Thursday, March 19, 2009
Don Samuels, Kenya McKnight Campaigns Jockey For Delegates At 5th Ward Credentials Committee
Rumor had it there might be some fireworks at the 5th Ward DFL Credentials Committee, as the campaigns of City Council Member Don Samuels and challenger Kenya McKnight jockey for delegates, with both sides issuing challenges and McKnight alleging intrigue over 8 delegates, which some are now calling "The Kenya 8."
While the Credentials Committee was not nearly as much fun as a JACC meeting, I was not disappointed. Here is my firsthand account...
The meeting took place at Heritage Park, a development located at the former site of high rise, low-income housing which was demolished. I'm told there were lawsuits filed over the demolition of the high rises, the loss of the housing. Another story for another day; in any case, the meeting took place in the community room of the rental office.
The meeting started out, as nearly all North Minneapolis meetings do, with the moving and setting up of chairs. Kip Browne, the new chairman of the Jordan Area Community Council, and Jerry Moore, the former executive director of that organization, put seats in place like they were student government buddies or something. After a while, somebody brought refreshments; bottled water and sandwiches from Subway. No airs being put on, here.
I was able to gather the names of some of the characters in this little drama, both before and after the meeting.
# Jerry Moore, co-chair of the committee, lives at Heritage Park, former executive director of JACC. He is apparently affiliated with the campaign of Kenya McKnight, but critics say Jerry is putting on a pretense of "non-affiliation" and "objectivity."
# Jackie Cherryhomes, co-chair of the committee, former member of the City Council, a resident of the Homewood area of Willard-Hay. She is openly affiliated with the campaign of Don Samuels.
# Brian Bushay. He was not present at this meeting, but he was in charge of running the recent 5th Ward Caucus, collecting information from the "conveners" about who showed up, who became a delegate and an alternate. Kanya McKnight claims she gave documents about 8 absentees to Bushay, but Bushay apparently states he didn't get any such documents. He is married to State Senator Linda Higgins.
# Helen Williams, currently campaigning for Kenya McKnight, but during the last campaign she was affiliated with Don Samuels. Williams does funerals for impoverished people who die in North Minneapolis violence, including the recent funeral for Annshalike Hamilton.
# Kip Browne, chair of the "New Majority" JACC organization, affiliated with the campaign of Don Samuels. Kip Browne seems to be chasing Jerry Moore from one organization to another.
# Vladimir Monroe, up-and-coming North Minneapolis political activist, working for the Samuels campaign.
# Mike Fedor, affiliated with the Kenya McKnight campaign.
There are some other minor players; we'll get to them by-and-by. The meeting began when co-chair Jerry Moore, lacking a gavel, rapped on the table with his knuckles and called for order. I followed as best I could but, of course, nobody had bothered to distribute extra agendas to members of the audience. Jerry had everybody, including those of us in the audience, introduce themselves. He emphasized this was a public meeting. The undertone was unmistakeable: grassroots media is watching everything, folks. You'll be reading about this on the internet, tomorrow.
The discussion quickly turned to "known challenges," and how these challenges were delivered. Jerry Moore said somebody (Vladamir Monroe) had put a document on his front door, instead of handing it to him, and said, "When you hand deliver, you usually hand it to somebody."
Despite this little show of sparks, whatever issue was at hand was quickly resolved; Jackie Cherryhomes made a motion saying that "the credentials committee resolved those issues on March 9, and those people have been appropriately placed in the Fourth Ward."
The really FUN challenges involved a challenge to Vladimir Monroe brought by Ben Meyers (yes, of "Old Majority" JACC fame, while Monroe is part of the "New Majority") as well as a challenge to Laurel Moore brought by Vladamir Monroe. Who is Laurel Moore? Jerry's MOTHER. This was indeed an up-close-and-personal, in-your-face moment in 5th Ward politics.
Kip Browne moved to reject the challenge brought by Ben Myers against Monroe, because there was no indication it was delivered to the state DFL, per the proper procedure, and also Browne wanted to know why a copy of the challenge was not delivered to the March 7 meeting. (This last question was directed, pointedly, to Jerry)
During this whole discussion, I couldn't help but notice Jerry Moore's legs were churning nervously, like he was RIDING A BIKE or something.
Kip Browne's choice to reject the challenge on purely PROCEDURAL grounds was lawyerly and tactical: the motion, if successful, would put Ben Myers--a licensed attorney--in the position of having his challenge rejected because of sloppy inattention to legal technicalities. Browne indicated that he had ANOTHER motion at the ready, if the first one failed--probably the fact Monroe could produce adequate and overwhelming evidence of residency, up to and including his state-issued identification. (One source told me Myers has been "obsessed" for quite a while with proving that Monroe doesn't really live where Monroe does, in fact, live)
The question was called. Moore wanted a show of hands, not a voice vote. The way it shook out was 8 in favor of Kip's motion, 4 opposed, and one abstaining. (That was Makeda Zulu-Gillespie, who indicated she didn't know enough about the controversy to vote either way)
The votes appeared to break down among McKnight versus Samuels supporters, with the "groom's side" sitting on one side of the table, and the "bride's side" sitting on the other, mostly.
Next up was the issue of Jerry Moore's mother.
At this point, Jackie Cherryhomes took over the meeting, because Jerry Moore was in the position of being a witness. Moore said this was his mother's address, and she lives there as a renter, living in Unit No. 2, not Unit No. 1. Vladamir Monroe asserted there was no record of her living there, and also discrepancies in the absentee letter. Monroe said he used a reverse telephone directory, apparently White Pages Dot Com, and couldn't locate evidence that Laurel Moore lived at that address.
Kip Browne began to cross-examine Moore, asking if Moore had brought any evidence with him, today, of his mother's residency? Moore tried to revert to his role of Chair and dodge the question by Browne. Browne reminded Moore he was not the chair at this point--Cherryhomes was the chair--and Moore was a witness in regard to his mother's residency. Browne pressed his question: KNOWING HIS MOTHER'S RESIDENCY WAS BEING CHALLENGED, had Moore brought any evidence of--
"NO!!!" Moore said, interrupting the question.
A motion was brought forth to reject the challenge to Jerry's mother. The motion passed. Moore abstained. And then Moore had to physically get up and walk away, into the kitchen. I wondered if there was going to be another altercation involving Jerry Moore.
As Moore walked away, Jackie Cherryhomes asked in a chipper voice whether Moore would like her to go ahead and deal with the challenge to Mr. Cook? Moore said, yeah, go ahead.
The situation with Elliot Cook was, arguably, more interesting than Jerry's mother. The place where Cook claims to reside is a vacant house, according to Monroe. There is no indication ANY person legally resides there, Monroe said.
At this point, Jackie Cherryhomes gave over the chairmanship to Jerry Moore, because she had additional evidence in regard to Mr. Cook. Despite the fact the house is apparently vacant, there is evidence of a person who DOES live there, a woman who told Mrs. Cherryhomes that sometimes mail comes for Mr. Cook, but she doesn't know him, and he certainly doesn't live there.
In regard to Cook, he had a "gold card" at the caucus but according to Cherryhomes Cook never signed in. There was no absentee letter, no evidence he was on a "green sheet," but there is other evidence to consider: the face there is a statement from a resident who DOES live at the address (albeit a vacant house) who says she gets mail for Mr. Cook, sometimes, but COOK DOESN'T LIVE THERE.
The McKnight crowd was deaf to this evidence about Cook. Maybe the woman at the house wasn't representing, accurately, who SHE was.
Jerry Moore spoke up and tried to compare the situation with Elliot Cook to that of Constance Nompelis. (Moore had reportedly called the phone number of Constance Nompelis more than once, seeking to prove her existence or non-existence. Compare and contrast with REALLY GREAT PICTURES OF CONNIE NOMPELIS recently published on this blog. Does Connie exist? Oh, yeah, Connie exists)
In any case, Moore pointed out Connie was somebody who had JUST RECENTLY purchased a house, and so it was tough to find a record of her.
Kip Browne objected at that point to Connie's name being brought up. There was, Browne said, no challenge to Nompelis, so her name should not be dragged into this kind of a proceeding.
Browne also made the record in regard to another objection: there are two separate processes going on for challenges. The challenges for Samuels are taking place through THIS body (the credentials committee) and the challenges for McKnight are going through a different process. Browne objects to this, for the record.
Meanwhile, at or near this point in the meeting, I was calling the phone number of Mr. Elliot Cook. The number had been said aloud at a public meeting. Well, I wanted to know what the deal was. I got an answering machine, "This is Elliot, leave a message."
Mike Fedor spoke up, emphasizing the SERIOUSNESS of the challenges of Ms. McKnight, which were challenges to the intergrity of Mr. Bushay, who allegedly received the 8 absentee letters.
Jackie Cherryhomes spoke up, saying this matter is not something either Moore or herself should be involved with, given their relationships to the candidates. (She said this in a very offhand way, I thought, considering how Moore was apparently still trying to keep up the story of being "objective" and not affiliated with any campaign) Cherryhomes said, "We are one community, and it's not about one convention, it's not about one race." She was happy to have somebody else sorting through the mess with the McKnight challenges, considering how close and "in the family" this was.
Browne spoke up, reiterating his objections to two separate processes, and (showing evidence of 3 to 4 years of law training teaching him how to argue "on point" instead of in the sloppy, metaphor-heavy manner of laypeople) pointing out this committee had just dealt with a challenge to Jerry Moore's MOTHER, which could hardly be more "in the family," so if that challenge could be resolved here, so could the McKnight challenges.
(Of course, I thought to myself, here on the committee the count breaks down 8-4-1 in favor of Samuels)
At this point, Makeda Zulu-Gillespie spoke up and made an impassioned mini-speech. Makeda reportedly works for the U of M with their much-anticipated UROC project, the one that drags on forever and WHEN are we going to see some results at the former Penn Plymouth Shopping Center? THAT project.
Makeda first outlined the fact she didn't really know much about what was going on, here--not saying this as an apology or a caveat, but trotting out her ignorance with some degree of pride, as though this gave her statement more creditability, somehow--and then said it was "disrespectful" to bring up somebody's mother. She said the "undertone here is getting on my nerves," as though her nervous inability to tolerate substantive political debate was a valid reason for individuals to refrain from such debate. In summary, she reiterated once again that she knows NOTHING about what is going on, really.
After this speech, a few of the McKnight supporters nodded, one saying, "THAT'S right."
The fun part of the meeting was now over. The issue was dealt with of who would staff the table at the convention. At the end of the meeting, Jerry Moore opened up the meeting to questions and comments from the guests. I took the opportunity to ask Mike Fedor about the precise nature of the "serious" challenges by McKnight.
Fedor said this was essentially a "he said, she said" situation. Letters can be delivered to the precinct caucus by those who can't attend but wish to be considered. Ms. McKnight (contends that she) gave 8 letters to Bushay, but the letters never got there.
I followed up, asking how the letters were delivered? Were they mailed? Sent as an attachment to an email? Hand delivered?
Fedor said the letters were hand delivered.
I tried to clarify if that meant ACTUALLY PLACED IN THE HANDS OF MR. BUSHAY. (After all, the chair himself had debated, early in the meeting, the meaning of "hand delivered.")
At or near this point, Jackie Cherryhomes jumped in and cut off the questions. Well, at least MY questions.
One of the other audience members--an old woman in a wheelchair--was apparently one of the 8 names in those letters. She had the exact same question I did about what was up with those 8 names. Her question didn't get anywhere, either.
Don Allen of IBNN asked a question about "what is the process to be a committee chair?" Don's public feud with Jerry Moore is fairly well-known. It was clear the question was aimed squarely at Jerry Moore. The answer, whatever it was, wasn't as exciting as the question.
All in all, it was a pretty hot and uncomfortable night for Jerry Moore. But it was over, and the meeting concluded as it began, with the ritual putting away of chairs.
Out in the parking lot, I tried to follow up with my question to Mike Fedor. I related something I'd been told by one of my sources about the character of Mr. Bushay: that Bushay is so honest, so committed to the integrity of public process that "he'd declare a pack of gum to Customs, he'd declare a ripped-in-half dollar bill to the IRS." If Bushay had been given 8 letters in the proper way, he'd have done what he was supposed to do. Any comment?
Fedor had nothing to say to this. He shrugged, elaborately.
Later in the night I sought additional sources of information. I was told the 8 letters were (allegedly) ORIGINALS, and NO COPIES WERE (allegedly) MADE. And then these oh-so-original and uncopied letters just DISAPPEARED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH after supposedly being handed to Mr. Bushay.
"He said, she said" indeed. Much depends on the creditability and motivations of the "he" and the "she."
Below this blog post you will find an open and anonymous forum. Feel free to spill your guts.