Tuesday, April 26, 2011

J.S. Futcher, The "George Washington Of JACC," Presents JACC A Copy Of Its "Birth Certificate"



Photos and blog post by John Hoff

J.S. Futcher, who might be described as the "George Washington Of the Jordan Area Community Council," spoke at the April 13 JACC board meeting and presented a copy of the history book he authored: They're Closing Our Library: From Jordan Branch To North Regional.

The book describes, in well-documented and meticulous detail, how grassroots community organizing around the issue of a potential library closure led to the founding of what became the Jordan Area Community Council (JACC) and created the groundwork for today's highly-developed system of Minneapolis neighborhood associations. Futcher, a science teacher who took on a leadership role in light of a crisis caused by the planned library closure in the mid-1960s, described his book as being like the "birth certificate" of JACC and was moved to tears when discussing the...


...long and difficult but worthwhile struggle to help North Minneapolis not only retain a public library but actually get a much bigger and better facility than the original. This was, however, not to be a "one issue movement." When members of JACC got a taste of success from neighborhood organizing around the library issue, they didn't stop and the movement spread across the city.

Futcher's book, which was many years in the making, reproduces copies of newspaper articles and other forms of documentation to show, in detail, how the struggle over the library became a broader neighborhood-based social movement. The author's use of sources is meticulous, so much so that one is reminded of a graduate thesis or a science textbook. If the original documents contain what the author considers mistakes or contradictions, Futcher is careful to point this out; such as an instance where a gathering took place in the afternoon instead of at noon.

I managed to quickly read as far as Chapter 6 while the JACC board meeting took place and the book was free for my browsing. It is an amazing and important document which anybody who seeks to change North Minneapolis for the better should read. The book made me aware of historical patterns and some old, not-quite-buried issues that might need to be revived, once again, such as a collection of historical books that was more-or-less snatched away from the North Minneapolis library and spirited away to the main library where these books remain today.

The author made mention of books being available for sale at a program called "Emerge" but I have not been able to confirm this firsthand.

I will note that the timing of this book presentation is interesting. The author completed the book a couple years ago, but talked about being busy with family matters and moving to a different address to explain why he had delayed so long in presenting the book to JACC even though many other individuals and organizations received copies.

From where I was standing and watching, I strongly suspect there was an aspect of the author not wanting to "cast his pearls before swine," that is to say: the "Old Majority" who used to run JACC and mismanage its finances, then sued (with spectacular non-success) for control of the organization.

With JACC now in the hands of decent, conscientious people who aren't mismanaging the organization, perhaps the author felt it was an appropriate time to make his book presentation.

That's my hypothesis and I'm sticking to it.

One thing the author is extraordinarily careful to document are his own claims of being the founder of JACC. Based on my reading of the documentation--which is extensive--J.S. Futcher has every right to make this claim.

The historical beginnings of many important things are lost, vague or unknown because nobody took the time to record history or, even more important, to organize and edit and write history.

But JACC doesn't fall in that category.


The author reading from his notes.
This is the original "Clean Sweep" flyer for what has become an annual event in Jordan, Hawthorne, and other neighborhoods.

The artwork on the cover of the book is not random: it comes from the original petition to protest the closing of the Jordan Branch library in the mid-1960s.


A Trail Of 311 Calls Follows In The Wake Of "Penn Avenue Hooker Patrol"

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Some of the "hooker patrol" efforts undertaken by me and my girlfriend Megan Goodmundson have been documented on this blog recently, click here for an example.

One incidental side benefit of frequent "hooker patrol" has been a number of 311 calls made on OTHER problems we happen to notice in and around Penn Avenue North.

For example, in the photo above...

...the garage at 2700 Queen Ave. N. is looking pretty bad. Before sending a report to 311, following my own set of sensible criteria for what to report and what to let slide, I first checked to see if this was a hard-pressed home owner or yet another Northside rental property.

Oh, turns out it has a rental license, click here for more info.

Hello, 311.

This is only one example of "incidental 311 reports." We've reported graffiti, vacant lots full of litter, and soon enough we might start to systematically document the potholes. Wouldn't want any of the working girls to trip.

And when I say "girls," I mean that loosely in a "Deontay T. Duffy The Transvestite Hooker" kind of way.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Greetings From A (Suspected) Penn Avenue Hooker...

Photos and blog post by John Hoff


Once again directing a "citizen patrol" at prostitution activity in North Minneapolis, today me and my girlfriend finished up with an Easter egg hunt and then hit Penn Avenue, looking for hookers. It wasn't hard to find one sitting on the "hooker steps" at 2755 Penn Avenue North, a vacant house. We called the police, and before long squad 462 came along and talked to the suspected hooker.

