Sunday, January 31, 2010

Susan Newell and Ed Boler: Fraud Begets Fraud




Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

In a recent post about mortgage fraud convictions, I was asked to do a miniature photo tour of the handful of NoMi properties impacted by the fraudulent transactions of Susan Newell and Ed Boler. There were only six properties, so tossing such a small amount of pictures up as a blog post didn't seem like enough work for this former farmboy. So I decided to dig a little deeper into the complaint document.

What I found has me utterly outraged, especially what happened at the property above, 1514 Thomas Avenue North. This is the property that was later owned by Danna D III before going into foreclosure and becoming boarded and vacant. From the looks of it, somebody is making repairs to the windows, since the boards are removed on one side and intact windows are now present. Let's hope this marks a better chapter than the mournful recent history here...

The borrower in this transaction asked Newell how it was possible that he could afford to buy a house when he was only making $5.15/hr at Perkins. But Newell had a plan for how to put this together: White would just keep on buying houses and putting the illicit proceeds from inflated values into a "reserve" until he could afford a home of his own. White was even told to stop asking questions at the closings because it made Newell and Boler look unprofessional.

To make matters worse, the seller was in foreclosure at the time White/Newell/Boler came along. AND Newell was a friend of the family in foreclosure. The sale price was $200,000 and $115,699.90 was disbursed to satisfy the outstanding amount owed from the sheriff's sale. That left a princely sum of $84,300.10 to be split up amongst the seller and any fees. In a normal transaction, the seller would have probably walked away with somewhere around $65-70,000; $50,000 at the LEAST. Not bad if you've just gone through foreclosure.

This, however, was NOT a normal transaction. Newell's real estate company earned a commission of $19,900, and Boler's mortgage firm pocketed $8,045 in fees. Both of those amounts are on the high end of what would have been earned on such a transaction at the time, but not illegal nor unheard of. Even that wasn't good enough. The roughly $54,000 still going to the seller was divided up by the title company in a very odd fashion: three checks for $8,000, $7,000, and $38,907.88. The last, and largest, check was purportedly endorsed by the seller and then deposited into an account belonging to Newell's company. (No responsible title company would allow such a transfer.) The seller claims to have never seen nor endorsed this check.

So to summarize, 1514 Thomas Ave N was in foreclosure in 2005, Newell took advantage of both an unsophisticated buyer and a vulnerable seller to initiate a closing at what was probably an inflated price. The seller was robbed of at least $38,900 in proceeds, the house was probably not maintained by the buyer, and then it wound up in the hands of Danna D III. It has been foreclosed upon yet again, and remains boarded and vacant.

This kind of chain reaction has been happening over and over in our neighborhoods and it's high time we put a stop to it. Getting the offenders into prison is a start, but we also need systemic, preventative measures.

For better or worse, I won't be discussing such measures in this post. Instead, we continue with the photo tour of other Newell/Boler properties.

There were a few rather boring properties, in that they were in decent shape and appeared occupied. First, 818 Queen Ave N:


Next, 2207 Aldrich Ave N:


And then 4527 Bryant Ave N:


2720-22 Penn Ave N was hard to spot since there were no houses on that lot. In fact, I couldn't even tell which lot it was. I had it narrowed down to the lot with the buried road construction sign or the lot with the floral memorial taped to a tree:



2918 Russell, however, was another vacant property with issues.





The garage has been broken open and haphazardly closed off. The notice of condemnation is so old that the sun has bleached it white and the writing in marker is no longer visible. And a sticker on the door informs us that the place was winterized in October. Of 2006. This house has likely been vacant since being a part of Newell/Boler transactions.

Now the way that Newell and Boler carried out their fraud was pretty typical for transactions at that time. They appeared to handle both the buyers' and sellers' sides of the transaction, inflate the purchase price, and then split the proceeds. The buyer would either use a "stated income" or "no doc" loan (often misrepresenting whether the property would be owner-occupied) or would falsify income on the mortgage application. For the record, falsifying information on "stated income" loans is still fraud; the income stated should be reflective of the borrower's actual pay. Inflated fees or fabrications on the closing documents allowed proceeds to be funneled to the entity of Boler's or Newell's choosing.

What I hadn't seen before in this complaint document was that BOTH Newell and Boler lied about their previous criminal convictions in order to get their licenses. Boler "was convicted and sentenced to prison in 1994 in Hennepin County for second degree controlled substance crime, and also convicted in 1997 in Minnesota federal district court of possession with intent to distribute cocaine."

Newell "has an extensive criminal history under her maiden name, Susan Elizabeth Brown, including felony convictions for theft by swindle in January 1999, wrongfully obtaining public assistance in 1996, theft by swindle in 1991, and financial transaction card fraud in 1991." I wouldn't trust this person with her own debit card, much less a REAL ESTATE BROKER'S LICENSE.

The fact that these events transpired at all is outrageous. Thank God that perpetrators such as Boler and Newell are in prison, but we've got a lot more crooked actors to chase down and a lot more messes to clean up.

A Bestselling Comic Book Character Came From NoMi





Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

In a post describing a Hawthorne Halloween tradition, I made the mistake of disrespecting a comic book character that I erroneously called "Shazam." It turns out that this particular character, and other prominent publications, have their roots in north Minneapolis.

I sat down with a NoMi friend who collects comic book history tidbits like I consume mortgage technicalities, and got the story from him...

Bill Fawcett got his start in comic books and publication through creating mimeograph joke books while in the military. (I was told this was during the Spanish-American War, but if that's true then Fawcett would have been in his early teens, so WWI seems the most likely.) Still, when he returned home, he set up shop in nearby Robbinsdale and began printing magazines. It's rumored that many of the first issues were distributed by "Captain Billy" and his four sons as they biked around Minneapolis.

The magazine was called "Captain Billy's Whiz-Bang." Whiz bang was slang for a kind of German artillery shell fired in World War I. The magazine itself was considered "adult" publication at the time, due to its (then) racy content. It was one of the most prominent magazines in the 1920's specifically because of its adult/racy/sophisticated content. The periodical was even immortalized in the musical "The Music Man" (Whiz Bang reference at the 3:50 mark):

"Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime novel hidden in the corncrib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from Captain Billy's Whiz Bang?"

