Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shopping Bags Made Of Recycled Newspaper--FROM INDIA!

Photo By John Hoff

Ann Yin, owner of the Local D'Lish store in North Loop, always seems to have samples of some intriguing new item. A few days ago, I was at Ann Yin's home on the Jordan Pond, and she showed me this cool shopping bag made out of newspaper.

As it turns out...

...not only are the bags cool because they're RECYCLED, but the newspapers are from the nation of India. You can try reading some of the articles and ads on the bag and, well, it's like a 20-second trip to the subcontinent. (Click here for an explanation of my concept of a "micro vacation.")  The people who make the bags are street children, led by a group of FORMER street children trying to help these homeless youngsters pull themselves up.

The handles are made of hand-woven jute rope, which reminds me of a little song made up by one of my relatives.

Don't smoke/
The jute-backed carpeting

That's the whole song, actually. You just keep repeating the verses, and maybe throw in something like "I said" or "No no no." Not sure why I mention that...

Oh, wait. Because I'm off to see my relatives and hit the road for a couple weeks truck driving. I may get in a blog post now and then from a cheap hotel room, but while I am gone Jeff Skrenes (The Hawthorne Hawkman) will do his best to pour Johnny Northside Dot Com content into the internet.

Whorehouse Mattresses Hit The Dumpster At 2700 Morgan Ave. N.

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

The infamous "salmon house" at 2700 Morgan Ave. N. has been boarded up for quite a while now, but in the last few days there was a sudden burst of activity. A dumpster appeared, and the furnishings inside the house--including a bunch of mattresses and box springs--hit the bottom of the bin.

I poked around a bit and took a few pictures. I have to admit, some of the furniture didn't look half bad. If I had a truck I'd be all, like, dude...let's take this stuff to an antique store I know in St. Paul and sell it. THEY don't know it's from a whorehouse.

Besides, I think after you hit the surfaces with Lysol, the fact the stuff is from a whorehouse just adds to the mystique.

(Do not click "Read More")

Another Poorly Converted Duplex Meets the Backhoe of Doom

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Yet another piece of substandard housing has bit the dust today. 917-919 26th Ave N met the backhoe of doom and few if any mourned its passing. I, for one, had mixed feelings. Clearly this house was not long for this world and needed to be demolished. But the final two photos show a front porch that was closed in and covered (VERY poorly, it appears) with stucco. My guess is that was done to maximize square footage so that the place could be converted into yet another slummy duplex.

And how do I know it was slummy? I suppose because...

The final photo shows house numbers just PAINTED on the stucco, like a 3rd-grader's wobbly cursive. It almost makes you long for a sharpie.

I also have to appreciate the sign that remained up until the demolition, in hopes that someone would come along with $500 down and $200 a month to buy this pile of rubble. But no one was that foolish.

Even though this was a property that had long been viewed as an appropriate demolition, a little part of me mourned its passing. From the looks of it, at one point the house WAS nice. Did a slumlord come along and parse it into a duplex poorly? Was it, as some folks in Hawthorne have said happened shortly after WWII, a family that converted it so that two generations could live there for a while? Even if we don't know its whole story, can we learn from our mistakes that led to the demolition of this structure and so many others like it? Let's hope so.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Comments Mysteriously Disappear From Mpls Mirror Site...

Stock photo by Jeff Skrenes, crappy Pamiko property
Blog post by John Hoff

The Mpls Mirror--which provides friendly reporting for notorious nutcase Al Flowers and the self-described "best friend" of one of the T.J. Waconia fraudsters, Jim Watkins of Texas--suddenly lost its reader comments function late today, without explanation.

Several loyal readers of THIS blog had been submitting comments to an article on the Mpls Mirror--the article being a crude hatchet-job faux-reporting op-ed gonzo piece written about myself, Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes, and Realtor Connie Nompelis, when suddenly...

The ability to submit comments to the Mpls Mirror just--poof!--vanished.

This disappearance of the comments function happened not only on THAT particular article, but apparently on ALL the articles. (Not to say the Mpls Mirror has ever managed to put out THAT much content, compared to THIS blog) Now even old Mpls Mirror comments are not visible, the comments all appear to have disappeared.

This may be just a temporary glitch in the Word Press platform used by Mpls Mirror or...or...

Well, who knows? But it makes you wonder WHY BOTHER to comment on the Mpls Mirror, let alone read it. Meanwhile, on the Minneapolis Issues list, plenty of people have been letting loose on the Mpls Mirror, with the exception of Bill McGaughey, whose ability to identify a "premiere journalist" is about as well-developed as his ability to produce mayoral votes.

But, hey, if you can't get your comments printed on the Mpls Mirror, you can always come here to Johnny Northside Dot Com!

Minnwest Bank Metro - Breaking the Bank

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from www.classicglassandmirror.net.

A Star Tribune article appeared today regarding commercial real estate loans in relation to total equity--hey, wait! Wake up! This will be interesting, I promise. It relates to Pamiko.

In the midst of this article that was fascinating to me and boring to the 99% of the planet that is unable to say, "Mortgages are my caffeine" with a straight face, the name Minnwest Bank Metro came up. Minnwest is one of two creditors appearing on the multimillion-dollar Pamiko foreclosures. Aspen Financial LLC is the other.

