Thursday, November 21, 2013

Photo Tour of Tax Forfeitures, Continued

The first round of tax forfeiture photos were just the properties in Jordan, but I set out to chronicle all of the houses that the County will have in their possession if they aren't redeemed.  Neighborhood groups are typically asked to make one of three recommendations on such properties; either that we support the city's acquisition, that we recommend allowing the houses to go to an auction, or that we recommend the properties be withheld from auction for six months while an alternate use is determined.

Where that limited set of recommendations falls short is that we may not support what the city does with a property post-acquisition (not to mention that neither we nor the city may even know such things at this moment).  We certainly don't have reason to trust that the County will avoid selling to slumlords at auction.  And there's no way to know whether we'll find a good investor in six months or if that investor will even find the County to be a willing seller.

So in general, those three choices almost ought to be scrapped for a different system entirely--at least for distressed communities where the tax auction process invites a worse breed of buyers than other parts of Hennepin County.  What that process might look like is a topic for another post.  For now, we march on with the photo tour.  The above property is 3301 Oliver Avenue North, and then we have...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fall Round of Hennepin County Tax Forfeitures

It's that time of year again, where seasons may change but the risk of tax-forfeited properties being sold to slumlords does not.  A nineteen-page list of Minneapolis tax forfeitures was recently sent to neighborhood groups from the city of Minneapolis.  Credit where credit is due:  I've been critical of the city's policies surrounding vacant houses, but they've been a good partner on tax forfeitures.  Specifically, we used to get lists with only a few days to respond with neighborhood organizational positions on what to do with these houses and vacant lots.  The city really went to bat for our communities with the argument that this simply wasn't enough turnaround time.  Now we have until November 26th to submit comments.

The Jordan neighborhood has roughly two dozen such tax forfeitures, although for the purpose of this and subsequent blog posts, I will focus only on houses and not vacant land.  As I took a look at each Jordan property, like 2122 Ilion Ave N pictured above, I came to two conclusions.  There wasn't a single one I'd tear down (except the one that was already demolished by the time I got there), and there wasn't a single one I'd consider an acceptable slumlord acquisition.  So it's time to put our city and county government on notice:  We are watching how this process plays out, and it better result in a better north Minneapolis.

Jordan has a baker's dozen tax-forfeited properties with structures on them.  Twelve, technically, but the thirteenth was an arson-damaged home that was torn down after the list was generated.  Aside from the Ilion house, we have...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Blong Yang - First Choice for the Fifth Ward

Photo from
I first got to know Blong Yang when we worked together on a campaign to get a Hmong-speaking police officer on the day shift in north Minneapolis.  When he ran for Hennepin County Commissioner, I was looking for a candidate to support who was smart, level-headed, honest, and hadn't been responsible for foisting publicly-funded stadiums upon us.  Blong fit the bill.

While Blong didn't win that race, he ran a solid, respectable campaign that surprised a lot of folks.  He did very well especially in engaging new voters in north Minneapolis.  I was proud of him and proud of the work we did in that election.  So there should be no surprise that from day one I supported Blong Yang as my first choice for the open Fifth Ward City Council seat. 

On policy issues...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stephanie Woodruff Gets My 1st Vote

When I first heard of this previously unknown candidate throwing her hat in the ring, I was still wallowing in my disappointment that my preferred candidate was no longer in the running.  Why, I thought, didn't someone running as a Democrat avoid the DFL endorsement process entirely?  My initial reaction was to lump Stephanie Woodruff in with the two dozen or so other non-serious candidates.  But as I listened to more mayoral debates, as I read more about the candidates who piqued my interest, and as I spoke to more and more people across our city, Woodruff continued to impress.  The word of mouth from trusted friends and colleagues started to put her over the top.

What really changed my mind was after the north Minneapolis mayoral debate, where I wound up disagreeing with Stephanie over how to approach the Upper Harbor Terminal.  Yes, a disagreement over policy led to her getting my first vote...