Monday, May 4, 2009

Fighting For A Stay Of Execution At 422 30th Ave. N. (Pictures)

Photos By John Hoff 

Here are some pictures of the situation at 422 30th Ave. N. discussed in the previous blog post. During a "walking audit" of the Eco Village, myself and Housing Director Jeff Skrenes checked the security of the property, calling in the unsecured garage to 311.

Fortunately, the top picture is of the inside of the GARAGE, not the inside of the HOUSE.

The house may be really rough inside, but at least the beams aren't made of charcoal briquettes...

The next photo shows one of the arched windows on the house. How perfect could this house be with stained glass? Can we dream such dreams in the Eco Village, or must everything old and run down be sacrificed to the Backhoe Of Doom, while we are promised a better tomorrow? 

Such future hopes and dreams are exciting, but they are TALK. A brick house that has stood for a hundred years, that is something real, solid and tangible.

This mortgage foreclosure crisis is a blip in time. This house has stood for over a century. It will continue to stand, if we allow it to survive.

Oh, yes, the last photo: part of the house is an addition, and this image shows where the old and the new bricks come together, not quite smoothly or seamlessly. A neighborhood undergoing massive revitalization is a lot like this image of the bricks. The only question is where one will draw the line.

Fighting For A Stay Of Execution At 422 30th Ave. N.

Photo By John Hoff 

Connie Nompelis (No-bell-iss, it's Greek) reminds me of Sandra Bullock in the movie "A Time To Kill."

Bullock plays an idealistic young attorney who opposes the death penalty with every fiber of her being. Bullock's great moment in the movie is when she starts shouting at her somewhat right wing co-counsel, "You watch a man die. You watch them strap him down, you watch the look on his face, you watch him twitch, you watch him die, and then you come back and tell me...etc. etc."

Something like that. Well, who cares what the speech is about? It's SANDRA BULLOCK in tears, and any real man wants to do WHATEVER SANDRA WANTS to make her stop crying. Though, as one of my students at the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication once said, "What is it with guys of a certain age who all think SANDRA BULLOCK is so hot?"


Anyway, Connie Nompelis gets that kind of John Grisham novel intensity about trying to save historical houses from demolition. I imagine her throwing demolition orders across a table, like Sandra Bullock threw a pile of law books.

Connie's latest idealistic cause is 422 30th Ave. N., a house that is virtually on "death row." It is a solid brick house, but the inside is in really rough shape. It's in the Hawthorne Eco Village development cluster...

...and CPED has been trying to buy it. Lots of houses purchased by CPED get demolished, but not always. Connie believes this house can be saved, at least the historic brick exterior. My feeling is, well, if it CAN be saved, why not save it? I've also raised the issue of NOT ENOUGH SALVAGE taking place at these demolitions in the so-called Eco Village. If nothing else can be saved, those bricks could prove useful for walkways.

Word is some technicality is keeping the house from selling, though it is listed. It has something to do with the foreclosure process being flawed.

This is the very house where Jeff Skrenes, mortgage geek extraordinaire, got all excited about some handwritten technicality included in the foreclosure documents affixed to the door. In an odd way, this house might be saved because of nothing more than somebody's failure to dot i's and cross t's.

Given the condition of the house, no slumlord will want it because the fixes will be incredibly extensive and expensive, with so many other ultra-affordable jewels on the market just waiting to get snapped up. So if this house is going to be saved, it will probably be a matter of the city buying it, then reselling it to a developer of sorts. Who? Some kind of historical society? Some kind of house buff who has always dreamed of historic brick in the heart of urban revitalization? Does such a rare and savory morel mushroom of a human being exist?

I have asked that 422 30th Ave. N. be brought up for discussion at Wednesday's Hawthorne Housing Committee meeting. I feel like Woody Harrelson in "A Time To Kill." What does it matter that I said, by my vote on the committee, I had "no objection" to the house being demolished? I can't face down the impassioned pleas of our very own "Sandra Bullock." So I can say, well, though I have NO OBJECTION to demolition, I really strongly feel there needs to be an extensive discussion about alternatives to demolishing the house.

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Ben Myers And His Attorney "Storm Out" Of Deposition When Asked About JACC Office Equipment

Photo By John Hoff 

Word comes from an anonymous source (blowing kisses) that a recent deposition in the JACC lawsuit turned into Drama-O-Rama as public figure Ben Myers and his attorney "stormed out" when asked whether JACC owns any office equipment. (Photo above shows the empty space formerly occupied by a JACC-owned computer)

The question--though innocuous enough, and informative as to whether the "Old Majority" JACC really exists in any solid, we-have-an-office kind of way, was certainly geared toward getting information about JACC's long missing office equipment, removed in the dark and dead of night at the time of the "New Majority" ouster of "Old Majority" JACC officers. This blog has been the most extensive source of coverage about that ongoing North Minneapolis soap opera. (And, I might add, the soap opera is actively looking for sponsors, hint hint)

According to a post on the Jordan Livability Blog, the entire deposition was videotaped. To which I have a one word editorial comment: GIMME!!!!

My source (which may be second or third hand, but is surely anonymous and I expect my source to stay that way) says the question was not just refused once, and there were promises and/or threats made to end the deposition proceeding if the question kept being asked--but finally the question was pressed forward, insistently. At that point, both Ben Myers and his attorney, Jill Clark, walked off while the camera was rolling.

Well, sort of. Apparently there was an awkward, vicariously embarrassing push-versus-pull moment with the exit door which was truly cringe-worthy to those who witnessed it.

What can I say? (Outrageous political parody alert) My twin brother Ben was a breech birth. Portals have always been difficult for him, and his gut-level instinct is to do everything ass backwards.

My source says...

...Defendant Attorney David Schooler kept looking at the camera, asking stuff like, "Are you refusing to answer that question about whether JACC has office equipment?" or words to that effect. Schooler reportedly managed to pin down Ben Myers about whether the "Old JACC" Kool-Aid Cult (my characterization, obviously) was having JACC meetings or not, and whether the meetings were properly publicized beforehand.

Ben Myers was reportedly put in a position of having to say the meetings were not "official JACC meetings" because there were no announcements. (This blog is open to receiving information from all sources, including those with contrary or contextual info, and an anonymous comment function is available)

There was also apparently talk of Defendant Anne McCandless having a "special relationship" with the authorities due to her years as a police officer. (Yes, so special that "Real JACC" can't manage to get the cops to go fetch the office equipment and arrest somebody, as this blog reported before in detail)

Sigh. You gotta wonder where this is all going. But where else will you find out?


A MAGICAL NIGHT IN NoMi: It's Not A Party Until Something Gets Broken!