And I say "suspected" in that I'm-trying-to-be-a-journalist-so-I-really-should-use-that-word kinda way.

Disappointingly, Squad 462 only...

...stopped and talked to the (firmly and strongly) suspected hooker, apparently telling her to "move along." The conversation was quick, so obviously there wasn't even enough time to run her name and see if, oh gee, she's been picked up for hooking before like Deontay Duffy, click here.

At this point, the hookers know my car by sight and we can actually see them reacting when my car comes in sight, apparently knowing a police squad won't be far behind. So after the police talked to the (suspected) hooker she began walking southbound on Penn, and we moved up a couple blocks to intercept her and snap a photo.

Spotting us, the hooker gave us "the bird." In fact, she actually stood still in her tracks, pulling her hood up over her face, and flipped us off for about a full minute.

Like, HOW DARE WE CALL THE POLICE about her turning tricks (we suspect) on Penn Avenue North on Easter Sunday?

As far as I'm concerned, this hooker is giving the finger to the neighborhood, to the police, to the judicial system. I am directing this question at my public officials: WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO for police to actually make some arrests instead of merely stirring the pond scum, which goes away momentarily but returns several minutes later? In fact, we saw this hooker AGAIN several hours later, and called the police on her AGAIN.

In light of the fact we can't seem to get decisive police action, I have decided on a new tactic: I will no longer call 911 when I see a hooker. Instead, I will wait until the hooker gets into a vehicle. THEN I will call the police, but the vehicle's license plate information will appear on this blog.


JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: The Honorable Judge Porter BRINGS DOWN THE AXE!!! Costs, Disbursements Ordered Against "Old Majority" In JACC Court Case!

Stock photo, blog post by John Hoff

Read 'em and weep, click here for a PDF copy of the judicial order.

More commentary and coverage to follow, later, after Easter brunch with friends and neighbors.

But inquiring minds want to know in NoMi, so best to throw the information out there.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

Bundle Up Those Tree Trimmings! Northsiders Need Firewood!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

With summer gas prices expected to reach ridiculous highs, and even affordable domestic tourist spots like Mount Rushmore seeing drastically decreased numbers of visitors, I would guess late night summer bonfires are going to be an increasingly popular pastime. Here in North Minneapolis, some of us Northsiders reduce costs even further by...

...cruising the alleys and snatching up tree-trimmings, which are (per Sanitation Department regulations) neatly bundled with twine, or should be. Dried out Christmas trees are particularly prized among some NoMi bonfire enthusiasts. Under optimum conditions, a Christmas tree will shoot up a plume of fire ten feet high. Click here for photographic evidence.

I would be leaving the wrong impression if I led readers to believe late night alley-scavenging is the ONLY source of fuel for bonfires in North Minneapolis (NoMi). In many instances, residents are keeping vacant lots clear of fallen tree branches, performing a valuable public service free of charge. But there's just no getting around the fact a bonfire made with "liberated" alley firewood feels warmer, and smells sweeter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Tax Forfeited Property Sign...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Shortly after most of the snow melted (not counting the freak snowfall of April 20) red and white signs began appearing on random vacant lots all over North Minneapolis, as well as at least one boarded house that I've observed on Lyndale Ave. N.

The signs advertise that the plots of land in question are tax-forfeited and available for sale from Hennepin County. Though this information is available online, the additional action of placing a sign on the lot is a smart way to advertise. And there are certainly an abundance of these lots available.

With no new construction in the cards for at least a couple years--not counting economic development efforts and non-profit entities like Habitat for Humanity--one might question who, exactly, would snap up these lots?

I'd like to see community gardeners buy the lots and...


...keep them vacant more or less forever. Adjacent landowners are the most likely to want to acquire the properties, but here's the problem: many if not most of the adjacent properties are rentals. The landlords are not interested in obtaining the nearby tax-forfeited properties. Why? So their tenants can have super large yards?

Of the adjacent property owners who actually live in their own houses, few of them have money.

I might suggest some kind of program that would provide low-interest loans, so neighboring home owners could acquire the vacant lots. My first thought, however, is that I doubt the city would support such a program. The city wants HOUSING DENSITY. The city wants homes it can tax, not vacant lots.

But consider: DENSITY is fine, when the homes are prosperous and law abiding. But in neighborhoods where crime and poverty are concentrated, a little less density may be a good thing. The city is already taking steps that reduce density by acquiring run down homes and demolishing them. In many instances, new construction on the vacant lots is happening no time soon.

