There’s been a lot of recent discussion about who leads Minneapolis’ neighborhood organizations. As in, are they diverse enough? This is an important question. But we should also be asking who and how many are voting for those leaders. We don’t have an answer for the who (I would advocate for a simple demographic survey for annual meeting attendees). But, in a first-of-its-kind analysis of never-before-cared-about numbers, we can finally tell you how many.
To give an idea of the universe of politically engaged residents, I have listed neighborhood turnout for mid-term and off-year elections (famously low turnout). It should be noted that LHENA’s 2015 election was particularly well-contested. There were two distinct, motivated factions and lots of candidates (15). People tell me that in other neighborhoods, great leaders are the ones who grudgingly say, “Fine, I’ll do it.” Not so in the Wedge! Selecting who stands between our neighborhood and annihilation is serious business.
Which is all to say, this might be a comparatively optimistic model of neighborhood association participation, rather than a typical example of what happens citywide. When reached for comment about low participation rates, newly elected (maybe?) LHENA Board Member John Edwards said, “If we want to claim a mandate from our neighborhood’s nearly 7,000 residents, we should look to find ways to make ourselves more relevant, and participation less of a burden.” [full disclosure: John Edwards is the owner of this blogspot and the author of this post]
Methodology: The number of LHENA voters are estimates I’ve seen reported by Board Members; these estimates are consistent with my own experience. In the case of 2015, a look at the actual vote totals indicates that 125 may be an overestimate: 792 votes / 7 votes per person = ~114 ballots cast (I’m sure there were undervotes and a few un-tallied write-ins for Nicole Curtis).
Though voting at LHENA does not require you to be a registered Minnesota voter, it’s a better baseline than “All Residents” for the number of people who might conceivably want to include themselves in the political process. In calculating LHENA turnout, total registered voters are from the previous November’s city/state/federal election.
There is now a tie for the sixth and final two-year term, between Sara Romanishan and John Edwards (me). As the LHENA bylaws do not specify a formal tie-breaking procedure, President Foreman has called for a community vote on May 20, at 6 pm, to decide whether to add an additional seat to the Board of Directors. President Foreman notified me on Sunday morning that she was rescinding my LHENA-provided security detail pending a bylaw change.
The rule of thumb for recounts is that the candidate with the most transient/lazy/uneducated supporters will gain votes. It’s possible that some of Mr. Cowgill’s Millennial voters marked their ballots using emojis, which may have confused vote counters. Another rule of thumb about recounts is that winners do not request them (we’re currently looking for a new @WedgeLIVE Senior Producer).
We leave it to the League of Women Voters to interpret this ballot.
Because our recent LHENA board election was so extremely close, LHENA staff recommended a recount of the ballots. We asked the League of Women Voters and Neighborhood and Community Relations to assist us in a recount which was completed earlier this week. The recount resulted in a change to the board membership. Jono Cowgill is a new board member. Welcome Jono! Saralyn Romanishan and John Edwards tied for the remaining board seat. LHENA bylaws have no stated policies in terms of what to do in the case of a tie. In order to come to a speedy resolution, I would like to call a special meeting of the members to meet before our next board meeting on Wednesday May 20th at 6:00pm at Jefferson School Media Center, for the purpose of adding one two-year term board seat bringing the total board membership up to 12 members. This would allow for both John and Sara to be on the board. After the special meeting, the board will meet for the regular monthly board meeting and elect officers. I am excited to harness the talent and energy of the new and the returning board members. The Lowry HIll East Neighborhood Association encourages the participation of all residents. The results of the recount supervised by the League of Women Voters are: 2 Year Term – six seats open Katie Jones Schmitt – 82 – Board Seat Beth Harrington – 61 – Board Seat Paul Ryan – 58 – Board Seat Michael Friedman – 56 – Board Seat Jono Cowgill – 55 – Board Seat John Edwards – 54 Tie Saralyn Romanishan – 54 Tie Nathan Jorgenson – 52 Sue Bode- 49 Ryan Goeken – 46 Mark Greenwald – 45 Jeff Juul – 41 Erik Ernst – 37 One Year Term – one seat open Frank Brown – 53 – Board Seat Scott Hargarten – 49
Thank you. Leslie Foreman President Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association
Council Member Lisa Bender speaks at LHENA’s 2015 annual meeting.
Last week, in an effort to get others elected to LHENA’s Board of Directors, I failed miserably and got myself elected instead. Turnout was surprisingly high. I thought we were doomed, but strange new faces began arriving later in the evening, closer to the advertised election time, providing hope.
A lady in the front row was moved to ask if candidates would be required to announce their homeowner/renter status (that was weird). The composition of the room affected one incumbent, whose speech turned into a concession, with a reference to her age being a political handicap. But in the end, we were still kind of doomed. Demographics weren’t favorable enough. I blame baseball, amazing weather, and cool kids with better things to do.
In an attempt to bring the neighborhood together, new LHENA Board Member @johneapolis has asked to be sworn in on Healy’s copy of the Koran. — Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) April 17, 2015
Last week’s election also raises some questions. 1. Why?I ask myself the same question.
2. Was Meg giving you dirty looks the whole evening?You’re just paranoid.
3.What do you consider to be your campaign’s “Game Change” moment? Had to be when a group of older gentlemen got a hold of our slate of candidates and started passing around a handwritten list of names. It probably didn’t cost us any votes, but it was funny. 4. What happens to your social media empire?Financial managers have placed my entire stake in wedgelive.com and @WedgeLIVE into a blind trust. While I will continue to own 100% of this blogspot, I will have no idea that this is the case.
