Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paul Bertelson Belongs "On The Radar" Of City Officials...

Stock photo by Jeff Skrenes, blog post by John Hoff

One of my helpful sources sent me a list of properties and a very simple message: Paul Bertelson belongs on the radar of city officials.

To this I say...

Mr. helpful and anonymous source, you are sooooo right.

Here is the list of properties:

1. 2518 4th St N (Mission Inn (Bertleson), License in Review)
2. 2529 3rd St N (Mission Inn (Bertleson), License in Review)
3. 312 23rd Ave N (Bertleson, No Valid Rental License)
4. 315 23rd Ave N (Mission Inn (Bertleson), No Valid Rental License)
5. 3658 Aldrich ave N
6. 3701 Aldrich N
7. 3325 6th St N
8. 803 31st Ave N
9. 804 31st Ave N
10. 815 31st Ave N
11. 2910 4th St N
12. 4045 Colfax Ave N
13. 2815 Humboldt Ave N
14. 3415 17 Ave S
15. 2314 Queen Ave N
16. 3329 5th Ave S
17. 3335 5th Ave S
18. 2131 6th St N

(Do not click more but DO be aware that slumlords will be exposed on Johnny Northside Dot Com)

Johnny Northside Blog Endorses Rybak, Samuels, Hofstede And, Oh Yes, Michael Guest...

Photo And Blog Post By John Hoff

In the manner of any other media entity, the Johnny Northside blog chooses to exercise the right to formally endorse political candidates for office. In the manner of a grassroots blog, I choose to print a photo of Diane Hofstede posing with a sausage...

Jeff Skrenes--who is both a private citizen AND the Hawthorne Housing Director--once said, "There is no good way to pose for a photograph while holding a sausage." It is unknown in which capacity Skrenes said that--Housing Director or private citizen. If I had to take a guess, I'd say...

Private citizen.

In any case, the image above was taken about a month ago at a backyard bonfire in the Hawthorne Eco Village where Council Member Diane Hofstede showed up in response to an invitation, that night giving many hours of her time to both casual conversation and policy discussion while my son, Alex, helped tend to the fire.

This is what we do in NoMi. We sit in our backyards, eating and drinking with our "band of brothers" neighborhood buddies and talking about how to improve our surroundings. Much comes of these discussions. It was wonderful of Hofstede to join us and hopefully we'll see her (and her amiable, engaging husband!) more frequently.

But back to the sausage...

The sausage was made by the husband of "the Polish lady," a highly-skilled artisan of meat. For a while this spring, it seemed like every time a decrepit old building got demolished, the Polish lady would come out in her yard to give sausage to both myself and Jeff Skrenes. I remember one early cold morning when that sausage was the only breakfast I had, since so many volunteer hours were being poured into the Eco Village. I posed with Jeff for a photo (both of us waving our sausages) and for ages that photo was my Facebook profile image. It is, therefore, right and fitting that Diane Hofstede receive one of these coveted and symbolic sausages. Our neighborhood has improved by leaps and bounds under her term in office, bouncing back from a foreclosure crisis which was the result of NATIONAL policies, not LOCAL control. Hofstede can't be blamed for the foreclosure crisis, but should get credit for her response.

In politics, there is a natural tendency for voters to reward incumbents when things seem to be going well, and to punish incumbents when things are going badly. This is not always fair, since many things which impact citizens are beyond the control of any particular public official. However, the incredible drop in crime experienced in Minneapolis--particularly North Minneapolis--appears to be a direct result of work by individuals like Rybak, Samuels, and Hofstede. When public officials do well, they deserve to be re-elected and we NEED them to be re-elected.

So, first and foremost, this blog endorses Rybak, Samuels, and Hofstede because of the incredible drop in crime and their work in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.

Secondly, none of these officials have any competition worthy to be their replacements. Rybak is facing a cast of cartoon characters so motley and depressing they remind me of group therapy sessions at the psychiatric facilities where I used to make a living. These opponents of Rybak don't need your vote so much as they need some meaningful purpose in their otherwise empty lives, with the exception of one candidate--You Know Who--who should be sedated and tagged with some kind of tracking device.

