Monday, August 27, 2012

The Blue Twins, Demolished!

Post and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The long-awaited demolition of Keith Reitman's "Blue Twins" at 2520 and 2522 Penn Avenue North happened last week, and fittingly, the video footage was a week in the making as well.  I won't bore readers with the technical details (okay, I will) but I used a new time-lapse program on my cell phone and it took a while to figure out how to merge all the different videos together.

Previous demolition posts have had 30-40 minutes of footage, spliced into a few different clips, with plenty of dead space in between (which I once filled by hula hooping).  This time around, we're speeding things up a bit and condensfing the good stuff into about a minute and a half of footage for easy viewing.

I spoke with the City inspector who was out watching the demo crew at work.  A keen eye will notice that the backhoe of doom employed here is kind of old and junky.  The City staffer said this particular crew didn't have the best equipment, but they get the job done pretty well.

A fitting end for Reitman's Blue Twins--they were demolished by "not the best, not the worst" demo crew.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Recount Complete, Dehn to Be Certified as Winner of 59B DFL Primary

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Apologies for the terrible photo of a photo.  I am still unpacking and cannot for the life of me find the cord for my camera.  Actual recount photos to be uploaded as soon as possible.

This morning I got my first taste of how an election recount is handled.  Turns out the process is a cure for insomnia.  To start, the rules were read so that everyone was clear on how the day would proceed.  This was an administrative recount only, and would be limited to whether ballots were counted properly for each candidate.  Voter eligibility or possible campaign violations would not be considered at this event.  Since no one apparently contested the election results, the recount is expected to be the final tally for the DFL primary and Dehn will emerge as the winner.

Amid my criticism of how the final days of the election played out, I said that the time would come when we unite as a party and as a community and move forward.  For those of us voting on the DFL ticket at least, that time is now.

The chance for the recount being overturned were slim--the vast majority of ballots were counted correctly the first time.  For the ballots that weren't, those would very likely be statistically representative of the election as a whole.  So once the rules were explained, we got to the actual ballot counting itself, which was sort of like watching someone else check out a library book but less exciting because it took all day.  Even though the observers' area was full, hardly anyone spoke.  The ballot counters announced each ward and precinct, ceremoniously unsealed the ballots, and counted away.  Actual challenges to the ballots were quite rare, but did happen once while I was present...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recount in 59B

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from Terra Cole's campaign website.

There will be a recount in the 59B DFL primary.  Raymond Dehn beat Terra Cole by 19 votes - a margin of victory of just 0.8%.  The automatic threshold for a recount is 0.5%.  Because the margin of victory exceeds the automatic recount, the contesting party must foot the bill.  So if you support a recount, you can put your money behind that support through a donation on the campaign website.

A recount, however, is fairly limited in scope.  It will only verify that the votes cast were properly attributed to each candidate.  As such, overcoming even a 0.8% deficit would be rather difficult.  A recount will not verify voter eligibility; doing so would take a formal contest of the election.  Such a contest can only be filed by a voter in the district in question.  For the record, I live on the opposite side of the street and fall under the jurisdiction of 59A.  If I were in 59B, I'd have already filed an election contest - if the Cole campaign were amenable to such a maneuver.  That's because according to state law, a contest to an election can consider things like...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pre-Demo Peek Inside Reitman's Blue Twin Houses

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Wednesday night as I came home, the back door to 2522 Penn Avenue North was left open.  I tried yet another unsuccessful 311 mobile app report, and then waited until the morning.  On Thursday morning, the door remained off its hinges.  More accurately, the BOARD over the space where a responsible property owner would have PUT a door remained ripped off and on the ground.  So I called in the violation to 311.  Because it was already a City-owned property, my call was forwarded directly to a person responsible for handling boarded City properties.

I explained to this woman that I live right across the street from this house and that there were still things like radiators left inside the place.  So for my safety, could she pretty please get it boarded back up right away?  And if not for my sake then for that of the demo contractors, who have salvage rights to whatever the slumlord former owner left behind.  By the end of the day, the board had been nailed back on.

