Saturday, February 21, 2009
Al Flowers Disrupts UROC Conference (Plus More Details Of The UROC Conference Than You Can Possibly Stand)
For part of yesterday and nearly all of today, Saturday, the University of Minnesota did what it does best when it comes to North Minneapolis. Talked. Made promises. Talked more. Tried to talk, wasn't allowed to talk, but then finally managed to talk. Yes, it was the "UROC" conference at the offices of PICA at 700 N. Humbolt Ave.
And guess who was there? AL FLOWERS, one of the stars of "As The Neighborhood Turns," the ongoing Jordan soap opera. (Seriously, wouldn't a daytime drama that revolves around pressing neighborhood issues be, like, a great idea? I'd watch it! Well, I'd probably write it...)
In any case...
...UROC was having its little meeting...well, not so little, it dragged on for TWO DAYS, including a primo Friday evening and most of Saturday. I heard about it from some sources, and I get tired and worn out just thinking about two days of, oh my word, CONFERENCING. But right at the beginning of the event, professional gadfly and winner of a multi-dollar legal judgment Al "I Am The Community" Flowers showed up, and went off on conference organizers about how it was such a terrible thing to shut down Snow Foods--site of the future "North Minneapolis campus outreach" thingie associated with UROC--and then he started doing the Al Flowers thing.
How does the Al Flowers thing go? Well, first he starts making loud accusations--I GOT FOUR RESIDENTS SAYS YOU WAS ILLEGAL, KIP--that kind of thing. In this case, he was ranting and raving about the tragic loss of Snow Foods and (though he apparently didn't mention it) all the crack dealing that took place in the parking lot, practically within site of the 4th Precinct Headquarters. Next, Al Flowers gets around to asking a QUESTION--after all, it's a question and answer format, so even Flowers can only rant so long--so he asked a question, finally, and I heard something about how it was "laced with profanity." But, like a contestant on Jeopardy, he got the words out in the form of a question, awkward and un-question-like though it may be.
So one of the organizers tried to answer. But, once again, Al Flowers does the Al Flowers thing. He interrupts, he shouts accusations, he fires off MORE questions. I hear there was at least one video camera present, and some of this was captured on video, but word has it this may be a UROC organizer with the film, so just try getting it out of the University of Minnesota.
(Open records request, cough cough)
Al Flowers finally just up and left. Well, at least he didn't shove anybody, this time, or get escorted out by the police. Too bad. If Flowers wins this current lawsuit and manages to latch on to another one, Flowers could potentially be up as much as NINE DOLLARS in damages.
Now is the point where I suddenly change course and say: I could find some common ground with Al Flowers, here. I hate to admit it, but Snow Foods was, at least, a grocery store with a produce section. That building has been sitting vacant for almost a year while the University has--good grief--A TWO DAY CONFERENCE. Was there FOOD at this conference? I forgot to ask my sources. Well, I'm willing to bet there was, and I bet it involved some nice fresh produce.
Talk is cheap. Fresh produce is something I can put on my plate. I know the University wants to talk to residents of the neighborhood and make sure it has a consensus and all of THAT but you know what? This talk could have happened SEVERAL MONTHS AGO. The "U" is dragging its feet on this project, once again substituting blah blah blah for action. To the "U" I say:
Get your (expletive) in gear and get the boards off the windows of that building.
In other UROC events, (if you want to call people talking about things an "event") former JACC Executive Director Jerry Moore was in attendance and introduced himself as--surprise, surprise--the former JACC Executive Director! During the (tedious and inevitable) small group sessions, Jerry Moore talked about the need to do financial audits about where money goes in North Minneapolis. He also talked about the need to "build community from within" instead of relying on "outside institutions" and (he actually used this word) "carpet baggers."
To this I respond: residents of North Minneapolis are not rabbits. We can't reproduce THAT fast. There are so many vacant houses that, to occupy those homes, SOMEBODY will have to move to North Minneapolis. It is only a question of who that will be, and how to control, shape and influence that influx, and how to make sure that influx becomes active and productive in their new community.
Oh, another tidbit of info: word is Jerry Moore is no longer the chair of the Northside Marketing Task Force, but remains a member of that board.
This blog remains open to comments and to hearing all sides of issues.