Monday, December 14, 2009

Hawkman Senses Get Property Boarded in Record Time

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Last week I was driving past a vacant property in the Hawthorne neighborhood and I saw some people tossing scrap wood out of the back of the house. I stopped to watch for a bit, especially after hearing reports about similarly questionable activity happening nearby. It looked like workers weren't removing any fixtures but were just taking out loose wood from somewhere. The photos above seem to indicate that, and I called Aggate Construction (not a typo, there are two g's in the name) and confirmed that they had orders from the mortgage company to remove wood that was not attached.

But I was driving by the next day and something still didn't seem right. Every once in a while, I get that feeling, and whenever it strikes me I stop and check things out. My Hawkman senses worked in this case, since when I surveyed the property I found...

The lock had been cut with bolt-cutters, and then placed back on the door to make it look from the street as if it were secure. Note where I've circled the cut lock in the photo below.

So I called 911 and reported a "property open to trespass." This particular property had been the target of frequent break-ins before, and the way this break-in was covered up made me believe that the perpetrators would be back soon. So a 311 call wasn't going to cut it.

Not wanting to miss anything, I did call it in to 311 next. That call did NOT go well. In the past, when residents have called about this property, we've specifically emphasized how much of a gem it is, and how important it is to keep it secure and therefore salvageable. And it seemed like the more we expressed our concerns and asked politely that they speed up a boarding process, the LONGER it took to get the place secure.

So when I received the standard "We'll get to it within five business days" response, I pushed back. "That's not good enough. This is a property the neighborhood wants saved and we've had to sit around and wait for the city to keep it secure. The last time it was broken open it took well over five days to secure. And even though we both know it's illegal and we can't condone it, I know concerned residents who will come and slap a board on it themselves. I don't want my neighbors doing anything illegal, so who do I talk to who can get this property secure TODAY?"

That conversation wasn't going anywhere, but luckily the police showed up right then. They were somewhat miffed because the dispatch operator coded my call as "trespass in progress," which is much higher up on the priority list. I explained that I'm the Housing Director of the neighborhood, I know the difference, and I was specific about what was happening precisely because I didn't want them responding to a call when they had more pressing matters.

We got that settled, and the people with the legal authority to do so crossed the threshold and confirmed that nobody was inside. I repeated my concern to them about keeping the property secure as quickly as possible and was told they'd try to get an emergency board-up by the end of the day if not the next.

Finding that result more satisfying but not entirely so, I kept on pushing for a more immediate solution. I called Aggate Construction and explained the situation to them as well: "If you don't get someone out to secure this property WITHIN THE HOUR, we'll have an emergency board-up crew out there. This door is the ONLY opening NOT boarded, so if this does get boarded then you and the mortgage company are going to have a whole new level of problems on your hands."

Sure enough, by the end of the day, this is what I saw when driving home.

Does this House Look Like it's Worth $2.5 Million?

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

During a routine investigation of housing issues in Hawthorne, I came across this gem. It turns out that 2420 Bryant Ave N is owned by Pamiko Properties, in foreclosure, and the amount bid at the sheriff sale was over $2.5 MILLION.

Well, to be precise, we're talking about $2,548,206.06. And the speculated reason for this exorbitantly high amount is that...

The $2.5 million is likely a line of credit used to purchase multiple properties. If that is the case, let's assume that this line was used to buy 25 properties at an average of $100,000 per house. Now if I were that lender (in this case, Minnwest Bank Metro) I'd set up that line of credit so that each house purchased would have a lien against it. That way, if the borrower defaulted, I'd have all of those properties as collateral for my $2.5 million. I'm guessing that's how it's set up, but I don't have the details just yet.

So what other properties are included in this $2.5 million? The Hennepin County website should have those details, but does not at the time of this post.

But wait, there's more! A JNS reader posted a similar question about a property in Willard-Hay, 1417 Logan Ave N. This one is also in the post-sheriff sale state of foreclosure. The mortgagor, once again, is Minnwest Bank. The amount bid at the sheriff sale on this one is a cool $1,900,779.76. And the same reader who clued us in about this mentioned another million-dollar foreclosure but did not give an address. There's definitely something going on here...

And in case anyone wonders what $1.9 million gets you in Willard-Hay:

I looked in the replaced window (which nobody even BOTHERED to clean out the broken glass from the frame or sweep up the pile of shards from the floor, and saw what looked to be a hastily-vacated unit. There were also piles of dog or cat feces throughout the living area. I would have taken a picture of that, but really, wouldn't you just want to take my word for it?

The waters get murkier still. Mention the name "Pamiko Properties" or Paul Koenig to any Hawthornite who knows their history and you're sure to get a nasty look and a comment like, "Oh, you mean the guy with the DREAM HOMES?!" I haven't had a chance to get the full story of what went on, but it's clear that something strange and contentious happened. JNS readers are encouraged to give me and other readers a history lesson through the comment threads on this blog.

Some folks have reported positive dealings with Koenig and Pamiko, however. When there were problem tenants at 2211 4th St N, residents said that Paul Koenig was VERY receptive and quite proactive in terms of dealing with these occupants. But suddenly, those communications stopped earlier in the summer. Why would that be? Well, the Hennepin County tax website lists Minnwest Bank as the owner, so it would appear that Pamiko lost or will soon lose this property to foreclosure as well.

