Sunday, March 30, 2008
Electricity theft at 416 30th Ave. N. and 415 31st Ave. N., pictured above. More to follow.
Police Report No. 08-086244 by Officer Mooney, Badge No. 30227. (This report only concerns "416 30th," since "415 31st" was discovered later)
Also on the scene, City Housing Inspectors Mike Karney and Wayne Murphy.
The house at 415 31st is pictured on the "TJ Waconia Victims Blog" but I am not sure if that house is there for illustration purposes of if it was actually a TJ Waconia house, I will have to look into that to confirm before saying anything about THAT.
Update: Though the house is pictured on the TJ Waconia Victims Blog, it is currently owned by CitiMortgage and it is the subject of a very interesting and groundbreaking lawsuit by the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association.
It is NOT a TJ Waconia house.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I'm still waiting to close on my house due to a delay on the seller's end. I thought I would be closing tomorrow. Disappointing, but I soldier on.
In the meantime, I sent a friend out there. This friend has some serious handyman skills. I'm beginning to find out how serious his handyman skills are, because he discovered some of the neighbors were apparently STEALING ELECTRICITY from the house. He left me details in a phone message but I haven't been able to get in touch with him to find out more. I strongly suspect it involved some kind of weird, low-hanging line in the back yard.
I had WONDERED what the heck that was. It looked electrical, but due to the way it was strung I thought, huh, must be cable. But it was hooked to the METER BOX. Well, now I know.
So I phoned Juley Viger to let her know and pass it on to the seller. I'll get more details when I can talk to my friend, Scott, tomorrow. But in the meantime I'm looking for a 24-hr. phone line to call the power company and inform them of this.
Electricity theft. I wonder if this is going to be the next negative North Minneapolis trend.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
This last image comes from the boards around a construction site.
Apparently, whoever was hanging around drawing on the boards had quite an enthusiasm for architecture. Like the first image, this shows how much expressiveness is possible without multiple colors.
But while the first image of yellow curtains is very simple, this image in quite complex.
Also, this image would be difficult to see from a distance, so this would draw a viewer closer to the structure.
Heck, one might want to save something like that and frame it!
Here's one I thought was kind of cool.
Apparently the "V for Vendetta" image made sense in the context of the place where this image was painted. Well, if it's artistic and attractive, the viewer doesn't need to get a clear message.
Heck, do abstract art. But anything has to be better than bare, ugly boards.
This image displays the spirit and spunk of a neighborhood waiting for Hurricane Frances. The hotel is not vacant, just bracing for the blow.
Boarded up homes on the North Side could contain positive messages...and I don't mean tagging, like the prolific tagger known as "Kill Bill."
I saw this image (an AP photo by Tony Dejak, AP) in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It's a house in Cleveland.
But I thought this was such a cool idea I wanted to post it here. In fact, in the course of searching for the image, I found some similar images and I thought I'd share those, too.
Monday, March 24, 2008
[From the folks who brought us the $6,000 vacant house fee, here is the next idea from our city leaders: "Scrape the North Side."]
First, a wave of foreclosures; next, the wrecking ball?
One estimate says a third of foreclosed homes in north Minneapolis should probably be demolished.
By STEVE BRANDT, Star Tribune
One-third of the foreclosed houses inspected so far in north Minneapolis are candidates for demolition, according to the agency trying to rehab the state's largest concentration of empty housing.
Carolyn Olson of Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation (GMHC) said her nonprofit housing organization has been inside 157 of the hundreds of foreclosed North Side homes. It's evaluating them for fix-up and resale.
But many pose a range of problems, from neglect issues like rampant mold to functional obsolescence due to size or floor plan. Some simply cost too much to fix. One house the agency toured contained only 500 square feet of space -- less than a standard one-bedroom public housing high-rise apartment -- carved into four apartments.
"That's probably not a keeper," Olson said.
Some houses have caving retaining walls. One otherwise nice triplex was covered in mold, Olson said.
One reason for the neglect, Olson said, is that about two-thirds of the foreclosed homes were owned by investors rather than occupants. "Some of that has not been very well taken care of," she said.
Olson's one-third estimate sounds low to one neighborhood leader, Roberta Englund of the Folwell and Webber-Camden areas.
"I think she's underestimating it, without a doubt," said Englund, based on her walk-throughs of similar housing.
[I have to read that line again. UNDER? Like, she thinks MORE than a third should be torn down? Amazing. What kind of unrealistic standard is being applied to this affordable housing?]
"This is an American nightmare," said Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Ellison represents the area and organized a discussion of foreclosure and credit issues Monday.
The event began with a street-corner discussion at 29th and Dupont Avenues N., where adjoining blocks average six foreclosures each in the past two years.
Even when the house is fixable, fixing isn't simple. Every one that GMHC has encountered so far requires extra financing, because the market price of the renovated house is less than the cost to acquire and bring it to saleable condition.
[Here is where my commentary can be quite helpful, though I feel silly suggesting something so obvious: if this is the case, the price hasn't gone low enough yet. Period]
The state allocated $10 million that is being used to buy the North Side housing, while the city and state finance the rehab work.
"If the market keeps going down, the gap will be bigger," Olson said.
Despite the obstacles, GMHC has purchase agreements on 43 properties, with offers outstanding on another 16.
[What saints they are, buying up housing when the market has hit bottom. Are we CERTAIN this is a non-profit? What if they make a profit by accident?]
City Housing Director Tom Streitz said that a process is needed to guide the rehab vs. demolition decisions of nonprofits. "I'm hearing that a lot of the stock is not going to pass the test," he said.
"We're very careful on what we would tear down," Olson said. She said some of the candidates for demolition may still attract offers from investor owners.
[What kind of pre-foreclosure crisis standard is being applied, here? We're in a recession, folks, not a housing boom. Stuff you would have torn down yesterday you need to save TODAY. Your standards need to be adjusted to reflect the current economic reality]
Mayor R.T. Rybak has said he'd like the city to have a right of first refusal on foreclosed housing.
[Let's go back to the pre-Magna Carta days, when the King theoretically owned everything]
Ellison touted legislation introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. It would provide up to $300 billion in new federal guarantees for loans that refinance at-risk borrowers into viable mortgages. It would also provide $10 billion in loans and grants for the purchase and rehab of foreclosed homes, similar to GMHC's work.
[Barney Frank means well, but the reality of Congress needs to catch up with the reality of journalism. Facts are coming to light more and more that a huge number of foreclosures came about because of speculation, rule-bending, and--especially on the North Side--outright fraud.
I don't see anything in this legislation to address going after all the fraud.]
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The court is trying to determine paternity of the four children of Carla Poole, accused of killing 4-year-old Demond Reed.
By Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune
Last update: March 13, 2008 - 11:06 PM
(There have been a number of stories about this shocking North Side incident, but this most recent one contains all the horrible facts, right down to the way the dead child was "double bagged." Specifically, that is to say, a duffel bag stuffed inside a TRASH BAG.
I'm horrified by this incident, and I can't stop noticing something about Demond's smile reminds me of my own son when he was the same age.
Carla Poole, 37, appeared briefly before Judge Kerry Meyer to discuss custody of her children, who are in one foster home. Meyer had no authority to overturn a criminal judge's order barring Poole from contacting her children. She could have issued a separate order, but did not.
Poole is accused of having her 4-year-old and 6-year-old children hold Demond Reed while she beat him to death; her 11-year-old child watched. The alleged trigger for the beating was that Demond soiled his pants.
The boy's body was found double-bagged in a closet at Poole's house in Minneapolis, days after she claimed he was taken by a friend. She was supposed to be caring for the boy while his father served a brief jail term.
(It appears when somebody claims a child has been abducted, often the most productive place to search is that person's property. Sad but true)
Hennepin County prosecutors are seeking to sever Poole's parental rights.
(Yeah, a website called "People You'll See In Hell" had something to say about the Carla Poole matter, as well. Click her name for a link.)
Meyer didn't think allowing contact between Poole and her children was a good idea. "The case has a lot of unique things going on and they need a lot more therapy before that can happen," she said. But Meyer praised social workers for near-constant therapy and getting the children "in a good place."
Poole sat at a desk in the small courtroom surrounded by lawyers, a social worker and the guardian ad litem for her children. She was wearing an orange jail outfit in contrast to the tan indestructible suicide prevention gown she wore at her previous court dates in mid-February. She is jailed in lieu of $1 million bond.
Poole is expected to appear in court briefly today before District Judge Margaret Daly, where her case will be assigned to a judge. She has been charged with second-degree murder.
As in her previous appearances, Poole showed little emotion and didn't speak other than to respond to Meyer.
The court is trying to determine paternity of her children. Swabs have been taken from two Chicago men who attended the hearing. One man met with his presumed daughter after the court session.
(One has to wonder if those little siblings will be able to stay together, and one suspects it might not happen that way. More tragedy)
Poole's lawyer on the family matters, James Schaefer, supported contact with the fathers. "They have at least had minimal contact with the children," Schaefer said.
Guardian ad litem Catherine Nicholl told the court she had "seen the children several times and they are doing very well, considering everything."
The oldest child wants to see her mother, but Nicholl said two social workers were split on that idea, considering the child may have to testify.
At one point, Nicholl turned to the man believed to be the father of two boys and said, "They're doing OK."
(A moment of extra-procedural humanity and compassion. Something like that gives me hope, sort of)
Trial opens for father whose son was killed by family pit bull. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says the father has no remorse.
By Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune
Last update: March 17, 2008 - 1:48 PM
Seven-year-old Zachary King Jr. wanted to play with the family pit bull, Face, tethered to a pole in the basement, but he paid with his life when the dog's jaws clamped down on his neck last August.
"Little Zack," as his family called him, died of asphyxiation in a "violent, vicious, brutal attack," Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy said in her opening statement today. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is making an uncommon trial appearance to help Sweasy on the case.
(Hmmm, when is the next election? Isn't this the same prosecutor who mentioned owning a golden retriever when the charges were filed? Why do I smell politics?)
Sweasy said the dog had bitten people, including Zack Jr., seven times in the years leading up to the death.
"Zack Jr.'s death was totally, completely avoidable and preventable," Sweasy said. Face was not a "docile" family pet and there was "no set of circumstances under which a child should have had access to the pet."
Zachary King Sr., who was upstairs asleep at the time of the attack, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the case. He waived his right to a jury trial so a verdict will be decided by Hennepin County District Court Judge Kevin Burke, who is hearing the case.
(Good move. A jury would decide on the basis of common sense, but the judge might consider more arcane legal factors about degrees of negligence)
Defense lawyer Craig Cascarano said nothing in the dog's history would have suggested such an attack. "Little Zack played with Face as his brother," Cascarano said.
(I can't be the only one who finds this choice of words really unfortunate)
He called the decision to prosecute King "wrong," likening it to prosecuting someone for tearing the tags off a new mattress. "This is a family that did everything they could to take care of their children," he said.
(First, I seem to recall learning once upon a time that mattress tags are not supposed to be removed by the SELLERS of the mattress. People who own the mattress can remove the tags whenever they like. So the comparison is being made here is a comparison to a common misunderstanding, an urban legend, the true nature of which the defense attorney is ignorant of, what a pity.
Secondly, the comparison itself is lame and unfortunate. Tearing the tag off a mattress is harmless. In this instance, a child was killed. Better comparisons might involve, I don't know, a child climbing a tree when nobody was looking and falling. That would be a much better comparison from a defense point of view.
Other than the fact he was smart enough to request a judge instead of a jury, I'm not too impressed with the defense attorney, here)
But something went horribly wrong at the family's north Minneapolis home, as evidenced by numerous bloody photos. With homicide Sgt. Nancy Dunlap on the stand, Freeman showed photos of the home as Dunlap described blood in the kitchen, the stairwell and the basement.
After Face killed the boy, King shot him. Freeman showed photos of the dog lying dead in a pool of blood, filth and feces, still tethered to a pole. He asked Dunlap whether she saw any food or water for the dog. She said she did not.
Sweasy said Face was chained in the basement for 17 hours without food, water, exercise or an opportunity to relieve himself. Meanwhile, the female put [pit] bull, Ginger, and her puppies roamed the home.
(This paints an awful picture of filth and neglect)
Dunlap also talked about finding a muzzle for the dog under a compresser in the basement. Both the muzzle and the leash were introduced as exhibits.
In his cross-examination, Cascarano focused on a hole in the drywall near the dead dog. He asked Dunlap whether any one had looked inside for a bullet or tested the blood around the hole. She said no. He asked her what she believed caused the hole and she said, "Zack Jr.'s head."
(Never ask a question to which you don't know the answer, Mr. Defense Attorney. Not your best moment, here. I'll otherwise refrain from critiquing this "brother of the bar.")
Animal Control officer Tom Doty, who also arrived on the scene, described blood on the ceiling at the home. Freeman asked him about the impact of keeping the dog on a short leash for so long. "A dog has one of two things it can do when it perceives a threat: fight or flee," Doty said. "When I saw the dog tied so close to the wall, the first thing I thought was -- aggression."
Cascarano asked Doty whether he had gone through the basement to determine whether there were remnants of food for the dog. Doty said if there was food, it could possibly have been under the blood.
Freeman, the elected head of the county attorney's office, said he's personally trying the case because "the death of this young man was totally avoidable. The father has shown no contrition and no acknowledgement of wrongdoing."