North Minneapolis marketing guru Pat Carney took some great pictures at Connie Nompelis' "$7,900 House Party," and put them on his website. Here is the link, which is not live.

The photos are from early in the evening, before many more guests arrived and things got quite dark, except for the candles.

In the bottom photo, Connie rips loose...

...a crappy, recently-added piece of junk molding to determine if the old sliding wood partition is still inside the wall.

It wasn't.

They say it's not a party until something gets broken. As you can see, it was a party.

North Minneapolis Social Network Activated, Fourth Precinct Gets Its Man

Photo By John Hoff 

Late yesterday evening, I was at the Mall of America with my 11-year-old, getting in line to buy tickets to "Battle For Terra," when Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes called my cell phone. He'd seen a police officer with an assault rifle and at least one police dog "descending" on the property directly behind the offices of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council...

Immediately, I pointed out to Jeff that an assault rifle can "spit out a lot of bullets" and if he heard gunfire, best to get down as low as possible. The space under his thick, old-fashioned wooden desk was probably the safest spot in his office. Of course, knowing Jeff, he'd be throwing himself in front of the television so he wouldn't miss the end of the Red Wings hockey game.

Jeff wanted me to make some calls. We don't actually need to say the words "activate the social network" and it's not like there's a formal phone tree. We just all know when to start calling each other. This was clearly one of those times.

Contractor Anderson Mitchell--old army, just like me--got to the office and checked on Jeff. Apparently, all was well because a short while later Jeff sent me the following text message: Guy with a gun was firing shots in the area. Cops were responding and got him.

I assume it was the Fourth Precinct.

Good job, Fourth Precinct! And THANK YOU for your dedication and hard work.

By the way, those "shot spotter" devices are a wonder! When there is the sound of gunfire, "servo motors" rotate cameras in the direction of the gunfire. Heavily armed police DESCEND on the area where the shots were fired. (Many or all the officers have assault rifles at the ready, what look to be Colt AR-15s, the civilian version of the army M-16)

Any civilian who fires a gun in North Minneapolis for any reason other than fending off an attack has to be either very desperate, very stupid, or some fatal combination of both.

Almost as notable as the high tech shot spotters is our neighborly social network. When decent people buy vacant, ultra-affordable homes in this area, they quickly form social networks thanks to the secret "decent people handshake" and not-so- secret rituals like picking up litter and walking on SIDEWALKS instead of DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.

Going to events sponsored by the neighborhood association is the quickest, surest way to form these networks.

Who's Scared Of The Big Bad Johnny Northside? Apparently, Public Figure Ben Myers, Attorney At Law

Contributed photo taken with John Hoff's camera

According to a post on the "Jordan Livability Blog," public figure Ben Myers was recently deposed in the endless, ongoing, mostly stupid and pointless lawsuit in regard to who is the "true leadership" of the Jordan Area Community Council. Ben reportedly claims to still be the JACC Vice Chair, and in possession of the singing sword Excalibur. (Parody alert, for those who left all their humor at the steps of law school)

Anyway, the word is right after the deposition, there was an attempt to make sure the videotape of Ben's testimony never ends up on THIS BLOG.

Yes, this blog was mentioned BY NAME. In some kind of legal proceeding!

To which I say...

...when and where do I get the opportunity to file a pro se brief or retain legal counsel to argue that the deposition in question is and should be a public document, and therefore should be made available to the media, including this blog.

Second, I say:

Come on, Ben, this is a heck of a way to treat your long-lost twin brother! I don't know whether to be sad or oddly flattered.

Or dizzy, because now my eyes are stuck this way, just like mom warned us.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A MAGICAL NIGHT IN NoMi: Party At The $7,900 House! Pictures And More Stories! What You See Here Can Be Yours In NoMi For CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!

Photos By John Hoff

Here are some pictures from the "magical night in NoMi," the candlelit "condemned house party" at the new home of Connie Nompelis.  (No-bell-iss)

As you can see in the first photo,  a house being "condemned" doesn't mean it's in terrible condition inside (note the glasswork!) or that it will be torn down. It just means a good deal of fixing will be required to meet the standard set by the city. But when you're only paying $7,900 for a house, hopefully that leaves plenty left over for fixes.

In the next photo, some backyard rubble got pressed into service, doing double duty as a candle holder and a weight for boards where guests could set down wine glasses. Seldom has a girl loved candles so much as Connie. She must pay her electric bill with pocket change. (Kind of like what she used to buy this house)

Next two photos, guests are awed and almost blinded by...

...The Glorious Rainbow Ceiling Fan. Even as the first rainbow was a sign that God would never again destroy the earth with flooding, this multi-colored apparition on high is a sign that mighty forces of neighborhood revitalization--banding together in unbeatable social networks--will destroy and disrupt blight and crime, turning North Minneapolis into a freshly-washed world of urban possibilities.

Time for crackheads to start building an ark.

Next, the "Dyna-mobile," chosen transportation mode of Dyna Sluyter. Dyna is known for getting on the e-democracy forum and writing about crime issues. Below that, "inveterate North Sider Buzzy Bohn," who made a point of inviting Mayor Rybak to move to North Minneapolis.

Below Buzzy is Brian Finstad, who has a passion for fighting neighborhood crime in SOUTH Minneapolis. Brian and his partner are increasingly excited about home-buyer possibilities in NORTH Minneapolis. Brian is posing with the "Atlas Pillar" on Connie's porch. A single post is holding up the entire porch roof, since the other two pillars were apparently stolen; carted off to be sold who-knows-where. Brian's theory was the thieves left the last pillar because otherwise the porch roof would have collapsed, bringing too much attention.

Next, a young guest holds a box of marshmallow Peeps, soon to be roasted in a bonfire behind Connie's house. In the photo below that, Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes brings a fire extinguisher to the party. He's such a party pooper.

Directly below Jeff, Brian Finstad explains how toasted Peeps take longer to cool than plain toasted marshmallows, but have a more delightfully carmel surface. Finstad attributes this to more sugar in the Peeps. What do I know? The only Peep I toasted was snatched off my stick and hungrily devoured by Connie.

In the last two photos, Connie's neighbor (from one of her other houses) Gordon Boudreau prepares to massacre pretty much the entire Peeps family tree. Later--not content with merely roasting Peeps candies--Gordon tried roasting other stuff, like cheese doodles. Gordon made reference to an article in The Onion, a parody newspaper, which featured a woman who thinks anything with the word "Tuscan" in it is bound to taste good. Likewise, Gordon believes almost any food is better if it can be ROASTED.

I'm not even sure how Gordon managed to mount the cheese doodle to the stick. Aren't cheese doodles brittle? What is this great roasting chef's SECRET?

