Tuesday, January 13, 2009

JACC Executive Director Jerry Moore Reportedly Involved In Altercation After JACC Board Of Directors Election

Jerry Moore at another event

I made an effort to get both sides of the story before printing anything, but the same email I was relying upon for most of my info was printed on www.ibnn.org, forcing my blogger hand. I still have some other details not printed on that site, however...

First of all, I want to make it clear that I tried to contact Jerry Moore by Facebook to get his side of the story before printing anything. I was prepared to wait 24 hours, but another site printing details has forced my hand.

The person reporting this matter is named Megan G. She has requested I not print her full last name and, since she provided me the info, it is a reasonable request. I rely on people to kick info my way.

The incident took place Monday, January 12 right after the JACC elections for Board of Directors, which took place at Jordan New Life Church, 1922 25th Avenue N. There are reports another meeting will take place January 14, 2009 at 6:30 PM. A contact in the mainstream media heard Moore may be fired or asked to step down at that meeting, and passed that info to me. The Star Tribune is looking into this story.

Jerry Moore is invited to submit his firsthand account, which I am committed to printing, fair and square. This is the unedited account of Megan G. (Paragraph breaks not included in the original text)

"Unfortunately, Jerry snapped and lost his mind Monday night. He started swinging punches at a man who had 'pushed his buttons' so to speak.

"He didn't really make contact with the man because the man was walking away to avoid a fight. A few people, including myself, ran over to get in between Jerry and the man to keep them apart. Jerry then turned his rage on me, pushing me back and swinging at me. Two other men saw Jerry putting his hands on a woman; they jumped in between Jerry and the woman to get control of Jerry."

"Jerry then turned his rage on them. At this point, Jerry really started throwing punches closed fist punches--that made contact with one man before people were able to get Jerry under control. Three people, including myself, were on the phone with 911. When Jerry realized the police were on the way, he ran out of the back exit out of the building. Police came and took statements and will turn it over to an investigator."

(According to a follow-up email by Megan G., the MPD case number is 09-011311. The officers were 6200 and 0138)

Megan G. continues:

"Pushing Jerry's buttons means: A community member was asking tough questions of Jerry during the question and answer period of the board meeting. The community member's questions focused on 'where all of the money was going for our youth?'

"Another community member had written a note stating that the board must question Jerry Moore, the executive director, to find out what has been done with the money, and what does the community have to show for it.

"After the meeting was over, while people were cleaning up and milling around, a woman began asking Jerry about the money and Jerry was responding. Then a gentleman identified as the community member who began "pushing Jerry's buttons" walked over and joined the conversation. He then said, "Jerry, you are the executive director, why don't you show this woman the financial records and show her where the money is, Jerry?"

"As he asked the question, he patted Jerry on the back sarcastically. I want to make it clear that it was not a sincere pat on the back; it was not an 'atta boy' pat on the back.

"In fact, Jerry's friends at the meeting were saying that this 'button-pushing-man' actually hit Jerry three times on the back. It wasn't a 'hit.' It wasn't consensual but it wasn't a hit. If Jerry had said "don't touch me" and the man continued to touch him, that may have changed the outcome, but Jerry didn't say that, he just started swinging."

The IBNN blog is reporting the altercation included Megan G., Dennis Wagner and P.J.

The full name of "Megan G." is on the IBNN blog, but I am trying to respect Megan's request because she did provide me information. Megan stated she forward the info because of my interest in the Jordan neighborhood, not necessarily for blogging but, well, her entire email is on IBNN.

The IBNN blog is reporting "During the meeting the JACC Board was re-tooled with new members who were voted in by the community." The IBNN blog, as well as an email I received from Megan G., forwarded from a JACC listserv, lists the winners of the Board of Directors election as follows:

David Haddy. Todd Heintz. Tyrone Jaramillo. Robert Hodson. Anne McCandless. Vladimir Monroe.

The IBNN blog--a steady and harsh critique of Jerry Moore--is reminding readers that, long ago, that blog was calling for Moore's resignation or removal.

Free Blog Bonus Material: My Critique of JACC

It has long been my observation that individuals in JACC devote a great deal of time to "social justice" issues instead of neighborhood issues. When I say "neighborhood issues" I mean stuff like: attracting responsible home buyers, securing properties, cracking down on street crime, helping law-abiding property owners stay in their own homes, dealing with bad property owners and slumlords.

Social justice issues, on the other hand, include racism, diversity on the police force, police brutality. These are important and pressing issues. But what is the role of a neighborhood association? Mostly, it is NOT these issues. Neighborhood associations should deal with neighborhood issues. In the suburbs, they should deal with whether or not the neighbor's garage door is offensively, sickeningly bright orange, because they have nothing more exciting that qualifies as a neighborhood issue. In North Minneapolis, they should deal with whether the garage is well-secured, or are drug dealers getting inside? Now that's an exciting neighborhood issue!

A debate about how the (alleged) drug dealers had their choices limited by systemic injustices in society...this has nothing to do with whether or not TO NAIL THE GARAGE DOOR SHUT. Yet what do you hear coming out of Jordan? Discussions about NAILING UP DOORS? No, you hear social justice issues being hashed out. You hear, "How dare anybody criticize our neighborhood without LIVING HERE?"

Man, back in early 2008, did I ever get an earful of this stuff when I dared to point out that young men standing on a corner, drinking from what appeared to be a gin bottle, didn't make a very positive first impression for an outsider shopping for a home. (Click here)

Yes, JACC deals with neighborhood issues...but what a person hears coming out of Jordan's neighborhood association is a lot of "social justice" stuff, the kind of thing which would be more properly the domain of an organization like the Urban League. (And IBNN has its own extensive critiques of the functionality of the Urban League, by the way)

If you watch the real estate market closely, it is obvious the two neighborhoods with the most affordable housing stock--the real steals, the kind of thing a buyer will brag about for the rest of his/her life--are in Hawthorne and Jordan. Yes, great deals can be found all over North Minneapolis, but the bargains bunch up in Hawthorne and Jordan.

Hawthorne may have intense neighborhood politics and squabbles, but Hawthorne's incredible progress has been documented, EXTENSIVELY, on this blog and elsewhere. Hawthorne has avoided breaking into factions that CONSTANTLY FIGHT each other. People in the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council have the ability to say, "You know what? Even though I didn't get my way, that doesn't mean I'm going to take my ball and go home, or plot to crush the person who thwarted me."

Political conflicts in the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council are brief and wash over, or simply linger beneath the surface without breaking out into open, ongoing, scorched-earth battles. Instead of being overly-sensitive to criticism of conditions in their neighborhood, folks in Hawthorne are likely to respond, "You should have seen what it was like two years ago. It's not where it should be, not yet, but we're moving in that direction." Incredible successes like what we see in the Eco Village cheer us, because we can see massive progress, with promises of more progress coming.

Can Jordan point to that kind of success?

In recent years JACC has gained a reputation for being severely dysfunctional and split into intense "pro-Jerry" and "anti-Jerry" factions who spend a lot of time plotting, maneuvering, and fighting. They should be securing buildings and throwing drug dealers off their streets, knocking down crappy houses and trying to save the good ones.

Now sides are literally coming to blows, but something like this JACC altercation wasn't hard to predict at all.

No Solution In Sight

Unfortunately, these politics will have to play themselves out. Whether people in Jordan are willing to admit it or not, the conflict is so much deeper than liking or disliking Jerry Moore.

There are so many empty, foreclosed houses in Jordan, that it's anybody's neighborhood. The future of Jordan is being determined right now, but there isn't broad agreement in Jordan about what Jordan should be.