5. Will you continue to live-tweet LHENA Board meetings?My new circumstances likely make high-volume live-tweeting a thing of the past. That doesn’t mean there won’t be breaking news to report from time to time.
6. When are you moving to Whittier? My lease is up in September… Just kidding. I pledge to serve my entire term, and grow enough gray hairs by the end of those two stress-filled years to pass for a long-time resident.
7. Your political role model?Marco Rubio. I’m prepared to be the young-ish, mediocre, political hotshot on the receiving end of overly generous descriptions, such as “good looking” and “articulate” and “has hair” and “makes words with his mouth.”
8. What details are important to preserve for historians looking back 45 years from now? Seven LHENA Board seats were up for grabs in 2015. They included seats held by the following: Michael Roden, Sara Romanishan, Sue Bode, Paul Ryan, Kyle Kilbourn, Shae Walker, and Burt Coffin. There were roughly 15 candidates to fill those seats.
Re-elected were Sara Romanishan and Paul Ryan. Sue Bode came up short. Michael Roden was lost to transiency. Kyle, Shae and Burt retired to become lobbyists probably. LHENA’s five new Board Members are: Michael Friedman, Frank Brown, Beth Harrington, Katie Jones-Schmitt, and John Edwards. They join Leslie Foreman, Tim Dray, Bill Neumann, and Becky Dernbach on the 11 member Board. Those four will be up for re-election in 2016, along with the seat of Frank Brown, who was elected to a one-year term.
Analysis: The North Wedge Historic District has a whole lotta yard signs. Meanwhile, in the South Wedge Transient District there are many fewer yard signs. Experts say this could lead to fewer people of South Wedge descent being aware of the annual meeting, or knowing that LHENA exists in the first place. I’ve met more than a few South Wedge residents who thought they lived in Whittier or CARAG. Stay tuned to @WedgeLIVE to see how this impacts Wednesday’s results.
Last fall, the @WedgeLIVE news team spent an insane number of hours in the remarkably luxurious and well-equipped Special Collections room of the Minneapolis Central Library, doing what no one else thought possible or necessary: scanning nearly 40 years of the Wedge neighborhood newspaper going back to 1970.
Now that I’ve mined it for all the blog material it was worth (and used up all the old unredeemed coupons for Tuthill’s General Store), we’re releasing it to the neighborhood. Check out the archive. It’s more historic than a Healy house.
Print it out. Denny may still be legally bound to honor this coupon.
Many talented and dedicated people put a lot of work into this paper over the last 45 years. It’s an amazing resource. But if you’re too lazy to lift a finger to browse the full archive (I’m looking at you, renters), I’ve condensed decades of accumulated neighborhood knowledge to a manageable number of bullet points.
Some writers had distinctively quirky typewriters. Herb Mueller (of the Mueller Park Muellers) appears to have had the most historic typewriter.
Some people used to refer to the neighborhood as East Lowry Hill. This explains the acronym of LHENA’s now-defunct rival gang: ELHCO. Also, some people used to refer to “KEN” with sarcastic quotes, possibly to indicate he was hiding his real name.
Alright “Ken”–you say your last name ends in a chant of “USA”? We’re not buying it.
“The Wedgies” was a cartoon featuring a Wedge-shaped married couple (unfortunately, not a continuing series).
Next panel: “That’s not a hotel, it’s a former boarding house you converted to single-family. You owe me $200 for historic repairs.”
This old political ad fills me with transient pride. Who needs a wife and kids when you can tout your amazing “roommate”? This goes both for euphemistic and platonic roommates.
Consult your pharmacist before mixing the Wedge newspaper with any other reading material. I once combined these old articles with a dose of current neighborhood Facebook, causing me to hallucinate a wild theory that the author of this headline is the same literary mind behind the “IRRE-PLACE-ABLE” yard signs.
For the previous installment of the LHENA Loans Saga see this post.
Here’s the new proposal from last month’s board meeting, which completely disregards the spirit of what was done in November. All the “free” money (0%, forgivable), and the resistance of some folks to placing income restrictions on that free money, is something I have always found puzzling. It occurred to me today to do the math on the distribution of housing money broken down by building size.
I often point out that we’re an 80%-plus renter neighborhood. Of course, some of those renters live in 1-4 unit buildings (duplexes, triplexes, etc). But 68% of people in Lowry Hill East live in buildings containing more than four units, and that number includes a lot of homeowners living in condos. Despite this, only 21% of housing money is going specifically to buildings larger than four units.
Here’s another odd number: among the funds ($500,814) devoted to 1-4 unit buildings, $166,943 is forgivable. Even this smaller slice of forgivable money is more (by $8) than the total amount ($166,935) set aside for buildings larger than four units.
In addition to the problem of unbalanced allocation, I still say owners of historic, half-million-dollar Healy mansions should have to pay the money back at 3% like the rest of the neighborhood. If you agree, come to tonight’s LHENA meeting: 7 PM, Jefferson media center.
It’s usually not reasonable to expect celebrities to be responsible for the actions of their fans, or for anyone to be held responsible for a few crazies in their comment section. But I think the demonization of Lisa Bender is getting out of hand. Seriously.
UPDATE: Comments taken from these posts (from Feb 25, 26): 1, 2, 3.
What is “Girard”? Curtis’s HGTV colleagues (rivals?) at Renovate to Rent have proposed a new development for 2811 Girard. The plan, which fits within current zoning, was met with enthusiastic support from the neighborhood association. Scandal seems unlikely, but maybe the home improvement icon has a trail of emails up her sleeve.
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.