Before that happened, I took the opportunity to see what a Reitman-neglected (a redundant term, I know) property looked like on the inside.  I didn't cross the threshold--although oh how I wanted to.  I merely walked up to the door aperture and peered in to snap a few photos.  There were no "No Trespassing" signs posted, I didn't remain on the premises long enough to constitute "lurking," there is no expectation of privacy at a condemned, vacant property, and I stayed on the legal side of the threshold.  Are all my bases covered here?  Good enough.

I see a property that at one point was a cute little place.  Much has been stripped away, and even now it might be salvageable under the right ownership.  And although the City of Minneapolis could try and find that right owner, this one is far enough gone that I won't lament its pending demise.  That demise, by the way, is set to happen sometime early next week.  Let's hope that 2520 Penn, still owned by Reitman, comes down with it.

How to Set Up a Non-Profit Website (So That You Don't Make a Profit)

Post and screen shots by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I've heard all sorts of great things about the Venture North bike shop, but I hadn't made my way over there yet.  Admittedly, part of my reluctance is because of their non-profit status.  I just want an actual bike shop over north, not something tied to the next round of government or foundation assistance (their website does state that they're "self-supporting" though).  So I've grumbled about yet another non-profit and used that as an excuse to go elsewhere.

Now my bike is in need of a tuneup and I thought I'd pick up some LED lighting for when I'm biking at night.  I thought it would be time to just get over some of my hangups and patronize Venture North while they're here.  So I went to their website to see what kinds of products and services they sell.  That's when I saw...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The 19-Vote Victory

Post and stock photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

In the game of cribbage, nineteen points is an impossible score.  When a player gets a worthless hand with zero points, the running joke among experts and novices alike is that they pegged nineteen points.  So when Raymond Dehn led Terra Cole by nineteen votes after a series of last-minute dirty campaign tricks, the card player in me immediately compared his margin to that point total in cribbage.

I have been so disgusted by what I have seen over the past week that I have gone so far as to call the victory "illegitimate."  That word was chosen carefully, as there is no way that I could more strongly articulate my distaste for the final days of the campaign in 59B.  But if all I wanted to do was complain about who won, or hurl insults across the political aisle, then frankly it would be best for me and others like me to be silent.  There will come a time--soon--where it will be appropriate for everyone to set aside differences and accept whatever the results of this election are.  That time has not yet arrived.

Before we get there, I believe several things need to happen.  First off...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

311 Mobile App Still Glitchy

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I love the ability to report issues to 311 with a few taps of a button and swipes on a screen, but the connection between my phone and the system is inconsistent at best.  As reported on Johnny Northside, my first several attempts at using the app were rather anti-climactic.  I would consistently get the message, "Connection Error Occurred.  Unable To Finish Uploading R..."  I recently had my phone system wiped and restored, so I know it's not my individual phone that's having problems.  At times, I've submitted a report repeatedly because of connection problems, only to get multiple confirmations of the same submission.

Earlier today, I attempted to report graffiti at 3120 Emerson Avenue North, and got this message three times.  I have yet to successfully submit this report.

The other problem I'm encountering with the system is more of a question of semantics.  311 mobile app reports are handled through a site called SeeClickFix.  There are a series of choices for what kind of issue you'd like to report, but often things like a cracked sidewalk or deflated balloons/moldy teddy bears/empty liquor bottles around a tree don't fit into the simpler categories.  There's the catch-all "other issues" button for that.  But then when that report gets submitted, someone at 311 has to assign it to the proper department.  Once that assignment has been made, SeeClickFix sends out a notification that the issue has been "resolved."

But "resolved" to me and to most people means resolved.  As in the problem no longer exists because somebody did something to resolve it.  I like the notification that it's been properly assigned, but the app would work better if the notifications that get sent out are more accurate in their depiction of where the issue is in the resolution process.  Otherwise users are likely to go out and report the same issue over and over again, with the assumption that the City mistakenly considers the matter fixed.

