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2003 Columns
Quarter 2: April thru June ~ Columns #2 - #6

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June 18, 2003 Column #7: A Possible Summer of Discontent

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

A number of issues continue to capture our attention, including the Target closing in North Minneapolis, the Civil Rights Commission, the Civilian Review Authority, the continued war on young African American males, and Holmanns/Heritage Park.

Regarding Target: two groups, one led by Clarence Hightower and the other by CM Don Samuels, are working hard together to salvage something economically for the North side community in order to bring about a renaissance of West Broadway. In the meantime, disturbing discoveries have been made regarding Target’s purchase of the land 23 years ago. Have you heard of Broadway Lyndale, Inc.? It was a neighborhood corporation formed around 1978/79/80, depending on who you listen to, which received the land from the city and then sold it to Target. One of the great mysteries is this: who were the principals of Broadway Lyndale, Inc.? A title search seeks that answer.

We well remember that 1980-01 period, when, as Chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, we held public hearings on economic development (or lack thereof) in North Minneapolis and throughout the City of Minneapolis. There are interesting documents that should still be in a file cabinet of the city, documents that would reveal who comprised Broadway Lyndale, Inc. The City Council archives have the minutes and transcripts of those public hearings held 23 years ago that looked at the mismanagement of economic development in North Minneapolis. Stay tuned.

The Civilian Review Authority needs 7 members to serve on its panel. When a Minneapolis City Council Committee interviewed candidates last Monday, only one African American showed up. One of the great ironies is that we, the African American community, will be lucky to get even one seat on this 7 member panel. Let me tell you, my friends, its hard to apply for something you don’t know anything about and when city officials go to the lengths that it appears these officials have gone to in order to make sure the information DIDN’T get out. Keep your eye on the CRA and the 7 member panel that will be confirmed by the City Council over the next couple of weeks. It will be as lily white as one can imagine (Note: Cincinnati has three on theirs).

On that particular note, we, along with others, are concerned about the escalating numbers of young African Americans and older African Americans for that matter, who are being identified and reported as victims of what appears to be a wave of police misconduct targeting communities of color. In this paper just last week we read the horrifying story of a young 14 year-old African American beaten by the police in North Minneapolis. This obviously raises some very serious questions. One of the questions now being asked is that if you ware not connected, like working in the mayor’s office, does your run-in or encounter with the police warrant any “media” coverage.

By the way, have you noticed the number of deaths of African Americans in the suburbs, while in police custody, in New Hope and in Brooklyn Park? There have been no investigations, either by the state or the Feds. It seems like to them the life of an African American isn’t worth a plug nickel.

Holmann, sometimes referred to as Heritage Park, remains our favorite project. We are trying to figure out, as we said before, how the city, according to Councilman Zimmerman, allegedly spent $21 million on the building of some holding ponds on the Heritage Park Project. Now that is mind boggling, my friends. I’d like to see the documentation on that and, in fact, I’d like to see the documentation on how the $21 million of loans that were given to Bassett and Bassett Creek LP went has bee spent. We can’t seem to get any answers. Maybe they are the kinds of answers people don’t want to give you, if you know what I mean. We are also looking for those 120 units that were supposed to come from the $7.5 loan from Sun America. So what is the number of occupied units, now, in Holmann/Heritage Park? Has it reached 100 yet? We’d like to see some statistical data, at some point. In fact, maybe we can have a public meeting and the civil rights department and the MCDA and the MPHA can come in with figures they would be prepared to place upon the table, and have it examined by a respectable auditing firm. I don’t think that will happen in our life time, but hey, stay tuned.

June 4, 2003 Column #6: Targeting a Communit: The Deferring of a Dream, The Breaking of a Promise

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

The Target Corporation’s announcement last week that it will close its store in North Minneapolis at Broadway and Lyndale Avenue North, has gripped this portion of the city that will be devastated economically and possibly politically. Their decision questions the relationship between Target and its parent companies, the Dayton Hudson Marshall Field empire, and the City of Minneapolis. In a news release from Council Member Natalie Johnson-Lee, Green Party, 5th Ward, where this shut down is targeted, she raises the question asked whenever corporate America decides to pull the rug out from under the least of its citizens, which, in this case, is clearly us, people of color: what about the $66 million in subsidies that the Target Corporation received for its significant and lucrative venture in downtown Minneapolis (a very large Target store, Target corporate headquarters, and other amenities and considerations). The decision by Target has not been met by “O Boss, that’s OK” that the Target hierarchy anticipated, particularly in light of the ease which reliable sources tell us they closed a store in Detroit.

