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The Protest Demonstration at Minneapolis City Hall

on Friday, August 15, 2008

by Bill McGaughey


The Announcement on the Minneapolis e-democracy forum on August 14, 2008 5:18 p.m.

"At noon tomorrow, Friday, August 15th, Metro Property Rights Action Committee and
leadership of the 5th Congressional District Independence Party will stage a protest
demonstration on the south side of Minneapolis City Hall (5th Street) near the statue
of former mayor Hubert Humphrey.

The protest will focus on the truly sordid events that took place at yesterday’s
meeting of the Public Safety & Regulatory Services Committee of the Mpls. City
Council chaired by Don Samuels in which, among other things, it revoked the rental
license of a building managed by northside resident Morris Kloch and ordered the
demolition of a structurally sound 10-unit apartment building owned by LeRoy Smithrud
at 2400 Dupont Ave. North.

Mr. Smithrud’s problems began with citations for peeling paint near the roof of
the building. He climbed a ladder to work on the paint job. When the ladder fell
over, Smithrud fell two and a half storeys and severely injured his back, legs,
and pelvis. After a year of therapy, he is permanently disabled. Meanwhile, the
building was empty because a group of lawyers associated with “Project 504” persuaded
the tenants that they need not pay rent. Smithrud evicted them for nonpayment.

Because a zoning change took place and the building was vacant for more than a year,
the Minneapolis city council had the right to demolish the building. Smithrud found
a nonprofit developer who was willing to purchase it and provide housing for victims
of the foreclosure crisis and others with special needs. It would also have provided
24-hour onsite management. Council member Diane Hofstede instead wanted the building

With Stalinist determination, the City Council subcommittee consisting of
Don Samuels (chair), Diane Hofstede, Cam Gordon, Barb Johnson, Paul Ostrow, and
Gary Schiff voted unanimously voted to demolish the building. Chair Samuels limited
public discussion to five minutes in which Smithrud would be allowed to state his
case (so long as no new information was added beyond what had been given at an earlier
appeals hearing). Samuels would not allow others present at the Council hearing,
including a representative of the interested nonprofit group, to offer testimony.

In an earlier action, the Council Subcommittee also voted to revoke the rental license
of a building managed by Morris Kloch, a neighbor of Council Member Samuels. That
stated reason was that drugs had been brought into that building on two occasions
and that Mr. Kloch had failed to submit a “management plan” on a timely basis.
In defense, Kloch cited a pattern of physical intimidation directed against him
by Don Samuels, city inspectors, and SAFE officers which made him afraid to deliver
the plan in person at the requested time.

The plan was focused on precautionary steps that might be taken to prevent drugs
from entering the building; but because at the end, Kloch stated that only a strip
search of visitors would effectively end the problem, it offended the committee
members and they refused to OK the plan. In a bit of unappreciated showmanship,
Kloch pulled out a plastic bag filled with a mind-altering substance - it was tobacco,
not marijuana - to show that illegal drugs could also be brought into Minneapolis
City Hall without much scrutiny or interference.

With respect to physical intimidation, the 60-year-old Kloch testified that in May
2007 he had been asked to come to the Butter Ball Bakery at Irving and Broadway
where he found Don Samuels and a city inspector waiting for him. He testified that
Samuels personally assaulted him, pinning him against the wall for 15 minutes.
Samuels repeatedly said he would have inspections ruin Kloch and have certain parts
of his body torn apart.

In an earlier altercation, Samuels had accused Kloch of being a white man who rented
to black people. Samuels also took the liberty of wandering through Kloch’s building
without permission, talking to his tenants. Meanwhile the city was offering Kloch
scant protection from street crime. Gang members had repeatedly fired on his building
and threatened to kill him.

Because Don Samuels, chair of the Council subcommittee, was intimately involved
in this case, Kloch asked Samuels to recuse himself from the meeting. Samuels refused
to do so. The city attorney ruled that there was no conflict of interest here so
long as Samuels reached decisions on the basis of facts that were allowed to be
received at the hearing. The Council subcommittee then voted 6 to 0 to revoke the
rental license.

Immediately after the vote, Kloch asked two police offices stationed in the Council
Chambers to investigate Samuels for assault at the bakery but they refused because
the case was more than a year old. On the other hand, Kloch is scheduled to go
to court next week to answer complaints by a city inspector who claimed that he
had made terroristic threats against this inspector.

Both Leroy Smithrud and Morris Kloch will participate in tomorrow’s protest demonstration
at Minneapolis City Hall. The Council also voted on staff recommendations to demolish
four other buildings, but their owners were not contacted.

Some claim that yesterday’s actions taken by the Minneapolis city council are part
of a wider gentrification effort designed to drive poor people and minorities out
of north Minneapolis so property values will rise and crime will be reduced. It’s
ironic that this is a core principle of the DFL-controlled Council so at odds with
principles once enunciated by DFL founder, Hubert H. Humphrey. The demonstrators
plan to tell Humphrey’s statue what has become of his party in recent years."