Fawcett began making serious money and started to branch out. He moved his office and staff to New York City to be at the center of media distribution in the 1930's. Fawcett realized that comic books had earnings potential and recruited a north Minneapolis-born artist, C.C. Beck. Beck created Captain Thunder, a new lead character whose name was changed to Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel debuted in the premiere issue of Whiz Comics, and within a few years he was outselling the likes of Batman and Superman as the #1 comic in the country. Many of the artists contributing to its success were from NoMi and turned in their artwork to the office still located in Robbinsdale. Many of the stories prominently featured famous areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The reason "Shazam" is prominently displayed is because that is the word that the young boy Billy Batson says in order to summon the collective wisdom, strength, and powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. The character is commonly referred to as this because, in a turn of events that only lawyers could love, DC Comics sued on the grounds that this character too closely resembled Superman. After fighting DC for twelve years, Fawcett settled and agreed not to publish Captain Marvel stories.

But this didn't keep Fawcett down. He helped bring about other characters such as Captain Video. Captain Video, for those of you who don't follow horrendous 50's sci-fi television series, was a space explorer who came across planets whose inhabitants used alien technology Earthlings would normally associate with janitorial supply closets. There was even an evil robot villain named Tobor. Get it? Robot...Tobor...I'm sure J.J. Abrams studied "Captain Video" footage laboriously when coming up with some of the plot twists on "Lost."

Fawcett also started up a magazine you might have heard of called Popular Mechanics. Yeah, I think that worked out a little better for him.

Ironically, the name "Captain Marvel" was somehow copyrighted by Marvel Comics while the character laid dormant in DC's vault, and now he can no longer be referred to by that name.

Now, as fascinating as this history is to NoMi, I simply cannot tell this story without at least some criticism leveled at the creation of one of the main Captain Marvel enemies, Mister Mind. This villain was some kind of alien bent on galactic dominance, carrying out his plans through the Monster Society of Evil. This sounds like it could be scary, until you realize that Mister Mind looks as if someone added this:

and this:

to get this:

At least Mister Mind was given a new image that's worthy of a villainous nemesis:



Robbinsdale's Whiz Bang Days festival commemorates Bill Fawcett's work and accomplishments, but we can take the credit that he and many of his colleagues actually came from NoMi.

Johnny Northside Blog Endorses Linda Higgins For State Senate In District 58

Photo by Jeff Skrenes, blog post by John Hoff

If history is any guide, Republican or third party candidates won't be able to make any serious challenge in Minnesota State Senate District 58. So it seems better to endorse State Senator Linda Higgins when it matters, right before Tuesday's caucus, rather than waiting for November.

Linda Higgins has been an outstanding state senator, whose long service has given her valuable seniority which--as informed voters know--is a key to getting stuff done in the legislature. She is energetic and involved in the nitty gritty day-to-day happenings in her district, always showing up at the events which matter where stuff gets discussed and decided. I could stop right there but, well, regular readers know I won't.

Linda's challenger, Raymond Dehn, is (for lack of a better word) a non-entity. When Dehn announced he was running against Higgins, this was the first time I'd heard of him. And I like to think I'm pretty informed.

Instead of real issues, Dehn has slogans like...

"The solutions of the past are not going to solve the problems of our future."

Who said this first? Well, it was Raymond Dehn himself. Only one problem with the saying: it's not even remotely true. There are all kinds of solutions that work over and over, past and present and future. Boiled right down to its essence, the saying seems to mean "Try something new for the heck of it, vote for Raymond Dehn even though there's REALLY NOTHING WRONG WITH LINDA HIGGINS." I can't help be reminded of Kenya McKnight's "Why not?" slogan.

And, actually, Raymond Dehn has a little too much in common with Kenya McKnight for my taste. Dehn was the subject of a positive article in Insight News, just like Kenya McKnight, Lennie Chism and Natalie Johnson Lee. This really tells me all I need to know about Raymond Dehn. The Hillside Chronicles blog was also not impressed with Dehn, click here.

At the recent debate with Higgins, Dehn made a point of mentioning his youthful mistakes which caused him to be incarcerated and receive addiction treatment, including a stay at a "halfway house." He talked about how there are crimes which, thirty years ago, weren't even crimes. Well, I think that makes perfect sense since THIRTY YEARS AGO OUR STREETS WERE NOT AWASH IN CRACK COCAINE. Dehn sounds like an ultra-liberal thug-hugger who wants to forgive, forget, and let the criminals out of jail to re-occupy our streets because, oh gee, their lives are so hard and society has been so unfair. There, but for the grace of God and addiction treatment, goes Dehn himself. (I'd like to point out drug/alcohol treatment is a fine example of a "solution of the past" which just keeps working, over and over)

Well, I'm glad Dehn is a productive, contributing member of society instead of somebody whose life has been ruined by addiction, but Dehn's not fit to replace a really great state senator. Vote for Linda Higgins, and don't forget to caucus on Tuesday.

Another NoMi Blog Is Born...Saddling Up For Service

Photo and blog post by John Hoff


Former Hawthorne Neighborhood Chair Peter Teachout, who swore into the army a short while ago, has started a new blog called Saddling Up For Service. Click here for a link to the blog.

While getting ready for army training some months from now, Peter is still running his building contractor business. Peter hopes to use his new blog to--among other things--give people tips on how to find local resources to fix up their homes. But, of course, the whole time he is...

SADDLING UP FOR SERVICE.

On another note...and this may be a wee bit off topic, but not too much...why is there no military recruiting station in North Minneapolis? This neighborhood is full of young people who could benefit from the educational and career opportunities afforded by military service. And yet the military recruiters are located, for example, in Stadium Village near the U of M or out in Bloomington. If there IS a military recruiting station in North Minneapolis, I have not seen it, and my Googling efforts have turned up nothing nearby.

From 1990 to 1994, I served as an E4 in the United States Army, paying off all my student loans through the army's loan repayment program. I often thought to myself, geez, I wish I'd taken out twice as many student loans and maybe paid for a couple of fun "May Seminars" in Europe, since it was army duty that paid off all that college a few years later, and it would have been possible to pay off even MORE loans.

Also, as a result of all that military training and experience, I spent years working a good-paying job in the mental health field, not to mention really enjoying the time I was stationed in El Paso, Texas, where I never saw snow--not even once--for 3 and a half years.

Why shouldn't these golden opportunities for travel, education and career opportunities be presented to OUR community?

(Do not click "Read More")

The Battle Begins Over NoMi Light Rail Options...

Photo And Blog Post By John Hoff

A couple nights ago at UROC, a large community room was packed to standing room only capacity during a neighborhood meeting about light rail options in North Minneapolis. Most of the main city, state and neighborhood movers and shakers were there, as well as assorted political wannabes who--thankfully--didn't shout and disrupt the proceedings.

As complicated as the issue of NoMi light rail may be, the debate really boils down to two main options...

