“Nazi Lane” signs dripping with fake blood (photo: Shane Morin)
Minneapolis election season has collided with backlash to a pair of bike lanes recently installed on 26th and 28th streets. Previous negative reaction to those lanes has mainly consisted of Facebook posts, a never-ending thread of commentary on the Nextdoor website, and Jon Tevlin of the Star Tribune fanning the flames. Today the bikelash became an actual real-life protest with signs reading “Nazi Lanes,” “Mafia Lanes,” and “Suck It Lanes.”
One important thing to know is that the idea for this protest began on social media as a hoax, but became very real after spreading to credulous bike-haters on Facebook. The Facebook event was created by internet hoax artist Jeremy Piatt (known for creating the GoFundMe for Kanye West that was picked up by major national news outlets).
By all accounts, organizer Jeremy Piatt didn’t show up to the protest. But here’s who did show up to march against bikes: two candidates for City Council, David Schorn (Ward 10) and Joe Kovacs (Ward 7); and former Ward 10 City Council member Meg Tuthill; and let’s not forget the group of people carrying “Nazi Lane” signs dripping with red paint intended to look like blood.
The anti-bike protest was followed a few hours later by an event billed as a “Bike Lane Party” attended by a few dozen residents, including current Ward 10 City Council member Lisa Bender. Bender advocates for policies that create safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, and has been the target of criticism from bike lane opponents on social media.
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.
I showed up late, right about the time it devolved into a sort of call and response routine; people were slapping each other on the back over their very, very historic properties (Hey Joe, I don’t see your house on this map, it’s pretty historic… Yeah and what about Bill, his beautiful home isn’t on here either). Our former Council Member was there to suggest that City Planner John Smoley take a historic drive-by on the 2400 block of Aldrich. It was an amazing scene (in 2017, this publication will be endorsing whichever Council candidate promises to hold the greatest number of wildly entertaining historic district info sessions).
Earlier this month, Bender officially nominated the Lowry Hill East Residential Historic District. This was followed late last week by an article in which former Council Member Tuthill says it would have been preferable to put the historic district in areas with many fewer historic homes: “I’m much, much more concerned about the protection of the housing stock north of 24th Street and south of 26th.”
In the same article, former Tuthill aide and current LHENA President Leslie Foreman describes the desire of some neighborhood residents to expand the historic district as far south as 28th Street. I can confirm the accuracy of this statement because the guy directly behind me at the September meeting was muttering “the whole damn Wedge” in response to Smoley’s question about the preferred composition of the historic district.
[As long as we have the recently departed Tuthill campaign weighing in, it would be nice to hear why they didn’t historicize and/or rezone the neighborhood during their term (has anyone been able to figure out what they were working on from 2010 to 2014?). All the talk over the last year gives the impression of a neighborhood on the brink; you’d think these guys never had a friend at City Hall.]
Some of the dissatisfaction with this proposal has to do with the fact that the included properties, while certainly the most deserving of historic status, are already zoned R2 (low density, two-family district). New development isn’t a threat in this area. For the anti-density folks, this historic designation won’t solve their problem; it just means a bunch of regulatory headaches for homeowners, without any of the desired downzoning-like side-effects.
The blocks contained within this historic district were rezoned to low-density in 1975; this is true of most of the neighborhood south of 24th Street. LHENA, which was formed in 1970 to advance the cause of downzoning, declared victory. The northern part of the neighborhood, however, remains an area of high density zoning, which explains the current obsession with the idea of a North Wedge Historic District (Save the apex from R6!). Rezoning the north Wedge is the final piece of unfinished business in a 45-year battle against apartment buildings (and their resident dealers, pimps, prostitutes, and motorcycle gangs).
Everything was so explicit back then.
R6 zoning (dark green) dominates the north Wedge. Kitty cats added for effect.
Aside from zoning-related geography, there’s a strategic reason for the anti-development crowd to be skeptical of this historic district: putting all your nicest old homes in one basket could mean losing the leverage to cram a bunch of undeserving properties into some future Super-Sized Wedge Historic District. That dynamic helps explain why a nearly identical historic district plan died in 2008 amid neighborhood concerns, reported in the Wedge newspaper, “that acceptance of this proposal could limit future possibilities for expansion.”
This is not to say the proposed district doesn’t have its share of fans. Council Member Bender has indicated the response from affected homeowners has been largely positive. And despite the desire of some residents for a far larger historic district, the LHENA Board put their symbolic weight behind the nomination last week. The organization has also formed a “historic” committee, which will no doubt have expansion on its agenda long into the future.
