Saturday, December 19, 2015

Excerpt from My Forthcoming Tell-All E-Book

Year's end means it's time to clear out the draft folder on my blogspot. There were many times this year when I felt compelled to write a post, took the time to actually write it, but couldn't pull the trigger. The following excerpt is from a draft entitled "Orthghazi II: The Screenshotting." Written around the time of the 2320 Colfax demolition, it's a tell-all about my experiences before and after writing this post. But I named too many names, and left it to languish. Until now.

Friday, December 18, 2015

43rd & Upton Development Inspires Folk Song

Linden Hills has a folk song! Inspired by true events, with references to the small area plan and envelopes full of cash and "compromising" photographs of a councilwoman. It's everything you'd expect from Linden Hills. I have done my best to transcribe the lyrics below.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Facilitating Demonstrations

"You have the right to peacefully demonstrate, but you can't block traffic, and oops we disappeared the sidewalk."

Blong Yang's Embarrassing Sham of a Public Hearing

Minneapolis Police cleared out the protesters from street in front of the 4th Precinct this morning. Below is an account of the public hearing that was carefully orchestrated to justify it.

Yesterday, the Minneapolis City Council's Public Safety Committee took up the seemingly routine procedural matter of amending their meeting agenda. Council Member Palmisano--with a wink and a nod from committee chair Blong Yang who represents the area that includes the 4th Precinct--proposed they allow public testimony regarding the ongoing protests occurring in front of the 4th Precinct over the shooting of an unarmed man named Jamar Clark. This last minute addition to the agenda made it practically impossible to give testimony on the topic unless you were already present for the meeting.

Fortunately for opponents of the 4th Precinct protest, committee chair Blong Yang (and presumably others on the committee) made sure to invite a specially selected group to give testimony painting a uniformly negative picture of the protest (complaints of traffic, parking, crime, smoke, drugs, drinking, etc). The committee's lone voice of dissent was CM Cam Gordon, who worried "if we take up this topic now, what about people who would have come if they knew they had an opportunity to give public comment and may not actually be here now?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Students Purposely Excluded from Some Neighborhood Boards

There was an article yesterday in the Minnesota Daily (a student newspaper) with the subhead: "Few students apply to neighborhood board organizations in Minneapolis." I was surprised to see the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association (MHNA) characterized as one of the two "best at involving students in decision-making." This can't be true because, unlike the vast majority of Minneapolis neighborhood organizations, MHNA has written policies into their bylaws that appear designed to exclude students from the process.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

White Terrorism Becomes Cliche

White gunman stalks Muslim woman in Texas last week.

Last Monday night, four men showed up to the Black Lives Matter protest outside the Minneapolis Police Department's 4th Precinct and shot five unarmed black protesters. This was after a week of similar visits from white menarmed with guns, cameras, and racist commentarystreaming live video to the internet for the entertainment of their fellow racists.

It’s become a cliche after such attacks to ask overly timid headline writers, "What if the white guy with a gun was a brown guy with a gun?" When armed men in masks menace unarmed civilians; when these men post video of themselves delivering hate-filled messages and flashing weapons; when this ends in a mass shooting... This describes an act of terrorism.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Uptown Secures 50 More Years of Drive-Thru Banking

A Google search for "do people still go inside banks?" shows that, for some of us, physical banks are a thing of the past. Which means you might not be aware of the dangers of car-free banking. Read on, for a story every parent should see.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Better Know a Pumpkin: Andrew Johnson

I took Ward 12 Council Member, and recent jack-o'-lantern, Andrew Johnson on a historic walking tour of our very historic Lowry Hill East Historic District. He agreed that it is a beautiful neighborhood and that it should never change. Afterwards he sat for a series of softball questions in Mueller Park.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Great Moments in "Oops, I Missed My Turn"

Sometimes buildings get in the way.

A driver crashed a vehicle into the dry cleaner at 2500 Hennepin early Sunday morning. It's happened before, in far more spectacular fashion, just one block north. In 2005, the driver of a van nearly demolished the building at 2400 Hennepin (which still houses Sudz Salon, as well as newer occupant Spyhouse Coffee). 

News coverage of the 2005 crash reprinted below—as always, without permission.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Wedge Living: Halloween Crafting & Recipes

There have been some spooky rumors going around about Council Member Andrew Johnson and his mysterious animal control ordinance. This guy is jack-o'-lantern material.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Clearing Things Up

Some Twitter disclaimers have become necessary:

Not LHENA-Sanctioned


LHENA had a board meeting last night. As you may know, I am a board member. During the meeting we learned of two grievances. The individuals attached to these grievances were unnamed (a "grievance" is a new process LHENA uses to resolve complaints lodged against the organization or individual members).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"take down all your creepy posts about LHENA volunteers"

I was elected to the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) Board of Directors in April. Before that, I had been blogging and tweeting about local politics for roughly a year. Not everyone's a fan.

Monday, September 28, 2015

9 Revealing Moments from John Champe's Whittier Alliance Book

Lisa Goodman went to war with an inflatable Godzilla over these apartments.