Will the light rail come through the heart of North Minneapolis--along Penn and Broadway--or will it skirt the areas with people and businesses, going along the existing rail corridor at the edge of Theo Wirth Park?

There are trade-offs for either option, which are labeled D1 and D2 by the transit geeks. D1 is "Theo Wirth" and D2 is "Broadway and Penn." Rather than using alpha-numeric gibberish to talk about something tangible and real which will impact human beings, I'm going to insist on using the terms "Theo Wirth Route" versus "Broadway/Penn route."

IF THE LIGHT RAIL AVOIDS THE HEART OF NORTH MINNEAPOLIS and goes along the edge of Theo Wirth Park, it will be cheaper initially, but will have little positive economic impact because there are no people and businesses located in the park and putting the rail there won't spur anything to develop. This route will also be marginally faster by a minute or two because there would be less stops. People who live in North Minneapolis and want to access this route will have to use "feeder buses." (In this way, we will become the "chum" which is "fed" to the "feeder buses.")

Going along Theo Wirth park will allow suburbanites from Maple Grove and the affluent part of Brooklyn Park to avoid passing through North Minneapolis while sipping their Starbucks latte and reading their morning paper. One can't help but note there is no push from the suburbs to RAM THE RAIL THROUGH THE HEART OF NoMi. No, rather, the suburbs seemingly want the light rail to themselves and wish to share it with North Minneapolis as little as possible. They would prefer lovely arboreal views of Theo Wirth Park over, for example, stores along Penn and Broadway where one could buy a nice bottle of wine to take home for dinner. Things conveniently located at Penn and Plymouth include UROC, Urban League, Northpoint Health and Wellness, and a lot of vacant land for development. There is also talk of a Minneapolis Public Schools Headquarters near that spot, with a grocery store. Some of this talk came up recently at a WHO meeting, according to one of my sources.

IF THE LIGHT RAIL RUNS DOWN BROADWAY AND PENN, it will spur tremendous economic development in areas where such development is needed the most. Planned rail stops would include Broadway and Penn, Penn and Plymouth, plus Van White Boulevard and Highway 55.

At the meeting, some individuals brought up the ghost of St. Paul's Rondo Neighborhood and talked about how light rail would somehow cut neighborhoods in half. Of course, a light rail is nothing like an interstate highway. You can walk right across the tracks. Any property lost in the course of widening streets, any parking sacrificed for the sake of mass transit would be made up for many times over by the increase in property values and the business revenue generated from potential customers riding the light rail. Some in the audience expressed worry about the light rail going through the heart of NoMi, but one member of the audience--Matthew McGlory--urged listeners to read "Powernomics" and to see the light rail as opportunity, not something negative.

One woman expressed a fear that if light rail came down Penn Ave North that "children won't be able to play in the street." To which I respond as follows: if your children are playing in the street on Penn Avenue North, you have much worse problems than light rail coming through. I'm just saying. Another participant at the meeting passed out a news release invoking the ghost of the Rondo neighborhood and announcing a recently filed lawsuit over the Central Corridor Light Rail Project.

State Rep Bobby Jo Champion put things well by saying, "Even if something was not intended for our good, we can MAKE it for our good."

Knowing the final light rail route will impact the development of our neighborhood for the next century, this blog will go all out to inform readers and relay information about the light rail. Getting the best option for our neighborhood will take a massive effort to be louder and more organized than the poverty pimps who want to keep NoMi from changing for the better, and also the suburban crowd who want to hog the light rail all for themselves.

Some revitalizing neighbors have started public conversations about how to begin organizing and lobbying to make the Broadway/Penn route become the reality. One neighbor, Jordan neighborhood super-volunteer, Megan Goodmundson, has sent emails to several active list servs to drum up interest and help in organizing the movement for Broadway/Penn.

Any JNS readers who want to get involved, want to express their thoughts, interest and support for the Broadway/Penn route should email Megan at goodponyz@yahoo.com so that a broad list of supporters can be built.

This is an extremely important issue and NoMi needs all hands on deck to pull this one through the governmental red tape bureaucracy.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Video and Photo Tribute To "Gretchen," Small Innocent Victim Of Rampaging Pit Bulls...



Video and photos by John Fena and partner Edwin,
blog post by John Hoff

The previous post describes how a little dog named "Gretchen" was horrifically killed by unleashed pit bulls, almost two years ago today, and Gretchen's owners--John Fena and his partner Edwin--are trying to locate the thuggish owners (known by name) so they can be served and sued. Click here for that blog post.

The post-death images of Gretchen are, of course, horrific. But I have some very nice and adorable pictures of Gretchen, too.

Rather than mixing the two things together--Gretchen's wonderful, carefree life all stirred in the same dark pot with her sudden, horrible death--I thought it would be preferable to have a post with just NICE images of Gretchen.

Therefore....

Here. Here is more Gretchen.





It's a shame she's gone like this but, of course, some people believe our beloved animals are in a special neighborhood near heaven, accessible by the "rainbow bridge." Click here for more info.

Or, rather than cleaving to mysticism, one might find hope and comfort in GETTING A POUND OF FLESH FROM A LAWSUIT AGAINST THESE THUGS.

Oops, did I spoil the tone of this sweet little tribute post?

My bad.

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Somebody Needs To Be Located, Served And Sued For Pit Bull Attack Horror...




Images contributed by John Fena, blog post by John Hoff

Two years ago, almost to the day, John Fena and his partner Edwin witnessed their small, adorable dog killed by pit bulls WITHIN THEIR OWN FENCED OFF BACK YARD IN NORTH MINNEAPOLIS.

Both men tried, desperately, to rescue their little dog--called Gretchen--and both men sustained injuries from the two vicious, wandering, unleashed pit bulls...who managed to kill the little dog anyway. 

The horrific attack was the subject of a story on KARE-11, click here for a link.

It is no mystery who the owners of the pit bulls were, some no-accounts who lived at 1419 Girard Ave. N., Apartment Number 2. Their names and birthdays are as follows: Willis Keith White, January 9, 1969 and Chantell Deneice Isanda, March 17, 1969.

However, Willis and Chantell no longer live at that location, as one might expect of mobile and footloose fancy free no accounts. They've moved somewhere else and, well, who knows where?

But John and Edwin would like to locate Willis and Chantell so they can be served with a lawsuit and sued. The fact both Willis and Chantell are probably "judgment proof" (too poor to be worth suing) makes no difference to John and Edwin. They want to sue the thugs anyway. And I say, hey, let's help 'em find the thugs.