People in Jordan have competing visions of the future. This Daily Planet Article, click here, as well as the comments which go with the article (especially the comments) are, I believe, an illustration of the debate taking place. It is this very debate that brings members of the Jordan neighborhood to blows. (The article, admittedly, is about all of North Minneapolis...but I see this debate as raging the most intensely in Jordan)

In Jordan, they're not fighting about Jerry Moore. They're fighting about "whose neighborhood?" and "what will it be like?"

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Altercation In The Jordan Neighborhood, Prominent Party Involved

Photo By John Hoff

This blog is in possession of a firsthand account of an incident in the Jordan neighborhood, reportedly an altercation involving neighborhood leadership. Details of the incident are not entirely clear...like the photo, above, which is just an aesthetic blog flourish, not related to the story I'm hearing out of Jordan. 

Because I only have one side of the story, it is my plan to wait 24 hours and meanwhile seek information from the other side, and also to try to confirm (alleged) details with a police report, if possible, and further details from the source who emailed me. 

What I'm hearing sounds like something which may have serious political fallout. I'm concerned about the Jordan neighborhood and the consequences of airing this information, however, it is the role of this blog to provide relevant North Minneapolis info under the principal that a free press is necessary for a strong, vital neighborhood. 

So I can't just sit on info like this.  

(Do not click "Read More")

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tough Economy Impacts Witches And Warlocks In St. Paul


Photos By John Hoff

In St. Paul, the tough economy is being partially blamed for the closing of a "metaphysical bookstore" popular with pagans, Wiccans and "seekers." According to an email from owner Teisha Magee...

...Evenstar Bookstore will be closing because of "a combination of the slow economy and Gillian (my business partner) moving on to other ventures in her life" have combined to "make it impossible for us to keep Evenstar open" and the store will close at the end of January.

Yeah, tough economy out there. Even witches and warlocks are complaining about it.

(Regular readers might be wondering how it is I have this info. Well, the bookstore has a selection of used books, and I once entered my email information in some kind of prize drawing at the store...so I've been stuck on their listserv ever since)

(The other day I saw the "end of an era" email, and actually opened it instead of deleting it unread. I thought...this is interesting. So, when passing by, I took a few pictures...including this interesting "aid to pagan soldiers" project)

(Oh, and I bought a used book. For a quarter)

My Little "311 Art Shows"



Photos By John Hoff

I've fallen into a kind of routine with the 311 system...

I walk around with my camera and--as blog readers can see--I take a lot of pictures. I'm hardly ever without my camera, except by mistake. So, obviously, I have my camera with me when I encounter graffiti.

Most of the graffiti I see is NOT in North Minneapolis. We have a lot of different issues in North Minneapolis, but graffiti doesn't even make the top ten. In fact, it seems like most graffiti is not done by real gangsters but little "wannabe gangsters."

So I take pictures of the graffiti, almost casually and without thinking about it, taking mental note of the locations. At some point, when I'm sitting down with my computer doing WHATEVER, I just start firing off emails to the 311 system, attaching the images.

(Yeah, naturally I have 311 in my "address book." The email address, in case anybody wants it RIGHT NOW, is minneapolis311@ci.minneapolis.mn.us)

I don't know these business addresses by heart, so I look locations up before writing emails. In the photos above, top to bottom, the Triple Rock Social Club on the West Bank, a dumpster behind the Loring Pasta Bar, and 806 Washington Ave. SE. These are some email 311 reports I made yesterday. I hope the 311 workers enjoy my photos. I try to make the photos both informative (for documentary purposes) as well as expressive, like a little art show contained within an email attachment.

I sometimes think it would be really fun if there were incentives to call 311. For example, you could get an online "game piece," then play some kind of Monopoly Game for fabulous prizes. Each piece would represent a business or private property where a graffiti call was made. Right now, I'd be in control of a serious portion of the West Bank and Dinkytown. On the basis of calling in unsecured doors, I'd own a serious chunk of North Minneapolis. Who would pay for the incentives? A partnership between government and private business.

Yeah, incentives would be nice...but the real reward happens when you contact 311, and then the graffiti MAGICALLY DISAPPEARS. And you rejoice in a feeling of good citizenship.

And then graffiti comes back. But that's OK...you just call or email again. And again. It's like mowing the lawn. You don't get angry because the grass grows back.

You just sigh...and mow it again.

People might say, "How is there TIME to do this?" Well, in my observation, almost everybody has a serious chunk of time dedicated to messing around online. It's really just a matter of making that time productive.

Word Is Spreading About "Hawthorne Advantage" Home Buyer Incentive Program

Flickr.com Photo

Jeanie Hoholik just wrote a great blog post about the new "Hawthorne Advantage" program, click here, so word is spreading like wildfire...

Of course, the post headline says "Move over Folwell." Well, maybe I should say a word or two about that.

Hawthorne is not offering more incentive money than the programs in Folwell. We are offering the same amount. Nobody wants an "incentive war" between North Minneapolis neighborhoods. This is something which Bev, our Housing Chair, went out of the way to say on the record when this stuff was passed in committee.

And I should know, I took the minutes as "Acting Secretary."

However, for a long time the Folwell neighborhood has been very effective at promoting word about their incentive program, leading real estate buyers to tell their agents "get me something in Folwell!" Naturally, the Hawthorne neighborhood wants buyers to house hunt in Hawthorne as well as places like Folwell or the magnificent pickings in Camden, click here for an example.

If other North Minneapolis neighborhoods put together new home buyer incentive programs and contact me about them, I will promote their new incentive programs, too. Yes, I write a lot about Hawthorne but I consider all of North Minneapolis my beat...and I've been known to range wider than that in my blog reporting, including Marcy-Holmes, which is still in Ward 3, or the West Bank, which is just a really cool place.

So if it's "move over Folwell" that just means Hawthorne is sitting comfortably beside Folwell, not trying to take Folwell's spot.

Jeanie and other real estate agents are helping our neighborhood by educating would-be buyers about these incentives. Keep up the great work, Jeanie!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rainbow Ceiling Fan, Dirty Mag In The Bathroom...House Hunting With Connie Nompelis





Photos By John Hoff

A few days ago, real estate agent Connie Nompelis was doing a little house-hunting in Hawthorne, and I came along. The house...

...was kicky and historical, the way Connie likes 'em, but people had been living there who were tragically afflicted with both bad taste and colorblindness. But stuff like the rainbow-colored ceiling fan, the wallpaper with little footballs, that was just the top layer. The antique house was still there, underneath those layers, historical and mostly intact.

It would, I thought, take a ton of money and work to restore that house. I told Connie if she made an offer, she should first check to see how much change she had in her ashtray. That's what I would offer, I said, for that house...just judging from the outside. One of the pillars holding up the front porch was MISSING. How did the porch roof miraculously hover like that, I wondered?

The boards on the house were secured with "public screws" and I noticed whoever put the boards on used about twice as many screws as usual. The workman must have been sick of replacing boards, over and over, or he needed to squeeze out a bit more labor on the clock.

A guy showed up to take the board off the front door and it was--oh, good grief, I cringed and went lower in the front seat of Connie's pickup truck with the cracked windshield, while she sat on the driver's side, smoking Camels. My image of her...so totally blown that day.

"What?" Connie asked.

"I know that guy," I said.

"Yeah, I thought I recognized him from your blog," she laughed.

Yes, indeed, it was the rough-and-tumble dude from the suspicious "winterizing" crew, which I blogged about, click for post.

"I'm going to pretend I don't know him," I told Connie. "Maybe he won't recognize me."