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.*
As a non-driver who walks to quite a few public meetings, my long-time neighbors tell me that traffic and parking in Lowry Hill East is a nightmare (and I believe them, because their calves appear dangerously atrophied from hours of sitting in traffic and waiting for a prime spot to open up). On the other hand, everyone can agree that it’s a great neighborhood for biking and walking. It’s the kind of place that tends to repel the car-centric, while attracting quite a few avid pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a major neighborhood selling point.
Contrary to Meg’s theory, this dynamic is good for safety. Studies show that drivers are “less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling when there are more people walking or bicycling.” This is attributed to “behavior modification by motorists when they expect or experience people walking and bicycling.” As a result, I’m pretty enthusiastic about how my new neighbors will impact my personal well-being.
Sponsored Content: Let’s reinforce this positive dynamic by ditching parking minimums. The City should allow new apartment buildings in neighborhoods like ours to cater to residents who’d rather forego the expense of parking the car they don’t own. I hope Meg reconsiders her position on strict parking minimums when she understands the effect it will have on cyclists and pedestrians.
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.
1895: First house fire. Repairs performed by T.P. Healy.
Post-WWII: 2320 Colfax is converted from single-family into a boarding house, a condition which will annoy neighborhood homeowners for over half a century (until 2014, when “Save the low-income boarders” becomes a disingenuous rallying cry).
Healy descendants pose in historically accurate late-70s costumes.
1991: A second fire inflicts significant damage on 2320 Colfax. T.P. Healy, demolished by heart failure in 1906, was unavailable for repairs; he would have been a historical 147 years old.
2007: The owner of 2320 Colfax, Mike Crow, puts his house on the market. 2008: Future Minneapolis City Planner John Smoley earns an advanced college degree, a credential he will later wield to destroy history.
Oct. & Nov. 2012: The developer makes two presentations before the neighborhood regarding an apartment proposal at the site of 2320 Colfax. The developer decides to build within the zoning code, and not seek any variances. This fact, combined with the City’s determination that 2320 Colfax is not historic, paves the way for demolition.
Mar. 2013: CPED issues a demolition permit for 2320 Colfax. Anders Christensen (a long-time neighbor and friend of Ward 10 Council Member Meg Tuthill) appeals this decision to the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).
Apr. 2013: HPC rules in favor of Anders Christensen’s appeal, declaring 2320 Colfax a historic resource.
May 2013: 2320 Colfax’s owner, Mike Crow, appeals HPC’s decision to the City Council.
May 24, 2013: Tuthill and her Council colleagues vote 13-0 to uphold the HPC decision (please note: this was an innocent time before the notion of aldermanic privilege).
Nov. 5, 2013: Despite an endorsement from HGTV’s Nicole Curtis, incumbent Council Member Meg Tuthill loses in a landslide to Lisa Bender. Tuthill is the founding mother of LHENA, with a history in the neighborhood that goes back to the early 1970s. Neighborhood long-timers are deeply crushed.
Feb. 3, 2014: Less than a month after Bender’s swearing in, the Facebook action heats up. Minneapolis Residents for Responsible Development Coalition (MRRDC) is founded by an anonymous neighborhood association board member. Thus begins a brutal campaign of kitchen sink NIMBYism (anti-gentrification; worry about future ghettos; too much parking; not enough parking; materials are too cheap; rents are too high). Facebook dissent is weeded out with a merciless use of the ban function.
Mar. 14, 2014: Anders Christensen reveals that City Planner John Smoley’s fancy college degree is actually just a Ph.D. in Missile Silos. An embarrassed (probably) John Smoley takes his revenge by engaging in a campaign of lies (allegedly) to destroy 2320 Colfax, all from his base of operations in a fourth-ring suburb.
Mar. 23, 2014: A group with an even longer acronym, MRRSVLD, is founded as a satirical counterpoint to MRRDC. It takes months for most people to sort out who’swho.
Apr. 2014: More than a week of candle-light vigils for the house at 2320 Colfax are capped by a guest appearance from home improvement icon Nicole Curtis. This event also serves as a posthumous campaign rally: recently defeated former Council Member Meg Tuthill is caught on video tutoring Curtis on the finer points of Minneapolis politics.
Nicole Curtis’s dog’s eyeballs escape the vigil with only minor burns.
Apr. 22, 2014: MRRDC coins the phrase Bendrification. Meanwhile, chemists at MRRSVLD invent the muscle cream Bender-Gay(For when your muscles are tired from destroying the neighborhood™).
Oct. 18, 2014: 2320 Colfax’s owner hires a contractor to perform asbestos abatement without the proper permit for work on a Saturday. Former Council Member Meg Tuthill and other neighbors are not happy. Pictures are taken of at least one worker’s ID card and posted to Facebook (since deleted). Meg is reported to have said to the workers (and I’m not making this up): “I’m the Council Member!” The workers leave and return another day.