Any reader who has information about the whereabouts of Willis and Chantell should--pretty please--submit the info through the blog comments. If you want to submit a comment and NOT HAVE IT PUBLISHED, say so very clearly at the beginning of the comment, so I can receive the info but not publish it.

And now, exclusive to this blog, is the horrific firsthand account of John Fena...

By email, John Fena says as follows...

There were three men with 2 pit bulls that were unleashed/loose in our alley that night. Edwin had taken both our dogs to go potty before coming to bed. He heard the collars and saw the dogs roaming/sniffing outside of our fence and yelled at the men to leash their dogs. I heard him yelling, raced downstairs (buck naked) and came outside... he told me what was going on, I yelled for Gretchen to come in.

As she turned, one of the pits jumped the fence and raced towards her. Gretchen ran towards me and I reached to grab her just as the first pit clamped down on one of her legs. It was like fumbling a football. I thought I could get a hold of her, and then the other pit grabbed a hold. We were in a tug-of-war for her, all the time I was just thinking I could save her if I could get a hold of her...even through the breaking/cracking sounds/vibrations...like taking apart a cooked chicken. I was on the ground/ice/dirt naked, screaming, wrestling these dogs all the way into our back entryway.

I finally got a hold of her because one of the men had casually walked into our entry and gently taken them by the collar. At no point during the attack did any of the men try to help, call off the dogs, or anything...they stood on the other side of the fence and watched it all play out. I finally got my grip on her, ran inside, and realized she was dead in my arms. Edwin had been knocked unconscious and was laying face-down on the sidewalk...he had been wrestling the back end of one of these massive dogs to try and get them off me and Gretchen.

The men took off w/ the dogs, didn't try to help or anything. I called 911 and dealt with that, then instinctively called KARE 11 to tell them what had just happened. FOX9 showed up at our door, also, the next day...and we got a call from Star Trib and also WCCO. Animal Care & Control received a tip and came to our home the next day. We were able to identify the dogs.

Then the owners fled the city with their dogs once they were informed that they would need to release their dogs to ACC for quarantine, a standard procedure in an animal attack. It took a week until they finally complied and came back to the city. It took SO MUCH (expletive) effort/work to get those dogs put down, which happened nearly a month after Gretchen had been killed. It took several more months until we were finally given access to the owners' info and at that point had confirmed that they lived only a couple streets away from us.

* * *

JNS blog says: OK, let's pull together our collective skills and resources to obtain the current location of these thugs, so they can be served and sued.


Friedman's Shoe Store To Be Featured In Sports Illustrated Magazine...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Word comes via an email from the office of Council Member Diane Hofstede that Hawthorne's own Friedman's Shoe Store--an institution in our neighborhood for decades and generations, located at 400 West Broadway--will be featured in Sports Illustrated two months from now.

Hofstede writes: Thank you to Sue, David and their family for providing a great place to shop, and a life long commitment to North Minneapolis!

(Do not click "Read More")

Wherefore Art Thou, Remaro Cordell Smith?

Stock Photo by John Hoff, Lake Charles, Louisiana 

Remaro Cordell Smith may be a sort of run-o-the-mill North Minneapolis thug.

Or he may be very special, in his own way.

In any case, for no particular reason I care to state, I would like to write about Remaro Smith and his criminal record.

A search under the name of Remaro Smith turns up an incident which made the 4th Precinct Highlights during Week 543, which went from June 17 to June 23, 2008. Here is that incident:

26th & Emerson & 30th & Emerson – Tuesday – 2205 hours – 08-181082 & 08-181095. Officers were dispatched to a Hit & Run and then a fight where they observe the suspect vehicle and two parties standing by it who then ran into the building. When officers entered one male attempted to retrieve a large dog and refused to drop a glass booze bottle and shoved an officer as he came down the stairs. One male who was found hiding in a bedroom closet came at officers and force was used to arrest him. While at the squad being searched, one male pushed off the squad and swung at an officer dislocating his shoulder. Arrested were Remaro Smith & Michael Robinson, 21 & 25 year old black males w/50 & 35 CAPRS, with suspended and revoked drivers licenses.

The rest of Remaro's known criminal record is as follows...


02-CR-08-3337
866792
866792
SMITH, REMARO CORDELL
01/29/1987
03/12/2008
Anoka
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Closed
Drugs - Possess Over 1.4 Grams Marijuana In Motor Vehicle
Traffic-Drivers License-Driving After Suspension

27-CR-05-039798
SMITH, REMARO CORDELL
01/29/1987
06/29/2005
Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction
ASSAULT 5TH DEGREE/DOMESTIC

27-CR-07-021956
SMITH, REMARO CORDELL
01/29/1987
04/06/2007
Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Closed
POSSESS SMALL AMT MARIJUANA

27-CR-07-028096
SMITH, REMARO CORDELL
01/29/1987
05/02/2007
Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction
Fleeing a Peace Officer By a Means Other Than a Motor Vehicle
Loiter w/intent

62-K0-05-003662
SMITH, REMARO CORDELL
01/29/1987
10/24/2005
Ramsey Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Misdemeanor
Converted Closed
(TCIS Amended Charge) FALSE NAME TO POLICE

62-T1-05-605096
905133084
SMITH, REMARO CORDELL
01/29/1987
06/01/2005
Ramsey Criminal/Traffic/Petty Suburban
Petty Misdemeanor
Converted Closed
DISORDERLY CONDUCT

I'd be happy to get more info about Remaro Cordell Smith. I'm just saying.

Conviction, Finally, In Susan Newell And Ed Boler Mortgage Fraud Case...

Stock Photo by John Hoff, Hennepin County Government Building
Blog post by John Hoff

In a mortgage fraud case that included properties in North Minneapolis, and spanned two long, complex trials due to a quirky juror and a mistrial, the conviction of Susan Newell finally happened some days ago. Newell was convicted on multiple counts of theft by swindle and one count of racketeering, with aggravating factors.

The Star Tribune wrote an article about the conviction--which I loathe linking to, because Star Tribune links have a tendency to go dead and sometimes get "sticky" when you're trying to pull up the link. I've spent two years griping about this but nothing changes at the Star Tribune, except they seem to have fewer employees all the time and more trees just keep dying to put out newsprint. Whatever. The article was unsatisfying in a number of aspects, and I'd like to list those aspects and add more information about the recent conviction.

First and foremost--here's a link, click here, to the actual criminal complaint in the case, which conveniently lists all the properties at issue including--here's my main interest--the ones in North Minneapolis. Would it have been so hard for the Star Tribune to provide access to this document via a link from their online story? I mean, it's not like the Media Relations person at the County Attorney's office didn't, gee, put it right on their website.