The decision to close this Target by August 2nd, throwing 123 citizens, human beings, into the street, of which a very significant number are African-Americans and residents of the immediate community, staggers the mind with respect to a once great corporation whose reputation was that of being caring in its relationship with communities of color. We understand that both Council Member Natalie Johnson-Lee and State Representative Keith Ellison will be holding public information meetings or even hearings to review the impact our community will suffer as an outgrowth of this decision by Target. The rationale provided to a group of African American leaders a week ago was that this store is in the lower 5 percentile of stores in terms of profit making. They are making a profit. They just want more. We maintain this is not good enough in light of what the city has enabled them to do with the $66 million deal downtown and the deal with the city that let them buy this $8 million property for $3 million.

And what about the significant amount of money that was part of this $66 million subsidy that should, in fact, have gone to the housing venture called Holmanns/Heritage Park? We now become even more interested to know at what point the loans made to McCormick Baron will be repaid to us taxpayers. Mayor Ryback: will you (1) make sure those millions in loans are paid back to the city? And (2) will you see that Target doesn’t get away with abandoning North Minneapolis after all the subsidies it has received? Senator Mark Dayton, heir to the Dayton-Hudson department store fortune that includes Target, even though your family no longer has any part in its operations: what will you do for Minneapolis, given the Federal and local monies given to Target? Without the Black vote you would not be Senator. We now ask for your vote for our community. You call the President’s tax plan unfair. We maintain Target’s plan to close this store, given all the subsidies it has received, will cause an unfair tax on our community. By the way, dear readers, regarding Holmanns: we are still looking frantically for the 120 units that were promised to be built in the agreement between Sun America and the Basset Group subsidiaries of McCormack Barron (in a letter to Kevin McCormick, Chief Executive Officer of McCormick Barron from Sun America). Where are they? We know they must be there at the corner of Aldridge and Olson Highway, as the agreement tells us they should be there. They must be, for Basset Associates receives $7.5 million to take care of this business of the people.

Well, I don’t know that I’ll be doing any shopping in the near future at Target. You may want to give the same thought, if you know what I mean. Given all Minneapolis has given to Target, it must not be allowed to change from a philanthropic giver to taker from the poor and wretched of the Minneapolis Community.

Speaking of taking: Sid Hartman recently wrote about the Vikings leaving town. Has he finally been reading both Larry Fitzgerald and my book “The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes,” which discuss this? My book is still more up to date with its topics than your daily newspaper.

All of these issues come under the heading of “a dream deferred, a promise broken,” which is “The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes.”

May 21, 2003 Column #5: Economic development in Minneapolis—who gains?

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

The Hollman Pork Barrel

As we have discussed, one of the most fascinating projects in the existence in our fair city is the Hollman/Heritage Park housing project, one of the greatest feedings-at-the-trough undertakings in the history of our city.

$21 million in loans for what? Let's talk this week about another set of loans, this time the group totaling over $21 million made to McCormack Barron and Associates (MBA) of St. Louis, Missouri, both prior to and now during the life of this project. The first loan was made available on April 27, 2000, for $7,500,000, from Sun America, a very large investment entity on the West Coast. In a letter to Kevin McCormack, president of McCormack Barron, Sun America lays out its expectation with respect to the control that it will enjoy in the project known as Hollman/Heritage Park, and in making the money available as a subsidy for the MBA company called Basset.

The Bassets of McCormack Barron are a puzzle. Why haven't Basset Creek Partners LP (incorporated 7-21-99) and Basset Associates LP (incorporated 10-23-02) been identified as to their specific roles in the Hollman/Heritage Park development in either Phase I or Phase II? Note that they were incorporated in Missouri, for Hollman, even before the Minneapolis City Council voted for them. What did they know in advance that the rest of us didn't?

