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.

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.

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?

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.

Here’s why it matters. We treat terrorism differently than other violent crimes. We go to much greater lengths to protect ourselves from it, and to punish those responsible. We see some greater value in stopping politically motivated acts of violence which are intended not just to maim and murder, but to intimidate whole populations.

I worry we’re not taking seriously enough these threats from well-armed whites with a political axe to grind. The Thursday before the 4th Precinct shooting, a video was posted online showing two men in a car, driving to the Black Lives protest. The driver held up a handgun while promising to engage in some “reverse cultural enriching,” finally signing off to his viewers with the phrase “Stay white.” Sitting in the passenger seat was Lance Scarsella, who returned to the protest with three other men on Monday, the night of the attack. These are the four men now under arrest in connection with the shooting.

Minneapolis Police had four days prior to the shooting to track down the two men in the video. The driver was correctly identified by name in a comment on the “Black Lives Matter” Facebook page three days before the attack. As a resident of south Minneapolis, it took me five minutes to retrace the route taken in the videoright back to the driveway they pulled out ofusing a basic knowledge of local landmarks and Google Street View. If it was a priority, these details should have led police to Scarsella.

As MPD’s union head was comparing the Black Lives Matter protest to “Benghazi” on talk radio, the job of intelligence gathering was left to an unpaid social media detective:

Scarsella, Gustavsson and Macey, along with the man who was questioned and released, are featured in several videos of a now-deleted YouTube page. The page’s banner featured two dozen men — some masked — holding weapons, along with a pair of Confederate flags. The videos were deleted by Monday afternoon, but they had been archived by Minneapolis-based researcher Tony Webster.

I’m a big Tony Webster fan, but we shouldn’t have to rely on the work of a skilled volunteer to track and archive the online activities of the violent white extremists who threaten our city. It’s just too big of a job.

Since 9/11, domestic terror attacks by white Americans have killed anywhere from two to five times as many people as those carried out by jihadists. We often hear about the social media prowess of ISIS; far less publicized is the degree to which sites like 4chan and reddit are an increasingly effective recruiting tool for a new generation of white nationalists. Though the idea of white terrorism doesn’t seem to break into the headlines, police from across the country are aware of the threat: a 2015 NY Times national survey of law enforcement agencies identifies right-wing terror as the top threat facing American cities.

I assume there are people in positions of authority who are aware of these facts, but recent events do not inspire confidence in local law enforcement. The racial and religious diversity of the Twin Cities makes them a tempting target for hate groups. Let’s be sure we’re focusing our anti-terrorism efforts, both locally and across Minnesota, beyond the usual suspects.

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.

Is @CMAndrewJohnson proposing to round up and euthanize all unleashed cats, lizards, ferrets, weasels, and red hens? https://t.co/qQ9crcJBy7

— MRRderouSVLD (@MRRSVLD) October 17, 2015

wedgi-How Tutorial

Step 1:  Bring Andrew Johnson to meet some of your friends from Linden Hills.
Step 2: Create a template from his reaction.
Step 3: Pull out the guts of your pumpkin, and save them for later.
Step 4: Print out the template and attach it to the pumpkin. Trace by poking holes through the template.
Step 5: Carve out the white space, and scrape the surface off the grey-shaded areas.

RECIPE: Uncle Wedgie’s Extra-Burned Pumpkin Seeds

Now it’s time to cook your pumpkin seeds. Google around for a sriracha-based recipe. Make sure this recipe calls for you to cook the seeds for way too long, and at much too high of a temperature.

Sriracha, vegetable oil, soy sauce.
Perfect.

When the smell of burning pumpkin seeds becomes alarming, your seeds are done. Force-feed them to Pumpkin Andrew like a heavy dose of Linden Hills, giving him a good reason for that horrified expression.

UPDATE: Humans and gourds can coexist.


Clearing Things Up

Some Twitter disclaimers have become necessary:

  1. Pay no attention to that library stamp. I am not a licensed librarian, nor an employee of the Hennepin County Library.
  2. wedgelive.com has never published a Special Senior Edition. And I never will–no matter how many accusations of ageism are thrown my way.
  3. My tweets are not trapped in February 1983, waiting for Doc to help them get back to 2015.
  4. 877-WEDGE-LIVE has too many digits to be an actual phone number, though the first 10 digits will probably connect you to something–maybe an attractive young woman who is just waiting for your call.
  5. Chet Wedgely is a fictional character I created during my recent Linden Hills coverage.
  6. The current @WedgeLIVE avatar is not intended to be a factual statement.
  7. “Wedge DEAD!” is my spooky Halloween name, not a spinoff of popular AMC zombie drama The Walking Dead.
Might be necessary to stop signing my blog posts & start pretending to be an anonymous citywide coalition of concerned neighbor-reporters.

— Wedge DEAD! (@WedgeLIVE) October 22, 2015

Not LHENA-Sanctioned

FYI

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).