Nobody can blame Rybak for refusing to debate opponents when one of those opponents is infamous for outrageous, physically frightening behavior. There is debate enough in the media. The fact all of these opponents COMBINED don't have enough political jack to force the mayor into a face-to-face debate is all-too-revealing. Let this blog be the first to make this statement:

Congratulations, Mayor Rybak, on your re-election Tuesday, November 3. You deserved it!

Now as for Ward 5 City Council Member Don Samuels...

Like Rybak, Don Samuels is up against an unspectacular field of shrill political midgets, one of which is facing charges for an incident (allegedly) involving a violent altercation with his mistress. None of Samuels' opponents is worthy to hang up Don Samuels' coat at the Peace Foundation ball and--in desperation--they have resorted to crude, disgusting race-baiting rhetoric which didn't work in the last Ward 5 election, and likely won't work in this one. So, I have to wonder, what's up with that? Why would you use tactics that don't work TWICE? Did somebody skip Political Science 101?

Samuels has won the endorsement of Congressman Keith Ellison as well as the Star Tribune. Not only does this blog ENDORSE Don Samuels, but I predict a VICTORY MARGIN of 20 percent or more.

I regret that I, personally, will be driving a great big International box truck on election night, probably somewhere in Illinois. Please, somebody take a big swig of victory booze for Johnny Northside and mention my name. I'll be there in spirit.

One of Samuels' opponents (the one facing charges for alleged violence against a woman) said Samuels doesn't care about "the woman on the corner with three kids and no job."

However, Samuels has been overwhelmingly successful in bringing businesses to North Minneapolis which will create jobs and, furthermore, the Peace Foundation--which Don Samuels helped to start--has been directly credited by the Star Tribune as one of the factors in the steep drop in Minneapolis crime. Clearly, the mother with three kids would like her children to live in a neighborhood where bullets don't fly and hit children.

Samuels started as a neighborhood activist who cleaned up his block, driving out drug dealers. Now all of Ward 5 has become Don's block, and thank god for THAT. This blog enthusiastically endorses Don Samuels.

My endorsement for Diane Hofstede comes after much soul-searching. Realistically, Hofstede is going to win the election because she has no opponent with enough political jack to beat her.

It is true that in the past I have aired complaints of "unresponsiveness" at Hofstede's office. HOWEVER, let me say something about this whole idea of responsiveness: there is no end to the needs in Ward 3. When a politician is responsive, word gets out and guess what? More people contact the politician, wanting help. Inevitably, no "responsive" politician will be able to please everybody all of the time. It appears Hofstede took criticisms to heart which were made by myself and others, and her office is now quite responsive.

This much I know about Hofstede: she wants hookers and drug dealers out, out, out of Ward 3. She is no friend of slumlords, either, though she takes a prudent and measured approach which can cause neighborhood groups to grow impatient. But at the end of the day, things are going very well in Ward 3 and Hofstede deserves the credit, therefore Hofstede deserves re-election.

However, I would like to give an honorable mention to one of the other candidates in Ward 3, Allen Kathir. I believe Kathir will give Hofstede a run for her money.

Kathir is bright and running a professional campaign. I will give Kathir the same advice here which I gave him at a backyard bonfire: Allen, you are not a home owner. You RENT, for crying out loud. Constituents want a city council member who has committed themselves to the ward through home ownership and who doesn't answer to a landlord. I mean, they're called land LORDS for a reason. Somebody with that much power over a city council member might be inclined to use it.

Nope, I don't want my city council member answering to a landlord any more than I'd want my president answering to a pope. (Addendum: I hasten to point out, it's not a question of a person's FAITH but whether the person takes direct and specific marching orders, whether somebody has TOO MUCH POWER over that person. I assert that a landlord--ANY landlord--would have too much power over a city council person living under their rented roof. "President answering to a pope" was just the first controversial metaphor which came out of the mental bag)

Furthermore, Allen, you haven't been around long enough. You should BUY A HOME (prices have never been better!) join your local neighborhood association, and put in about half a decade of work to gain a reputation as a grassroots neighborhood activist. Pick some kind of difficult local project or problem and work tirelessly on that issue.