The solution, to me, seems obvious: the city of Minneapolis should make it easy for neighboring home owners to buy the tax forfeited vacant lots from the county. Create programs that would provide low-interest and/or forgivable loans so neighboring home owners can acquire the vacant lots. At the very least, make it easy for neighboring home owners to temporarily use the vacant lots for gardening.

Maybe none of this will happen. But I'll say this: putting a sign on the properties is a good idea. It is a constant visual reminder that the lot is for sale. People--especially neighboring home owners--will constantly see the sign.

And maybe, from constantly seeing the sign, they will begin to dream of expanding their yard, or planting a massive garden, or building an addition to their home.

Tranvestite Hooker Deontay T. Duffy Arrested On Penn Ave. N., Judicial System Throws Him Right Back On Our Streets...


Photos and blog post by John Hoff


On Tuesday, April 12, while "citizen patrolling" Penn Ave. N. with my girlfriend Megan Goodmundson, we ran into what can only be described as a "hooker convention." There were so many suspected prostitutes in a small area in and around Penn Ave. N., it was tough to keep them all straight as we repeatedly dialed 911.

It was like playing Prostitute Whack A Mole. In addition to calling police, we took some photos of the girls.

But it turned out not all the girls were, um, girls...

2700 Morgan Ave. N. Is Finally A Flat, Peaceful Vacant Lot Instead Of A Whorehouse...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

How many stages, how many steps, how many small struggles and battles did it take to reach this point? Now the amazing, colorful life cycle of a North Minneapolis whorehouse reaches a new stage which may last years, even decades: a vacant lot, minus the piles of cement rubble.

At one time, crack addicted prostitutes plied their trade more-or-less openly from the porch of 2700 Morgan Ave. N.

Eventually, the house was boarded up...the boards were ripped off and the former residents went back inside the house...this happened a few times. It was a struggle to make sure the house was secured while vacant and awaiting demolition, a struggle to make sure the lawn was mowed. At one point, lots of possessions including mattresses hit the dumper. I found a cool...

...thimble inside a dresser drawer in the dumpster, which I gave to a relative of mine, and she says it's her favorite thimble. Ever.

The actual demolition of 2700 Morgan Ave. N. was celebrated with champagne in the street, the video posted online. Thankfully, all that was useful in the house was saved: about half a dozen fridge magnets. A hole was left in the street where utilities were dug out, and getting that hole filled was another small struggle.

Unsightly rubble from the demolition stayed around for a long time, but in the last couple days a backhoe appeared. All the rubble has been hauled away. Now all we need is GRASS SEED.

Friday, April 22, 2011

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: "Demolition Derby" On James Ave. N. As Drunk Driver Hits Four Cars...



Photos and blog post by John Hoff

It happened Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning: a drunk male (other details unknown) smashed his car into four vehicles on the 2600 block of James Ave. N.

A very cooperative and law abiding drunk driver--except for the drunk driving part--he reportedly emerged from his vehicle and presented his drivers license and proof of insurance to stunned onlookers before being taken into police custody.

These photos were taken early Wednesday morning after the late-night party, when I was driving down James Ave. N. and saw two smashed up vehicles that looked like they had been playing "bumper cars." Not sure whether police had been notified, I called 911...

The dispatcher took some details and checked her log, saw some activity in that area from the night before, but said the matter looked "unresolved," especially if two smashed up cars were still at the scene. Like a good citizen, I stood by until the police called me back. The dispatcher said two trucks should be on the way, but were just taking a while. The call had indeed been resolved.

"The drunk driver hit more than one car?" the dispatcher asked me, apparently more curious than anything.

At that point, I was in possession of info from one of the neighbors, a friend of my girlfriend Megan. So I told the dispatcher how FOUR CARS had been hit, and then the drunk reportedly emerged and grandly presented his info.

Two cars left at the scene, pictured above, tell part of the tale. The car at the top is a black Nissan Sentra, fairly new, driven or pushed by impact onto the grassy boulevard. Damage to the rear driver's side tire area is plainly visible. The Sentra has an Iowa license plate from Polk County, 370 LSE. The other car has damage both to the front and the rear, which means either it was hit TWICE or was used to hit other cars. I'm not sure what kind of car it is, because anything that would plainly say what kind of car it is has been ripped off, but it's a sporty silver car, four doors, license plate TLA 672.

No further information is available at this time but one neighbor in the area made the following pithy statement:

"I LOVE MY GARAGE."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Best Blog! Twin Cities! Uh huh! (Making Dancing Motions)

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

As regular readers know, here at Johnny Northside Dot Com we REALLY believe in recycling. That's why I've gone ahead and reused a headline from April 22, 2010, click here for the original. And, once again, I prefer to publish a photo of my son in this moment of triumph. Alex Hoff, age 13, is the whole reason I ended up in North Minneapolis.

