Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hot Post-Convention Scuttlebutt In The Fifth Ward

Photo By John Hoff 

A source sent me a very interesting email, and a political analysis to go with it. As I reported previously, there are some outstanding issues in the Fifth Ward, including allegations of an unauthorized delegate in 5-5. A source in the Samuels campaign said the delegate is presumed to be a McKnight delegate, because the Samuels campaign was never able to reach that person despite efforts to do so. 

The basis of the allegation involves one person signing an absentee letter to be a delegate, but another person showing up to be the delegate; albeit the two persons are closely related. I have the names involved but I am not free to use the info, yet. Comment threads are open, hint hint. 

So, anyway, some emails have been circulating about these credentials issues, and in the course of this conversation Credentials Committee Co-Chair Jerry Moore fired off an email on Monday, March 30, 2009 at 1:45 PM. (It should be noted some are disputing whether Moore was in his co-chair position rightfully)

Here's the email, unedited, except where "sic" has been inserted to call attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

(WARNING: Graphic language has NOT been removed, since this is a highly relevant discussion among political leaders)

Re: Credentials issues I still need to deal with (Ward 5)


I suggest...

...you may want to file a challenge and get to work on these outstanding issues or concerns.

Your true colors are beginning to show. Is this what they call party politics. (sic)

The DFL wants to include people, you should take that affirmative action plan and shove it up somewhere where the sun doesn't shine.

Don't worry Jackie or Mr. Higgins I promise to never engage in a bunch of mess like this ever again. It is discouraging how you are so bent out of control in trying to keep people out. Well count me out. Brian you wouldn't engage other ward coordinator if your life depended on it. Remember "you had it all under control". (sic)

I have not once heard you say how proud you are that so many new people came out and engaged themselves instead of the same party hacks.

Be proud that such a (sic) organized convention and that it was well run and that people overall had fun.

Instead I'm hearing about your fucking control issues. Get a grip and quit blaming people. (Amanda included)

Pass on the torch and enjoy life a little. Quit making the 5th Ward look so dysfunctional because its (sic) not. We are full of great mind and great ideas. And am am proud of the work, people and our community.

Have a (sic) excellent day!!

Sent from my Blackberry wireless device.

(End of Moore's email)

My source provides the following analysis: If the (allegedly) unauthorized delegate had not been allowed to register, it is quite possible that Samuels would have been endorsed on the second ballot. Furthermore, if the disputed "Kenya 8" people had not been seated as delegates, Samuels would have won on the first round.

My source says, "Cheating and lying did not win an endorsement but it did make it go three rounds." Additionally, I was asked to pass on the following message: "JACC called. JACC wants its stolen Blackberry back."

Lenny Chism Gets His Say On My Blog

Image Forwarded By
Lennie Chism 

Lennie Chism, the subject of several recent blog posts after his (self-described, now) heckling of Council Member Don Samuels, sent me a substantive email with his point of view. In light of all I wrote about Lennie, it is only fair and right that I publish his missive, and without a lot of snarky commentary...which I've published plenty of, already.

Paragraph breaks have been inserted for east of reading. (It arrived as one long paragraph) Everything else remains exactly as it arrived. Lennie emails and says as follows...

No, John, you are not quite right. I need your continued efforts to detail as much as possible the plight of a North Minneapolis Business, mine. Don Samuels represents why we have not had any growth. Ask Don if he ever came by my business or any other politicians to ask what the needs along Glenwood are?

Why would I come to heckle growth, success, and prosperity? Our crime rate is off the chart, no jobs, and even more pathetic is the best jobs are re-entry. Now, you keep detailing me, makes my voice stronger. The late John F. Kennedy said the Civil Rights struggle was not moving forward till "Bull Connor" was shown through eyes of the media. Who does Bull Connor look
like today?

Twist the story, but keep reporting the story. Here is a headline - "Why does everyone try to escape the high cost of the Black
address"? Why after 40 years after the 1968 riots does North Minneapolis look like a war zone of abandon buildings, of a boarded up business district on West Broadway - Target abandoned North Minneapolis.

John, continue to help the cause because each time the media comes to speak to me, about your story, I get to tell a story. In fact, I would like to see your efforts go for lobbying instead of gossip. Your talents are being wasted - Ask any kid in North Minneapolis, they just waiting and praying for the day they can leave and move to Burnsville.

Wait, are kids in Burnsville waiting to grow up to move to North Minneapolis? Are they being told go start a business in North Minneapolis? Not. Why do you think I am in there voicing my concerns - for my health? Not. WE NEED people like you to be story tellers for growth not gossip.

If the current power structure was working, maybe, I could take a seat. But wait, did you hear that - gunshot, siren, the father
slain walking down Emerson as told on the latest KARE11 report.

Walk by 1901 and view the bullet holes in the glass. Yea. use your blog talents to make me famous. In fact, hell I invite you to come visit with me. coffee, and then off to the capital we go so you can report how millions are allocated of lottery proceeds generated from impoverished North Minneapolis (The $95,000 grant request was for solar job project), but not to North

No, I think you would rather keep the slander going. If you are not involved in the fraud of North Minneapolis, then you are an innocent victim as I, of bad blogging.

Finally, I am not a great supporter of Kenya McKnight, but she is a kid from the Northside, and she did not run when she
grew up to the suburbs and wants to make her home better. Blog - Keep up the great work. Crazy, for investing $100,000 in North Minneapolis - most say so.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bloody Blog War, CPED Dollars Denied To Lennie "The Heckler" Chism, Greasing The Palms Of City Officials, And Much More!!!!

Flickr.com photo

First of all, blog war is an ugly thing. There are no winners in a blog war.

Well, that's not true. Readers apparently enjoy it.

Lennie "The Heckler" Chism has been sending me one angry email missive after another in the wake of my recent blog posts. First, he...

...had me all mixed up with the delegate on the convention floor (identified by an anonymous poster as Chad Reichwald) who grew tired of Lennie's heckling, called for order, and verbally told Lennie to shut his disruptive yap and quit interrupting the official proceedings. Chism thought I was the same guy as Reichward and talked about the "police report" he had made about "me." He even accused me of impersonating a delegate!

I told Lenny he was--and this is a direct quote--"coo coo for Coco Puffs."

Yeah, you can look at the restrained-yet-bemused expressions on the faces of the cops taking the report and tell how far THAT police report is going to go, in any case.

He Said, She Said, By Email

To his credit, Lennie quickly figured out I was not the same guy as Reichwald, but now Lennie has been telling me I did some dirty real estate deal with the city of Minneapolis. Readers are quite familiar with how I was glad to sell the house I bought in the Hawthorne Eco Village to the City of Minneapolis when the city made it clear they wanted it for their development, and would pay me market rate.

So now I've got Lennie going on and on and on and on in his p***ed off emails, accusing me of "stealing wealth" from a black community. This from a guy who heckles Don Samuels, a courageous leader who stood toe-to-toe with drug dealers and pushed them off his block so his two little girls could walk to the store on the corner. (And I've been to that block, and it's rapidly approaching urban utopia despite a vacant house here, a minor problem there, great work by Don Samuels)

Where was I? Oh, yeah, getting "virtually heckled" by Lenny via email. Just as he did at the Fifth Ward Convention, Lenny has a habit of saying the same thing over and over and over. I did a dirty deal. He's going to dig up the details, by golly. At this point in time, Lenny doesn't even appear smart enough to search my own blog by using "3016" as a search term, then taking the facts, twisting them, and throwing them in my face.

I feel like I need to HELP poor Lenny Chism.

Blog war is ugly. I told you. It gets like this.

Lenny would do well to RUSH RIGHT OVER TO 3016 6th St. N. and get some pictures before it is too late. I hear demolition will happen very soon, possibly any hour. There goes all the evidence!!!!

Right Back At Ya, Mister Heckler

I figured the first round of information I dug up about Lennie Chism's messed up little world was enough; his numerous schemes and dreams, the fact his building was foreclosed upon. The story was pretty much done and I could move on to something more interesting, even some minor and heartwarming human interest stories. Really, I could.

But, no, Lennie has to go put his war face on and send me angry emails, being very specific about my former property at 3016 6th St. N. and, oh, he's going to dig up the facts, yes sir, he's going to show everybody Johnny Northside is a fraud, by golly, and--for good measure--Lennie drags in the name of Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes and implies in an email that I may have greased the palms of building inspectors.