The lack of auditing of the $10 million bond the Minneapolis City Council granted McCormack Barron on April 6, 2001, is another puzzle. Resolution 2001R-121 was unanimously passed by a 13-0 council vote. What is peculiar about this resolution that came from the Community Development Committee (chaired then by former council member Jim Niland) is that the bond obligation was committed to Basset Associates LP of St. Louis, whose parent company is McCormack Barron.

Basset would "develop, own, and operate" the development for the managing general partner, MBA. What is also puzzling is the enormous amount of loans made to MBA, even before this project got off the ground, such as the one for $980,000 made to MBA on July 11, 2001, by the Empowerment Zone Governance Board.

As we asked last week about other loans, have all of these loans to MBA, totaling $21,017,000, been paid back, and if not, how will it be done? And what about the rumors of running into problems with MBA at the beginning of Phase II of the project?

We as citizens want to know about these loans using our tax dollars, and how they will be paid back; and we really need to know more about Basset Creek Partners LP and Basset Associates LP, who seem to be the corporations that have received the maximum amount of these loans under what can only be called some very interesting arrangements.

The Hollman toxicity problem is the next surprise. Is there enough money to clean up what many of us have known but only now is being acknowledged: the pollution causing the toxicity in the ground of the Hollman/Heritage Park site.

Scuttling Minneapolis' election for Jackie

We are continuing to hear rumors that the Minnesota legislature will be demanding, requiring, or forcing the City of Minneapolis to hold an election, possibly as early as this fall and no later than September-November of 2004. Wow! Does that mean Jackie will be back in business again? See my web log entry at

Congratulations to Harry Davis for "Overcoming: An Autobiography"

We congratulate Harry Davis for being a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards for 2002. Harry's book is his story of a good life lived well while doing good for others despite a pervasive racism in Minneapolis, as he overcame the obstacles set up to "keep the Black man in his place."

He shows how many have overcome, noting the tremendous amount of progress that has been made in his lifetime to get the glass half full, as well as clearly showing how much remains to be done to fill up the half that is still empty for the Black and poor of Minneapolis.

He reminds us of our "moral obligation" to do so, especially regarding education, jobs, and "affordable home ownership" that are "the real keys to achieve neighborhood stability and health."

Congratulations, Harry. Job well done. May others be encouraged by your example to join us in telling the story of Minneapolis through their eyes.

May 7, 2003 Column #4: Wake Up, Minneapolis, and Change! Without Vision, We Perish

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Pulling the covers off: We have called Minneapolis the great experiment of the last outpost that has mastered the harmful political and economic machinery for keeping minorities “in their place.” We continue to expose the city’s actions as we continue to offer an inclusive vision that offers a seat at the table to everyone.

Holman/Heritage Park: Housing for Blacks and the poor became a gentrified site for affluent Whites (with little subsidy for the poor). Skyway News reported June 21, 2002 that nearly $1 billion in Federal, state and city dollars were spent with none left to complete it. Let’s follow the money. Just like the answers now being found in the files of Baghdad regarding how the French worked against the US, so too are documents showing up in terms of those working against Minneapolis. In a document dated October 31, 2001, the City of Minneapolis, its housing authority, and the Minneapolis Community Development Agency reached an agreement with McCormick Barron and Associates, a Missouri corporation. Section 4.2 on page 29 of the Agreement outlines the “Pre-Development 3rd Party Cost and Loan Agreements.” In 2000 and 2001, the City of Minneapolis made four loans of $200,000 each (for a total of $800,000) to McCormick Barron. These were made on October 30, 2000, January 5, 2001, and March 31, 2001. The tax payers have a right to know: have those loans been repaid, with interest, as agreed to in the agreement between the parties on October 31, 2001?

Section 4.1.1, page 28 of the agreement, stipulates paying McCormick Barron $30,000/month to “manage” the development project. Are they still being paid that? In addition to the four loans above, what about the loan in 2002 through the Empowerment Zone, and the $1.7 million in loans and gifts granted to McCormick Barron about three weeks ago? Is there enough money to complete this project, whether on the North or South side of Olson Highway? The tax payers of the City of Minneapolis have a right to know, now. The tax payers of the city of Minneapolis deserve a response from city officials as they begin negotiations with McCormack Barron during this 45 day window of opportunity. We ask Council Member Lisa Goodman, Chair of the Community Development Committee to raise the questions and to obtain, in writing, clarification regarding these loans.