When I throw my energy into making this place better for the sake of the next generation, I have my son Alex in mind.

In regard to being named the best Twin Cities blog TWO YEARS IN A ROW BY CITY PAGES (and this on top of receiving a similar honor from Metro Magazine) first let me solemnly promise readers that, to the best of my ability, I will keep on delivering what our audience loves and expects.

As near as I can figure, this would be as follows...



1. Ripping on slimy slumlords, click here for an example.

2. Ripping on Level Three sex offenders concentrated in North Minneapolis, click here for a MUSICAL example.

3. Exposing information about mortgage fraud, and fighting disgraced former JACC executive director Jerry Moore all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary. Thank goodness we've already won the important and key part of the court case: THIS BLOG TOLD THE TRUTH.

And what is the truth? Here it is:

Repeated and specific evidence in Hennepin County District Court shows Jerry Moore was involved in a high-profile fraudulent mortgage at 1564 Hillside Ave. N.

TRUTHFULLY, if it hadn't been for Jerry Moore's court case thrusting this blog briefly into the national limelight, I don't think City Pages would have given JohnnyNorthside.com this award two years running.

4. Showing the fun, decency, and overwhelming normalcy of North Minneapolis residents engaged in a courageous struggle to make their neighborhood safe and livable. Click here for an example.

5. Highly specific and colorful coverage of crime and courts, click here for an example.

6. An exhaustive list of chicken wing flavors. Yeah, it's crazy, but that particular blog post consistently ranks near the top of all time popular posts. Go figure. In fact, if you Google "Chicken wing flavors" it's number one IN THE WORLD. This is madness. What does this blog have to do with "chicken wing flavors?"

7. Intensely local neighborhood coverage. I just wish every neighborhood had its own Johnny Northside. So often I see potential stories in other neighborhoods and I think, "Where is THEIR fanatically devoted blogger?"

Oh, wait, I know: vexatious and frivolous lawsuits are intimidating people away from such First Amendment activity. Turns out even TELLING THE TRUTH can't keep you out of court for YEARS at a time.

8. The Hennepin County Jailhouse roster. I swear, if the day ever comes I can't blog as regularly as I'd like to, but I could somehow crank out ONE BLOG POST A MONTH, I'd publish that roster. The feedback I am getting tells me this information is having quite an impact. Some individuals Google their own name and the first thing popping up is the jailhouse roster. I sure hear about THAT in angry emails.

To which I say: don't go to jail.

9. Quirky food experimentation and local eatery coverage, click here for an example.

10. You've heard of a "mommy blog?" This is the ultimate "divorced daddy" blog. I think some readers like the idea of a father who will do whatever crazy thing it takes to play a positive and meaningful role in his son's life, even if it means moving to North Minneapolis (the only housing I can afford) and turning the removal of a dead dog from the street into a father/son activity.

So I promise there will be more of the same: pictures of Alex Hoff, stories about Alex Hoff, cooking pizza with Alex Hoff.

Yeah, when I'm not writing about slumlords it will be Alex Hoff-O-Rama.

So thank again, City Pages, for the award (plus the sash, bouquet, tiara, and lifetime supply of Turtle Wax) and keep reading, because I will keep blogging until the password is pried from my cold, dead brain.

JNS BLOG CUISINE EXCLUSIVE: The Lowry Cafe Is Looking Good And Soon To Open!



Today, Johnny Northside blog was specially invited for a sneak peak inside the Lowry Cafe, (click here for their Facebook page) which is set to open in early May. The last time I was inside, the place had studs instead of walls. Now it's so close to finished, some cooking ingredients are already stocked.

From its cherry-stained oak bar, to its 12-foot ceilings and 1920s style interior, the new restaurant shows what is possible when you have AN ENTIRE HARDWARE STORE AT YOUR DISPOSAL to finish a space and make it perfect...




The brand new kitchen is like an artist's canvas waiting to receive a masterpiece. I am told the menu will consist of "comfort food with a twist" which could also be described as "home style classics turned up a notch." For example, meatloaf with bourbon onion sauce and shoestring onions, on Texas toast. The pork tenderloin is expected to be "a staple." Bottled beer and wine will be available.

Though the walls are newly finished and empty at the moment, in the future they will feature the works of local artists.



This is not the same kitchen as the previous photo, but the "prep kitchen" in the basement.



Special glassware that says "Lowry Cafe."