More recently, it was reported that workers were removing items from 621 26th Ave N, another property owned by Pamiko. When asked what was going on, they replied that the city had bought the place (public records do not indicate a change in ownership and my search of the MLS does not show it listed for sale in any way, although this property IS at least one or more years behind on property taxes). The workers went on to say that they were allowed to take out personal property, and were seen removing a bathtub. Fixtures are generally NOT considered personal property, and based on this behavior, anyone who sees workers removing items from this place (and by extension, any other property owned by Pamiko) should play it safe and call 911. If they have the proper paperwork, let the cops sort it out. By the way, if Pamiko needs bathtubs, I know where they can get some.

(I'm not encouraging this to turn the screws on Pamiko or any of their contractors. I want to keep houses from being stripped of what makes them livable and desirable, and if there is openly criminal behavior happening then it's best that residents call the police instead of confronting it directly and putting themselves at risk.)

So where did all the money go? And what other properties are owned by Pamiko that are in foreclosure? It's also worth pointing out that many of the properties listed above have open rental licenses, meaning that they could be rented out to unsuspecting renters - maybe even using emergency assistance. Something tells me this is just the tip of the iceberg for Pamiko Properties.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So-Low Watches, So-Low Calls...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Shortly before the army swearing-in ceremony for Peter Teachout, former Chair of the Hawthorne Neighborhood, I stopped by So-Low to pick up some "fake champagne" for the party at the (abstaining) Teachout residence. As always, So-Low had sparkling grape juice at a great low price, near the front of the store close by the meat and produce sections.

Walking inside the store, I noticed a new addition to the front entryway...

It was one of the "We Watch, We Call" signs which are popping up everywhere in NoMi.

As if super-cheap brie cheese wasn't a good enough reason to love So-Low, their commitment to improving the neighborhood is another good reason.

(Blogging from Balch Springs, Texas)

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Holiday Burglary Hits The Home Of A Jordan Revitalizer...

Photo By John Hoff

The "Goode" family has generously agreed to allow these details to be shared, so neighbors will be warned about the dangers of thefts during the holidays. As a condition of sharing the information, NO NEGATIVE COMMENTS WILL BE APPROVED. Condolences and expressions of disgust with the thieves, good advice, etc. will still be approved in the comments section. "Goode" is a pseudonym for the family.

On the morning of Saturday, November 28, a postman passed by the home of Amy and James Goode on the Jordan Pond. The vigilant, dutiful postman noticed something was wrong at the house: a window in the back door was smashed in. And the front door had been violently kicked apart.

The postman went to the neighboring house--where a house sitter was present, not the residents of the house--and told the house sitter about the situation at the Goode residence. The house sitter knew the Goode family and knew they were still out of town for Thanksgiving. The sitter had the number for Amy Goode and called her, reaching Amy in a neighboring state.

What do you ask at a moment like that? Maybe something like...

"Um, your front door is all smashed in and, it SUPPOSED to be like that?"

Amy told the the next-door house sitter to call the police RIGHT AWAY. Amy's next call was to her good friend Megan Goodmundson. (Her real name) Megan told me--Johnny Northside--and we rushed over to the Goode residence so fast that I actually went in my socks (like Council Member Don Samuels) my boots in my hands.

At the house, we could see the front door had been kicked apart--the wooden panels, which must have been about a hundred years old were knocked into the porch and laying inside, some on the floor, some on the coffee table amid plants. However, the faithful dead bolt appeared to still be holding. We didn't touch anything. We waited for the police. But from the front window we could see the large flat-screen television was missing and drawers had been rifled.

Two police officers came--asked some routine questions--and then went inside the house to see if any suspects were still inside. When the officers came out of the house, they asked Megan and myself about our familiarity with the layout of the home and our relationship to the Goode family. Satisfied with our answers, they said we should come inside--careful not to touch ANYTHING--and try to help the police figure out what was missing.

So we entered, stepping through the area with the missing door panels. The motion of stepping low through the door reminded me, oddly, of going under the electric fence to visit the lone dairy cow at the farm where some of my kinfolk live. Inside the house, not only the large screen television but the Wii play station were missing. An empty wall mount stood over the fireplace next to a statue of Quan Yin.

We walked through the house and assessed the damage and missing items, calling Amy Goode a couple of times to check some details. Yes, the family had left glasses and a half-empty wine bottle on the dining room table. No, the family had not left a gun in the nightstand, where the drawer was pulled open.

It appeared that, in addition to the flat screen television and Wii, the thieves had made off with James' laptop from his place of work--locked up tighter than a tick's butt with a security code. A nice camera had been stolen, but numerous DVDs and video game discs were left in plain sight. Downstairs in the basement (where I went without touching the bannister) I noticed two file drawers had been pulled open, but the burglar or burglars had left an almost-full bottle of Hendricks gin.

Obviously, the house was robbed by somebody with no taste.

We helped the police spot some good surfaces that might harbor fingerprints, per their request, then we were ushered back out of the house. Luckily, mercifully, the thieves had not trashed the house. They made off with some high-value items but only broke stuff to get inside, not destruction for the sake of destroying. And yet it was weird, some of the stuff they stole. For example, they went through the storage Ottoman and took two light sabers but did not take the dance pad for the Wii. They took a game called "Cooking Mama." They took a bunch of games, actually, but not all of them. The Goode family was mystified: who would take "Cooking Mama?" It's not that popular of a game.