Secondly...

...two attorneys at the prosecutor's office put in hundreds of hours into this case yet were not even named in the article. They are Brad Johnson and Wendy Zeller. Johnson was the attorney who landed the conviction of Larry Maxwell, which this blog reported in extensive detail. (Liz Johnston also worked the Larry Maxwell case)

Third, there were many details lacking from the article, such as the fact Susan Newell--who now almost certainly faces a term in prison--has a number of children, some of which were reportedly in the court room. She was NOT taken into custody after the verdict. I certainly wouldn't bet money on Susan Elizabeth Newell showing up for sentencing. Newell has an extensive criminal history, as documented in the criminal complaint.

Fourth--and here I'm merely making a point, not criticizing the Star Tribune--Susan Newell should have made some kind of desperate plea bargain instead of rolling the dice. One mortgage fraudster after another has been taken down by the county prosecutor in the last couple years. It took two shots to get Newell, but get her they did.

Anybody charged with crimes related to mortgage fraud would be well-advised, in Hennepin County, to make some kind of deal. But it seems like mortgage scammers are an overly-confident bunch, who always think they can somehow beat the rap. At least it makes for a somewhat entertaining legal spectacle.

For the sake of the historical record, and the convenience of future would-be property owners, here's a list of the properties in North Minneapolis which were caught up in this mortgage fraud. Photo tour, anybody?

2207 Aldrich Ave. N.

818 Queen Ave. N.

2720-2722 Penn Ave. N.

2918 Russell Ave. N.

4527 Bryant Ave. N.

1514 Thomas Ave. N.

(This last property, notably, fell into the hands of the infamous Dana D III entity)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Let's Put Some Limits on Provisional Rental Licenses



Guest commentary and stock photos (of a property that may or may not be owned by a slumlord) by the Hawthorne Hawkman.


I'd been kicking around an idea in my head for a while now about how to go about the problem of landlords who buy up large swaths of properties and then fail to take care of them or even avoid a cascade of foreclosures. I'm referring to Danna D III, Mahmoud Khan, Gregge Johnson, and Paul Koenig, among others.

At the Dessert with Don event this past week (where the Hillside Chronicle blog was generous enough to say that I was worthy of consideration for One Man Minneapolis), I tossed this idea out to a few people. This proposal centered around a pattern I saw when I researched and put live links to these slumlords' properties and noticed...

...a significant number of provisional rental licenses granted for many of these owners of multiple properties. Since city inspectors are too busy to do full inspections on every single rental property before it is rented/occupied, they often grant provisional licenses instead. JNS readers are encouraged to fill in more details, but the gist of it is that a provisional license involves a much less rigorous inspection, with the promise by the landlord that the property will be brought into full compliance within an agreed-upon time frame (usually a year).

In many instances, I'd see maybe ten or more provisional licenses all granted on the same day to the same landlord. Many months after the provisional license was in place, the properties that had them appeared to have little or no work done to be brought into compliance. Even if that did happen as agreed, it was clear that at least the bad apples were taking advantage of the system to avoid maintenance on their properties for as long as possible. Doing so almost certainly allowed them to spend money on even more acquisitions - with perhaps even more provisional licenses.

As you can see from this picture, I was deep in thought about this particular problem. Whoops! Wrong link. I was deep in thought...well, you're just going to have to take my word that I was thinking about serious things.

Like what to do about all these provisional rental licenses. Here's what we DON'T want: we don't want a system so cumbersome that landlords opt to just fly under the radar and rent without getting licenses; there's enough of that already. And we don't want a system that causes delays that are so long that very few people actually want to be landlords in Minneapolis. But yet by granting huge numbers of provisional licenses, it gives slumlords a tool they can and will use to buy even more properties without making repairs.

So what if we put a cap on how many outstanding provisional rental licenses a landlord could have? Let's just say ten at a time, although I'd like to see it close to five if possible. Once a landlord gets a total of ten provisionals, he or she has to bring ALL properties up to full compliance before any additional provisional rental licenses can be granted. Or at least the oldest provisional license must be brought into compliance before a new one is granted.

I believe that if such a policy were implemented correctly, we'd see two things: properties would be brought into full compliance faster, and at least some slumlords would acquire properties more slowly.

So what do JNS readers think? Does this idea bear looking into? Are there other ways we can approach dealing with slumlords?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

JN-SPAN: Senate District 58 DFL Debates



Guest post, photos, and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

And we continue with another edition of JN-SPAN, the Johnny Northside version of nitty gritty politically detailed video footage. Tonight's episode: the Senate district 58 DFL debates held on Tuesday, January 26th between incumbent Linda Higgins and challenger Raymond Dehn.

I should note that the video included below is not the debate in its entirety. I was working and could not arrive until a few minutes after the event started. Even then, I tried to record questions that seemed pertinent to me, since I don't have a tripod and holding a small camera steady can get tiring after a while. If anyone has a link to the entire debates, please post it here and I'll put it "at the top of the fold."

Finally, I won't hide my personal bias: I support Linda Higgins and I don't expect to change my mind. But every video I post below will include statements from both candidates. If I recorded their answers on separate clips, then I will post both segments here. Also, I'll keep my comments until the end (mostly) so that viewers can go through this with minimal bias from me until my closing analysis.

Without further ado, the first video...

...on jobs and economic development.



Here is a three-part question on jobs, a metro casino (where did that idea come from?) and a Vikings' stadium.



The following question is on ex-offenders' re-entry:


And then there was a question about youth and crime:


Higgins and Dehn were asked about transportation in general on the northside...


...and about the Bottineau line in particular.


You can't really have a political debate in NoMi without bringing up the impact of foreclosures on our community and how to respond.


Here are Raymond Dehn's closing remarks:


And Linda Higgins' closing remarks:


One question that was being addressed just as I was settling in was in regards to the use of federal stimulus dollars (called NSP or Neighborhood Stabilization Programs, NOT to be confused with NRP, Neighborhood Revitalization Programs). Dehn admitted right off the bat that he wasn't very familiar with these funds, and that immediately put him even farther behind in my opinion. I work fairly closely with these programs and in some ways it's almost scary how quickly these federal funds have come down the pike and how quickly the government wants them utilized. Frankly, we're in too critical of a phase to bring in someone who has to be brought up to speed on one of the most rapidly evolving opportunities our community has right now.

On the stadium/casino/economic development question...okay, first of all I have to be very critical of this question in general. I know Pawlenty flirted with the idea of a METRO area casino, which could obviously include Minneapolis, but I'm not aware of any plans that narrowed it down to our fair city. I've looked and looked, and can't come across any links on google searches to that effect either. JNS readers, if you know of any, please share. Even so, rolling essentially three questions into one while trying to limit candidates to two minutes for a response is just bad forum moderation.

