the wooden urn, pictured above, and died at the age of 21. I learned from this same resident it was some kind of "gang- or drug-related shooting."

A couple weeks later, the same resident saw Angie, once again drunk and looking a mess. Wondering what it could be THIS time, she inquired why Angie looked so sad.

"Oh!" Angie said. "This is the anniversary of my son's death."

And so it went. Every few weeks or months the resident would inquire why Angie was looking so sad, and each time Angie would say it was the anniversary of her son's death, apparently oblivious to the fact she had made the same claim only a short while earlier. I'm very surprised Angie didn't claim the eviction itself came on the anniversary of her son's death.

Also, in regard to Angie's claim to the reporter that residents were given "30 minutes notice" during the eviction, and so she grabbed her son's ashes, well, according to this same resident Angie told her "I've had my bags packed for months" and they were just holding out as long as possible.

And Angie also said something to the effect of, "Well, who are we supposed to pay rent to, anyway, if it's not Shirley?" This backs up my assertion that not only did none of the residents lose rent, they were actually living rent-free for a while.

This is why we teach students at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication to use phrases like "said" and "according to." Because, as it turns out, sometimes when people open their mouths a bunch of lies spill out.

Like in this case.

The resident said when she read the Star Tribune article she thought, "Oh, yeah, there Angie goes playing that whole death of her son thing. She's always playing that."

In other news about the Apartment Complex of Anarchy, HACC Chairman Peter Teachout told me his church loaded down one of the residents with food, because their foodstuffs were left in cupboards when they evacuated. After this, the residents kept coming back to Peter's church, even attending a service.

And this pleased Peter, because he is not so hard and cynical as me. I say, "Give a man crack, and he'll be high for a few minutes. But teach a man how to make his own crack, and he'll be high every day."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Amazing, Petty "Slap On The Wrist" Sentences For North Side Criminals photo

So I went through the City Attorney's website and I sought out examples of sentences dished out to criminals...the very same criminals citizens can submit "community impact statements" about using the functions of the website.

I only wish what I'm going to tell you about was the exception, not the rule, but from what I'm seeing....

...paltry "slap on the wrist" sentences are the norm. Ask yourself why citizens should submit community impact statements at all, when the offenders will serve two days, or no time at all, and will pay less money for loitering to buy crack than productive, generally law-abiding citizens will pay for a traffic violation?

Furthermore, though some judges and prosecutors are busier than others, the pattern appears to hold true no matter who the judge or prosecutor. In Minneapolis, generally, you get a "slap on the wrist" for North Side crime.

See if I lie. Here are the criminals, and here are their sentences. Judge for yourself if these are mere "slaps on the wrist" compared to what the criminals did.

* Monique Marie Johnson, age 29, pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia in a public place, 2647 Penn Ave. N. The report says the Chief of Police has labeled this area a "hot spot" for criminal activity. She walked toward officers holding a crack pipe in her hand, so stupid is she. She also has no place to live. She has been arrested before for loitering with intent to buy narcotics IN THE SAME AREA.

Prosecuted by Karen S. Herland in the court of The Honorable Judge H. Richard Hopper, this criminal received a 2 day jail sentence (which she had apparently already served while in the system) and a fine of $50, ALL OF WHICH WAS SUSPENDED.

* Donnie Gary Straub, 34, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for interfering at the scene of a stabbing, 2230 6th St. N. He interfered "several times."

Straub was Tasered and taken to jail. For this he was fined $50 and sentenced to 30 days, but all 30 days were stayed.

Prosecuted by Nnamdi A. Okoronkwo before the Honorable Thomas W. Wexler.

* Kevin D. Holt, 29, caught fornicating in an alley (near 22nd Ave. N. and 3rd St. N.) and was charged with indecent exposure/conduct. Pleaded guilty. (Herland was prosecutor, Hopper was judge) Received a $50 fine and a suspended sentence of 30 days.

Why not just sell licenses for $50 for the right to fornicate in an alley?

* Henry Coleman Smith, 27, loitered with intent to sell drugs. Walked away from officers, threw a bag of marijuana, but was arrested. He pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to no time in jail. He paid a $100 fine.

