Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Progress Report In Celebration Of National Night Out (Hooker Leaves 3020 6th St. N.)

Photo by John Hoff

Contessa The Hooker has lived at 3020 6th St. N. for a long time, and has been observed apparently picking up johns (lots of them) and (apparently) arranging drug deals...

She was arrested some weeks ago and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, and some others at 3020 6th St. N. were charged with keeping a disorderly house, according to Inspector Mike Martin of the Fourth Precinct. I keep waiting to see the court cases appear on the City Attorney's website, so I can submit a community impact statement, but no luck yet.

(Note to self: send an email inquiry to City Attorney's Office)

I feel pretty safe calling Contessa a hooker since her landlord called her one while I was having lunch with him, though I didn't blog about it at the time. The landlord said another woman who lives at the house is a hooker, too, but what can he do about it? People need a place to live. This is the line always used by slumlords who fill our neighborhoods with pimps, hookers and drug dealers.

"People need a place to live." It's not so different from industries who fill the air with stink, and then say, "Well, that's the smell of money."

Contessa's pink pants are legendary. She wears them all the time. She wears them almost every day. If those pants could talk, you'd have to censor their sordid tale. You'd have to put those pants in the witness protection program. If you heard the tale those pants could tell, you'd jam your fingers into your ears and say, "Stop! No more! I am losing my faith in humanity."

Preparing Peter's back yard for a National Night Out cook out, we saw Contessa The Hooker moving lots of stuff to a van with help from the man in shades. I told Peter--well, not just Peter--he looks like somebody you'd find on a beach in Thailand, supporting the sex trade. Right then Peter's wife pulled up in the minivan with her three small children, the back of the vehicle packed with groceries for the National Night Out festivities.

I urged Peter not to speak to the guy. Peter did anyway. The conversation didn't go too badly, though. The guy in the shades said he was "an old friend" of Contessa and had known her for a long time. He had a bit of a Southern drawl, it seemed.

"I'm sure he means 'know' in the Biblical sense," I told Peter.

Later, I heard the landlord was mad because I'd been taking pictures.

Progress at 3119 4th St. N.

While me, Peter, Jake, Gabe and Peter, Jr. were walking around the neighborhood with a reporter from National Public Radio, we ran into the guy who takes care of all the vacant buildings in the area. (I think his name is Willie?)

I told him about the gushing water issues at 3119 4th Street, which was news to him. He'd been off for several days.

I asked him about shutting the windows to keep the mold spores inside, since I expected the place to get very moldy due to being soaked inside, and "Patty Cake" who lives next door is quite sensitive to mold. The city worker said he'd look into it. He mentioned there were only a few windows open in the back.

"Well, now there's some open in the front, too, from where they got in," I informed him.

Progress at 2955 Lyndale Ave. N.

I find it unbelievable this place got boarded up THE VERY NEXT DAY after I called 311 and the real estate agent. And, honestly, I don't know who got to it first, though it was a gray-looking city board. In any case, it has been secured.

Now I just need to watch it every day for squatters.


Anonymous said...

Your blog in general makes me shudder, but this post in particular is probably one of the most distasteful things I have read in awhile. It sounds like you thought quite a bit about Contessa's pants. I cannot believe you found it appropriate to speak as a woman's pants whose life and experiences, I'm sure, you know nothing about beyond her supposed line of work. And I have a serious issue with the following excerpt:

People need a place to live. This is the line always used by slumlords who fill our neighborhoods with pimps, hookers and drug dealers.

"People need a place to live." It's not so different from industries who fill the air with stink, and then say, "Well, that's the smell of money."

You are COMPLETELY ignoring social problems that cause people to become involved in these sorts of activities in the first place. I'm not necessarily excusing it, but I would hope you agree that everyone DOES need a place to live. I can't understand how someone who considers himself to be a community activist in a community he just became a part of, a community which perhaps more than any other in the state exemplifies institutional oppression as it happens, would be so blind to these things. Not in a single post that I've read have you in any way even considered the social ills and the roles they play in the things you see and experience, and I frankly find it disgusting.

