Best of Minneapolis Politicians on Twitter

Unlike their national counterparts, local politicians don’t have a huge staff dedicated to maintaining polished social media personas. This gives them the chance to personally interact with constituents, giving real answers to real questions. And if you fill up their mentions with mean tweets, it can elicit real tears. So we have compiled a list of the top two local politicians who are keeping it real, letting it all hang out, and writing their own tweets.

1. State Representative Phyllis Kahn did some bills, and she wants you to know. It’s possible she’s set up a Tweetdeck column to make sure she can reply to any tweet mentioning the keyword “bong.”

Meeting with High School Pages. Talked about interesting bills I did: from sports equity, smoking and bong water

— Phyllis Kahn (@PhyllisKahn) April 5, 2016

MN State Rep offers words of advice for anyone traveling to Bong Airport

— Anton (@anton612) April 4, 2016

2. Minneapolis City Council Member John Quincy is the only account for which I have turned on notifications. Every time he tweets, I get a ding and a buzz. John Quincy is worth it.

Community Connections [[LINK]]

— John Quincy (@JohnQuincyMPLS) October 13, 2015

New City Parking App and more [[link]]

— John Quincy (@JohnQuincyMPLS) September 15, 2015

Whoops! Correction

— John Quincy (@JohnQuincyMPLS) July 28, 2015

Summer Time Fun

— John Quincy (@JohnQuincyMPLS) June 9, 2015

Honorable Mention: Minneapolis Council Member Andrew Johnson is big on Vine.

Resignation Letter

People of the Wedge,

I hereby announce my resignation from the LHENA Board of Directors, effective eight months ago, in order to spend more time with my cronies. My only regret is that I didn’t resign when they threatened my family. That was just me being stubborn.

Though my approval ratings remain at record high levels, I must depart from elected office. However, it is my intention to remain an active Pillar of the Neighborhood. Additionally, I will be keeping my email address, so please continue to send me your constituent hate mail.

The writing was on the wall during my very first meeting last May, when a board member accused me of “publishing the home address of a single mom”—a reference to a post I’d written about permit violations at multiple properties owned by HGTV icon Nicole Curtis. To this person I say: your effort to paint me as a sex criminal has failed. Even your friends think you’re the worst.

Then there was the months-long battle to force me to remove an online archive of neighborhood newspapers. To those who led the effort to eliminate easy access to the local history they claim to care about: it is my hope that you will never live down how dumb that made you seem.

To LHENA President Leslie Foreman: I still can’t believe all those times you sneaked me onto the agenda without any prior discussion or notice—and never by name—so that other members of Team Tuthill could unleash surprise mid-meeting attacks. Good luck to you in 2017.

In closing, allow me to quote the inspiring words of the JetBlue flight attendant who famously resigned by grabbing a beer and sliding down the plane’s inflatable escape chute:

OK, I’ve had it. To the passenger who called me a motherf—er, f— you! Those of you who have shown dignity and respect these last 20 years, thanks for a great ride, but I’ve been in this business for 28 years and I’ve had it. That’s it. I’m done, motherf—er.


John Edwards

I’m Done

I don’t know how things are in other places, but the neighborhood association here in the Wedge is a magnet for the unhinged; people who see vast conspiracies and corporate villains behind every Healy mansion. I’m not saying this describes the attitude of all participants, or even most. It’s just far higher than what you see in the general population. I had assumed a city department called “Neighborhood and Community Relations” would also be familiar with this dynamic, and be careful not to encourage residents with overactive imaginations. I was wrong.

Last November, I was told by LHENA’s President, Leslie Foreman, that NCR objected to a line from my Twitter bio. It was hard to believe a city department was policing my tweets. It was mostly hilarious and a little bit sad, but could it really be true?


In December, I contacted NCR to ask about the Twitter bio complaint. NCR denied raising the issue with LHENA. The NCR staffer assigned to LHENA went even further, telling me, “I do not look at your Twitter feed.” I didn’t know who to believe. It was an impenetrable riddle: this is far too dumb for anyone to lie about, yet they can’t both be telling the truth.

This discrepancy is what prompted my data request for NCR emails. If my innocuous Twitter bio had become an issue, there must be some wild NCR conversations happening about me. So I was not at all surprised to find a large number of silly complaints in the emails I requested. But it was surprising to find that NCR was encouraging and validating neighborhood crackpots, disparaging me, and suggesting that I might be using my Board position to make money or otherwise improperly benefit myself. At no point did this NCR staff person ask me any of the speculative questions she was asking others about me.