Why not just sell licenses for $100 for the right to sell marijuana on a public street?

* Kathleen Margaret Croud, 43. I strongly suspect this is the identity of "Kathy the Prostitute," who constantly hangs around with Khameron NMN Lake and makes life difficult in our neighborhood with her constant druggie and prostitution activity. We can't seem to get rid of her.

And after seeing the sentence dished out by the court system, I can understand why. For loitering at 31st Ave. N. and 4th St. N., where the officers said she often loiters, with a crack pipe sticking out an inch from the top of her jeans pocket, she was fined $50 and sentenced to 90 days in jail--all of which was stayed.

She was also credited for 2 days. Does that mean she has a credit balance for her next jail sentence?

The prosecutor was Eileen J. Strejc, the Honorable Judge was Jack S. Nordby.

*Richard Lee Taylor, 40, was caught at 430 30th Ave. N. (This is on my block) The officers went to that address with a person to "retrieve his property," and upon entering the building found three people inside, including Richard L. Taylor.

The house was full of items which did not belong to the victim, including stuff the officers described as tools "commonly used for burglaries" along with jewelry, electronic items.

Taylor pleaded guilty. The Judge was the Honorable Lloyd B. Zimmerman. The prosecutor was Kristi M. Lassegard. Taylor was fined $50 and sentenced to 60 days, all of which was stayed.

Why not just sell a license? $50 to live in somebody else's house with your burglary tools.

In an entirely different incident of trespass at 3023 4th St. N., (again in my area) Taylor pleaded guilty before Judge Hopper, prosecuted by Laufele Murphy. He paid a $50 fine and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, all of which was suspended, with "2 days credited" for the time he spent in jail.

* "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU GUNNA DO?" shouted Ray Charles Hinton to police officers. The answer, as it turned out, was. "Fine you $300 and make you spend 3 days in jail for obstructing legal process, disorderly conduct, and 5th Degree assault. If that's not too much bother, sir."

You know, I've got some people in my life who are upsetting to me, and this sounds like a real bargain, I must say! To whom do I write out a check?

Here's the incident at 2917 4th St. N. as described by the police. Police were called because Hinton was "pounding on the vehicle" of his girlfriend, while the girlfriend--afraid--was locked in her bathroom. When officers arrived, Hinton shouted his statement, above. At this point the victim came out, yelling for officers to "take him to jail." Hinton threw his cigarette at the victim and then "lunged at officers." Officers threw him back up against the vehicle.

Hinton tried to hit Officer Powell in the face with his left elbow. Officers fought Hinton, repeatedly advising him to stop resisting, and used a Taser on him. It took "several officers" to restrain Hinton, even after being Tasered. He was finally handcuffed and put in the squad car.

Based on what I know of human nature, I'm guessing the lovely couple got back together. The Honorable Judge in this case was Patricia Kerr Karasov, the prosecutor was Eileen J. Strejc.

* Marcus NMN Townsend. For loitering to buy drugs at 2027 2nd St. N, trying to swallow suspected crack cocaine, and being in possession of a crack pipe, Townsend was sentenced to ZERO days in jail and NO FINE.

He did, in fact, actually spend 10 days in jail. The prosecutor was Christopher J. Dixon, the Honorable Judge was George F. McGunnigle.

* Antonio Lamaurs Porter, 22, loitered to deal narcotics near Stand Up Frank's with a rock of suspected crack cocaine inside his blue stocking cap. (2027 2nd St. N.) For this he paid a $50 fine and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, but all 90 was stayed and he was credited for 8 days. The prosecutor was Strejc, the judge was Jack S. Nordby.

I have an idea. Let Antonio L. Porter pay his $50 fine with five "rocks" of cocaine. When in court, he has to take off his stocking cap, anyway. He could reach in the cap and say, "I have it right here, Your Honor, sir."

* Anthony D. Vanlear, 44, trespassed at 1504 Irving Ave. N. Prosecuted by Herland before Judge Lloyd B. Zimmerman. Sentenced to 30 days, but 28 stayed, 2 executed, 2 credited)

Oh, and a $50 fine. Did I mention that whole "pay in convenient rock cocaine" idea?

