Being the amazing, true-to-life adventures and (very likely) misadventures of an Afghan war vet who seeks to take his education, activism and seemingly boundless energy to North Minneapolis, (NoMi) to help with a process of turning a rapidly revitalizing neighborhood into something approaching Urban Utopia. I am here to be near my child. The journalism on this blog is dedicated to my son Alex, age 15, and his dream of studying math and robotics at MIT. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
One hears about 100-year-old houses hitting the market in NoMi (North Minneapolis) that are residential treasures full of decorative wood, leaded glass, hand-hewn stone basements. But the house at 1506 Emerson Ave. N. is a real eye-popper. I've been specially asked to mention it on my blog. I am confident the folks who can arrange a tour will add their comments soon enough.
Currently, there is no prospective buyer and this place is just up for grabs.
It has taken me a while to finish this four part story about the sentencing of Larry Maxwell on August 13, 2009. Since Maxwell spoke last at the hearing, his words have been at the end of the line, buried in my handwritten notes instead of written all over the blogosphere.
But that's fitting somehow. The victims of Maxwell's fraud were able to have their say, without Maxwell's rebuttal right on the heels. But now I'm back from my long road trip and finished eating bugs at CC's birthday party, so it's time for Part Four: Larry Maxwell blaming everybody but HIMSELF for his spectacular "max of the max" downfall for mortgage fraud involving, among other things, wholesale theft of the identity of John Foster.
During the sentencing, Larry Maxwell first spoke to the judge about the position of the podium. The way the podium was facing put Maxwell's back to the spectators, including his victims. Maxwell wanted to be able to address the judge as well as the gallery.
As usual, Maxwell was speaking in a soft, incredibly deferential, even effeminate tone. Later, when he got warmed up, he had a more robust or (one might say) "normal" voice, and at that moment one comes to realize that... ...Maxwell's soft voice is something of an act or affectation.
One couldn't help but think how much Maxwell looked like a pastor warming up for a sermon as he turned the podium toward the spectators in the court. Maxwell first asked not to be interrupted, saying he hadn't been able to say anything during the trial--not entirely a true statement--and, furthermore, he didn't interrupt anybody else. (That part was certainly true)
Maxwell first outlined what he would cover, as though he was giving a PowerPoint presentation. Maxwell planned to speak first to his attorney, Larry Reed, second to his family and friends, third to the prosecuting attorney and then, finally, he would have some words for "the Fosters."
First, addressing his attorney Larry Reed, Maxwell said he appreciated the time and effort. Maxwell believed Reed had represented him with every ounce of energy and determination.
"We have differences," Maxwell said. But those differences had "nothing to do with your energy level and commitment." With Larry Reed cited for contempt of court during the proceeding, one can't help but think some kind of appeal will be made by Maxwell involving inadequate counsel. Of course, any counsel--no matter how adequate--is going to have a tough uphill battle WHEN THE CLIENT IS GUILTY AS SIN AND STACKS UPON STACKS OF EVIDENCE PROVE IT.
I'm just saying.
To his family and friends, Maxwell said "thanks for sticking by me" even when things were tough, "even when things were taken, gone and vandalized." Maxwell appeared to be trying to make the record about the supposed break-in at his home, about things being "gone."
Maxwell saved his most detailed remarks for the prosecutor, Brad Johnson. Liz Johnston assisted Brad Johnson, but was not present at the sentencing hearing and did not appear to be the thrust of Maxwell's remarks. Maxwell spoke of the pre-sentence investigation and how the prosecutor said Maxwell had been "defiant." Maxwell also complained about how Johnson had spoken extensively about the Fosters, even though they were "not involved in all the events."
(Note: John Foster's wife, Melony, uses her own last name of "Micheals.")
In a petulant tone, Maxwell complained about this word "defiant" being applied to him. Where does THAT come from? he asked. How had he been "defiant?" When, precisely? Was it when he said "good morning" to Brad Johnson? Maxwell spoke of the day his father died, and Brad Johnson said "I'm really sorry to hear about the death of your father."
Maxwell thought Johnson seemed sincere in his condolences. But there was another time when Maxwell admitted to becoming angry with Johnson, and saying under his breath "I don't know how you can sleep at night." So was this one utterance evidence of "defiance?"
Fourth on Maxwell's list of minor interactions with Brad Johnson--which Maxwell appeared to be trying, hard, to get into the court record for unknown reasons--was something which supposedly happened "during the fourth week of trial." Larry Maxwell, Brad Johnson, Liz Johnston and Larry Reed were in court. Supposedly, Johnson said, "Mr. Reed, perhaps this is something your client may find funny. I have a joke."
Maxwell said he declined to hear the joke. So were these four interactions, added together, evidence of Maxwell having a spirit of "defiance?"
"You don't know me!" Maxwell proclaimed. "You just DON'T!"
The last time we were here, Maxwell said, the prosecutor had talked about the Fosters. Maxwell said he would "beg to differ" about whether he doesn't feel "extremely bad" about what happened to them. IT IS NOT TRUE, Maxwell declared, that he (and, for that matter, his attorney Larry Reed) do not feel "extremely bad" about what happened to the Fosters.
Despite everything, Maxwell said, he loves his business. He still loves it. He would tell young people to put their best foot forward and encourage them to enter the real estate business. Standing there in a business suit, Maxwell appeared to think himself some kind of role model fit to tell young people, well, something. Anything.
Maxwell did not appear conscious of how completely he had been crushed, how low his status had fallen in society. He was still putting on the personality that goes with the suit. The charade was cringe-inducing. In the spectator stands, teeth were grinding but those gathered sat patiently. Let Maxwell talk, seemed to be their attitude. Let him dig himself an even deeper hole.
Maxwell spoke last to the Fosters. He said the Fosters had been "interested" in the court proceedings and had "been here for hearings." (This is not entirely true, Melony Micheals was excluded for most of the proceedings and, in fact, relied a great deal on this blog for information) Maxwell said he wanted to "reach out, speak, say something" but he couldn't. Maxwell wanted the Fosters to know his silence has "not been because I didn't feel your pain." Maxwell said "I can't say anything better than what the judge said" about what they'd experienced.