This conversation from last May about whether I should be expelled from LHENA—including the brainstorming in search of a justification—happened on the day after I became a board member (NCR was nudging LHENA in the direction of censure. What had I done? Who knows!).

You might recall the time last July when someone from LHENA threatened my girlfriend. That was the moment the crazy talk stopped being funny. It was this same staffer from NCR who—after I notified her of the threat—replied by saying, basically that I should keep my tweets under control.

You know that thing that happens on Twitter where a person who doesn’t follow you will browse (or hate-read) your timeline, they accidentally ‘like’ an old tweet, then immediately unlike—but you get email notifications so you still know that it happened? NCR does that. Policing my tweets at 10 pm on Super Bowl Sunday; NCR works hard to keep neighborhoods safe. And I haven’t tweeted a single dangerous thing from the @johneapolis account in many, many months. So that’s really digging deep into the archive for material.
Doesn’t look at my feed.
Two weeks ago, I raised my concerns about NCR to various city officials. I have asked NCR Director David Rubedor for an acknowledgment that what happened was wrong, and an assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. He has been dismissive, accusing me of taking things out of context, and saying the person he supervises acted in an appropriately “neutral” manner.
Last week, it was reported at a LHENA Board meeting that my complaint has displeased the NCR staffer responsible, and she might choose not to work with LHENA in the future. LHENA voted to support her, without any discussion of the details, or a defense of what she’d done. I took that personally—as an interference with what I see partly as an essential defense of myself and my family. In this environment, in this context, with these people, it’s not a joke to have a city department fanning the flames.
So I felt compelled, one last time, to say I disagree. LHENA and NCR might support this stuff. But I can’t anymore, so I’m done.

Wedge LIVE! Pledge DRIVE!

The Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations department is spreading rumors about my potential “conflict of interest.” This is based on all the pretend dollars I have extracted from my social media empire while serving on a neighborhood board (it may sound like a fishy arrangement, but I assure you there is no “there” there). I have contacted NCR Director David Rubedor, asking him to instruct the person he supervises to stop the rumor mongering. He has declined my request.

Rather than get mad, let’s hold a pledge drive and grab as much fake cash as possible before the federal indictment comes down. I won’t be providing you with the actual means to send me actual money. This is only about creating the appearance of corruption. There is no gofundme, no bank account, no mailing address. Just this pledge form. Send it to your craziest uncle on Facebook. Then tell him to send it to NCR, because they’re the only ones who will humor this nonsense.

Click here for the PDF version.

(If you’re a for real fat cat with a serious interest in neighborhood favors, please DM me.)

NCR’s Rumor Mongering

Red squiggly boxes indicate inappropriate tweeting.

In my role as a person with a Twitter account and a seat on a neighborhood association board, I sometimes hear curious things about myself. One of these things involved the Neighborhood and Community Relations department, which oversees and assists Minneapolis neighborhood organizations. This prompted me to do a public records request. Many of the emails obtained in that records request are posted here.

Last May, NCR’s Michelle Chavez had some questions about me. Instead of asking me these questions, she used them to provoke an emotionally disturbed neighborhood resident into wild speculation. Chavez’s words:

…what does he gain from “At Wedge Live?” Is this a conflict of interest? Does he think that he can use his board position to drive more people to his twitter feed?… Does he get paid for his writing about neighborhoods?

Over the course of her conversation with the resident, Chavez used the following words and phrases to describe me: “tear the neighborhood apart” … “creates false pictures” … “biased” … “does [Wedge LIVE] need to go away?” Obviously, you’re allowed to think I’m bad news, but a city employee should use another platform to express those opinions (Twitter maybe?) rather than spreading official-seeming rumors using her dot gov email address.

For the next several months, the concerned resident remained in frequent contact with NCR. He submitted a large number of .pdf printouts and screenshots documenting my twitter activity. In August, the resident sent Chavez a deeply researched conspiracy theory, in which he concludes that I am likely a professional propagandist on par with the oil company scientists he saw in a movie. In another email forwarded to NCR, the resident speculates that I work for the Urban Land Institute.

