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).
It should be noted that the Whittier Alliance was improperly screening candidates prior to this change in their bylaws. Last March, a number of Whittier residents complained to the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) department regarding the neighborhood’s election process. In June, NCR sent the Whittier Alliance a letter, admonishing them for screening candidates and other infractions–like closing registration almost an hour before the election’s scheduled start, denying eligible voters the chance to cast a ballot.
Whittier Alliance’s old language is typical of the vast majority of Minneapolis neighborhood organizations. The new, more restrictive language passed 40-16.
There were quite a few people at last week’s meeting who were eager to suggest amendments. Unfortunately, the first person called on by Board Chair Erica Christ was a Robert’s Rules ninja, and the new bylaws were adopted without a single amendment having the chance to be heard. One older woman explained her support of the new restrictions by alluding to an unspecified neighborhood that had its bank account drained by some unspecified people.
(Obligatory note for those who might say these changes are justified by a certain disruptive individual: Amending bylaws in a way that restricts participation seems, at best, a misguided solution to a legitimate problem, especially in light of Whittier’s election issues last year.)
Whittier Alliance’s Executive Director Marian Biehn says the new language is common among non-profit groups. In the wake of this meeting, I read (okay, methodically skimmed) the bylaws of 70 Minneapolis neighborhood organizations (results here). The comparison shows that Whittier is one of the few neighborhood groups with highly restrictive election procedures.
Comparison of Neighborhood Organization Bylaws
Among the small number of Minneapolis neighborhoods with unusually exclusionary election processes, all have large minority and/or renter populations. This would seem to exacerbate the existing problem of unrepresentative neighborhood organizations.
Of the 70 Minneapolis neighborhood organization bylaws surveyed:
62 neighborhoods have no length of membership requirement to be eligible to run for a leadership position.
Six neighborhoods have length of membership requirements of 30 days or longer before you can run for a leadership position. All six are high renter, high minority, or both.
Three neighborhoods require candidates to have been a member for 6 months or longer: Whittier (6 months), Prospect Park (1 year), and Marcy Holmes (6 months). Each of those neighborhoods have high renter populations (83%, 74%, and 84%).
The Whittier Alliance is the only neighborhood whose bylaws contain anything resembling this sort of subjective qualification for Board candidates: “shall not have committed an act of malice or defamation against the Whittier Alliance or any member of the Board of Directors or otherwise disrupt the aims and purposes of the corporation.”
The Jordan Area Community Council has the most onerous attendance requirement for leadership candidates (must attend 3 meetings over the last election cycle). Interesting fact about Jordan: The neighborhood was 64% white in 1990; today it’s 16% white.
Whittier and Jordan are among seven neighborhood organizations that prohibit candidate nominations on the day of elections.
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.
Luther Carlson in 1972.
Rhymes with “transientsy.” Coincidence?
Luther’s no sell-out.
Read the full story of Luther and his home at 2301 Colfax.
The 2320 Colfax appeal is being heard by Z&P this upcoming Tuesday at 9:30. If you are able, please come down and testify. The appellants have appealed everything, the variances and the site plan review.
The basis for the appeal is that William Wells can’t imagine living anywhere that doesn’t have a “party room.” You can read it here.
Robert Thompson and Michelle Chavez of Minneapolis’ NCR came to speak with LHENA board members about the Community Participation Program before last night’s board meeting. President Leslie Foreman graciously welcomed me to the discussion. They talked about what makes a neighborhood eligible for funding–you can’t require membership dues, for example. They covered eligible/ineligible expenses–no food allowed. And so much more. This is the packet they handed out.
The issue of voter ID was raised by board member Becky Dernbach as a potential barrier to participation. Thompson said that neighborhoods should allow for alternative means of identification such as a piece of mail, or having another person in the neighborhood vouch for them. As part of the discussion, he obliquely referred to an individual (Basim Sabri) who buses people from across the city to neighborhood association (Whittier Alliance) meetings. And he told a story of his experience with the Loring Park neighborhood; they have a very open policy that allows anyone to participate because of the significant presence of homeless youth without an official address.
