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

Posts about Urban living

Monitor finds particle violation on upper riverfront

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: November 26, 2014 - 6:16 PM

A state air monitor near the upper Minneapolis riverfront twice recently measured airborne particles at a level that violates the state standard.

The monitor is located is located on a rooftop just south of Lowry Avenue, and is sited across the street from a scrap recycling yard and its controversial metal shredder owned by Northern Metal Recycling at 2800 N. Pacific St.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the wind was blowing from the direction of the yard on both Oct. 26 and Nov. 1, when the violations were recorded. It said no violations have been recorded since.  

However, the agency said it is still analyzing the type of particles that were captured by the monitor, which has been operating since the beginning of 2013. It said the source of the particles is likely to be within one-quarter mile of the monitor. It said that multiple sources may contribute to the violation.

The agency said that the violation involves total particles, rather than the more worrisome fine particles that can be inhaled into lungs more deeply.  

The monitor was installed in response to community concerns about potential air emissions expressed when the agency decided in 2012 to modify the Northern Metal emissions permit, which a 2009 test showed that the company was violating.  There was no immediate response from the company.

Yonis guilty of stealing Minneapolis park rental fees, jury finds

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: November 25, 2014 - 11:53 AM

Hashim Yonis, once a rising star in Minneapolis, is guilty of felony theft for pocketing soccer field rental money due the public, a Hennepin County District Court jury found Monday.

But the jury found that Yonis took less than $1,000, far less than the more than $5,000 the prosecution claimed. Jury Foreman Greg Auston called the prosecution's proof for the higher amount "woefully inadquate."

Yonis was accused of not turning over money collected from the organizer of a soccer league for weekend rental of Currie Park in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood last year. The presumptive sentence for his offense is probation and a stayed sentence of one year and one day. Prosecutor Susan Crumb said the ocnty will seek restitution of the money.

The 27-year-old North Side resident was running for a city-wide seat on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board when the allegations broke just before he filed for office.  He subsequently lost jobs  with both the park and school districts.

The conviction was a stunning reversal for a man that park Commissioner Scott Vreeland praised as a rising star even as he testified against Yonis.  Yonis had been cited for his accomplishments by both employers. Mayor R.T. Rybak took Yonis with him to the White House to tout a city youth jobs program, and President Obama embraced him as “my East African brother.” Yonis is a refugee from Somalia’s civil war.

Crumb argued that Yonis came to regard Currie as his turf which he could run as he sought, free from oversight. “That’s what happened to Mr. Yonis – too big for his britches,” she said.

Yonis, his voice burning with emotion, last week in his testimony accused Vreeland, a commissioner for the district including Currie, and another incumbent, John Erwin, who was also seeking one of the three city-wide seats in a 10-person field, of a political conspiracy against him. He denounced a 77-name petition filed against him with Vreeland over lack of Currie soccer field time for local East African youth teams as a put-up job. The petition included names and e-mails for Somali mothers who have a low literacy rate, he said.

Testimony did not mention the $3,000 that Yonis lent his campaign in mid-August.  Attorney Ira Whitlock, representing Yonis, sought to whittle away at the amount that the charge alleged, and poked at the credibility of key witness, Moises Hernandez, the organizer of a mostly Latino league, who said he paid Yonis in cash but got no receipts.

Susan Crumb said Yonis lied about when the payments started, and initially got Hernandez to lie. But Hernandez later said he or others paid Yonis weekly inside a small park building at Currie for the rentals. Worried that he’d be discovered not turning over cash, Yonis at last created a permit and turned in some money, and eventually told an investigator that more was in his office.

Whitlock argued that the Park Board forgave Hernandez more than $13,000 after he accused Yonis, but a Park Board supervisor said the alleged debt was an error. Hernandez testified that he has paid the park system some $16,000 in fees.

 

Bird activists call for new stadium leader

Posted by: Erin Golden 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."

Late Pearl Lindstrom acknowledged a horrific history

Posted by: Steve Brandt 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:

Affordable housing advocates push council for more help

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: November 18, 2014 - 8:08 PM

Affordable housing advocates turned out in force for Tuesday evening's public hearing on the city budget, urging council members to more than double the mayor's proposed allotment to Minneapolis' affordable housing trust fund.

Eighteen of the 33 people who spoke to the council about the mayor's proposed $1.2 billion budget were supportive of the city putting $20 million into its affordable housing fund. That's a considerable jump from the $9.1 million in city and outside funding Mayor Betsy Hodges proposed, and more than the $10 million annual goal the city has held --but frequently missed -- for years. 

Supporters included members of nonprofit housing groups, church leaders and homeowners who said their lives had been changed by help from groups like Habitat for Humanity and City of Lakes Community Land Trust.

"Budgeting nothing is no help at all," said Lee Mauk, board chairman of the Beacon Interfaith Housing Collective. "Budgeting just a little helps just a little. If we really intend to address the shortage of affordable housing, we need a healthy and solid affordable housing trust fund."

Jeff Washburne, executive director of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust, said he worries other groups that provide financial support will be less willing to give if it appears that the city isn't pitching in.He said more help is needed as development picks up around the area.

"This city is beginning to prosper again, real estate values are increasing, and more and more of our residents are being left behind," he said. 

Other popular topics at Tuesday's hearing included funding for security services in public housing towers and support for protected bike lanes. Eight speakers pressed the council to support funding for bike improvements. Several said they feel unsafe biking in areas of the city, particularly with their children.

The council is still sorting through the budget, and taking comments from the public by email and the city's website. A second public hearing will be held at 6:05 p.m. on Dec.10, just before the council votes on the budget. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT