Before I say anything else, I should say this: sincere people with good intentions are known to vigorously disagree with each other.
...bad place, when we know it is a good place and, even more importantly, our neighborhood is changing and getting better by leaps and bounds through our own hard struggle and--it must be acknowledged--millions of dollars being poured in by government entities, non-profits, and businesses.
Having said that...today I had a business meeting with Don Allen of IBNN blog and V-local.com, which (Don stated) was rated last year as the Twin Cities' No. 1 internet marketing firm. On his laptop, Allen showed me some of the bells and whistles of what his company does, which seems to revolve around increasing internet exposure and rankings for businesses. He gave me a t-shirt. Everybody is giving me t-shirts lately; Northside Marketing Task Force, Pete's Hardwood Floors, and now Don Allen gave me one for inetsurf.com.
Do they think my loyalty can be BOUGHT? (Um...don't answer that question)
NSMTF History, Part One
I'd be fascinated to get the whole history of this task force which, I think, would make an interesting academic study about a neighborhood trying to market itself in the face of politics, a lack of resources, and many obstacles to a successful marketing effort. Like random gunfire. I mean, in my mind, random gunfire is a biggie when it comes to marketing obstacles. Hence my strategy of a "first wave" of adventurous, risk-taking "security minded individuals" to move in and "secure the neighborhood," as outlined in my theory of "Market and Romanticize The Struggle."
Anyway, I'd heard how Don Allen used to be on the NMTF but left. In Don Allen's office, which is decorated with maps of the 5th Congressional Ward, I asked Don about that. Don told me how the Task Force started with high hopes and big dreams, but Don Allen didn't like Jerry Moore from the get-go. Don felt Jerry "didn't understand sound business practices." Others on the Task Force--Don mentions my friends Anderson Mitchell of Mitchell Construction, and Lisa Mitchell, who works for General Mills--were strongly supportive of Jerry Moore, who--at that time--was the Executive Director of JACC.
They supported Moore AT FIRST, that is to say. Lisa and Anderson Mitchell have now changed their tune, and apparently part of that sea change in sentiment involved Don showing the Mitchells documents from the investigation of Larry Maxwell, documents which name Jerry Moore and talk about Moore receiving a payment.
In Don's view, the task force became less about marketing North Minneapolis and more about "pumping up Jerry Moore to run for something." Don says Al McFarlane of Insight News was involved with a lot of this "pumping up." (Don showed me a wrinkled copy of Insight News with a prominent photo of Kenya McKnight on the front. Don said he'd used it to keep the rain off his head today, and it was indeed good for that, he said)
According to Don, Jerry Moore saw NMTF as "his own little platform to build upon."
"It wasn't about positioning the North Side," Don Allen said. "It was about positioning Jerry Moore." Now, according to Don, the NMTF has become about "positioning (Vice Chair) Mike Kestner."
Allen talks, in particular, about an instance where he managed to obtain a promise of some rather respectable-sized donations from a business source, and the Task Force board insisted that Don's name should be removed from a letter to the source, and substituted with Jerry Moore's name. On his own, from professional business contacts, Don Allen had developed the source of funding, but now credit was being handed to somebody else; the annointed one of the McFarlane clique, Jerry Moore.
It's obvious Don Allen still has a bad taste in his mouth over this.
Allen Forms V Media Development Corporation
Don Allen has formed a non-profit called "V Media Corporation." The articles of incorporation, sent by the Minnesota Secretary of State, are framed and hang on Don's office wall. Though a board has already been formed, Don Allen says he is interested in taking on more folks. The goal of the organization is to help areas "underserved by advertising, PR, and marketing." (Like North Minneapolis) There is a goal of showing "successful, measurable outcomes."
Don Allen didn't say so, but Google rankings come to mind. Stories in the media buzzing about North Minneapolis in a generally positive way, that comes to mind, too, and those things can be counted, tabulated, put in the form of bar graphs.
Mike Kestner Tells Don Allen To Get F***ed
When talking to Don, he has to put off taking a constant stream of phone calls, but sometimes he is forced to apologize and, well, he really must take THIS call.
It was in the course of such a call that Allen learned there was a meeting of the Northside Marketing Task Force. TONIGHT. Don began placing calls, trying to find out where and when. We both wondered what might be on the agenda, but figured two items would come up for sure:
# OLD BUSINESS: When will the Carney Group's website work be approved for release? Don's belief is a thing doesn't have to be perfect, it can be "tweaked while it is hot." That's kind of how I see things. Get the story out to the public ASAP, there will always be details to add in subsequent stories.
# NEW BUSINESS: Internet controversy over task force inaction, and a discussion about whether to add Don Allen and/or Johnny Northside to the Task Force.
Don Allen was forced to call Mike Kestner himself to find out when and where the meeting was. Kestner told Don he shouldn't be at the meeting. It would be intimidating, if Don was at the meeting, Kestner said. Don insisted on knowing the location of the meeting. There was an arcane discussion about whether a non-profit is considered a non-profit, when it has filed ONE piece of paper but not ANOTHER piece of paper.
At one point--and this is according to Don--Mike Kestner told Don Allen, "F*** you!" After 10 minutes of cajoling, Don Allen managed to get the meeting time and place out of Mike Kestner.
Last word I had was that Don Allen was heading for the meeting, scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. at the Cleveland Neighborhood Organization Building.
Breaking News, Closed Session, "Personnel Issues"
Don Allen called me a second ago. There is breaking news. Approximately 6 individuals are having a meeting. Jerry Moore is not present, but Mike Kestner is there. When Allen entered the room, he was told "we just voted to go into executive session to discuss personnel issues."
"Um," I asked Don. "They're a non-profit board. They don't have any employees. How can they have personnel issues?"
"THANK YOU!!!" Don yelled into his cell phone.
At this moment, Don is trying to hunt down a copy of the bylaws to figure out if 6 members of the Task Force even form a quorum. More as I get word...
It is a shame that trying to market a neighborhood becomes a political infight, a battle of personalities and he said, she said. But, at the end of the day, this is what democracy looks like and our neighborhood is fighting to make itself something better, having a vital discussion about what competing ideas and visions will take us to that better time and place.