It's obvious that you think pretty damn highly of yourself in the way you write and in your willingness to expose other people's lives in such a meaningless and ill-intentioned way. You can hide in the shroud of Johnny Northside, community activist who just wants to save his neighborhood, but what you really appear as is an ignorant middle-aged white man, an outsider at that, who would rather sweep problems under a rug or nail it up in a house than actually examine what's going on at the roots.

Johnny Northside said...

In reply: Ah, but you just can't stop reading the blog, can you?

Furthermore, it's not her SUPPOSED line of work. What is going on has been observed for YEARS AND YEARS. And recently, FINALLY, Contessa was arrested.

Conversations with the police confirm the reality of her chosen profession--hooking and dealing drugs--even if the police can't always manage to make arrests. The woman is a prostitute and was arrested for possession of drug paraph--pariph--

Honestly, I can never spell that word.

Yes, people need a place to live. But that's the excuse landlords use while they KNOWINGLY rent to criminals, and continue to allow criminal behavior as long as rent gets paid, even if rent gets paid from the criminal proceeds.

What's so bad about the phrase is it is true--yes, people DO need a place to live--but the fact people need a place to live shouldn't be an excuse to knowingly allow and even profit by criminal behavior at rental properties.

In regard to "completely ignoring social problems, blah blah blah," I feel free to focus on the portions of society's ills where I can do something...like call 911 on drug dealing, or deal with houses broken into by squatters.

I've been an activist on lots of different issues. I've tackled those root causes LOTS of times. As a matter of fact, I blog quite a bit on the subject of abusive, predatory towing directed at poor people. See my other blog, www.towingutopia.com.

So it's not even true that I ignore those other ills, but for purposes of the discussion...I feel free to focus upon those particular ills I feel best suited to tackle. You just go ahead and keep working on those ills for which YOU feel well-suited.

My neighborhood doesn't need one more bleeding heart (and I count myself as one) weeping and wailing about how folks need to prostitute and sell drugs because life and society has treated them so badly. We need our neighborhood back from hookers and drug dealers.

As for the "outsider" label, I'd rather be known as an "outsider" than somebody who wants to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with crack-dealing, street-walking shitheads.

We don't need excuses for why things are the way they are. We need change. We need open air drug markets to GO AWAY. So you just keep working on those "root causes" and I'll just keep dialing 911.

Between the two of us, maybe things really will get better.

Anonymous said...

As far as reading your blog: I'll admit, I'm a masochist.

I like how you jumped on that "supposed" line right away (I meant supposed as in your blog is my sole source for this information)...but offered no explanation about speaking as her pants. Nor acknowledging that you don't know whether or not Contessa perhaps has experienced sexual abuse in her early life, for instance, as it's been reported more than half of prostitutes have experienced. Did her pants see that too? Or maybe not, I don't know anything about her life either, but to not even consider it? And you can't deny that sexual assault is more prevalent in poorer communities.

And I have news for you: the drug market will not go anywhere as long as drugs are illegal in this country. If the Prohibition era taught us anything (and making drugs illegal is prohibition), when something is made illegal, criminals will make money from it. If drugs were ever legalized, the economic incentive would disappear instantaneously, and violent criminals and gangsters wouldn't be the ones selling drugs. And guess what? The rate of addiction in this country has remained virtually unchanged throughout the criminalization of every illegal drug, even withstanding the past thirty years of the "War on Drugs." Wow, great results from the trillions of dollars of tax dollars spent, eh? I'm sure you are intelligent enough to know that as long as something is illegal, there will be a market for it. The neighborhood in which you reside happens to be one of those places in Minneapolis. Calling the police may put those particular people in jail, but there will be someone there to fill their spots--somewhere--the very next day. A junkie's got to get their fix.