A white crime lab van came and two technicians began to "print" the house. The police were particularly interested in a plate of broken glass--about the size of a hardcover book--which was out in the yard, away from the porch, in the grass. Perhaps that piece had been touched or handled by one of the thieves. Otherwise, the technicians went after stuff like drawer handles, looking for prints. Naturally, we thought burglars would use gloves, but the police said, "Criminals are stupid. That's what they're criminals." Black fingerprint dust added to the mess of broken boards and glass shards, but nobody was complaining. (The photo at the top of this post shows one of the crime lab guys "printing" the smashed up front door)

The officers who came to the scene gave us their assessment of what took place: the thieves initially tried to enter the house by taking a flowerpot and throwing it through the back door window. However, they were unable to open the secure deadbolt on the back door. So the burglars went to the front door and smashed in a window, trying to unlock the front door. But that deadbolt held, as well. So the thieves kicked apart the door panels on the front door and--stooping down like animals who could not stand upright--they went in through the broken front door, even while that door's faithful deadbolt continued to hold fast.

As bad as the situation was, it could have been so much worse. Though the thieves had gained entry, they had been delayed and forced to work hard by the strong, solid doors and deadbolts.

Megan called a mutual friend of mine, a handyman, to temporarily secure the Goode residence. But before the handyman could call back, word came from Amy Goode: the insurance company was sending out a guy. As the police were leaving--and I was delighted to find one of them had graduated two years before I did, at Jefferson Senior High School in Alexandria, Minnesota--the police asked about getting the house secured and we ASSURED them, one hundred percent, the house would be secured and would NOT be left unsecured. No "emergency board up" was necessary. Caring neighbors and friends had the situation handled.

In fact, the sight of the crime lab vehicle and the police caused one neighbor after another to drop by and make inquiries. Denny Wagner--who is pretty much the king of the Jordan Pond--called the situation "gut wrenching." I kept trying to look at the situation in a positive way. Megan told me to stop being so damn positive, it was annoying. We turned to the task of cleaning up the house, so the Goode family wouldn't return to the sight of broken glass, splintered wood, drawers pulled out.

There are ways to reduce psychological trauma just by cleaning up a bit at the scene of a tragedy. I know this drill. I've done this kind of thing before. We started by washing the dishes. Obviously, dirty dishes weren't part of the crime scene, but we thought it would be nice to clean up and make the house extra welcoming. We were also waiting for the OK to clean up the glass. So all the dishes were cleaned, and I took care of the accumulation of material to be recycled, including all those bottles of good-but-affordable wine, some of which I'd probably helped drink with the Goodes myself.

Megan pushed in every drawer that had been pulled out. Picking up the area around the missing flat screen television was tricky, because stuff had been pulled down which was still connected by cords, laying on top of the fallen fireplace screen. I didn't want to unplug the devices, but the cords were all tangle-wangle. It was impossible to know if the devices had been damaged by falling from the mantle. The best we could do was to put the stuff back up on the mantle and put the fireplace screen back in position. Allie Wagner, age 14, came from the Wagner residence to help. Allie--who had seen the Goode child's coin bank before--was the one to notice the top of the Crayola Crayon coin bank in the porch area, the rest of the bank gone.

We experienced a sinking feeling, all three of us, together. The piggy bank of a small child, ripped off by burglars, probably to buy crack. This was the worst. This was worse than the missing television or laptop or anything else. This would be traumatic for the child.

I called Amy--who was already driving back from Iowa, cutting off their family visit early--and told her this bad news. I heard Amy turn to James and say, "They got it."

We continued to clean, getting up all the dirt from the flowerpot which was hurled through the back door window, hurled so hard it broke a small hole in the sheetrock wall of the stairwell. One of the police had pointed out the place where the flowerpot had been lifted up from a group of half a dozen pots, its circular shape visible in the leaves which had blown in around it.

"I put that flowerpot there," Megan said, half to herself.

What do you say in a moment like that? "It's not your couldn't have known or anticipated. Heck, they would have just used something else."

Creation and cleaning up takes a long time. Destruction and making a freaking mess only takes a moment. We put a good long effort into cleaning up the house and then we were done. While we worked, the handyman crew from the insurance company arrived and secured both the doors. The faithful front door--perhaps a century old--was now trash. At least it had died a warrior's death, I thought, strong and brave to the last. Whoever breached that door had a sore foot the next day.

And the day after that.

It was while cleaning up the Goode house that we saw the "ambulatory urinator" across the street. I wanted to go outside and call him a filthy pig to his face. Megan physically grabbed the back of my shirt to keep me from confronting the no-account thug. Even as boards were going up on the Goode house, a crew had arrived to board up the notorious brown house, located not far away. We should have been drinking celebratory champagne. Instead, we were sweeping up broken glass. And taking pictures. I took pictures, to document.

Some days later, Megan grabbed her Ziploc bag of coins and I grabbed my Danish cookie can of small change, and we gave it to the Goode family's child as a present to make up for the missing coins.

The child who lost the bank full of coins was philosophical about it, and wondered aloud, "What lesson are we supposed to learn from this?" I told her, "Lay not up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrode, where thieves break in and destroy; but lay your treasures up in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be, also." The child asked what that meant. Megan said it means don't get too attached to stuff. It is, after all, just STUFF and STUFF is not the whole meaning of life.