* Sergio NMN Scott, 25, trespassed to occupy a locked, posted building at 2024 Willow Avenue North. Pleaded guilty. Heidi L. Johnston was the prosecutor, Hopper was the judge. Sentenced to 60 days with 56 stayed, 1 day credited, and a $50 fine.

* Dervon Chantoine Smith, 20, not old enough to drink but plenty old enough to loiter to buy/sell narcotics at the intersection of Lowry Ave. N. and Dupont Ave. N. The prosecutor was Flavio S. De Abrue, the judged was Zimmerman. Smith was fined $50 and given a 90 day suspended sentence, apparently doing no jail time at all.

* Maurice Levell Cooper, 25, ILLINOIS DOESN'T WANT HIM BACK.

This guy was in a parking lot at 26th Ave. N. and Penn Ave. N., loitering to buy/sell narcotics. He saw a squad car and tried to flee on his bike, then dropped the bike and fled on foot. He had marijuana in his possession and a felony warrant from Illinois, though he had no identity and could not be positively verified for that reason. He was booked but Illinois didn't want him back, wouldn't extradite for the felony warrant.

My idea: drive him to Illinois and call the local police to take him into custody.

* Terrel Shavon Lewis, 23, case dismissed for "insufficient evidence" by the county attorney. Apparently, the sworn statement of officers was not enough evidence. Here is what the police swore happened at 2406 Lowry Avenue North.
Officers were dispatched to the listed address on a domestic assault abuse in progress. Upon arrival, officers encountered a very hostile family with over a dozen people inside the house. While officers were attempting to find the victim in the house, the family was being verbally abusive with officers and requested that officers leave because they didn't have a warrant.

Arrested Party Phillips was yelling at the other family members to make the cops leave. At this point, officers located the victim and while officers were attempting to have the victim step out of the house into a safer environment, Phillips stuck out her arm and said, "Nuh, uh, you ain't leaving and these police can't be here."

Phillips continued to summon other family members including several large men into the room and asked them to remove my partner from the house. Fearing that (Phillips) would be starting a riot and endangering my partner and I, my partner attempted to escort (Phillips) from the house. At this time, Phillips pushed back and my partner and pulled away from my partner.

Phillips pushed my partner back several times, and another male, Lewis, layed [sic] on top of (Phillips) to prevent officers from picking her up off the couch. Due to the fact officers were surrounded by several angry subjects and that Phillips was not cooperating with officers' orders, Phillips was warned several times she would be Tased if she did not comply. Phillips did not comply and she was Tased.

As Phillips was being Tased, Lewis began to pull the Taser probes out of Phillips. Phillips then attempted to get up off the couch and came at me in a threatening manner and she was Tased a second time. Phillips was booked for obstruction of legal process with force.

* Bryon Kieth Lloyd, 32, who kicked Officer Steward in the leg (twice) during a domestic incident at 3415 Oliver Ave. N. was fined $375 and had a 90 day jail sentence stayed, though apparently did 8 days, for which he was credited. In the course of this incident, children were crying and officers saw Lloyd pushing a female up against a wall.

The prosecutor was Jennifer A. Saunders, the judge was Regina M. Chu.

* Bobby Earl Johnson, 44, according to the sworn statement of an officer tried to take a swing at officers in an incident at 2900 Queen Avenue North. Johnson is a known crack cocaine user and this was a suspicious vehicle stop.

The prosecutor was Paula J. Kruchowski and the judge was Hopper. The matter was dismissed by the County Attorney for insufficient evidence.

* Lee Bradford Wright, 22, ran away from officers responding to a 911 hangup who observed "5 fresh bullet holes" through the front window. There was another arrest at the scene and a .40 semi automatic pistol and a 12 gauge shotgun were recovered.

Johnston was the prosecutor, Hopper the judge. The penalty for this good clean fun with firearms was a suspended 45 day sentence and a fine of $50.