A MAGICAL NIGHT IN NoMi: Party At The $7,900 House!!! If You Weren't There, That's OK, Plenty More NoMi Houses For Sale! CHEAP!!!!

Photo By John Hoff

When Realtor Connie Nompelis (No-bell-iss) bought her house in the Historic Farview Park cluster of antique homes, her earnest money check was equivalent to the list price: $7,900.

This kind of real estate transaction should be against the law: GRAND THEFT HOUSE! Connie's new home actually faces Farview Park, and from the back yard you can see the skyline of Minneapolis.

(Let those who have eyes to read heed this: a house in NoMi listed at $16,000 will go for as little as $7,900. Do not wait for the market to "bottom out" or so-called "investors" to snap up all the good deals! ROLL TOGETHER WHAT YOU'VE GOT AND MAKE AN OFFER!)

Party preparations went almost to the last minute, and due to the nature of the house some rather extraordinary steps had to be taken to get things ready, such as finding a crack pipe under a living room radiator and proudly putting the little war trophy on display for the scores of wine-sipping guests including State Senator Linda Higgins, (pictured above, to the right) DFL stalwart Brian Bushay, and numerous members of the Hawthorne and Jordan neighborhood boards...

And speaking of boards! Connie took the gray "Castrejon" boards that had been nailed over apertures of the house and used their flat, nail-scared surfaces for candies and places to set wine glasses. "Shabby chic," indeed! Rubble from the backyard kept the boards steady, and the shape of the hunks of cinderblock made Connie's candles appear oddly votive-like. 

If there is a deity of revitalization (Juno, goddess of the hearth?) it appeared an alter had been erected, right there at the $7,900 house. An ornamental Bible verse--one of the few things left at the house by the former occupants--sat next to stuff found under the radiator: metal crack pipe, large marble, half of a pair of red dice, and an empty envelope postmarked August of 2006, mailed from a "Kenneth Wilson" to some former resident of the house.

Myself and DFL "political operative" Michael Guest ripped out carpet staples and those nail-studded boards used to tack down carpet at the edges, making the living room floor as perfect as it could be under the circumstances with no WATER at the house, no working outlet to plug in a vacuum. Connie must have put four dozen candles all around, but fortunately our Hawthorne Housing director, Jeff Skrenes, showed up with a fire extinguisher right about the time we built a post-apocalyptic bonfire in the back yard using, among other things, pieces of the house itself; namely the nail-studded carpet boards.

In regard to the danger of fire, Connie said, "I have faith." Of course, she also had people there like myself, Jeff Skrenes, Peter Teachout, and Anderson Mitchell, all unflinching soldiers of revitalization who would put out a fire WITH OUR BARE HANDS if that was necessary. Despite the building being condemned, everybody was, as the expression goes, "Safe as houses."

The refreshment table was full of items like smoked fish, and 99 cent goat cheese from the ever-more-popular So Low! Food Store at Emerson Ave. N. and Lowry Ave. N. One lady who came to the party said she'd heard about So Low! from this blog, and now shopped there all the time. Connie Nompelis herself now shops there more than I do, and I was the one who told HER about this hidden treasure of frugal luxury in the heart of NoMi.

State Senator Linda Higgins and Brian Bushay brought homemade bread, and a dip made from olives. There was much wine at the house, and most of it was consumed before the end of the night, along with a minor amount of beer. Connie purchased a few dozen brands of beer, saying she "didn't want to leave anybody out." I even saw a can of Old English, though I didn't see anybody actually DRINK it. Wine priced at under $10 a bottle appears to be the chosen drink of neighborhood revitalization forces, the wine mostly purchased from Broadway Liquor Outlet. (They couldn't take the store out of the hood, so they took the hood out of the store)

(Unlike SOME North Minneapolis liquor stores)

Our always-sober Hawthorne neighborhood Chairman Peter Teachout drank cola the whole night, as I did, too.

(Well, mostly)

No, this wasn't a "smoke crack and shoot dice" party, unlike, well...probably the LAST party thrown at the house, judging by objects found under the living room radiator.

An old Judeo-Christian ritual goes something like this: BREAD, so this house will never know hunger. WINE, so this house will know joy. SALT, so life at this house will have flavor. However, as far as I could tell, we had bread and wine, but no salt. And that's fine...god knows there had been enough "flavor" at that house when people were SMOKING CRACK there.

By lucky accident, smoked fish was substituted in the ancient ritual instead, like so:

FISH, that this house may be a key in making neighborhood miracles happen. SMOKED fish, because what was once smoked here will be SMOKED HERE NO LONGER.

Connie's delightful mother and stepfather made a brief appearance, and were--I think--rather unhappy by the sight of the crack pipe but, not to worry, Connie's stepfather was packing a gun in his hip pocket. (Which he managed to snag on Connie's nylons as she brushed too close in her elegant black cocktail dress!)

I pointed out to Connie's slightly-concerned parents that there was a distinction between a house where crack had been smoked, from time to time, versus a "crack house," per se. Connie's parents spoke, in hopeful comparison and retrospect, about the first property Connie ever purchased, at the tender age of 21, a duplex with cloth-covered electrical wiring running through gas pipes and PIGEONS living upstairs. That house was so much worse than THIS house, and yet Connie had made good money off that OTHER house.

They didn't say it in so many words, but they had faith in their daughter.

Besides, what did it matter? The house, the block, the surrounding area is being "de-crackified" even as I type these words, partially by Connie's mere presence as a new home buyer at the place she calls the "Hawthorne Princess." (It's a Queen Anne style house, only smaller)

Connie believes in NoMi, and she just put her money where her mouth is...even if the cash in question is only slightly more than "ashtray change." Sunny estimates being thrown around said the house could be fixed for a mere $20k. On the bright side, the house has at least SOME non-copper plumbing elements, though metal thieves had (for cripe's sake!) made chopped off half the kitchen faucet. I hope there is chrome to mine in Purgatory, and Purgatory is short on labor.

Contractor and self-made-man Anderson Mitchell arrived with his lovely wife, Lisa Mitchell, and their two children. One of the children picked up a tire iron found on the rear porch--apparently where it had once been used to pry on a board over the back door--and used the tire iron (like an alter boy) to snuff out candles. Connie promptly lit the candles again. Episodes like this were captured on videotape by Gabe from 612 Authentic and, who knows, this stuff might surface later.