When the issue is solved, you will have a reputation as "the guy who tackled Problem XYZ," kind of like everybody knows Don Samuels cleaned up his own part of Ward 5. This kind of activism at the neighborhood level is the traditional path to a seat on the city council.

Allen, your work on civil rights doesn't quite reach a level of recognition within the neighborhoods of Ward 3. All the same, I hope you do VERY WELL on election night, simply because I hope you will stick around and run for more offices and put your energy and intelligence into bettering our city. Hofstede is a known commodity, and I feel safer with her because, for one thing, I feel I can read her attitudes about the police. But I'm not sure about yours, Allen. I feel like you're being much too careful about what you say, and if elected you may hamper effective police work in North Minneapolis with attitudes like those of Melissa Hill.

(Let the record reflect I would NEVER throw an ACTUAL tomato at Melissa Hill, nor any other vegetable, and there is no reason for the notoriously-excitable Farheen Hakeem to think otherwise)

Finally, my endorsement of Park Board candidate Michael Guest rests on different criteria. Parks are getting a raw deal, and this city needs somebody energetic and clever to shake up the dismal park situation. Michael Guest managed to get the endorsement of FORMER VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE. I mean, wow, how did a candidate for A LOCAL PARK BOARD pull off something like THAT?

Expect the best. Vote for Michael Guest.

On a final note: Come election night, Ward 5 needs every kind of poll watcher who can be rounded up to be available and observing action at the polls. When losers get desperate, they resort to cheating. Some of the candidates opposing Don Samuels already have signs posted at vacant houses, so who is to say VOTES may not come from those same addresses? Ward 5 already witnessed an incredible, vicious, bitter battle during the DFL endorsement process, click here.

Yes, you might "expect the best" and vote for Michael Guest, but when it comes to angry, unprofessional candidates like Kenya McKnight expect the WORST.

Call your friends. Call your neighbors. Ferry troops to the polls and keep an eye on those polls, for our lives really do depend on the outcome of this election.


Ready, Dedicate, Fire!

Guest post, photos, and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Photo of the Hawkman by "Ranty."

Earlier this summer, I was told about an exciting new arts space opening in south Minneapolis, the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center. But being deaf in one ear, the first few times I'd heard about it, I thought they said "finer arts," and I'd just heard wrong. Finer Arts Center...ho, hum.

For once, my ears didn't deceive me, and it really WAS "Fire arts." In one respect, though, this ribbon-cutting ceremony was LESS exciting than others. Despite the presence of our Mayor and several city council members, nobody tried to disrupt this one. Maybe in the future we'll give speakers a microphone and a blowtorch and THEN see who wants to interrupt them. Nah...SOMEBODY would file a lawsuit.

Later in the evening, I took some very cool photos. I used a setting on my camera that kept the exposure open for a while so that it would capture the movement of the performers. This experiment turned out surprisingly well...

So well in fact, that I found it impossible to pick out photos I liked best, so I'm putting most all of them up.

Now if that wasn't cool enough, we had hooping going on too:

Of course, the HIGHLIGHT of the evening was captured in THIS photo:

Or maybe not. Hey, I know that unless I shave my legs, put on a dress, a wig, and some killer boots, I'm just not going to look as great as Connie Nompelis when I'm hooping. And admittedly, I'm not sure what to do with my hands. But do all of the pictures of me hooping have to look so...dorky? I was doing some fairly impressive things too, keeping the hoop going at my ankles for quite a while. And there's no photo of that?

On the bright side, a still shot creates the impression that I can keep the hoop going for longer than 30 seconds. (And I can. Really.) Take a look at the above photo. Now look away for a moment. Are you back? See, I'm still hooping. Go and make yourself a roast beef sandwich or a chef salad or something. Me, I'm still here, hooping like a maniac. Pretty impressive, huh? I thought so.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Free Speech Friday is Back!

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image is the first image to come up under a Google image search for "free speech."

It's been a while, but I thought it would be good to bring back a JNS staple: Free Speech Friday.

JNS readers are free to post whatever they wish (with the following exceptions - spam, racist/sexist items, and posts specifically related to ongoing or threatened "formal complaints.")