The world is a canvas to the imagination.

Now, I’d prefer NCR back off my tweets, stop trashing me to neighborhood residents, etc. But if we’re going down this road, let’s apply some equal scrutiny. I often see a particular neighborhood board member using Facebook to compare city actions to Hitler/genocide/ISIS. That’s over the top, worthy of ridicule, and offensive to many–but it never dawned on me that I should lodge a complaint with the city over it. It would be a shame if I’m getting special attention because I’ve occasionally pointed out some ways that NCR might do a better job.

Finally, I need to answer NCR’s original question and put all the rumors to rest: No Michelle, I don’t get paid for any of this. What do I have to gain? Just the undying hatred of neighborhood lunatics–the same crowd of people you’re encouraging.

Some things to note for context: May 21 is the day after I became a LHENA Board Member. Here’s what I was tweeting during this period of time. On July 14, this happened. 

Twitter Is Public.pdf

Below are emails to the Minneapolis’ Neighborhood and Community Relations department referencing myself and/or “Wedge LIVE” in 2015, my first year as a LHENA Board Member. This is the case against me, complete with all .pdf and .png attachments. If you see red squiggly boxes around my pdf’d tweets, those were drawn by the Concerned Resident. As you read, please keep in mind this is the person to whom NCR felt it was appropriate to encourage with speculative questions about how I might be using my board position and tweets to enrich myself.

[“ULI” = Urban Land Institute]


mean tweets


A History of Downzoning

The year is 1995. A landlord is renovating his triplex when a concerned neighbor appeals to the neighborhood association for help. The organization comes to the rescue, deciding¹ that “because the building has been vacant for over a year, the nonconforming use expires and the building should revert to a duplex.” The neighborhood was Lowry Hill East. And that heroic concerned neighbor would go on to become the chairman of LHENA’s 2004 rezoning subcommittee.

The history of Lowry Hill East is full of stories like this. Over the last 45 years, our neighborhood political process has operated largely from the perspective, and with the priorities, of the single-family homeowner. Lowry Hill East is a place with a long tradition of apartment buildings and a population that has hovered around 75-85% renter for as far back as I’m able to check (1940). But the politics is dominated by a consistent, uncompromising advocacy against dense, multi-family housing.

The elimination of high-density zoning was a founding principle of LHENA. In 1975, after years of hard work, the group succeeded in downzoning much of the neighborhood–both houses and apartment buildings–from high to low-density (R6 to R2). The inclusion of apartment buildings was done with the hope “that the properties would, if reconstructed, be redeveloped as single and two family homes.”

23 units, constructed in 1930. Downzoned to R2 (two-family) in 1975.
20 units, constructed in 1923. Downzoned to R2 in 1975.
6 units, constructed in 1913. Downzoned to R2 in 1975.

The Gentrification² Years

After declaring victory on the zoning issue, LHENA shifted focus towards promoting the restoration of single-family homes. Boarding houses were a particular target. In 1978, a LHENA-sponsored home tour proudly featured former boarding houses in the process of gentrification rehabilitation. Residents were celebrated in newspaper profiles for restoring their boarding houses to single-family homes. Neighborhood leaders would brag about rooming house conversions in their candidate bios. The boarding house nostalgia we’ve seen expressed in recent years, primarily as a product of the debate over the fate of the boarding house at 2320 Colfax, came as a shock to anyone familiar with LHENA history; when the group’s board of directors took up the issue of 2320 Colfax in 1992, they decided they were simply “opposed to the concept of a rooming house.”

In the early ’80s, LHENA took on the urgent task of preventing single-family homes from being “chopped up” into duplexes. The enormous house at 2400 Bryant Ave was eventually saved by the combined efforts of a LHENA committee and Calhoun Realty (it was recently promoted for sale at $1.2 million with a drone flyover video; a gentrification preservation success story if I’ve ever heard one). In 1986, the organization’s president editorialized that LHENA should take advantage of favorable interest rates and “redouble efforts to work with realtors to attract good buyers” with the goal of “reverting some duplexes and boarding houses to single family.”

This is not to say that I’m offended by the idea of purchasing and converting an old duplex or boarding house to a single-family home. But it’s important to acknowledge the history. In my time as an observer of neighborhood politics, I have heard protests of “gentrification” from the mouths of people who have restored their homes to single family, who would now like to downzone Lowry Hill East and have it frozen in time with an all-consuming historic district. People have even used boarding house residents as an anti-development cudgel while advocating for turning the same boarding house into a single-family home or a boutique “urban hotel.”