So I started doing a little digging about Minnwest and here's what I found...
ADDENDUM: I requested a "non-Star Tribune link" a story since Strib links sometimes go dead. A JNS reader posting under the name "Another Mortgage Geek" provided that link and one other that are now in the comment section. I have posted hyperlinks in the paragraph about the Ramsey Town Center.

First up under their "About us" section of their website, they REALLY stress community involvement. The opening paragraph reads: "Since its beginning, Minnwest Bank has been dedicated to community involvement. You'll find our bankers and representatives involved in local foundations, county economic development corporations, charities, food shelves and local social organizations. You'll see them in the town parade or organizing a charity bike ride. You'll even discover them teaching kids about money and finances."

Then the final paragraph of that page ends with: "Minnwest Bank's long-term objective is to serve the Twin Cities metro area and regional centers in and around Minnesota. We plan to establish additional banks in markets we think we can bring our expertise, experience and capabilities to our market niche. . . and continue with our community involvement."

Well, come April of 2010, when the redemption periods expire on Pamiko's foreclosures, Minnwest Bank is going to be the owner of a slew of vacant and dilapidated housing. We'll see what kind of community involvement they participate in then. It better be more than the occasional shoveling of a sidewalk.

There's also a newsletter with an article about how to tap into your home's equity safely and responsibly. Surprisingly, the piece is devoid of helpful tips such as "don't take out loans totaling $6.2 million dollars on a handful of properties, some of which were already involved in fraud, and that need the kind of repairs you almost certainly will never make." That would have been helpful for some people to know.

Next is an article from September of 2008 in the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal called "Breaking the Bank (and Fixing it Again)." The byline underneath reads, "And breaking it again. And again. And then fix--whoops! Nope, still broken." Tom Longlet, listed at the time as the President of Minnwest Bank Metro, answers a few basic questions about the financial crisis at the time. He states: "We tend to do business with people who are turned away from or turned down by the bigger banks, and at our institution we’ve tried to take advantage of that." So probably someone was smart enough to turn down Pamiko for these ridiculous lines of credit that are now causing a wave of foreclosures in our neighborhood. Again.

More recently, a November 2009 article lists the metro area banks with third quarter losses over $1 million. Coming in fourth place is Minnwest Bank Metro, with a 3Q loss of $3.9 million. Click here for a handy chart about that. As any thoroughbred horse racer with a blog can tell you, fourth place isn't bad but it's still disappointing. Once everything with the Pamiko houses shakes out, I'm betting we'll see a higher finish out of Minnwest.

Minnwest Bank is also connected to the failed real estate development at the Ramsey Town Center. Minnwest actually sued the other folks who were involved in fraud that caused this project's collapse, but is this coincidence or a pattern of some sort? Given their alleged ties to Tom Petters, I have my doubts.

And finally we're back to the minute factoid that started this jaunt: Commercial Real Estate loans in comparison to total equity. From what I could tell when reviewing the documents on the $2.5 million, $1.9 million, and $1.3 million sheriff sale bids, these Minnwest Bank Metro loans were commercial real estate products. And regulators consider it a "red flag" when the ratio of money in commercial real estate loans exceeds a bank's equity by 300%. Minnwest's total...403%.

I believe that even if these million-dollar foreclosures were legitimately done with no fraud on either Pamiko's or Minnwest's part, that the crossover of having one home appear on numerous lines of credit indicates a tremendous lack of oversight by Minnwest. And if such acts were fraudulent, then I don't see how Pamiko could have pulled that off without the help of someone at the bank. For the sake of all the good people who work there, and for the good customers they serve, I hope I'm wrong and that the fallout from Pamiko-gate will not harm consumers and honest folk at that company.

Still, I do believe that the indications of malfeasance are sufficient enough that the State Commerce Department ought to do a thorough review of Minnwest Bank - especially its commercial real estate loans.

Stolen Laptop Controversy Won't Die After Minneapolis City DFL Convention In May, 2009...

Stock Photo by John Hoff, my son Alex with an Apple Laptop
Blog post by John Hoff

It has long been the policy of this blog to NOT sit tight on pieces of valuable information, but--whenever feasible--to get information OUT THERE even if the info is incomplete. In fact, that's how the very interesting Pamiko-Gate story was blown wide open, because this blog published what it had--an interesting piece of the story--and, very quickly, more information came flowing back.

In that spirit, I want to make clear this blog post is NOT the whole story, but I am trying hard to get--as Paul Harvey would say--"the rest of the story."

In May of 2009, the Minneapolis City DFL met at Washburn high school. According to a highly-placed source, two Apple laptops were stolen that day from a class room which was left unlocked. Images were captured on videotape...

...of an individual wearing a t-shirt from one of the Mayoral campaigns, skulking in a hallway, trying the doors of various rooms. The individual was a young black female. The t-shirt she was wearing was not from the Rybak campaign, but from one of the many "also-ran" campaigns. When somebody else passed through the hallway, the individual in the campaign t-shirt seemed to act as though she was looking for a bathroom. The individual entered an unlocked room with a backpack which did not appear full. When she left the room, the backpack appeared full. Two valuable Apple laptops turned up missing from the room shortly afterward.