This is how things are for the "revitalizers" who live in NoMi, and work constantly to turn the neighborhood around. Yes, we experience period setbacks which are--as Denny Wagner put it--"gut wrenching." But we are as close as neighbors in the smallest of small towns, like soldiers in a platoon. We are part of something bigger than the present moment. We are completely turning our neighborhood around, creating an urban utopia.

Amy Goode tells me that very night, a neighbor's baby came over to their house and actually took his first steps on the floor which had been cleaned of broken glass hours earlier. That night, the house was filled with neighbors dropping by to be supportive, and with laughter. James Goode had a message for the thieves, which was paraphrased and related to me through Amy: You did so much damage, and yet gained so little. Merry Christmas, you losers.

Amy Goode said the thieves had worked so hard breaking in, and for what? Some household junk, including a purple Vikings jacket. She said the thieves couldn't take what she cherished the most: close family ties, the feeling of being part of a supportive NoMi community which rallied all around her family and the house, even while she was out of state. She said coming home to a house where all the dishes had been done "rocked."

I would like to say this: MOST of the time we are winning here in NoMi. MOST of the time we are "dishing it out" to the thugs. Every day we look around and see more progress than setbacks.

But we lost this round. This time the thugs got through a hole our defenses and stole a child's piggy bank.

When they use that money to buy crack, I hope they end up on the hood of a police car with Mark Klukow or the "Silver Fox."

It just makes me want to call 911, and 311, and write more blog posts, and give more encouragement to my neighbors.

I hope it makes you feel the same way, dear reader.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ken Farkash Art at 42nd Ave Station!

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Last night marked the opening of NoMi's newest resident artist, Ken Farkash's work on display at the 42nd Avenue Station. Despite my knowledge of NoMi geography, I had mistakenly started calling this great coffee shop the "42nd Street Station." As catchy as the song is, it's misleading. Repeat after me: 42nd AVENUE Station.

It's too bad that John himself is out of town, because the thrust of this exhibit is not only to show off Ken's work and a cool coffee shop, but also to show how AFFORDABLE art is. Many of the items on display are selling for a mere...

$20. Like the one above, that's already sold. Or for $40, you can get BOTH lucky sevens AND snake eyes:

If you've got the money to spare, my favorite Farkash piece, "The Conversation," is also on display. Before I could plop down my money though, someone else picked up a more frugal depiction of coffee and cigarettes:

But thanks to my own klutziness, I will get a Ken Farkash painting/sculpture. A few weeks ago, I was having one of those days and locked my keys in my car on a Friday night. I called up my good friend Connie Nompelis to vent, and she and Ken came over to help. In any other situation, I'd be relieved to find out that my car has safety features that render a slim jim device useless. Just for that night, it would have been nice to break back in quickly. But the Hawkmobile is tough to break into.

So we went back to the Dinosaur House and Ken grabbed a few metal rods he uses for welding, and for his painting and sculptures. With a little ingenuity, we used those to open my car again. As payment for their help, Connie and Ken provided ME with pizza and beer that evening. Ain't life grand? Anyway, I asked Ken if he could do a piece of artwork incorporating the metal rod that we used to get into my car. Can you get art with that kind of a personal connection at the Walker? I don't think so.

Another patron bought a painting, but couldn't wrap it. Luckily, Brian Finstad was on hand, and he made good on his claim to be able to wrap anything.

After closing time, we went back to the Dinosaur House for the "after party," celebrating art and friendship in NoMi. But hurry over to the 42nd Ave. Station to pick up your piece of artwork!

2222 4th Goes out with a Whimper

Guest post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman

The fate of 2222 4th St N was ultimately decided at the Friday, December 4 city council meeting. Click here for an agenda of that meeting, and here to watch the webcast.

Don Samuels brought forward a consent motion to adopt all of the items under the Public Safety and Regulatory Services agenda at the 18:30 mark of the video. Diane Hofstede made a remark about how long the property at 2222 4th St N has been before PS & RS until it has finally come to the point of demolition. The owner, Mahmood Khan, had some time even over the past few weeks to demonstrate an ability to comply with the restoration agreement, and apparently did not.

After a side discussion about grocery stores, the council voted on all remaining PS & RS items (including 2222) at the 27:00 mark. If Khan was in attendance, he made no attempt to speak. And this is how a historic problem property ends, not with a fierce debate or threats of lawsuits, but with a roll call voice vote that is even more bland than this blog describes it.

(Do not click "Read More," but do be glad about the demise of yet another problem property.)

Hawthorne's "Pink House" to be Demolished

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

2230 6th St N, known in Hawthorne as "The Pink House," is inching towards demolition. This has been a property long-occupied by problem tenants, until it became foreclosed, condemned, and soon demolished. This property is somewhat unique in that one unit was condemned while the other was still occupied. Unfortunately, there appears no way to demolish the first floor while keeping the second intact.

(Do not click "

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Al Flowers Fashion Accessory...

Photo By John Hoff

Al Flowers is many things:

Failed mayoral candidate. Loud, disruptive gadfly-at-large. The undisputed intellectual leader of at least four people. And the winner of a multi-dollar legal judgment.

Now Al Flowers is also a kind of fashion trend setter, thanks to a story associated with his arrest.

Check out that purple Crown Royal bag, pictured above. What's in the bag? Why it's...

...ammunition, of course.