Walking around on the front porch, Anderson Mitchell said he was dying to rip off the vinyl siding and get a good look at what the actual siding of the house looked like underneath. Many present agreed the front porch was the secret to Connie's "grand theft house." The porch looks SO CRAPPY that many curbside real estate browsers probably assumed the house was a waterlogged wreck inside. But that wasn't the case at all. Leaded glass, glorious woodwork, and hardwood floors in excellent condition were revealed. Connie was particularly pleased with the floors, since their condition hadn't been obvious under the well-tracked gray carpet. (Well, we THINK the original color was gray)

Luckily, our Housing Director, Jeff Skrenes, is literally the "boy next door" and many of us have taken it upon ourselves to patrol Connie's new property with frequency, including "Patty Cake" from the Eco Village, who hasn't even MET Connie yet, but has kept a watch on Connie's property when driving past. Guests who needed to use "the facilities" made the trek across the alley to Jeff's apartment in a rare and historic block house, some pausing to gaze upon Jeff's "Geek-O-Topia" shrine featuring, inter alia, the bounty hunters from Star Wars lined up in the actual order they appear in the movie.

Upstairs at Connie's house, many paused in wonder at the sight of The Glorious Rainbow Ceiling Fan, for it was A Sign and A Wonder. Here in NoMi is where you can bring your rainbow of dreams and house those dreams in an affordable centuries-old home with character, buying in for "five figures," not six, and the lower part of five figures at THAT.

Seventy-nine hundred for a house, baby, with hardwood floors!!!! George W. Bush, I've got your "ownership society" RIGHT HERE, BABY!!!!

When it came time for that most magic moment--the lighting of the bonfire in the back yard, the first "hearth" of the house under Connie's ownership--Connie insisted on doing the deed herself, and took the flaming piece of paper shopping bag from my hand. She set ablaze old pieces of wood trim and some dried flowers that turned up from who-knows-where, but made a nice fire.

Then came a fiery bacchanalian animal sacrifice: scores of Peeps marshmallow candies, shaped like Easter bunnies, were impaled alive and roasted in the bonfire. Some were lost, dripping into the glowing coals like flaming napalm, (only more delicious) true sacrifices. I thought I could hear little rabbit screaming sounds coming from the toasting Peeps.

I love the smell of burning Peeps in the evening. It smells like...VICTORY.

Stories were told around the flickering fire, stories of the sacrifices made to revitalize this neighborhood. Individuals attending the party who were house-hunting learned first hand of the hard, gritty progress we had made, the invaluable social networks created, and how we have come too far to turn back now despite slashed tires, a torched truck, broken windows, a recent rock to the head of an elderly resident sitting in her own house.

These ugly, thankfully infrequent incidents only make us MAD. These things only encourage us to blog harder, to call 311 and 911 with greater frequency, to lobby our public officials for yet more progress.

BUT WE WHO HAVE BEEN FIGHTING THIS REVITALIZATION BATTLE IN EARNEST DO NOT EXPECT OR DEMAND SUCH SACRIFICES OF THE NEW RESIDENTS THAT WE ARE TRYING TO CONVINCE TO BUY HOUSES. On the contrary, we are carving out "corridors of safety" so new home buyers, new residents, new CITIZENS of Hawthorne, Jordan, Willard-Hay will feel comfortable moving into places that used to be rough, but--as of lately!--are rough no longer.

For example, the "Eco Village," once called "Ground Zero" in North Minneapolis drug crime, recently experienced a two month period with NO REPORTED CRIME. We are not only winning, we are KICKING ASS.

My 11-year-old son was with me this weekend, but being watched over elsewhere during the party. Undoubtedly he was playing too much Runescape in my absence. So I left the party early, pausing long enough to receive juicy information about Kenya McKnight getting her political head served up to her on a platter in Ward 5.

While I was in front of Connie's house in the dark--saying goodbye to a couple of South Minneapolis residents and reminding them about the opportunities to buy dirt-cheap homes in NoMi--a police car pulled up at the intersection and shined a spotlight on me. I stepped back from the car window, and put my empty hands up. The officer took in the sight of my blue silk-like shirt, black slacks, army-issue dress shoes, empty hands held aloft...and immediately drove on.

Whatever I was doing at that car window, the officer apparently decided, it WASN'T a drug deal. It's too bad no officers stopped b the party. They would have been offered crackers, cheese, coffee, and thanks for their dedication. Keep up the great work, men and women of the Fourth Precinct.

The $7,900 House Party was truly the "social event of the season" but who knows? Maybe tomorrow somebody will buy a house for $6,000 and serve wine that costs more than $10 a bottle! If so, I hope I'm invited or--at the very least--somebody will forward me the pictures and stories!

Mortgage Fraud Trials Continue With Susan Newell, Ed Bohler, Who Are Pretty Much As Doomed As This Flaming Peep Candy!

Photo by John Hoff 

The photo above is a marshmallow Peep candy being roasted alive in a fire. The disturbing incident happened last night at the "condemned house party" sponsored by Realtor and all-around hottie Connie Nompelis. (No-bell-iss) The photo has little to do with the subject matter of this post. 

OR DOES IT? Blah ha ha ha. 

In trying to find something to fill the huge void in my life after the conclusion of the Larry Maxwell mortgage fraud trial, I happened to hear about Susan Newell and Ed Boler. This (alleged) mortgage fraud ring was discovered in the wake of an arson investigation in Brooklyn Center. Though Newell and Boler are being tried separately, they are (alleged) co-conspirators.

The first trial of Susan Newell resulted in a mistrial, but word on the street is that...

...prosecutors learned lessons, and successfully applied those lessons in the Larry Maxwell trail. "Breaking things down" and finding ways to simplify and summarize was particularly important. Of course, it's impossible to factor in an oddball juror or two, which is probably why the defense is taking this stuff to trial in the first place; not hoping for victory so much as jury hanging until kingdom come.

Word is Ed Boler's trial is currently scheduled for May 26, 2009. Susan Newell's second trial will take place some time in September. How much would you like to wager that Ed Boler will be a witness at that second trial, and will completely rat out Susan Newell in exchange for a lighter sentence? When women go to prison, statistically it's often out of loyalty to their man. I doubt if Newell is smart enough to avoid making that common mistake.

Of course, to citizens of North Minneapolis, the Newell/Boler matters are only of passing interest. The real excitement is currently over Tynessia Snoddy, who was all tangled up with Larry "Maximum" Maxwell. Maxwell, meanwhile, was involved with a Whos' Who of North Minneapolis movers and shakers. (Albeit not all of them well-regarded beyond their own social circles)

Though I may not be able to attend any of these trials, this blog will be happy to receive information and/or photos concerning these messy mortgage fraud matters.

As bad as mortgage fraud may be, it has finally made property so affordable in North Minneapolis that massive revitalization is busting out all over.

So I say this: round them all up, and put them all on trial.