Maxwell said he knew everybody was "here to see me sentenced but also to give support to the Fosters." He wished he could do something to fix this situation. One thing Maxwell wanted to say--"and maybe this is defiant," he noted--would be "I have not participated in anything that has injured you or your family."
Now affecting an attitude that he was innocent but forced to take one for the team, Maxwell noted "this is the only system we've got." Over time, Maxwell said, "I will get my justice, too." Maxwell noted that his own relatives had worked in the justice system and he believed in the system despite its flaws...like finding him guility. Or words to that effect.
Addressing his conviction in 2001 for, oh gee, a similar crime, Maxwell said he "pleaded to a crime because I've been brought up to believe that if you do something you tell the truth." So he pleaded to the other crime because, after all, he did it. But he couldn't plead to THIS. Why? Because he didn't do it!
Maxwell said "Mr. Kingrussell (known as "the imposter Foster") sat in this court and he said I (Larry Maxwell) was not involved!"
(Later, individuals in the court room told me Kingrussell's precise testimony was more complicated than that. Any wavering in Kingrussell's testimony had a lot to do with, well, fear of retaliation.
Maxwell said "the credit reports pulled by Centennial mortgage say on them that this identity was stolen as early as February 2006." Maxwell claimed his own first contact was May 31st of 2006 but somebody had been using the identity of John Foster as early as February of 2006.
Maxwell said he remembered how Detective Cardenas "smiled at me" when Maxwell asked Cardenas if he ever followed up on "the lead" with "the guy in the Magnum Dodge." Like the mysterious one-armed man in "The Fugitive," Larry Maxwell's defense keeps bringing up the man in the "Dodge Magnum." Even the word "magnum" had an odd way of popping up during the hearing, with one witness for Larry Mawell claiming she graduated "magnum (sic) cum laude."
In any case, Larry Maxwell said, Detective Cardenas said "No" when asked if he'd followed up with the oh-so-valuable lead about the mysterious man in the Dodge Magnum. Maxwell claimed Cardenas "heckled me the whole time" and said, "Well, if you don't understand, you're gunna understand."
Maxwell said (the evil) Detective Cardenas had "gained the Fosters' confidence" to sell them his sideline business. Showing an obliviousness to jurisdictional lines, Maxwell said "Cardenas may end up being our next chief of police." (Cardenas works for the BLOOMINGTON police department)
Maxwell then brought up an incident which took place during his incarceration. Maxwell said after being jailed--which happened just moments after he was found guilty--within a week a corrections officer wrote Maxwell up for an infraction which Maxwell had supposedly committed. For this infraction, Maxwell had to be in his cell, shut off from other people. His precious commissary privileges were taken away. His phone cards were taken, so he couldn't talk to his mother.
Maxwell said he filed a grievance and went to a grievance hearing. And, after that hearing, Maxwell claimed he was told the punishment was "without basis." The punishment was "overturned." Maxwell claimed somebody in authority at the jail said "I can't give you back the two weeks you couldn't talk to your parents" but, well, the punishment was overturned.
As Maxwell spoke of this incident--growing quite passionate, his voice not nearly as femmy as usual--it was revealing to see how Maxwell's world had drastically shrunk in size. Once his domain was real estate in the Twin Cities and a luxurious lifestyle. Now Maxwell was yapping on about, good grief, injustice with his little commissary privileges. How the mighty have fallen. To make matters worse, Maxwell then compared his conviction on 18 felonies to what happened with the correction officer, how the jailhouse punishment was overturned, and said, "That's God showing me this conviction will be overturned as well."
Yeah, give me a holler when Baby Jesus opens the door to your prison cell, Larry, because I'll be wanting His Picture for my blog. The fact Larry Maxwell was standing at the podium looking SO VERY MUCH like a minister made the spectacle all the more disturbing and borderline blasphemous. The Gospel according to Larry. The meek shall inherit the earth but that's OK, because their identities can be stolen.
"I AM NOT BEING DEFIANT," Larry Maxwell said. "Just because I want my day in court." He claimed "the ball was dropped but it wasn't dropped because of me." While on trial, he'd lost his father and his grandmother.
Maxwell then addressed a Point Number 5 not mentioned in his 4 point outline: his financial assets.
"When you find one thing," Larry Maxwell said, "let me know because I've still got to pay Mr. Reed." Maxwell said "I understand the fixtures have been removed from my home."
Maxwell said he wouldn't want any of his family "investigated by Cardenas, prosecuted by Johnson, or before Judge Chu" and compared himself to a salesman at Best Buy who doesn't realize a transaction is fraudulent.
Later, outside the court room, Realtor Janet Havlish would take exception to that, saying Realtors know their clients much better than THAT and saying Maxwell was representing the real estate profession very badly.
One of Maxwell's final declarations was "Centennial Mortgage is where all the skeletons are."
Attorney Larry Reed then spoke to "note a couple things." Reed objected to "any ruling on restitution without a hearing." Chu said restitution was an issue that will be "dealt with as part of the sentencing" and said she would "order complete restitution in an amount to be determined."
Now turning to the bloody task of imposing the sentence, Judge Chu said Maxwell had "all the advantages in life but used his talents on crime." She was "disappointed" that Maxwell "continues to blame others" for his wrongdoing. Maxwell "orchestrated criminal activity" and the victims were "not just lenders but innocent people." She said "the inevitable foreclosures had an impact on an already troubled neighborhood."
Chu then said racketeering should be ranked at 10. This produced a sentence range of 141 to 198 months. Judge Chu said she would impose a sentence of 198 months (this is more than 16 years) with credit for 113 days served. At this utterance, Janet Havlish--seated near me--made a triumphant motion with her fist. Melony Micheals appeared to drop her head in an attitude of prayerful thanks.
As Judge Chu began to tackle the issue of restitution, Reed interrupted "You said you won't get into the amount!" Chu said "this is in regard to the Fosters" and "you may note your objection but you'll have to wait until after my sentence."