See, after word came about a pistol found in a purple cloth bag at a residence associated with Al Flowers, folks who read the story thought, "Why, that would have to be a Crown Royal Whiskey bag. WHO ELSE makes bags like that?" Now NoMi residents (well, at least one NoMi resident) must scramble to get their own Crown Royal bag for the storage of sensitive items, or be left out of the fad. And nobody wants to be left out of the fad. (Well, except for Lennie Chism, who isn't allowed to possess guns or ammunition)

It should be pointed out the charges were dropped against Al Flowers. To which I say: that only adds to the mystique of the purple cloth storage bag!

(Blogging from Grand Island, Nebraska)

You MIGHT be an Inconvenience Store IF...

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from "The Far Side" comic strip.

The Urban dictionary defines an "inconvenience store" as one where the employees are simply rude or unhelpful, or the store does not have often necessary items. But here in NoMi we've had our share of inconvenience stores of a different stripe: establishments that are harmful to the community due to the products they sell, their clientele, or other factors.

In a recent JNS post, "Hillside Chronicle" said of the sign at Wafana's: "If you have to post a sign in the window that says: 'DO NOT STAND IN FRONT OF THE STORE,' you may be an inconvenience store." I got to thinking that there's a lot more where that came from...

If the people buying Brillo pads don't look like they've cleaned anything in their entire lives, you MIGHT be an inconvenience store.

If you have the word "food" in your name, but the most balanced meal one can buy includes beef jerky, ding-dongs, potato chips, and "cheez" products, you just might be an inconvenience store.

If you sell individual Swisher Sweets AND individual baby diapers to the same person at the same time, well...

Come on JNS readers, feel free to add your own!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Wrinkle in the Foreclosure Crisis?

Guest post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman

When you hear about something once, it's chance; twice could be a coincidence; but a third time and you start to wonder if there's a larger pattern. And now I'm starting to see a pattern with foreclosures in north Minneapolis. Landlords with properties in foreclosure are consistently renting out their properties to new tenants in between the sheriff's sale and the end of the redemption period. And surprise, surprise, the tenants aren't being made aware of the status of the house or apartment their renting.

Okay, so that's not REALLY new; that kind of behavior has been going on long enough that Minnesota has passed some tenant protections as a result. What IS new (to me), however... that many of these landlords are receiving money from tenants using emergency assistance. Maybe I and others should have seen this coming a long time ago. After all, some residents of the apartment complex of anarchy told a similar story in the summer of 2008.

I was told then that the owner at the time, Shirley Guevara, went to homeless shelters and picked up people to come live in her two buildings, 3101 6th St N and 3115 4th St N. She did this post-sheriff's sale, but prior to fully losing her home to foreclosure. The people she got to live in her units were on public assistance and emergency funds were used to help pay their rent and deposit. Then, when they were evicted (and given plenty of warning), many no longer qualified for the very assistance that would have helped them in the first place.

And who wound up pocketing these public funds? That's right, the Mystic Lake Casino. But first, Shirley Guevara had the money for a little while.

Borrowing from Jonathan Swift, "I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed." So it should come as no surprise that this slummy behavior has been repeating itself.

(a quick mortgage primer: once a mortgage goes delinquent enough, then the bank holds a sheriff's sale at the county. Prior to that sale, the mortgage can be reinstated, rewritten, or otherwise brought current. After the sheriff's sale, there is a period of time - usually six months - where the owner typically has two options, pay off the loan entirely or lose it to foreclosure. As Rosemary Williams and her supporters found out, there is virtually no chance of saving a home post-sheriff's sale.)

So a tenant using emergency assistance to rent from a landlord who is delinquent on a mortgage PRIOR TO the sheriff sale could be a win-win situation that gives someone a home and provides much-needed income to stave off a landlord foreclosure. But post-sheriff sale, that tenant will likely be evicted by a mortgage company and will never get their security deposit back.

I saw this happen to a family in the fall, and then yesterday I was at an NCRC meeting with an aide from Senator Klobuchar's office. During that meeting, E.B. Brown, who works at Oasis of Love in Hawthorne, mentioned that she was dealing with SEVERAL families in this very situation. One family had moved FOUR TIMES in the past year because of landlord foreclosures.

This is traumatic enough for a family to have to endure even once, but gets compounded when we find that public dollars are supporting foreclosed landlords. I've brought this up to various elected officials and public servants and I'm told we do have systems in place to try and prevent this very issue. That's more encouraging than if we weren't doing anything about it, but things are still slipping through the cracks.

This is your money and my money that is being spent to support landlords in foreclosure, and not in any way that meaningfully addresses the problem. How much money did Danna D III or Gregge Johnson skim off of their properties during the redemption period? How many other slumlords are out there doing this? How much public assistance money is being thrown at these no-accounts?

If you're reading this and you think or know your landlord may be in foreclosure, contact the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis. I'm hoping to work with partnering agencies to understand the scope of the problem, and then with our public officials on an appropriate remedy. In the meantime, I want names. If your landlord is doing this, post information on this blog or contact John Hoff or myself ( We need to put a stop to this, and call out landlords who are using our tax dollars to prey on the most vulnerable among us.

New Residential Energy Program Coming to Hawthorne!

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

This post originally appeared on the Hawthorne Voices Blog.

Learn how to reduce your energy use and save money! The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council has teamed up with the Center for Energy and Environment, CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy to offer Hawthorne homeowners Community Energy Services, CES, a full service residential energy program.