Thompson said that occasionally he reads letters from neighborhood organizations that use “I” instead of “we” phrasing; this erodes their credibility with the city (is this the opinion of a neighborhood, or one person?). He cautioned against the mixing of personal, divisive activism with the activities of the neighborhood association. This was amusing. I’ve honestly never been sure how many board members are involved with the radical, anti-everything MRRDC, besides Sara Romanishan.
It was interesting to learn from NCR’s Michelle Chavez that there’s been some behind the scenes email discussion around the Healy Project‘s ghost stories fundraiser. Do you remember last month’s proposed joint fundraiser between Healy Project and LHENA? It was nixed by the board for being too controversial–a sort of endorsement of Healy by LHENA. Now they’ve found a loophole. Healy will hold the fundraiser, and might donate some portion of the proceeds to LHENA. Maybe I’m imagining this, but Leslie seemed annoyed when Chavez brought it up. I don’t think I was supposed to hear this.
It sounded like Chavez thinks this fundraiser nonsense is a bad idea. In my mind, this damages LHENA’s credibility. But more than that, I’m annoyed that I have to remember three different names for groups with the same agenda, run by many of the same people. It’s time they started using the same acronym. HPLHENAMRRDC–or something.
Thompson used the example of Linden Hills to show what happens when a neighborhood becomes divided over a controversial issue like development. Antagonized neighbors start coming to meetings to watch the proceedings like a hawk. I’m thinking, that sounds about right. And, do you not know where you are right now, Mr. Thompson? Lowry Hill East invented this shit.
I recently discovered that LHENA conducted a survey in 2007 that included demographic questions. That’s kind of impressive. Way to go, LHENA of 2007.
Now, you might question why I’ve gone to all this trouble for a survey that got 21 responses. My answer: that’s quadruple the turnout for your typical board meeting (and that’s only if you include the Wedge LIVE! news team). Considering that this is the only known demographic information about people who give enough of a damn about LHENA to respond to a survey, we’re going with the story. We stand behind our numbers! Unless of course you find a mistake.
You should also read this recent story in the Southwest Journal about the problem of unrepresentative neighborhood organizations in Minneapolis. NCR is doing a demographic survey of neighborhood boards. I’d be just as interested in a demographic survey of the people the neighborhood associations are actively engaging with. Again: lots of credit to the visionaries of LHENA 2007!
Sources: Lowry Hill East numbers are based on information available at this link. LHENA’s 2007 survey is available here.
@bad_wedgecoop posted three tweets on November 28th, 2009 and has been dormant ever since. Started by someone who claims to have been “kicked out of the Wedge for looking too poor.” The co-op. Not the neighborhood.
According to Vox.com,@bzosiadis one of the “activists who want to make the Fed listen to workers for a change.” She’s also a LHENA board member whose garden was recently targeted by tomato bandits. Why do bad things happen to good people?
@FakeSueBode doesn’t exist, but we would definitely follow if it did. Imaginary tweets include a heavy focus on driveway egress and the archaeologically significant Lake Blaisdell.
@Uptownlogic is an ironically-named watchdog account created for the sole purpose of ensuring that @WedgeLIVE is “acting within the law.” So far, things are cool.
@Dr_Eric is a man who needs no introduction. His exploits are the stuff of neighborhood legend.
@ForgotAboutDray is LHENA board member Tim Dray’s “Dr. Dre fan” twitter account (created to keep his hip hop tweets separate from his personal tweets). Much like @FakeSueBode, this account does not exist.
@scttdvd is not a Wedge resident. He lives three blocks from Lowry Hill East. We’re putting him on the list anyway. When he attends LHENA meetings, you’ll often hear amazed groans of geographic confusion from neighbors when he’s asked to give his home address (Wedge LIVE can report that Kingfield residents seem to be exempt from this treatment).