Monday, April 29, 2013

Preservation is Affordable Housing

There are times when I'm asked how it is that I seem to have a different reason for keeping a house from demolition each time the prospect comes up.  Well, it's because there are so many more reasons to save a house than there are reasons to tear it down.  A case in point is 3019 Knox Avenue North, pictured above.

The city is considering acquisition for the purpose of demolition and holding the land.  Because how can there be a housing crisis if there aren't any houses?  I don't know, maybe that's their logic.  In any case, this house clearly is in need of repair.  But doing so, even using the city's own numbers, creates housing that's far more affordable than new construction--although building new isn't even on the horizon at this point.

Let's do some math.  It'll be fun, I promise.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

No Reolutions at Precinct Caucuses Shuts Out North Minneapolis Voices

The DFL held its precinct caucuses this last week, and for the first time in recent memory Minneapolis did not entertain resolutions as part of the process.  Although in a previous post I poked fun at resolutions as a confusing part of an evening that has its share of eccentricities, resolutions are an important piece of how political values are set.  The reason we were given for the lack of resolutions was that since this is an odd-numbered year with no senate district or statewide conventions, resolutions have "nowhere to go."  But I keep on subtracting four years from 2013, and as far back as I can go, the years always seem to come as odd numbers.  And we've done these in previous city elections, so what gives?

A quick primer on resolutions:  these are statements submitted at the precinct caucus level, with the intent, hope, or Quixotic dream that they will become part of the party platform.  They can be simple statements, like "End all wars," or flowery credos full of "whereas-es" and "therefore be it resolved that..."  A resolutions committee takes all of the submissions and sorts them into categories based on topic and duplicates and how badly some of the writers appear to need medication. 

At the next convention, delegates vote on which resolutions pass muster.  The ones that make it all the way can then be used to measure how well potential candidates match up with party values when they are seeking endorsement.  The process can be cumbersome, but it does allow for grassroots movements to define broader political values.

The removal of resolutions in their entirety this year harms the party by keeping new ideas and new energy from being fully utilized.  Even worse, communities like north Minneapolis--or areas with immigrant or other new voters--are disproportionately affected.

Here's how:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Comprehensive Guide to Sort of Understanding the Precinct Caucus

On Tuesday, April 16, most Minnesota political parties will be holding their precinct caucuses.  For the political neophytes, which is most of us, the precinct caucuses can be confusing and counter-intuitive.  Well, I'm here to help.  By the end of this blog post, you will realize that, far from being confusing and counter-intuitive, the precinct caucus system is actually quite tedious and nonsensical.  But at least you'll know how to slog through one and why they're important.

And a quick disclaimer: I have been and will continue to be active in the DFL party.  The process I'm describing is what typically happens at those caucuses, and could be different if you ascribe to other political persuasions.  You can find your DFL caucus location by going to the Minneapolis DFL homepage, clicking on the Secretary of State pollfinder link to find your ward and precinct, and then lining that up with the caucus location on the homepage.  See?  When just finding your location is a multi-step process, that's a sign of what's to come.

So Democrats in Minnesota endorse their candidates through a two-step process:  caucuses and conventions.  A precinct caucus is where you sign up to be a delegate to the conventions.  Only delegates can vote at the party's ward or citywide conventions.  If a candidate seeking DFL endorsement gets enough votes at the second event, he or she gets the party nod and DFL resources can be directed to that specific campaign.  In years when we have presidential or gubernatorial elections, a "preference poll" is taken to gauge which of those candidates have party support.

Some people come to the caucuses just to cast a vote in those preference polls.  This year there likely won't be such a poll, so attendees will largely be people who want to be delegates, people who want to put their time in on the inner workings of party politics, or both.  If you're going on behalf of a candidate, there is a very simple set of instructions to remember.  1.  Show up at 6:30.  2.  Wait until delegates and alternates are selected.  3.  Say you want to be a delegate.  4.  Fill out the proper forms and stay until the chair of the event says delegates can leave.

For the more detailed breakdown...

Friday, April 5, 2013

We Can Do Better Than 100 New Rental Properties

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, stock photo originally from the Irving Inquisition blog.

Before delving into why that is, I should first disclose that today is my last day as Housing Director of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council.  And I believe the private market, not non-profits, is poised to take the lead on revitalizing our community--if we let it.

While private rehabbers and new owners are chipping away at the shell they've been in, here comes a new program that could keep that from happening.  Urban Homeworks and PPL are working to buy up 100 north Minneapolis houses and convert them to rentals, albeit temporarily.  The plan after two years will be to sell them back to owner-occupants, and use the interim period to do credit repair and other work with their clients.  This is an initiative I fully and wholeheartedly support.  Except for the part about rental properties.  And there being 100 of them.  And the involvement of Urban Homeworks and PPL.  Other than that, it's great.

Now if this seems like I oppose the project in its entirety, I assure you that's not the case.  Allow me to explain...