Well, that just p***es me off. (The part about the building inspectors, I mean. Say whatever you want about Jeff)

(Kidding. I'm kidding)

"Not Meeting The Minimum Requirements"

Lennie's entity, which has been called "Springboard Development Foundation," seems to be more properly called "Springboard Economic Development Corporation" considering its filing with the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. This entity is listed at 1901 Glenwood Avenue, which, as discussed in the previous post, recently went through foreclosure. In fact, the Hennepin County website lists the entity which now owns 1901 Glenwood: Capital Lending Group, Inc. of 4601 Excelsior Blvd, #309, Minneapolis.

Sometimes the building address comes up as "Glenwood Avenue N.," but the city's property website has it listed merely as "Glenwood Avenue."

Lennie Chism purchased this building for $100,000 on March 1, 2007, from an entity called "Tactics, Inc." I've been unable to find anything, so far, on this mysterious "Tactics, Inc." entity. Lennie had the building only a couple years before it was lost to foreclosure. This from the author of a book--well, more of a booklet, really--about "mobilizing wealth."

The building seems to have fallen on some hard times. A Google street view shows nothing too impressive. The City of Minneapolis website shows a special assessment of $175 for removing rubbish bags of leaves on or about October 10, 2008.

Despite losing 1901 Glenwood Ave. to foreclosure, Springboard boldly put forward an economic proposal to the City of Minneapolis for Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) dollars in the wake of the, um, foreclosure crisis.

A number of entities--14 in all, including Springboard--put forward proposals for the Foreclosure Recovery Rehabilitation Program. If you added up the total funds asked for in all these proposals, it was $11 million.

(If you want the original document without my summary, use this link, click here)

Not all the entities who put forward proposals got money. Some entities that DID get money included GMHC, the Minneapolis Urban League, Project for Pride in Living, and Urban Homeworks. But five entities had their proposals rejected "based on their not meeting the minimum requirements, submitting incomplete applications and/or their low ranking based on scoring."


The non-recommended applicants included Springboard Economic Development Corporation. Actually, Springboard was even listed dead last among the REJECTED applicants, but to be fair the rejected applicants were listed in alphabetical order.

All the same...ouch.

So, just a couple weeks before the 5th Ward DFL Convention, Lennie "The Wealth Mobilizer" Chism had his economic development proposal shot down by the city. His building at 1901 Glenwood--where so many big dreams were dreamed--has been lost to foreclosure. (Gee, that might have something to do with his proposal not being considered viable)

Is it any wonder Lennie Chism was angry and heckled City Council Member Don Samuels? Don Samuels represents the city government, which has so utterly and completely failed to recognize the true genuis behind Lennie Chism...author of a booklet.

(Sarcasm font is broken. Notifying the reader manually)

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Post-Convention Scuttlebutt In The Fifth Ward

Flikr.com Photo

The grapevine has been very good to me. Here's some new scuttlebutt coming out of the Fifth Ward after Saturday's convention...

Some members of the Samuels camp are buzzing about at least "one, confirmed illegal registration in precinct 5-5."

Also, this is just now coming out from an anonymous source: "Jerry (Moore) shouldn't have been even allowed to vote on the credentials committee since he was not chosen from his precinct to represent his precinct on credentials committee--he was just one of the organizer's (sic) to get the committee going. No one realized it or no one called him out on his overrunning of his authority."

Those who have a contrary viewpoint, additional info, or just something to say about this matter are, as always, directed to the comment threads and encouraged to have a substantive discussion.


Here's something pretty funny. Lennie "The Heckler" Chism has fired off an email accusing me of--get this!!!!--being a delegate during the recent 5th Ward DFL convention!!!!!!!

Like, oh yeah, besides doing all that stuff I wrote about in those recent blog posts, and taking all those pictures I put up on this blog and Facebook...

I was also, in addition, sitting on the floor and voting as a delegate in the Fifth Ward where I don't even live. I am, clearly, an amazing man to be able to do all that and get away with it. How does one EXPLAIN that? Well, here's a clue: if you go to Facebook, and use the "Super Hero Name Generator," mine comes up as "The Courageous Chameleon." What is the source of the Chameleon's extraordinary powers? 

Two words: Duct tape. 

No, it gets funnier: Lennie has called in THE MAN to deal with this. Oh, yes, he says he has filed a police report. HYSTERICAL!!! I haven't had this much fun since working on the military psych ward right after Desert Storm!

But seriously, folks...

Clearly, Lennie hasn't even bothered to examine the delegate list. I would bet everything I own there is no "John Hoff" on that list. It seems like Chism may have me oh-so-confused with the big, angry, corn-fed guy who got up from the last row of delegate seats and argued with him. (That guy is reportedly a firefighter) (CORRECTION, late April: info was not correct, he is in fact an attorney but was flattered to be thought of as a "firefighter" even for a moment)

There are, fortunately, far more interesting controversies a-brewing than poor, confused Lennie Chism.

Geez, I hope he didn't accidentally HECKLE the wrong person, too.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Follow The Heckler, Follow The Money...

Contributed Photo

After my post identifying Lennie Chism as the person who disrupted the Ward 5 DFL Convention, repeatedly heckling City Councilman Don Samuels, information began flowing in my direction via cell phone, providing me enough facts about Chism to perform some very productive Google searches...

Chism is in charge of a charitable organization called Springboard Development Foundation. A search under that name turns up information rather quickly, and leads to the address of the organization at 1901 Glenwood Ave. N.

It's a very interesting address, indeed. Here's some things associated with that address:

First of all, the address is in foreclosure as of August, 2008. It turns up on an official list of foreclosures in Minneapolis. The mortgage is held by Capital Lending Group, Inc. The expiration of the redemption date was 2/19/2009. I guess it's beyond redemption.

The amount of money in question actually wasn't very large, considering the size of some mortgages: it was only $34,879.57.

This same Glenwood Ave. N. address was listed for the "Johnson Lee Campaign" as of 3/2/2005, when a $100 donation was made from that address to the campaign of Neighbors for Toni Carter, Ramsey County Commissioner, District 4. One presumes that is the NATALIE Johnson Lee campaign? Don Samuels' former opponent in the Ward 5 City Council Race? The plot thickens.

My source says Lennie Chism has, in fact, heckled Don Samuels before but doubts this was a planned and coordinated effort, describing Chism as a "train wreck."

If so, that's kind of tragic because the heckling made such a bad impression that it may have helped turned the tide of votes away from McKnight. A sense of cosmic justice would make one hope somebody in the McKnight campaign planned or at least encouraged the incident. The idea that it WASN'T planned, but probably BADLY HURT McKnight just seems kind of...well, one hates to be repetitive but returns to the word "tragic."

My source urges me to ask for a list of the board of directors of Springboard Development Foundation and says Lennie Chism is also the owner of Your Black Wall Street which is, once again, located at 1901 Glenwood Ave. N.

Your Black Wall Street lists itself as involved in marketing and public relations. In fact, "YBWS" has put out a number of videos with half decent production values, distributing this material on You Tube. (See, for example, the channel called "yourbw2" on YouTube) Chism is also the founder of "Twin Cities Black Pages," which sounds impressive...until you start Googling the phrase "Twin Cities Black Pages."

Not a lot turns up, actually. By "not a lot" I mean, as of today, 4 Google hits, one a MySpace page for "Deuce City S.W.A.G.," described as a 24-year-old female in St. Paul. Another thing that turns up is a very interesting RFP (Request For Proposal) which was apparently put forward to the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund of the State of Minnesota. (This program is funded by the State Lottery)

The proposal is by Lennie Chism and asks for $95,540 to fund a Feasibility Study For Solar Manufacturing, Distribution and Installation Center. The money would go to "Glenwood Enterprises," which is DBA ("doing business as") Diverse Minnesota. These entities are both located at 1901 Glenwood Ave. N. The money would go for a lot of things, but would be spent in a period of time from July 1, 2009 to September 20, 2009. The point of the study is "to determine whether a solar panel manufacturing, distribution and installation will create jobs and will be profitable in the metro region."

One can't help but think that sentence makes more sense if it included the word "center." One also wonders how the fact the building at 1901 Glenwood Ave. N. is foreclosed and beyond redemption will play into these grand schemes and dreams.

Diverse Minnesota has a website at www.diverseminnesota.com, but it is a skeleton site, displaying only "sample content."

You might be asking yourself right about now, "Why, Lennie, pray tell what will this $95,000 and change go to fund?"

Here is what Lennie says the money will fund: Direct mail, telephone, and online surveys. Focus group sessions, which will include 10 groups of 5 respondents. Travel to Silicon Valley to determine plant size and cost. Travel to Portland, Oregon to determine quality control. Travel to Vermont to establish vendor relationships. There will also be meetings with "4 Minnesota Partners," which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota DEED, EXCEL Energy, and some entity called "SBA."

There is, I should add, another rather interesting little entity (apparently) located at that building called "Urban Trends, LLC." According to an "e-democracy" chat, Urban Trends, LLC snatched up a rather interesting domain name on January 13, 2005? What is the domain? I'm glad you asked.

It is www.donsamuels.com. Since that is now an official Don Samuels website, I assume either Samuels managed to buy the name back or the registration expired and Samuels snatched it back. However, who the two names associated with Urban Trends, LLC are interesting: Rudy Rogers and Travis Lee.

Travis Lee is the husband of Natalie Johnson Lee.

So what conclusions does this lead us to? Well, it appears Lennie Chism has been affiliated with opponents of Don Samuels for quite a while and his rather grand schemes--which have a certain positive flair, certainly a sense of VISION if not the actual JUICE to back that vision up--are overextended, and falling apart like so many other things caught up in the mortgage meltdown.

There is some helpful information about Lennie Chism provided in the RFP document. He is described as a graduate of Ohio State and the "University of St. Thomas Mini-MBA program."

I feel like this is a good start on information about the guy who heckled Don Samuels--thank you, thank you, anonymous source--but if folks have info to add, remember what happens on Johnny Northside stays on Johnny Northside.

"Geek Is Good" Says Candidate For Board of Estimation And Taxation

Keeping up with a theme of "side shows" at the 5th Ward DFL convention, as discussed in the previous post, here is another one: CAROL BECKER, THE AMAZING TAXATION AND ESTIMATION GEEK!!!!!

Last time Becker ran for the Board of Estimate and Taxation, her signs said "Geek Is Good." (See one of the signs, above) This slogan was so attractive to her fellow geeks that...

...one of the stolen signs ended up on a dorm room at MIT!!! How does Becker KNOW this? Trust me, geeks have ways of ferreting out information.

Carol Becker's campaign literature provides a humorous top ten list of the reasons you should vote for her. (Geeks LOVE Top Ten Lists!) Here, David Letterman style, are the Top Ten Reasons to vote for Carol Becker:

No. 10: Reads books about government FOR FUN!!! (Gasps of amazement and horror from the crowd)

No. 9: Admits that she is cheap. Her father would argue she is frugal. (No, Becker is cheap. When she brought up MIT and I said my son wanted to go there, the first thing she said was, "Your son has expensive tastes.")

No. 8: She actually LIKES to talk about TAXES! (Members of the crowd who feel faint should sit down, and put their head between their knees)

No. 7: She has 15 years of Minneapolis budget books at her house, and will let you read them!

(The horror! The horror! BUT THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!!)

No. 6: She can explain the last four years of the Minneapolis budget and what we could have done differently!

No. 5: She is too cheap for expensive campaign literature.

No. 4: She has a spreadsheet and is NOT AFRAID TO USE IT!

No. 3: She actually UNDERSTANDS the financial crisis!

No. 2: She understands humor can be important in tough times.

AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON TO VOTE FOR CAROL BECKER: She wants to talk about how we can all work together to get through this financial crisis!

Naturally, being a geek she has a website: CarolBecker.net.

Now, I don't know if DeWayne Townsend is an opponent of Carol Becker, or if they're both running for different seats. However, in a spirit of fair play I am highlighting some of the amusing stuff I found on a flyer for DeWayne Townsend.

Townsend says he is "nearly retired, so he has time to devote to getting it right." He says his kids live in Minneapolis, and so that gives him "extra incentive." He was born in Brooten, the oil capital of Minnesota. (OK, a lot of people may not understand how funny that is, but you can just go a-Googling and find plenty of stuff about the Brooten oil well dream/fiasco/hoax or whatever you want to call it)

His email is DeWayne4BET@gmail.com.

I'd like to point out that both Becker and DeWayne list massive amounts of educational and professional qualifications on their fliers which are, well, far too boring to write here. Besides, too much sunshine is bad for geeks, so best to get them out of the public eye as suddenly as they arrived. END OF POST!!!!!!!

Fifth Ward DFL Convention "Side Show" Featured "The Gubernatorially Tall Man"

Photos By John Hoff 

Though the main act at Saturday's convention was Don Samuels versus Kenya McKnight, there were a lot of political "side shows" happening, too. This blog post features one of them...

In the top photo--right where he belongs--is John Marty, a state senator from Roseville who would like to run for governor. (His website is www.johnmarty.org) He is the chair of a committee which deals in health and housing. But, more important than all these things, HE IS RATHER TALL. 

How tall? Well, taller than the current governor, and that's what matters. Did you know 85 percent of the time, the TALLEST candidate wins? It's OK if you didn't know that, because John Marty knows it, which is exactly what you expect from a tall leader.

Remember, running for governor is a TALL ORDER, so John Marty is your man.

Note in the picture above how John Marty TOWERS OVER MERE MORTALS, such as the woman on the left. Vote for John Marty, or he might...squash us and eat us!!!!!!!!

In the second photo...somebody who is working for the Marty campaign. Wait, why are fifty percent of the readers of this blog post lingering so long on the SECOND photo, paying virtually no attention to the first? Stop looking at the second photo! DRAW YOUR AMAZED EYES TO THE VERY TALL MAN!!! He is the point of the show. Note how TALL he is, GUBERNATORIALLY TALL!!!!

Well...I guess if tallness doesn't work, one could run the other guy and play the "good looks" card. I wonder what percentage of the time the candidate who is MUCH BETTER LOOKING wins the race? 

Disruptive Heckler At Ward 5 DFL Convention Identified As Lennie Chism

Top Photo By Jeff Skrenes, Two
Bottom Photos By John Hoff

Two sources have now verified the disruptive heckler at the Ward 5 DFL Convention is Lennie Chism, the author of a number of more or less self-published articles on the topic of building black wealth. A Google search of Chism reveals he is or...

...may be a number of things. A recent Minneapolis Public Radio article--which, interestingly, names my friend Brian Reichow in the same article--describes Chism as the director of a non-profit. There is also a Lennie Chism who turns up as a realtor in Minneapolis, but it's unknown if that is the same Lennie Chism.

In writing a review of the Minneapolis realtor named Lennie Chism, a woman named Susan Gordan gave him a rating of "One Star" and wrote, "This particular gentleman is shady and I would never use him again. I ended up filing a judgment against him."

This blog is open to receiving comments--positive or negative--about Lennie Chism, his actions at Saturday's convention, his motivations and so forth.

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Kenya McKnight Looks Forward To Non-Existent November 3 "Primary Election"

Photo By John Hoff 

Here is a recent entry from Kenya's Facebook campaign website, exactly as it appears including her boycott of oppressive and hierarchical capital letters and her revolutionary innovations in spelling...

Daniel Webster, calm thyself, and be still in thy grave, for here goes:

we thank all of you for your support & prayers. Our opponent was endorsed on the 3rd round, by receiving aprox 82 votes out of aprox 133. This is still a victory and we congradulate our opponent on his endorsement. Northside is still our priority and pride and the Majority of the community voices have not been herd, nor were they present Saturday at the convention. We will update you about our efforts to either end our journey or begin our quest to win the Nov 3rd primary elections.

Again, we thank you very much for your support and prayers.

# JNS here again, wanting to know if anybody told Kenya that November 3rd is not a "primary" election, it's the general election.

Of course, Kenya has been (reportedly) known to have opinions about the true nature of the American election process rather, um, different than that of most people. (Queen of England...cough...secretly in control...cough cough)

Don Samuels Wins 5th Ward DFL Endorsement, The Story In Pictures

Photos By John Hoff

Here are images and anecdotes about yesterday's 5th Ward DFL convention, which handed an endorsement victory to City Council Member Don Samuels.

From top to bottom, the young man in the first picture is...

Damonta Hodges (pronounced Dah-Mon-Tay) who was with the Samuels campaign. He was introduced to me by Samuels campaign worker Megan Goodmundson. Damonta didn't want to wear a red Samuels t-shirt because he had worked so hard on his outfit, but he was definitely a Samuels supporter, as were the approximately one dozen young women who there with Damonta as a kind of "Samuels campaign cheerleading squad." 

In the next picture, Al "I Am The Community" Flowers helps an older lady to her feet during the convention. His longer-than-a-long-shot mayoral speech was, if anything, anti-climactic. 