Brand new mixer. The kitchen looks like Christmas morning at the Martha Stewart residence!



Dark black, classy cloth napkins. How environmentalist!



Ingredients, ready to go.



One of the rest rooms. Yes, that's real marble tile.



The other rest room. Darryl did all the tile work himself.



Extra outlets have been installed at the bar to accommodate customers with laptops. Johnny Northside blog LIKEY LIKEY.



Here's the chef, Steve Swinney, who has previously worked for independent restaurants, corporate restaurants, and franchises. He's very well-rounded in the food service industry. In addition to "comfort food with a twist," Swinney hopes to have wines of "affordable quality anybody can enjoy" and a local emphasis with the ingredients for the cuisine; including produce from farmers markets when available. The bread used at the Lowry Cafe will be from Franklin Street Bakery, and the coffee will be B & W which is a local "fair trade" company, click here for their website.


The booths will be named after the five North Minneapolis neighborhoods that line Lowry Avenue and will be identified by little brass plaques. Extra big and comfy, the booths seat six. The table tops are huge and will work well to unfurl maps and plot further neighborhood revitalization.

Visible from the windows of the Lowry Cafe are large, open areas of land just itching to be developed. Pouring so much money and effort into the Lowry Cafe is an act of faith in the bright future of our neighborhood.

Here's hoping owner Darryl Weivoda's faith is rewarded with success.

Hawthorn (Sic) Crossings Strip Mall Is The Ragged Stepchild Of Sherman And Associates...


Photos and blog post by John Hoff

The Star Tribune recently had an informative article on Sherman And Associates, a local real estate developer with a billion dollar portfolio, click here. The article mentioned many of George Sherman's various properties, including his exciting and visionary redevelopment of Riverside Plaza in the West Bank area.

One Sherman and Associates property noticeably ABSENT from the article is our very own...

...Hawthorn (sic) Crossings strip mall, a location which (it must be admitted) has cleaned up a bit lately, but still remains quite troubled by drug dealing and loitering. Pictured above (photographed from two angles) is one piece of evidence that Hawthorn (sic) Crossings is the ragged, neglected stepchild of the Sherman and Associates empire.

This fence, obviously hit by a car and bent out of shape, has remained in this sorry state for, well, more than a year. I think it was about a year ago that I called 311 about this fence. I can remember making the call because the fence is quite a distance from the strip mall, and I distinctly remember thinking, well, what address should I use? I ended up using the address for the McDonalds, because it's located across from that business in the strip mall on the other side of the parking lot.

More than a year later, it's still unfixed, still bent out of shape, still a pony-could-get-loose-and-run-in-traffic situation. Click here for musical homage.

I must confess, before I read the article in the Star Tribune, I had no idea how financially successful George Sherman is or how extensive his property holdings are...though I'd heard about his plush condos down by the Mississippi River. After reading the article, I can't help but think: why can't this highly successful man make Hawthorn (sic) Crossings a better asset to the community?

"Show Cause Hearing" Canceled For Level Three Sex Offender Peter "Spanky Pete" Rickmyer...


Grilled sheep testicles, photos and blog post by John Hoff

Peter "Spanky Pete" Rickmyer, currently cooling his gonads in the Lino Lakes correctional facility for attempting to slap his frivolous pseudo-legal paper on this blog despite his status as a Rule 9 frivolous litigant, now has a proposed release date: June 6, 2011.

In the meantime, the "show cause hearing" before the Honorable Judge Swenson has been canceled. It appears Peter Rickmyer will not be required to "show cause" why he should NOT be held in contempt of court.

So Rickmyer is in the somewhat legally ironic position of...

...having his probation temporarily revoked over something he should not have done (filing frivolous legal paper) but he doesn't face the prospect of being held in contempt of court for that same action.

Apparently, the fact Peter Rickmyer is sitting in prison until early June is good enough for the Honorable Judge Swenson, and there's no need to waste more judicial resources on the matter. Bottom line: Peter rots in prison but has virtually nothing he can effectively appeal because everything that happened to him was parole-related.

If Peter wasn't such a creepy wankster who sexually gratifies himself by spanking minors, you could almost feel sorry for him.

My Son Alex Discovers A New Form Of Recyling At Broadway Pizza In North Minneapolis (NoMi)


Photos and blog post by John Hoff

Few people are more devoted to recycling and composting than I am. The other day I took a plastic bottle all the way home from Mall of America rather than throw it in a trash can.

Well, actually, I had a little help: I asked my girlfriend Megan to carry it in her purse.