Protecting The Innocent By Swiping Porno

Connie said the doorknobs in the house were "to die for." I snapped a picture of "the ghost of radiator past." Maybe I could put together a whole series of photos like that, have a little art show, get Bryan Thao Worra to read a poem.

A group of Hmong would-be buyers toured the house with us. One seemed to be a real estate agent, and he was very upbeat about the house. I had the sense the buyers didn't share his enthusiasm, judging from their facial expressions.

Upstairs, three or four little children were dashing around checking out what might be their new home--they seemed to enthusiastically think--apparently unable to read their parents' facial expressions. I went into the bathroom to see if there was a claw foot tub. Laying in the open medicine cabinet, in plain view, was a raggedly porno magazine.

I quickly stuffed it inside my jacket, and as I left the bathroom, three little Hmong children went bounding inside.

Later, I told Connie, "There was a stroke mag in the lavatory. I swiped it before the little children found it."

"What's a 'stroke mag'?" Connie asked.

(Click here for an eerily similar "Innocent Connie" saga)

I later recycled the magazine. It was English in origin and, like English hard candy, English humor, and English dental hygiene, it didn't quite meet my American tastes...to put it oh-so-politely. (A shame to see crack cocaine has "hopped across the pond" and addicted young women already downtrodden by their horse-like overbites)

On the way out, the guy who unscrewed the door said, "Hey, don't I know you?"

"Unfortunately," I answered. "I think we first met under some unhappy circumstances. Like I said, we really watch the houses around here."

I was with Connie, and I suspected he probably took her to be my wife or girlfriend...which, since it was Connie, after all, must have dramatically increased my social standing in his eyes.

"Oh," he said, meek and mild. "That's OK. You gotta look out for your neighborhood." (Or some words to that effect)

I figured his earlier fuming about "getting paid" for the police incident didn't go anywhere, and somebody had set him right. I also thought he might have lost a little weight. Well, good for him. We all have to get along, if we're going to keep running into each other.

Connie Takes The Plunge

Connie scraped the bottom of her ashtray and made an offer on the house. In an email, she compared it to a "doe-eyed Honduran orphan" and said nothing better stand in the way of her "adopting" the unfortunate house. She said on her blog she was scared her offer would be accepted, and scared it wouldn't be.

The Hawthorne Neighborhood is hopeful that Connie Nompelis--real estate agent extraordinaire, housing preservation buff, blogger--will be joining our community.

3020 4th Street North Unsecured AFTER A MONTH OF CALLS TO 311!

Photo By John Hoff

So I tell people about how great 311 works and then this wretched little house makes me eat crow...

I've spent a month calling 311 about 3020 4th St. N., reporting how the front door is unsecured and anybody can just WALK RIGHT IN. (Be warned if you walk right in: the second floor stairway landing lacks a railing. You could just walk right off the edge if you're not careful)

Sigh. Sometimes calling 311 isn't so much like making a report as it is like LOBBYING.

But I don't lose hope, and I don't let up.

A Scathing, Expert Critique Of "Delete Bad Credit" By The Hawthorne Housing Director



Top Photo By John Hoff, Bottom By Jeff Skrenes

You might be asking yourself, "Why does Jeff Skrenes look so unhappy?" Well, right after Wednesday night's Hawthorne Housing Committee meeting, where some really great stuff got passed, we went to Broadway Pizza and in the lobby of the restaurant was...

...a rack of fliers promising to "delete bad credit."

Jeff found the fliers offensive to the point of pornographic. On and on he ranted about the big fat lies and misconceptions in the fliers--not to mention appalling grammar and spelling errors on their website, which he was--even at that moment--accessing via Blackberry.

My response was to shrug a lot, enjoy my hot french fries, and remind Jeff of the value of "aggressive, proactive recycling as a form of direct action" but Jeff wasn't going to let it go THAT easily.

In the second picture from the top, you can see how Jeff went all "red pencil English major" on the website for "Delete Bad Credit." And I thought I was bad!

Here's Jeff's criticisms of "Delete Bad Credit." Folks who want to urge Jeff not to hold back, but to really SAY WHAT HE'S THINKING can use the comments feature.

Ripping On "Delete Bad Credit"

So, (Jeff says) the other night at Broadway Pizza I saw this flier that I am holding in the picture, "Delete Bad Credit." Right away, this makes me suspicious because you can't simply "delete" bad credit, and that's a misconception that a lot of people have. In fact, there were sham operations several years ago that claimed to do that.

What these sham operations would do is simply send out dispute letters to the three major credit bureaus on EVERYTHING negative, even the ACCURATE negative information. The loophole is if a credit bureau does not verify disputed information in a "reasonable time," then the disputed information must be deleted.

Any credit repair professional worth their salt will therefore include the following phrase in a dispute letter: "I shall assume that thirty days constitutes a 'reasonable time' unless you immediately notify me otherwise."

So the way the scam works is the illegitimate company disputes everything, and then the accurate bad debt that isn't verified within 30 days comes off if they work hard enough at the technicalities.

(JNS asks: Couldn't people who knew this trick do it on their own?)

Suffice to say that's what I thought this "Delete Bad Credit" was referring to. While enjoying my Leine's Honeyweiss, I hopped on their website, dmcdeletebadcredit.com. First off, it's not clear from their homepage if they are pitching their services directly to consumers or to lenders of some sort who want someone else to clean up people's credit so that applicants can apply for a loan. Its opening sentence has a grammar error as well. Let's see who can spot it:

"Delete Bad Credit has high standards, strong work ethics, and knowledgeable enough to implement our experience to deliver a quality product."

Actually, there are two errors now that I break it down. Special thanks to my 11th grade English teacher for showing me how to diagram sentences. They should have said they ARE knowledgeable.

And if that's the case, they do not need the comma between the first two items since there are only two things they "have." Or...well, there are many ways to fix that sentence.

Then I went thorugh every section of this website. It's hastily put together and obviously didn't take long. In their next section, "References," there is at least one significant grammar, spelling, syntax or verb tense error in each of the testimonials. Most have two or three. The grand prize goes to Jerry Odem in Golden Valley, Minnesota for nineteen such errors.

(See second photo, above)

I can understand wanting to look authentic, or wanting to keep actual testimonials the way they were submitted, but this just looks ridiculous.

(JNS says: have you heard of their new program? Delete Bad Grammar Dot Com! Only $300 and they will go back and change all your English Comp grades to the grades you need and deserve! Get a great job in journalism! Woo that hot girl in the thick classes! What have you got to lose but your old grade point average?)

Speaking of "ridiculous,"one testimony says their credit score was in the low 500s, but after Delete Bad Credit removed "inquires" (their misspelling of "inquiries") their credit score was in the 700 range.

Getting a 50-80 point bump from inquiry removal is exceedingly good. A 200-point increase is virtually impossible. Questionable claims and nonsensical grammar continue throughout the website's other sections. Did I mention that one summary said this service will "delete old addresses?"

OLD ADDRESSES HAVE NO BEARING ON YOUR CREDIT SCORE.

Jeff Investigates Further From His Restaurant Both, While Drinking A Beer

But this wasn't enough for me. I called them up directly as well, using their phone number on the flier.

First, an automated voice told me I have contacted "EDR Mortage and Processing Center." If I want information about deleting bad credit, I am asked to press zero, which I do. A woman who did not even identify herself answered. I asked about their program for deleting bad credit and she said they had several packages, but their "basic" package is their "full-service package."

Now, wait a minute! Usually "basic" and "full service" are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

This "package" that apparently defies conventional thinking is dependent on what kind of letters need to be sent out. But you would sign a Power of Attorney to this company and then they would send out letters to get rid of inaccuracies.