In the red shirt and do-rag, Tyrone Jaramillo models Don Samuels apparel while putting up yard signs outside the park building, where Saturday's convention was held. Jaramillo is on the "New Majority" JACC board.

Next, Samuels campaign manager Vladimir Monroe didn't get all dressed up like that to have people NOT take his picture. Monroe later told me he'd been approached to run against Don Samuels. For the record, one of Don Samuels' young daughters has not given up on the notion that SHE is the rightful campaign manager for her daddy, and Monroe is some kind of unwanted interloper.

The next photo really shows the humble, servant-like spirit of Brian Bushay, Fifth Ward Convention Coordinator, reelected this year. Note how the color of the floor seems to merge with Bushay, as though he and the convention floor are one and the same.

Next, Jerry Moore and Jackie Cherryhomes confer.

Democracy on the gym floor: members of the Credentials Committee huddle together to get something settled prior to the convention. Jerry Moore makes a motion that somebody kick Kip Browne's Ass. Motion dies for lack of a second.

Baby Avery and one of her two mommies. I tried to get a good picture of all three of them, but the baby was being wiggly and this was the best photo. Avery is a very delicate, pixie-like child.

Next, Jerry Moore shares info with Steve Brandt, Star Tribune reporter.

Here, please note, no meaningful recycling effort was made at the 5th Ward DFL Convention. What's up with that, DFL?

Next, after the convention at Broadway Pizza, a lone McNight supporter shows up to share her views with Donald Samuels. In the next picture, a member of the Samuels "cheerleading squad" poses next to a stylishly modified Samuels shirt. The final photo shows pizza, pizza, pizza.

Sometimes--especially in grass roots campaigns--victory goes to the side that throws the best parties. This is the kind of stuff they teach in Poli Sci 101.

PART TWO: Don Samuels Knocks Out Kenya McKnight For DFL Endorsement In Only Three Ballot Rounds

After Kenya McKnight gave her speech, listing the reasons she should be a city council member (and it was an incredibly brief speech) it was time to vote. Now came the point which was the whole point of being at the convention.

It was obvious that extraordinary attempts were being made to avoid the chaos which had marked the caucus, and contributed to controversies which the Credentials Committee had been forced to untangle. Long moments were spent making sure everybody was sitting in the right precinct. Bobby Joe Champion put some drama into his voice as he told the chairs to make their way to the front and "Grab your envelopes!" One couldn't help but be reminded of a car race, and the announcement to "start...your...engines!"

Now came the delegate casualty report...

Every Vote Mattered 

Credentials Committee Co-Chair Jerry Moore spoke, and reported there were 139 delegates voting, and 139 in attendance. Some folks were missing, Moore stated, since 155 were possible. Yes, "we are missing some folks and they send their regrets" but, well, there it was.

Tension and worry seemed to shoot through both camps: who was missing? How would it impact the final vote? Faces were tense.

In response to questions from the floor, Bobby Joe Champion explained up to four rounds of ballots would take place. If the delegates wanted to go beyond four rounds, that would require suspending the rules. An endorsement required 60 percent, not a bare majority.

The recent Barb Johnson endorsement had gone ELEVEN ROUNDS after delegates in Ward 4 voted to suspend the rules. Some thought the same thing could happen in Ward 5. However, information posted on the Kenya McKnight Facebook campaign website said the McKnight camp would "settle for a draw." In that case, it would be smarter NOT to suspend the rules, to just take the fight four rounds. Then the upstart Kenya could walk away with a draw and folks would wonder how she had "beaten" the veteran politician Don Samuels, if he was so smart and powerful?

But it was an open question whether Kenya's team was capable of such political calculations. Her incomplete coursework at MCTC doesn't reveal any "Poli Sci 101." (She did take a course called "Community Affairs," however)

Though McKnight's political alliance with Al McFarlane makes sense, her alignment with "Mayor of Crazy Town" Al Flowers reads more like political suicide.

But back to the convention floor: there was a lot of discussion on whether one had to put their name on a ballot, or whether they should. I tried to figure out where this discussion was coming from: was there THAT MUCH worry about cheating?

At some point, a woman in a wheelchair was wheeled in...it was the same woman who had appeared at the Credentials Committee meeting, stating she was one of the Kenya Eight.

"Are you a delegate?" somebody asked her, as she was wheeled by.

"I don't know," she answered. "Nobody told me."

The ballots for the first round were collected and walked to the counting area, with reps for each campaign along to observe the process. I saw papers--they looked to be ballots--drop to the floor, about five but perhaps as many as twelve. Those walking behind scurried to pick up the papers. As far as I can see, everything that was dropped was handed right over, and it was just an honest mistake, like when Champion's coin rolled under the table. As far as I could see, this mistake wasn't repeated in the next two rounds.

A question came from the floor: if somebody has to leave for work, can that person vote early? Where's the giant gong when you really NEED it? Amateur hour. The answer was NO.

The Old Song And Dance

While ballots continued to be counted, various speakers kept the crowd, in effect, ENTERTAINED. The Hennepin County Attorney got up to speak. He talked about trying to keep kids from turning into criminals by early intervention. When he was finished, somebody in the bleachers next to me (she was wearing a McKnight button) started saying, loudly, that somebody like THAT shouldn't be allowed to speak, he was a hateful person locking away young black men.

A guy running for governor spoke, pointing out that 85 percent of the time the tallest candidate wins, and he was taller than Governor Pawlenty and, in fact, taller than any of the other would-be DFL candidates. The "Serious Geek For Serious Times" (see previous post) rose to speak, but got right to the point, vowing, "I'll be as cheap with your time as I am with your money."

The first round of ballot results came back, and excitement rippled through the crowd. Bobby Champion--who took his entertainment role seriously--made the crowd wait for it, wait for it--then announced Don Samuels had taken the lead with 56.8 percent. McKnight had 40.3 percent. A mere 2.9 percent were still undecided.

Issues, A Heckler, More Issues

The crowd buzzed. A few individuals pulled out paper and pen, furiously working the calculations. In order to win, Don Samuels would need to get all the undecided votes plus a few from the McKnight camp. If Kenya McKnight was going to win, she would need to produce a substantial amount of movement from the Samuels camp, and pick up the undecided, too.

The faces of the McKnight people grew grim. The woman near me who had been criticizing the Hennepin County Attorney wore a look that was already defeated. The lack of an endorsement on the first round now put the convention into question and answer session. There were motions on the floor about the amount of time that should be allotted for a first round of Q and A, how much time the candidates should get to answer. It turned into a parliamentary mess. Champion pointed out a motion to adopt Q and A is not amendable under the rules. That kept the mess from getting messier.

At some point, Don Samuels walked by me, meeting and greeting. He told a woman she had "Michelle Obama arms" and she giggled, flattered.

Ultimately, the convention decided each candidate would get two minutes. A man named "Mr. Zulu" would reach in the box and grab the questions. The questions had to be written so they could be answered by either candidate. Like he had won the coin toss, Don won the "guess the number in my hand" content. Don just couldn't stop winning that night.

The first question was, "What are your accomplishments to date, Kenya McKnight?" That question OBVIOUSLY wasn't written for both candidates, so it was thrown out. (Amateur hour...cough cough) The next question was about engaging the community, even those who may not speak up. Don talked about regularly making himself available to meet for breakfast, talking to people, his newsletter, and how he even runs into citizens while personally picking up garbage on West Broadway.

Kenya McKnight answered about constantly engaging people, holding monthly meetings. She said, "This is about inclusion, not dictatorship."

The next question was "If you are not endorsed, will you run for office, anyway?" Kenya said she'll "respect the process, but the delegate votes are important" so she asked the delegates to cast their votes with that in mind.

This was the most nimble and skillful thing I'd seen Kenya do, EVER. She had some politician in her, after all. Years under the tutelage of somebody like DON SAMUELS might make a winner out of her, yet, but instead she was hanging around the electoral lunatic asylum with folks like Al Flowers.

Don Samuels said if there was no endorsement at all, he would run. But if there was an endorsement, he would abide by it.

Next came a question about the "disproportionate number of people in prison" and what's in "your pipeline" to do something about that? Somebody on the floor yelled "Throw it out!" Bobby Champion ruled the word "pipeline" could apply to either candidate, it might mean ideas you have, things you know about.

No, Champion was going to allow the question.

Don answered and began talking about the blight contract given to EMERGE, so the work was done locally instead of by contractors from outside North Minneapolis. Don said, "We can't punish people for the rest of their lives, people must have an opportunity to come back." Kenya McKnight talked about how much the public safety budget had increased. She felt North MInneapolis needed strategies that were proactive instead of reactive. Set up more public health services, she said.