Chu did say, however, she didn't have the authority to order no professional licenses. The state, she said, could bring a civil action in that regard. She said "civil remedies are also available to keep him from contacting the Foster family." Prosecutor Brad Johnson had asked for both these things: no professional licenses after Maxwell served his sentence. No contacting the Foster family. Johnson promised to research this matter further for Judge Chu.
Turning to Maxwell, Chu urged him to "use the time to contemplate your future and move on from past mistakes." There were more fireworks between Chu and Reed, with Reed going on about Maxwell's "right to a hearing to determine restitution." Chu did promise such a hearing for Maxwell, despite the fact she'd already determined part of the restitution as pertained to the Fosters.
The sentencing took so long there was literally a "changing of the guards," though not with all the pomp and circumstance of Buckingham Palace. Larry Maxwell was taken into the "handcuff room" to the right side of the spectators, to the disappointment of some spectators...at least one of whom said she would have preferred to see Maxwell cuffed.
Melony Micheals--forced to be quite frugal due to all the damage to her family's once sterling credit--celebrated with a soup special at a restaurant located near the Hennepin County Government Building, just through the skyway. She treated the guests with her, including this blogger. Micheals made no secret of planning a big civil suit in the wake of Maxwell's conviction while everybody sat and had soup.
But before everybody left the courtroom, Judge Chu came back to tell Melony Micheals "Your comments really did influence my sentence."
Later, there was a party which featured cake. The photo above shows the cake.
Thus did the reign of Larry Maxwell--mortgage fraudster extraordinaire--come to an inglorious end, thanks to an identity theft victim who refused to be a victim, and turned the tables.
This may be Part Four of Four but take my word for it...this story isn't over.
CC is the daughter of two Jordan residents who are very involved in making their neighborhood a better place. She lives on the Jordan Pond and has a fascination with insects. So, for her 8th birthday party, CC wanted to celebrate with a bug theme. A local guy called "Bruce The Bug Man" was supposed to be the entertainment, but at the last minute Bruce couldn't show. Into the void of leadership stepped yours truly... After the kids went bug-hunting I helped with insect identification and a little talk about box elder bugs, bumble bees and the biggest prize of the hunt: what appeared to be an emerald ash borer. If it wasn't an ash borer, well, it sure was pretty and sparkly and emerald-colored. CC had a brand new bug book with thousands of illustrations--in color--to help identify bugs.
Then came the entertainment: me eating bugs. I chowed down on some silkworm pupae which were obtained from Bangkok Market and canned crickets served with wild rice and black bean sauce. The crickets came from a Hmong-owned store in St. Paul's Frogtown. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain bamboo caterpillars and ant larvae. But the show went on, anyway, because THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
The surprising part is not that I ate insects but how many others were willing to take a chance and try some, too. This video captures the moment.
Natalie Johnson Lee, one of the "four political midgets" running against veteran Council Member Don Samuels in the Fifth Ward, has volunteers door knocking with campaign literature that is, well, a little TOO informative. A close and careful reading of the flyers is likely to show the voter why NOT to vote for Natalie Johnson Lee.
First of all, the literature says Johnson Lee has a "strong labor voting record." Uh huh. So then... ...why doesn't the campaign literature have a "union bug" from a union print shop? This is a real "amateur hour" bonehead move by Johnson Lee. You'd expect more from a former city council member.
Here's some other things I noticed.
# Messy printing problem on the front of the flyer. Look closely and you'll see how there's one quote mark next to the word "Because" and yet there's no quote mark at the end. Also notice how the letter e's in the phrase "Because we ALL live here" look different than the letter e at the end of the word "here." Clearly, the print shop chopped off a quote mark plus half an e. Unknown where it was printed because, well, NO UNION BUG.
You can't LEAD the people if you don't HIRE the people.
# The flyer repeatedly uses the phrase "showed up" and then asks for volunteers who are "truly interested in showing up." Though I'd agree "showing up" is about 50 percent of being successful, I guess most people would prefer to have talent and intelligence, too, not merely an ability to "show up" like a student who can pass by earning a C. Of course, Johnson Lee has always been an advocate of lowering standards for North Minneapolis, instead of bringing North Minneapolis up to a higher level.
# The most outrageous claim of all is that Johnson Lee is interested in "supporting livable and safe communities." Well, everybody who was in North Minneapolis during the previous Johnson Lee reign can tell you how livable and safe it was. Or rather, wasn't.
Now, under Don Samuels, crime is down 40 percent in North Minneapolis after a long, hard struggle. Livability is increasing not just daily, but almost HOURLY.
I'm told one Johnson Lee campaign worker used the phrase "your city council member" to describe Natalie Johnson Lee while door knocking with Johnson Lee herself, and was told, point blank, "She's not MY city council member."
Johnson Lee's flyer is also slightly vague on this point, saying "Elect Natalie Johnson Lee City Council Member." But, hey, who wouldn't be happy to associate oneself with all the progress North Minnneapolis has made with dropping crime rates WHILE DON SAMUELS WAS IN OFFICE?
It seems like Johnson Lee is coming into this race with too little, too late. But, hey, at least she "showed up."
The disturbing saga of "Mr. Slummy's Dream House" has taken a new turn. The house at 2515 3rd Street North--which one reliable source says has FIVE BATHTUBS, and yet is SUPPOSEDLY a residence and not a rental in the making--has been unsecured and open to trespass for the past couple days. This according to Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne's ubiquitous and hardworking Housing Director. The owner, Mr. Slummy, is "nowhere to be seen." Concerned neighbors are, however, keeping close watch.
Mr. Slummy's little buddy, Slummy The Squirrel, has reportedly been hanging out all the time at Uncle Lennie's store in Willard Homewood, waiting for a backhoe to show up and do all the difficult nut-hole digging for him.
This information is unconfirmed but comes from a creditable source. Word is that a new lawsuit has been initiated over the "same old same old" JACC issues which have already been litigated. My source describes the new lawsuit as the old lawsuit repackaged. Word is Ethylon B. Brown is the lead plaintiff but, again, this is unconfirmed. Anybody who has more info can use the comment threads, but you heard it first on Johnny Northside Dot Com.
I don't have a good photo to illustrate this post, so I'm using something random from my recent road trip. It's a drive through liquor store in Madisonville, Kentucky! What will those clever rednecks think of next?