I ask you, would you sign a POA over to these guys? Because, after reading their website, I sure as (expletive) wouldn't. The most benign reason I can think of for this modus operandi is they want to meet with you once, and never have to talk to you ever again, even if they do what they claim, until the work is done.

(JNS says: The least benign thing I can think of is they want to sell your house right out from under you and give you pennies from the proceeds)

Since the website also claims to address "slow pay," and given my concerns stated before about how these things can be scams, I asked about this specifically. Surprisingly, this was the one sensible thing she said. If a late payment was due to bank errors or processing times (a common issue, unfortunately) they would help get that reversed, but actual late payments would stay.

$300 Buys A Lot Of Pizza

Then we got to the part about money. There is a $50 fee to meet for a consultation (or, as one testimony put it, a "consiltation.") That fee is deducted from the total balance once you set up an agreement to work with them. Then it's $350 for the first ten creditors they address and an additional $50 after that.

I'm going to ask Broadway Pizza if they will remove these fliers. Maybe these guys are paying Broadway Pizza to have that display stand, maybe not. But since this type of service is FREE elsewhere RIGHT IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, but Delete Bad Credit is charging a minimum of $300, that's $300 that a family no longer has to spend at Broadway Pizza.

Here are the agencies folks can contact:

NRRC, Neighborhood Housing Services, ACORN Housing, and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. Well, heck, I'll do it for free if somebody lives in Hawthorne or wants to buy a house in Hawthorne. Go to this website for your legally-entitled once-a-year free credit report:

www.annualcreditreport.com

You'll have to pay if you want scores, but the report is free.

And if you live in Hawthorne, or if you want to buy a house in Hawthorne, I personally will look at that report and do what I can for you. If the issues are extensive, however, I would refer you to folks who are trained specifically for this task who DO IT FOR FREE.

DO NOT PAY "DELETE BAD CREDIT" OR ANYBODY ELSE FOR THIS SERVICE. It is free and available to all, especially in our North Minneapolis neighborhoods!

GETTING CREATIVE WITH OUR MONEY: "Hawthorne Advantage" Program Approved, Plus Emergency Assistance For Hawthorne Homeowners

Photo By Bryan Thao Worra

The following information comes via email from Jeff Skrenes, Housing Director of Hawthorne, for immediate distribution...

On Thursday, January 8, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council board approved two changes to its housing programs. First and foremost, the "Hawthorne Advantage" program for purchasers of owner-occupied houses in Hawthorne. Here's how it works:

Just for buying a house AND LIVING IN IT in Hawthorne, we'll help you out with 3 percent of the purchase price, up to $4,000. And if you buy a foreclosed or boarded/vacant property we'll kick in an additional $1,000.

This assistance will stay as a lien against the property for ten years, but has no monthly payments and ZERO interest. From year six through ten, the amount is forgiven at 20 percent a year until it is completely forgiven when you have stayed in our fine neighborhood for ten years.

Applying The Numbers

Let's put a real-life example or two into this. If you buy a $120,000 house in Hawthorne from another owner-occupant, you'll qualify for the maximum initial assistance amount of $4,000 (3 percent of sales price)

But let's say you find a $50,000 house that just went through foreclosure. (This may be high for foreclosed homes, but it makes the math easy) You'd quality for the 3 percent down payment help of $1,500 plus an additional $1,000 for turning a foreclosed property back to owner-occupied status. That winds up being 5 percent of the purchase price.

And guess what? You can use the Minneapolis Advantage $10,000 in combination with our assistance. Bearing in mind that both prices and interest rates are near record lows, and seeing all the great stuff we're doing in our neighborhood, I've got to ask: Why WOULDN'T you buy in Hawthorne?

(Easy, Jeff, you're not working in a bank on commissions anymore)

Rehab Loan Program Was Always Here, Nothing New

Our neighborhood also has an excellent loan program at 4 percent interest, repaid over ten years.

(Please note: Recently we figured out a lot of folks aren't aware of it, even folks who have been in Hawthorne for a while)

But if somebody has an emergency and can't qualify for that, we are still here to help.

Neighbors Taking Care Of Neighbors

On January 8, 2009, Hawthorne introduced an emergency assistance program. If your furnace goes out in the middle of winter and you have trouble getting access to money to address this or another similar emergency, Hawthorne now has a program to help. We will lend you up to $6,000 at zero interest, forgiven in the same way as the down payment program.

Come to Hawthorne! We'll help you get here and we take care of our neighbors.

(Thanks, Jeff. To add a minor historical footnote: I was the guy who came up with the name "Hawthorne Advantage" during a Hawthorne Housing subcommittee meeting, modeling the name after the "Minneapolis Advantage" program. Jeff Skrenes was kind to summarize the details in an email so this blog would have the honor of breaking the news about these new neighborhood programs)

(As for the picture...our acclaimed neighborhood poet, Bryan Thao Worra, does this with his bills when he leaves tips. This photo was taken at Broadway Pizza in the Hawthorne neighborhood)

Minneapolis Advantage Program: Mayor R.T. Rybak Calls In Massive Reinforcements In Battle To Revitalize North Minneapolis!


Wow! Ten thousand dollars in FREE MONEY for a new home in North Minneapolis...

By now, most folks who care deeply about this issue have heard about the renewed funding for the Minneapolis Advantage Grant Program, which provides incentives to individuals buying homes in--mostly--North Minneapolis. The Hawthorne Neighborhood just passed its own program called the "Hawthorne Advantage" which I will be revealing, exclusively, in my next blog post.

But in regard to Minneapolis Advantage Grants, this story in the local media, click here, does a pretty adequate job of explaining the details of the funding. Here's another story which contains other useful facts, click here.

There will be 150 grants of $10,000. One hundred of the grants will be in North Minneapolis. The remainder will be in Northeast and South Central.

There are critics of the program, such as this article in the Minneapolis Mirror, click here. (Well, really it's more of an opinion piece unhappily born into an article's body) The "journalist" who wrote this piece about "welfare for yuppies" actually pouts about not knowing the spelling of the names of individuals he is citing in his story.

To this I say...

Well, Mr. Michael Katch, you're supposed to be a journalist, or at least you're trying to pass yourself off as one on the internet.

So here's what you do, Michael.

You go up to these folks, you pull out your notepad, you say, "Excuse me, could I get your name again? How is that spelled?" Then you ask some pithy follow-up questions. That kind of thing. The journalist thing. The very basic stuff I used to teach in "Intro To News Writing, 3101."

As for the assertion "yuppies" will be using these grants and moving to North Minneapolis...be still, my foolish heart. An army of yuppies? Oh, my word, I need to buy some good quality coffee beans, an expresso machine, some Sugar In The Raw and put out a few Pottery Barn coasters and...and...

"Yuppies," you say. Mr. Katch? Great, writhing hoardes of them moving to North Minneapolis because of this Minneapolis Advantage program?

(Giddy squeal...hands clapping together...dancing a jig)

Do you have any idea what this will do to crime rates and property values, Mr. Katch?

Please, sir, you must write more articles revealing gripping details about this invasive army of yuppies...the vacant, foreclosed, boarded up houses they are invading, their expansionist yuppie hopes and dreams, their jobs and so-called "cultural values"...just, anything, any scrap of information would be useful, Mr. Katch, in this developing crisis situation impacting North Minneapolis.

"Yuppie army marches north."

Oh, my word. STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!!

(I've always wanted to say that)

But when you write these articles, Mr. Katch, keep a few things in mind:

Pen. Notebook. Get right up in there, all bright-eyed, and ask pointed questions instead of slouching in the back of the class, doodling the names of heavy metal bands.