Last week, I read the first two chapters from a forthcoming book about the Whittier Alliance. As it turns out, this stuff from 2015 goes back a quarter century, including bylaws shenanigans and reacting to criticism with rules against "defamation."

The author is John Champe, who is an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota. Instead of lost tribes of the Amazon, he decided to study the far less civilized world of Minneapolis neighborhood associations. I especially appreciated the insanity of Chapter 2. And if you like giant inflatable Godzilla-based protests against affordable housing, give Chapter 1 a look.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"The Planning Commission" Pre-Show Panel

We're minutes away from tonight's Planning Commission (view the trailer). Linden Hills is on the agenda. It's Nick Magrino's first meeting as a commissioner. There's probably at least one Sabri on the agenda. Let's go to our panel!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

MetroTransit Bus WiFi First Impressions

With WiFi being tested on select MetroTransit buses, we recently sat down for a conversation with a transit rider on a crowded 6 bus as it traveled south on Hennepin Avenue.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Barb's Bold Spending

Hypothetical logo for Barb 2017.

I've known Barb Johnson was political magic since early last year, when she faced down the new members of the Minneapolis City Council, and cobbled together enough support to re-establish herself as President. But it wasn't until very recently that I realized there's a lot more to learn about Barb.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leaning Tower's Sidewalk-Obstructing Patio

We've got a patio situation. Leaning Tower of Pizza maintains a front sidewalk patio. Patios are great. I enjoy eating in the outdoors. But this patio is too big for this section of sidewalk. It has seemed lately that this patio is just a little more in the way each day. Now I have proof.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Analysis of Minneapolis City Council 2014 Fundraising

There's still 846 days until the 2017 election, but Minneapolis City Council Members are already out there raising money. I have combed through 2014's campaign finance reports to assess how each of them is doing on the financial road to 2017.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Progress on Parking: A Channel 79 EXCLUSIVE

"We're hearing unconfirmed reports that the City Council has banned cars."
image credit: Omar Bárcena

Minneapolis is one City Council vote away from enacting a major, nationally-heralded parking reform authored by Council Member Lisa Bender. I've watched with great interest as the debate has unfolded on Channel 79. To summarize the back-and-forth as uncharitably as possible: utopians on bicycles deployed a slew of crowd-pleasing parking analogies* (12), while some of our city's original inhabitants countered with predictions of the aparkolypse (it's a "boondoggle" of an "epic fail"). 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Constituent Emails

You may remember the agitated gentleman from a few months ago who emailed me a PDF of my own Tweets. Now that I'm an elected public official, I have set up an email filter to clear my inbox of all messages not containing the phrase "you're a hero" (I will still be accepting your vitriol via Tweet, however).

29th Street: Interpreting the Open Streets Experience

View from the LHENA tent at Open Streets on Lyndale Ave.

It's been an interesting first two months on the job as a LHENA Board Member. Many blog posts have gone unwritten, while others have been drafted only to remain unpublished. Some observers have speculated that I'm saving material for a political autobiography (rumored title: Eyewitness to Power: God, Guns, Grits, Gravy, and Screenshots).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Linden Hills Model

(This is a followup to my previous post)

Aside from a few highly restrictive organizations, becoming a candidate for a leadership position in most Minneapolis neighborhoods couldn't be easier (as my own biggest fan, I recently had the pleasure of nominating myself). Voting, however, is unnecessarily burdensome.

In Lowry Hill East, which has a fairly typical process, the election happens around 8 p.m. Nominations are followed by speeches. Then ballots are filled and submitted over the next few minutes. If you can't be present during those few minutes on that particular day, for whatever reason, you don't get to vote. And don't forget your ID, because you'll be asked for it.

Political Participation Rates in Lowry Hill East

There's been a lot of recent discussion about who leads Minneapolis' neighborhood organizations. As in, are they diverse enough? This is an important question. But we should also be asking who and how many are voting for those leaders. We don't have an answer for the who (I would advocate for a simple demographic survey for annual meeting attendees). But, in a first-of-its-kind analysis of never-before-cared-about numbers, we can finally tell you how many.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Winner Declared After LHENA Election Recount

A series of email requests for vote totals from a @WedgeLIVE Senior Producer was followed by an official recount, bringing a change in results from April 15th's LHENA Board election. Jono Cowgill, who had previously trailed by two votes for the final two-year term, gained enough votes in a recount process to be declared a winner on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Annual Meeting Brings Change, Raises Questions

Council Member Lisa Bender speaks at LHENA's 2015 annual meeting.

Last week, in an effort to get others elected to LHENA's Board of Directors, I failed miserably and got myself elected instead. Turnout was surprisingly high. I thought we were doomed, but strange new faces began arriving later in the evening, closer to the advertised election time, providing hope.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Yard Sign Report: The Forgotten South Wedge Transient District

One of 11 LHENA yard signs.
As part of our non-stop, team coverage of the upcoming LHENA election and annual meeting, I hopped on a bike to map the location of promotional yard signs.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Historic Wedge Newspaper

Two of the early hand-drawn front pages.