I don't like leaving North Minneapolis for long periods of time. There are committees a-meeting, blog posts to be written, and endless opportunities to socialize in the back yards of friends...which is what the civic-minded neighborhood types do a lot around here, to the point NoMi has the feel of a small town.
But everybody needs a vacation now and then. I think the best vacation is one where you get paid. Besides, I'm such a notorious workaholic that I prefer to take "micro vacations" which last only as long as, say, 45 seconds. A micro vacation is, for example, when you're hauling cargo in Dixieland and you pull over to the side of the road to check something of concern on your vehicle and to orient yourself on a map. And, at that moment, you notice....
A local farmer is growing TOBACCO in a field near your truck, and you've never seen tobacco being raised as a crop before...so you walk over to the racks of leaves drying in sunlight, crumble the edge of a leaf in your hand. Sure enough. Tobacco.
See photo below.
And then it's back to work driving the truck because your time is not really your own--not until you clock out after your legally allotted number of driving hours--but for a few seconds, you saw and experienced rural Kentucky (or Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, plus one little corner of Tennessee) and it was like you were a tourist on vacation, taking in the sights and local culture.
Thus a "micro vacation."
Most of the time, my day looks like the photo at the top of the post. The black spots are "bug mash" on the windshield.
That is the vast majority of the time, hours upon hours of "keeping it between the lines." It is both tedious and exciting because when 26,000 pounds of "straight truck" and cargo hits a bump at 70 miles an hour, you feel that moment of speed and inertia combining in scary and unexpected ways.
And this happens...a lot. You might listen to a song on the radio, your mind may wander into the tapestry of the tune but then...whoah. WHOAH!!!!!!!
Suddenly eighteen wheels are blowing past really really CLOSE while an annoying motorcycle is on your front bumper like a metal INSECT. Gotta pay close attention. All day long, hours upon hours, gotta pay close attention and not make one...little...mistake with all that flying metal and cargo.
So just to make one thing very clear: just because I'm going to write a few posts about some interesting sights and some enjoyable personal moments out on the road...the vast majority of the time I am working my butt off, it's hard work, and I'm not just goofing around while I'm on the clock. But due to my diagnosed-yet-untreated chronic workaholic lifestyle, I am the master of the 45 second vacation.
That's about as long as I care to relax. And then I have to be DOING SOMETHING productive.
Oh, look. Here's a picture of me "on vacation."
That's right. I wear cowboy boots when I drive. I like the way the heels keep my foot a couple extra inches off the floor, closer to the brake. I like the way I fit in at the truck stops when I walk in wearing Dan Post boots (made in El Paso, where I was stationed in the army) and a Dixie Chicks t-shirt.
Second point: all roads lead to and from NoMi. I can go anywhere in the world to be a tourist or obtain momentary economic opportunity. But with an ultra-affordable house in North Minneapolis, I have a base of personal stability from which to operate. Nothing beats home ownership. I try to tell my rent-slave college aged friends that owning a house doesn't tie you down, but frees you.
So here is me, NoMi homeowner, experiencing the enviable freedom of the open road. More later.
Back from my road trip "east bound and down" to Kentucky, loaded with cargo and tales from the road, it was no surprise to me that my NoMi neighborhood didn't remain stagnant while I was away but kept changing while my back was turned.
Today, dozens of NoMi folks will gather to kick off a new round of NoMi Kickball. Yes, that's right, NoMi has a fledgling kickball league, it's been kicking around for a few months now this summer and after a couple of weeks off the weekly kickball game will kick it into gear again starting today, August 26th. There's a facebookpage for the Get To NoMi group and an event invitation within that group. Here are the deets and some images taken by NoMi photographer Duane Atter.
*** NEW LOCATION *** NEW LOCATION ***Come join us for this week's game!
We meet every Wednesday at Creekview Park (Shingle Creek neighborhood) and play a pick-up, authentic, schoolhouse-style game of old-fashioned Kickball! It's a total blast. Skill levels range from competitive to barely awake/sober, but all are welcome and wanted.Anyone 18+ who wants to play, strap on some proper kicks and join us! Children and leashed dogs are ALWAYS WELCOME, as are spectators :)
Evenings always end with a trip to Tootie's On Lowryfor burgers and adult beverages. With the new locale, though, we'll revisit our watering hole of choice: we can now throw Victory 44 and Donny Dirk's Zombie Den into the mix.BRING FRIENDS and NEIGHBORS! Spread the word!
(Do not click "Read More" but Do get to Creekview and kick it with your NoMi friends)
Jeff Skrenes, the Hawthorne Neighborhood's ubiquitous Housing Director, was at the Minneapolis Parade of Gardens and wrote a great summary of NoMi's contribution to the parade. Plus he took a lot of pictures and shared them on Facebook. Here is Jeff's firsthand report, which I am blogging from a cheap hotel room in Frankfort, Kentucky on my trucking adventure... Jeff says...
I made it a point to get to every community garden in NoMi during the 2009 Parade of Community Gardens. Since I also had the EcoVillage design meeting until 12:30, I had to use my super Hawkman speed to finish up before 2:00 when the parade was done. I just barely made it. Here is a summary of the gardens NoMi boasts. The photos can be found on my facebook profile, and here is the public link:
Obviously I had to stop at the South Hawthorne Community Garden first. But since that garden has been prominently profiled on this blog already, I dedicated myself to getting new information on the others.
# The Urban Farming Community Garden is located at 1119 Morgan Ave N. The contact person has perhaps the coolest and most appropriate community garden name out of anyone I met the entire day: Cherry Flowers. This garden is in its second season and volunteers weed and tend it. One person even came in with some special fertilizer that they knew would be the right kind for the corn, and sure enough the corn here was taller than the corn at any other NoMi garden. They also grow tomatoes, watermelon, kale (lots of that here), cucumbers, greens, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, and pumpkins. They offered green beans and mint tea to me, and both were delicious.