(And that would have stopped the prosecution? I doubt it)
He noted that the King didn't train the dog or exercise him.
If convicted, sentencing guidelines call for King to be put on probation. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, although that is highly unlikely.
More than a couple dozen family members attended the trial, expected to last through Wednesday, in support of King. Some snickered when Burke ruled against Freeman on evidentiary matters.
(How odd, considering how badly the defense attorney seems to be doing. Stuff like "snickering" at the proceedings--and I'm sure it was affected, dramatic snickering and not actual spontaneous merriment--will hardly endear the King family to the judge. I'm interested to see how this sad, awful story turns out.
Plus these articles have made me very aware of pit bulls on the North Side. Good to know.)
Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune
Zachary King Sr. said Wednesday that the dog was a family pet and that he got the animal for family protection because he travels a lot.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says this case will send a message to the community.
(By David Chanen and Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune)
Last update: September 8, 2007 - 8:14 AM
(Hmmm, no mention in the article of King, Sr.'s rather impressive tattoo collection, but this is one of the times pictures will say a thousand words)
The gift came from a cousin who attended Zack's funeral days after a family pit bull, chained to a pole in their basement, killed the boy on Aug. 16. It has only been recently that King, his wife and three young daughters could handle a return home.
King, 30, said the tragedy made his family stronger, but the news that he is going to be charged with second-degree manslaughter in connection with the 7-year-old's death brought him to tears.
(How was "the news" delivered? One gets the impression it may have been the newspaper reporters themselves who delivered this "news," but made no mention of it in the article)
"I just lost my only son," he said. "Are they saying I tried to kill him?"
(No, they're saying you were criminally negligent. Even in the throes of grief, let's not make an elaborate pretense of not understanding where the authorities are coming from)
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the pit bull had previously attacked Zach Jr. and two adults, and a "heightened responsibility comes with owning an animal that has vicious tendencies." If he is convicted, sentencing guidelines call for King to be put on probation. He could get up to 10 years in prison, although that's highly unlikely.
Given the possible sentence, Freeman was asked whether he was trying to put the community on notice by charging the father.
"We prosecute a lot of cases when the person isn't necessarily going to prison," Freeman said. "There's no question this case is about sending a message."
(Then Freeman should articulate exactly and precisely what that message is. Is the message "don't have pit bulls?" Or just "don't have pit bulls in North Minneapolis?" Or is it "you can have pit bulls, but you better not neglect them" or even "well, if you neglect your pit bull you better be damn sure it doesn't bite somebody."
With a man's freedom hanging in the balance, I think it would be good to articulate precisely what "the message" is, since it will come at such a high cost.)
Freeman added that not only are fatal dog bites rare, but that prosecuting the owners for felonies in such cases is even more unusual.
In the past three years, however, at least three cases of dogs killing children in the United States have led to manslaughter charges against the parents.
The criminal complaint said that King, "knowing his dog had a vicious propensity, failed to properly confine his dog and such failure caused the death" of his son. Pit bulls and children don't mix, Freeman said.
'A freak accident'
At his home, a distraught King said that Face, the 4-year old pit bull that killed his son, was a family pet he raised from a puppy. He bought the dog for protection because he is frequently out of town on business as a music producer.
(A music producer? I would love to get some specifics about this supposed career of his as a music producer, and the necessary out-of-town travel)
"My son was always playing with the dog," he said. "This was just a freak accident that happened to us."
(No, lighting killing somebody inside a house is a "freak accident." A child getting torn apart by a dog which has bitten many people before--including the child in question--after what appears to be a period of profound neglect, that's shockingly predictable and a sound basis for some kind of criminal manslaughter charge)
The complaint against King said his son died from blood loss and asphyxia from dog bites on his neck. The clamping force also fractured one of Zach's vertebrae.
King told police he had friends over to his house in the 3500 block of Humboldt Avenue N. the night before his son died. Face was chained in the basement because King feared the dog would bite his guests, the complaint said.
King slept in, and his wife went to work, giving all of his children "the run of the house," the complaint said. Several pit bull puppies from a recent litter were in the basement, which relatives speculated was the reason why Zach Jr. went there.
One of King's daughters alerted him that her brother had been attacked. He attempted to help his son, but Face bit his arm. King then got a handgun and killed the dog.
(I thought he bought THE DOG for protection, but here the guy also has a HANDGUN? Well, things almost worked out. Dog for protection from criminals, handgun for protection from the dog)
"I didn't want it to hurt any of my other children," he said.
The dog had bitten two other adults, including one incident involving a contractor working near King's home. The contractor, who had to go to the emergency room, was awarded $22,000 in a lawsuit. King said he asked the owner of the home to let him know when the contractor was coming so he could keep Face locked up.
(This just keeps getting worse. Gee, I have to wonder if King paid the $22,000 to the contractor. Why do I get a feeling the career as a "music producer" didn't produce that kind of money to pay the lawsuit?)
The city's Animal Control unit had talked to King about Face, but King denied that the dog was a threat to his children. Face and a female pit bull named Ginger were allowed to roam freely in the house, he said.
A very careful father
Why did Animal Control allow him to keep Face if the dog was so dangerous? he asked.
(I'd like to hear the facts from the mouth of Animal Control, not the owner of the dog. Maybe King promised to get rid of the dog and didn't. Let's hear from Animal Control. Though, arguably, Animal Control bears some burden of responsibility here, as well)
"I'm not a dog fighter or a dog breeder," King said. "When I now see people walking with pit bulls around my house, I tell them to get rid of the dogs if they have children."
(Not a dog fighter or dog breeder. MUSIC PRODUCER.)
Ginger and six pit bull puppies were removed from his house the day his son died, and he told Animal Control he didn't want them back. King said he's very protective of his children, even to the point of sending them to private school so they can learn in a safe environment.
Zach Jr.'s death was the most recent in a string of dog attacks in Minneapolis in the past year, prompting one state legislator to push for a ban of certain breeds, including pit bulls. State law now doesn't allow the banning of a specific breed.
Task force looks at issue
A dangerous-dog task force in Minneapolis, made up of private and public citizens and city officials, has completed a draft revising the city's dangerous-dog ordinance. Among the proposals, which would have to be approved by the City Council, is increasing insurance for dangerous dogs from $50,000 to $300,000 and more specific requirements for kennelling.
(Am I to believe the "music producer" had $50,000 worth of insurance on the dog in question? And another $50,000 on "Ginger?" And how about those puppies?)
The group would also like to improve licensing efforts and allow police to seize unlicensed dogs. Only 280 pit bulls are licensed in Minneapolis.
(Was the dog in question one of those? Since the article makes clear police--Animal Control?--can't seize unlicensed dogs, the question of whether the dog in question was licensed is not resolved by this article)
Freeman took issue with pit bulls at his Wednesday news conference, but said all dogs, including Henry, his beloved 100-pound golden retriever, need to be handled carefully and with concern for others. Freeman said he doesn't let his dog off the leash when they're out of the house.