Days after the convention, police attempted to identify the young black female using at least one still photo from the videotape. In fact, police went to City Hall with a photo and asked individuals at City Hall if they could identify the individual in the campaign t-shirt. The individual looks like a young woman associated with one of the Mayoral campaigns, but there is talk of a change in hairstyle, a certain degree of uncertainty as to the identification.

Now, word is the school and the police are leaning hard on the DFL to replace the valuable laptops stolen during the convention.

When and if this story develops further and more info comes my way, it will be published on Johnny Northside Dot Com as quickly as possible. Yes, this blog does have the name of the Mayoral campaign in question but I am not publishing it until I have further detailed info, THEREFORE I WIILL NOT PUBLISH COMMENTS WHICH POINT THE FINGER AT ANY PARTICULAR MAYORAL CAMPAIGN.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Camden Lions and Papa's Pizza to Hold Fundraiser for Vang Family On January 16

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from the facebook page for this event.

A concerned resident of NoMi passed along an email for an event that will raise money for the Vang family. They were in a tragic car accident back in early December. The pregnant mother lost her child and she and others spent much time in the hospital. Here is the invitation for that event...

Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser to Help a NoMi Family in Need

Papa's Restaurant and Deli

4159 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis

Please make checks payable to the Camden Lions. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the Vang family.

Saturday January 16, 2010

8 AM to 11 AM

Adults $6, children under 5 free, Family of 5 $20

Pancakes, sausage, juice, and coffee

You might remember hearing about a fatal car crash in early December on I-94 here in North Minneapolis. The Vang family lost an unborn child, and the mom was in the hospital in critical condition. Two of the five children in the family spent several days in the hospital. The father had recently lost his job.

The Vang family live in the Camden area of NoMi, and four of their five kids are enrolled at Loring School.

We, the Camden Lions, have decided to try to help this family as much as we can. Won't you attend and help too? If you can't make the pancake breakfast but would like to contribute, please send your donation written to the Camden Lions, c/o Mick Brogan, Papa's Restaurant and Deli, 4159 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55412. Thanks!

Thank You from The Camden Lions and Papa’s Restaurant and Deli

(End email; links did not appear in email sent to me and I added them on this blog post)

Once again, click here for the Facebook link to this event or to RSVP as a helper or attendee.

This heart-wrenching event was a tragedy and I hope we can show everyone what kind of a community we have here in NoMi. It's the kind of community I've come to love and be proud of. When terrible things like this happen to our community, we claim those affected as our own and we do everything we can to reach out and help. Spread the word, come to the event, and if you can't make it, please send a check to the Camden Lions. The Lions, Papa's Pizza, this blog, NoMi as a community, and I'm sure the Vang family thank you for your support.

Hawthorne Housing Committee Receives Pamiko-Gate Update...

Stock Photo By Jeff Skrenes, trashy Pamiko property

On Wednesday night, Hawthorne's Housing Director, Jeff Skrenes, gave an update to the Hawthorne Housing Committee about the situation with Pamiko, which was blown open in a very public way on this blog. (In the interest of full disclosure, readers should know I am the secretary of this committee and--in fact--was re-elected secretary at this same meeting)

The meeting was public and nothing was said in secret, so here is what came up about Pamiko...

Jeff explained how research into compiling a list of property for CPED--for CPED to possibly acquire for renovation or demolition--led to the discovery of a Pamiko property with a foreclosure of 2.5 million bed at the sheriff's sale. Jeff started digging a little, on his own unpaid personal time. After Jeff posted a relatively small amount of info on Johnny Northside Dot Com, info started to flow Jeff's way.

It turned out there were extensive property holdings by an entity associated with the Koenigs, who were previously involved in the Dream Homes fiasco, a matter which makes the Chair of the Housing Committee literally gnash her teeth. (Please note the Chair of the Housing Committee--Bev Scherrer--was also re-elected at the same meeting. Congratulations, Bev)

Jeff said there is the appearance of mortgage fraud, though explaining the technical reasons why he suspects that would take too long and would be boring beyond the endurance of most human brains. (OK, Jeff didn't actually say that LAST part) Jeff said he has contacted the FBI, city attorney, and Hennepin County attorney.

Minnwest Bank Metro appears to be very involved in this matter. Multi-million dollar loans appear to be lines of credit. There is crossover between the different properties and the different lines of credit. This could be as big as T.J. Waconia, though it is in OUR neighborhood and some other neighborhoods, not the same neighborhoods as T.J. Waconia.

Jeff noted that if no charges are pursued against Koenig, there is a portion of the civil rights ordinance which says you’re in violation if you contributed to the creation of a ghetto. That portion of the ordinance is untested. There is an attorney who could be interested in taking on this case. The attorney gets funding from other foundations.

The Chair thought that the neighborhood needs to zero in on which properties are better and which need to come down.