Oct. 19, 2014: Word of the previous day’s dust-up reaches Nicole Curtis, who calls out Lisa Bender (blaming Bender both for a homeowner’s permit oversight, and the disappointing 2013 election results). 700,000 Facebook fans from across the country are suddenly very unhappy with Lisa Bender.
Dec. 18, 2014: HGTV personality Nicole Curtis boasts of her generosity in funding (at a cost of $102) The Healy Project’s last-ditch attempt at a temporary restraining order to stop the demolition. Once again, the judge rules against them.
Feb. 7, 2015: Healy Project videographer Ezra Gray publishes the following post to Facebook. Anders and Trilby go on record, liking the post.
Feb. 9, 2015: Robin Garwood (a Bender supporter and aide to Council Member Cam Gordon) publishes a powerful indictment of The Healy Project and their allies, claiming they are analogous to the Tea Party circa 2009. Among other things, he cites their knee-jerk rejection of nearly everything Bender proposes. Garwood also notes that members of The Healy Project sent emails to the City Council in defense of the above Facebook post, with at least one person using the phrase “Je suis Charlie” (because, if you defend yourself from a weirdly disgusting and completely unfounded accusation of corruption, the terrorists win).
In the comments of his post, Garwood makes the case that, despite the constant references to corruption and lies, The Healy Project doesn’t have their facts straight.
Curtis claims to have been sent “disturbing” emails written by Council Members Andrew Johnson and Lisa Bender. At Johnson’s request, Curtis promises to release them. At the time of writing, she still hadn’t released the emails.
Just under the feather boas, Mueller Park’s dark underbelly.
The 1974 plans for Lowry Hill East Park (as Mueller Park was originally known) put the basketball court on the western side, along Colfax Avenue. Two hoops were available for full-court play until they were demolished as part of a park renovation that began on May 4th, 1998. The newly renovated Mueller Park opened later that summer with one half-court hoop, located on the Bryant Avenue side of the park. Considering the events of the intervening years, those of us who live in the neighborhood today are lucky to have any basketball court at all.
Lowry Hill East Park plans, 1974.
Mueller Park hasn’t always been about free piano concerts and historically accurate ice cream socials. There was a time, as the Wedge newspaper tells it, when Mueller Park was dominated by basketball-wielding “ruffians” and sharp-shooting “toughs” raining chaos down on the neighborhood like a barrage of Ray Allen 3-pointers.
The first published complaint about Mueller Park comes from Meg and Dennis Tuthill in May of 1977, just a year after the park opened. Their concern had nothing to do with basketball. It was more their way of saying the neighborhood had too many children already:
We have witnessed children with BB guns, knives and air rifles. It occurs to us to ask where the parents are. At any given time there seems to be about 30 or 40 children playing at the park but at the very most 2 or 3 parents.
Towards the end of their letter they caution parents, “There just are not that many things for older children to do at the park.” Which is an odd starting point for what would become a decades-long push to remove the basketball hoops from Mueller Park.
Behavior in 1980 was good.
I’m not sure where our current neighborhood nostalgia for children and families comes from, because the children of the late 1970s sound like the meanest little bastards the world has ever known. In June of 1979, resident Mary Atkins describes seeing two 8 year old boys taking up sledgehammers to destroy “everything in both bathrooms.” At the end of her letter, Mary vows to keep “watching, phoning, and getting angry until someone listens!” She would go on to become an integral part of the LHENA “Park Watch” program in the early 1980s.
What started for Mary as an act of resistance against a “massive act of vandalism” would turn, inexplicably, into a crusade against basketball. She spent a lot of time in the park–watching. Based on accounts from Park Watch, the summer of 1980 was a “good” one. Despite the reported good behavior, Mary writes another letter the following May:
Last summer, and again this spring, I have noticed that the basketball courts at Mueller Park have been completely taken over by adults, many of whom I do not recognize as residents of the Wedge.
I have watched the younger children and adolescents from our neighborhood stand on the sideline for hours, waiting to get a chance to play on the courts, usually to no avail. Often the people that use the courts descend on our park by the carload, beer in hand, and hook up their speakers to tape players or radios and turn the music on full blast…
Mary was concerned for the plight of “neighborhood youth who would like to play basketball at the park.” So, naturally, she suggests a “petition to have the basketball hoops removed.” She ends her letter with a question: “How do we assure [the youth] a fair chance to use the facilities at Mueller Park?”