Allow me to quote myself, from an alternate dimension where I have written a much snarkier blog post:

It’s a legitimately lousy situation when boarding house residents are forced to find a new home. But that’s nothing new in this neighborhood. The Wedge has a past plagued by persistent gentrification. These senseless acts of renovation can’t be stopped; it’s simply too embedded in the neighborhood culture.

Good luck gentrifying the neighborhood, Scott and Linda.

2002-2004: Apartment Moratorium and Rezoning

In 2002, LHENA again took up the issue of rezoning. Council Member Dan Niziolek assisted in those efforts by introducing a moratorium on the construction of apartment buildings. The moratorium would last for 20 months, giving LHENA the time to chart a course for rezoning.
Stakeholders included former renters and current non-renters.
LHENA’s rezoning subcommittee met for nearly a year, starting in May 2003. One of the more hilarious (or frightening) tasks performed by the subcommittee was sending volunteers house to house looking for illegal units. Intelligence gathered on these missions was later passed on to the city so that the illegal housing could be, in CPED’s words, “alleviated.” But the most notable result of the rezoning effort was LHENA’s 2004 plan to completely eliminate high-density zoning categories (R5, R6) from Franklin Avenue south to 28th Street, affecting a total of 244 parcels. This would have applied even to existing apartment buildings, with the idea that if the property was redeveloped (or destroyed in a fire, for example), it could not legally be rebuilt at its current level of density.
The LHENA proposal would also have rezoned 69 parcels to single-family (R1A), a category that did not (and still does not) exist in the neighborhood. This is how CPED characterized LHENA’s push for a six block “single family core” in 2004:

One of the most vocalized issues from the LHENA rezoning sub-committee was their commitment to preserving single family homes. Since much of the neighborhood is zoned R2B, many of the original single-family structures have been preserved as duplex conversions…

Planning staff do not support the neighborhood’s preference for single family development over duplexes, and have not identified a City policy that would support individually rezoning single-family homes…

Additionally, the presence of duplexes in this neighborhood provides for a more affordable mix of housing. It offers more rental opportunities beyond the typical apartment complex, as well as chances for affordable ownership. 

The city had its own plan for the neighborhood, which would still have resulted in significant downzoning. This proposal cut almost in half the number of parcels zoned high-density R6, rezoning most of them as medium-density R4. After negotiations with the neighborhood, the city offered the concession of increasing–from 64 to 115–the number of downzoned properties. But LHENA wanted to downzone over 300 properties, and was unwilling to compromise. 
CPED proposal (left) vs. LHENA proposal (right)

In an email from the time, Council Member Dan Niziolek is described as having a “concern” that LHENA’s proposal would not “maintain a transit appropriate density.” LHENA’s plan for a single family core, and outright elimination of high-density zoning–for a neighborhood bounded by bus service on Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues–was too extreme, even for Niziolek; and remember, Niziolek was sympathetic enough to LHENA’s cause that he kickstarted the process with a 20-month apartment building moratorium.

As rezoning discussions came to a close, the Wedge newspaper reported that “if the city does not accept the Wedge plan, [LHENA] would like [zoning] to remain as is.” With LHENA refusing to budge, neither proposal was adopted. When today’s downzoning proponents talk about the development “target” that R6 zoning places on a property, it should be noted that a large number of those R6 properties would have been rezoned to R4 more than 10 years ago if LHENA had accepted CPED’s proposal.

2005-2015: Backdoor Downzoning

Shortly after the rezoning fell apart, LHENA began its pursuit of a historic district. They used funds received from the city’s NRP program to pay for a 2005 historic study. The chairman of LHENA’s NRP preservation subcommittee named two primary reasons for pursuing the historic district: one was preservation, and the other was to use it as a tool of rezoning: “to make development like that which occurred in the ’60s and ’70s more difficult.”

In 2008, the city was willing to give LHENA some of what it wanted by offering a historic district twice the size of what was recommended in the study the neighborhood commissioned three years earlier. But many residents involved in the process had their sights set on a massive historic district extending “from 28th St. to the tip of the neighborhood.” The 2008 plan went nowhere, amid concerns within LHENA “that acceptance of this proposal could limit future possibilities for expansion.”