Editorial remark: If every single so-called "Dream Home" were demolished, it would present no loss to the neighborhood, though perhaps one or two of the buildings could be moved around and used as chicken coops by some of the fine old homes in the neighborhood. That way at least ONE of the buildings would be around for the sake of history, but preserving more than one is probably preserving one-too-many.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Just One More Photo From Eco-Village Groundbreaking...

Photo By Jeff Skrenes, blog post by John Hoff

The old Life Magazine used to include a feature in the back called "Just One More," which would feature a charming or off-the-wall picture. (No, I'm not old enough to remember the old Life Magazine, but I've paged through the magazines in antique stores)

When Hawthorne's Housing Director Jeff Skrenes emailed me the picture, above, I couldn't help but think of the "Just One More" feature in the old Life Magazine. This image shows CPED Director Mike Christenson running to greet Hawthorne resident Valeria Golebiowski shortly before the groundbreaking ceremony.

(Do not click "Read More")

JNS VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Eco-Village Groundbreaking...Actually Breaking Ground!

Here is the 33-second clip of the actual Eco-Village groundbreaking which took place yesterday, click here for more info. For some reason the video wouldn't load up to YouTube yesterday, but today the problem appears to be licked.

Not that you'd want to be LICKING anything in the cold weather pictured here!

(Do not click "Read More")

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Today We Only Stand At The Front Door Of The Future--More Images And Video Of The Hawthorne Eco-Village Groundbreaking...

Above, former Hawthorne Neighborhood Board Chair Peter Teachout talks about facing down crime in the Eco-Village.

Photo By Megan Goodmundson

A group photo of individuals who were very involved in the Eco-Village effort, including residents and public officials.

The green door pictured in the photo has a bit of a story behind it...

Originally, one city official had an idea to obtain a salvaged door at a local used building components business, but Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes thought it would be more frugal and environmentalist to obtain a used door without cost which, really, wasn't good for anything but a prop, anyway. He got such a door from the "Hawthorne Princess," an incredible bargain of a house owned by Realtor Connie Nompelis, currently on vacation in swampy, oh-so-uncomfortable Honduras.

I might add there are PLENTY of such bargain houses in this rapidly-revitalizing model of a neighborhood.

After the symbolic groundbreaking--shoveling a path in the snow to the door--it was Council Member Diane Hofstede who personally laid out the welcome mat.

Meeting at Farview Park after the ground-breaking, where it was much warmer, 4th Precinct Commander Mike Martin talked about the incredible turnaround in the Eco-Village. According to Martin, members of gang units don't like to pull duty in this area, because it is TOO BORING. According to Martin, a lot of things went right to create the quick and startling 18-month success in the Eco-Village. He said even the bad guys did what they should have done: they packed and left.

Personally, I have to wonder if there weren't some private heart-to-heart talks with the bad guys, with stuff said like, "You DO NOT burn the truck of the neighborhood chair ON MY WATCH, (expletive)."

Whatever it was we collectively did, it worked, and hopefully we can figure out that magic formula and replicate it all over North Minneapolis and beyond.

Council Member Diane Hofstede gives credit to residents who were involved in the long, difficult struggle to turn the neighborhood around. Diane is always a classy dresser, but today she looked especially sharp.

I couldn't help but notice a minor factual error, made with the best of intentions: Diane mentioned my car "getting burned." Actually, it was Peter Teachout's truck that burned. As for me, I've had a total of ten tires slashed, one vehicle window busted, and one incident of my vehicle being stolen. (That theft also included a busted window) But my vehicle has never been torched. I would never bother to mention this except that I don't want to get credit in public for enduring something that did not, in fact, actually happen.

Due to how closely Jeff Skrenes, Peter Teachout and myself worked to turn the Eco-Village around, sometimes our different sets of facts would get mixed up in the minds of various pepole. For example, today I was asked how "all my kids" were doing. I only have one child, my son Alex, but Peter has FOUR children.

Community Development and Economic Planning (CPED) Housing Director Tom Streitz delivers remarks. One can't help but be reminded of that old saying, "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan." Today, we didn't really need to worry about that saying.

Today, Eco-Village resident Pam Patrek--whose home might be described as a peaceful island surrounded by vacant lots--gave identical gift baskets to Jeff Skrenes and myself which included (naturally) some homemade Polish sausage.

Jeff Skrenes took some of his sausage and cut it up to share at the gathering. At Jeff's prompting, I told the story of how this sausage sustained us in our long, gritty efforts to turn around the Eco-Village, often eaten in celebration when yet another decrepit property would get demolished. The sausage itself might very well be the key to the "magic formula" which produced such overwhelming success in such a historically short period of time.

Eat, eat! we told those gathered. Eat the magic sausage. It's great cold!

Here, I'll show you--!

Jill Keiner--who is Hawthorne's point of contact with the City of Minneapolis--talks to Steve Brandt of the Star Tribune about the turnaround happening in North Minneapolis. I heard the name "T.J. Waconia" come up.

Photo By State Rep Linda Higgins

Me posing with Tom Streitz, who is a faithful reader of this blog. Thanks, Tom.

Today was a great day. However, the Eco-Village is not just an end in itself, but intended as a model and a seed which will kick start deeper and broader neighborhood revitalization.