The charges against King will likely spark another level of debate about pit bulls. But all King wants to do is "try to get my life together."I'm just putting it in God's hands," he said. "I've already faced the biggest punishment -- losing my son."
This article, written by a city councilman, appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. My commentary is inserted in blue.
We need a conspiracy to create Black prosperity in North Mpls
by Don Samuels
Originally posted 3/20/2008
The foreclosure crisis has cut deep into the developing economic muscle of North Minneapolis. This latest assault seems to justify the conspiracy theory you have probably heard:
The ravaging of our community is being allowed so that prices will become depressed, properties neglected and chaos intolerably pervasive. The government and investors will then come through, bulldoze the whole thing and build new high-priced homes for the wealthy and the White, five minutes from downtown.
(I have never before heard this conspiracy theory. Furthermore, I search Google under "conspiracy" and "north Minneapolis," and the only mentions of such a conspiracy I turn up happens to be THIS ARTICLE. So who is supposedly promulgating the theory? In my observation, it appears the author of the article is the only one promulgating the theory)
I propose an alternative, African American conspiracy theory. It goes something like this:
The Black working-, middle- and upper-middle classes seize the timely opportunity to recreate a new, economically diverse and culturally supportive community. They buy up hundreds of beautiful, spacious and temporarily under-priced houses in North Minneapolis. They return to make it a vibrant African American community, supporting the arts and a thriving Northside economy.
In addition, African American Timberwolves, Twins and Vikings become inspired by the example set by former Vikings Tim Baylor, Oscar Reed and Carl Eller. They build or buy spectacular homes along the river and throughout Jordan, Near North Willard Hay and Harrison. They add their wealth to the community, and kids beam proudly to see them walk by each day [.] My period inserted here.
Black pastors, entrepreneurs, professionals from 3M, Wells Fargo and other corporations return to become our neighbors and our community leaders. They join with those who never left to spur a rise in Black pride and the realignment of Black identity. Together, across class and race, we effectively advocate for living-wage jobs, schools that graduate all our kids, ex-offender rehabilitation, and the upgrading of urban culture.
("Ex-offender rehab?" This vision of urban utopia involves all kinds of ex-offenders, just being productive citizens and blending right in? OK, well, I'd like to see more specifics about THAT aspect of the vision)
Black entrepreneurs, encouraged by the social renewal, open businesses on West Broadway, Glenwood and Plymouth, creating vibrant economic corridors that dwarf the old Rondo in St. Paul and Seventh Street in Minneapolis.
You can hear jazz at the Capri on many weekends and R&B at local clubs every weekend. You can bask in the urban ambience at any of the five plazas planned for Broadway. You may visit Juxtaposition Arts, Northside Arts Collective, Hollywood School of Dance, the Capri, Le Petit Joliet, Lundstrum School for Performing Arts and others, still unknown, in a powerful revival of Black esthetics.
(That should be "aesthetics." But I like most aspects of the vision he is laying out. How realistic it is, that's another question. Right now, so many people see North Minneapolis as a place to ESCAPE FROM. And until the "open air drug markets" are removed, and until the horrifying and chaotic violence which has become the freaking social norm goes away, I don't think this vision is remotely possible.
If the author of this article wants to see such a vision, he should back up three or four steps and talk about the very necessary all-out security crackdown on the violent lawlessness running rampant on the North Side.)
The full spectrum of Black music and programming will emanate from KMOJ at the impeccably restored Delise’s building. And, visitors from all over the country will consider a stroll down West Broadway, Plymouth or Glenwood, essential to the national Black experience.
(During the daytime, perhaps. When I hear "West Broadway" I picture the gigantic liquor store at West Broadway and Lyndale Ave. North, and the rather unsavory crowds that gather on the street corners there)
Barber and beauty shops have upgraded to become state-of-the-art in amenities with crisp, professional service. A winsome “May I help you?” and exemplary customer service are standard fare up and down the avenue. There is a bookstore for African American children and sit-down restaurants offering Southern soul food, African and Caribbean cuisine.
(I have yet to experience this. In my experience, as outlined in an opinion piece I wrote, discussed earlier in this blog, the customer service on the North Side ranges from surly to downright paranoid. In fact, I went to a coffee shop on the North Side and the person behind the counter was actually WEARING A HOODIE. I've never seen that before, in any establishment, anywhere I've ever been. Ever.
And the owner was right there. In fact, the person behind the counter wearing the hoodie was apparently a relative.
However, I was treated with detached courtesy at Taco Bell, and the folks at the ReStore building supply place were super friendly)
Children have lots to do at the refurbished Broadway YMCA, or the whole family can visit the therapeutic YMCA coming to Penn and Plymouth inside the $90 million facility. You might even see them frolicking at the water park through the large picture windows of the $50 million, 24-hour YWCA coming to Broadway and Bryant.
(First I've heard of this, and cheerful news indeed.)
In addition to all of this, several Hispanic, Hmong and Middle Eastern eateries and shops also speckle the community, creating a rich diversity of tastes, sounds and sights.
(I'm surprised to see the characterization of these groups merely "speckling" the North Minneapolis community. When I looked at a house on Penn Avenue North, the nearest decent place to buy groceries was Asian. The gas station was being run by Asians, too. Over near 6th Street, at the home where I just threw down money, the grocery store on the corner is Thai but appears to have a lot of Hmong groceries.
Am I just running into some "speckles?" It is my impression the North Side has a lot more Asian businesses than a few "speckles.")
Some African Americans have already initiated the conspiracy, rehabbing fine homes throughout the neighborhoods and building new ones in places like Heritage Park with excellent views of the cityscape. They can now drive five minutes to downtown jobs and entertainment.
(How I wish a city councilman could...gee...maybe put in a plug for mass transit?)
It is time to rebuild our community with the kind of capacity that held us together before the suburban dream inadvertently robbed us of our most successful half. Together again, we have the resources to make a vibrant, diverse and self-sustaining community.
Note: If your home is threatened by foreclosure, act now. Call 311 for advice and referral.
(More useful info in the last line, even if it makes no difference to me. Though I might take issue with some of the stuff in this article, it is hugely informative.
Now here's MY little conspiracy theory. First of all, there is no evidence that (as the author puts it) the "wealthy and the White" want to take over the North Side and build luxury high rises. If that were true, wealthy white people would be snapping up all the low-priced housing as valuable real estate.
But that's not happening. Show me the evidence it is. Houses are not being snapped up as tomorrow's "luxury" property. So the conspiracy theory holds no water. My jury is still out if hard evidence is put in front of me, but I haven't seen it yet.