Dehn's answer was quite unsatisfactory to me: "...incentivizing programs for employers" is just a string of meaningless words. In fairness, see the above paragraph; the question was poorly worded and Dehn was obviously running out of time when he got to the actual meaningful part of his answer. Higgins at least pointed to a specific bill she'd passed, allowing parents to add their children (if children are unemployed) to their health care coverage up to age 25. But even she was cut short by time constraints.

On the issue of re-entry, Higgins mentioned work she has done in the budget division she chairs, and pointed to the importance of health care for ex-offenders - many of whom need such services as they either suffer from a mental illness or are recovering from chemical dependency. She said that sometimes a community's guidelines about "who can live in a neighborhood" may border on NIMBY-ism. Dehn countered that it IS NIMBY-ism. My take is that at least parts of our community already have their fair share or more of ex-offenders. So I don't see it as NIMBY in NoMi, but rather "N-JIMBY." Not JUST in my backyard. Concentration of poverty or ex-offenders doesn't help anyone; not the poor, not the ex-offenders trying to become productive members of society again, and not the community as a whole.

The rest of Dehn's answer was easily his strongest and most poignant area. He said the best re-entry program is "not incarcerating" people in the first place, and that there are crimes that we didn't incarcerate for 30 years ago, and that's resulting in overflowing prisons now. (Hawkman asks: what crimes are those? And what do we do instead? De-classify certain criminal activity or come up with alternatives to incarceration?) Then Dehn spoke eloquently about a past conviction he has had, and how many of the opportunities he was afforded upon re-entry were likely due to the color of his skin as much as anything else. I may not support Dehn's candidacy, but I certainly support what he stands for in this regard and what we can talk about as a community because of his openness.

I disagree with Dehn's premise on crime in the following question, however, and see that answer as a manipulation of statistics to back up his own opinion or agenda. And Higgins made up some ground regarding the work she has done and the knowledge she has around issues regarding youth and crime.

Higgins really started to pick up steam with the question on transportation in general. Dehn stated that if we called our buses a "community circulator" then more people would ride them than if the buses were known just by their route numbers. If he's right, I certainly don't see that connection. He also said he did not know how to influence the Met Council to make them understand how important transit is to our community. Higgins, on the other hand, jumped right in and said we need to get a governor into office who DOES understand that, and who will then APPOINT Met Council people that truly serve NoMi.

I didn't see significant differences between the two on the Bottineau question. We need to ensure that the line comes through our neighborhood instead of bypassing us via Theo Wirth and 55.

Thanks, Dehn, for mentioning the work of NCRC in preventing foreclosures. I like Dehn's words about the issue of foreclosures, but I'm more impressed by Higgins' actions and accomplishments. While it seems to me Dehn has a good grasp on how our community is impacted, Higgins has a proven track record of accomplishing real change at the legislature.

Dehn's closing remarks...I find it off-putting when a candidate starts out with negatives like "If you want (bad thing #1) don't support me." Other than that, his remarks were strong and well-worded.

If there weren't rules about holding applause until the end, I'd have been clapping throughout much of Higgins' closing remarks. I think she's got a proven track record, connections that serve our neighborhood well, and she's a dedicated, hard worker on behalf of our district.

Ultimately, Dehn did as well as one could expect for a challenger in a first debate; he came in, held his own without any major flubs, and even won a round or two. Granted, my position has already been clearly stated, but I didn't get the sense that he made a strong case for why he deserves the job more or would be better than our current Senator. Dehn came off as likable and competent, and I think he would serve our community well. Right now, I only have one negative thing to say about him: he's running against someone who has been doing a fantastic job and who deserves the continued support of this community.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's Next for Lowry Avenue?



Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

A more extensive version of this post originally appeared on the Hawthorne Voices Blog.

The following announcement comes to us from the city of Minneapolis website. Be warned that what follows was written by someone in government, meaning that it succeeds at being professionally worded, while making the meeting sound boring enough that people might not want to come. At the end of this announcement, I'll try to convince people otherwise:

2nd Community Meeting Scheduled
Time: Thursday, January 28th, 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Venue: North Regional Library (1315 Lowry Avenue North)

The announcement continues...

"The Lowry Avenue Strategic Plan: An Update to the Lowry Avenue Corridor Plan is a planning process initiated by the Cleveland, Folwell, Hawthorne, Jordan and McKinley neighborhood associations in northwest Minneapolis. The plan funded by NRP monies and Great Streets grants is being prepared by Cuningham Group, the planning consultant for this project. The City of Minneapolis, CPED- Planning Division, a key partner in this project is the project manager on behalf of these five neighborhoods.

"The objective of this planning process is to update the 2002 Lowry Avenue Corridor Plan by building on the established vision for Lowry Avenue. It will refine that vision and create an implementation strategy for fostering new development and attracting new businesses. The final plan will better define the composition of the three neighborhood nodes described in the 2002 plan; namely: Penn and Lowry; Fremont and Lowry; and, Lyndale and Lowry. The recommendations through this planning process will be drafted in a manner that coordinates implementation strategies for the entire corridor.

"The study area extends from the city limits on the west and the river on the east, and one block north and south of Lowry Avenue for the length of the corridor between the river and the city limits.

"The planning process will include an extensive community participation process including at least two community meetings and several focus group meetings with stakeholders. Tentatively the community meetings are scheduled for Thursday, November 19 and Thursday, January 28 at the North Regional Library."

(End of announcement from the city, begin commentary by Jeff Skrenes)

First, I corrected the announcement at the end of the city's site, that January 21 was listed as the date for the meeting, but it was rescheduled. Second, now that the boring stuff is out of the way, here's why this matters in plain English.

What happens now on Lowry is going to affect not just Hawthorne but much of north Minneapolis for decades to come. The planning meetings like this one are where the city, county, and other partners listen to what we as a community have to say, and then (ideally) put those values into action in a way that reflects what we want and benefits our community. The time to articulate that is NOW. We can hold them to it later, but the document(s) that get drawn up about the community vision are being created at these meetings.

Once again, here's the website where this is announced. Towards the bottom are links to the agendas and summaries of previous Great Streets meetings.

And yes, sometimes we as a community create these collective visions with the expectation that our goals will be implemented. Much of the time, they are. But sometimes the city doesn't quite listen to what we have to say, and we have to remind them of their commitment to uphold our values. Click here for an example of how that played out on West Broadway last year. That's why we need your attendance on Thursday night.