As far as playing your part and me playing mine, you are most certainly counteracting any real change as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't appear that you advocate for any sort of alternative treatment, and you seem to wholly support--by acting as an arm of it--what the racist criminal justice system in this country does to the families and communities of people of color...and economically disadvantaged white people, too. And if you don't believe that our punitive approach to criminal justice and sham laws meant to make it easier to racially profile doesn't perpetuate crime rather than reduce it, than I think we fundamentally will never agree. What about the children of those prostitutes and drug dealers you so inconsiderately demonize? What happens to them when their parent(s) go to prison? Perhaps they'll end up in the foster care system, or on the corners themselves. And just to connect the dots, here's a little tidbit for you:

"A 2007 survey of Oakland youths being assisted by the Sexually Abused and Commercially Exploited Youth Program found 88 percent of the youngsters had run away from home and 53 percent came from foster care group homes. Three-quarters of them had been raped at some time in their lives, and 48 percent had been physically abused growing up."

I'm not trying to make excuses, but in order to actually make real change, it is absolutely necessary to be informed on prevailing societal forces that allow situations like this to occur.

This is a (sort of) free country and you can do and say as you please, but as far as I'm concerned, by focusing only on criminal justice aspects of the problems that community faces, you are not doing justice to the full story and you are perpetuating commonly held stereotypes without putting lives into context. You are condescending, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear if some of your neighbors felt the same if they were to see some of the things you say on this Web site. Thank God for the digital divide!

Johnny Northside said...

If you enjoy being a masochist, be sure to read my NEXT two posts about Contessa.

As for the punitive approach thing: I believe in jails where people get treatment and job training, but that doesn't mean I think people should spend less time in jail or that we should have a revolving door and slap-on-the-wrist sentences for stuff like dealing crack on the sidewalk.

Your theory "people are always going to get their drugs somewhere" may be true, but my block wasn't ALWAYS this way. So let them get their drugs somewhere else besides my block and besides North Minneapolis.

Furthermore, that sort of argues against your "fight the root causes" approach. If they're always going to get drugs somewhere, then what does it matter whether I dial 911 or you fight those nasty roots?

As for your 2007 survey, well, gee, look where the data was gathered. It really doesn't tell us anything we don't know, nor does it support your point. Youth at a center for sexually exploited people report running away from home? Duh.

For purposes of argument, I'm willing to assume all the hookers were sexual abuse victims growing up. WELL SO WHAT? It doesn't mean they should get a free pass and break the law. These hookers strut around in front of the school buses, which isn't even DECENT. Even criminals can make a middling effort to be DECENT.

As for your assertion you're not making excuses: you wouldn't need to say it unless you were, and you certainly are.

Cripes almighty, I just want to pick up the phone and dial 911 on BLATANT (EXPLETIVE) CRIME taking place right on the sidewalk--this is exactly what a citizen is SUPPOSED to do--and you want to drag out a ream of social data about how I'm "demonizing" the poor widdle drug dealers and hookers who come from such bad backgrounds.

The world people like you have created in North Minneapolis by enabling the crack-dealing shit heads to take over our once-wonderful neighborhood is the reason a blog like this exists in the first place.

Oh, and another thing. I did not speak AS the woman's pants. I speculated on what the pants MIGHT SAY. There is a difference. (But if you like reading that sort of thing, check out my "evil pink pony" entries. You'll LOVE EM in your masochistic way)

Furthermore, I'm not the only person in the neighborhood who has pointed out Contessa wears the same pink pants with astonishing frequency while dealing drugs and doing car dates, to the point we identify her BY MEANS OF the pink pants.

I just happened to be the one who blogged about it.

So what's YOUR neighborhood like, anonymous poster? The people who pontificate the way you do generally aren't the ones who are in the MIDDLE of this shit.

Digital divide, indeed. You know what you read about my block on your little screen. You try living on the same block as Contessa and her pink pants, and raise little children like that refugee Hmong family who lives right NEXT DOOR to Contessa's crap.