This garden could perhaps be more accurately described as a communal garden. Despite the fact that area residents and volunteers from New Life and St. John's churches frequently plant, weed, and otherwise tend the garden, people just come along and pick the veggies when they're ripe. In talking with several people, there didn't seem to be a real system for who gets what, and somehow that all seems to be working just fine for them.
They were also cooking beans on a cardboard surface covered with tin foil. "Solar cooking," they called it. I wish I'd had time to stick around and see how that turned out, but I was on to the...
# McKinley Community Garden at 3350 N 4th St. This garden has been around for six years and is run by the McKinley neighborhood association. They grow corn, tomatoes, carrots, squash, strawberries, peppers, watermelon, rhubarb, greens, onions, and herbs. Some residents have plots of their own that they tend and harvest, and Cityview also has some plots with flowers.
Much of the food grown here is given to the community. Over at Morgan Ave, they had Grandmaster Flash on the stereo, but the McKinley garden had a real live band playing for a while to liven up their party. On my way back to the car, I went past a block party at the Baptist church across the street and couldn't turn down a free burger when offered. It wasn't as good as the polish sausage that sustains me in Hawthorne, but it helped me along the way to the...
# Camden Gateway Sculpture Garden at 42nd and Lyndale Ave N. This is the one of the oldest gardens that was on the tour in NoMi; the city commissioned artwork for the sculpture garden twelve years ago, and the garden has been there for the past eleven. I asked if they have ever had any problems with people messing with the sculptures, and they said not since they installed this as a security device, click here.
Obvious parody aside, the garden gets is products from professional nurseries, and was the only garden on the tour to have no vegetables growing. There was a plum tree, and residents have made plum wine from its fruit. Other than that, the garden contains only flowers, sculptures, and volunteers. If you're interested in volunteering, contact Lisa Schnapp-Belmares at email@example.com.
Me, I ran from the boulder and made my way uphill to the...
# Lind Community Garden at 51st and Dupont Ave N. This is just its second year in existence, but it looks great. The Lind-Bohanon neighborhood association tends it, and just added ten new plots this year. They have a wide assortment of vegetables grown there, such as tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, squash, and green beans. Neighbors pay $20 per year for 1/2 a plot, and that also covers supplies and water. The garden got its start from the Jenny Lind school and Hmong elders working together and now has 35 area gardners. Only one was left, and she escorted me to my final location at the...
# Common Ground Community Garden at 52nd and Newton. This would have been tricky to find if it weren't for some help, since the area has quite a bit of road construction. This garden is unique in that it was set up as a rain garden in 1995, and then the neighbors worked with the Park board to keep it as a community garden. However, instead of vegetables or flowers, they kept natural woodland flowers, trees, and grasses. Some strawberries, gooseberries, ginger, and brussels sprouts grow here. Volunteers in the Shingle Creek neighborhood do much of the upkeep. The tree cover and natural woodland plant life really are quite impressive; you can walk just a few feet into this garden and almost instantly forget you're in the midst of a bustling (and revitalizing!) neighborhood.
Full of mint tea and neighborhood excitement, I returned in time to see the dedication of the gateway at the Jordan Area Community Garden - which WASN'T on the tour, but is located at 26th and Knox.
Special thanks go out to all the residents, neighborhood organizations, and other partners who help make NoMi beautiful!
The Jordan Livability Blog has been reporting on the ongoing situation with 2712/2714 Penn Avenue North, a slummy hellhole which has been dragging down that part of the neighborhood for too long. Now the neighborhood is turning around and slummy hellholes GOTTA GO.
All the way from Madisonville, Kentucky, stuck in a cheap motel for the weekend while waiting to pick up cargo on Monday, I think "What can I do to help my North Minneapolis neighborhood?" Maybe it's a conversation with my neighborhood chair, punctuated by loss of cell phone reception as I dip into the valleys between rocky hills in Illinois. Maybe it's just mulling over neighborhood matters while I fill up with diesel. When I have an opportunity to rest, and get internet access...the fact I'm across the country makes no difference. I can still blog about NoMi.
Fooling around on my laptop, I FINALLY figured out a way to make photos appear BELOW the "click to read more" line, instead of throwing everything above. Progress.
In the top photo, at the beginning of my trip I was waiting in the Twin Cities for a freezer unit on my truck to get fixed. I had to sit around for most of an afternoon in the trucker lounge, so after a while I just went outside and laid on the grass under a tree.
Away from my North Minneapolis neighborhood, any corner of the world where I find myself is temporarily MY NEIGHBORHOOD, and I might find small ways to improve it. The trucker lounge had no wireless internet but I was told by the management they'd "talked about getting it."
"You need to talk about it MORE. And then ACTUALLY GET WIRELESS INTERNET."
I pointed out there were a number of dealers who fix that particular kind of freezer unit and, really, there was some leeway in picking dealers. So the difference in picking one dealer over another might be a comfortable trucker lounge to wait and wait and wait.
Everybody was getting wireless, I said. Time to jump on board or get left in the dust.
Anyway, my employer was fortunate to have a "cheap fix" on the freezer unit, instead of a more expensive problem, but I still had to spend the night in a hotel.
In the morning, however, I was rolling toward Kentucky.
Pictured below, the legendary graveyard of truck freezer units.
By Johnny Northside, blogging from Madisonville, Kentucky
First and foremost, if you get your laptop wet and it goes into automatic shut down...DO NOT TRY TO RESTART IT. The last thing you want is to send even MORE current surging through a wet laptop. But the problem can be fixed and, in many cases, won't even cause a loss of data.
So, yeah, a couple weeks ago a cup of water spilled on a table and the spreading pool of wetness got all the way to my computer. I should have been quicker and IMMEDIATELY snatched up the laptop when I saw the liquid spill. Water got to the battery compartment and... ...shorted out something. Apparently it was a connection between the battery and the rest of the machine.
Fortunately, a computer geek who is committed to making NoMi better assisted me. First he went into the guts of my computer and tried to fix it (see photo above) and then he found a hardcore techie friend who repaired the computer...free of charge. It took more than a week but it was worth the wait. To hear the sound of my computer waking up again...well, it's like having a friend come out of a coma. This song, click here, kind of expresses how I feel. (Warning, some folks find the music video a little creepy...but even the chorus of the song reminds me of the "start up sound" of my beloved laptop)
In the meantime, I got by on borrowed computers. Just hours before I left on a long work trip, my computer was ready to pick up so I was able to write, for example, Part Three of the Larry Maxwell sentencing story from Madisonville, Kentucky.