On the Hawthorne Voices blog, photos are posted of each of the three main nodes to be discussed. Instead of loading those photos a second time, I'll just direct you to the Hawthorne blog post. I hope to see a packed room on Thursday night!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

619 26th Ave N Officially Boarded and Vacant


Guest post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Two months ago, I spotted a yellow placard posted at the (formerly) notorious drug house at 619 26th Ave N. The doors had been boarded to keep trespassers from breaking in, and the city gave the owner until January 23, 2010 to remove the boards or it would be classified as a boarded/vacant property and condemned. It should come as no surprise that the owner failed to prevent this from happening. In fact, as soon as the property was vacated, neighbors had speculated that the owner would just walk away.

He hasn't quite done that yet. The Hennepin County website does not list this property has having gone to a sheriff sale yet, and the property is listed on the MLS with a list price of $59,900. And no, there is no sarcasm font there.

Do not click "Read More," but do keep an eye on this property to make sure squatters don't come around.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lt. Lindback Discusses Possible Factors For Crime Uptick...



At tonight's "Dessert With Don" event, where Council Member Don Samuels met with the public and panelists presented information to the audience--with cake thrown in for a bonus--Lt. Lindback of the Fourth Precinct discussed some of the possible reasons behind the January 2010 "crime uptick." This uptick in homicides came after an incredible reduction in the overall numbers...

At one point in the video, Lindback talks about certain trouble makers who get out of prison at the same time and start acting out at the same time. The evidence of this may be anecdotal but, hey, this is the first intelligent explanation I've heard, and I thought it would be useful to share with readers.

On a side note, the cake served was a leftover cake that wasn't picked up from a bakery and so was kindly donated to the "Dessert With Don" event. Reportedly, the cake said "Ghetto Fabulous" in the frosting.


An Old Signature Found In The "Hawthorne Princess"

Contributed Photo

With numerous permits pulled and work proceeding forward quickly, the "Hawthorne Princess" house owned by Realtor Connie Nompelis is coming together. (No-bell-iss, it's Greek) 

Recently, a signature dated "April 18, 1940" was found beneath some old wall paper. These are the small treasures which make buying and rehabbing houses so addictive, and there's plenty of similar home ownership opportunities in NoMi.

(Do not click "Read More")

The Smallest Big-Money Pamiko Foreclosure Yet!


Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from a merchantcircle.com profile of Pamiko Properties.

I was back at the Hennepin County Government Center last week, looking at more Pamiko foreclosure records, when something very unusual caught my eye. A loan number didn't match up with what I'd seen before. So why did something seemingly as obscure as that matter? Well, on Pamiko's three multimillion-dollar foreclosures, there were several loan modifications. Each of them had loan numbers that matched with the previous lines of credit granted for that property. Each of them, except this one.

So with a closer look, I found a new address in...

downtown St. Paul. 24 4th St E, to be exact. This foreclosure notice was probably delivered in record time, since the Ramsey County Sheriff's office that processes such matters is a mere 470 feet away, at 25 W 4th St. I've been trying to find the actual direct link confirming the foreclosure, but haven't yet. Ramsey's and St. Paul's websites aren't as searchable and user-friendly as Minneapolis and Hennepin. But a reliable source has confirmed that this property has had a sheriff sale with a bid amount at just over $1,000,000.

If you want to see what specifically caught my eye, click here. Then go to the top of page 4, where I circled and marked with an asterisk the loan number 501281. This was different than loan number 501388, the $2.5 million-dollar line of credit tied to 2420 Bryant Ave N, or 4652 Aldrich Ave N, which had loan number 501339 as a $149,850 loan that was later modified to a $1,259,060 line of credit, or Minnwest's two loans on 1417 Logan - 501394 for $135,450 and later #501423 for $2,045,000.

Yes, this is confusing. It helps if you're already obsessed with the hidden meaning behind obscure number sequences.

Anyway, the point being, there is another million-dollar Pamiko foreclosure out there. What properties are attached to this foreclosure? Are there others that we don't yet know about? The rabbit hole gets deeper and deeper.

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Structural Report On The Fjelde House...


A helpful source kicked this document my way. Go to the JNS "PDF Support Site" to download the structural report on the Fjelde House, click here.

Warning: the reading of this report without a big shaker of salt is NOT recommended.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

JN-SPAN VIDEO: Fjelde House Demolition Hearing...




This video was shot some weeks ago, but I'm posting it for the completeness of the bloggy record under a theory of "better late than never." It concerns the demolition of the Fjelde House, a tragic event in South Minneapolis which has city-wide implications for historic preservation--or lack of it--in the Twin Cities.

This is my favorite of the series of videos, where the mealy-mouthed lawyer for James Schoffman takes the podium and--at one point--the chair tries to stop the VERY PUBLIC MEETING from being videotaped by a MEMBER OF THE MEDIA.

Moi.

Well, I just kept right on taping. But it's frightening how the chair of a city committee would not care about the right of the media and the public to get access to information about what is happening at a public meeting, and to record that meeting if so inclined. IT'S A PUBLIC MEETING. HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOO. 

Furthermore, there wasn't so much as a whimper from a single member of the committee about this budding fascism, rather it was somebody in the AUDIENCE who boldly spoke up in defense of the media's practice of periodically attending and recording PUBLIC (stomp stomp) meetings held in that chamber.

Anyway, here are the rest of the videos, recommended viewing for acute insomniacs and anybody obsessed with the tragic destruction of the Fjelde House while the Heritage Preservation Commission stood by and did nothing.

Video One, see above

Video Two

Video Three

Video Four

Video Five

Video Six

(John Hoff, blogging from a cheap hotel in Bowling Green, Kentucky)

(Do not click "Read More")

Sunday, January 24, 2010

JN-SPAN Continued: Congressional Hearing on Foreclosures in the Twin Cities


Guest post and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

We continue with footage from the Congressional Field Hearing on the impact of the foreclosure crisis on public and affordable housing in the Twin Cities (the official name of that event). Pictured above is Housing Preservation Project attorney Mark Ireland. Mr. Ireland did a phenomenal job representing Hawthorne in our lawsuit against Citimorgage in the EcoVillage.

I really wish the federal government would come up with a spiffier name for this hearing, or at least a slick acronym, but what can you do?

I applaud Mark Ireland's speech because at about the 3:10 mark he gets very gutsy...

In a very straightforward way, Ireland states that we haven't fully discussed the issue of race in the foreclosure crisis. "In every study that I've seen," he says, "the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis, the foreclosure crisis, on renters, on homeowners, has been on communities of color and people of color." So as we develop solutions to these crises, we must talk about race. Thanks, Mark, for putting that out there.

