What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Bird activists call for new stadium leader

Posted by: Erin Golden under Parks and recreation, Politics and government, Urban living Updated: November 21, 2014 - 5:12 PM

A group of activists concerned about birds flying into the new Vikings stadium is protesting the stadium authority's purchase of glass that hasn't been deemed "bird safe."

The Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds met with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority this week, calling for the agency to recycle the millions of dollars' worth of glass it has ordered for the stadium and instead purchase glass designed to prevent bird collisions.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, the authority's chairwoman, said officials intend to work with the Audobon Society on a bird-friendly lighting design and other operational issues. But she told the citizens' group that the decision about the glass has already been made, and said there's not room in the budget for a second order.

"To suggest that we recycle that glass, which is specifically what they asked, just doesn't make any sense," she said.

The activists responded by calling for Gov. Mark Dayton to replace Kelm-Helgen. The governor issued a short statement Friday: "I believe that Michele Kelm-Helgen is doing an outsidenting job as Chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority."

11 people indicted on drug, weapons charges in large-scale gang sweep

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: November 21, 2014 - 3:02 PM

A months-long investigation into alleged drug and weapons dealing by members of two of Hennepin County’s two most violent gangs culminated this week with the arrest of 11 people, authorities said.

A 13-count federal indictment was returned this week against the defendants, several of whom are described as leaders of the 1-9 and Stick Up Boys gangs, whose ongoing feud with two rival street gangs, the Taliban and YNT (“Young ‘N Thuggin’) has led to at least six killings and numerous shootings in the past five years.

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger told reporters at a news conference Friday morning that the gang bust effectively ended "a gang war that has brought violence and murder to our community."

The two-day sweep was carried out by members of the Hennepin County Violent Offender Task Force – a coalition of law enforcement agencies that includes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and police departments in Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Golden Valley, and Richfield – and the Minneapolis Police Department.

Among those indicted was Veltrez Black, aka “Chief,” who authorities described as the leader of the 1-9 gang (also known as 1-9 Dipset and 1-9 Vice Lords). Also named were Tywin Bender, aka “Finn Winn,” Nitelen Jackson, aka “King Nite” and Dontevius Catchings, aka “Lil Snake,” all of whom are believed to be leaders of the Stick Up Boys gang.

The others named in indictment are:

  • Cinque Owens
  • Jabari Johnson
  • Darryl Parker, aka "Thirsty"
  • Marquis Woods, aka "Quis Moe"
  • Marques Armstrong, aka "Lil Kease"
  • Deontay Jones
  • Lakesha Coleman

Hennepin County sheriff Rich Stanek said in a news release:

"The dismantling of this criminal enterprise, which we believe to be responsible for numerous acts of violence, is a huge win for law enforcement and the residents of Hennepin County. This successful multi-agency operation should send a clear message to others that future violent crimes will be met with similar enforcement and prosecution efforts."

Jim Modzelewski, special agent in charge of the ATF's St. Paul office, added: 

"As a result of this joint local and federal investigation, a violent group has been removed from the streets of the Twin Cities."

Late Pearl Lindstrom acknowledged a horrific history

Posted by: Steve Brandt under People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Public records, Urban living Updated: November 20, 2014 - 4:10 PM

Pearl Lindstrom, who embraced commemorating the horrific racial history of the Minneapolis house in which she'd unknowingly lived for over 50 years, is dead at 92.

Lindstrom’s death was confirmed Thursday by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office. No other details were available.

Lindstrom lived at her Columbus Avenue house for more than 50 years. Not until several years ago did she become aware that it was the site of huge racially motivated demonstrations in 1931 in which mobs of thousands of whites tried to force out a black couple, Arthur and Edith Lee, and their small daughter.

Once she learned that ugly truth however, she embraced the efforts by neighborhood leaders to commemorate the Lee family’s stand against intolerance.  A marker commemorating the incidents was installed in 2011 in a corner of her front yard, and the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year, something she wanted before she died.

She often flew a U.S. flag from the porch of her white craftsman house, and she told a University of Minnesota researcher this about her inherited house history: “Oh, it means a lot to me; I’m a U.S. citizen, and I’ve been through a war. This house stands for freedom! You know, that freedom that they talk about? Well, some people believe in it and some don’t. Yet, there are a lot of people that are prejudiced. When I tell people I’ve got a historical house, they say, ‘Oh really?’ Some say, ‘well, our house is historical, too.’ And I say, ‘well, this one is special.’”