DFL Constitution Committee Denies All Challenges By Kenya McKnight/Jerry Moore/Ben Myers To DFL Endorsement Of Don Samuels

Photo by John Hoff 

Definitive word came late yesterday night that a three-person panel of the Minnesota State DFL Constitution Commission DENIED DENIED DENIED all challenges to the official DFL Ward 5 endorsement of Council Member Don Samuels over rough, inexperienced challenger Kenya McKnight...

The more-than-slightly-nutty arguments of Kenya McKnight--one of which began with an invocation of the name of Allah--were definitively slapped down yesterday at approximately 10:39 PM, with word being sent by email to numerous recipients. The denial was worded as follows:

"After considering the written statements from the challengers, statements from all persons who wished to present relevant testimony on the matters, and after a hearing before this three-person panel of the Constitution Commission on April 25, 2009, we have decided not to sustain any of the challenges."

The three-person panel consisted of Fred Knutson, Sue Rego, and Mike Rothman. A complaint was not only filed by Kenya McKight, but similarly-worded complaints were filed by former JACC executive director Jerry Moore and attorney-slash-public figure Ben Myers. Moore and Myers appear (rather obviously) to be playing some kind of role in the stunted and uncertain campaign of Kenya McKnight, but their exact titles in the McKnight campaign--if any--are currently unknown.

One political observer said Kenya's arguments to the three-person panel basically boiled down to, "No fair, I wasn't READY!"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

TODAY!!!! Saturday, May 2!!!! NoMi Social Event Of The Season At The $7,900 House Of Realtor Connie Nompelis (No-Bell-Iss)

Photo by John Hoff

Today is a visitation weekend with my son, which means Alex, age 11, will be playing on my computer as much as he likes and not much blog posting will get done. So here's a quickie reminder to check out the two previous posts for details about the house party at the "Hawthorne Princess," which is the diminutive Queen Anne-style house of Connie Nompelis, recently purchased for approximately $7,900 in "ashtray money."

The house is in the Historic Farview Park cluster of antique homes, facing Farview Park.

As Connie put it so well...

Haven't you always wanted to see what a "condemned" house looks like on the inside?

This party is not "open invite." To swing an invitation to this party, you need to contact Connie, pictured above. Read the two previous posts to get Connie's contact info. I'll see many of you there! Cheers! XOXO XO XO

Friday, May 1, 2009

Saturday, May 2, NoMi Social Event Of The Season: BEHOLD THE GLORY OF THE RAINBOW CEILING FAN!!!!

Photos By John Hoff

As discussed in the previous blog post, click here, there will be a party tomorrow (around 6 PM) at the historical house of Connie Nompelis, which she purchased for an amount slightly larger than the spare change in her truck's ashtray.

Pictured above are some pics taken in the house. The image at the top shows...

...Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes, blinded by the glory of the home's Legendary Rainbow Ceiling Fan. According to NoMi myth and lore, the much-sought-after pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is to be found in dirt cheap, centuries old houses, easily located all over neighborhoods like Hawthorne and Jordan. HEED THE BLESSED OMEN OF THE RAINBOW CEILING FAN AND BRING YOUR RAINBOW-COLORED DESIRES TO NoMi!!!!!

Anybody who attends tomorrow's party--details about how to finagle an invitation are in the previous post, click here--is warned to bring their own eye protection and be careful at the house, which is in a serious state of renovation.

Attend this party at your own risk.

ESPECIALLY TO YOUR EYES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

See what I mean in the next photo. Note how the colors in the upstairs bedroom actually blew a hole in one of the lenses of Anderson Mitchell's sunglasses. Reportedly, the bedroom colors were SO LOUD that Jeff Skrenes (on the right) left the house deaf in one ear.

The bottom photo shows some small remnant of the previous owners, left in the house. I say it's a good omen, much better than the disturbingly un-erotic English porno mag left in the bathroom medicine cabinet, click here for details but not (thank goodness!) images.

Saturday, May 2, NoMi Social Event Of The Season At The "Hawthorne Princess," New Home Of Connie Nompelis (No-bell-iss)

Photo displayed on Connie's Facebook Profile

Connie Nompelis is a Realtor, a historical home preservationist, a former active board member of the "Old Central" neighborhood in South Minneapolis, a model, sometimes, (see photo above) and the executive producer of the new Adventures of Johnny Northside movie, click here. She is also now a citizen of the Hawthorne Neighborhood, by virtue of a recent home purchase in the Historic Farview Park cluster of classic homes.

One of those amazing antique homes Connie bought for about $6,000 and she is planning to lovingly rehab it and make it her residence. Tomorrow, Saturday, May 2, starting about "6 ish" in the evening, Connie plans to have a party of sorts at the house...

This is not an "open invite," however. If you want to go, you need to contact Connie and, among other things, actually be a productive member of society. (This is my characterization, not Connie's, so feel free to direct stale-yet-overheated politically correct b.s. in MY direction, not hers)


Some photos of Connie's new house to follow in next blog post. The house is called the "Hawthorne Princess" because it is a Queen Anne, only smaller than normal, therefore it is a "Princess."

IBNN Blogger Don Allen Urges Citizens To "Take Back North Minneapolis," Calls Out 7 "Self Appointed Leaders," Plus Delightful Home Style Cooking!

Facebook Image

ADDENDUM: February 6, 2011. This blog post was written before I and many others in North Minneapolis discovered what a disreputable con man character Don Allen is. I would advise anybody: Do not trust Don Allen. Seek further information about Don Allen from various online sources before having any contact with him.

Don Allen of the IBNN blog, pictured above on the far right, is calling 'em as he sees 'em, and urging citizens to join him tomorrow, Saturday, May 2, in an effort to "take back North Minneapolis" from what Don calls "seven self-appointed black leaders." Click here for a link to Don's blog post about this event, which will be held at the SunnySide Cafe at 1720 Glenwood Ave. N.

Word is the event will go from...

...around 11 in the morning to about 2 PM. The choice to use the SunnySide Cafe is significant: Al McFarlane, who is kind of like Don's nemesis ("The Anti-Donny," if you will) often holds court at the SunnySide. ACCORDING TO DON ALLEN, Al McFarlane recently said Don must work for the "CIA or FBI." Let me tell you, my blog had a lot of fun with THAT, click here.

I understand the SunnySide serves basic, delicious home style food and they are even willing to cater. (This establishment is right across the street from the place where Lennie "The Heckler" Chism saw his small empire rise, only to dramatically crumble, click here)

Don Allen--who is always taking on the folks running things at the Minneapolis Urban League--has been spilling some interesting stuff on his blog, lately, and also letting hot information out in coy little dribs and drabs, click here for an example.