You'd change your shit head-hugging views overnight. Life's hard? Try being a refugee who barely speaks English with a whole bunch of little children. And then life gets harder because this NASTY WHORE IN PINK STRETCHY PANTS has to turn her tricks and sell her crack right in front of those little children.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Johnny Northside, the only reason I said anything about making excuses was because I was responding to your accusation in your initial response. You're very good at cherry picking.

This isn't even a battle worth fighting, obviously, because you've made up your mind that you're right, I'm wrong, and there's nothing wrong with the fact that you've lived in that neighborhood for less than a year, yet have claimed it as your own to lord over. I think it's pretty f***ing bold of you to call yourself Johnny Northside. You CHOSE to live there (unlike many of the people who have no choice but to pay cheaper rents and mortgages), so don't act like you are in a hopeless situation you can't control. It's nice to hear that you only care about crime if it's personally affecting you, too...you don't give a shit as long as those drug dealers leave your sight, huh?

And for the record, I don't live in North Minneapolis, or an area of the city that is particularly crime-ridden; however, I have had my house broken into while I was home, and I know what it's like to feel that fear. I realize it's not nearly to the extent that North Minneapolis residents face, but I just wanted to put that out there.

And I take your lack of response concerning these people's children as an admission that you just don't give a shit. And that stat? That center was working with those children because they had been selling themselves on the streets for sex and were referred for counseling. How does the fact that 53 percent were foster children not support my argument?

I hope I've perhaps had some effect on your viewpoint, or at least pissed you off enough to make you think about it, but I don't really give a shit either way. You're going to do what you're going to do, and you're going to continue looking stupid while doing it.

And if you can say that me and "people like me" are responsible for the problems North Minneapolis is facing with a straight face, when I care very deeply about social, racial and economic justice, then I don't think there is anything else to say to you.

Johnny Northside said...

I care about crime whether it's in North Minneapolis or in your pristine little yuppie neighborhood, but I don't want to bite off way more than I can chew. Cleaning up one block is hard enough. Cleaning up the North Side would take, like, the rest of my life.

And I don't just want hookers and crack dealers out of sight, out of mind. I want them off the streets and out of business.

And, yes, PEOPLE LIKE YOU are responsible for the problems of North Minneapolis. PEOPLE LIKE YOU who sit on your self-righteous ass and criticize my efforts, hoping to make me pull back on both my efforts and my commentary, while your own spoiled brat offspring from the suburbs come here to the North Side to score dope, and the whole time you're feeling your comforting sense of superiority that you have all the answers to the social problems...more so than the big bad brutal police who just want to arrest the criminals and let the system mete out so-called "justice."

Justice! For these poor downtrodden crack heads and prostitutes? Heaven forbid!

God forbid, somebody like me wants to CALL THE POLICE when he sees a crime or make sure squatters don't take over buildings.

You make excuses for criminals. Instead of shaking your finger at their bad behavior, you try to explain it away and justify it, and not only that, you dare to wag your finger at me while I am trying to actually clean up the crap taking over my corner of the city.

Where is your critique of the people doing BAD? You apparently have none. You live your soft little suburban life and feel guilty about it, so you put out a big bunch of words about the downtrodden.

Your home was broken into? Do you suppose those thieves were *also* abused as children? When your guests leave your home, do you watch them all the way to their car parked on the street to make sure they won't get robbed? Do you never allow your children to play in the front yard without keeping them under careful observation?

That's how life is over here.

As for the title of my blog, you're not in the middle of the Northside struggle and you have no basis by which to judge how the "Northside" label should be used.

A label like that is a nebulous thing, like at what special moment does somebody at the University of Minnesota become a "gopher?" And would a student be entitled to have a blog called "Johnny The Gopher" as a freshman, or would he need to wait a longer period of time, at least until he is a sophomore?

And is there a longer waiting period of propriety if he came from Montana in the first place, not Minnesota?