Today we only stand at the front door of the future.

JNS BLOG VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Frozen Groundbreaking At The Hawthorne Eco-Village, BRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

This afternoon, dignitaries and ordinary residents of the Hawthorne Neighborhood assisted with the groundbreaking in the Hawthorne Eco-Village, an area of four blocks which used to be one of the roughest spots in North Minneapolis. Since the ground was frozen and beneath several layers of snow, the "groundbreaking" was accomplished by erecting a symbolic green door and shoveling a path in the snow.

After the groundbreaking and the mercifully brief speeches at 400 31st Ave. N., everybody went to Farview Park where there were more speeches--longer, because we were now in a warm building. One consistent theme of the speeches: the Eco-Village area turned around from being a hellhole of crime and decrepit buildings to being a peaceful, virtually crime-free, rapidly revitalizing area IN A MERE 18 MONTHS.

Mike Christensen of CPED called this "the quickest turnaround of a neighborhood in Minneapolis history" and said the residents who stayed to fight for the Eco-Village (including Peter Teachout, former chair of Hawthorne) were "the most gutsy group of people I ever met."

(Do not click "Read More")

End Game In The "True JACC" Court Battle?

Stock photo, John Hoff, infamous January 14, 2009 JACC meeting

Since the beginning of the controversy in the Jordan Neighborhood over which group is the "true" leadership of the Jordan Area Community Council, (JACC) this blog has been the leading source of information on the battle between the "New Majority" and "Old Majority" factions. For many months, this controversy has been in court as the ousted "Old Majority" faction (led by Ben Myers and figurehead E.B. Brown) have tried to claim leadership of JACC and defeat the "New Majority" faction (led by Kip Browne and Ann McCandles)

(However, since there has been yet another JACC election in the meantime, we now have what might be called the "New New Majority," which is led by Vladamir Monroe, Chair, and Kip Browne, Vice Chair)

Now, it appears the never-ending "Old Majority" battle may, in fact, be coming to a close...

A source in the Jordan Neighborhood forwarded some documents--which are public documents, anyway, but how CONVENIENT to receive them by email!--which show what may be the final moves in this climactic battle as the issue of "summary judgment" is debated in briefs filed by plaintiff and defendant. Click here for the Johnny Northside PDF support site to view the documents, complete and unedited, unfiltered.

Do Not Adjust Your Screen--These Photos Taken In "Dollhouse Crazy-O-Vision"

Photo By John Hoff

This blog recently reported the details of the Mayor's and City Council's swearing-in, click here, including the very odd detail of Mr. Tore Simonsen, and his obsessed fixation with the television series "Dollhouse." (Click here for Simonson's blog)

Simonsen was passing out these handwritten "calling cards" at the inauguration.

One guest at the inauguration said Simsonsen gave her "the heebee jeebees."

To which I say: trust your instincts, girl.

(Do not click "Read More")

EcoVillage at the Hawthorne Huddle

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Photos by Dyna Sluyter.

Today's the big day for the EcoVillage groundbreaking, and neither snow nor rain, nor heat nor gloom of night stays this neighborhood from the swift completion of its appointed development projects. Although some heat would be nice. Pictured above are the panelists from this morning's Hawthorne Huddle. Inspector Mike Martin is first, and he made the EcoVillage intensely personal for him and the officers of the 4th precinct. Below that, from left to right we have...

Jill Kiener of the Northside Home Fund, myself (Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Housing Director for any new readers), Steve Cramer of Project for Pride in Living, and a representative from EJAM (Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota).

EJAM has not partnered much with the EcoVillage just yet, but this group, with an office at the Urban League on Penn and Plymouth, is doing excellent work and we expect to join in our efforts very soon.

One theme that was brought up repeatedly was that the EcoVillage was from the very beginning a grassroots effort instead of a top-down imposition on our neighborhood. Also, Mike Martin and Mike Christenson of CPED and I talked to each other about how at the end of 2009 and early in 2010 the Strib and many media outlets are analyzing the drop in crime. And when conventional wisdom regarding economic indicators can't seem to explain why crime is down in an economic downturn, then it gets attributed to the mystical creature called "national trends."

Well this isn't some kind of "criminology butterfly effect." I've yet to be convinced that the drop in violent crimes in Hawthorne and throughout NoMi has any significant ties to less homicides in Los Angeles or fewer assaults in Boston. The results we've seen in the EcoVillage and surrounding areas are instead the fruits of labor that came from the community standing its ground and the police department and city government delivering on their promises to do so in solidarity with us. If anyone still wonders why violent crime is down, this is exhibit A.

Come join Hawthorne residents and partners at 2:30 today for a groundbreaking at 400 31st Ave N, with a reception to follow at Farview Park!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

William Earl Champion Arrested, Charged With Domestic Violence...

Stock photo by Hillside Chronicles
This information has been circulating by text among North Minneapolis movers and shakers, and I want to make sure this blog gets the story out first. William Earl Champion, born February 13, 1962, is in the custody of Hennepin County. This fact has been confirmed by examining the on-line sheriff's roster, click here for a link.