Anybody interested in more details should email Don Allen at or call Don at 612-986-0010.

Don Samuels Gives A "Stand Up And Say Hallelujah" Speech At Ackerberg Group Groundbreaking In NoMi

North Minneapolis marketing expert Pat Carney forwarded a link to numerous images he captured at yesterday's groundbreaking ceremony at 1200 Broadway, click here, part of exciting redevelopment and revitalization by the Ackerberg Group. No doubt some of the...

...movers and shakers who were present will be wanting images of themselves.

For those involved in their neighborhood associations, and other groups working toward massive revitalization, life in NoMi continues to be endless socialization, soirees, elbow-rubbing with big wigs, and delightful free refreshments; these pleasurable moments periodically punctuated by gritty struggle, click here for a good example.

According to both Pat Carney and Realtor Connie Nompelis, (No-bell-iss) Councilman Don Samuels was in fine form, and gave a rousing speech. Carney called it a "stand up and say hallelujah" speech. Nompelis said Samuels talked about how he always believed in North Minneapolis, and had for years, and now the prediction was coming to pass as evidenced by rampant revitalization. Therefore now was not the time to stand on the sidelines, but to believe and to buy property in North Minneapolis.

Has this blog mentioned how much NoMi wants Mayor Rybak to buy his next house in our neighborhood? Oh, yes, I think I did, click here. Right now, I'd settle for definitive word that Mayor Rybak is LOOKING at houses in North Minneapolis, and what neighborhoods are catching the mayor's eye.

If you're unhappy that you missed the Ackerberg Group soiree (like I did!) don't worry, there are two exciting NoMi social events happening on Saturday. Details will follow in my next two blog posts.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stupid North Minneapolis Home Repairs--Slumlords Rack Up Huge Lead?

It just me, or do most of the "Stupid North Minneapolis Home Repairs" tend to be RENTAL properties? Somehow, it just seems like people take a lot more care with their own homes. But it's not like I've formally gathered data. In the photo above, taken on Lyndale Ave. N...

...somebody didn't bother to cover up the glass of the electrical meter before slapping paint on the exterior of the house, allowing paint to drip on the glass. Something like that could almost be forgiven, but they didn't even bother to wipe the paint off before it dried. Stupidity can be casually forgiven as a human foible, but sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Unloved And Unmourned, 2125 Lyndale Ave. N. Goes Down (Clues To "Smiley Faced Killers" Forever Lost?)

Photos By John Hoff 

This tiny little house at 2125 Lyndale Ave. N. was one of the first houses I looked at in North Minneapolis. The squatting activity there was flagrant. In fact, whoever was trying to sell the house eventually just GAVE UP on replacing the locks on the doors, so often would the door get kicked in...

I don't think anybody in the neighborhood was watching and fretting about this small, ugly building...which, the truth be told, could have been a useful "mother in law cottage" to the house next door, a big rambling property I call "Squat-O-Topia," where there is ALSO a lot of signs of squatting.

There was an odd, creepy smiley face in the upstairs window of this house. I can't help but think of the "Smiley Face Killer" theory about a group of murderers knocking off college-aged young men, by forcing them to drink too much alcohol (something they're not inclined to do in the first place) and then la-dee-dah-dee throwing them off bridges or walking them into rivers.


OK, obviously I had the sarcasm font activated while the snark button was on. Sure, I don't know if I actually buy the "Smiley Face Killer" theory. But I don't know if I want to make fun of it THAT much, either.

In any case, some WEEKS ago the tired little "mother-in-law cottage" at 2125 Lyndale Ave. N. went down, unmourned and unloved. It should not be, however, utterly un-noted, un-remarked, and un-documented. At one time, it was a sweet little cottage. The relationship to the property at 2127 Lyndale Ave. N. seems obvious, even though the property at 2125 was (apparently) split off in a way that would NEVER BE ALLOWED TODAY. Somebody must have cared deeply about a family member, so deeply they were willing to BUILD A HOUSE for their proximity and comfort. And yet they didn't want that person living under their same roof.

Who were these people? What was the story?

We think we're losing crappy buildings in this rush to North Minneapolis revitalization, but we're not JUST losing old buildings. If no building is there to make us ask questions, why would we ever go digging for the story of who was there before? And if we don't know who was there before, what were their victories and defeats, what challenges did they face and how did they overcome those will we avoid repeating the same mistakes?

Groundbreaking At 1200 West Broadway--NoMi Progress Rolls Forward!

Stock Photo By John Hoff 

I sure wished I'd checked my text messages this morning, because then I might have taken in the groundbreaking event at 1200 West Broadway.

I tell you, life in NoMi is just endless socialization, public events, epic and colorful struggles (with neighborhood revitalization forces USUALLY coming out on top, decisively) and, of course, dinners at the ultra-affordable houses of friends. Connie Nompelis was the one who sent me word of the groundbreaking, with FIFTEEN MINUTES NOTICE. She is pictured in the stock photo above, to the left, with a distinguished older resident of the Eco Village, and Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes. Jeff is wearing the "Navy seal casual" outfit he prefers when confronting slumlords armed with heavy equipment.

Well, though I couldn't be there to watch ground broken it appears no media or even the blogosphere covered this worthy event, so I will do my bit of public service by promulgating the details. This is yet another great project by the Ackerberg Group....

Here's what the Ackerberg Group would like everybody to know about their project at 1200 West Broadway:

The 1200 West Broadway project will renovate a vacant, two-story commercial building on Minneapolis’s Northside. Built originally as a four-plex in 1902, the building was expanded to become a mortuary in 1926 and expanded again in 1930. Most recently, a day care facility operated in the building.

The Ackerberg Group on behalf of Catalyst Community Partners will convert the building into office space and two storefronts that may house a community meeting room and a shared commercial kitchen.

The renovation of the 12,000 square foot building will include new ADA assessable restrooms, the addition of a vertical lift, mold and asbestos remediation, new building lobby, fa├žade improvements, new mechanicals, new electrical, new tenant spaces and common areas, and more. The parking lot will see the addition of a bio retention area that will treat all run off on site. Native grasses will be planted in conjunction with the bio retention area.

This prime site is located in North Minneapolis at the intersection of Fremont Avenue and West Broadway. West Broadway is one of the city’s eight commercial corridors and is the "spine" of North Minneapolis. It has daily traffic counts of over 29,000. Both Fremont Avenue and West Broadway are currently major bus routes. The site is in close proximity to many significant Northside landmarks such as North High School, the YMCA, Cub Foods, Hawthorne Crossing shopping complex, and the newly renovated 1101 West Broadway.