Perhaps Wright could pay his fine in bullets. You know, in early colonial America, bullets were sometimes used as currency! And--take my word on this--$50 won't buy you too many bullets to conveniently carry around.

* Rafael Joseph Peil, 24, paid a $50 fine and had a 45 day sentence--all suspended--for drunkenly banging on the door of a terrified senior citizen who lives alone, saying he thought the house belonged to his "home girl." It was nighttime, and he also kicked on the door. Peil was intoxicated and uncooperative with police.

I'm sure a $50 fine and no jail time taught him a harsh lesson about terrifying a senior citizen. The prosecutor was Cantu, the judge was Hopper.

* Kenyatta Antonio Hartfield, 33, was found inside a vacant house (2718 Queen Ave. N.) with three other persons, two of which had felony warrants. He was charged with trespassing. The charge was dismissed for "insufficient evidence." The prosecutor was Clair F. Cole, the judge was Zimmerman.

* Loren Dean Ratka, 29. What is the penalty for being involved with a burglary, and attempting to flee police? Apparently it is a rather confusing fine, as follows:

60 day sentence: 5 executed, 55 stayed, 1 credited. $50 fine, $125 executed, zero stayed, zero suspended.

I'm all mixed up, here. The police owe this man $75? And he had another four days to serve?

It's an amazingly minor sentence for being caught supposedly dead-to-rights in the middle of a burglary, and trying to get away from police.

* Antione Antonio Jones, 27, tried to kick in the rear door of a victim's house and was arrested for "domestic assault 5," but apparently charged with disorderly conduct. His 30 day sentence was all stayed, though he was credited two days, and fined $50.

Prosecutor was Jennifer A. Saunders, the judge was the Honorable Janet N. Poston.

In my experience, $50 isn't enough to buy a decent door.

* Louis Redus Jordan, 52, apparently doesn't believe in paying for things, not even "penny candy" at Cub Foods, 701 Broadway Ave. N.

Jordan tried to swipe two handfuls of "bulk candy," but was apprehended by a store employee named Faulkingham and a security guard named Patterson, who had Jordan in handcuffs. It turns out Jordan had been "trespassed" from that location about three months earlier, and he also had a misdemeanor bench warrant for fleeing a police officer...oh, and he ALSO had a GM Bench Warrant for theft.

He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, but 59 days were stayed and he was credited for one day. In other words...he walked away. Really, it would have cost the system less if the police had given Jordan two handfuls of candy and said, "Just leave."

* Theresa Lynn Jordan, 49, caught red-handed stealing scrap metal by crawling through an opening in a fence at a scrapyard, 1728 2nd Street N. She also admitted stealing from this business in the past.

Prosecutor was Clair F. Cole, the judge was the Honorable Philip D. Bush. Jordan paid a $50 fine and got a 45 day sentence, all stayed.

Maybe the system could make itself more convenient by letting folks pay in stolen copper pipe.

* Dartanion Dwayne Hill, 20, was observed dealing narcotics (as he has a history of doing) at 2700 Plymouth Ave. N. The prosecutor was Cantu, the judge was Hopper.

The price for dealing narcotics (repeatedly) is, in this instance, 3 days in jail (with three credited) and a $50 fine, but the fine is suspended.

Thus, "catch and release."

* Kimberly Dawn Anderson, 44, is another great example of "catch and release." She was caught with a crack pipe and suspected marijuana cigarette at 2511 Penn Ave. N.

There was zero monetary fine for this, and a sentence of 30 days, but with 25 days stayed, 5 executed, five credited.

* Belinda Fay Blakemore, 51, is an example of inexplicable "dismissal for insufficient evidence."

Blakemore was found standing at an intersection, flagging down vehicles in a "high prostitution and narcotic activity area." (27th Ave. N. and Penn Ave. N) Officers made contact with her, and she admitted having a crack pipe in her purse. She placed it on the hood of the squad car, and officers saw two crack pipes in plain view.

Yet it was dismissed for "lack of evidence." Proof, perhaps, that the Crack Demon watches out for those who love and serve him all day long. The prosecutor was Jodi L. Furness, the judge was Zimmerman.