And in case you're having trouble thinking of anything to talk amongst yourselves, I'll give you a topic...

An anonymous commenter sent in this previously unpublished comment:

"I have a question for you Jeff. I am not sure if this post is the most appropriate place for the question so, feel free to copy it and post it where you feel it is most relevant.

"I understand that you are considered an expert on the subject of Mortgages. I have read several times where you went door to door in your efforts to help the foreclosure problems in Minneapolis. My question:

"Given your understanding of Mortgage and the guidelines/rules the lenders must adhere to, I am wanting to know if your expertise would be better utilized by addressing the lenders? In other words, I believe that the lenders are to blame for the current crisis. They are the ones who approved these mortgage's (sic) that re being foreclosed in record numbers. Door to door effort seems to be addressing the result as opposed to addressing the lenders who made the mistakes. That way I would think that you could help on a large scale by addressing the problem and its origin (lenders).

"Could you respond with your opinion please?

"(btw, I am posting as anonymous at this point but, I will give my full name if you decide to use my question in a new or different post.)"

I will respond, but I'd like to open the floor, so to speak, for others to chime in first.

Also, I want to point out to JNS readers that this week there have been several touching comments regarding Haywood Eaton and Annshalike Hamilton. Those of you to whom such posts are important, I encourage you to go back and read them.

With that, I yield the floor. Let the wild rumpus start!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Youth Violence is Down 43%!

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from

A public release from the city of Minneapolis came my way and I am re-posting it here. Our city has re-framed youth violence as a public health issue, and this has garnered an award from the National League of Cities.

And yes, that link points to a 2007 resolution authored by Don Samuels and Cam Gordon. I've heard Natalie Johnson Lee claim she was the one who laid the groundwork for this issue. To the extent that is true, I guess I'd like to leave my job for four years, and then come back and re-apply by saying that the achievements made in my absence really just happened because of the groundwork I laid years ago. Or maybe it's just that crime is down everywhere so nobody can claim credit right now. Until I get my job back, then everything good can be attributed to me again, thank you very much.

Without further pontification, here is the press release:

Minneapolis receives national recognition for youth violence prevention efforts

National League of Cities honors "Blueprint for Action" in new report

Oct. 14, 2009 (MINNEAPOLIS) The City of Minneapolis this week received national recognition for its "Blueprint for Action" plan that works to address the root causes of violence and significantly reduce youth violence in Minneapolis. In its report, The State of City Leadership, the National League of Cities applauded Minneapolis for its efforts and calls this program one of the nation's three most innovative city models for preventing youth violence.

The report also states that "Minneapolis has successfully reframed youth violence as a public health issue through an extensive process of planning and community engagement which has united and galvanized community leaders and residents around a broader vision of youth violence prevention."

"Reducing youth vilence requires a strategic, holistic and multi-faceted response," said Mayor R.T. Rybak. "This recognition is a testament to our efforts and the efforts of our partners in reducing youth violence in Minneapolis. But we can't stop here. We need to keep working on finding new and creative ways to educate children and their families on the importance of violence prevention."

"Government can't eliminate violence from our community on its own," said City Council Member Cam Gordon, Youth Violence Prevention Steering Committee member. "We need the great work of so many people in the community who help us surround our youth and their families with support, opportunity and hope. Thanks to the leadership and cooperation of more than 80 stakeholders, we are headed in the right direction."

In 2008, the Blueprint for Action was launched with the following goals: connect every youth with a trusted adult; intervene at the first sign that youth are at risk for violence; restore youth who have gone down the wrong path; and, unlearn the culture of violence in our community.

Since 2007, juvenile crime has declined by 29 percent throughout the City, and 37 percent since 2006, according to a "Blueprint for Action" report. What's more, in four of the five target neighborhoods, youth violence was down by an average of 38 percent since 2007 and 43 percent since 2006.

In addition to "Blueprint for Action," Mayor Rybak's Minneapolis Promise college-preparation intiiative, the City-County Commission to End Homelessness, and Minneapolis' Bridge Center for homeless youth, were also highlighted in the State of City Leadership report. The report was released in Boston at the 2009 National Summit on Your City's Families and is avalaible at

The National League of Cities is the nation's oldest and largest organization devoted to strenghtening and promoting cities as centers of opporunity, leadership and governance. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns, and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.