Plus let's remember our "five w's and one h."

WHO. WHAT. WHEN. WHERE. WHY. HOW.

That "who" part includes getting the names, Mr. Katch.

But, you know, pretty strong work for so early in the semester. I'll give you a B minus.

Preparing For Demolition At 3101 6th St. N., The Former "Apartment Complex Of Anarchy"



Photos By John Hoff

The apartment building at 3101 6th St. N., which I once dubbed "The Apartment Complex of Anarchy" and even police officials began using the name is...

...apparently going to be demolished soon.

A couple of workmen were there recently, and appeared to be taking stock of what needed to be done for demolition. I spoke to them; making sure they were legitimate workmen who belonged on the property and not just no-accounts making off with kitchen sinks.

Their noses wrinkled as they described the apartments as "full of trash" and said there were a lot of refrigerators inside. They said there would be a "big pile" of fridges, and didn't seem too happy with the prospect of hauling out those heavy, stinky items.

One item they scored was a metal shop cabinet festooned with automotive stickers, middle photo. Cool. Somebody who owned that cabinet once-upon-a-time shared my deep love of stickers.

The workmen had a pile of straw erosion barriers, pictured in the top photo. (I'm not sure what these items are actually called, but their purpose was obvious and, a day later, these were in position all around the apartment building)

I fully expect that one day soon I will drive around the corner of Lyndale Ave. N. and 31st Ave. N. and see "The Backhoe of Doom" doing its brutal work or possibly even a pile of fresh dirt, with no sign of The Backhoe but its distinctive tracks.

It seems like only a few months ago juveniles were dealing crack in the lobby, and one of them was hiding the drugs in his rectum.

Oh, wait. That WAS only a few months ago.

Yes, the corner of 6th and 31st used to be "ground zero" for prostitution and drug dealing, but now you hardly see anybody standing around. (Of course, the crackheads just furtively go inside 3020 6th St. N., but that house is in foreclosure--the clock is running down on redemption--and this nest of crackheads will, also, inevitably be cleaned out)

The times in North Minneapolis...they are a-changing.

JOHNNY NORTHSIDE EXCLUSIVE: Details On Police Activity At 2211 6th St. N.

Flickr.com Photo

The house at 2211 6th St. N. has not been a problem property in recent years, though it has the great misfortune to sit next to 2207 6th St. N., a notorious problem house recently raided by police...

However, on January 8, 2009, at about 4:30 p.m. there appeared to be a big police action at the house: lots of squads and officers going inside, according to an involved citizen who lives nearby.

Public officials were queried, and Lt. Jeff Rugel of the 4th Precinct emailed back with some information:

"Looks like our squads responded to assist either Hennepin (County) Sheriff or the Department of Corrections Fugitive Unit on an attempted pickup of a fugitive. They found the guy and arrested him. The CCN was 09-007233 but there are no reports because the other agency took the prisoner and wrote the reports in their system. There is a record in VisiNet."

Later, Rugel added, "Usually it is a relative or a boyfriend of the resident who violates parole and gets a warrant issued. The fugitive hunters stake out known acquantances until they figure out where the wanted person is, then they call for help to make the arrest. Sometimes the resident knows their friend is wanted, sometimes they do not.

"That address does not generate a lot of 911 calls, and frankly would not make my top 1000 list for problem properties."

However...people in the neighborhood are very determined to "nip it in the bud" and make sure this house DOESN'T turn into a problem property like its next-door-neighbor.

JOHNNY NORTHSIDE EXCLUSIVE: Possible Ward 3 City Council Candidate

Flickr.com Photo

There is a possible candidate to run for the Ward 3 City Council seat. First of all...

...let me make it clear the possible candidate is NOT ME. I have been asked to make a kind of announcement on my blog, soliciting feedback for somebody who is in an exploratory phase and may consider running in Ward 3. Any feedback can be mailed to hoffx106@umn.edu and I will forward it or, if appropriate, publish it. You can also use the comment threads, not just to this post but to posts discussing relevant issues impacting city politics.

I know this candidate. He is a natural leader. He has the ability to read people, see your needs and speak to those needs. He doesn't just deal with the surface, but wants to tackle the real issues that matter to you and me. (So tell me what those issues are in Ward 3! I have some ideas, and I've passed those thoughts on to the possible candidate, but it's time to hear from all of you by comments or email)

This man focuses on what you're struggling with right now. He does not have his head up in the clouds but rather he's down in the street where the people are.

I know a man, he can talk to anyone about anything. But he doesn't just talk, he listens. This guy is not like the politicians, he's one of you. He hears what you are saying.

This guy has had to put groceries on a credit card before, and it wasn't to earn airline miles. He's been more among the "have nots" than the "haves."

This is a man who is not afraid to confront wrong doing no matter who is guilty. He's had to chase "solicitors of uncouth ilk" from his very doorstep and lived to pay the price. But he rises up, every day, refusing to give in.

This guy looks out for children, Minneapolis' most precious asset. He says, "If we don't invest in the children, we have no city in which to invest."

He says, "Our great city is starting to change for the better. Will the leadership of Minneapolis be able to handle the change?"

Is there room for a man like this among the leadership of Minneapolis? When you look for a city council member, what do you look for:

Honesty. Integrity. Determination. Straightforwardness. Proper representation. Hope. Inspiration.

So that's the deal.

Some may think, "Whoah! Didn't we just finish a big election cycle?"

But guess what? Election cycles never end. In a democracy, we are in a perpetual campaign to determine who will lead, what are the relevant issues, and how will those issues be handled.

Democracy never rests.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Inside 416 31st Ave. N. (Bad Caulk, Kung-Fu Panda, And The Fall of Western Civilization)



Photos By John Hoff

It's very enlightening to go inside a house you've only seen from the outside for months, years, even decades. I always pictured 416 31st Ave. N. as filled with garbage and ripped apart inside. It wasn't. In fact...

Somebody had done a lot of work. It wasn't very good work, half the time, but the place had certainly been CLEANED.

Some names had been written on the hardwood doors, but at least the graffiti was somewhat RESTRAINED. There were very few actual traces left of previous residents. One exception was on the top shelf of a knocked-together closet; this "Kung-Fu Panda" figure and some other articles. Sad.

Before...After...No, Wait, Just "Before"

In the second photo, an extremely bad caulking job. Jeanie Hoholik mentioned the late night infomercial with the super-dooper caulking device which, surely, no handyman can live without. How much would you PAY for something like that?! Blah blah blah.

Yes, I had seen the infomercial, too. Jeanie said the bathtub looked like the "bad caulking example" from the infomercial. True enough, but a much higher standard is required to be a "Stupid North Minneapolis Home Repair." If we start letting in bad caulking jobs, what comes next? Poor choices in cupboard contact paper? See, it's just a slippery stupid slope.

Fall Of The House Of 416

In the next photo, here's something you see in almost every former rental in North Minneapolis: evidence of a bedroom door secured with a PADLOCK, as evidenced by the remainder of a portion of the hasp.

I figure they started out by changing the lock...but at some point, civilization devolved, like during the Middle Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire, and knowledge of replacing locking doorknobs was lost...so the inhabitants reverted to using hasps and padlocks. At some point, savage barbarian hordes apparently made off with the doors themselves, and those who were left to pick up the pieces used, one supposes, blankets in the doorway for privacy.

