Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How I'd Fix the Orth House Process Shortcomings

First off, I have to give major credit to my council member Blong Yang over the Orth House.  This isn't because of his vote, although he was one of two to vote against its demolition.  It's because after my last post, he did something that should be far less rare among our elected officials:  he responded publicly and directly.

On my personal Facebook page, he posted a link to the Zoning and Planning meeting where the Orth House demolition appeal was granted.  At issue for the preservationists has been a sense that the appeal wasn't handled in a fair enough manner.  The city staff position was not in favor of a historic designation that would have made demolition far more difficult for the owner to obtain.  And while the staff person did present the Heritage Preservation Committee position, and in some detail, many feel that position was not defended as vigorously as it should have been.

There are two reasons why a better defense of the Orth House was warranted, and one way that similar situations can be avoided in the future.  First...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Years Later, Terrell Mayes Jr.'s Murder Still Unsolved

It's been three years, two months, and twenty-three days since Terrell Mayes was killed by a stray bullet.  Sixty thousand dollars in award money has been added to that time, but we are still waiting for enough information that leads us to his killer.  About a week and a half ago, Terrell's mother posted in North Talk that nothing has been happening regarding this tragedy.  I gave my word that I would write up a post.  I'm late on publishing it, but there are personal reasons why this is a difficult post to write.

A little over a year ago--January 10th, 2014 to be exact--I received news that my ex-wife's youngest son passed away unexpectedly.  While he wasn't my biological son, I loved him as if he were my own.  I can't, or won't, go into great details about his passing, other than to say this:  There are at least two people who bear some responsibility in his death.  It is highly unlikely that those two will face justice for their actions.

So when I think of Terrell, it's personal to me on a level that it wasn't before.  Everyone grieves differently, and every loss is different.  So although I can't say I know exactly what his family is going through, I can say I know what it's like when...

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Bully Blog, the Appeal that Wasn't, and the Blocked by Betsy Club

Photo from jokideo.com

Last weekend, the tempest in a teapot known as the Orth House reached a boiling point.  Again.  For those who have no context, "The Orth House" was a home built by famed local architect TP Healy.  It was recently demolished in favor of higher density, although local preservationists, aided by TV show host Nicole Curtis, made a spirited effort to save it from the landfill.  Curtis, by the way, is a resident of the ward in Minneapolis where the Orth House once sat.

During this campaign, Curtis has publicly called out the council member, Lisa Bender, for her role in the demolition.  Now I don't know exactly how those two feel about each other, but I have heard that if they were in close proximity to one another, any object placed between them would immediately burst into flames.  So yeah, things are not so good.

Into that fray, we add a self-described "amateur journalist"  (My emphasis on amateur) who runs a blog known as either "Wedge Live" or "The Wedge Times Picayune."  This blog fabricated a thread of Curtis's Facebook page members' comments, but only the really bad ones.  The "worst of" list was done in such a way that to the untrained eye--mine and at least a few Minneapolis council members included--this appeared to be one long profanity-laced rant that escalated rather quickly.

And THAT, in turn, led to our esteemed mayor calling on Nicole Curtis to apologize to Council Member Bender and to the city of Minneapolis as a whole.  Curtis issued a plea for civility while admitting it is virtually impossible to monitor 700,000 commenters.  Then only after it was pointed out that this was not in fact one Facebook thread did the Wedge Live blog issue an update informing us that it was a compilation.

Which is where we stand today.  I'm reminded of what my pragmatic brain sometimes wanders to when watching action-packed movies like "The Avengers."  Iron Man and the Hulk are duking it out, knocking over buildings and throwing around cars, and you just KNOW there's a janitor somewhere yelling, "Maaaaan, who's going to clean this UP???"

Well, that's what this blog is for, to wade through the wreckage and make some sense of it all.  We start with...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Queen Avenue Bike Path Presents Its Own Set of Problems

Today a fellow northside biker and I traversed the most likely alternative to a Penn Avenue bike lane, as we went from Highway 394 all the way up to 44th Avenue North.  We have both been regular attendees at the Penn Avenue Community Works meetings, but this was our first time actually going along the route.  While Penn presents its own set of challenges for bike lanes, Queen is far from an ideal alternative.

In fact, after this experience (in a car, so that we could more easily and quickly make an account of the corridor and because it's February) I would push back to our policymakers and elected officials.  Either we're serious about getting a north/south bike corridor somewhere between the proposed Humboldt/Irving Greenway and Theo Wirth, or we're not.  If the political will and funding aren't there to do it right (even on Queen, which in my book doesn't meet the criteria) then tell us now and stop wasting everyone's time.

If we ARE serious about biking amenities on the corridor, then the first question is...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bus Rapid Transit Delayed on Penn Ave N (And Why That's a Good Thing)

Disclaimer:  I serve on the Penn Avenue Community Works committee as a delegate on behalf of the Jordan neighborhood.  The only formal position JACC has taken on the Penn Bus Rapid Transit is that there be an additional stop in Jordan besides the Broadway and Lowry stations.  If JACC takes additional positions, I will work to implement them as long as I am on the committee as a Jordan delegate.

The Penn Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project, also known as the C Line, had recently picked up quite a bit of momentum.  In late 2014, we were informed that the BRT line in St. Paul (B Line) was not moving forward as quickly as anticipated.  That potentially freed up funding to allow detailed design to begin in 2015 with construction on the C Line in 2016.  At recent Penn Avenue meetings, we were operating under the hope that this funding and construction schedule would take place.

But there is an entity called the Transportation Advisory Board that makes programming decisions for these funds, and at their January 21st meeting they decided...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Case of the Sign Spam Assault Comes to a Close

Last summer, I was assaulted as I was taking down sign spam in front of my house.  After the initial blog post, I held off on writing about the progress of the incident, wanting to see how it would play out.  The case has now come to a close, and my charges were dismissed.  That's not entirely a bad thing, as will be shown later.  But first, a brief recap:

I was sitting on my front porch, watching the world go by one summer evening when I saw a van pull up and plaster the light poles with sign spam for upcoming concerts at a downtown venue.  It dawned on me then that I hadn't taken down that stuff for a while, and my whole corner was looking kind of ugly.  So I went out and ripped off that sign and others that were taped to the four posts on my corner.

Well, the perpetrator didn't like that, confronted me, threatened to both assault and rob me, and then actually did throw a punch.  He then hopped into his getaway vehicle--the 19 bus line.  I got on after him, and informed the bus driver that I had called 911, then removed myself from the situation.  He was caught a few moments later and brought back to my house, where the helpful MPD officers walked me through my first citizen's arrest.

Since then...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Sheltering Arms House Rehab is Complete

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

There are photos of the interior at the end of this post, for those of you who may want to skip my ramblings and get to the best part.

The Sheltering Arms House, at 2648 Emerson Ave N, had a pre-open house on Saturday.  For those looking to read up on the recent history of this house, most of that was covered first on Johnny Northside, and later on this blog - each hyperlink will take you to that blog's "Sheltering Arms" search results.

In short, however, the home was built in 1891 as an orphanage for the Sheltering Arms Orphanage.  It is believed to be the first or among the first orphanages away from the main campus on the Mississippi riverfront.  The orphanage was the precursor to what is now the Sheltering Arms Foundation.

It's worth repeating that the Sheltering Arms was run by a group of twenty-five Episcopalian nuns, dedicated to serving needy children "without regard to race, color, or creed."  A women-run organization with that mission in eighteen ninety-one is a part of this city's history that most definitely needed to be preserved.

In a smaller sense, this house had its own place in north Minneapolis history as well.  That's because...