Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dex DOESN'T Know - 25 Phone Books Found at Vacant Properties!

Post and Photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

First, I was critically injured in a phone book mishap right at the steps of the Hawthorne office. After that, John did a post asking RT Rybak to make phone book littering a priority, and included a story about how I chased down some delivery people and actually threw the phone books BACK in their vehicle.

I recovered, and came back stronger than ever, and even emerged victorious against the Dumpinator 3000 yet again.

So when I woke up one morning to find a plastic bag of THREE DIFFERENT Dex phone books, my first thought was...

...I bet once again that vacant houses have these on their stoop too. Surprisingly, there were only twenty-five phone books at vacant properties, but the only part of the neighborhood that appeared to have received phone books was from Lyndale to 3rd and Broadway to Lowry.

Come on now, it's really not that hard to figure out which houses are vacant and clearly don't need phone books. A few examples:

I also stopped by two rather infamous vacant houses that had phone books at them. First up, 2222 4th St N, a house owned by Mahmood Khan. In an odd twist reminiscent of the numbers on my favorite show, "Lost," the 22nd phone book I picked up was at 2222 4th St N. I did NOT plan it that way either.

This was the property where the body of Annshalike Hamilton was found. The building was ordered to be demolished, Khan entered into a restoration agreement, failed to abide by its terms, and is now suing the city of Minneapolis in an attempt to stave off demolition. The buzz in the neighborhood is that he's subpoenaed so many of the city inspectors that scheduled house inspections and other duties are being interfered with. To Dex's credit, the property looks like it could be occupied.

This one, not so much. 409 31st Ave N was owned by Vicki Cox-Maxwell, wife of convicted mortgage fraud felon Larry Maxwell. Shortly before I started working as the Housing Director for Hawthorne, someone was killed on or near the steps of the place. It then went vacant, although various makeshift memorials were left there - often including the odd combination of teddy bears and liquor bottles.

Once vacant, it was a common target for squatters and prostitutes. I lost count of how many times I called it in to 311 as open to trespass. Then when the Feds started to investigate Maxwell, a lien was placed on the property to prevent him from selling assets - as if this house were an asset. THEN, Vicki went to California to declare bankruptcy, delaying the sale of this house even longer. Finally, with the help of Mark Ireland and the Housing Preservation Project, we were able to acquire this property for the purpose of demolition.

On other comment threads of JNS posts, people have suggested we have a phone book bonfire. That could be fun, but I'd really prefer gathering phone books from vacant houses and dropping them back off at the headquarters of Dex, Yellow Pages, etc. Dex will be getting a visit from me on Monday morning for just that. If anyone wants to come along and record video of what happens, contact me.

Another friend of mine suggested that we have a central drop-off location for phone books - either ones left at vacant houses or just unwanted in general. I love the idea, but I have no garage. Is there anyone out there who'd be willing to offer up their garage as storage space to do this?

Regardless, the bright side here is that we got to Dex before they hit much of the neighborhood. Let's make sure that they and other phone book companies hear us loud and clear: NO PHONE BOOK LITTERING IN NOMI!


MeganG. said...

Nice gang graffiti at that first photo.

YNT = young-n-thuggin'.

Jeff Skrenes said...

I've called that in to 311 numerous times.

Jeff Skrenes said...

I was driving through Old Highland today and saw a bunch of Dex phone books at vacant properties along Emerson. Anyone care to join me in efforts to pick those up too?

Patrick said...

I'll help. Where and when?

Young N Thuggin said...

Someday those homes will be sold and they will be needing the phonebooks you stole while trespassing. Will you be bringing the new residents your phone books when they move in?

Patrick said...

Ok since no one else is helping I went out last night and bagged 31 of these bad boys. I didn't even bother to see if the house was vacant. If the resident didnt' pick up their bag by now it shouldn't be sitting out in the open. sheesh!

Anonymous said...

Let me make sure I understand this. You are trespassing on property you have no authority to be on. Taking phone books you have no authority to take.
And you tell people if they see someone lurking around these vacant properties, as you are, they should call 911.
You have previously said you do this as the Hawthorne Housing Director, but you do it on your own time.
So please explain to us what gives you the authority to commit these trespasses. I content that you have no exceptional right to trespass on any vacant property for any reason.
This is a serious question. I'm trying to understand how you believe you have the authority to take the actions you perform.

Jeff Skrenes said...

Anon 12:15, Here is my authority to do this, as requested by the city of Minneapolis to all of its citizens over two years ago. This is regardless of whether I'm doing this simply as a concerned neighbor or in my official capacity.

By granting residents the authority to check on vacant properties to see if they are open to trespass, the city is explicitly giving us the right to go on to the property. How else can one reasonably ascertain if a door or window is open?

And merely walking on another property without the express consent of the owner or occupant is not trespassing anyway. Otherwise every Sierra Club organizer or Jehovah's Witness that stopped by would be trespassing. If I told them to leave and they still insisted on speaking to me about Jesus and/or offshore drilling, then we might be approaching that territory.

How about this? On Saturday at 10:00 a.m. I will begin my route through the Old Highland area for a repeat performance. I'd be very interested in what the police have to say if you call them and they approach me. One way or another, it will certainly be blog-worthy.

Hans said...

I wonder if Minneapolis recycling would pick up the excess phone books from my block if I put them all in my recycling bin. It seems like I'd probably get one of those big yellow tags on my bin and be stuck with a bunch of useless paper.

la_vie_en_rose said...

I thought Anon 12:15 was talking to Patrick/Mr. Troll? It was Patrick who previously made the comment that he/it went traipsing through everyone's yards, regardless of occupancy or not.