"It's about getting a job!" McKnight emphasized.

Next question: What do you plan to do with North Community High School? This was where Don Samuels needed to display his mystic fire-walking skills. A rhetorical comment he made about "burn down North High" has long haunted him. Kenya McKnight said lately there has been "more tearing down than building up" and she suggested giving North High a "facelift." North High, she said, is "the pinnacle of our community" and "families choose where to live based on the schools that are within our community."

Don Samuels stepped toward the hot question gradually. He talked about how it "hurts to see young men standing on the corner." He said these could be some of the smartest young men in the community, because smart kids get bored in school if they are not challenged. The most important thing, above all, would be our children. We must hold OURSELVES responsible. If the children are not learning, it is the adults who are failing--"

"DO YOU STILL WANT TO BURN IT DOWN?!" a man shouted. He was bald, stocky, wearing a blue shirt, sitting in the bleachers about ten feet to my right. "DO YOU STILL WANT TO BURN IT DOWN?" Don kept trying to speak, but whenever Don would say a few words the man would yell the same thing, "DO YOU STILL WANT TO BURN IT DOWN?" Individuals moved toward the man to calm, to intervene. Al Flowers moved toward the controversy rapidly, his big legs taking big strides. Perhaps Flowers could smell another "multi-dollar legal judgment."

The fourth or perhaps fifth time when the yelling guy repeated himself, one of the delegates seated nearby--a big, stocky, corn-fed gentleman himself--somebody later told me he's a fight fighter--stood up and began shouting for order, to have the yelling man removed as he was disrupting the proceedings and wasn't even a delegate.

Numerous individuals moved in to ask the man to quiet down. Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes was standing nearby, and suddenly the guy in the blue shirt began turning his anger on people like myself and Jeff who were trying to take pictures. Jeff reportedly got something out of his mouth like, "You're making a public scene at a political convention but you don't want anybody to take your picture?" One of the individuals who seemed to be calming the man pleaded with me to put my camera down, so I did, purely to avoid physical violence as the guy in the blue shirt was glaring in my direction and shouting something like, "DO NOT TAKE MY PICTURE!"

This is my recollection of it. Video may exist.

The entire disruption--including some aspects of who was reacting to the disruption and how--had a staged and choreographed feel to it. These are the kind of tactics used by the Flowers/Moore/McFarlane/McKnight camp: planned disruptions of political conventions. Shouting down Samuels when nobody shouted down THEIR candidate. Later in the convention, even Al "I Am The Community" Flowers was allowed to talk about his dual campaign for mayor of Minneapolis and his third consecutive unopposed run Mayor of Crazy Town, without interruption.

Convention Chair Bobby Joe Champion warned that "if outsiders who are not a part of the process make problems," he'll ask for the gymnasium to be cleared.

Don continued. He said he has made some statements that anger people, but "we need to raise our level of protest." Certainly, I thought, few things had gotten people talking about North High like Don's rhetorical statement. Don said something about not wanting to give offense, spoke of his love for the community and its children.

The next question was about transportation issues--one of Kenya's many weak points. While Don was answering the question, the chair of the convention, State Rep Bobby Joe Champion--had to come all the way down to the other end of the gym to speak, intently, to the yelling dude in the blue shirt. I managed to snap a few pics, worrying in the back of my mind about the guy just, like, FLIPPING OUT. At one point, Champion appeared to be chiding the woman who was with Blue Shirt Guy.

Finally, the guy in the blue shirt got up and left. A while later, I saw him speaking to two police officers. I caught the words "I got four people who says..."

Flowers R Us? 

Well, that's when it all became so obvious: there would be no disruption today by Al Flowers, after all. Flowers couldn't risk getting thrown out of the convention before his quasi-mayoral campaign speech. So perhaps Flowers had franchised his operations or been "copy catted." Unfortunately, the copycat product was inferior to the original: Flowers delights in cameras being present at his disruptions. Blue Shirt Guy has yet to learn to embrace the limelight, to revel in it, to glory in infamy as Flowers does so well.

Could Young Skywalker still learn? Or, as Master Yoda would assert, was it really too late to begin the training? In any case, I snapped his picture, talking to the two cops. Let him try to go off on my picture-taking while Officer Friendly and Officer Even More Friendly were there.

Um, Bottineau, North Dakota? 

Now, back at the convention, it was McKnight's turn to answer about transportation. She began by saying it is "very, very, very important to our community." She made a point of mentioning the "Bottineau System," by which she apparently meant the "Bottineau Corridor," a subject which had caught her flat-footed in another question and answer session. McKnight--who had moments before criticized increases in the city's Public Safety budget--said she wanted our community to be a place where people stop, not just pass through.

I'd Like To Use One Of My Lifelines 

Then came the deadly city pension question. McKnight was forced to take something of a pass. She didn't really know much of anything about this topic. Don walked up to the fastball and hit it out of the park. He addressed the city pension issue squarely and competently, though admittedly there weren't answers from anywhere, quite yet, about how to fix the problem except it might involve combining, somehow, with the state pension system. Then, with extra time still on the clock, Don began free styling and hitting a variety of topics such as getting city jobs for ex-offenders, and trying to make youth violence a public health issue, not just a public safety issue.

Kenya--who has yet to complete so much as an associate's degree--had apparently never been taught the oldest politician trick in the book. Just because somebody asks you a question doesn't mean you have to limit your answer to the question, particularly when you are, well, clueless.

Knowing sympathy was one of the few cards Kenya had to play in a game that was way over her head, Don never criticized his opponent directly and, indeed, it was hard to see where he'd criticized her INDIRECTLY. The Samuels political machine appeared to be TAKING IT EASY on Kenya. No sense mangling Kenya so badly that some future opponent would bring it up years from now. There are indeed ways to win a battle today but lay the groundwork for a future loss, like if your opponent throws herself in front of a train out of despair at public humiliation. Samuels was wily enough to know this and not metaphorically beat Kenya to a pulp, though one commentator described the match as "poodle versus pit bull."

The delegates were called back to the floor. It was announced there would be 142 delegates present on the next ballot. The ballots were cast again, and during the counting the Minnesota Speaker of the House gave a speech. Then Mayor Rybak gave a speech. Wait, let me guess... crime is down? Yup, crime was down.

How Does The Queen Of England Fit Into This Evil Plot? 

At some point, the delegate who had argued with Blue Shirt Guy had to leave the gym to talk to the police. That didn't seem to last very long. Meanwhile, No-Chance-In-Hell Mayoral Candidate Al Flowers took the podium to speak. He railed about the lies in the media, saying, "Rybak has control of the media" and therefore "you don't know what's really going on." He talked about money needed to help the people of North Minneapolis and, incredibly, once again used the phrase "medium income."

His speech was, I confess, anti-climactic. I was expecting statements that were a lot more, well, INCENDIARY. Flowers is really at his best when he's NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SPEAKING. Voluntarily give him the floor and he's just...boring.

Right after Al Flowers spoke, the next round of ballots came back. Don Samuels had 59.4 percent, Kenya McKnight had dropped to 39.1 percent, and 1.4 percent was holding out for no endorsement. The margin Don Samuels needed to reach the magical 60 percent appeared to be one vote.

On the convention floor, I later learned real estate Connie Nompelis (No-bell-iss) had been literally meeting her new neighbors, and trying to win votes for Samuels. Speaking later at Broadway Pizza after an odd incident in a liquor store parking lot where Connie was forced to assert that I, Johnny Northside, was her HUSBAND, (I say these things in a spirit of, um, full disclosure) Nompelis read the political winds this way:

Some of the first Kenya votes were votes from the heart. A few folks were less than enthusiastic with Don Samuels, for one reason or another. So they voted with their hearts. But as the convention wore on, and delegates contemplated being there for a long time, and as they listened to the two candidates, some votes switched to Don Samuels. Those votes may have been less from the heart but were calculated and rational.

Nompelis made another thing clear: a political caucus or convention is a great way to meet your neighbors. After all, you'll all be seated in the same precinct. So who will be there? YOUR NEIGHBORS.

(The day after the convention, Connie Nompelis reported having "two new gray hairs" in her hairline. Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes told her to imagine how many gray hairs she'd get if Don Samuels DIDN'T win)

As the delegates geared up to vote again, a woman named "Flo" made an impassioned speech from the floor. Candidates for high offices had been coming her to speak, so give them the respect they deserve and stop all the "side talk."