The program will not only provide you with information about reducing your energy use by installing low-cost/no-cost measures in your home, but it will also provide you with the tools and financing necessary if you are ready to make larger investments such as insulation, sealing bypasses and installing new windows.

Community Energy Services provides:

• FREE educational workshops to teach homeowners how to lower their energy use and save money;

• FREE educational workshops to teach homeowners how to lower their energy use and save money;

• Customized home energy visits from qualified professionals who will identify additional ways for residents to save in their homes, including a blower door test. Up to $400 in services and materials for a co-pay of only $20, however the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council will cover the co-pay of the first 150 people to sign up for the program, giving you a $400 value for free;

• Personalized energy use inventory for the last 12 months and feedback for the next 12 months to show the homeowner how these low-cost/no-cost measures resulted in decreased energy use, also allowing participants to compare their energy use to that of their neighbors also participating in the program (confidentially of course);

• Information on financing, incentives, stimulus funding and rebates for those wishing to complete larger projects such as insulation or a furnace replacement.


A general informational workshop will be held at Farview Park on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Two other workshops to sign up for these FREE services will be held on Wednesday, February 17th, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 20th, 10 a.m. - noon. Call or email Ashley Robertson to reserve your spot TODAY, at 612-335-5869 or

By being a part of the Community Energy Services program you will be one of the first people in the state to have access to everything this program has to offer! Invite your friends, neighbors and family, all Hawthorne homeowners are welcome!

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Hawthorne Voices Blog Up and Running!

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Contributed photos.

When John gave me the keys to the kingdom a few months ago, I started doing my own thing on the Johnny Northside blog. This often meant Hawthorne-specific blog posts, or mortgage/policy wonk posts appeared next to political satire or other quirky JNS items. Things even got a little hairy when it seemed to some people that I might have been using Hawthorne non-profit/tax-exempt time to write my personal political views.

More importantly though, the message about Hawthorne-specific issues was getting diluted. So the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council has decided to revive the Hawthorne Voices blog. For now, Housing Director Jeff Skrenes, aka "The Hawthorne Hawkman" will be writing and monitoring that blog. Please be patient as that site undergoes some changes. For now, many of the items may be re-posted in their entirety on JNS. As Hawthorne Voices readership picks up, links will appear on the right-hand side of JNS and stories will remain on the Hawthorne Voices blog.

(Do not click "Read More," but do check out a new residential energy program coming to Hawthorne!)

Monday, December 7, 2009

No More Air Hockey at MOA! Hawkman Rehab Tales...

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photos by John Hoff

Ever since my tragic incident with the Dumpinator 3000, I've been rehabbing in various ways, including honing my reflexes at air hockey and hooping. Don't ask me why these two activities have been helpful; but my VA rep says unconventional learning has been proven successful elsewhere.

Some of this has proven useful. I recently hula-hooped long enough to earn a discounted haircut. (Really. This is one of the few parts that is NOT a parody.) Air hockey on the other hand, has been problematic...

During my therapy, I challenged John's son Alex to air hockey. I'd grown up playing the game and I consider myself to be rather good. I've also volunteered with kids from my church, and in my eight years of that, only one youth has ever beaten me. So even hampered by phone book injuries, I thought this would be another easy step towards recovery.

Boy was I wrong. I don't remember the score, but Alex SCHOOLED me. We're talking a "take me out behind the woodshed with the business end of a belt" kind of whooping. This wasn't even CLOSE.

(What surprises me even more, is that for some reason, John has failed to blog about this incident. He's normally pretty quick to point out when Alex is superior to his superiors at things. But I've looked and looked and the blog post just isn't there.)

So we returned to the mall ready for a rematch, and what happened? The air hockey table is GONE! Alex and I took out our mutual frustrations while playing this game. We did well enough to consistently score in the top ten, but there was no clear winner between us regarding ability or score. And what fun is there if you can't divide people up into winners and losers?

A rematch and more news about the Hawkman's recovery are coming soon...

Bangkok Market Value Meal!

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Much has been written about the delicious food that can be found at the Bangkok Market, but I am still in awe of this gem we have in Hawthorne. Like a lot of places, there is a $5 minimum if you want to use your credit/debit card. Since I rarely carry cash on me, I often have to wander the store just to find food expensive enough to get to that minimum.

Lately I've been eating various Laab dishes. Laab meat is prepared... grinding up beef, chicken, fish, duck, or other meats, and seasoned with lime, peppers, cilantro, and other Thai or Laotian ingredients. (A word to the wise: those serrano peppers are NOT for the faint of heart. You better have a high tolerance for spiciness if you mix those in with your dish.) I'm not sure what parts of the cow or bird get used in the "grinding up" process, but hey, it can't be much worse than lunch meat, right?

I've been trying different Laab dishes, and I think I like the duck the best. I'm reminded of a story I've told before, but I've searched the blog and can't find it anywhere. Back when we had to deal with rampant (but now non-existent) crime in the EcoVillage, John and I would stop at the Bangkok Market, grab a bite, and eat while watching the Sentry, the Devil, and other characters at 3020 6th St N.

Well, we were telling the owner about this blog, and how we like to promote neighborhood businesses. We weren't trying to scam any free food, but some businesses do offer freebies when we pitch this line. The owner didn't seem overly impressed. But then I explained what we were going to do while eating, and finished with the line, "Your food sustains us while we go out and make the neighborhood safer."