I haven't gotten any phone books (thankfully, because I haven't used one since Google was invented), but a Census man did come to my door yesterday (I sent my form back all filled out a long time ago, but I guess it was either lost or they still come to your door), and let me tell you, it was an interesting experience. I've only participated in one other back at the beginning of the century, and I mentioned before on here that I went through the whole nine yards of questions that must be filled out. Well, not this time. First, the guy didn't have one with our correct address; it was only for 1405. I told him that the proper address includes the "1/2," and all he said to that was that "I shouldn't really be doing this, but...." and then proceeded to tell me that I didn't have to worry about answering the questions. He just took down my name, number, and address (without asking about anyone else in the household). Then he started asking about 1409 1/2, and when I couldn't tell him anything because I don't know who lives there, he bid me farewell.

Even if the address was incorrect, I was under the assumption that he's still supposed to take down the race, gender, age, and whatnot of everyone living here...instead of mumbling some half-assed statement about how he's doing something that's not completely right. Has there been some sort of change in how the census is conducted over the past decade?

Jack said...

I want to weigh in in this. Hawkman, I just read the link you says gives you the authority. I think you are taking it beyond what is written. It asked neighbors to adopt a vacant house ON THEIR BLOCK. It asks that they occasionally check to make sure it is secure from trespass and call 311 if it is unsecure. I doesn't say you can police your entire neighborhood, or any other neighborhood. It also very clearly states:

"You may maintain the public space—sidewalks and alleys—around vacant properties. As long as you stay on public space, it’s all right to shovel snow, rake leaves, and pick up or remove flyers and litter."

Let me make this clearer - You may pick-up trash AS LONG AS YOU STAY ON PUBLIC SPACE.

So you are clearly not allowed or authorized to remove phone books from the porches or stoops of vacant homes, especially if it's not even on your block, by me read.

There is another program, that you didn't mention, that lets neighbors mow and rake the lawns of vacant houses next door or near to them. But this doesn't apply to what you are doing.

While I can appreciate your passion for maintaining your neighborhood. I think the rules apply to you just as much as the next person.
Personally, I'd feel better if you worked with the block club leaders to adopt vacant houses in Hawthorne, rather then make it seem like you run every neighborhood.
You don't even live in Old Highland, so I don't understand why you feel the need to clean-up this area. Can't the Old Highland Neighborhood Assoc. manage their own neighborhood?

Saturday 10AM? I'll be on the river fishing. After a long week I need the down time to relax. I got better things to do with my weekend. Just sayin.

Jeff Skrenes said...

Well Jack, you read that mandate from the city in a fairly restrictive interpretation. I'm going to take it and apply it aggressively to make NoMi a better place.

And hey, if you're fishing in a place with cell phone reception, then be my guest and make a call to the MPD about my supposed trespassing. I'm actually eager for someone to try and classify picking up this kind of litter as criminal.

After all, if I get cited for picking this trash UP, then maybe we can start to fine and cite the companies who leave this crap in my neighborhood in the first place.

NoMi Passenger said...

Hawkman keep doing what you are doing. There is a whole army of NoMi Homies behind you and don't listen to the fake made up names that are singing the same tune "rules apply to you too".

Hey, worst case scenario, you get ARRESTED (like that's going to happen, then I'll just bail you out, video it, we can blog about it and all have a good laugh and get some good publicity. "How DARE that guy pick up littered phone books!gasp!"

Patrick said...

Keep up the good work Hawkman. Don't let the haters get under your skin.

The Hawthorne Sentinal said...

Get your bail money ready then. I just got off the phone with 311 and the MPD and both confirmed that phonebooks left on doorsteps become private property and are not to be removed by just anyone that feels like recycling phonebooks. Just because you don't like it doesn't make it right. What's next towing away ugly cars in your neighbor's driveway.

NoMi Passenger said...

Ha! The Hawthorne Sentinel??? LMAO is that like crazy ass JP Greenberg and his whacko-rag of a publication The Sentinel??

Just confirms to me who these whack job blog trolls are... *cough*Keith-1564*cough*cough.

Look, trolls, as fun as it is to be made heroes and heroines by you folks(because to have enemies as low as you can only make people shine brighter in the public's eye) - get a life. Do something productive instead of worrying about what Jeff Skrenes or John Hoff or anyone else is doing. Just doing what YOU think is right and useful and don't worry what they are doing.

Or come out behind your anonymous curtain, use your real name, and let's take it on toe-to-toe. Real names, real facts, real history of who has been doing what here on the northside for how long. Track records, failures and successes.

As my mom used to say "sh** or get off the pot!"

PS. I'm MeganG for anyone who doesn't know that already.

Hans said...

"phonebooks left on doorsteps become private property"

And when the house that belongs to that doorstep is vacant--possibly condemned--the phonebooks become the private property of whoever wants to pick them up and do something with them. I think this behavior clearly falls under "Check on a vacant property occasionally to ensure doors and windows are closed..." You have to walk up to the front door to make sure it's closed... and if you find some litter while your up there you better do you duty and pick it up.

Jeff Skrenes said...

Agreed, more or less, Hans. And the funny part about all of this is that I'm not even talking about picking up these phone books and recycling them, burning them, or throwing them away. I'm planning on bringing them BACK to their original owner, Dex.

Now the ones that have been sitting on the porch for a while tend to accumulate cat piss, so the next few rounds will go directly in the garbage if I have to toss them in my car.

Ed Kohler said...

I would LOVE to see a legal test of removing phone book spam from vacant properties tested. Who's harmed by The Hawthorne Hawkman's actions? The phone book companies who littered in the first place? Talk about a PR disaster in the making for them. They're not that stupid.