Unhappy Feet

In the last photo, Jennifer The Flipper taught me something about carpet. There is apparently some cheap stuff known as "indoor/outdoor carpet," and that's what was used throughout the house. Jennifer told me it was...what did she say? Sixty-nine cents a foot? A yard? Or did she say a buck sixty-nine?

Well, it was cheap, that much I remember. And there were pennies on the carpet, clearly tossed there recently. I've documented, before, this superstition among real estate agents, click here.

Knock A Zero Off And You've Got A Deal

There was nothing about this house which would make it worth $150,000. My companions were seriously speculating about how the price must contain an extra, accidental zero. If not, the price was just...humorous.

In the last few decades, there has been a lot of unhappiness in this house, and because of this house. It's hard not to feel like unhappiness has seeped into the very walls, somehow. But it was also rather roomy, and there was some nice woodwork. (Not pictured)

I could see how this house would make a fine home, and right next to the wonderful Polish lady's amazing gardening efforts, in the very heart of the Eco Village. Hopefully, a homeowner will buy it, and not a slumlord. Because if a slumlord buys it, well, we'll be all over him, making life hellish, even by slumlord standards.

Stupid North Minneapolis Home Repairs At 416 31st Ave. N.


Photos By John Hoff

Scott Ficek of the Minnesota Investment Property blog may have pioneered the practice of publicizing "Stupid North Minneapolis Home Repairs," but let's face it, he can't keep up and has to pretty much WATCH MY SMOKE....

Here is a "two-fer" at 416 31st Ave. N.

Above, the cupboard is attached to the ceiling with...what is that? Well, whatever it is, it looks stupid. I'm scoring that one. I know the photo looks like some kind of upside-down end table or something but, nope, that's the kitchen cupboard.

Below, real estate agent Jeanie Hoholik stands in a "bedroom" which used to be a dining room. No sense having a nice dining room with a big arched doorway when you can squeeze in one more "Section 8" bedroom.

"Just act like Vanna White," I told Jeanie, as I made her pose for a picture.

This Jeanie being Vanna White.

Great Housewarming Gifts! (Well, When They Work)




Jennifer The Flipper buys a lot of houses, and every time she gets some kind of "housewarming" package...

A recent package included two "free rides" on Metro Transit. Jennifer lives in a suburb and doesn't really ride the bus a lot, so she gave the passes to Jeanie Hoholik, who passed the passes to me. So, yeah, those little slips of paper were getting handed around like a jar of prison-made "pruno."

The instructions on the coupons say to insert them into the light rail ticket machines, just like currency. I tried it. Didn't work. I called the Metro customer line. They explained the ticket machines are sometimes "glitchy" like that. Uh huh. They told me to go ahead and ride.

I paid for a ticket, anyway, because I didn't want to be in one of THOSE conversations with a transit officer. "But, officer, I was TOLD by some guy at the customer service line..."

Yeah, right. Here's your $200 fine.

A Civic Bodhisattva

It is my destiny to be a kind of glitch-magnet, because I'll always try to make the system fix itself, email a public official, etcetera. The universe wants to evolve and become more enlightened, so it notices people like me and guess what? I'M A GLITCH MAGNET.

So here's what I started doing: every time I rode the light rail, I tried to make the coupons work. And every time they didn't, I called it in. I did this, like three times. Well, one time I had to call in the fact the machine wasn't working AT ALL. The screen was not functioning.

Some people stand on a rail platform and wait, and get nothing accomplished at all. But there's always an opportunity to squeeze in another cell phone call helpful to your neighborhood, to send a text message, or add phone numbers to your directory or--good heavens--notice something amiss and call 311, or the Metro Transit Customer line or--heaven forbid--911.

Today the ticket machine finally accepted the coupons and issued me a transfer. I used it to go pick up my 11-year-old son in Burnsville.

My 311 Efforts THWARTED!!! CURSES!!!!!!!!

All along the light rail, there are instances of graffiti. But it's hard to call it in. How can you know the address of a building when you are just whizzing by on a train? Yet the light rail route is full of graffiti, contributing to a feeling of "civic disorder" among the passengers, a feeling that "anything can happen" along the route.

Yeah, I believe in the "broken windows" theory. I don't like the way people such as former Seattle City Attorney Mark "The Devil" Sidran have applied it, but I do believe the theory, absolutely.

"Alex," I said to my son today. "You know what would be cool? To ride a bike all along the light rail route, and call in the graffiti visible from the light rail. I mean...clean up the whole route, you know? So none of the passengers would have to see that crap."

My son didn't think the idea was cool at all. This from a kid who reads the Star Tribune on the light rail, and gets all excited about a story concerning a TAX AUDIT.

This is how I plan to lose weight when warm weather comes: riding a bike and making scores of 311 calls along my routes.

But, please, anybody should feel free to steal my idea.

"Dump" At 418 23rd Ave. N. Is Coming Down! (Neighborhood Raccoons Expected To Be Displaced! Does The Backhoe Of Doom Have No Mercy?!!!)

Flickr.com Photo

Michael Klick, who serves with me on the Hawthorne Housing Committee, emailed a bunch of folks with the happy news...

The "dump" at 418 23rd Ave. N. is coming down. The vote to demolish it finally made its way to the city council for a vote. Michael apparently watches these meetings on the internet when the agenda pertains to nearby properties, and then he spreads around the info verbally and by email. Even actions as small as that are very helpful in building "social capital." Michael told me and now I can tell the whole city: D

Ding dong, the wicked dump is DOWN.

Or, well, it soon will be.

This house is "right next door" to Michael and his partner, Brian Cheese. According to Michael, a family of raccoons lived in the building over the summer. Michael says, with obvious delight, "We won't have to sit at our dining room table looking at that boarded house anymore."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Inside 416 31st Ave. N., The Site Of So Much Misery In The Eco Village

Photo By Jeff Skrenes

Everything that can go wrong with 416 31st. Ave. N. in recent years has, indeed, gone wrong. You name it; everything from crack cocaine to poison ivy.

In a recent post, click here, I wrote about how the MLS even had the WRONG PICTURE when this house was finally listed...

Today I tagged along with some friends--serious buyers--and checked the place out. For one thing, I wanted to see how a $150,000 house just magically materialized in the Eco Village amid all the houses which go for, like, $17,500 to $18,500. Were SPACE ALIENS involved? Was the house brought there from Future North Minneapolis?

We were surprised to find 416 31st Ave. N. was relatively clean inside, and there was no evidence of squatters. We expected to find a much different situation. What we discovered was a bit encouraging, because we could tell neighbors like "Patty Cake" and "the Polish Lady" not to worry.

As always, I learned something about real estate. I learned some crap called "indoor/outdoor carpet" costs very little and most renters don't know the difference, so that's what slumlords like to use. I learned it's possible to convert a big dining room into another bedroom by sheet rocking the entry arch. Oh, sure, the result looks stupid...but who cares if you can add another bedroom and get more money from Section 8?

But here's a little mystery in the house. Check out these words in the photo taken by Jeff Skrenes. Look closely. The words are in raised white letters. We weren't sure how it was done, but I'm speculating it was written in nail polish...then painted over.

These eerie ghost letters in the wall say: "Lady Magic a.k.a. Magic Feet"

See, kids, this is what happens when you do drugs.

A few hours after seeing this house, while visiting "Patty Cake," she told me horrifying stories about the pit bulls once raised at the house, a situation which dragged on for years until the police raided the house for drugs and shot a bunch of the pit bulls. This was about five years ago, she said.

"Did you see any pools of blood in the basement?" she asked me.

I had to admit...I wasn't really looking.