It seems more likely that if housing is torn down, and high rises go up, the high rises will be like Riverside Plaza--filled with (to put forth the analogous phrase) "the poor and the Black" who will provide an affordable labor force "five minutes from downtown."
Nobody is all excited about that "five minutes from downtown" thing. If the rich wanted a high rise "five minutes from downtown," they'd buy out Riverside Plaza (note how wonderfully close it is to the University, click name for link) and convert it to condos, and give it a much better paint job than what it has left over from the 1970s.
Don Samuels is the Minneapolis Fifth Ward City Council Member. He welcomes reader responses to Don.Samuels@ci.minneapolis.mn.us.
The following was submitted to my blog as a comment, but I like it so much I'm going to put it up as a blog entry:
Best of luck, Johnny. I inherited a 120 year old house on the Northside
in '96 and have lived here ever since. Yes, the crime has been scary
and at times I've gone camping in the country for days to get away from
it. But my humble home is paid for, no one can foreclose it, and it's
stucco so the gangbanngers haven't been able to torch it. Housing up
here is a once in a lifetime bargain and most of the ganbangers have
moved out with the foreclosures- it's time to take back the Northside!
Friday, March 21, 2008
I was shocked to read this article and I have developed my own theory about why mortgage fraud isn't being more aggressively pursued, which I have included at the bottom.
Panel drops mortgage fraud cases
Article Last Updated: 03/19/2008 09:48:45 PM CDT
The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force has decided to stop taking mortgage fraud cases in a move that may or may not dent the state's efforts to combat a widespread problem, depending on whom you talk to.
Either way, the decision speaks to the tough time law enforcement is having tackling a new breed of financial crime, one that has played a significant role in the nation's foreclosure crisis and doesn't fit neatly into traditional police beats. In fact, the U.S. Attorney's office in Minneapolis is holding a special meeting today to discuss just how federal and state laws can be used together to better tackle mortgage fraud.
"If the task force can't do it, then we need to reinvigorate this other task force to start coordinating cases," said John McCullough, executive director of the Retailers Protection Association, which includes lenders. McCullough also is a member of the council that oversees the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force.
The "other task force" McCullough referred to is a group of federal investigators in the Twin Cities including the FBI that have been working on mortgage fraud with prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office.
As for the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, its 17-member oversight council in January instructed the group to shut the door on mortgage fraud, saying the cases were so time-consuming they threatened to overwhelm the group. Chris Omodt, a Hennepin County Sheriff's lieutenant who heads the task force, said he thinks crimes will go unchecked, but acknowledges it doesn't have the resources.
Mike Siitari, Edina police chief and oversight council chairman, said the group needed to return to its original mission: identity theft and financial crimes such as credit card fraud and check fraud.
As for mortgage fraud, "We don't have the staff or funding to address it," Siitari said. "We have hundreds of cases of backlog."
The financial crimes task force charged 301 people in 2,203 cases last year, according to its report to the Legislature this month. Only a handful of its cases focused on mortgage fraud, a problem the task force began looking into last year.
Yet Siitari calls mortgage fraud a "massive problem" that is being dumped on law enforcement. Everyone is looking at each other thinking, "Where does this go?" Siitari said. "There is no good answer right now. Who has the resources?"
Anoka County Attorney Bob Johnson, former chair of the oversight council, said mortgage fraud presents a major challenge for local law enforcement already close to capacity handling normal street crime. "This type of crime really taxes a decentralized criminal justice system and points out, frankly, its weaknesses," Johnson said.
The financial crimes task force, which currently has nine investigators and operates on a $750,000 annual budget through the state Department of Public Safety, could see that amount reduced to $300,000 for fiscal 2009 under Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed budget.(If Pawlenty is not protecting the public...then who IS he protecting?)
Three of the task force's most experienced investigators — Sgt. Chris Abbas, Detective Jack Talbot and Sgt. Mark Johnston — left the task force in the past month. Talbot and Johnston said Abbas was ordered to leave and reassigned to the Minneapolis Police Department's fraud and forgery unit. Abbas couldn't be reached for comment.
(Oh, there is a bigger story here, that's for sure)
The mortgage fraud decision was "a part" of their decision to leave, Talbot and Johnston said. They said they also were very frustrated by budget problems and how politicized the task force had become. Both were near retirement.
("Politicized?" Could you be more specific? Never mind, I have my own theory and I'll tack it to the end of this article)
"We're the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force and we're not going to do mortgage fraud? Who is going to do them? It's preposterous," said Johnston.
(Here, here. See my wild theory. At the end.)
Pawlenty's office said it's simply paring the task force budget back to prior levels. The task force "was never envisioned to deal with mortgage fraud," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said. He said the state already employs a team of investigators at the Commerce Department devoted to real estate crimes.
(The Commerce Department? If I were one of these mortgage fraudsters, I'd be laughing my ass off and saying, in a mocking tone, "Oh, no, not the COMMERCE DEPARTMENT. Oh, anything but that."
Are these the same do-nothing dweebs who sent me a polite letter when I complain about consumer fraud? Oh, no, wait...that would be the Consumer Affairs Division of the State Attorney General's Office.)
Nonetheless, it's the wrong time to be cutting back on mortgage fraud efforts, said Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, a member of the oversight council. Chaudhary said he doesn't support the decision.
"In a worsening economy, financial crimes are only going to go up. If anything, we need to double our efforts, not diminish them," Chaudhary said.
Pat Diamond, deputy county attorney in Hennepin County, said the task force's decision will make it harder to thoroughly investigate cases in a way that gets them to trial. He said the task force was instrumental in three cases in which his office has filed multiple charges. (Name them. Geez, WTF?) The task force never handled mortgage fraud cases in Ramsey County.
The point is to go after the "deep pockets." The fraudsters, if they can be found, have probably spent the money on "high living" or, in the alternative, they have squirreled it away and are prepared to do a year or two in a country club white collar prison before retiring in Bermuda. So going after the fraudsters will be of no benefit to a city like Minneapolis and, instead, will only result in expensive prosecutions which will make it HARDER to sue the so-called "predatory lenders."
So what to do instead? Let the criminals go, and prosecute the lenders who were, at some level, victims.
It is wrong and it stinks. And I'm calling bullshit on it right here.
Researching properties on the North Side, I started by trying to find the addresses of houses linked to T.J. Waconia and Universal Mortgage. However, most of those houses don't appear to be on the market quite yet. All the same, every vacant house I looked at on the North Side showed evidence of mortgage fraud. Right now, I'm buying a house for $8,500 that was once sold for $195,000.