So imagine my excitement when I was having "weekend visitation pizza" with my 13-year-old son Alex and I discovered a new form of recycling that I'd never heard of before: re-capturing and re-using the plastic capsules used to dispense small, junky trinkets from gum ball machines.

Now, if only we could save more of the earth's resources by not making small, junky trinkets in the first place.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dear Sign Spammers: Please Use Wooden Signs So We Can Burn Them In Cheery Bonfires!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Don't be fooled by the smile on my face. I don't like sign spam. But I especially dislike the sign spam composed of yellow corrugated plastic, because I can't burn it. Burning plastic creates dioxins. Bad stuff. This puts me in an awkward position for a tree hugger: I find myself preferring the wooden signs.

Recently, Hawthorne Hawkman did some digging to discover the identity of the prolific "2 BR For Rent Heat Paid" sign spammer, click here for his article.

Me, I just like to knock 'em down and throw 'em in the trunk of my car.

In looking at this photo, I realize there is actually quite a bit happening in the image. Let's go through all the threads and tangents, shall we...?


First, yes, that is my vehicle, the one I took on a joyride through "Craterville" near the Washington Ave. N. holiday station with a television crew from KARE-11, click here. My vehicle survived the experience but "Craterville" is still in existence, despite some minor "cold fill" repair efforts.

Second, check out the business in the background. That's new new Pappy's restaurant at the corner of Washington Ave. N. and Jugg Liquors. I made passing mention of the restaurant opening before any other blog, click here, but the Hawthorne Hawkman wrote about it in more depth...with, oh my word, RANDOM PARROTS, click here.

Gotta love the blogosphere.

Now, look at the trunk of the car. It's a cup of Caribou Coffee. Yes, the new Pappy's restaurant has CARIBOU COFFEE. This is, like, a HUGE MOMENT IN THE HISTORY OF NORTH MINNEAPOLIS. Big coffee shop chains don't come up here to North Minneapolis, leaving the market to local "mom and pops." But you can get Caribou Coffee at Pappy's.

Pictured below is another thing you can get at Pappy's: a Greek omlette. This dish is my personal favorite, though I add my own twist: I save the olive pits for composting.



Looking at this photo I realize my life and the blogosphere are so intertwined, I can't tell where my life ends and the blogosphere begins. The internet has become the tribal campfire around which we sit and tell stories, and relate information useful to the people of NoMi.

But sometimes our tribal campfire is not virtual, but a real live bonfire...

Fueled by wooden sign spam.

Not Getting My 311 Buzz At 718 West Broadway!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Some days ago, I wrote about my 311 email binge, how I was drinking cold Amarula liquor and firing off numerous emails to report various situations requiring the lovingly bureaucratic attention of 311--such as this garbage filled vacant lot at 718 W. Broadway, the former White Castle location. (I didn't live in North Minneapolis back when this vacant lot had a White Castle, but I hear it was a very rowdy place, especially after bar closing. Good riddance)

But some time after I sent the emails I totally lost my 311 buzz because...


...the emails came bouncing back to me. The files were too large because I had attached--oh, my word!--two or three photos.

In fact, I had made a point of not attaching more than three photos thinking, well, what if their spam filter is sensitive? I don't want it to bounce off the spam filter. And then the emails bounced ANYWAY.

I mean, geez, THREE PHOTOS?

I attach THREE PHOTOS and the email comes bouncing right back?

I have duly reported this "spam filter problem" to 311 via online survey. I've also emailed one of my public officials. But I want this problem fixed, and I want it fixed QUICKLY. So often when I call 311, the operators go through their little script and point out how citizens can send an email to report problems.

To which I always say: Yes, I already use the 311 email system. I take pictures of problems and send off dozens of emails, but then I also walk around and call problems in. The main reason I use the 311 email is because 311 isn't open late at night, and there are times late at night when I need my 311 buzz. Or because some problems are best documented by a photo. I need to show this isn't just a little bit of garbage. This is a minor landfill.

But if I can't attach photos to my emails then...then...

Oh, my word, how will I get my 311 buzz by email?

Please, 311, fix this issue RIGHT AWAY!!!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

JNS BLOG EDITORIAL: Gopher 94 Liquor License Denial Was A Victory For North Minneapolis, Not Merwin Liquors...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

With the dust now settled over the issue of the Gopher 94 Liquor license denial, a matter reported in the Star Tribune and other media, it seems a good time to examine what happened with the issue and what DID NOT happen with the issue.

First, and most unfortunately, far too much attention was focused on the self-serving and hypocritical role of Merwin Liquors, a competitor, who not only expressed opposition to a liquor license for Gopher 94 but took things a step further: providing a bus to bring citizens to the city council meeting and distributing flyers like the one pictured above. Frankly, citizens and neighborhood activists could have won this battle on their own, just fine, without any...