JOHNNY NORTHSIDE EXCLUSIVE: New "Minneapolis Advantage" Grants To Be Announced TOMORROW

Flickr.com Photo

Word comes from a source about what will be announced at tomorrow's Mayoral press conference. You read it here FIRST on Johnny Northside Dot Com...

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 7, at 10:45 A.M., at Mayor Rybak's office there will be an announcement regarding Minneapolis Advantage Grants, round two.

Brian Reichow, who I have blogged about before as a "model citizen" advantage grant recipient, click here, plans to be at the press conference.

Here's the big scoop: Rumor has it there will be 150 grants this time instead of the mere 50 grants handed out during the pilot program. No word on changes in eligibility requirements or the amount of the grants.

The most extensive television coverage will likely take place on CHANNEL 5, since Channel 5 has apparently arranged an in-person interview of one of the recipients. MPR is also likely to have coverage in the next few days.

This is wonderful news. North Minneapolis is being revitalized in leaps and bounds. Now is the time to buy, buy, buy.

Well...OK, before you buy, buy, buy it might be good to apply for one of those Minneapolis Advantage Grants!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Annshalike Hamilton Murder Mystery: More On The Mysterious "Snoop"

Photo From Annshalike Hamilton's
Photo Bucket Account


First of all, this is nothing but unsubstantiated rumor...

...which came through on a comment thread. But the folks who are taking the time to comment on the Annshalike Hamilton matter--whoever they are--have a pretty good track record of airing useful facts. Even "Secrets of the City" said the comments on this blog broke the story of Annshalike Hamilton's murder.

So here's what one commenter contributed today:

"we met with the detective today and i finally saw a pic of the real snoop he is neither one of the photos posted and the detective would not release his name what i will say is he has braids and looks to be late 20s to 30 and has a tattoo just below the neck on the front of the collor (sic) bone that says snoop."

Please, anybody who has more info...air it here. Anybody who has photos, send these photos to hoffx106@umn.edu.

Taking A Tour Of An Incredible "Stephanie Gruver House" At 4250 Fremont Ave. N.

Photo By John Hoff

The Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation has been trying to revitalize (some might even say "save") North Minneapolis by renovation and demolition. One amazing example of their work is the house at 4250 Fremont Ave. N.

When I say "their" work, I really should give credit to the person responsible: Stephanie Gruver, who was recently the subject of a Star Tribune article.

Yesterday, I was able to tag along on a tour of this house with a couple friends who are serious buyers with serious money. Me, I'm just a guy with a digital camera and a blog...but whose firsthand account are you reading? That's right, moi.

The first thing I noticed about the location of 4250 Fremont Ave. was its proximity to a bus stop...

Even with snow on the ground, I noticed "transit litter" blowing around.

Riding On The Metro

I'm totally in favor of tax dollars being used to revitalize North Minneapolis, and not inclined to be critical. So, believe me, I'm not saying anything the average buyer wouldn't quickly figure out about the location of 4250 Fremont Ave. N.

Also, there's an apartment complex next door. It looks quiet now but I was there, what? Half an hour. Not long enough to judge.

While I was parking my vehicle, and locking up the steering wheel with my new security device, a guy waiting at the bus stop decided to casually cross social boundaries of decency and yell at me, "Nobody is going to steal your raggedy-ass van."

I took some degree of pleasure informing him the van had, in fact, been stolen only last week. He--apparently not skilled in the art of rhetoric, but clearly in possession of a strong opinion--simply repeated his statement, word-for-word. I didn't want to continue the lame discussion by pointing out how cold it was, and the fact he was waiting, endlessly, for a metro bus and amusing himself by taunting complete strangers who happened to at least possess some kind of running vehicle, which he utterly lacked.

The friend who was with me pointed out, "You haven't been here more than a few minutes, and you're already in an altercation."

So, like I was saying...the house is right at a metro bus stop. And next to an apartment.

Therefore, (apparently) to balance these obvious negatives, renovation was lavished on the house. Now some buyer is going to come along and absolutely fall in love with this place, DESPITE its proximity to an apartment complex and a bus stop where--as surely as God made little green apples--one day somebody will get robbed, raped or stabbed while waiting for a bus, and that person will come stumbling to the nearest house, (which might be 4250 Fremont) bloodied and begging to use a phone to call 911 or, possibly, asking for some kind of field dressing.

Your shirt will do. REALLY, ANYTHING TO STOP THE BLEEDING!!!!

Frankly, if I loved that house and had the money, I'd be willing to deal with performing dramatic first aid once every couple years. Because that's a great house. I have no complaints about how my tax dollars are being spent. A house like that can get a whole block rolling in a positive direction.

The House Was Better Than The Brochure

Normally, you can depend on real estate brochures to hotly hype a house but, in this case, the house was BETTER than the brochure.

"Start your day in this cozy Breakfast Nook," the brochure began. (Since when is "breakfast nook" capitalized?) "Completely remodeled kitchen with maple cabinets and high end appliances."

Yeah, those maple cabinets looked good.

I could pour 'em on pancakes and eat 'em. That good.

Now clearly appealing to Sloth, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, the cunning brochure promised, "You can just move in to this home and enjoy, nothing to update, it has all been done for you, new boiler, water heater, new security system, and new roof."

(HA!!!! Well, for your information, GMHC, some of us LIKE hunting houses in the wild with nothing but a Bowie knife and field-dressing our trophies on a snowy day!!!!)

"Huge Living Room (sic) with wood burning fireplace and sparkling hardwood floors," the brochure continued.

Well, there's something a personality like mine could get into: burning hardwood floors to stay warm in the dead of winter.

The brochure also describes this house as a "Gorgeous Camden Icon." I guess that makes me curious. How is it an "icon?" Who, exactly, worships this house? What will the next owner of 4250 Fremont Ave. N. be expected to do when mysterious hooded house-worshipers show up at the door, silently holding candles and swaying in unison?

But seriously, did somebody well-known live there? Does this "icon" of a house have some kind of cool history? My old house at 3016 6th St. N. was once owned by a Level 3 Sex Offender named Alveto Rivera. TOP THAT!!!!!!

Oh, But There's So Much More

My two friends kept gasping and pointing out features of the house, excitedly talking in real-estate lingo or flipper-ese or whatever secret language they were speaking. I mostly notice stuff like "the wine bottle in the kitchen is FRIGGING EMPTY." So I needed some help to understand the details of this GMHC renovation. One of these friends kindly followed up with a detailed email, as follows, along with my snarky remarks:

1.) On the exterior, a monogrammed address sign. I said, "Geez, that's cool, where do you order something like that?" Well, click here for a link. And, by the way, though I'll plug certain goods and services for free, one time...those companies who want me to shill extensively should, I don't know, send a check or a case of wine or something.

No, seriously. I'm a virtual harlot. And cheap.

2.) In the kitchen, the counter tops are a laminate which used to always be known as Formica but now there are several competitors. It has a beveled wood edge. The wood is about a quarter of an inch and sets at an angle at the front and top of the counter.

The appliances are stainless steel.

(Well, good...I hate stains on my appliances)

Although they aren't top-of-the-line, the appliance still look sleek and the fridge has a built-in water and ice dispenser. The kitchen has maple cabinets and the hinges are hidden for that additional sleek appearance. The cabinet knobs are brushed nickel, to match the appliances and the new breakfast nook chandelier.

(Finally, somebody who knows better than to capitalize "breakfast nook.")

3.) The living room has new 6 x 6 slate tiles surrounding the fireplace, black wrought iron staircase railing, gleaming refinished hardwood flooring. It has "Pottery Barn-style window treatments" with flowing drapery and wrought-iron draper rods.

4.) The dining room has a new oiled rubbed bronze chandelier and side lights surrounding the window.

