Thursday, January 31, 2013

Four-Car Crash and Federal Warrants, and Slumlords, Oh My!

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Thanks to providence, or a higher power, or a school bus and dumb luck, I narrowly avoided being the fifth car in a four-car crash that involved a fugitive with a federal warrant, a nurse, and a retreat to a slumlord's house.  I was on my way to the post office, heading north on Queen when a southbound school bus stopped with its arm out and lights on.  I wasn't sure if it was legal for me to turn in either direction, so I waited at the stop sign.

That's when a car, the Continental pictured above, came zooming up behind me and...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Approach to Tax Forfeitures

Post and stock photo (of a tax-forfeited property) by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The previous post outlined the problem of tax-forfeited properties in north Minneapolis being scooped up by slumlords.  A good discussion happened on the North Talk Facebook page that helped shape a few ideas for a solution.  What follows is based on my current understanding of the issue, and may change as things develop.

But as it stands now, the first concern is that the resale of tax forfeitures is heavily skewed towards the expansion of problem properties in our community.  The houses are sold as-is, they are not listed on the MLS (because apparently the County cannot or will not contract with a Realtor to list them), open houses are held, but attended almost exclusively by landlords, flippers, and fools.  Out of those prospective buyers, bids are placed at the auction, and the financing mechanism of 10% down and ten yearly payments makes it too easy for bad actors to add to their inventory.

The City of Minneapolis and approved development partners do often pick up some homes, but the majority are left to the auction process.  Changing that process seems daunting at first, because...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tax Forfeitures are a Slumlord Pipeline

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

On my occasional forays downtown, I like to stop by the Hennepin County Government Center to look into property histories.  Today's curiosity involved properties repossessed by Hennepin County through tax forfeiture.  One in particular piqued my interest, as it is in my community.  The condemned house was purchased for the amazingly low sum of $11,000 in December of last year.

But that's not the whole story, nor even the most infuriating part.  No, what truly amazed me was that the buyer didn't REALLY pay $11,000.  Instead, he put down just...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'd Like Public Art That Isn't So Depressing (Before I Die)

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

On the corner of Penn and Lowry a multi-paneled chalkboard has been erected, with the inscription "Before I Die."  I'm not sure exactly what the sponsors or creators were going for, but it feels to me like they really missed the mark.  Is this meant to be uplifting or inspiring?, it's not, really.  There are other ways to describe goals we want to accomplish in our lives.  "Bucket list" comes to mind, and while that might not be something younger people use, it at least conveys a sense of a full life and dying of old age and hanging out with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  Or is the display meant to draw our attention to the fact that people are indeed dying in our community?  If that's its intent then it should almost be MORE stark in making such a point.

Among the people I've talked to about the sign, there has been a pretty consistent response:  "What's that on the corner?  'Before I die'?  Why is that...oh, because this is north Minneapolis, where there have been, how many homicides now?"  On the bright side, after seeing this sign I have no need to go home and watch the death of Artax in "The Neverending Story."  (Come on, fellow nerds, you know this is the most depressing scene in cinematic history.)

I'm piling on here and I really don't mean to be overly critical.  It's clear the intent behind this is good.  But couldn't we have had an inscription like, "In my life, I want to..." instead?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Housing Sign Spam Removed

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Its' been a while since my last concerted effort at sign spam removal.  A few houses throughout north Minneapolis, especially in Hawthorne, have been plastered with such "we buy houses" spam.  Since these homes are owned by Urban Homeworks, Hennepin County, and other such partners, I took the liberty of removing the signs.

The parties responsible are...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

311 Won't Accept Reports on County Properties

 Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Paint is peeling from the 800 West Broadway building, the former future home of the YWCA.  While chipped paint isn't generally cause for a blog post, the condition of this property brings up an ongoing issue with our 311 system.  Some friends of mine tried calling this in to 311 and were told the report wouldn't be filed because...

Koenig Bankruptcy Update - Vegas Baby!

Post and stock photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Every once in a while I wonder how my arch nemesis' long, slow fall from grace is going.  Over Christmas break, Johnny Northside poked around on PACER and sent along some updates.  Live links to documents will be procured as soon as I can get them, but for now I can tell readers that in conjunction with Dream Homes co-conspirators David and Sharon Kohlenberger, there is a $32,000 judgment filed against a Koenig LLC in Las Vegas.

Plaintiff William A. Leonard filed a claim against...