One grievance had to do with a pizza-related social media post (I immediately recognized this as one of my tweets). The other grievance was something else that happened on social media–no content was specified (I also recognize this as one of my tweets).

Hey two mystery grievances just came up at this board meeting. Sounds like they’re against me and my social media.

— Wedge DEAD! (@WedgeLIVE) October 22, 2015

The pizza grievance was dismissed. The second grievance remains a mystery to be resolved later. While I don’t know who’s behind these grievances, I can guess from whose Facebook posse they might be coming. I think the strategy here is to lodge as many frivolous complaints as possible, establish your crew’s reputation as an incredible cast of goofballs, and then really lay the hammer down when I’m least expecting it (save this sentence for a future grievance).

At the very end of the meeting, during the “new business” portion of the agenda (I’m new here, but I gather that’s where you need to watch out for an ambush), someone handed me this motion: an accusation that I used an account with the name “Wedgelive/Wedgedead” to fool people into thinking I’m the official LHENA Twitter account and a demand that I remove all traces of the Wedge newspaper from my website and Twitter. At least half the board was visibly and vocally irritated to have this pile of unexpected nonsense dumped in their lap after a two-plus hour meeting, right as they thought they’d be able to go home.

Totally urgent, emergency, last-minute motion.

Exhibit A: “Today’s Header.” Distributed at last night’s meeting.
Someone thought this motion was a reasonable thing to write, and print out, and show to a dozen other people. Someone seconded this motion, and a handful of people would’ve voted for it, but it was tabled and sent over to the LHENA grievance committee–where I’ve racked up three tweet-grievances in my young career. And this item will probably linger well into 2016. These people are not right. Here’s what one board member said shortly after the meeting, in a private message:
To briefly summarize the history: LHENA published and delivered the newspaper to every home in the neighborhood for free beginning in 1970. I was one of two people involved in a project to digitize the Wedge newspaper late last year. I made the archive freely available here. I did not contact LHENA to ask for permission. I used the archive as the source for a series of posts about Wedge history, like this LHENA episode from 1993, which I recommend. It’s relevant reading.
In April, I ran for the LHENA Board of Directors and delivered a speech at the annual meeting almost entirely premised on the fact that I had digitized the paper: “I gave you an archive of the Wedge paper, vote for me.” I won.
At the May meeting, my blog was made a surprise topic (not listed on the agenda; strange that this keeps happening). I was accused of mistreating a “single mom” (more on that here), and concerns were raised about newspaper copyright. In July, the board settled concerns over the copyright issue by deciding to neither give permission nor demand I remove the archive.
And now we’re talking about it again in October, ostensibly because I changed my Twitter header image to something I found amusing and visually interesting. The Wedge newspaper is one of the most historic/wonderful/hilarious things about this neighborhood. It’s an ongoing source of surprise to me that devoted defenders of the newspaper’s legacy aren’t glad to have it accessible from their phone.

“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.

At LHENA’s May meeting–my first as a member of the board–my blog was made a topic for discussion (surprising because I wasn’t on the agenda). During the discussion I was accused by a fellow board member of “publishing the home address of a single mom.” This was an intentionally vague and misleading reference to a blog post I had written about HGTV personality Nicole Curtis’ permit violations at some of her Minneapolis properties (also a threat to single moms: this WCCO story).

In July, a second board member accused me of “stalking” and demanded I delete a tweet linking to political commentary in a public Facebook post. The topic was parking reform (not vacation photos), so “stalking” seemed over the top.

Four days after the “stalking” accusation, I received an email from an unknown sender using an apparently fake name. The subject line was my girlfriend’s name. The message began by saying, “someone is playing your game.” The email contained a link to a Craigslist ad seeking sex; the ad was written to appear as if it came from my girlfriend, using her name, location and description. The email ended with a threat: “take down all your creepy posts about LHENA volunteers etc. Or who knows maybe her exact address, picture or phone # might show up tomorrow in a different category.”

We reported this to the police immediately. In September, all but one of my fellow board members voted to request the police seek a subpoena for Craigslist and Gmail to determine the identity of the person who sent the threat. I appreciate that, though I’m skeptical the police will pursue it.

You might imagine my initial reaction based on the content and timing of the email threat. Yet I’ve been told that it’s offensive to ask whether someone within LHENA has any connection to or knowledge of who might be responsible. It was said during September’s board meeting that this is no big deal; that putting my girlfriend’s name, location, and description in a sex ad is just someone being “snarky.” It’s also been said that the more important issue is all the unfair attacks (never specified, but presumably from me) coming at LHENA over the past year.

Not helping matters, Minneapolis’ Neighborhood and Community Relations Department replied to my initial email reporting the threat by sending a list of social media guidelines. I forwarded the email to NCR, and they gave me a lesson in discouraging participation. It was disappointing to have the city department that oversees neighborhood organizations suggest–in an email sent to the entire LHENA board–that my actions are the problem.