On May 6th, 1981, the same month Mary’s letter is published, there is a public meeting; “the hottest item on the agenda was the issue of the basketball courts.” Mary alleges “physical aggression by adults” towards children. Dennis Tuthill suggests removing the courts. Another resident, David Forney, advocates lowering the baskets “to discourage ruffians from outside the neighborhood.” Neighborhood hero Glen Christianson stands up for basketball, while pointing out the shortage of hoops available in the city; “Let’s not tear it down,” he says.
Outside of Mary’s incredible accusation of violence against children, which is absent from her just-published letter, there’s not one specific allegation of criminal behavior. So, what is it about these basketball players–ruffians… many of whom I do not recognize… descending on our park by the carload… music on full blast?
Suddenly, “ruffian” doesn’t seem like such a cute word.
Glen Christianson, rim-protector.
Ostensibly this started as a quest to preserve the basketball court for neighborhood children to play basketball. But Dennis’ solution is to reserve the court for Tuesday evenings of adult volleyball. Mary Atkins organizes Wednesday night volleyball for kids (volleyball really is the antidote to basketball). Glen Christianson, legendary neighborhood rim protector, organizes pickup basketball games for adults. And there’s this excellent suggestion from the following year: “roller skating to music on the basketball courts.” Hilariously, I can find no trace of anyone ever suggesting they reserve the court for children’s basketball.
Park Watch continues through the summer of 1981. A September article announces that neighbors “have helped solve the problem about the use of the basketball court and the park.” Mission accomplished, but how?
Park Watch. Mary Atkins’ eyeballs are the best deterrent.
“They informed park police about beer drinking, dope smoking and bad language among the white and black teenagers in the park.” [italics added]
Family volleyball night.
It’s not just the blacks.
These teenagers, white and black, need better coaching; shooting the ball with a beer in one hand and a marijuana cigarette in the other won’t get you to the NBA.
In the same article that declares victory in the war on basketball “bullies,” the Wedge reports for the first time that race may be a factor:
[Park Board representative] Hutera described the basketball players as young adults. He said, ‘I do think some racism is involved.’ But he said blacks were being bigoted also, calling others ‘honky.’
Both Atkins and [Dennis] Tuthill as Mueller Park spokesmen pointed out that racism had no part in the issue. Tuthill said the inappropriate behavior among blacks or whites drinking beer, smoking dope or using bad language in the park was unacceptable. Atkins described the problem as more the neighborhood “toughs” than the basketball players….
Another problem at Mueller Park is that it offers few facilities for recreation… [Asst. superintendent Feldman] agreed a sand volleyball court at Mueller Park would be safer and more enjoyable for volleyball than the asphalt court currently being used. He said Mueller neighbors have legitimate reasons, and not ideas coming in from outer space, about removing the asphalt.
You thought the last word of this
paragraph would be “basketball”
Mary just admitted that the problems in the park were unrelated to basketball players. It should also be mentioned that removing the basketball court and replacing it with a sand volleyball court would have resulted in no net increase in the number of recreation facilities; though I can imagine it would have resulted in an emptier, less useful park. The article closes with Dennis complaining about the kids being excluded from basketball fun; followed by Dennis reserving Wednesday night court-time for a children’s activity that isn’t basketball.
The neighborhood stops targeting the basketball court from roughly 1982 until 1990, when LHENA begins having one of the hoops variously hooded, capped, or locked for most of the next decade. A “vandal” (more like freedom fighter) breaks the lock off the south hoop in 1996; Glen Christianson would have been proud.
Basketball: the least of your problems.
In the summer of 1993, in an item headlined “Mueller Park Crowd Getting Out of Hand,” LHENA vice-president Audrey Johnson notes “there have been problems with noise, bad language, rowdy behavior, fires being started in the bathrooms and under trees, and glass being dumped in the swimming pool.” She doesn’t mention basketball, but it’s not hard for some to connect the dots. Notes from the August board meeting mention the fires, the glass in the pool, people being “accosted by hidden persons,” and the need to call the police to close down basketball. It’s possible that accosted by hidden persons is just a euphemism for good, hard defense; though it could also be the case that your neighborhood has bigger problems than basketball.
In 1998, the basketball court was cut in half as part of renovations at Mueller Park.
The idea that basketball courts bring crime to a neighborhood is notallthatuncommon. There’s the case of a 2011 hoop removal in one racially diverse Chicago neighborhood. It emptied the park, but it failed to reduce gang violence as intended. Critics say it was about targeting black kids and pushing a gentrification agenda. My favorite response to the basketball-haters is from Arlene Rubin in 1990, based on her experience living across the street from a Chicago park: “To hear some people, you’d think that taking down the hoops would solve AIDS, unemployment, and the national debt.”