Future chief: The procedure used during the selection of the last chief included citizen input. We propose that citizen input again be part of the selection process. We ask that Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council indicate to the citizens, no later than July 1st, the process to be used and how citizen input will be used in the search. Doing so will minimize the level of politics and rancor that normally follows the search for a new department head. And certainly it is time that “Whites only” no longer be the criteria for selecting the chief of this department. We won’t really know how clean the process is until the Mayor and city officials lay out far in advance how they intend to select the new chief. The question of politics should be removed post haste. We renew our call for a process to be in place by July 1st of this year.

A Glass Half Full Is Still Half Empty

The recent U.S. Census Bureau report shows that Blacks are better off now financially, despite the economic downturn, than in the mid-90s, as income for Blacks has risen and poverty for Blacks has fallen. A glass half full. But the statistically significant disparity is that poverty among Blacks is still twice as high as Whites. A glass half empty. In terms of children: 30% of Black children are in poverty and only 10% of White children. 63% of Black 4th graders are illiterate while only 10% of Whites are. In terms of college: 16% of Black males have a college education compared to 32% of White males, while 18% of Black females do compared to 27% of White females. And regards the war on young Black men: 18% of Black males are employed in managerial positions whereas the number is 26% for Black females. Why such differences? They could not exist if there were equal access and equal opportunity for Blacks as well as for Whites. How do we achieve equal access and equal opportunity? Follow the vision and the resolution/solution process and recommendations outlined in my book.

April 23, 2003 Column #3: April brings spring showers and the people’s tears

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

As we continue our spring analysis of all the good and wonderful things that are happening in our beloved Shangri-la, we revisit a couple of questions.

Mediation: By the time this article is printed, the Minneapolis City Council will have voted on the future of mediation. Early indications are that the City will vote to withdraw from mediation, leaving no avenue for the citizens. This brings several questions into play: What is the City’s thinking on private mediation? (That is the rumor that has been circulating for quite some time; in fact, this rumor first emerged in November 2002.) Does it mean better control of the city? Does it mean that most voices that aggravate City officials will forever be silenced? Mr. Mayor, what do you say on this issue of private vs. federal mediation?

Hollman/Heritage Park: We continue to watch this development with great interest. The question that is burning on the lips of many is, where does the committee known as the Heritage Park Recommendation Committee come from? By what statutory authority was it created? And why was the responsibility for overseeing the selection of sub-developers for Phase II taken away from Council Member Natalie Johnson Lee?  Now, if McCormack Baron does not have an ongoing say as the developer of record for the 143 acres, why does McCormack Baron have three seats on this committee? Is there enough money still available to guarantee that both Phases I and II will ever be completed?

In this season of spring, my friends, people are getting tired of looking at piles and piles of dirt.

The Chief: As I asked in my last column, what is really happening in city hall with Chief of Police Robert Olson on his way out? As several have stated, he is to be out by January 4, so what is the arrangement made for the appointment of the current head of the police federation to become the assistant chief in a new administration? Will we know, as a community and as a city, who our next chief will be? Should we continue with a lame duck chief, nothing personal, who appears not to have the best interests of the City of Minneapolis at heart?

White leadership: Some have asked, “Where was the White leadership during the celebration of the University of Minnesota Gophers’ 5-1 victory over New Hampshire?” Why didn’t they denounce it as a riot, as well over 1,000 gathered around a bonfire at 4th Street and 14th Avenue in Dinkytown, set five dozen arson fires, smashed cars, looted a store, tipped over trash bins, and then assaulted police officers and fire fighters? Local print and broadcast media gave it a wink and a nod as rowdy fans, celebration, revelers, etc. Is there a different standard for White neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color?

Choke hold: At long last, the Hennepin County Attorney has completed the investigation of the death of 44-year-old Christopher Burns on November 1. Why did the investigation take such a long time? And does the county attorney really think that any of us in the Black community fully believes the results of the grand jury’s no bill?