Based on my observations--and from talking to somebody in a North Side neighborhood association who was involved in gathering information--the fraudsters who have been arrested and indicted were the tip of the ice berg. Mortgage fraud is everywhere on the North Side. Individuals and small groups were probably freelancing. Arguably, it may have become part of the culture, like pit bulls and chain link fences.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Big surprise behind some city foreclosures
A study has revealed that many foreclosures in the North Side, the area hardest hit in Minneapolis, occurred before interest rates jumped.
By Steve Brandt, Star Tribune
There's some surprising news in a study of foreclosures in north Minneapolis, the epicenter of the state's housing foreclosure crisis.
Escalating interest rates had nothing to do with many of the foreclosures there.(Am I the only one who is not surprised? My months of house hunting on the North Side have led me to the conclusion mortgage fraud completely infects the North Side, and it's not just a T.J. Waconia or Universal Mortgage thing, either. There were either other rings of (alleged and accused and probably guilty) fraudsters OR it became so common it may have been virtually part of the culture, an everybody-is-doing-it kind of thing like...like...illegal "mother-in-law" apartments, for example)
About three-quarters of the area's homes that were sold by the sheriff went into foreclosure even before the mortgage's interest rates might have jumped.
"There are a lot of homeowners out there who didn't even make a payment or made one or two payments," said attorney Mark Ireland, who works for the nonprofit legal center that commissioned the study.
The study covered 2005 and 2006 sheriff's sales in the two ZIP codes that make up much of the North Side, 55411 and 55412.
The study area had almost exactly half of the city's foreclosures in 2006 and slightly more than one-quarter of those in Hennepin County, which accounts for nearly one-third of Minnesota foreclosures.
The area south of Lowry Avenue had a 2006 foreclosure rate of 5 percent, five times higher than the city rate of foreclosure. The area north of Lowry had a 3.6 percent rate.
(Huh. Yeah, that's right where I'm seeing bargains. South of Lowry. Every place I've seen south of Lowry has appraisals jacked to the moon)
Much of the foreclosure crisis has been blamed on subprime mortgages made to people with credit problems.
Those loans often contained interest rates that rise sharply after two years, triggering higher monthly payments.
But the data indicate that one-quarter of the foreclosed mortgages reached a sheriff's sale within a year of the loan date -- twice the county's overall rate -- and 74 percent did so within two years.
That means that many borrowers stopped making payments even before interest charges escalated.
Some may have been straw buyers, working for a kickback from the mastermind of a fraud scheme who puts the house and mortgage in the buyer's name.
Some may have been people who were serial borrowers, refinancing several times as their mortgages hit the crisis point.
That's the analysis of Ireland, a lawyer at the Foreclosure Relief Law Project, which commissioned the study by HousingLink, a nonprofit housing information provider.
"It's people who were basically already behind and, due to really lax underwriting standards, were given another mortgage," he said of the latter group. "A lot of people will debate over who's really at fault there."
Lenders too often blamed
Tim Bendel, president of the Minnesota Mortgage Association, said he thinks lenders too often get the blame. He said many foreclosures involved landlord investors. When they didn't get the rents they expected and then saw property values fall, they stopped making payments, he said.
But University of Minnesota law instructor Prentiss Cox said lenders pushed loans to many people who never should have qualified for credit.
(Well, with all due respect to Cox--and I do respect him--it's very hard to get all worked up about "predatory lending." Like, oh, I'm such a victim...you're just PUSHING this money on me)
He thinks that mortgages with built-in interest-rate jumps after a lower teaser rate expires have been given too much emphasis as a reason for borrowers hitting foreclosure.
"The lenders really invented and aggressively sold all these things. Are individuals responsible for their choices? Yes. But so far individuals in their houses and their communities are the only ones who have paid the price," Cox said.
(Plus a few dozen folks arrested, indicted, etc., but why mention THEM?)
He said that although jumps in subprime interest for borrowers with poorer credit are peaking, there's another wave of interest-rate jumps ahead: Resets on adjustable-rate prime mortgages will peak in the next two to three years for more credit worthy borrowers.
Researcher Elissa Schloesser found that borrowers in the two North Side ZIP codes typically owe more on their loans at the time of the sheriff's sale than on the day they got the loan -- by about 4 percent.
That means they didn't keep up with accumulating interest -- even before the lender's foreclosure costs were added to the debt.
Ireland said that the foreclosure project sought the data as part of an analysis of the potential for a lawsuit based on the targeting of certain areas for disadvantageous types of loans.
(Though I might be a bit cynical, I'm very interested to see what kind of patterns they have found which would put the blame on LENDERS instead of systematic mortgage fraud by persons who aren't indicted. But can those persons be FOUND? Do those persons still have the MONEY? Banks make a much more promising "deep pockets" target, don't they?)
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I was looking through my inbox for a story called "bullets in the
stucco" when I found that "lost conversation" I had about a month
ago when my column was published, "Don't all stampede at once."
I will call the person expressing these thoughts "AAnonymous"
and will just say this person is rather prominent and knows a
lot about housing issues.
My replies are posted as well.
That's a pretty provocative piece - The aspiring Charles
Bronson's and Bernard Goetz's are loving this idea.
Not to over generalize the north side - there are good
people over there -- but it is very hard to win a war
against a population that has nothing to lose.
The other thing is, there has been zero political will
to actually enforce the law in the North side for as
long as I can remember. I am not sure a bunch of
(predominately white?) thrill-seeking rent-a-cops
and national guard members trying to impose some
sort of citizens martial-law will be received any
better or have the resolve to win the ground war.
The people who have the skill sets for this type of
work are already in Afghanistan, and are paid to do it.
TO WHICH I REPLIED
My opinion pieces are certainly created to get a reaction
and kick start discussion, though I say what I actually
think. I never take a position *solely* for the purpose
of generating controversy, though I do have some skills
in setting off discussion. (As you've seen!)
However, in regard to "the people who have the skill
sets for this type of work," tours in Afghanistan don't
go on FOREVER. Those folks come back here and want to buy
Believe me, there are plenty of people with these "skill
sets" right here. And I really don't think the North Side
is so bad it requires THAT intense level of skill set
comparable to Afghanistan. Yes, I used the peacekeeping
metaphor but I also balanced that with some
humorous talk about "putting down the pastry."
I think even a bit of the "security conscious" mindset
will be adequate, and even a "rent-a-cop" has enough of
that skill set and mindset for the north side. It doesn't
take a Green Beret or a SEAL.
That column has generated more responses than many of my
columns, and the responses are all highly varied and come
from people quite involved with the issues. They range
from barely-suppressed outrage (how can I not see the
goodness in all that "diversity") to total agreement,
like, falling down in laughter because this person and
their spouse also went to the north side to shop for
homes...but sure didn't stay long.
The Vibe. I love the way people talk about The Vibe on
the north side. Like, somebody find the machine
transmitting that vibe and SHUT 'ER DOWN!!!! Then people
will buy houses.
