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.

***

Written in March of 2015.

Feb 24, 9:35 AM: The first photo of the demolition of 2320 Colfax is Tweeted. I hustle to the site for pictures and video. Healy Project people are already there.

Madeline from The Healy Project approached me, asked which side I was on. I told her, “The wrong one.”
— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) February 24, 2015

Feb 25, 6:00 PM: Nicole Curtis posts a series of Facebook statements about the demolition. She coins the phrase “Lisa Bender lied, the Orth died.” No one can articulate what Bender is supposed to have lied about. Over the course of three posts in 24 hours, clueless commenters piece together that Council Member Lisa Bender is the very corrupt, suspiciously liberal, Mayor or Congressman responsible for this crime against house-manity.

Feb 26, 1:22 PM: I try desperately to stay out of the Facebook cesspool. This causes domestic strain for @WedgeLIVE, as revealed in this social media conversation with @WedgePAL.

Feb 27, afternoon: I finally read some of Curtis’ posts and the comments underneath. Despite being long-ago desensitized to over-the-top Bender-bashing, it’s remarkably horrifying. I immediately get to screenshotting.
Feb 27, 4:13 PM: I press publish, anticipating the usual small audience for my groundbreaking screenshot journalism. 
Feb 27, 5:06 PM: The post is very quickly the most viewed thing ever on the site. It dawns on me that I live in a neighborhood full of hardcore Rehab Addicts. I flashback to the time an unhappy reader sent me a 12-page PDF of my Tweets lifted off a website called TweetTunnel.com.
Panicked DM sent from @WedgeLIVE.

Feb 27, evening: Curtis uploads a rant to YouTube.

Feb 28, 3:10 PM: While out on assignment, I receive a tip via Twitter DM. It’s from @WedgeLADY.
Feb 28, 3:38 PM: In the comments, [name redacted] is expressing displeasure with Mayor Hodges for sharing my blog post (comment since deleted). The responsible resident tags a Nicole Curtis employee into the conversation. Curtis’ North Minneapolis rehab posse begins speaking with authority about the alleged “bullying” tactics I use against [organization redacted].
News tips/screenshots via DM were all the rage in early 2015.
Mar 1: WCCO and KMSP run stories about a Hodges-Curtis feud.

Mar 3: I get the Smoley treatment at healyproject.org. There is no missile silo deep enough, or fourth-ring suburb far enough, to protect me from the wrath of Trilby.
March 5, afternoon: Local Healy fans are all over my demolition video. I resist the urge to take it down.
Mar 5, 8:41 PM: Nicole Curtis shares my video with her Facebook fans. I won’t learn of this until hours later.
Mar 5, around 9:00 PM: After a day of watching the local Healy crew salivate over my demolition video, I sacrifice some journalistic integrity and make it private. This is done purely to spite those who’ve been calling me a bullying, senior-bashing, single-mom-threatening racist. The joy they got from using my video to complain about airborne debris was too much to bear. As a result, @WedgeLIVE becomes another piece of the Orthghazi conspiracy.
Was the Orth demo faked? I’ll never tell.

Mar 5, 10:58 PM: Nicole Curtis calls me a racist.

I’m also the real carjacker.

Mar 5, 11:31 PM: I remain unaware of Curtis’ re-posting of my video, until one of her rabid fans sends me a hilarious late-night text.

Who knew my mom reads Twitter?

March 6, 7:20 AM: Curtis fan “Kelli” posts a shaky pirated copy of my demo video recorded from a computer screen. In retaliation, I record a much shakier video of her shaky video of my original video.


Mar 6, 11:36 AM: The source of the racism allegation (and of 12 pages of PDF’d Tweets) is telling tales in the Strib comment section. If anyone knows the whereabouts of the allegedly violent Ivy Leaguer, I’d love to hear his side of the story.

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.

City Hall by Bob Frey

Well friends I got some news to tell
Everybody gather round
And lately there’s been funny things been happenin in our town
Well they’re cutting deals, and greasing wheels
Shutting shades and closing doors
It seems the people’s voice don’t mean too much
down in city hall no more
Nah, the people’s voice don’t mean too much
down in city hall no more

See we signed the big petition
And we showed up every time
At the city council meetings
And waited patiently in line
Yeah to state our opposition
To the latest building plan
But in the end we probably shoulda known
That we never stood a chance.
Yeah in the end we probably shoulda known
That we never stood a chance.

I guess we won a couple victories
You see we blocked that there [???]
And we listened to the council
And made a smart neighborhood plan
But it didn’t amount to nothing
And now that building’s gonna rise
Only thing it will be good for 
Block the sunshine from our eyes
The only thing it will be good for 
Block the sunshine from our eyes

So if you want to build a building 
And make it higher than the code
And the neighborhood’s against you
And you wonder where to go
Well I’m here to tell you, builder man
that them plans don’t have to stall
Just put some money in an envelope
and head down to city hall
You just stick that money in an envelope
and take it down to city hall

City hall, that aint how it’s supposed to be
Nah city hall, but that’s how it feels to me
And in the corridors of city hall,
I guess that’s how it’s always been
Yeah the common people always lose
And the money always wins
Yeah the common people always lose
And the money always wins

Well some see the times are getting tough in this economy
Well that’s true for some, but not for all
You know it ain’t too hard to see
But in this land of opportunity,
There’s always something to be found
Just start following your councilman
And keep your nose close to the ground
Yeah just start following your councilwoman
And keep your nose close to the ground

And maybe you’ll get pictures
Of the compromising kind
Or certain information 
That you weren’t supposed to find
So turn the tables and play the game
All for one and none for all
Make a fortune in an instant
Just head on down to city hall
Just put that there in an envelope
And take it down to city hall

City hall, that ain’t how it’s supposed to be
Nah city hall, but that’s how it feels to me
And in the corridors of power
I guess that’s how it’s always done
Yeah the common people always lose
And the money always wins
Hey hey, the common people always lose
And the money always wins

But yeah we tried our best to do our best
But in the end we took a fall
Now the money talks and they’re selling blocks
On down at city hall
Yeah the money talks and they’re selling blocks
Right on down at city hall

.@imboande the common folk can’t write a protest song without you fact checking it.