Congressman Keith Ellison spoke, and made good use of his small amount of time by listing off all the things he didn't have time to talk about, but he would if he could, really. He was brief but  entertaining. State Senator Linda Higgins was introduced next as both the "insider's insider, and the rabble rouser's rabble rouser."

Knock Out In The Third Round 

As the third and--as it turned out--final round of voting took place, numerous Kenya McKnight supporters crowded the floor of the gym and began chanting for their candidate. The Samuels camp--instinctively more restrained, more rule-abiding, started to chant, too, so as to not be out done. Bobby Champion quieted the assembly and reminded everybody about the rules on demonstrations. You could have demonstration but it had to REMAIN IN PLACE. The demonstration could not be a moving or roving demonstration.

Both camps began loud demonstrations, rather like you would see at a high school sporting event, chanting the name of their candidate. On the convention floor, the delegates were busy with filling out and collecting ballots. This was it. This was fourth down on the one yard line. A single vote stood between Samuels and victory. If Kenya couldn't turn the tide now, what hope was there for the general election?

There came a moment when the Samuels camp stopped chanting the name of their candidate and, instead, began to chant "Northside!" It seemed like some of them waved to the McKnight camp, invited the other camp to join the chant.

This could have been a special and amazing moment in North Minneapolis politics, a moment when both sides chanted the same thing together: Northside. A moment like that could have given everybody goosebumps, and years later they might talk about THAT MOMENT.

But the McKnight people kept chanting "Kenya." They had no sense of the bigger picture, the greater good beyond their own narrow spectrum of hurts and grievances.

Jeff Skrenes--a consummate political player and insider, spotted Jackie Cherryhomes walking back from the ballot counting area, a big smile on her face. Jeff pointed Cherryhomes out to me. I saw Cherryhomes raise her hands, slightly, I saw emotional reactions in the people around her.

There it was. It's like that moment when the jury comes back and they LOOK at the defendant, or they REFUSE to look. You know which way it's going to go, even before the verdict is read. I handed Jeff Skrenes a dollar bill. We'd wagered. I'd lost. There would be no fourth round of voting. Jeff took a picture of himself with the dollar and put it up on Facebook. He was kind not to mention my name and revel publicly in winning our bet.

The results were read aloud by Bobby Joe Champion: Don Samuels won the endorsement with 61.9 percent. The clapping and cheering was, if anything, restrained. Some of the McKnight supporters tried to chant "We don't quit," but the chant wasn't really GOING anywhere, so it died.

The two candidates spoke. Kenya spoke first, and congratulated Don Samuels, showing a degree of grace and self-control. She said "I will continue..." but it wasn't clear what, exactly, she would continue. She talked about her "spirit" but it wasn't clear what that "spirit" was going to do.

Don Samuels spoke and congratulated Kenya on doing "an incredible job." Don told the assembled delegates, "If I have let you down, I have heard your voices." He said he would be happy to sit down right after the convention, at Broadway Pizza, and talk to both his own supporters and McKnight supporters. There was an odd final scene a little while later. One of Don's young daughters was crying, holding her face. Don picked her up and carried her, with a massive political entourage following behind.

Later, at Broadway Pizza, I asked Don what had happened? Why was his daughter crying? Don said his daughter had been walking up to him and he hadn't seen her, he accidentally bumped her in the face with his elbow. He felt terrible about it. That moment, he said, "Really brought me down to earth."

The Hard Groundwork Of Winning 

To many in the room, the convention was effectively over. But it wasn't. There were many minor DFL offices to fill, and elections for these offices. The few people left to vote and run for the offices seemed to break down into "remnant camps" of Samuels and McKnight, only a lot more of the McKnight people had left. The Samuels camp was smart enough to figure out that minor DFL offices laid the groundwork for much bigger victories. They were willing to wade through the political drudgery, the little details that made bigger and more spectacular events possible. Like buying the right kind of duct tape instead of the cheap crap. (See previous post)

Brian Bushay--who had been subjected to so much ire over the alleged "Kenya Eight" letters, was re-elected convention coordinator over "Black Beret Cell Phone Dude" Antwon (spelling unknown) Floyd, who ran on a spontaneous platform of how he would bring a "fresh perspective." Bushay won, overwhelmingly. The vote was clearly a vindication for Bushay, and a stinging rebuke to the McKnight camp. Later, at Broadway Pizza, I ran into Brian Bushay and he confirmed he viewed the vote as a vindication.

Kenya Is NOT Amused 

Kenya McKnight walked in and quietly took a seat on the convention floor to participate in the voting for minor DFL offices. I was sitting over by the bleachers, and Samuels supporter Nicole Doran said, "Go ask Kenya about the Queen of England." (This alludes to a previous story on this blog about Kenya's alleged belief that the Queen of England has control over American presidential politics, see that story)

"No way," I said. "I'm talking to those crazy McKnight people. I had three of them go off on me over having their pictures taken. I'm not doing it."

Doran kept urging me to ask Kenya about the Queen of England. I told Doran if I was going to ask Kenya ANYTHING, I'd ask whether she was still running. Her public statements about the matter had not been clear.

Doran told me Kenya wouldn't go off on me. Really. She's not like that. Go and ask her if she's still running. Again, I said I didn't want to approach that particular nest of hornets.

"I'll give you five bucks," Doran said. "You said how you'd like to get paid to blog."

"Give me the money," I answered, without hesitation. I've jumped off the roofs of buildings wearing a freaking CAPE for less money than that. (Admittedly, these were merely one-story buildings) I've drank Tabasco out of a shot glass. Five bucks to ask Kenya a perfectly legitimate journalistic question? I would have done it for A BUCK.

The delegates seated in the metal chairs were voting by standing up, then sitting down as the votes were counted. In order to avoid confusing the vote as I approached Kenya, I got down on my hands and knees on the gym floor as I got close to the chair where she was seated, like you'd approach a queen during the Middle Ages. I said, in an obsequious and polite tone, "Excuse me, Ms. McKnight, my blog would like to know if you're still running. It wasn't entirely clear from your public comments" or SOMETHING like that.

McKnight turned and said, "I'm not interested in talking to your blog."

It didn't seem like a good time to ask a follow-up about the Queeeeeeeeeeeeeeen of England.

Victory Goes To He Who Throws The Best Parties 

A short while later, the beer flowed like wine at Broadway Pizza. A couple dozen Samuels supporters were there, and a single Kenya McKnight supporter showed up, dressed in blue. The party grew so large it had to move to the basement dining area. I pointed out that Broadway Pizza was in the Third Ward, not the Fifth Ward. A Samuels supporter said if McKnight could have a meeting at Farview Park, Samuels could have a campaign pizza party in the Hawthorne Neighborhood, too. And, besides, didn't the Hawthorne Neighborhood want to be in the Third Ward, anyway?

Many do. It's true. Can't deny THAT.

I had an opportunity to speak to Don Samuels. In the course of our conversation, Samuels said he agreed the idea of "Market and Romanticize The Struggle" was a viable way to market North Minneapolis. We ended up talking about--incredibly--former NFL football player Pat Tillman, who left a promising football career for the hard, gritty, dangerous life of a U.S. army soldier.

Don wondered aloud if it might be possible to get people with that kind of fighting spirit to move to North Minneapolis, to turn around the tough areas and make the rapidly-improving areas even better? Don mentioned how many individuals were drawn to what was called the "Wild West" by the promise or rewards and adventure. Yes, Samuels said, there was definitely something to this idea of "Market and Romanticize The Struggle," though one might want to make it clear the word "Romanticize" wasn't like a vacation getaway.

A little while later, in response to my phone call, IBNN blogger (and GOP member) Don Allen arrived, single handedly making the Samuels celebration "bi-partisan" in nature.

Play Nice, Keep Your Hands To Yourself 

This is the kind of event where valuable political scuttlebutt is laying around like a lost wallet. Kip Browne, who is affiliated with the Samuels camp, and is the chair of the Jordan Area Community Council, was willing to describe a little run-in with his nemesis, Jerry Moore, who is affiliated with the McKnight camp and was the executive director of JACC, until Kip Browne's "New Majority" faction ousted Moore.

According to Kip Browne, during the convention there had been two delegate "no shows," so two of the alternates were upgraded. But then a delegate showed up, so one of the former alternates (now delegates) needed to be downgraded back to alternate. Jerry Moore approached Kip Browne and reportedly said, "You have to take care of this." Browne replied, "I'm voting. You go take care of it."