Champion is charged with "Assault/Domestic," and held pending $75,000 bail. He is also charged with "Burglary 1st Degree Assault in person in build/on property" and "domestic assault by strangulation." He was arrested on January 2, 2010.

It is not confirmed whether William Earl Champion is the relative of any prominent state politician with the same surname.

(Do not click "Read More")

Local D'Lish In North Loop--Fighting The Good Food Fight!

Photo By John Hoff

A couple days ago, I went by Local D'Lish to buy some organic dishwashing liquid and some locally-raised eggs. Store owner Ann Yin always has some interesting information to share about the local and organic foods movement.

For example, Ann Yin collects egg cartons from customers to give to local farmers who sell their products at farmers markets. Of course, all the eggs sold in Ann's store use new cartons--the state requires that of stores--but Ann can still help out local farmers by collecting used egg cartons. Lately, though, the State of Minnesota has been...

Trying to get farmers at farmers markets to use NEW cartons. Which, really, I think is just SILLY and a WASTE OF THE EARTH'S RESOURCES and you should WRITE YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR. In the meantime, though, Ann is still able to take donations of gently-used egg cartons. She told me, however, that...

...people should buy their eggs from local farmers, not buy their eggs at a big chain store and then "donate their egg cartons to feel good." Ouch!

Ann provides space in her store for a book donation project which helps folks at assisted living facilities. The program is run by a woman named Robin White. Above, Robin's husband arrives to pick up donated books. 

Ann poses with a Christmas card she received from the Minneapolis Bike Cops For Kids, who have their own blog, click here. 

Farm eggs come in different hues, including rare blue-green and olive hues in addition to the more common brown and white. I'd heard of these other egg hues--even saw a picture in a book called Keeping Chickens by Jeremy Hobson and Celia Lewis--but I'd never seen a green egg before. (Well, except in the book Green Eggs and Ham!)

Ooooh, organic laundry soap! It's $16 a jug, but I am SO BUYING THIS STUFF after my washing machine gets hooked up, which won't be long now. (Did I mention I love my house in NoMi?)

Even in the worst part of Minnesota winter, Ann's store is like a little farmers market. Some other products I saw but didn't photograph include goat milk yogurt drink and bison snack sticks. (In fact, as I've mentioned before, Local D'Lish has the most extensive selection of bison meat products in the Twin Cities)

I find it impossible to walk into Ann's store without buying SOMETHING, and I am renowned for my ability to refrain from buying things. My son Alex--a notoriously picky eater--discovered he likes smoked salmon after having a little sample of the stuff at Ann's store, quite a culinary milestone, actually. (Since Alex has a father who eats (for example) bugs, I figure the universe just balances itself out with my son's picky eating habits)

In any case...

Support the local foods movement by supporting Local D'Lish.

Two Days Needed to Remove Basement Bedrooms at 2230 6th St N

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Hawthorne's "pink house," a once-notorious den of iniquity, has been demolished! The demolition of the structure itself went fairly quickly once the property was cleared of asbestos. However, the house once condemned against itself stood (sort of) for an extra day thanks to...

rebar throughout the basement. Apparently the basement was made deeper and reinforced. The end result of that particular rehab was to (wait for it) ADD MORE BEDROOMS, YAY!!!

The egress window yet to be removed above bears out that theory, as well as a conversation with the demo crew who concurred that's what it looked like to them too. So not only did we allow for more bedrooms to be crammed into a building that ultimately became a haven of crime, but it took more time and dollars to demolish and remove the structure. Area residents claimed that dishes in their cabinets were rattling as the demo crew took apart the basement.

Here's hoping we've learned our lessons and won't repeat the same housing mistakes of the past here in NoMi.

Blog Upgraded, Thanks For The PayPal Donation!

Stock Photo By John Hoff

So, this morning, I was trying to upload a photo of Local D'Lish store owner Ann Yinn posing with some used egg cartons--which she collects for local farmers markets--and the technical guts of my blog screamed something I'd never heard before. I WAS OUT OF PHOTO STORAGE SPACE.

Yes, this blog puts out so much image content that we've surpassed the "free space limits" of Blogspot! As you may have noticed...

I believe EVERY POST MUST HAVE A PICTURE, even if it's just a stock photo. Furthermore, this blog goes to tremendous lengths to get photographs, whether that means crawling across the surface of a not-quite-frozen lake, or purchasing cheap "gangster cams" to replace yet another low-cost, broken camera--or borrowing the cameras of friends like Megan Goodmundson, Jeff Skrenes (the Hawthorne Hawkman) or Connie Nompelis. (No-bell-iss, it's Greek)

Also, many readers have contributed photos, too many to list. Thank you, JNS blog readers. 

In any case, for a relatively low sum of money, I managed to purchase 20 gigabytes of data space for photos. (To give you some idea of how much that is, apparently this blog was already using 1 "gig" when we ran out of space this morning)

Thankfully, this blog recently received a $25 donation through PayPal, which I want to gratefully acknowledge.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Violent, Bizarre Incident Completely Dominates This Week's Fourth Precinct Highlights...