Easily the most moving panelist of the entire event was Marion Anderson, a north Minneapolis resident whose landlord went through foreclosure. The panelists were all told to keep their remarks to five minutes or less, although many went over by a minute or two before being cut off. Mr. Anderson went on for almost twice that length, but his story was so compelling that Rep. Maxine Waters, the chair, told him to keep on talking until he was finished. My summary below will surely not do Mr. Anderson justice, so I strongly recommend that you take ten minutes to watch the video and listen to what he has experienced.



His landlord went into foreclosure in August of 2008. About two months AFTER the August '08 sheriff sale, Mr. Anderson began to rent the unit. The landlord also declared bankruptcy, which may have lengthened the foreclosure process. He did not find out that anything was amiss until February of 2009. That's when the landlord started taking appliances out of the property, starting with the washers and dryers. Then the utility shut-off notices started to come, even though in the lease the utilities were paid for by the landlord.

OF COURSE the landlord still wanted to collect the rent, but the tenants organized and contacted the utility companies to pay them instead. On April 15, the FIRST legal day to do so, the landlord manually shut off the furnace. Then he tried to evict the tenants for non-payment of rent. The landlord disappeared from the scene entirely, but around October 15, the Minneapolis Fire Department (which oversees mult-unit housing) informed the tenants they had 72 hours to get the heat turned on or the building would be condemned and they'd be forced out. There was also no rental license anymore.

The Fire Department worked with the tenants to contact Center Point and get the furnace turned back on, and Legal Aid of Minneapolis helped out too. But then the vacant units became occupied by squatters. The squatters didn't want to contribute to the utility payments, but they did want to contribute to the condemnation of the building by using meth. There is a new owner, and it looks like things will be resolved in the good tenants' favor.

Mr. Anderson and his neighbors are the lucky ones. Countless others experience similar difficulties and wind up homeless.

In a question and answer session later, Rep. Ellison asked whether Mr. Anderson was ever told directly that the building was in foreclosure.



Of course, the answer was "no." And there's the big problem. There are all sorts of protections out there for renters whose landlord is in foreclosure, but if nobody makes them aware of the situation and the resources, those people will fall through the cracks. Any suggestions about how to deal with this are more than welcome. But enforcing such disclosures from landlords to tenants is almost impossible.

Mark Ireland was also asked about his comments regarding racial justice:



He referenced a structure laid out in Dr. Martin Luther King's last book. That structure involves identifying where we are at right now, asserting vigorously the dignity and worth of all people, then you identify the structural impediments to moving forward, and then you "fight like hell."

JN-SPAN: Congressional Field Hearing on Foreclosures and Affordable Housing


Guest post and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Falling somewhere in between the venerated C-SPAN network and The Onion's "O-SPAN," Johnny Northside brings you extensive footage of Saturday's Congressional hearing in Minneapolis. We'll call it JN-SPAN.

Let's get the dry stuff out of the way first. This was a Committee on Financial Services meeting, an official hearing of the United States House of Representatives. Its title was "The Impact of the Foreclosure Crisis on Public and Affordable Housing in the Twin Cities," and this was the second time Rep. Keith Ellison has brought such a hearing to Minneapolis.

In the video above, NoMi's state Senator Linda Higgins is speaking about a condemned four-plex near her home...

...that was bought by a consortium of developers from North Dakota (state motto: "Flat but boring"). These developers bought approximately 50 properties in north Minneapolis, and in this property's case, failed the inspection for a certificate of occupancy. The developers lied about being certified asbestos removers, and got caught. But their work on the other houses is reportedly just as shoddy. (Hawkman asks: Can we get a name? Is this a new slumlord or one that we're already aware of?)

Rep. Jim Davnie spoke next.


Davnie has been another leader on predatory lending and foreclosure issues affecting Minneapolis and all of Minnesota. He and Senator Higgins have worked together to create or help pass legislation that curbed predatory lending activities, equity stripping, and abuses by landlords. Both houses of Minnesota's legislature also passed a Subprime Borrowers' Relief Act, which would have provided mediation for borrowers with subprime mortgages - if it hadn't been vetoed by Governor Pawlenty.

Up next was Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman.


Commissioner Dorfman has done great work around foreclosures and vacancies as well, but she references a "14% decline in home values" for north Minneapolis as a result of foreclosures, and that sounds incredibly low. I'd like to see what that number is once it's broken down by neighborhood, if that data is out there. In Hawthorne, I'd bet it's more like 140%. Continuing with numbers, Dorfman states that 55% of foreclosures in Minneapolis are from landlords, and that 10% of the people in homeless shelters in Minneapolis are from these properties.

ADDENDUM: An anonymous commenter on this blog pointed out that in my rebuttal of the inaccurately low percentage of home value decline at least in my area of NoMi, I let hyperbole get in the way of actual mathematics. A 140% decline would mean that the property has a negative value, which only happens in Detroit. Even in the most extreme cases of a fraudulent $300,000 appraised value of a Dream Home, and then a resale in the $30,000 range, the percentage decline would be 90%.

I didn't get video footage of Mr. Dan Bartholomay of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. His content contained very detailed mortgage technicalities, so naturally I was taking notes like a madman. Here's the Reader's Digest version of his speech: The Housing Finance Agency does loans geared towards low- and moderate-income households, and their loan portfolio performed significantly better than the market. However, funding has been difficult because subprime mortgages have given the whole secondary market a bad name. Either nobody trusted these mortgage bonds in general, or they didn't trust the information claiming the stability of such an investment. So now thanks to the subprime meltdown, finding access to funds that actually help poor people AND make money on their own is increasingly difficult.

The highlight of the first panel was CPED Director of Housing Policy and Develpment, Tom Streitz. If you watch no other clip from these videos, at the very least jump to the 1:40 mark of this one.


That's when Tom Streitz discusses one of the biggest victories in NoMi's response to the foreclosure crisis: The successful prosecution of the TJ Waconia fraudsters. When Streitz said that they were in federal prison, the room erupted in applause. Let's hope that the principals from Danna D III (who face federal charges) and maybe a few others will join them.

Streitz also gives some common-sense suggestions about how regulations around NSP dollars could be lifted to make our response to the foreclosure crisis even more effective. I have to agree with those comments, and will likely do a commentary about this at a later time.

Whew! That's about all the excitement I think we can handle for a while, but there was a second panel as well. That panel had some very poignant stories, including one from a tenant whose landlord went into foreclosure. Stay tuned to JN-SPAN.