...so-called "assistance" from Merwin Liquors, whose involvement actually detracted from the legitimate points made by ordinary citizens. In fact, Merwin might want to take a good hard look at many of the proposed rules that Gopher 94 was willing to live under and start imposing those standards on itself instead of actually pandering to chronic inebriates. If the folks behind Gopher 94 are upset, they have a right to be. But there's no sense painting Merwin Liquors as a powerful player in this drama. The City Council vote rejecting the license wasn't BECAUSE of Merwin Liquors raising its voice, but IN SPITE of Merwin.

As for the citizens who came on the Merwin-sponsored bus and spoke, WHO CARES how they arrived at city hall? If the Hawthorne Hawkman doesn't have a working vehicle and I give him a ride, that doesn't make the Hawthorne Hawkman my spokesmodel.

But now, with a liquor license denied for Gopher 94, we are left to ask "Where do we go from here?" What kind of project will reside at that corner?

Whatever it is, I hope it isn't "more of the same," by which I mean:

1. Liquor stores, particularly those selling "Mad Dog 20/20."

2. Housing projects that announce great hopes and dreams, but are likely to turn into a dystopian nightmare about as quickly as the carpeting loses its "new carpet smell." Click here for an example.

3. Any greasy food establishment with "Chicago" in the name. Seriously, the other day I saw a fried chicken place going up near Little Caeser's Pizza at Hawthorn (sic) Crossings strip mall, and I was ECSTATIC because at least it was Louisiana-style, not Chicago-style, and even though it was more fried food on West Broadway at least leaving "Chicago" out of the establishment name represents meaningful progress.

Here are some of my nominations for future development at the site of BJ's strip club:

1. A CVS Pharmacy.

2. A gas station.

3. A sit-down restaurant.

4. Nothing. Just tear the strip club down and leave the lot empty for the time being.

The Aldrich Ave. N. "Ornamental Fence House" Suddenly Goes Vacant...

Photos and blog post by John Hoff

The house at 2125 Aldrich Ave. N. is not far from my own house, and for the last couple of years it has been nothing but a headache as a family of "pit bull enthusiasts" resided there, the double-sized yard invariably occupied by at least one vicious, perpetually-barking canine. This home is distinctive because of a unique, apparently homemade ornamental fence surrounding the large yard.

If I owned the house, I would erect a privacy fence BEHIND the ornamental fence but leave the unique and artsy metal fence in place. But, currently, the fence looks jarringly odd and junky. I wonder what the story was behind the person who went to such trouble to create the unique fence?

In the last couple months, the property suddenly...


...and unexpectedly went vacant, and was boarded up. City records show it was boarded on March 15.

The owner of the property is listed as "Webster Jeffrey" (city records) or "Jeffrey Webster" (county records, usually more accurate and up-to-date) whose address is the same as the house in question. No rental license.

On the bright side...


Look! That yellow placard is from Animal Control. This is a relatively rare form of official paper, and though I have spotted these before I don't think I've ever photographed one and shared it on my blog for other "official paper" enthusiasts. Here, enjoy!


Look how nicely the placard was placed inside the door window pane instead of ramble-jamble thrown upon the door any old way. Keep up the good word, Department of Inspections!

Seriously, folks, if this house hits the market it's very roomy, in a great location, and I'm sure the interior is nothing that a lot of elbow grease won't fix! The yard comes pre-fertilized and will grow wonderful flowers.

Ah, The Rare And Beautiful "Illegal Occupancy Final Notice" Placard...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Some people go bird watching, or collect coins.

I prefer to spot rare forms of official paper plastered to doors, click here for an example.

Some days ago, I experienced quite a thrill as I observed...

...a green placard that wasn't "key lime," but a deeper shade of green. I knew it was something out of the ordinary and I rushed over to see. What to my wondering eyes did appear but an "Illegal Occupancy Final Notice" placard.

Oh, what a thrill! I'd never even SEEN one of these before. Oh, sure, I've seen the illegal occupancy placards--off the top of my head, I think they are orange--but what's with this "final notice" thing? How many notices do illegal occupiers get? Does this mean some sort of official appeals process was completed and a final decision made? How long did THAT take?

This placard was located at 2801 James Ave. N., which tax records show is owned by a "Randy Olson," but the taxpayer is listed as FREDERICK & VIRGINA WHERLAND, 7317 GLOUCHESTER DR, EDINA MN 55435. There is currently no rental license, nor is the property homesteaded. Most likely this is another of the "investors" who plague north Minneapolis with their dreams of property investment riches turned into more slummy, vacant property for our neighborhood to endure.