Photo By John Hoff

Last night, it seemed like every cop in North Minneapolis was suddenly rushing to 29th Ave. N. and Knox Ave. N., and I just happened to be in the area with a camera. From the scene, I sent updates to Twitter, but it was hard to figure out what was happening except the police were searching for somebody with a dog and one individual was sighted being taken into custody, see photo above.

Today, the Fourth Precinct Highlights went out on various email listservs, and somehow this one incident managed to...

...get mentioned in the highlights over and over.

Here are excerpts...the story comes together in bits and pieces, but one thing is pretty clear: MPD did a great job on a bitterly cold night, getting these thugs and their firearms off the street.

Monday 01-04-10
19:04 hrs


Squads were attempting to stop a vehicle wanted in a robbery; but, it wouldn't stop. Pursuit entailed when suspects bailed and were running. Officers and K9 took custody of AP1/Zarzar, Mitchell BM 22 yrs., and AP2/Migmen, Abel BM 22 yrs. carrying a .357 cal 6-shot revolver w/3.75 BBL at this address. Female resident has seen them before in African community and maybe they visited her cousin when she was at work. The gun was hidden in her house.

(Related cases: 10-003127 and 10-003211)


10-003200 Related: 10-003127, 10-003211 1906-1911 hrs ”5 minutes

Length of Pursuit: Started: 21/Fremont Ave N, Ended: 2926 Knox Ave N (2-3 miles)

Reason: Squad 959 noticed MN SMS 282 at 21/Fremont Ave N. This vehicle was used in a Kidnapping/AGG Robbery of Person at Gunpoint in North Minneapolis earlier in the evening. Squads attempted to stop the vehicle using their emergency equipment at Golden Valley RD/Morgan. Suspects failed to stop and pursuit was aired. Speeds were 20-30 mph. Streets were very icy and slippery.

In front of 29xx Knox Ave N, driver bailed and ran into. Suspects taken into custody/booked HCJ. Suspects involved in two Kidnap/Robberies, one of which, they kidnapped a victim from Anoka and dropped him off in N. Minneapolis. (10-003211).
Resources: K-9


Robbery of Person/Kidnapping

Male victim called to say that he was kidnapped at gunpoint in Anoka. V1 states he was driven around Anoka and later into North Minneapolis. V1 states 2 black males made him strip. When he was eventually let out of veh, he was given his clothing back except his shoes. V1 went door-to-door trying to get help in area of Broadway/Aldrich. V1 was robbed of wallet, cell phone w/gun to his head. When officers attempt to make contact with V1 for Show Up, officers are unable to locate V1 as employees of Hotel believe he left for dinner. V1's phone was taken so officers unable to call for Show Up.

10-003200 Flee of Robbery vehicle from 10-003,127

Officer was driving in the area of North Minneapolis when he spots the Suspect Robbery vehicle from 003,127. After waiting for other squads to get into position to assist with stop, suspect takes off and flees from officers. Suspect eventually bails in front of 29xx Knox Av. N.

Driver/Suspect was taken into custody by K9. Passenger/Suspect run into rear of 29xx Knox with Officers in Hot Pursuit. Officers stand by in house for K9 to come inside and locate Passenger/Suspect in upstairs bedroom.

Owner of the house who was outside when suspects bail from car, give verbal and written consent to search her home. The gun is located in a closet and Passenger/Suspects jacket was also located in the room which he was hiding. Both are positively ID'd by victim from 10-003211.

10-003211 AOA

While still on scene at 29xx Knox Av. N., officers notice another Robbery of Person in calls pending. Upon looking at remarks, it states that V1 was kidnapped in Anoka, robbed at gunpoint and transported into No. Minneapolis. Squad gets info from another victim who states that while in Anoka, he is approached by 2 BMs driving a red Ford Contour (Same as original robbery) and Kidnapped at gunpoint. Victim states he is driven around Anoka, Coon Rapids and later into No. Mpls. to Broadway and Lyndale. He is eventually let out by suspects after they rob him of his wallet and cell. V1 transported to scene for a Show Up and ID'd both suspects/gun used in Robbery.

Don Samuels Looks Forward To Continued Progress In NoMi...

Following his swearing-in yesterday, Council Member Don Samuels made some videotaped remarks, vowing to continue the progress North Minneapolis has been making in the last few years, with a focus on the well-being of children in terms of their education and safety.

Inside his small office--very plain except for the display of numerous action figures which Don either designed or accumulated during his time as a toy designer-- Samuels displayed some souvenirs of his last time in office, including bullets which came from...

...a single shooting incident, displayed in a glass right next to a brick from the demolition of the notorious Big Stop store. Somewhere in the office there is also a brick from the former Uncle Bill's store, a.ka. Uncle Lennie's. 

Fortunately, shootings and crime-ridden "inconvenience stores" are becoming increasingly rare in North Minneapolis as revitalization rolls inexorably forward.

Above, State Representative Bobby Jo Champion congratulates Samuels.

A framed Star Tribune article on the wall harkens back to the time when Don Samuels went on a fast to draw attention to the crime problem in North Minneapolis, and the need for public officials to do something. The fast was sparked by an incident in which a toddler was shot and injured. Ironically, the 19-month-old girl who was the catalyst for Don to go on this fast is actually the niece of Kenya McKnight, who ran against Samuels in the last election...producing an abysmal vote total.