A successful effort to designate a historic district in 2015, initiated by Council Member Lisa Bender, was met with similar all-or-nothing opposition. One of the opponents was the previous Council Member, Meg Tuthill–LHENA founder, and veteran of the 1975 and 2004 rezoning efforts. She dismissed the modestly-sized historic district as unnecessary in an area already zoned low-density: “The designation is a ‘feel good’ ruse for the city, pretending to care about preservation.” This reflects the fairly common belief among anti-development activists that downzoning and historic districts are interchangeable tools. According to this line of thinking, city planners who would enact both policies in the same place are engaging in trickery.

Size of the 2015 historic designation was disappointing for some.

The Future: Downzone, Gentrify, Repeat?

Before I’d ever been to Minneapolis, I looked at some maps–not a map of historic places, not a zoning map, but a transit map. I noted the high-frequency bus routes serving Lowry Hill East. I studied a Google map, and I noted the proximity of grocery stores, and other amenities made possible by higher density housing. I’m fortunate there were affordable 50-year-old apartment buildings when I arrived. And I hope for future policies that allow neighborhoods to keep changing, so that 50 years from now there will still be 50-year-old apartment buildings to rely on.

I have concerns about taking one of the city’s most walkable, transit-accessible, bike-friendly neighborhoods, located on the edge of downtown, and freezing it in place. In the 1970s, Lowry Hill East was zoned entirely high-density–but that is no longer the case. The activists of the 1970s successfully protected the low-density character of the neighborhood’s interior. Still, there are those with predictions of imminent neighborhood destruction who would now like to restart the downzoning process. Based on the neighborhood history, I have my doubts about the kind of proposal this process leads to.

¹ The house is still a non-conforming triplex, thanks to a system that allows the city to disregard the advisory opinions of neighborhood organizations.
² The author’s repeated use of the word “gentrification” is not appropriate, and he does not endorse abuse of the word by others.

Hotel Debate Gets Weird

The hotel proposed for the southeast corner of Lake Street and Emerson Avenue has inspired dueling petitions (pro-hotel vs no-hotel). The petition battle has become TV-newsworthy. A shadowy group has even put out a pretend 30-second ad against it.

Site of proposed hotel. Lake Street in background.

Debate over the hotel took a turn for the weird at a December CARAG meeting where a woman distributed an anti-hotel flyer made to look like official information from the neighborhood organization. The same woman, a former CARAG board chair, was also seen taking zoomed-in pictures of individual meeting attendees. In January, a male resident threatened a CARAG board member with legal action if she supported the hotel. Last week, attendees at a meeting of the CARAG neighborhood association voted to oppose the hotel.

I wish I could give you a fuller report of debate in the Wedge. LHENA’s Zoning and Planning Committee, after not holding any monthly meetings since August of last year, held a meeting on January 13th without sending me an email. This is strange, because I’m a member of the committee, and up until now I have been on the committee’s email list (I’m also a LHENA board member).

While I wasn’t able to attend the committee meeting, we know at least a few CARAG residents got a special invitation, because they were using the fact of LHENA’s opposition to bolster their case against the hotel at the following week’s CARAG meeting. I was able to confirm at last week’s LHENA board meeting that there were CARAG residents at the committee meeting. I would imagine the content of their presentation reflects what’s in the anti-hotel petition, but we’ll have to wait for the meeting minutes. LHENA’s board voted (6-5) to go with the committee’s recommendation to oppose the hotel.

I should emphasize how unusual it is to have non-residents attend a LHENA meeting that was so un-publicized and irregular that I had no idea it was happening. I pay a crazy amount of attention to this stuff. LHENA didn’t make an ounce of effort to gauge the opinion of actual residents about this hotel before voting against it. It’s instructive about how insular the neighborhood association process can be; non-residents are invited because they oppose development, while an actual committee member is excluded because he’s supportive. And it’s one more reason you should take the results of this process with a grain of salt.

A Lyndale Story, in Four YouTubes

There’s something happening in the Lyndale neighborhood. Many people think of Lyndale as the Rhode Island of our tri-neighborhood area. And these people are right, so it’s not worth trying to understand or explain the underlying issues (something about 17 dwelling units and a parking crisis). So let’s go straight to the videotape.