Here are more images from the Jordan Area Community Garden Re-dedication celebration that took place on Saturday, August 22, 2009.
At the top, the new artwork created by The Speak 2009 Project. The gate was a collaboration of several young artists who all worked on a different section of the gate. At the top, words of inspiration read HOPE IS THE PROMISE AND OPPORTUNITY OF EQUALITY. The next section is caged butterflies and birds breaking free into the universe (my own interpretation). The next section is joined hands of diversity and equality. Within the hands is the Minneapolis city skyline and the word HOPE. The bottom section is some scroll-y grass growing from the earth, with the word EQUALITY etched into the design in several different languages (again, grass growing from earth is my own interpretation).
The second photo is a new addition to the garden. Have a seat, sit down and converse with your neighbor, your lover, or heck, even your foe.
Below the rock, one of the young artists who contributed to the new gate. She is addressing the crowd, sharing her story and talking about the good time and great experience she had working on this project. If I'm not mistaken, she contributed to the "joined hands of HOPE" section.
The next photo shows a poster on a telephone pole. Many of these posters were hung around the neighborhood to advertise the celebration in the garden. It worked, dozens of neighbors were there and new neighbors exposed to the good work being done by many.
Next photo is long-time Jordan neighborhood activist and current JACC board secretary Anne McCandless, speaking to the crowd gathered around the new gate. I can't even list all the titles and contributions that Anne has acquired over her 28+ years in the Jordan neighborhood as well as the Minneapolis Police Department. This is one dedicated, generous volunteer who will fight for the strong, healthy community that the young people of the northside deserve. Her hard work is paying off and evidence of that is all around us.
Next photo shows Kip Browne and Tyrone Jaramillo. Both gentlemen are JACC board directors who are contributing to the rejuvenation of the Jordan Area Community Council and helping to shape their community with many hours of volunteer activism.
Next photo shows an example of neighbors and youngsters enjoying nature along the garden paths. The flowers are beautiful: holly hocks stand tall, brown-eyed-susans are abundant and the purple and white cone flowers are pretty popular with the local bee population.
Next, there were a few young men who found it quite entertaining to chase and capture bumble bees. I am told no bees were harmed in the making of this movie. But these guys sure were proud.
Below the young gentlemen, a little darling had a great time chasing butterflies and bumble bees, herself. Here she shows off a new friend, with whom she decided to share some edible goodies. This little girl cheered so loudly and so enthusiastically that she herself became a reason to clap and holler. She exemplifies the reason so many of us fight the good fight. If I could bottle up her joy and sell it at the market, I'd be a wealthy person.
The last photo shows another reason to gather and celebrate. What a great reason to get involved in your community and shape the future. There are future leaders being born everyday and we had one among us yesterday at the Jordan Area Community Garden.
(Do not click "Read More" but do get involved with shaping your community for the youngsters)
On August 22, 2002, dozens of people gathered on the corner of 26th and Knox in North Minneapolis. There was anger, disrespect and lots of resentment in the air. They yelled, they screamed, they ran around and threw rocks, glass bottles, punches, and angry words. Yet the newborn community garden survived the chaos with relatively little to no damage.
On August 22, 2009, dozens of people gathered on the corner of 26th and Knox in North Minneapolis. There was joy, respect and lots of fellowship in the air. They yelled in celebration, they praised the artists responsible for artwork at the garden, some of the children ran around catching bumble bees in plastic cups. People mingled and smiled, hugged, and offered congratulations and admiration for the artwork.
The contrast from seven years ago yesterday was very prominent in the minds of neighbors. The Big Stop store is gone, the open air drug market on 26th Ave is (mostly) gone. The neighborhood kids are running, playing, biking, chasing bumble bees and butterflies. Neighbors walked down to the garden from all points in the Jordan neighborhood without crossing through gang territory and passing through drug dealers' general storefronts.
The Pohlad Family Foundation, Treetrust and Chicago Ave Fire Arts Center teamed up with Jordan Area Community Council to complete a garden makeover, create some new art for the garden and hold a re-dedication ceremony. The ringleaders shared a few words about their accomplishments. The young artists spoke of their work. A couple of spoken word performers shared their skills. Kids clapped and screamed in joy and celebration. Neighbors admired the beautiful garden gate adorned with symbols and words of Hope and Equality. And newborn babies were tickled and ogled.
It was a fabulous day to celebrate in the Jordan neighborhood and many neighbors gathered to do just that. What a perfect Saturday afternoon. Thank you to all the folks involved in this project that worked hard to pull it off and add to the community garden, both tangible and intangible contributions that will ripple through the universe.
(Do not click "Read More" but Do go to 26th/Knox to see for yourself!)
And, of all the criminals caught so far...the T.J. Waconia fraudsters, Marlon Pratt, Donald Walthall...only Larry "Maximum" Maxwell has such a cool nickname to go with his crimes. No doubt this will give Maxwell some small degree of comfort as he does 16 years in the pokey. In any case... If you need to refresh your recollection, click here for a link to Part One. And here is a link to Part Two.
In the photo above, Melony Micheals receives certified copies of the judgment against Larry Maxwell and some of the various business entities involved with Maxwell's crimes. These documents will prove useful in filing civil suits to recover damages, but who will be named in the suits? That's what I'm waiting to see. I bet there will be a few surprises. In any case, Micheals has made no secret of her intention to file civil suits. Anybody who has crossed John Foster and Melony Micheals would be well advised to contact her attorney and come crawling on bended knee, offering to settle. You know who you are.
SPECIAL NOTE: Unfortunately, this blog has consistently misspelled the surname of Melony Micheals as "Michaels." I will use the correct spelling from now forward, but it may take a while to go back and correct old blog posts.
When we last left off, John Foster had finished his detailed, moving testimony about having his identity and life ripped off and it was time for the daughter of Melony Micheals to testify.