The picture is an interesting composite of characters. Please note Mayor Rybak during his first term without a gray hair on his head. Also pictured is Chief Dolan, who was then Inspector Dolan of the Fourth Precinct. The female on the left is Sharon Lubinski, who is now Assistant Chief, but was recently appointed U.S. Marshall for the District of Minnesota.

Above, Samuels displays the rope which held up his tent during his July of 2003 fasting vigil in the Jordan Neighborhood.

Above, Don Samuels with his daughter, Saina. (Pronounced "Zay-nah") 

Don posing with his family after the swearing-in. The young woman on the left is Asante Samuels, who is in that "too cool to be seen with my parents" phase. (No matter how good her parents are at fighting crime!) Word is Asante is going to have some instructional cooking videos up on YouTube in the near future, which will feature both Asante and her father. I've had some pastries baked by Asante and she is an excellent cook.

Congratulations, again, Don and we're looking forward to you fulfilling your promise to work EVEN HARDER in the next four years to keep making our neighborhood better.

Mayor Rybak Highlights North Minneapolis Progress In Inauguration Speech...

At his inauguration speech yesterday, Mayor Rybak spoke about how--four years ago--a decision was made to concentrate on making life better in North Minneapolis, and how that effort is paying off handsomely. Here is video of that portion of Rybak's speech.

(Do not click "Read More")

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Photo Of Notorious Slumlord Mahmood Khan!

Photo By Megan Goodmundson

Mahmood Khan hit the public radar in a big way when the body of Annshalike Hamilton turned up at his decrepit, neglected property at 2222 4th Street North. (The crime is still unsolved) That incident led neighborhood activists to scrutinize Khan's property holdings more closely and realize this guy...

...had a bunch of slummy properties. Recently, the city council voted to raze 2222 4th St. N. after giving Khan plenty of slack...slack he only used to hang himself.

Despite all the attention paid to Khan on this blog, no picture of him was available. That is to say, until today.

Megan Goodmundson snapped this photo of Khan at yesterday's swearing-in of the Mayor and city council. At the ceremony, Khan was observed to speak with Robert Lilligren, Ward 6, and Don Samuels, Ward 5. He then proceeded to follow Megan Goodmundson around like a big slummy puppy dog, trying to get information about what she wanted with the photo.

Monday, January 4, 2010

STORY IN PHOTOS: Mayor And New Council Members Sworn In...

Contributed photos xoxo, blog post by John Hoff

This morning, elected and (mostly) re-elected Minneapolis City Council Members were sworn in at City Hall. The swearing-in itself was surprisingly brief, according to a source (Megan Goodmundson) who was present at the invitation of Council Member Don Samuels.

The program went from 9:30 to 10:30, and included a welcome speech by Addisalem Tesfaye, who is an Ethiopian immigrant and a graduate of the "Step Up Intern" program. There was an invocation by Rev. Mariann Budde of St. John the Episcopal Church, and music by the City-County Choir. Speeches were made by...

...Council Member Barb Johnson, who was unanimously re-elected Council President shortly afterward, and also Mayor Rybak, who went out of his way to highlight the progress made in North Minneapolis during the last four years.

Above, "Step Up Intern" Graduate Addisalem Tesfaye gives welcoming remarks, and talks about how--in Ethiopia--her family wasn't privileged enough for her to be educated beyond 4th Grade. The day her mother told her she was moving to Minnesota, she was so excited because she knew her life would be changing forever.
The City-County Choir played The Star Spangled Banner and Let There Be Peace On Earth. 

Above, MPD Chief Dolan, whose incredible victory over crime made the re-election of so many city council incumbents possible. FOR GOD'S SAKE, RE-APPOINT THIS MAN!
The program for the city council swearing-in. Simulated parchment...ooooooo! Better put that in the scrap book.

An honor guard of police escorted the American and state flags to the swearing-in. How ironic that, only several days before, this city government enabled the senseless destruction of the home of Pauline Fjelde, who embroidered the first Minnesota state flag.

A view, looking up, of the spectacular interior of City Hall.

Barb Johnson gives inaugural remarks after the swearing-in. The oath--pictured in the very top picture--was administered by Minneapolis City Clerk Steve Ristuben.

In the background of the event, being quiet and unobtrusive, Officer Mark Klukow provides security to make sure there are no Al-Flowers-style disruptions of the proceedings. Notably, an actual mental case named Tore Simonsen was present. (Please note, I am NOT writing in the sarcasm font) Simonsen has a blog obsessively dedicated to a television program named "Dollhouse" and showed up to tell public officials about the need to save the program, handing out playing cards upon which he had written his blog address on and the words "SAVE DOLLHOUSE." The show is about people who have their minds erased and get "programmed" as a whole new person. Here is a link to Simonsen's post about the inauguration, and here is a link to a post about his mental health records.

Speaking as a former military psych tech, I just want to say...this guy needs to be monitored. End of editorial.

Fortunately, the day went off on schedule, without a hitch. Our city appears to be on the right track, and hopefully we can keep building on the momentum of change.