Jerry Moore grabbed Kip Browne by the arm and said, "No, you have to take care of this!"

"Don't touch me, Jerry," Browne replied. Moore kept trying to talk about the issue with the delegate but Browne was emphasizing that Jerry SHOULD NOT TOUCH HIM.

Browne told me that Jerry himself had set the bar about touching people versus NOT touching people. Jerry had swung on somebody who "sarcastically" patted him on the back after the JACC election, and tried to justify that. So it was Jerry who had established the high and hard standards about unwelcome touching, but now wanted to grab Kip Browne by the arm.

Walking away, Jerry Moore reportedly said, "You need to get your ass beat."

"Excuse me?" Browne said. "Are you threatening me? ARE YOU THREATENING ME?"

(Side note, here. Browne has a black belt in karate. I've seen the certificate hanging on his wall)

At this point, Nicole Doran intervened, saying, "No no no no no no no---!" She told the representatives of the two warring factions--Browne and Moore, representing Samuels and McKnight, Old JACC versus New JACC--to cool off and go their separate ways. And they did.

Good Neighbors Voting For Good Neighbors 

At the post-convention gathering of the Samuels campaign staff, looking around, I saw the people helping in his campaign were top heavy with Jordan people. In fact, it wasn't JUST Jordan people, but folks who were literally his neighbors. Kip and Kelly Browne, for example, live two doors down. Amid a sea of red Samuels shirts sat a lone McKnight supporter in blue. She said she had come to hear Samuels, to communicate with him. She wanted to know what he was doing and considered herself, in effect, his supervisor. So she was going to find out whether he deserved to keep his job.

She would be, she said, "a hard task master."

But, she said, "You don't fire people from their job unless they're not doing their job."

On McKnight's Facebook campaign page, as of today, McKnight was stating that the majority of the community voices had not been herd (sic) and were not present on Saturday, but she was still pondering whether to continue her quest or "end the journey."

It is my worry that Kenya McKnight will indeed drop out of the race. Which would be a shame. The whole contest is such great blogging material.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

PART ONE: Don Samuels Knocks Out Kenya McKnight For DFL Endorsement In Only Three Ballot Rounds

Photo By John Hoff 

History will say Council Member Don Samuels never trailed Kenya McKnight during the whole Fifth Ward convention, and in only three rounds he handily beat her. A DFL endorsement isn't about a bare majority, after all, it's about getting SIXTY PERCENT.

After beating McKnight, Samuels graciously reached out to the McKnight camp, inviting them all out to pizza. However, McKnight's supporters--among them professional gadfly Al "I Am The Community" Flowers and the "mystery yelling man in a blue shirt" brought an angry, negative spirit to the Fifth District DFL convention which lingered long after the final votes were tallied, and victorious Samuels supporters were consuming pizza and beer; with only one lone McKnight supporter taking up Samuels on the dinner invitation.

Future generations may perceive this city council election as a key turning point in the struggle to "take North Minneapolis to the next level" and decisively build upon such positive trends as deep reductions in crime. For that reason, I am putting forward an extensive and detailed account, not merely for the blogosphere but for the sake of the next generation which will live in the North Minneapolis were are making today.

Everything started with duct tape...

Red and blue duct tape, to be specific. Any political organizer who doesn't carry around duct tape in the trunk of their car, in a glove box, or SOMEWHERE handy doesn't really have a clue. You always need duct tape.

Duct tape held the campaign signs in place, so the building could be festooned with scores of campaign signs. Duct tape was ESSENTIAL.

Stickers covered the words "DFL endorsed" on the Samuels signs until those words were true...again. You see, the Samuels camp may have been DFL, but they were Green Party all the way when it came to re-using their political materials. The Samuels signs were from the previous election, and so to use the signs volunteers covered the words "DFL endorsed" with red duct tape, pending a clinch of the hoped for re-nomination.

I arrived early in the morning after being given a ride by a Samuels supporter. (I say this in a spirit of full disclosure, though I am a member of the Green Party, not the DFL) At about 7:45 a.m., McKnight signs were already covering the front door and had made a lot of headway in the gym where the convention was to be held. But the McKnight camp only had printed paper signs, not sturdy yard signs. The Samuels camp quickly got to work and soon covered the park building's front yard with signs; thus newly arriving delegates would see the Samuels signs FIRST.

The Samuels people used very serious red duct tape, while the McKnight camp used cheaper, lighter blue tape that was more paper-based, not really duct tape at all. Sometimes the McKnight signs fell off the walls, even though they were lighter than the Samuels signs.

The Samuels camp had new red shirts, and moved like a well-oiled machine. The McKnight camp arrived without any shirts...well, at least without matching shirts. The lack of resources and coordination was painfully apparent on the McKnight side, but when I tried to estimate McKnight versus Samuels supporters, the numbers seemed fairly even.

Though Samuels versus McKnight was the "main event," as it were, a lot of sideshows were also in attendance at the "big DFL tent." I spoke to Carol Becker, who was running for the Board of Estimate and Taxation. Becker had a sign from a previous campaign with her previous slogan, "Geek is good." According to Becker, the signs were popular among certain nerds, who would swipe the signs. One of the signs turned up in a dorm room at MIT, she said.

This year's slogan retained the tried-and-true "geek" theme; with a new twist: A SERIOUS GEEK FOR SERIOUS TIMES.

At some point, while walking around on the convention floor--which was allowed, since the floor wasn't "frozen"--I saw the members of what appeared to be the Fifth Ward Credentials Committee having a quick meeting, huddled in a loose little circle. I heard a report being given--something about who lived where, and who USED TO live where--and then there was a motion made, a second. I caught one fragment of a sentence, clearly:

"Grover answered that he had given the letters to Kenya..."

At some point Jerry Moore said, "All those in favor?" and there was a soft chorus of ayes. Democracy. There on the floor of the gym, just a short distance from the Bean Scene sandwich vendor.

All this time I was snapping pictures, but I had more of the Samuels people than the McKnight people. I wanted to get a photo of a McKnight supporter. A random delegate came in--and I actually thought for a minute it was Kenya McKnight, though it hardly mattered--and I tried to get a picture of her signing in, a simple "stock photo" of "here is somebody signing in to the convention." She flipped out on me.

"That's not polite, taking my picture!" she said. She began to berate me.

"It's a political convention..." I started to say, and she went into something about having to ask PERMISSION to take her picture. I walked away. What was the point of having this ridculous conversation? A short while later, I wanted to take a picture of a McKnight supporter who bore an eerie resemblance to the deceased comedian Bernie Mac, and also appeared to be a McKnight supporter. This guy ALSO flipped out on me.

Now I got the message: Don't even try talking to the McKnight people. They were seething with anger, their emotional self-control as thin an eggshell. Their energy was negative, paranoid, and naive about the ways of political conventions which include--oh gee--media taking pictures. Now, it's true I pointed out their candidate reportedly thinks the (EXPLETIVE) QUEEN OF MOTHER(EXPLETIVE) ENGLAND HAS SECRET CONTROL OVER AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.

Yes, I did do that.

But their candidate has yet to deny it. If the McKnight people want something GOOD written about them, then flipping out on a guy taking pictures surely isn't the way to do it. What can I say? Political amateur hour. This is why the Samuels people won, because they're either sane to begin with or have the good sense to take their meds.

For the moment, I settled for a picture of a cute baby named Avery who has two mommies: Alexis Kantor and Jacqui Loosli. I sat in the bleachers near Alexandra Jaramillo, who had written that morning on her Facebook status about spending the day being "a political trophy wife." Jaramillo had scored some food; fruit being sold by "Bean Scene." I later found out Bean Scene didn't even manage to cover the cost of coming to the convention. I wonder what the food vendors have at GOP conventions? I'll probably always wonder.

I vented to Jaramillo about the McKnight people, how UNFRIENDLY they were. 

Well, not all of them. I pointed out Jerry Moore--to his credit--always maintained a veneer of friendliness. Even to individuals opposing him, he continued to act as though he might win you over tomorrow. But he seemed like some kind of exception to the McKnight people. Excuse me for trying to TAKE A PICTURE at a POLITICAL CONVENTION. 

State Representative Bobby Joe Champion called the convention to order with the words "Delegates, please take your seats." While there was a delay, waiting for some kind of report from the credentials committee, State Senator Linda Higgins gave a report, saying, "Things are really grim at the capitol right now." According to Higgins, "even if we could lay off every state employee and close all the prisons" the state wouldn't be anywhere near fixing its budget deficit. 