THAT got his attention. He immediately went and got us a batch of sticky rice, and explained how to use it to scoop up the laab meat. The technique looked rather similar to how tortillas are used in Central America, although I still haven't perfected using the rice that way. But the behavior of the owner was notable: promoting his own business was secondary to making his neighborhood safe. I remember that every time I get a meal from here.

And the best part is the price, which I intentionally left visible in the photos above. This meal cost $7.00 and there's enough to keep you full for both lunch and supper. That's roughly what you'd pay to fill up on fast food "value meals" in our neighborhood, only this is MUCH better for you.

Delicious, healthy, and cheap food can be found at Hawthorne's Bangkok Market!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Local D'Lish Picks Up Where Mill City Farmers Market Leaves Off In Winter...

Photo by John Hoff

Metro Magazine recently recognized Local D'Lish, an organic and local foods store in North Loop which is owned and managed by Ann Yin of the Jordan Neighborhood, for its winter farmers market. Click here for the Metro Magazine article.

(There may actually be another article in Metro Magazine that goes into more detail about the incredible edible Local D'Lish, but so far I haven't found that article online. Readers, feel free to post links) 

The popular Mill City Farmers Market doesn't go through winter but, as pointed out by Metro Magazine, Local D'Lish picks up where the Mill City Farmers Market leaves off.

Ann Yin is pictured above, with a case of TEN DIFFERENT KINDS OF ROOT BEER, which she gave me as a present for my recent birthday. Since too many miles and too much trucker food have helped me pack on the pounds, I'm hitting the diet and exercise hard, lately. So I told Ann Yin that I'm setting the root beer aside as a reward for hitting my "goal weight." 

Thanks again, Ann Yin and Local D'Lish.

(Do not click "Read More")

Cleaning Up Around The Jordan Pond...

Photos By John Hoff

So it was another great visitation weekend with my son, but as usual I was scrambling for good father/son activities instead of letting Alex play on the computer all day...which he will do, if I let him get away with it.

Since there were no more slummy "We Buy Houses" signs on the boulevards to pluck up and burn, we walked around the Jordan Pond and...

...Alex picked up a big bag full of litter, all by himself. We also found some remnants of crime scene tape from the shooting incident which happened near 2700 Morgan Ave. N. We don't need stuff like that around to be seen by impressionable would-be residents looking for great deals on houses, so we cleaned up those remnants.

I keep thinking what a great idea it would be to make that plastic tape from biodegradable corn starch polymer. Oh, well.

One thing at a time. Yesterday, that thing was picking up the litter.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's Cooler Than A Cool Bar? A Cool Bar With A Bullet Hole...

Photo By John Hoff

A couple weeks ago, while I was at Council Member Don Samuels' victory party--call it the "final victory party," if you will--which was held at Club Jager, one of the party guests pointed out a bullet hole in the ceiling of the bar and told me to ask the bartender for the story.

Well, it turns out...

...the first bartender had no idea what I was talking about and looked at me like I must be intoxicated. (For the record, I was a designated driver that night, unlike--for example--THIS night, click here) But the second bartender actually knew the origin of the bullet hole.

He said back in the "old days" (whenever THAT was) the bouncers would sometimes fire their guns into the ceiling to make rowdy patrons clear the bar. Good to know! Looking around, however, I could only find the one bullet hole and not multiple bullet holes. But it was dark, so perhaps there really are more.

I figured the story of the Club Jager bullet hole must be online somewhere, but I did some searching and, to my surprise, I found nothing. So I thought I'd make a point of documenting and preserving the story.

By the way, if you've never been to Club Jager then be assured the club is very peaceful and not a "thug bar." One nice feature of the bar is a fenced in back yard with a fire pit and plenty of wood. One of these times, I swear, I'm smuggling in a pack of weenies.

Battling Graffiti On The New Northstar Line...

Photo by John Hoff

Jeff Skrenes--who, a moment ago, posted video about the most recent Hawthorne Huddle--passed on some information which was related to him at that meeting from County Commissioner Stenglein, which Stenglein asked SPECIFICALLY for Jeff to pass on to Johnny Northside.

It turns out that before the new Northstar Rail Line was fully up and running, County Commissioners and other dignitaries took a ride on the planned route...

Naturally, they saw the incredible amount of graffiti along the route which I complained about in a previous blog post, click here. And, of course, these public officials said, "Something needs to be done about all that graffiti!" So, as it turns out, the Northstar route was scrubbed clean of graffiti shortly before it opened.

However, faster than crabgrass the graffiti came back, and now it looks as bad as ever. Word is the authorities are determined to clean up the graffiti on the route and will be making a renewed effort.

Personally, I submitted an email to 311 complaining about graffiti along virtually the entire Northstar rail route. If I ride the Northstar and see graffiti, I will do that again. And again. And again. I hope other public-spirited citizens who ride the Northstar and see graffiti would continue to report it as well.

For that matter, heck, call it in while you're on the BUS LINE. What else is there to do while riding the bus?

Hawthorne Huddle Celebrates Neighborhood Achievements!