Oh, and somebody quoted scripture at me, and though they
weren't explicit about it I was cast in the role of the
devil who would like to divide a house against itself.
And AANONYMOUS REPLIED:
Just pushing your buttons on that one, John.
Try driving by the Kemps facility (have you seen the gates on that
thing?) off broadway about 9:30 on a Saturday night. Anybody
that wants to take on a project in North minneapolis will have to
deal with that bunch, sooner or later.
In all seriousness, your average person just wants a stable life
and safe place to go home to. Hell, most people are just trying
to get through the day with as little brain damage as possible so
they can get home. Even the not-so-average who thinks they
want a little excitement in their life feels this way.
Last thing they want is some urban dystopia scene unfolding on
the other side of their picket fence. I mean, pit bulls running
loose that will eat your pets out of your own yard? Random
acts of violence (remember the "passing through" doctor who
had her EYEBALL SHOT OUT OF HER HEAD by stray
gunfire?) Boarded up buildings filled with squatters. Power
hungry yet politically hamstrung and therefore dangerously
impotent police force with a propensity for all sorts of
It's not really about it skill sets, or thrill seekers or anything
else. It's just that very few people would willingly deal with
that sort of environment when there are other choices. The
incentives are misaligned. The city could offer to give the
vacant real estate away to every cop, fireman, security guard,
TSA employee, teacher, youth minister, and my pet kitty and
very few would even take that offer until they get the crime
The voters in Minneapolis have proven themselves incapable
of electing a mayor or anyone else who will clean up the mess
- they are too interested in think-tankers who's socks don't
match and will say the right things for parents night at
the Montessori, but can't to assemble the political will to do
the work that the northside needs. Give it lip-service, keep
the locals quiet with a few payoffs and a news conference
once in a while, and leave it for the next group of politico's.
Meanwhile, another generation of north side families circles the
Start with broken windows. Giuliani has nothing better to do
now. Appoint him Mayor of north Minneapolis.
And I replied:
But I love it when you push my buttons,
You should put this stuff on your blog and
push those buttons out in public where it
matters, or even submit an opinion piece to my
First of all, I think your assertion that
property can't be GIVEN AWAY on the north side
is too extreme.
Give some to me, and I'll prove that statement
wrong. And I bet there are plenty of people who
would get in line behind me. Give me some crime
to stomp out. I'm not having enough excitement
in Frog Town, Dinky Town, Stadium Village or even
the West Bank. You are making assertions about the
mindset of security personnel but you don't embody
that mindset, so how can you know what they think,
how they react?
Some people don't get ENOUGH excitement. Rent-a-cops
who want to be heroes but mostly watch for
shoplifters are an example of that. Give somebody
like that a house on a block full of vacant
buildings, and watch them appoint themselves
"block captain" out of thin air, buy themselves a
uniform, and start "patrolling" with
nobody to tell them to go on a patrol.
It might be silly, it might even be ugly and
cartoony, but if the police aren't doing anything
who-the-hell else will but the self-appointed with
psychological needs to fulfill?
You yourself said, only half-jokingly, that column
will appeal to the "Charles Bronson" segment.
Those vacant homes are just waiting to turn into block
upon block of EVEN WORSE urban decay, crack houses,
squatters...like parts of Detroit. And you know what?
The crime incubated by that environment will find its
way as far as my University. It will jump on the bus,
find its way here, and strike at my University.
Am I writing another column in my head right now?
Sure, as you say, people just want to go home and be
comfortable...but what if they really want a home
in the Twin Cities and only have just SO MUCH money
Then you have to make trade-offs.
And, clearly, property is being bought and sold on
the north side. Somebody is buying, and it's not
Take this debate public, [Aanonymous]. It's about
time somebody said the stuff you told me in private
about the so-called "experts" with the mismatched
socks making the politically-correct quacking sounds
while the north side goes down the shitter because
nobody has the political will to crack the hell down
on, well, good lord, crack heads.
Maybe a column like this one helps create the discussion
and the political will to do something. I think that
discussion could be amplified if you're willing to jump
into it in a very public way. :)
CHAREZ JONES, age 14 and VERNICE "STAR" HALL, age 12
It's hard to know which story Juley Viger was alluding to
about the random bullet which killed a young girl, which
Juley thinks about every time she is trying to sell a house
on the North Side, including the one she is selling me.
(Usual disclaimer about sucky Star Tribune links, which
often go to an annoying "online subscribe" message and,
at some point, just go dead.)
It's hard to know because there has been MORE THAN
ONE incident like that.
12-year-old girl shot in head, survives
14-year-old girl shot in head, dies
Two arrests in shooting of 12-year-old
An arrest doesn't stick in the death of the 14-year-old
More details on THAT
12-year-old shooting victim will never recover
Charges in the slaying of the 14-year-old
It took me a long time to get these straight. I still have to check to
make sure I don't mix up the details.
Well known StarTribune columnist Nick Coleman contacted me after my column about the Twin Cities "branding effort" referenced him.
("Take it back," he told me, over my assertion in the column he was
a "respected" local writer)
I sent Coleman a link to this blog, and Coleman said to let him know
how it goes on the North Side. He offered me one piece of advice:
"Remember to duck."
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I was searching for an image of Lowry Towers, where the stabbing
describe below happened, and I stumbled upon the website of a guy
who collects images of "urban decay" from all over the country. He
had a bunch of great Minneapolis images, including the one for this
A 34-year-old Minneapolis man was charged today in the city's sixth homicide of the year after he allegedly stabbed another man in a public housing high-rise on the North Side.
Opele Onyongo Oboya is in custody at the Hennepin County jail for second-degree murder. Oboya apparently called police shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and told them that he stabbed another man who was trying to fight him.
When officers arrived to the Lowry Towers at 315 Lowry Av. N., they found Oboya on the 17th floor with blood on his hands and soon discovered a bloody knife in his bathroom sink, Sgt. Jesse Garcia, a police spokesman, said this afternoon.
Officers later found the body of Luanyo Alomo Duangi in a hall on the eighth floor. He was stabbed multiple times, according to a criminal complaint.
Bail was set at $500,000 for Oboya.
Several residents said today that the two men involved knew each other and they're asking the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority for additional security measures.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Juley met me at Starbucks to have me sign a purchase agreement on the house I’m buying on the North Side. Out of prudence, I’m not revealing all the details of that deal quite yet. I’m convinced the house I’m buying is a bargain and I don’t want anybody to snatch it away. Once the deal is signed by the seller, I’ll reveal more.
Juley had some time to kill before another appointment, so we sat there drinking our beverages. Diet tea for her, of course. If Juley packs away an extra calorie overnight, she must keep it on her nightstand instead of her person.
I remember the first time I met her at Starbucks, and she was taking notes on what kind of house I wanted. I had to keep assuring Juley I wasn’t kidding, because she had never heard of a customer who thought, for example, bullet holes were a big plus.