Last fall, the @WedgeLIVE news team spent an insane number of hours in the remarkably luxurious and well-equipped Special Collections room of the Minneapolis Central Library, doing what no one else thought possible or necessary: scanning nearly 40 years of the Wedge neighborhood newspaper going back to 1970.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

LHENA Loans: The Ongoing Saga

For the previous installment of the LHENA Loans Saga see this post.

Here's the new proposal from last month's board meeting, which completely disregards the spirit of what was done in November. All the "free" money (0%, forgivable), and the resistance of some folks to placing income restrictions on that free money, is something I have always found puzzling. It occurred to me today to do the math on the distribution of housing money broken down by building size.

Houshold data from

Friday, February 27, 2015

Getting Out of Hand

It's usually not reasonable to expect celebrities to be responsible for the actions of their fans, or for anyone to be held responsible for a few crazies in their comment section. But I think the demonization of Lisa Bender is getting out of hand. Seriously.

UPDATE: Comments taken from these posts (from Feb 25, 26): 1, 2, 3.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Nearly 16 days after dropping hints about "disturbing emails" allegedly written by Minneapolis Council Member Andrew Johnson (an unlikely suspect when you consider he is the Council's foremost advocate for open data, and therefore likeliest to be aware of the public nature of his email correspondence), Nicole Curtis is promoting her new, very mysterious scandal-hashtag #Girard. Details won't be forthcoming.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Desire for a More Expansive Historic District

Preserve our historic priorities.

Last September, Council Member Lisa Bender's office held an informational meeting regarding a proposed Lowry Hill East historic district. It was a homeowners-only affair, intended for those whose properties would be included, though there were plenty of party crashers: eager homeowners from outside the proposed boundaries, a guy from Kingfield, and at least two renters.

Lowry Hill East 1970s Downzoning Timeline

From the Wedge newspaper. November, 1975.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bikers and Pedestrians are the New "Vulnerable Adults"

Last week, former Council Member Meg Tuthill pushed back against new development with an interesting theory:
Tuthill and her husband, Dennis, moved to the Wedge over 40 years ago, a time when older homes were being demolished and replaced by two-and-a-half story walkup apartment buildings. Now, she's concerned redevelopment could make the neighborhood less bike and pedestrian friendly.*

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Revisiting LHENA Loans

Allocating LHENA's money pot on Nov. 19th, 2014. The math didn't add up.

Three months ago, at a community vote, LHENA added need-based criteria to some unusually generous (forgivable) home improvement loans. The Healy Project faction of the Board was not happy with this change, which seemed like a good sign.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Orthghazi: A 2320 Colfax Timeline

2320 Colfax on February 13th, 2015.
You may have heard of the house controversy that's rocking Lowry Hill East. But unless you're a house superfan, you probably have no idea what it's about. With the demolition of 2320 Colfax nearly upon us, here's a handy timeline to get you up to speed on Orthghazi.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wedge LIVE! Mailbag

About a week ago, a person (whose identity I am withholding) sent me a series of emails. I was surprised to see that these emails were CC'd to various neighborhood and City officials, including Robert Thompson of the Neighborhood and Community Relations department (NCR).

I'm withholding the content of this person's emails pending NCR's investigation of my Tweets. In consultation with Yahoo! Answers I've decided my reply to those emails can be published without placing me in legal jeopardy.

Where Are the "Disturbing" Emails?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nicole Curtis Shit-Storm Roundup

This weekend, HGTV personality Nicole Curtis renewed her efforts to save 2320 Colfax by encouraging her nationwide fan-base to email the entire Minneapolis City Council. Unfortunately, her far-flung fans have been misinformed by months of error-riddled Facebook rants (seemingly banged out on her iPhone with a hammer). It's only a slight exaggeration to say most of them believe 2320 Colfax was stolen from Nicole after she inherited it from her great-grandfather T.P. Curtis. 

Here's a sampling of the kinds of things the City Council will find in their inboxes Monday morning, courtesy of Rehab Nation.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Price of Parking

24/7/365 livestream of my forever unused parking spot.

My apartment comes with a parking spot. I don’t use it, but I pay for it. My apartment, my parking spot–it’s a package deal. It sits empty through spring, summer, and fall. Sometimes a parking scofflaw appropriates my spot as their own (this happens rarely). But I don’t care, because I don’t need it. In the winter my parking spot fills with snow, and management posts a sign that says move your car, we’re plowing the parking lot. Lucky me, I never worry about having my car towed, because I don’t own one. Still, I pay my share for the plowing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Whittier Alliance Among Most Restrictive Minneapolis Neighborhoods

On January 12th, the Whittier Alliance held a tense and somewhat controversial meeting for the purpose of amending their bylaws. Among the more contentious aspects of the new bylaw language was the section giving the Whittier Alliance’s Board of Directors the power to screen Board candidates according to subjective criteria. A clause was also added to require Board candidates to have been a member of the organization for at least six months (membership is typically activated by signing in at a meeting).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Longtimers of Yesteryear

Luther Carlson's house at 2301 Colfax.

For Luther Carlson (Longtimer, Class of '72) 1938 was the bad old days; a time when houses were ill-maintained, and children were scarce. Luther refused to sell out, despite being a virtual island in a sea of transients. We present his story below.