(End press release, begin Hawkman commentary)

Let that sink in. Nineteen thousand cities, and we're in the top three for such an innovative approach. I am impressed. I'll say that when I first heard of this idea presented at the state legislature earlier this year, I was skeptical. "This is a health issue? Seems more like a straight-up crime and safety issue to me," was pretty much my thought. Even now, I have a tough time wrapping my head around it. Perhaps it's a personal shortcoming of mine, but I place a higher priority on outright safety over this systematic approach.

But this much is clear: whether I thought this program would work or not, it has. Violent crime is down, and the kind of crime these tactics were meant to address is down significantly. Makes you proud to be from Minneapolis, doesn't it?

I Saw the Signs

Guest post and photos (except for anonymously contributed photo) by the Hawthorne Hawkman

I was driving around the neighborhood today during one of my constitutionally protected lunch/free speech breaks, and took note of some rather annoying signs.

Here is a brief explanation of the three above pictures...

The first is a Natalie Johnson Lee sign that graces a vacant property. I found this to be a fun juxtaposition because of her campaign slogan on the sign: "Because we all live here." When I looked at the property records online, it appears that 1254 Russell Ave N has been vacant since at least 2003. Graffiti adorns one of the doors (of COURSE I called it in to 311. I even used the facial expression known as my "311 face.")

This property also has a spray-painted message apparently critical of Don Samuels for the building's vacant status. What about its owners? Why haven't THEY done anything for the past six-plus years? Oh, and the current owner happens to be a Seventh-Day Adventist CHURCH with an address in Kansas City. I thought there were RULES about churches supporting political candidates. Someone ought to file a formal complaint.

The next two photos above are of 2623 23rd Ave N. Determining who owns this vacant property is a bit more problematic. The city website still lists an individual owner. But this is where my mortgage geek skills come in handy. Claude Worrell is the Realtor listed on one of the signs. Mr. Worrell almost never represents individual sellers in north Minneapolis; meaning that this property is likely in some degree of foreclosure and is now being sold by a lender.

The Hennepin County foreclosure website seems to show that this is indeed the case. While the redemption period hasn't expired yet, the vacant state of the property makes it likely that it was shortened from six months to five weeks and the public websites haven't caught up with this yet. Hmmm...I wonder if Kenya McKnight got permission from BAC Home Loans to put that sign there?

And THEN someone sent me this picture in the mail today. I had traumatic flashbacks after seeing what was left on the porch.

Then there were these two signs, which actually soothed me a bit:

First off, both of these houses are OCCUPIED, making it more likely that an ACTUAL SUPPORTER is aware of a lawn sign. Second, lawn signs in multiple languages is a good signal that this candidate reaches out to everyone who lives here. There is a sign in Hmong along 26th as well, but these two prove the point just fine.

And I should be just fine myself. I'm not too worried about repercussions for my political blogging this time around. That's because I'm wearing the hat.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting Better All the Time!

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from

I was at a meeting today where a presentation was made and other info was passed out that clearly shows how things are getting better all the time in NoMi. Granted, it's not all glitter and rainbows; we're expecting another wave of foreclosures. Those could very well affect renters and landlords, the biggest gap in terms of what service is available.

The two most exciting things, though, were crime being down (again) in the EcoVillage and development on West Broadway...

First off, in the EcoVillage: Several months ago, the crime stats came in and over a 3-month period (April - June 2009) there were 23 calls for service related to narcotics. Most of those centered around the corner of 30th Ave N and 6th St N.

From July through September, there was ONE narcotics-related call.

The really great news, though, was brought out by Catalyst Community Partners. In their presentation, they said, "The question is not 'What does it take to start a business in a low-income area,' but 'what does it take to start enough businesses to wake up an underperforming market?'"

On the one hand, with a large population surrounding Broadway, and 20,000 commuters traveling it daily, one would think this would be easy pickings for development. But we all know that Target failed on Broadway and other businesses have historically struggled.