Right about the time this news was settling in, infamous political gadfly Al Flowers entered the room. He began greeting folks, shaking hands like a celebrity, fist bumping. It wasn't very long before Bobby Joe Champion was announcing, "If you're not a delegate you have to be seated in the back." But Al "I Am The Community" Flowers seemed to feel this announcement didn't really apply to him. He stayed out on the convention floor, he went back and forth from the room many times, and all the while some of us wondered how long before the explosion. 

When would Flowers start shouting, and WHAT would he shout? When would he shove a City Council Member like, oh gee, Don Samuels? When would the police show up? How long before Jill Clark filed another lawsuit? With Flowers in the room, it seemed like only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, Bobby Joe Champion was elected chair of the convention, with not a single voice vote in opposition. At some point the SOUND MAN got a hearty round of applause, and there was an announcement about a green Buick LaSabre--license plate VGT 398--that was parked in the fire lane. Bobby Joe Champion said it would be a real shame if a potential political contribution ended up going to the impound lot. One has to wonder when exactly politics will actually address all the unreasonable suffering brought into the lives of Twin Cities residents by impound lots.

Montreal, Canada simply tows vehicles to areas where it is legal to park them and leaves them there, with a minor ticket. Madison, Wisconsin does something similar.  This is an area of public policy I've researched on my own, rather extensively. Yeah, I guess I may have been one of the few people in the room to find a lot of meaning in the announcement about the green Buick LaSabre...other than the owner of the vehicle, of course.

Bobby Joe Champion gave some instructions about voting; asking delegates to please "restrain themselves" from putting something like "Bugs Bunny" on the ballot. 

Credentials Committee Co-Chair Jerry Moore spoke, giving the breakdown of numbers on the caucus attendees and delegates. Though 178 attended, only 152 were seated. Some had chosen not to be delegates, Jerry said. (Later that evening, I found out about an interesting little credentials spat which involved Jerry Moore telling Kip Browne that Browne needed to get his "ass beat." I'm saving that part of this story for dessert) 

Some questions came from the floor, such as "what is a super delegate?" The very phrase "super delegate" seemed undemocratic, somehow, to a few in the crowd. Champion patiently explained that some state officials are automatically delegates without going to a caucus and being elected but, no, their vote isn't worth more than anybody else's vote. That seemed to quell the mob forming around the Bastille.

At 10:25 AM, Kenya McKnight finally entered the convention. Don Samuels had been around for a long time. I wondered why Kenya came so late. She walked to the bleachers area and took a seat almost directly behind Al Flowers. On the convention floor, questions continued, and complaints about how there was no microphone for the delegates. Somebody tried to ask a question from the spectator bleachers--once again, it was political amateur hour--and Bobby Joe Champion apologized, but he said he couldn't take questions from outside the convention floor.

Jackie Cherryhomes gave a report. Currently, the count was 124 delegates, with 8 alternates present. Cherryhomes said alternates should see if they could be "upgraded" to delegate status. (It's kind of like the difference between "coach" versus "First Class," only the seats don't get more comfortable)

Now it was time for nominations. Samuels was nominated--I didn't catch who did the nominating. Mike Fedor was responsible for throwing in the name of Kenya McKnight. The candidates came forward and a coin was tossed to determine who had the choice of going first or second. Kenya McKnight called "heads"--the coin rolled under the table and Bobby Joe Champion yelled "Don't touch it!"

Don won the coin toss and elected to go first. A delegate in the back rose and made a "point of personal privilege," pointing out there were STILL PERSONS ON THE FLOOR WHO WERE NOT DELEGATES. Champion--who had done such a fine job with the green Buick--tried to direct the human traffic. He made a speech about not saying anything disrespectful or out of order. A McKnight poster fell off the wall, right then. Bad omen.

Now both campaigns had a chance to speak, but this wasn't a matter of Don and Kenya getting up, individually, and giving a speech. Each campaign had the chance to put on a kind of demonstration on the stage--though hopefully nobody would get tear gassed, like when the GOP was invited to town--and so each campaign presented itself en masse, the candidate in the middle flanked by their large posses. Impressive. 

In each instance, the candidate spoke LAST. Yes, of course, far better to have others praise you than to praise yourself. The first to speak was a young man who introduced himself as a Target cashier from "the Willard Homewood (sic) neighborhood. " He made clear that, although he "doesn't disagree with Kenya on all issues" he thought Don Samuels was the guy to TAKE MINNEAPOLIS TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

Deb Wagner spoke next, introducing herself as a 25-year-resident and talking about how the Samuels family had deliberately chosen to live on a street with the biggest problems, got the block club organized, took on the drug dealing on 26th, the epicenter of which was the Big Stop store. Neighbors were terrorized by the thugs with drugs, but Don Samuels faced down the thugs, personally, took neighbors out on the streets with signs saying, "Down with dope, up with hope."

Another resident spoke and said he she was a graduate of North High, and Don understood the problems and was "responsive" to the problems in the Minneapolis educational system.

"NO HE WASN'T!" a Kenya McKnight supporter shouted, in the bleachers. She was shushed, reminded to be respectful. This was, as it turned out, a harbinger of what was coming. The Samuels demonstration rolled forward over the brief interruption, and Samuels himself took the microphone. Now, some have told me the speaking style of Samuels is like a radio with vacuum tubes. It warms up slowly. It takes a bit. But once it gets going, the energy pulsates.

Don warmed up with crime statistics: crime is down 30 percent, and 62 percent in the areas "ringed by the cameras." Samuels said 20 million will be spent on revitalizing West Broadway, the plans to include KMOJ, a massive YWCA, plus the Penn Plymouth project led by the University of Minnesota. Don spoke of the recent publicity about Coloplast, and their 42 million dollar building which would provide jobs for Northside residents. He emphasized how contracts to pick up litter used to end up in the hands of contractors from outside North Minneapolis, but those contracts now go to ex-offenders.

He spoke of a future where every student graduates from high school. Furthermore, there had to be job opportunities for ex-offenders. People who have made a mistake shouldn't be "punished for the rest of their lives."

Samuels spoke of the right of North Minneapolis residents to walk from their garage to their house without getting mugged.

"Drug users, stay in the suburbs!" he yelled. Samuels spoke out against "suburban landlords" and pointed out the city was finally taking away rental licenses by the hundreds. Don spoke of those days when he was first getting his block cleaned up, and he would look drug dealers right in the face and say, "I have two little girls. They're going to walk to the grocery store on the corner and you're going to be gone!"

According to Bobby Joe Champion, the Samuels presentation/demonstration went "seven seconds over" so seven more seconds would go to Kenya McKnight. Now McKnight's people took the stage. Their demonstration was just as big as the Samuels demo, but I noticed there were more small children beefing up the numbers.

Most held up signs, but one young girl held up a copy of Insight News with McKnight on the front page.

Mike Fedor spoke first, saying 1903 was a key year in the development of North Mineapolis. That was when a single sentence in the planning of North Minneapolis said, "The undesirables shall be located North of the warehouses." Thus North Minneapolis became a "dumping ground for things people don't want." This led to rampant gangster crime in the 1930s, to unrest in the 1960s, and to the very problems we are experiencing today. Fedor quoted Hubert Humphrey about passing the torch to a new generations of leaders.

Others spoke. The wife of Congressman Keith Ellison. Antwon Floyd, who had been at the credentials committee meeting, he and Jerry Moore playing such a key role with the cell phone. (Antwon left the black beret behind when he went to today's convention) Floyd said North MInneapolis needs people who can "relate and advocate" and "close the gap between the young and the elders." Antwon ended his speech with the following quote by Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

"A man's respect for law and order exists in precise proportion to his paycheck."

A very elderly woman spoke, saying how we must engage with offenders, not "run them out." She said her eyes were bad and she could not see the members of the convention very well, but she knew they were there.

The microphone went around and around and so many people spoke. At one point, Kenya reached weakly for the microphone but she didn't get it. The last person to speak before Kenya was Al McFarlane. The conversation with Al McFarlane seemed to go kind of long, and when the microphone FINALLY got to Kenya either wasn't any time left or McKnight--who is perfectly capable of speaking at length--choose to say very little.

Why should she run? Well, why not?

No, seriously, that was pretty much the speech. I looked at Alexandra Jaramillo and asked, "That's it?"

(In my next blog post: "Mysterious Blue Shirt Guy" disrupts the convention. Jerry Moore ponders aloud the need of Kip Browne to have his ass beaten. And a child's tears bring Don Samuels "down to earth" in the very moment of his endorsement victory)