* Lee Van Lewis, 49, pleaded guilty to possessing drug paraphernalia in a public place and lurking with intent. Not to worry--! Prosecuted by Herland before Judge Hopper, good ol' Lee van Lewis was fined $50 and given a 30 day sentence, all stayed.

Perhaps some of these users could "pay in paraphernalia?" Really, $50 will buy--what? Basically 10 low-quality crack pipes? And five higher-quality crack pipes?

* Brandon Dontae Fondren, 30, pleaded guilty to loitering to buy/sell narcotics at 3534 Morgan Ave. N. The prosecutor was Heidi L. Johnston, the judge was Hopper. He was given a $50 fine (all $50 was stayed) and sentenced to 2 days, with credit for 2 days.

Catch--! And release!

* Here's a good example of a repeat criminal. Lorenzo Daniel White currently has 9 open cases against him. Eight of the cases are for trespassing, and one is for loitering to buy/sell narcotics. He also has a bench warrant for trespass. So that's 10 items in the system.

Here are the places where White likes to trespass or loiter.

40 24th Ave. N. (Twice). 2638 James Ave. N. (three times) 10th Street N. (Yeah, he likes to loiter to buy and sell on the whole street, apparently) 600 Hennepin Ave. S., 2116 Lake St. E., 101 9th St. N., and 950 Hawthorne Ave.

White appears to be a prime example of how "slap on the wrist" fines and "catch and release" just produce repeat criminals.

I don't know what to think about all this. It is disturbing. It makes me start to question the point of calling 911. Also, I can't say if this is really a "North Side" phenomenon. It just so happens I focused intensely on the crime in the Fourth Precinct, because that's where I have my property. Yet it may be "slap on the wrist" is the standard for all of Minneapolis.

In classes at the Humphrey Institute, I've heard caterwauling about the "stiffer penalties" for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. And I ask...huh?!!! WHERE?!

Here's Yer Crime "Round Up"

Above, "paint over" of graffiti at 409 31st Ave. N. The Polish lady told me my "paint over" looked "like a bird." I told her, apologetically, I didn't have any gray paint with me, and I would procure some gray paint in the near future and do a better paint over. But at the moment it was important to...

...discourage further graffiti.

The writing on the wall apparently memorialized a guy who used to live in the house who (according to rumor in the neighborhood) died a short while after moving in, gunned down in some kind of incident. He didn't die at the property itself, but that is where individuals have memorialized him. Once there was a big pile of soggy teddy bears until somebody (not me) removed that stuff.

This block, I say, is for the living and for productive (i.e. non-criminal) elements of society.

I removed the single red candle, half-burned, which was left on the doorstep. It will not be wasted. It will be put to good use.

According to the Polish lady, some days ago somebody pulled into the yard behind this house and "sorted through" a truck full of items. When they left, they left a lot of crap in the yard. One more thing to take care of by the people who give a rip and pick up after themselves. And everybody else, too.

Other things which have happened in or near my area of operations, according to a recent crime summary emailed by the Minneapolis Police Department:

* At 6th and Lowry, a 46-year-old white female was robbed of her purse by three 18-22 year old black males, one of which she said took her medication away a few days earlier.

* 31st and 6th Street, Sunday at 3:45 pm. A 911 caller reported a male shooting randomly in the area and one caller reported seeing him with a gun shooting. Shot spotter confirmed the shots. As the only car able to respond was 220 dispatched, was requested to go city wide for squads to respond as it appeared there was an active shooter.

Some males were detained, but no gun was found. One resident said it sounded like a rifle range. Police were unable to determine if it really was shots, or firecrackers.

So, I ask, what were residents supposed to do while MPD was attempting to round up enough units to deal with an "active shooter?" Should we use our own weapons to take him on until police arrive?

I say send one squad--any expletive squad--and let the other squads arrive when they can. I've seen some police are armed with Colt AR-15s. At a minimum, they have their sidearms and the training to use 'em.

Is one squad care really not able to take on a single shooter, and so we have to deal with him by ourselves for a while? Or do police simply have that much confidence in us to handle it ourselves until they can arrive in force?