Chelsea Micheals will be 20 in March, but can be mistaken for somebody already in her early 20s. Perhaps she just appears more mature than most 20-year-olds, or perhaps extra years have been added to her life from stress. She talked about how her senior year of high school had been tough with her parents' good credit ruined. For example, sports outfits were too expensive in light of the ruined credit and shattered finances. There have also been times the young woman is afraid to go to her car at night, because of fears the criminals who stole her stepfather's identity (like the crackhead Kingrussell) could be dangerous and out to hurt somebody in the Foster/Micheals family.
As if the disruption of high school wasn't bad enough, Chelsea's college has also been impacted. Like many or possibly most middle class college students, Chelsea was hoping to spend a semester abroad. Now that doesn't appear possible, however.
Chelsea's statement was brief. Judge Chu consoled the young woman, especially in regard to the disruption of her education. The whole time, one of Maxwell's family members sat with that odd little half-suppressed smirky look.
Melony Micheals spoke next. Later she would complain that John Foster had stolen some of her material about the impact of having his identity stolen. However, there was more than enough thunder left. In some ways, discussion of the little things was more poignant than the big stuff: like how answering the phone becomes impossible due to constantly-calling creditors (who aren't REALLY your creditors) and how every time you must go through multiple levels to reach a supervisor's supervisor, only to be told they'll be needing to see copies of the police reports about the identity theft...and then the same company would call again, demanding the exact same thing.
To make matters worse, some bill collectors would accuse Micheals of LYING.
Now at the summit, the conclusion, the epic end to the epic trial, Micheals made a point of talking about the many hundreds of hours put in by the investigators and the prosecutors. She talked about a pivotal mistake made by the judicial system which led to this moment: Larry Maxwell had been allowed to keep his real estate license despite previous criminal activity. Micheals hoped aloud something like THAT wouldn't happen again, that the judicial system had finally learned the true nature of Larry Maxwell.
Micheals talked about being unable to refinance the home she shares with John Foster because they already had too many mortgages…FAKE mortgages. When the sentencing finally came down, the suffering still wouldn’t be over. They estimate there will be “seven to ten years of paying and explaining” until they come out from under the shadow cast over their finances. Therefore, Micheals said, Larry Maxwell “shouldn’t get less.”
Micheals talked about the complex and insidious nature of identity theft. If somebody stole your television, the police would have immediately helped. But with identity theft and mortgage fraud, Micheals—who was one of the victims—had to perform her own investigation for a long time until finding a police department which would get involved.
Neighborhoods also suffer due to mortgage fraud, Micheals said, with “boarded up houses with phone books slewed all over the place.”
In conclusion, “You don’t need a mask or gun to get way more than people get for robbing a bank.” This whole time, Maxwell sat without any strong reaction to the words of Foster, Chelsea Micheals, and Melony Micheals. He is one cool cucumber.
Judge Chu told Micheals she had read the victim impact statement submitted earlier and it “made an impact on me.”
“You’re the reason this case is here,” Chu said. “You didn’t give up.” It’s moments like this you wonder when this story will become a Lifetime Movie.
Turning to prosecutor Brad Johnson, Chu said she wanted to hear from the state as to the appropriate ranking for the crime. Johnson rose and spoke of the grueling 7-week jury trial. He said the state sought a prison sentence of 148 months, about 14 years. This was apparently more than any previous mortgage fraud/racketeering case in the State of Minnesota. Ever.
In this case, Johnson said, “There were not just lies on a loan application but lies to fabricate personas.” The fraudulent loans to the lenders were equal to $2,690,175.00. Restitution to the lenders was sought. There were also calculations of restitution by the Fosters. Plus Johnson wanted a “million dollar fine, which is the maximum under the statute.”
Furthermore, the state was asking that “no assets can be transferred or disposed of” and Johnson asked for a “permanent injunction of ANY professional licenses without court approval.” Johnson also sought an order that Maxwell have no contact with the Fosters and never again use the identity of John Foster. The court and the state “need to investigate and seek assets to pay restitution.”
It’s moments like this you have to wonder: is there a buried Larry Maxwell treasure? And if so, who has the map?
Johnson mentioned Tanya Patterson breaking down on the stand, her tenants displaced by foreclosure. And for what? Larry Maxwell did these things “to support a lavish lifestyle.”
Johnson said he wanted Maxwell’s sentence to be a message to those entrusted by the State of Minnesota with professional licenses. The message should be as follows: IF YOU DARE TO COMMIT A FRAUD, YOU WILL BE HELD TO ACCOUNT, THE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE COMMENSURATE WITH THE SEVERITY AND GRAVITY OF YOUR SCHEME.
(Caps not in original volume of statement)
Now it was Larry Maxwell’s turn to say something in regard to his prison sentence. He first wanted to speak to Larry Reed, the attorney Maxwell had (kind of, sort of) tried to fire. See Part One.
They went up into the jury box to whisper whisper whisper. I watched Reed’s face and tried to read it. Reed didn’t seem to be projecting much confidence. Reed had the kind of facial expression which says, “Look, no matter what you do here…you’re screwed. What can I tell you?”
The JNS International Headquarters is in receipt of images and first hand account of some pretty slummy activity that continues to plague 3rd Street North in the beloved neighborhood of Hawthorne:
******************************************* I was driving through the neighborhood today when I saw a wonderful sight: Two city employees cleaning up the debris from in front of Mr. Slummy's dumpster. Frankly, this should erase any doubt anyone has about what kind of a property owner he will be. He's had a stop-work order posted since August 3rd for improper permits, and that order also said he needed to clean up overflowing debris around his dumpster.
Well, two and a half weeks later, he STILL hasn't picked it up, even though it's about the volume of one pickup truck bed. So I snapped a photo with my legally obtained Blackberry - I didn't have my camera with me, and anyway, most city workers doing this kind of manual labor prefer not to be identified.
When I got back to the office, I noticed that a neighbor posted concerns about the structure itself and JNS was in need of a good field correspondent to verify such concerns. I donned my Hawkman uniform (shirtless in the rain! Y'all missed it!), strapped my camera to my utility belt, and off I went. ******************************************* Thanks JNS Field Correspondent!