“What do you need for title?” she asked me. I blinked, confused.
“Need…for…title?” I asked.
“Some people are worried about title,” she explained. “How strong a title do you need? What do you need for title?”
“Keys,” I said, and then had to contain myself, because I was congested and laughter would get me coughing.
Title, indeed! POSSESSION is what I care about.
Now, so close to a deal, Juley was worried about me. She was worried I was going to get killed on the North Side, and then she would feel terrible about it, like it was her fault. And she said so.
“It’s not your fault, Juley,” I laughed. “I’m a lunatic, and this is how lunatics die.”
She didn’t find THAT amusing. So I went into army pysch tech mode, the “sooner or later we’re all food for the worms so carpe diem” kind of thing. I told Juley the dangers of the North Side were overrated, and even if they weren’t, “somebody has to do this.”
“Look at all those empty houses,” I said. “Somebody has to live in them. And somebody has to sell them.”
I tried to convince Juley she should make a play to become “Queen of the North Side” among real estate agents. Juley said something about how it might end up being hers “by default” because most of her business, lately, involved the North Side. She ticked off a few of those transactions for me.
Juley cares about selling homes and has told me, for example, she doesn’t like selling homes to “flippers” as much as people seeking a place to live. Honestly, I’d sell houses to large, intelligent Termite People From Outer Space if there was a commission in it, but that’s me. Once you’ve driven a large truck around for The Corporation Which Shall Not Be Named, picking up barrels of sheep skulls with brains and eyeballs still attached--to be made into biological specimens--most OTHER work doesn’t seem so rough. And don’t even get me going about my job on that army psych ward.
What’s the difference between an army psych tech and an army psych patient? Psych tech has the keys, baby.
I told Juley she could make a ton of money selling homes on the North Side, and now with real estate in a state of total gloppy red hot molten meltdown, what else could one do but follow the market? Sometimes the economy makes our choices for us, like my ex-wife in effect made the choice about what city I would live in by bringing my child here. So just go with the flow.
I talked to Juley about how I was trying to “popularize the concept of remote showings” so it would be easier to “show” homes on the North Side without actually setting foot there. I said she should have her male customers “go on point” and walk into the empty houses with a tire iron. They’d love that, I said. It would make them feel big and strong and manly.
Juley confessed she thinks about bullets. She thinks about random bullets hitting her in the head when she is on the North Side. She can’t stop thinking about “that little girl who got shot in the head.”
“You seriously think about a bullet hitting you in the head?” I asked. “More likely a bullet is going to hit you in a limb. And, heck, even gangsters who have never received formal weapons training know enough to shoot ‘center mass.’ I mean what’s with your worry about getting shot in the head?”
Juley reiterated her vision of getting shot in the head, with a gesture to her forehead. Juley is not a person who constantly gestures while she speaks. When she makes a gesture, it is notable.
I said to Juley, “When you played volleyball, weren’t you ever worried a volleyball would hit you in the face and alter your looks?” She denied she was ever afraid of volleyballs.
OK, so that line of psychology didn’t work. Try again, Johnny Northside.
I told Juley how General Patton used to worry about getting hit in the nose with a bullet, because he believed in a previous life he had died that way in battle from an arrow. So he was always thinking, in the back of his mind, “bullet to the nose.” But he got over it. He just accepted the notion of dying a warrior’s death.
“So how did Patton die?” Juley asked. I had to think about it for a minute, but then I remembered. Patton died in a jeep accident. There was no bullet to the nose.
I asked Juley if there were other things in her life that once made her afraid, but which she overcame. Juley told me there was a period of time during which winter driving scared her. But she got over it by repeatedly being forced to drive. Her fear went away.
I told Juley that when I’m on the North Side, and I see the big liquor store at Broadway and Lyndale, I feel safe. I feel safe because, first of all, I’m not lost. I know exactly where I am and how to get back to campus. Furthermore, I know there is a security guard in the store and the staff don’t put up with any bullshit.
It reminds me of my first exposure to Frogtown, to the
I told Juley a North Side gangster would have more sense than to shoot her. If a “pretty and young real estate agent” got shot while trying to sell homes on the North Side, there would be a public outcry. My word, how will the place ever get better if real estate agents aren’t safe selling homes? There would be editorials, follow-up stories, her picture on the front page. Her death would not go unnoted, or unremarked. Some might later say, “That was the turning point, when that real estate agent got killed trying to show a damn house.”
Juley said something about how her death would help my mission to “turn around” the North Side. Oh, my word, FEMALES. They are too clever. They are too quick to find the loophole in your point--the selfish angle--even if you didn’t think of it YOURSELF it would be hard to deny the kernel of truth in it. The scenario she suggested was viable. Not what I had in mind, but viable.
I must have said something about how she could do a lot more good by selling houses. Lots of houses. I pointed out how real estate was a nice, safe profession where one could make a lot of money, or so everybody thought. Right as she entered the profession, got her feet wet, the market melted down. She did the safe thing (entered real estate as a job) and suffered for it. Maybe, I suggested, she should do the dangerous thing (concentrate on selling homes on the North Side) and she would become rich beyond her wildest dreams.
To my surprise, Juley became tearful for a moment, then blinked away the tears.
She said something like, “Thanks for the pep talk.” I asked her if she NEEDED a pep talk? I really have no idea how she is doing from day to day in this real estate market, whether she is on top of things or struggling. I know she is paying her father to fix the fender damage on her vehicle instead of doing it in a shop. That much I know. She turns down free lunches but that doesn’t tell me anything.
At some point I told Juley some of my ideas for turning around my block. First of all, I needed to secure the block. Get the contact information for all the sellers of the many vacant houses on that block, so I could contact them quickly and easily if somebody broke into one of their houses. Pick up litter. Plant some flowers. Nobody, I said, would give a shit if a few extra hollyhocks showed up in the yard of a vacant and boarded up house. I needed to create a “corridor of safety” from my block to the bus stop, or at least the PERCEPTION of safety by painting over graffiti, planting flowers.
“You’re going to do all this YOURSELF?” Juley asked.
I told Juley I’d try to get others to help me, like my friend Karl. I’d try to get others to buy houses on the same block. Besides, I said, it sounded like a lot of effort, but it wasn’t, not really.
“Planting flowers could take a couple days, sure, but once they’re planted you don’t have to stand there and shout, GROW FLOWERS GROW,” I said. “They grow on their own and create a constant impression.” Yes, indeed, flowers are very cost effective. And a little paint over graffiti goes a long way.
Juley can never quite decide if I’m a visionary or completely off my rocker. This makes sense because I don’t know, either. Really, the somewhat random paths of bullets could make the call on my behalf. And what can I do but go with the flow?