Additionally, there are several major commercial developments slated for the next two years including a new YWCA and commercial space by Great Neighborhoods! Development Corporation, a potential major housing development several blocks west of the property, and the renovation of the city-owned “Delisi’s” building at Penn Avenue and West Broadway. The nearby Capri Theater is currently undergoing a major renovation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Stock Photo By John Hoff

(Dictated verbally by Brian Reichow)

For the last several weeks garage and home burglaries in the Willard Hay neighborhood have been so numerous that it warranted a Fourth Precinct alert. Homes were getting broken into MULTIPLE TIMES, with the perpetrator returning to get stuff he didn't steal the first time.  On one occasion, the burglar was chased off when somebody wired their garage with...

...a baby monitor to hear when somebody broke in.

BUT THE WILLARD HAY RESIDENTS ARE AN ENTERPRISING AND ORGANIZED BUNCH. Some of the most involved residents communicated constantly via a neighborhood listserv. They shared information including all details that could be recalled about the suspect's appearance and clothing. The burglaries were happening as early as March. His MO was he'd case houses, knocking on doors to see who was home. If somebody was home he'd be all, like, "Is Tom here?" He appeared to know exactly when people were and were not home.

Today, according to the Willard Homewood Organization (WHO) listserv, a resident observed somebody who appeared to match the description of the suspect in the 500 Block of Russell Ave. N. attempting to break into homes. (That location is actually in Harrison, but who's counting?) Prior to that, the suspect had been working the 700 Block of Queen, 1000 Block of Russell, 2600 Block of Plymouth, among others.

The resident stayed in his/her vehicle and observed, actually narrating the actions of the suspect to 911 dispatch until police squads arrived. The piece of dirt (this is JNS writing at this moment, not Brian's words) has been arrested.

Now (back to Brian again) he is being held pending charges and investigation. The police want individuals who can provide info that identifies this person specifically to COME FORWARD. He will be held for 72 hours pending charges. Here is the contact info for the Fourth Precinct: Sergeant Holley, 612-673-5714. Be sure to quote this case number: 09-125063.


Photo By John Hoff

Reliable word comes from Homewood resident Brian Reichow--a true urban pioneer in NoMi--that the Snow Foods store and associated strip mall at Penn and Plymouth is being gutted by heavy equipment even as I type these words. The building will apparently remain, but the interior is being completely renovated and revised as part of University of Minnesota "UROC" efforts.

I have, in the past, criticized the U of M for not moving much, much faster at Penn and Plymouth. But today is progress and I celebrate and I thank Brian for getting me this info so I can share it with all of you! The struggle for urban utopia moves forward with shoe leather, emails, blog posts, concerned calls to public officials, 311 reports, and--perhaps most dramatically--on the clanking treads of heavy equipment.

(Do not click "Read More")

CitiMortgage Messes Over The Hawthorne Neighborhood AGAIN! (What part of "We will sue you?" don't they understand?!)

Photo By Jeff Skrenes 

Further information has come loose in regard to the alarming situation at 3007 3rd St. N.. the subject of some earlier posts.

Evanner Haymon, the former owner of the notorious "pill house" at 3020 6th St. N., which is facing eviction and evacuation any moment, has become the owner of 3007 3th St. N., which sits nestled between an apartment complex and homes. The homes hold senior citizens and a vulnerable non-English speaking family with at least one small child. HOW CONVENIENT!!!!

Well, guess who is helping Evanner Haymon to own this property and (we presume) set up shop there?

Oh, no fair, you read the headline. Yes, that's right, it's...

...our old foe CitiMortgage, which is listed in a public record as the "servicer" of the loan. (This information is second hand, but I trust the source. Contrary or additional info is welcomed. See comment threads below)

CitiMortgage was the subject of a lawsuit by the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council--I do not speak for the HNC--which asserted "improvident lending." This novel lawsuit--which reportedly made mortgage companies all over the United States lose sleep and break out in night sweats over the possible legal outcomes--was settled out of court.

Nobody really expected CitiMortgage to clean up its act in the wake of the lawsuit, but at a minimum we expected they'd clean up their act IN THE HAWTHORNE NEIGHBORHOOD. We were all acting under a presumption Evanner scraped up some cash and bought this property. Now we find out the former owner of the "pill house" at 3020 4th St. N. allegedly has a friend in the banking industry: CITIMORTGAGE.

This news may take some of the steam out of the Hawaiian theme party we were planning to have when 3020 6th St. N. is evacuated. In the meantime, it's my (unpaid and increasingly burdensome) job to help spread the word: LAWYERS ARE INVOLVED. There will certainly be some attempt to contact CitiMortgage.

I wonder if they'll just ignore the communication like they did before, which was why we (that is to say, the HNC, an entity I do not speak for) HAD TO SUE THEM!!!!!!

Please note: Evanner's name has been known to take on spelling variations.

Sustained By Sticky Rice, Neighborhood Revitalization Battle Ramps Up Rapidly!

What sustains us in our battle to revitalize North Minneapolis? Sticky rice from Bangkok Market!

If you go to the part 19 seconds into
this video, click here, you would get a sort of auditory representation of the "sound of alarm" spreading through police, regulatory agencies, the neighborhood organization over the developing situation at 3007 3rd St. N...

I've seen the flurry of emails, but I don't have copies. One neighborhood leader said it appeared "sadistic plans" were being laid to create drug customers at the apartment complex next door to 3007 3rd St. N. (Late at night, with lights on and newspaper taped over a window, the house at 3007 ALREADY looks like it may be occupied though heaven knows if it has plumbing) A city official said he/she feared the residents of 3rd Street North would be "terrorized" like the residents of 6th St. N. had been, by drug and prostitution activity.

ALL THE NEIGHBORHOOD MOVERS AND SHAKERS who need to be involved in this matter are involved, and a regulatory services vehicle was seen at the property just this morning.

I'd like to point out all this activity started with a single anonymous comment on this blog, pointing out Evannor Haymon now owns that property. Gee, imagine what this neighborhood could accomplish if we could actually SEARCH PROPERTIES BY NAME OF OWNER on the clunky City of Minneapolis property website? Like city officials can?


Spiffing Up The "Durian Fruit" Store On West Broadway

Photo by John Hoff
The obscure, hidden-away Asian market located on West Broadway (right next to Friedman's) recently spiffed up their exterior. This is the place where I managed to find DURIAN FRUIT, an infamously fragrant Asian fruit I'd been wanting to try ever since I heard about it, years ago...