The 311 app is a great new tool, but it's not quite where it needs to be yet.

Olympic Cafe to Open New Location!

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The Olympic Cafe has made a believer out of me.  I started off quite skeptical about their appeal to open for extended hours.  They've run a good enough business to alleviate many of my concerns, and every time I've been in there I've been treated well.  Olympic is also one of the growing number of eateries that is ignoring the stigma of the northside and will deliver.  Many fine evenings spent porch-sitting with friends have been saved when we could call Olympic and get several orders of gyros with extra sauce brought right to our doorstep.

In fact, Olympic has expanded their delivery service.  It used to be that you'd have to spend $20 or more to get delivery, but now smaller orders can be brought to you for a $2.00 charge.  Olympic Cafe is opening a new location on the northside, and the photo above was taken from my dining room window, in hopes that they'll come to Penn and Broadway.

Leslie Davis, Sign Spammer

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I've only met perennial candidate Leslie Davis a handful of times.  His "Earth Protector" ideas range from possibly interesting to laughable to downright financially disastrous.  But the guy does know how to make a spectacle of himself at public meetings.  He's got chutzpah, and there's no denying that he can be entertaining.

That brazen attitude led to his placement of campaign signs on Hennepin County property.  The former Kowalski's site at 44th and Humboldt, now owned by the county, was sporting some Davis for Commissioner campaign signs.  That takes a special kind of guts.  Running for Hennepin County Commissioner and illegally placing your campaign paraphernalia on county property is a pretty brazen act.

Well others can be brazen too.  Since there was a polling place a half a block away, I took the liberty of removing the signs so that people wouldn't be influenced by them in any way.  On my bike ride home, I saw quite a few more Davis for Commissioner signs on telephone poles where they had no business being.  But I couldn't remove them because there was no trash bin nearby and the signs were too large to carry around on a bicycle.

Leslie Davis, you are a sign spammer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dirty Campaign Tricks Continue in 59B

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Today voters in 59B received four mailers that all appear to be tied to the Raymond Dehn campaign.  One was from MAPE, another from AFSCME, and the final two from an entity called "Minneapolis Democrats for Truth."  Those two were blatant attack ads against fellow contender Ian Alexander.  It appears to me that these mailings were done by the same party or at least in overt coordination with one another.  There are several revealing factors that would hint at such a conclusion.  For instance...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Big House on Hillside, Connected to THE Big House

Post and bottom photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, top photo contributed.

The mansion at 1522 Hillside Avenue North has long been a gateway property with the potential to set the tone for the rest of one of the Northside's most picturesque blocks.  However, for the past several years, the house near the corner of Hillside and Irving Ave N has sat vacant.  1522 was carved up, from an expansive single-family home into an eight-unit rental monstrosity.

The locals along Hillside will tell you that after it went vacant, the place became a flophouse for transvestite hookers.  There are two ways to confirm that tidbit of information.  One involves reenacting scenes from "The Crying Game" or "Funky Cold Medina," and the other is achieved by reading the police reports and finding a statistical over-representation of men being arrested there.  I'm guessing the good people of Hillside went with the latter route.

Eventually that was shut down, and the empty home has been slouching towards demolition ever since.  It went into tax forfeiture, was transferred to the city of Minneapolis, and had a date with a bulldozer.  While utilities were being disconnected, a new benefactor approached the city and asked to purchase the house.  That person is...

Friday, August 3, 2012

311 App Already Delivers Results

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

On July 18 I made my first attempt at reporting graffiti using the new Minneapolis 311 smartphone app.  It did not go as planned.  Glitches with the Android operating system kept my report from being filed for ten days.  I was unable to upload the report for ten days.  The system successfully recorded my report of graffiti at the spot indicated above on the evening of July 28th.  By the evening of Friday, August 3rd, the violation had been abated.  So the city responded and took care of the problem in less time than it took for me to successfully report it.

Now if that same turnaround time exists when the bugs are complete, our city crews will be on par with Jimmy Johns sandwich deliveries.