Really, I think my deliberately premature use of "Northside" is a sort of subtle humor which goes right over your head.

jake said...

Hi Anonymous,

My name is Jacob and I'm currently involved in a documentary about the housing crisis, the North side, and Johnny. I read your comments here and am interested in the issues you've brought up about Johnny's way of doing things.

We'd be really interested in continuing this conversation over email and hearing more of what you have to say.

Can you drop me a line? My email is jdanielvalento@hotmail.com


Anonymous said...

Sorry, Jake, but I have no interest or intention in furthering this discussion.

I've been thoroughly insulted by Johnny Northside's presumptions about my life and who I am, not to mention his blatant and purposeful disregard for several of the points I made. He did a great job of ignoring the points he couldn't defend, and in the meantime, focused on the same mantra over and over again about "his" corner of the city.

So no, I would not like to participate in anything that heaps more unwarranted exposure onto someone who I believe is misappropriating his neighbors' lives for personal gain.

P.S. I have never lived in a suburb in my life. In fact, I live next to Cedar-Riverside, Johnny. A bit presumptive/stereotypical of you, eh?

Johnny Northside said...

Offended and insulted! Tossing around accusations of one's opponent "cherry-picking" rhetorical points to rebut!

SOMEBODY can't hold their own in a DEBATE.

Brett said...

Thanks Anonymous, for your comments here. I've read this blog for some time with many of the same feelings you describe. While I am happy to see someone like John so openly working to make his neighborhood a better place, I bristle at his condescension and lack of humility as he goes about doing it.

Johnny Northside, you are going to do your thing no matter what is said here. But do try to approach your task with a dose of respect and humility.

Johnny Northside said...

Yes, I'm going to look deep in my soul and try to find the place where I feel no better than a hooker who arranges drug deals right in front of little Hmong refugee children.

With great fervor I will spiritually seek out that special icky private place where I know myself to be pretty much on the same level as Contessa the Hooker, no better and perhaps *worse* because of my maniacal ego which, heaven forbid, drives me to think I should write things on a blog about trying to clean up my neighborhood and make it--good grief--someplace NICE AND INVITING for folks to live instead of an open air market for drugs and prostitution where murder happens with dreadful frequency.

(Soul searching, searching, searching...)

Um, this process may take a while. I'll have to get back to you on it, OK?

Continue to enjoy your comfortable surroundings. TALK AMONGST YERSELVES.

Crazy white lady said...

Thos one really caught my attention. I am one of those that "had" to live in a neighborhood with cheaper rents and mortgages. I fell in love with my house too. Let me address a few things to the "nice" contributor.

There are a number of places in North that you can go if you want to get off the drugs and change your life. There is school and moving packages ect. As Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis have made agreenments to take on the care of immigrants and women and children estranged from their former lives we take on more as citizens as well. I am sure that when you called the police it didn't take the 20 minutes that a man carrying an open weapon on my street takes.

I am a citizen of this great place and am entitled to live a peaceful life. That sometimes requires me to call 911 to get the mother that is to "stoned" to take care of her children that are roaming the street and unable to get into their locked home a safe place, be it jail or hospitalization. I owe those children the oppurtunity to be one of the kids who does make it in foster care or adoption so that they don't have to be continually exposed to the life their parents have chosen to live. My block has 3 houses that have a mom and a dad that aren't involved in illegal activity.

I volunteer with Teen moms, public schools, churches, and rehab centers that are all in minneapolis. So I fight the fight on all sides I can.

I will not stand to the side and allow bad things to be happening in MY neighborhood. If your next door neighbor was dealing drugs on the porch with a shotgun on his lap, and small children were running in and out of the house with no or little clothing that are appropriate for the weather, at 2 am what would you do?

Doing nothing gets......tada....nothing. I live here and will live here. This is my area... if you want to cause problems for the neighborhood be prepared to have to deal with the neighborhood. Just like the dealers and hookers if you take us off the streets I want one more right there to replace me...are you brave enough?