This store is a quirky, hidden delight well worth checking out if you don't mind dealing with the drug dealers who enjoy that street corner, too. But they don't really go inside this store. In fact, hardly anybody goes inside this store. Operations involving the shipment of who-knows-what (fruit?) seems to be the focus of that business, and the store itself is a cluttered afterthought.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kenya McKnight's INSANE Complaint To DFL Begins, "With the most holy name of Allah the Beneficent..." photo

Rumors are running like furry lemmings about wannabe candidate Kenya McKnight's insane, rambling written complaint to the DFL about the results of the 5th Ward Convention, which endorsed Don Samuels...

I hear the document has a boldface "preamble" or--to put it more accurately--a "pre-ramble" which begins, "With the most holy name of Allah the Beneficent..."

Yeah, that's pretty much how I like to begin all my formal written complaints. (Sarcasm font notification)

I am just about going NUTS here because I know this juicy document is in the hands of a number of prominent people, and I'm wishing one of them had the guts to slip me a copy EARLIER rather than LATER.

Yes, I know I'll get a copy at some point...but I want it now!!! And, I venture to say, so do my readers.

It's not only what I want, it's what THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND wants!

Oh, by the way: I am starting to rethink my criticism of Al McFarlane using up so much of Kenya's podium speaking time at the 5th Ward convention. In retrospect, that may have been a really smart move. But the word is this written complaint is "Kenya off the leash."

$25,000!!!! That's A Lot Of Wheaties!!!!

Photo By John Hoff

Today the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council received a $25,000 check from General Mills. Our Community Affairs Director, Alexandra, pictured above, described it as the most money she'd ever had in her hand at one time.

The funds...

...will reportedy go to support the "Hawthorne Huddle," a monthly event where the movers and shakers of the neighborhood meet early...really have discussions about relevant neighborhood matters.

This blog doesn't speak on behalf of HNC but I can still say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU General Mills.

Johnny Northside Dot Com officially urges readers to "eat your Wheaties."

Dealing WIth Computer Stuff In A Neighborhood Organization, A VERY SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED BLOG POST!!!

Photos By John Hoff

A grassroots neighborhood organization like the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council doesn't use the most modern computer equipment and, furthermore, they don't have the money for a round-the-clock Information Technology geek to solve technical issues as they arise. So often...

Those who work in the office--and those who come by with frequency--are left to "geek around" on our own. We find technical solutions that may not be brilliant, may not be optimal, but somehow get the document printed or (in this case) the photo up on the website.

FOR REASONS I CAN'T FIGURE OUT, the computers at the office can download and save images off my blog, but when I try to send those same images as attachments...I just get a blank spot in the photo file, where the image should be when I save it. I've tried using Jeff's computer, thinking I could "geek around the problem" that way. Turns out, oh, yes, I can download the pictures all right...I just can't load 'em up on the website!!!

So I have a solution, and it's ugly, like wiring a muffler to a car with a clothes hanger is ugly, but it gets the job done: load the pictures to my blog. Then download them to the office computer which appears to work best with our website.

I hope that works.

So enjoy, enjoy, enjoy these generalized images which may, in another context, make good illustrations for topics. The struggle for a better neighborhood--an urban utopia, if you will--comes from moments like this, when you're frustrated and you want to throw up your hands, but you're NOT going to give up, because somebody else is depending on you.

I'll probably delete this post at some point, once I get the images where they need to go and, well, I may even switch images on this post if I have to keep using this crude (yet high tech!) solution to my computer issue.

Preparing For The Next Census In North Minneapolis, Throwing Around Predictions

Photo By John Hoff 

Yesterday, a young man working for the Census Bureau was walking up to the doors of houses in the Hawthorne Neighborhood, stopping about five feet from each door as though halted by an invisible force...

He was punching data into a handheld device.

Not knowing who he was, or what he was about, but realizing he was somebody OFFICIAL, I asked him his mission. He identified himself--actually holding up his census taker ID, around his NECK--and said he was entering data about the locations of houses in preparation for the next census.

GOOD IDEA. There are so many formerly-occupied houses which are now VACANT LOTS, I can see where it might get confusing for the Census Bureau. Without going through and physically checking the locations of homes, they could waste a lot of effort looking for something which is no longer there. Of course, by the time the census is actually taken, MANY more buildings will be demolished. So I hope this won't be the only "go through."

A friend of mine who cares a lot about neighborhood demographics recently made a stunning prediction about the next census: the final data will show North Minneapolis is no longer a majority black neighborhood.

I disagreed with my contact. I was all, like, NO WAY. Yes, the foreclosure crisis has deeply impacted our neighborhood with many people moving out, and new people moving in, but I figure this just produces the same overall percentages of various ethnicities, not any dramatic change. The sheer drop in the number of PEOPLE living in North Minneapolis, now THAT will be interesting, I say.

My friend was insistent, and probably more insistent after drinking half a bottle of very good wine: LOOK AROUND, said the friend, start calculating.

I am always willing to consider data contrary to my own opinion, so I contemplated this counterpoint. I told my friend about the time, quite recently, I boarded a No. 22 bus and started counting heads, doing an informal census of my own. My "straw poll bus census" produced an even split between white and black on that particular day, riding that particular bus, which was VERY ODD FOR THAT BUS ROUTE. In fact, that's the reason I started counting heads in the first place: I wanted data to back up my gut-level perception that something wasn't the same as usual on that bus, that particular morning.

Not wanting to be disagreeable with my friend--especially over a bottle of good wine--I said I'd be more likely to believe this kind of result with the upcoming census: North Minneapolis might be no longer "majority black," but certainly not "majority white." There are huge pockets of Hmong families, the families often three generations with many children. Furthermore, there are many people who will be declaring their biracial heritage, especially in the wake of the election of President Obama. One should not parse individual human beings: biracial is its own category.

I would be more likely to believe, in the next census, North Minneapolis might be in a state of "diverse plurality" with white, black, Asian, biracial, and a relatively small number of other races, nobody holding a majority. I would also be more likely to believe a situation of "majority black, but with deep losses in overall numbers."

The thing is, though, NOBODY REALLY KNOWS. Riding a bus doesn't tell you. Thinking up all the people you know and where they live doesn't tell you. Looking at real estate data doesn't tell you, though what's happening with real estate appears to be the reason things might change so much, so fast.

Really, the only thing that can tell you with a veneer of official accuracy is the United States census, which is why we have a census in the first place.

But can I find information to completely rebut my friend's stunning prediction? No, I can't. And that's why the question fascinates me, because it is deeply important and yet NOBODY KNOWS. So I thought I'd just throw the question out there, for consideration.

One thing is for sure: the next census will show dramatic changes in our North Minneapolis neighborhoods produced by the foreclosure crisis. But the question is: WHAT will those dramatic changes be?