Sooner or later, all their names will end up publicly plastered all over Johnny Northside Dot Com or similar grassroots blogging efforts. All of them.

Decent home owners are wanted in NoMi, but more starry-eyed "investors" should not bother getting off the tour bus.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Attorney Jill Clark Receives Second Judicial Diss Over "Spanky Pete" Rickmyer Matter...

Blog post by John Hoff, technical help with image acknowledged, and you're right, top shelf tastes better

While Peter "Spanky Pete" Rickmyer continues to rot in prison after violating his parole through attempts to throw his worthless legal paper in the direction of this blog, his attorney Jill Clark makes attempts to assist him. But these attempts don't seem to be getting anywhere and--if my reading of the documents is correct--have done little more than severely annoy two different judges. Compare the letter, above, with this previous letter from the Honorable Judge Blaeser.

As for the letter above, if readers are having difficulty understanding it then we're all in the same boat.

But here's my bottom line:

(And when I say "bottom," I don't mean that in a non-consensual, "Golden Chicken Spanky Wanky Incident" kinda way)

An attempt was made to deliberately inject confusion into the legal process and the judge called it out, forcefully. Also, Rule 9 Frivolous Litigant Peter Rickmyer can't shoehorn himself into in forma pauperis status and, once again, use the courts as a weapon to launch frivolous legal paper at the whole world.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ahhhhh! Cold Amarula Liquor And A Late Night 311 Email Binge!

718 West Broadway, photo and blog post by John Hoff

When fellow Northside bloggers ask how this blog puts out so much content, so quickly (and they do ask that, often enough) one trick I share is that I "take notes with my camera" and "write off my notes."

As stories happen in front of me, I start firing off pictures. Anybody who knows me well realizes I take pictures constantly, all the time, of almost everything. For example, as somebody at Holy Land Bakery and Deli prepared lamb testicles for me to grill at home, I took pictures, thinking the images of severed testicles might make a great stock photo for a story about Level Three sex offender concentration in North Minneapolis.

When I download my digital camera into my Mac, I scan the images in the "Last Import" file and recall the stories that go along with the images. And I start cranking those stories out, working from my array of photos as though those images were notes, double checking facts with phone calls, creating live links in the stories, tying the new stories into previous stories on my blog, other blogs, or other media.

Content, content, content. Crank it out, before the story goes stale, because tomorrow more stories will be clamoring for attention. And the more we tell our stories, the more social capital we gain, which translates directly into political power and making our neighborhood better. You're not writing a work of literature, here.

Bang. It. Out.

But sometimes I take pictures for a different purpose...

I am documenting issues that need to be reported to 311. These issues pile up in the memory card of my camera for a couple days or a week. And then one night I sit down and start composing emails, with photos attached, going on a 311 email binge.

Tonight, the 311 binge is made more enjoyable by cold Amarula Liquor, a creamy South African beverage with the unique flavor of elephant berries. It's like Bailey's Irish Creme, only lighter, and a little bit citrusy! Mmmmmm. Plus the company supports elephant conservation efforts.

Late night 311 email bingeing and cold Amarula Liquor.

Ahhh, now that's Northside living.


Stay Away From My Battery Disposal Bag, You Alley Lurking Druggies!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

About once a year, the City of Minneapolis sends out a colorful brochure with specific guidance on recycling. I consume every word of this document, then post it on my fridge for handy reference and repeated readings. I have been known to emphatically point out minor recycling matters to friends, saying stuff like, really, shouldn't you use BIODEGRADABLE TRASH BAGS with that yard waste?

If the annual recycling brochure were to be compared to the Bible, and if I might be compared to one who studies Scripture, then I am a Bible student who doesn't just know the major themes of the four Gospels but whose knowledge extends to obscure verses from the Book of Lamentations.

So I happen to know that when it comes to the disposal of disposable batteries, the correct procedure...

...is to place the used-up batteries in a clear plastic bag (preferably of the Ziploc variety) and place that bag on top of your recycling containers.

Only one problem: in my alley, druggies are always dumping out my dead batteries and making off with the bag. I presume they want to use the bag as part of dope sales and/or storage.

So--in the spirit of my "not one can for crackheads" recycling practices--I have gotten into the habit of perforating the bag with a fork before placing it in my alley. A perforated bag holds batteries just fine, but it's no good for storing weed.

Yeah, with helpful home tips like these I should probably have my own television show and magazine like Martha Stewart.