5.) The upper level bath has new double vanities consisting of porcelain sinks and rich wood cabinetry. It has new light fixtures, towel bars and bath fixtures, new trim and bead board on the lower half of the bathroom.

6.) The basement bath is an all-new bathroom, including a new fiberglass shower, sink and vanity, and black-n-white mosaic tiles. (If they aren't real, we didn't detect it) on the floor.

It really is a beautiful home. And it's only $239,900.

Oh, heck. I have no pride when it comes to pumping the North Side: the real estate agent for the house is Tom Svendsen, 612-759-8393. You like what you're seeing, you call Tom, OK?

Also, word on the street is the "welcome wagon" packages for new home buyers include two metro passes good for a free bus ride.

IMAGES: Taking A Tour Of An Incredible "Stephanie Gruver House" At 4250 Fremont Ave. N.










Photos By John Hoff

These are images from 4250 Fremont Avenue, a house which has been extensively remodeled by Stephanie Gruver with the Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation. (GMHC, or "Gimmick")

Gruver's renovation efforts were recently the subject of a Star Tribune story, which catapulted Gruver's work to a greater degree of public consciousness and, possibly, political debate.

Normally I'd link to a media story after mentioning it, but--as I've griped about incessantly on this blog--I won't use Star Tribune links because they're scheduled to go dead. (The fact that newspaper's owners, Avista Capital Partners, is THE DEVIL is actually besides the point, but I thought I'd mention it)

Back to the house at 4250 Fremont Ave. N.

I'll tell you more about this house in my next post, but for now, from top to bottom, here's what you're seeing...

1.) Top photo: the main room of the house is breathtaking. I actually found myself sucking in breath and forgetting to let it out.

2.) 3.) Second two photos: Wow, check out all these little freebies placed in the kitchen to give the house charm. Whoever buys this place is going to make out like a BANDIT!

4.) 5.) Next two photos: Details from the upstairs bathroom, including his and hers (or hers/hers and his/his) bathroom sinks, and some cute tile in the bathroom. I haven't included the basement bathroom. I was amazed such attention was lavished on a BASEMENT bathroom, but the result was great.

6.) A cedar closet! You know, some slumlords would rip out the shelves, put a humidifier in there and call it a "sauna." (I'm kidding, but readers get my point about those disreputable North Minneapolis slumlords like, oh gee, Mahmood Khan)

7.) Look at all that copper! Good thing this North Minneapolis home has an alarm system.

8.) Some painted hand prints were left in the basement, some kind of remnant of the folks who once lived there, apparently. It was cool to leave that. Good call.

9.) I couldn't help but notice the use of low-energy, long-lasting bulbs. I use these myself and I've been phasing out energy-hog incandescent light bulbs.

10.) The only lame thing in the whole house: an EMPTY wine bottle in the kitchen. Here's a suggestion: use a bottle of sparkling cider. It looks just like a booze bottle, it's less lame, and nobody will steal it just like they won't steal the REAL PASTA in the pasta jars.

Wow, what a house!

In my next post, I'll discuss why it actually makes sense to layer such expensive renovations on this GMHC house as part of neighborhood revitalization. There's a method to this particular madness, and it became obvious when I looked at the house and its location in the neighborhood.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Slumlord Empire Of Mahmood Khan, Owner Of 2222 4th St. N., Where Annshalike Hamilton's Body Was Found In A Garage

Photo By John Hoff

A helpful person provided me info about what appear to be all the properties of Mahmood K. Khan, who owns the crappy, run-down duplex where the body of Annshalike Hamilton was found in the garage...

Without further ado, here is Khan's slumlord empire, such as it is:

2222 4th St. N., where Annshalike Hamilton's body was found in the detached garage, which is actually an old "carriage house." This property was purchased June 25, 2008, for $21,000. It was condemned in 2007. There is a "director's order" on it. And yet it stands, dragging down the neighborhood. 

3414 Emerson Ave. N., purchased July 15, 2008 for $21,000. This place has an open/provisional rental license. It also has a list of "Truth In Housing" repairs as long as my forearm, none of which is listed as resolved. As many folks know, "Truth In Housing" comes into play more so when a property owner tries to resell a property...however, many of the things on this list make the property sound less-than-livable as a rental.

1714 Oliver Ave. N., purchased May 28, 2008 for $30,000. The situation with this property is exactly the same as 3414 Emerson Ave. N., above, except the list is somewhat shorter...not by very much, though.

2007 Russell Ave. N., purchased October 17, 2008, for $14,000. SAME EXACT DEAL AS ABOVE. Open/Provisional rental license and a list of repairs as long as my forearm.

Can you say "modus operandi," kids?

Oh, thanks. I knew you could.

1621 22nd Ave. N, purchased July 16, 2008 for $15,750. As usual, an "open/provisional" rental license, and long list of repairs. One of the items on the list? "Exposed wiring."

2008 21st Ave. N, purchased October 10, 2008 for $17,000. "Open/provisional" rental license. List of unresolved repairs as long as my arm, including damaged gas piping.

2714 Emerson Ave. N., purchased August 12, 2008, for $21,000. This one does not have an open/provisional rental license. This one is actually condemned.

315 Buchanan St. NE. Unknown what Khan paid for this property. It has an open/provisional rental license. Khan has also been associated with this property for a number of years, according to the rental license history.

818 44th Ave. N. This was purchased September 24, 2008 for $26,000. It has an "open/provisional" rental license and long list of "Truth In Housing" repairs, none resolved, including "inoperable smoke detectors."

321 24th Ave. N. This was purchased June 16, 2008 for $23,625. (Ooooh, somebody was dickering) Despite unresolved "cut electrical lines" and "cut gas lines" on a "Truth In Housing" report, this structure has an "open/provisional" rental license.

2135 4th St. N. This was purchased June 10, 2008 for $28,000. It has an "open/provisional" rental license and a short but worrisome list of "Truth In Housing" repairs, including "excessive rust" and "deferred maintenance" on the heater.

2223 Emerson Ave. N. It has extensive lists of missing water pipes, documented as "not resolved." It also has an "open/provisional" rental license.

2123 Oliver Ave. N. This was purchased August 12, 2008 for $23,000. It has an "open/provisional" rental license and the usual long list of unresolved "Truth In Housing" repairs. These include missing/inoperable smoke detectors and exposed wires.

1001 Logan Ave. N. This was purchased October 10, 2008 for a mere $15,000. This property is condemned.

1800 Lasalle Ave. #104. This property proves not everything owned by Khan is cheap and run down. This property is apparently a condo, as evidenced by the property description which includes "1800 Lasalle Condo." This property was purchased July 18, 2006 for $120,000.

Khan's overall pattern is pretty clear: he bought a bunch of properties in 2008. Most have extensive "Truth in Housing" repairs listed, but he has obtained provisional rental licenses on all these properties. Not a single "Truth In Housing" item--not even one item--has been listed as resolved as of today's date. And, yes, Khan is indeed renting these properties or at least currently ATTEMPTING to rent these properties. Click here to read about his ads on Craigs List seeking renters.

Khan also owns a couple properties that are condemned, and these DO NOT have "Truth In Housing" lists, because a stricter standard of "Code Compliance" is required with condemned properties.

You really have to wonder what life is like living in one of Mahmood Khan's houses. By and by, I'll probably get around to standing on the sidewalks and taking a few pictures. Of course...readers can feel free to send images.

I'd like to close with this: without great folks who make information available to this blog...sometimes with a degree of personal risk...this blog would not be possible.

You know who you are. Thank you, and keep it up!