Stumbled over or kicked? No mediation. Hollman Black residents replaced by Whites. A resistant chief. Black deaths. Shootings and murders. What is happening? Is this a Shangri-la for Whites only? In my book I quote Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendal Holmes, who wrote, Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.  In the legends of Camelot, the sign for the Knights of the Round Table read, By serving each other we become free. Last year Doug Grow asked this question in his Star Tribune column: To mediate conflict resolution and serve the people, or ignore them and not serve them? Doug then answered his own question by stating, “My simple answer for all of this is that Minneapolis leaders have failed, and continue to fail, to create any sense of trust between civic institutions, especially the police department, and large numbers of Blacks in inner city neighborhoods.  Last August, City Pages wrote, When it comes to police brutality, the mayor is all talk. White Leadership. We know we are being kicked. Why does the City say it is merely stumbling? How many more spring showers will reflect the tears that we shed?

April 9, 2003 Column #2: Springtime in Minneapolis: Whose flowers will grow?

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Spring questions are sprouting in the garden of The Minneapolis Story, questions about the city budget, mediation, diversity, officers of color in the police and fire departments, and of Heritage Park/Hollman project.

City departments: What fairness will the city show to the plight of her people of color and especially of the Civil Rights Department, which is being cut 19% ($377,018) that in actuality is more like 41% (as it never received the $400,000 for the Civilian Review Authority). The head of the department was not present to defend the budget before the Council. The Council requested it come back with a revised layoff strategy. It receives less than one percent of the city’s quarter billion dollar general fund.

Police chief: as Lisa Goodman has indicated on at least two occasions the Chief is all through as of January 4, 2004, will there be an open process in the selection of the new Chief, and how will that be done, and if not, why not? How, Mr. Mayor and City Council, do you answer?

Recapturing diversity in city departments: will city departments, like juries, reflect the citizens, or just White citizens? Council Member Natalie Johnson-Lee, with help from CM Don Samuels, has raised this question and has proposed a way to answer it in her “Recapturing” proposal to require each department to lay out how the trend to less diversity will be reversed in order to recapture diversity. The number of Black police officers has been on the decline for over ten years, a disturbing pattern identified last year by the Human Resources Department. How can the city expect the community of color to take continued decreases year after and year and then expect us to endure a ten year wait to get back to where we are now? Nonetheless, kudos to Natalie Johnson-Lee, the Black Fire Fighters Association, the Black Police Officers Association and Chief Rocco Forte of the Minneapolis Fire Department for giving serious consideration to the redevelopment of a recapture plan or, in this case, a recapture and layoff strategy. As the tidal wave of briefs before the Supreme Court are stating, this is not about the disadvantaged, as in 1978, but is for everyone’s advantage. Will Minneapolis gain this advantage too?

Holman/Heritage Park: Why is it that at the meeting at Phyllis Wheatly, on the Saturday closest to April Fool’s Day, prime developer McCormick Baron was not there to here the would be sub-developers presentations, including the one by the group of Jackie Cherryhomes (who hand picked this St. Louis, MO company when she was on the Council). Nothing was said about the sub-developer selection process nor did we hear anything regarding how well financed the project is (and yet we know three of the bidders cannot acquire a line of credit beyond a million dollars, and that at least one can only obtain $500,000, far below what is needed for any major project). Have they already concluded Jackie’s group “wins?” With her past deal with McCormick Barron, Jackie Cherryhomes doesn’t need much credit. If her group is picked we will be angry but not surprized. When you read the housing chapter of my book you will get a better understanding of this. And we could get an even better understanding with access to the city hall files Jackie took with her when she left office (about which there has been no investigation or proscecution). Is it really a mystery why City Hall turns a blind eye? And although for some this answers the “what is Jackie up to?” question, it only verifies what others of us have been predicting. To “we the people” this is no surprise.

Mediation: Will it happen? Will this right of community now be a rite of Spring? April 18th is the deadline set by the City Council to decide whether or not we have mediation. Will we have mediation in our lifetime? And not to beat a dead horse, but can anyone tell me why the Chief was made lead mediation negotiator and facilitator when they knew he had no long range future with the City?

Preparation and prosperity: For who? I will continue during this festive season of Spring to closely watch our city, our government, our future, and listen to the tantalizing stories about the prosperity that is just around the corner with projects like Heritage Park, as I continue to report to you on the unfolding continuation of The Minneapolis Story.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entires and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please cite for blog entries and solution papers.

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