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) December 19, 2015

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?”

And surely those folks would have come, because on November 19th a group was turned away by the City Council and prevented from giving testimony on the very same topic. They were denied a chance to speak because it would have meant bending the rules. That’s fair enough and all according to the rules, whether you agree with it or not. But you couldn’t blame Cam Gordon for being “especially surprised” by yesterday’s “last-minute decision to open time up and to be addressed by the Police Federation president and a few, seemingly forewarned or invited residents.”

The man from the Police Federation whom Gordon singles out, is Lt. Bob Kroll. As a union president, Kroll is duty-bound (perhaps understandably so) to push the idea that his fellow officers are innocent of wrongdoing in the shooting death of the unarmed Jamar Clark. But Kroll has been particularly outspoken, using his platform not just to defend cops, but to go after the protests themselves. Speaking of the 4th Precinct protesters on television, he said that “we need to silence that vocal group of activists.” On talk radio he called the 4th Precinct protest a “local version of Benghazi.” That Yang’s committee would elevate the already well-amplified voice of Lt. Kroll, while going to great length to exclude dissenting voices, is disturbing.

Kroll, who is infamous for accusations of racism and brutality, called for Yang’s committee to “pull your mayor back and quit mis-micro-managing the police department and let people with experience on how to remove unlawful protesters in.” Before adjourning, Chair Yang indicated he was ready to forcibly end the protest: “I think we’ve taken a really good tact in terms of asking nicely, asking for voluntary removal. At some point it just has to be a little bit different than that because that tactic has not worked.”

There isn’t a rule against leaving an item off the committee’s published agenda and adding it at the last minute. I’m no parliamentarian, but there’s probably not a rule against stacking the room with your supporters, inviting a controversial police union leader to testify, and using that one-sided feedback to justify heavy-handed tactics against a peaceful protest. While it may not be technically against the rules, it is “embarrassingly undemocratic,” as Cam Gordon put it. Forget democracy, it was just plain embarrassing.

Even worse is this detail from Gordon’s aide Robin Garwood, who recounts how Yang had previously rejected the suggestion of allowing public testimony at their committee:

“I actually asked the committee chair more than a week ago whether it might be fruitful to open up some time on the committee’s agenda for a discussion of the Clark shooting and related protests, and was told in no uncertain terms that that would not happen.”

Council Members Yang, Council President Barb Johnson and their allies are sending the message that protesters stationed in front of the 4th Precinct should not expect to receive a fair and open airing of their grievances in front of the City Council. Bending the rules of the established political process so shamelessly against protesters seems like the wrong way to go about convincing them to give up their civil disobedience.

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.

Marcy-Holmes is frighteningly young.

Despite their large student population, MHNA has decided to hold elections in June, a time when many students are out of town. This is on purpose. MHNA’s president admitted as much in 2011: “my view is that the Marcy-Holmes annual meeting was moved to the June time frame to minimize student participation, especially in elections.” Students and other reformers have been asking the organization to change the timing of their election for at least the last 10 years with no results.
This invaluable bit of neighborhood history from Christopher Meyer explains it very well:

In June 2004, approximately 90 people packed into a crowded room to partake in the annual election meeting of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, the organization designated by the city of Minneapolis to represent the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. Neighborhood meetings are typically low-key, casual affairs, but this one was monitored as thoroughly as a U.N.-supervised election in a Third World republic. Representatives from the League of Women Voters scrutinized the credentials of all attendees. To be eligible to vote, they would need to be certified members of MHNA (which required the submission of a valid membership registration at least 30 days prior to the meeting) and they would need to present a photo ID as well as proof of residency in the neighborhood. The MHNA board also hired a parliamentarian from the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program to ensure that all proceedings were conducted legally. They even hired an armed beat patrolman to maintain security in case matters got out of hand. 

What issue could possibly have been so contentious that the board apparently felt the need to prepare against the possibility of violence? In short, reformers were trying to amend MHNA’s bylaws in order to make the organization more accessible to student residents. The previous fall, a group of students had worked with an MHNA representative to prepare a list of amendments designed to enable greater student participation. The biggest change the reformers wanted was to change the month of the annual meeting — when elections for board officers and directors are held — from June to October. The reason was obvious: Students are less likely to be around during the summer. Despite this fact — or as I suspect, because of it — the association voted to reject the schedule change as well as every other student proposal.

“Length of residency” requirements are another tactic for discouraging student (transient!) participation. Only three Minneapolis neighborhood associations have residency requirements of six months or greater to become eligible to serve in elected leadership; of those, two have massive student populations: Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park (the third organization is the Whittier Alliance, which is 90% renter). How do most Minneapolis neighborhoods handle the residency issue? The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council is a good example: all residents are members, and all members can be elected to the board of directors.
Membership requirements of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.

Linden Hills is typical of vast majority of Minneapolis neighborhood orgs.

I serve on a neighborhood board with a college student who never attended a neighborhood meeting until the one where he was elected. He is supremely qualified and dedicated. He managed to convince a room filled with longtime residents to vote for him. Now he’s getting stuff done like no other board member in the history of board members. If someone impressive and capable wants to be involved, why screen those candidates out of the process? What’s the harm in letting the voters sort it out?