That attitude has carried over to the months-long debate regarding LHENA’s new “code of conduct” policy, with the argument being that the organization has been victimized by social media. Some folks were very adamant about including broad rules against “disparaging” language that causes a “barrier to participation,” and generally trying to define the most stringent possible standard for speech infractions.

I wish there was the same urgency to address those few LHENA board members who have disparaged me as a sort of predator–to the degree someone felt putting a Craigslist target on my girlfriend’s back was appropriate payback. As for barriers to participation: I’m pretty sure the only reason the anonymous emailer knows her name, or where she lives, or that she even exists, is because I brought her to neighborhood association meetings. She won’t be coming back.

The concerted effort to hype me as a menace has put someone close to me in danger, making it harder for her to feel safe in her own neighborhood. I sense too much denial and defiance from the people participating in that effort. This all escalated over a period of months during which I made the mistake of saying nothing. So I’m writing this post as a matter of self defense. My hope is that calling this out publicly makes it less likely to happen again.

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.

1. “Homeowner Revolution”
Millions of dollars in NRP money helped drive the 1992 takeover of the Whittier Alliance by property owners hostile to affordable and supportive housing. Keep in mind that the reason Whittier received so many millions of dollars in city money was because of their large population of poor and minority renters.

Two years before the “Homeowner Revolution” many activists against more subsidized housing had already formed The Whittier Homeowners Association. This coalition “was a key force in the campaign”, and after its adherents gained a majority on the 1992 Alliance board, it simply moved itself into the Alliance. The Homeowners Association had made itself defunct because while it had scant money and legitimacy, the organization it took over had reams of cash and was certified by city hall as the official representative of the neighborhood. (Ch 2, p 12)

2. Culture Shift
The big change in 1992 turned the Whittier Alliance away from its long history of supporting low income housing.

Between the Alliance’s birth in 1978 and the 1992 revolution, the Alliance had developed “330 units of low income housing … The Alliance was one of the most productive nonprofit low income housing producers in the city.” (Ch 2, p 11)

3. “Elitist Cabal”
Champe describes how difficult it was for the Whittier Alliance’s new leadership (the “Friends of Whittier”) to get along with its staff:

I find that it was naïve of the FOW [anti-affordable and supportive housing] faction to think that they would find people to work in low paying, non-profit, inner-city, community jobs, in a poor, racially diverse neighborhood, who were not “social justice” oriented, and who did not see the poor, the renters, and the minorities as underdogs deserving of extra help. Even hiring a community organizer and a director who were Republicans did not solve this problem, as both still found the board an elitist cabal that was impossible to get along with. (Ch 2, p 14)

4. Opposition to school for the blind.
In 1993, a school for the blind proposed moving into the Pillsbury mansion. Board Chair Dave Hoban is reported to have said something to the effect, “I don’t even understand why they would want to buy that building, because it is so beautiful, and they wouldn’t be able to see it anyway.”

5. “Rode out of town on a rail, honey.”
A Board Member from 1993 tells her story:

When the Pillsbury mansion was converted from a residence to the school, oh my god people flipped out. And you know, the Dave Hoban’s of the world, which I’m sure you know, went nuts, that’s how I lost my board position because I voted for Blind Inc. Lucy and I got rode out of town on a rail honey. (Ch 2, p 32)

6. Mafia-style street justice.

After the Blind Inc. vote Dave called me and wanted me to come out into the street so we could wrestle in the street. That same night the husband of another board member who voted for it got punched in the jaw outside the Black Forest and we’re convinced that Dave arranged for that.  (Ch 2, p 32)

7. Political Parties
The early 1990s sees the advent of political parties in Whittier, called Friends of Whittier (FOW) and Diversity & Democracy (D&D):

Naming themselves “Diversity” was a jab at the FOW, who were seen as hostile to ethnic minorities and the lower classes. And “Democracy” was a way to show how they were opposed to what many considered the decidedly undemocratic methods of the FOW activists – their privileging of homeowner participation, and their “dirty tricks.” (Ch 2, p 40)

8. Bylaws Shenanigans

the FOW appeared to have a three pronged strategy – mobilize the base to come out to vote for your slate at the annual meeting, manipulate the bylaws to get other FOW members on the board after the election, then harass the rivals that did get elected to the board until they quit. (Ch 2, p 41)

9. Rooftop Godzillas for Responsible Development Coalition
Lisa Goodman meets her match during a 2001 battle over low-income housing:

At that time, city council representative Lisa Goodman hosted a monthly “Lunch with Lisa” chat session with local constituents at the Acadia café across the street from Plymouth Congregational. At her lunch immediately following her public statement of support for Lydia, Citizens picketed outside the cafe while their Godzilla held his own twenty four hour protest on the roof above. (Ch 1, p 8)