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, video by a Hawthorne neighbor

On Thursday, December 3rd, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council celebrated many achievements in our community at the Hawthorne Huddle, sponsored by the General Mills Foundation. Every first Thursday of the month, community leaders and residents gather at Farview Park at the crack of dawn (7:30, to be precise). A continental breakfast is served (catered by the Sunnyside Deli), and we get to hear about and discuss what many of our partners are doing in and around Hawthorne.

But once a year, we roll out the red carpet...

At the end of the year, a full break fast, including omelets, sausage, and hash browns, is served. Neighborhood partners, many of whom receive support from the General Mills Foundation, share their successes from the past year and their goals for the next.

The video above is of yours truly, Hawkman alter-ego Jeff Skrenes, discussing some of the many accomplishments of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council over the past year. My normal camera was out of juice, but luckily I carry a Blackberry in my utility belt, and used the video feature there for the first time.

In case folks don't watch the full video, I want to repeat my closing remarks: What we have accomplished would not have been possible without the vision and resolve of our residents, as well as the support of many of our partners in the room. So I sincerely thank all of you for making our neighborhood a success.

Also, I should point out that I specifically had the South Hawthorne Community Garden in my notes to talk about how great that and our residents who made it happen are. As SOON as I was done, I realized I'd forgotten to bring that up. I started thinking to myself, "Please, PLEASE let one of our neighbors bring this up," and sure enough Carey Joe Howell did. In some ways it's more appropriate that a resident brought up the garden, since the work was driven much more by the community itself than Hawthorne staff.

Paul Yeager from Farview Park also spoke about how the sports teams for our park fill up faster than those at other north and northeast parks. Obviously working with kids presents a special sort of challenge, but it's also incredibly rewarding and Paul is a tremendous asset to our community. He finished his remarks by saying to General Mills and the community, "Thank you for making my job fun." No, Paul, THANK YOU for what you give to our community.

Ellen Luger of General Mills made sure that the first people to present their accomplishments for 2009 were local youth who worked on a "Visuals in Peace" project. These were youth whose lives were touched by gang and other youth violence and got together to do what they could to counter that. They were inspired by Desmond Tutu last year and worked with many institutions to put up the banners we see along West Broadway.

I have heard both positive and negative things about how those banners look. But I think we can all agree that the spirit and collaboration behind those banners is exactly what our community needs. This is especially true knowing that the project was driven by our own youth.

So from Jeff Skrenes, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council, and the johnnynorthside blog, a sincere thank you goes out to the General Mills Foundation, our community partners and our strong and committed residents for all that you have do for Hawthorne and NoMi!

Wafana's Moving Toward Demolition...

Photos By Jeff Skrenes

A couple nights ago, the Hawthorne Housing Committee approved $20,000 to be used toward the cost of demolition of the old Wafana's store on Lyndale Ave. N.

This building used to be what some North Minneapolis residents refer to as an "inconvenience store," which is a business where thugs hang out, crimes take place, and sometimes stolen goods are sold. An "inconvenience store" is more of a hindrance than a help to the neighborhood and this is exactly what Wafana's was, kind of like the old Uncle Bill's store in the Willard-Homewood. (Note how Urban Dictionary Dot Com has a different definition, click here)

This decision to allocate $20,000 awaits ratification by Hawthorne's board. However...

It appears the Wafana's building is riding the greased-up skids to Demolition City and I say BON VOYAGE AND GOOD RIDDANCE.

2222 4th Ave. N. To Be Demolished...

Photos by Jeff Skrenes

Word came first from Jeff Skrenes, the "Hawthorne Hawkman," and was confirmed by an email from Council Member Hofstede which was forwarded by Hawthorne resident Michael Klick.

The house at 2222 4th Ave. N. will be demolished. The council voted today, unanimously. This property is virtually cursed...

It was the place where the dead, frozen body of Annshalike Hamilton was discovered. This murder is still unsolved and anybody with information should contact the Minneapolis Police Department.

Attempts have been made to rehab and rehabilitate the property, but the attempts were slum-lordy and half-hearted, not meeting the standards of the neighborhood or public officials. Apparently, when Mahmood Khan bought his properties, he was under the impression North Minneapolis operated something like the "Wild West" and he could get away with having crappy rental properties left to sit for months and years.

These photos were taken just hours ago by Jeff Skrenes, to show the current condition of the property. Compare with, for example, this image from some time ago, click here.

Wannabe slumlords can look at the example of Mahmood Khan and 2222 4th Ave. N. and take note: this slumlord stuff no longer flies in North Minneapolis, particularly in the Hawthorne Neighborhood.

JNS BLOG SORTA EXCLUSIVE: Images Of The (Alleged) Crooks Whose Actions Killed A Police Dog...

First and foremost, these images are mug shots and therefore in the public domain. Anybody who wants to reproduce these photos on a blog or t-shirt or whatever is free to do so. Don't feel like you have to ask me. Take the pictures and run.

Second, the "front view" mug shots were already published on Fox9, click here, but the photos used by Fox9 included only the front view, not the side view. And I think readers will really want to check out...

...that spiffy tattoo sported by Jesse Luna, 37, or the way Tina Gerber, 30, looks like she has five o'clock shadow over her lip; not just from the front angle but also from the side.

The next time a police dog chases Jesse Luna--and I'm sure there will be a next time, unless he suddenly and unexpectedly gives his life to Jesus or something--I hope that police dog clamps on right on that oh-so-tempting tattoo of, well, bones. 

If I were a police dog, I'd find that tattoo impossible to resist.