The only study I can find on the topic shows that parks with basketball courts, as opposed to those without, are “associated with lower rates of violent and property crime but not disorder crime.” Basketball courts can be noise generators, but fewer people get hurt.
This is part of an ongoing series on Wedge history, culled from the archives of the Wedge newspaper. We wish we could direct you to a gofundme page devoted to saving the historic Wedge newspaper, but it’s too late. It died in 2013–nobody vigiled.
Early 90s LHENA was Bizzaro World.
The early 90s was a weird time in Wedge history. LHENA had one board member named “Bizzaro” and another named Basim Sabri (if you’ve ever wondered why LHENA has Texas-style voter ID requirements, it all dates back to the Sabri-era). Weirdest of all: LHENA’s board voted out their new president, in a secret ballot, for what seems like manufactured nonsense.
We begin in February 1994, with an item about former board member Steven Prince. It concerns his dispute with LHENA President Brian Nelson over Prince’s refusal to hand over the results of a housing survey (this catches my eye because Steven Prince–who some in the Wedge call the Prince of Downzoning*–commented recently about the attention I wascalling to a 2007 LHENA survey).
Mr. Prince, release the surveys!
Then, in March 1994, the headline: LHENA Board Ousts President(in other words, Mr. Nelson got downzoned). You’ll never guess who made the motion to depose Nelson; it was my good friend, the 1994 version of board member Bill. Also on the board at that time: Meg Tuthill and Leslie Foreman (our current President). Talk about neighborhood stability. If you go to a LHENA meeting today, in 2014, you can reach out and touch some of the same people (please be gentle).
On the surface, this was about Nelson involving LHENA in allegedly unauthorized discussions with other neighborhoods about applying for a $10,000 grant (the he said, she said is available here, here, and here). But there’s more.
After the vote against Nelson, the staff of the Wedge newspaper resigns en masse (read their letters here and here).
“I’ve heard that the paper is too zippy, too hip hop, shouldn’t cover rock & roll. I thought we were trying to capture some of the artsiness, some of the neighborliness, something to appeal to everyone–even the long-ignored renters that occupy 85 percent of the Wedge’s housing units, most of them between the ages of 25 and 34.
“This month, I sat through an agonizing LHENA meeting as the board voted Brian Nelson out of the board presidency. But the personal attacks that came before that vote were something I have not witnessed since the Anita Hill hearings…”
Fortunately, Reckdahl resigned in time to give the new editor a chance to apologize to Steven Prince (Prince of Downzoning, Keeper of the Surveys, Lord of the Wedge) in the next edition.
Reckdahl’s March 1994 resignation.
Steven Prince gets an apology in April 1994.
The resignation letter from Wedge writer Barbara Knox references the “ugly–and very public–attack last fall” against Reckdahl by the LHENA board. So, further down the rabbit hole we go, back to late 1993: it’s election season and Lisa McDonald–a former Wedge editor, and then-current LHENA board member–is running for City Council (she would go on to a narrow victory).
In October 1993 the Wedge ran a full page ad for McDonald’s opponent. Tuthill and friends freaked out. Meg and Dennis Tuthill co-authored a letter calling for Wedge editor Reckdahl’s resignation. A “representative from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office” was summoned to a board meeting. The editor of the Southwest Journal felt compelled to write a letter defending Reckdahl; she makes the point that the Southwest Journal ran basically the same ad in their paper. And just when you thought the plot couldn’t get any thicker: soon-to-be Council Member Lisa McDonald is forced to produce Kinko’s receipts to answer questions about whether she used her prior role as Wedge editor for politics.
I have no grand conclusions about any of this, other than to say, this is one very weird piece of Wedge history. Also, don’t mess with friends of Meg. And one more thing: Meg is totally pulling Bill’s strings in this episode, right?
Oct 1993: Wedge editor Katy Reckdahl allows a full page ad to be placed for candidate running against Team Tuthill’s choice for City Council, Lisa McDonald.
Nov 1993: Controversy over the ad. Meg and Dennis Tuthill call for Reckdahl’s resignation. Editor of Southwest Journal writes letter in defense of Reckdahl.
This is the true story of LHENA’s 1977 protest against an adult bookstore at Lyndale and Lake. Michael Lander is lucky these people aren’t bringing bags of “stuff” to his neighbors. Not that I’m equating Michael Lander with pornography (though his new development is an obscenity, as well as an affront to family values and porch culture).
What is a “double brother-in-law”?
Should have used a naughty bachelorette party cake.
This is not about pornography; it’s about economic justice.
Full story here (from the August 1977 issue of the Wedge).