Instead of looking to a single "White Knight" to revitalize Broadway, Catalyst went with 10-15 small buildings along much of the corridor; including a coffee shop, credit union, 24/7 daycare, a sit-down restaurant, and KMOJ.

Catalyst has also been committed to hiring women and minorities, and generating jobs locally. One defense (perhaps even excuse) I hear about MnDOT and various trades and labor jobs is that there just aren't enough women and minorities QUALIFIED to do the work, and that's why minority hiring goals aren't met. Somehow, Catalyst has found a way around this issue, although they say it hasn't been easy. They state that over 40% of their hires have been women and minorities.

A few other areas of success have been that their projects so far have been 100% leased by the time they are completed. Let that sink in for a the midst of the greatest economic depression of our lifetimes (for most of us), their commercial space is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT leased by the time the project is complete.

Much of the buildings that once housed apartment units above retail are now being converted to office space. So the employees who work in those offices who do not live in NoMi will be spending more daytime hours in our community. Having that mix is important because when too many people are away from the community during the typical 9-5 workday, then businesses need to do much more commerce in that 5 pm to 9 pm slot.

It gets even better. Crime is down dramatically at the Catalyst project sites. In fact, at 1101 West Broaday, the site of the Bean Scene and City-County Federal Credit Union, there has not been one incident (knock on wood) of violent crime OR graffiti in the three years since the building opened.

And Catalyst has no plans to dominate the West Broadway market. Their desire is to stimulate it so that others can come in and do business and thrive as well. Is it working? Well, West Broadway is the only commercial corridor IN THE NATION where development is proceeding uninhibited by the economic downturn.

This community is being TRANSFORMED and I am thrilled to be a part of it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My DFL Penance

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, videos from Keith Ellison for Congress on youtube.

I ALMOST went a day without a blog post, after being quite tired from a foreclosure prevention doorknock. But "the blog" is a monster that must be fed. Plus, after my drunken dabbling with the Republican party, I figured I had some making up to do on behalf of my fellow DFLers (don't expect me to like Entenza or Dayton anytime soon, though. Just sayin').

And I have to say, knowing that John is a Green Party stalwart, using his blog to prop up my DFL party is fun in a subversive way.

A while ago, one of my favorite DFLers, Keith Ellison, waded into the 2009 NoMi political scene with a few endorsements of his own...

This was the only candidate-specific video I could find. I also want to share my personal experience with DFL-endorsed Barb Johnson. When I first started up at Hawthorne, I was not a supporter of hers. I remember one specific city council meeting where several people, myself included, were trying to get a city resolution about foreclosures passed. Barb had issues with how we were approaching this, and started to list some statistics about foreclosures in north Minneapolis. Sitting next to me was then-executive director of JACC, Jerry Moore. He started to shake is head, and CM Johnson stopped, looked right at us, and said, "No. You're wrong, Jerry."

At the time, the shameless agitator in me was just plain excited that we had ticked off the city council president. But then a funny thing happened when I did my homework on what Barb was saying. It turns out she was right. This has happened time and time again; there's been the politically expedient thing to say or do, and the right thing to do. When those two don't intersect, I've seen CM Johnson do the right thing without fail. I've got nothing bad to say about either of her opponents, but from working with her, I'm right there with Rep. Ellison. Let's get Barb re-elected.

Barb had a fight on her hands to win the DFL endorsement. Our next candidate has a fight on his hands for re-election, but won the DFL endorsement in only three rounds.

We still need your help to make sure the 5th Ward returns DFL-endorsed CM Don Samuels to represent us. For more volunteer opportunities, email

Rounding out north Minneapolis DFL endorsements, Mayor RT Rybak and CM Diane Hofstede both had "no endorsement" take 2nd place at their respective conventions. The Board of Estimates and Taxation has DFL-endorsed Carol Becker running.

NoMi is home to District 2 of the Park Board, but the DFL did not endorse the incumbent. While no formal endorsement happened, challenger Michael Guest has received the support of Keith Ellison.

Know who else has supported Guest? Walter. Mondale.

Hopefully, all is right between me and a certain higher power now. Sure beats saying a bunch of hail mary's.