Top Photo by John Hoff, Bottom photo from facebook event invitation
By Jordan Neighbor JNS Guest Blogger
Saturday, August 22 will be a busy day for NoMi Community Gardens. There are two big events going on and JNS readers should get to both of them. Here's the deets:
South Hawthorne Community Garden - Parade of Community Gardens10am-2pm, 2123 6th Street North, Minneapolis, MN
There is a self-guided tour of community gardens that is taking place. The South Hawthorne Community Garden is one of the featured sites. Click here for a brochure and map.
Jordan Community Garden - Re-dedication Celebration
The Jordan Community Garden located at 26th Ave and Knox Ave N has undergone a make over in the past few months. There will be a community celebration and re-dedication hosted at the garden on Saturday at 4pm to 6pm. There will be an unveiling of a new public art piece at the garden. There have been many organizations involved in the garden make-over and I don't mean to leave any of them out, but some of those hard-working organizations are Jordan Area Community Council, Pohlad Family Foundation, Treetrust and The Speak Project at Chicago Ave Fire Arts Center.
The JNS International Headquarters received a Hot Tip in the comment section of an earlier post. The commenter mentioned that weeds and trash have begun to spring up from the Spring Board Economic Development Corp'snewest property.
A field corespondent was dispatched immediately. The images captured this morning are here for the readers to view, including an exclusive image of Slummy the Squirrel who was interviewed. The story is that Slummy the Squirrel was supposed to be over at Mr. Slummy's Hole to China, cleaning up the debris and getting in compliance with the City's inspection orders. But he was too lazy to do the work and he heard there was a pile of trash in the alley behind Uncle Lennie's so he scampered over to ch-ch-ch-check it out for himself. He was hoping to find free alley nuts instead of having to actually WORK for the cache of nuts that Mr. Slummy was offering.
Unfortunately, while Slummy the Squirrel was gone, a hard working City crew was dispatched to Mr. Slummy's operation to do the clean up work that was left behind by the slacking, slummy squirrel and the slimy, slummy property owner.
(Do not click "Read More" but Do check out the Next Post)
Photo by John Hoff by Jordan Neighbor JNS Guest Blogger
More news received at the JNS International Headquarters:
Contractors have scrambled to have the privilege to demolish Uncle Lennie's building, for almost next to nothing. Yesterday, at a meeting of the city's PSRS Committee meeting, a bid was accepted to demolish the building for a mere $40K. Here's a link to the city's website and some wording from the committee meeting minutes:
11. Bid for Demolition of 2426 Plymouth Av N:OP #7180, accept low bid of Landwehr Construction to accomplish demolition of 2426 Plymouth Av N ($39,992). (Refer to W&M/Budget)Staff report: Demolition Bid RCAAction Taken: Approved
I say yesterday must have been a GREAT day for Uncle Lennie, who I am sure is taking a sigh of relief and wiping his sweaty brow. You know, cause instead of costing him $80K-$100K for demo, it looks like it will only cost him about $40K. That's a HUGE savings in these hard economic times.
(Do not click "Read More" but Do stay tuned to JNS for more breaking news in the future - revitalization will NOT BE STOPPED!)
THANK YOU for your participation in the EcoVillage Design Workshops One and Two! The project will be well grounded in the neighborhood's values and priorities thanks to your time and efforts these past Saturday mornings. We're looking forward to continuing to work together during the final two workshops.
ANNOUNCING that the EcoVillage Design Workshop Three is coming up soon! It is this Saturday, August 22 from 10 am to noon at Farview Park. At this upcoming workshop, we will present three options for the EcoVillage, all of which will be based on ideas we heard from you at previous workshops.A brief summary of the recent Workshop 2 (held on August 1) is attached (*note no attachment on the blog*). If you notice errors or think we have left something important out of this summary, please let me know.
Thank you again for your participation in Workshops One and Two - and we hope to see you this Saturday.
Photos by Hawthorne Hawkman, as he watches Slummy Squirrel
by Jordan Neighbor JNS Guest Blogger
(Caution: parody ahead)
The JNS blog is in receipt of an intercepted communique between Mr. Slummy and his new sidekick, Slummy the Squirrel. The text of the message is here below, for all to see: ***************************
I was going through the neighborhood one day, looking for a place to hide my nuts for the winter, when lo and behold I came across a hole to China. It was clear something slummy was going on, and I wanted in. I started snooping around the place, but it was clear that residents were watching the house--like a HAWK. The neighborhood called city inspectors and stopped Mr. Slummy, but only for a little while.
Anytime somebody goes up against the city of Minneapolis, that shows it's a PERFECT place for nuts, so I kept on going back to the property located at 2515 3rd St N. Mr. Slummy has left this structure open to the elements since April! Can you imagine how many nuts I've got hidden in there now? AND look how BIG he's made it! I can fit ALL MY NUTTY FRIENDS in there, if only the city will let him get it built by the time winter comes.
Here's the latest news from Mr. Slummy's nuthouse: There was a stop work order placed on it from the city because he didn't pull the proper permits. All he wants to do is cram as many nuts into as huge a structure as possible. Who knew you had to get permits for something like that? Also, he apparently didn't pick up a lot of the debris around the place, and the city has told him he needs to pick up debris from around the dumpsters.
Oh, and one of my friends told me that inside the building, there are five bathtubs waiting to be hooked up! FIVE!!!!! You could put a LOT of nuts in a building that has five bathtubs. Only time will tell if Mr. Slummy will be able to fill his place up with nuts.
(End of Parody Alert)
At the Heart of the City picnic last Friday, residents took a tour of the neighborhood and visited Mr. Slummy's mansion. It was there that the stop work order and order to pick up debris was noted. Neighbors also saw five bathtubs inside the structure, presumably visible from the exterior. One person pointed out that they believed five units was the maximum amount allowed for section 8 rentals of this size. However, the area remains zoned only for 1-2 units and no variance has yet been granted. Thank goodness the city of Minneapolis and the Hawthorne Hawkman are on the job!
(Do not click "Read More" but Do be on the lookout for Slummy the Squirrel)