Added Greg Donofrio, a University of Minnesota professor who helped to prepare the national register nomination: "I doubt I'll ever hear another person spontaneously explain so clearly why the history of a property was personally meaningful because it represented a broader set of values and ideals."

“She wanted people to realize that we can all get along regardless of their skin color,” Stearline Rucker, a staffer and former president of the Field Regina Northrop Neighborhood Group, who also helped resurrect the Lee history.

Lindstrom outlived two husbands, both ministers, Rucker said. “She said her faith grounded her in looking at people for who they are and beyond their skin color,” she said. She was exposed to a wide variety of people because of the international ministry of one of her husbands.

After World War II, Lindstrom continued working at Munsingwear despite societal pressures of the time.  “She was one of those women, I would say, before her time,” Rucker said.

The Lees stuck out the hostility in their all-white neighborhood before moving about 10 blocks north to a traditionally black neighborhood. Their story remained only as lore among south Minneapolis black families until the 2001 publication of research by law professor Ann Juergens.

Lindstrom had one daughter, Carla Bielawski, who lived with her and found her dead at home Wednesday morning.

Video below from a 2014 Twin Cities Daily Planet interview:

Yonis wanted cash in larger bills, accuser says

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Local business, Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Public safety Updated: November 19, 2014 - 9:53 PM

Soccer promoter Moises Hernandez described former Minneapolis park worker Hashim Yonis as someone who wanted no bills smaller than $20 when paid in cash for renting public soccer fields, but who issued no receipts.
 
Hernandez said he preferred to pay in cash because he collected $4 apiece from the players in his mostly Latino leagues.  He rented fields at three south Minnepaolis parks. But only Yonis, who rented fields at Currie Park in the Cedar Riverside area, refused to give the receipts Hernandez wanted so that he could chase pickup players off the turf if needed.
 
Hernandez testified as a key prosecution witness in the second day of the trial of Yonis on a felony theft charge. The Hennepin County attorney’s office alleges Yonis pocketed money for field rentals at Currie that Hernandez gave him in 2013.
 
The charge is a stunning reversal for the young onetime park and school worker who lost those jobs after the allegations surfaced last year.  He once was taken to the White House by Mayor R.T. Rybak to tout the city’s jobs program for teens in which he participated. He was running for a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board seat when the accusations  emerged.
 
Hernandez denied that the Park Board forgave him a past due obligation of more than $13,000 in exchange for his statement fingering Yonis. “I never have debt,” Hernandez said through an interpreter. “I paid every week.”

Ira Whitlock, attorney for Yonis, asserted the debt forgiveness in his opening argument, but so far no evidence has been presented to document that. Whitlock sought to undermine the credibility of Hernandez by highlighting inconsistencies in his testimony.
 
Hernandez admitted he lied when first questioned by a park police investigator, but he said that was only because Yonis urged him to conceal any field rentals before a certain date.  Prosecutor Susan Crumb asserted that was part of an effort by Yonis to conceal taking cash and not remitting it to park authorities.

Vreeland denies political motives in Yonis trial

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: November 19, 2014 - 3:14 PM

Minneapolis park Commissioner Scott Vreeland testified Wednesday that he had no idea that Hashim Yonis was running for another commissioner seat when Vreeland first asked him last summer about community complaints about the rental of soccer fields at Currie Park.

Vreeland said he met with Yonis last June 29 but didn’t know until filings closed in August that Yonis was running for one of three city-wide seats on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Vreeland was seeking re-election to a separate district seat that included the Cedar-Riverside area and Currie.

Ira Whitlock, the lawyer for Yonis, is arguing that the felony theft charge against Yonis was motivated by park commissioner incumbents wanting to keep Yonis from displacing them. Yonis was put on administrative leave in mid-July after an investigation produced allegations that he pocketed money for rental of the fields. He later was allowed to resign after appealing his dismissal.

Whitlock said in his opening statement that it was known as early as January that Yonis was planning to run.  He registered a campaign committee on August 23, but did not list any campaign fundraising or expenditures before that month.

Yonis was capitalizing on the recognition he gained as a park and school employee for which he’d received some citations, including a superintendent’s coin from schools leader Bernadeia Johnson. Mayor R.T. Rybak took Yonis to the White House to tell President Obama about his experiences in a city youth job training program, and Whitlock suggested he’d wowed federal officials.

Whitlock sought to portray another commissioner, John Erwin, as running against Yonis for the three at-large openings on the board. Vreeland said they were competing for three seats in a field of about 10 people, but not running head-to-head as in a traditional election.

“It was a pretty crazy election with a lot of people running," Vreeland said.  “Please don’t make me explain ranked-choice voting.”

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