William McGaughey
Harrison, Minneapolis

LeRoy Smithrud's 10-unit apartment building at 2400 Dupont Avenue North

A report on the rally and comments in response to other postings August 15, 2008 4:57 p.m.

"I have been busy preparing for the picketing event that happened today at Minneapolis
city hall and haven’t had a chance until now to respond to some of the postings.

First, as for the event itself, we had a turnout of around twenty people, with a
mixture of ages, races, and genders, and an appreciative audience of police officers
and other interested persons. A number of us stood on the stone ledge next to the
Humphrey statue and gave old-fashioned stump speeches without the aid of a bullhorn.
We also did chants. I would say that the highlight was when a group of three children,
aged 6 to 10, came up with their own chant - “Give us houses, not vacant lots”
- and the adults heartily joined in. This was the future of Minneapolis speaking.
All told, the event lasted an hour, and it was well worth the effort.

Now for the task of responding to these various messages, mostly negative -

Kevin Kusche’s posting helped to advance the discussion. No, It wasn’t “bratty”
not to respond to my “dissertation” on 2400 Dupont Ave. North. Kevin’s main point
here was that the Hawthorne Housing Committee and Board was in favor of demolition.
I would point out, however, that the Hawthorne neighborhood group did not own the
building at 2400 Dupont and really has no legal standing in this matter. If I wanted
a neighbor’s house torn down for whatever reason, I doubt if my opinion would be
given much weight. The city, too, did not own this building and it is only through
use of probably illegal powers of regulation that it can force the demolition.
The building, though empty, was in fine shape and threatened no one’s health or

Maybe, being vacant, it does threaten property values; and maybe undesirable types
of people have lived there or congregated in the area. But these are not proper
inspections issues. The use of zoning changes and other regulatory “tools” to force
demolition of someone else’s property are powers improperly assumed by city government.
That’s why we did our protest.

With respect to Morris Klock’s property - the name is Klock, not Kloch; I made a
mistake here - it was helpful to be directed to a blog of a man who calls himself
“Johnny Northside” and, like me, sat in on Wednesday’s Council hearing. The report
was lengthy and included interesting facts and interpretations. However, I got
the impression that “Johnny Northside” was high on something when he wrote his blog.
The narrative is full of emotionally loaded words, personal posturing, and attempts
to seem hip. An example: “Did Don Samuels take this quirky little slumlord and
put him in a headlock while the gumshoe eyes of gingerbread men looked on, horrified?
Golly, I sure hope so. I always did admire Don Samuels. Now I think I like him
twice as much.” I’m not a fan of this type of writing but, again, the posting did
include some elements of interest.

Timothy Salo of St. Paul is again beating the dead horse of people who write about
communities where they do not live. I thought that this issue, going back several
weeks, was settled when Joe Nathan conceded that someone other than a St. Paulite
should be calling the Minneapolis City Council members to complain of events in
the Minneapolis police department. Other than that, I’m in favor of people speaking
their mind on issues wherever they might live.

Dyna Sluyter’s posting asks for a response to constructive proposals she made in
earlier postings. Yes, I’m in favor of that, too.

Megan Goodmundson calls my account of Morris Klock’s testimony “skewed and vague”.
Well, she’s entitled to her opinion. Next, she calls Klock’s accusation that Don
Samuels physically assaulted him “so ridiculous and laughable that it was pretty
hard to take him serious(ly).” This is a totally ignorant comment. Goodmundson
is in no position - and neither am I - to know whether or not the event that Klock
says took place at the Butter Roll bakery in May 2007 actually occurred. For sure,
Don Samuels would not be a credible witness. However, there were other persons present,
and maybe a civil lawsuit will flush some truthful statements out of them.

Now we get to the point that Klock’s “management plan” provided for banning all
male visitors to his building and strip searching female visitors and that this
statement is both outrageous and sexist. Yes, it was an outrageous statement and
meant to be. What I heard Klock say at the hearing was that it was virtually impossible
to prevent tenants, visitors, and others from bringing drugs into a building. You’d
have to have 24-hour security and strip search all visitors to guarantee that drugs
could not be brought in. The request for a “management plan” to end such behavior
was quite unrealistic.

I’d like to see what Klock actually wrote. I know that his “strip search” idea
was meant as a protest against the unrealistic demands of those who wanted him to
submit the management plan. If he included it in the plan as a supposedly serious
proposal, then Mr. Klock made a mistake because the humorless crowd at the appeals
board are in no mood for levity. If he made a statement such as what I wrote above,
then I think it’s OK. The appeals board then misrepresented what he wrote and its
account should not be believed.

Goodmundson wrote: “The northside has a terribly terribly diseased rental market,
I am very glad that over the past few years the city is beginning to get some backbone
and some teeth to start to deal with the rental issues that plague our neighborhoods.
 These landlords should buy some property in the very same neighborhood that they
live in and see if they can get away with the crap that they try to choke the northside
with on a daily basis.” This is a sour cream puff with little content. For the
record, Morris Klock and I are both landlords who live and work in north Minneapolis
and we’re not trying to get away with “crap”. This comes from criminals and from
the city.

Goodmundson writes, with respect to my candidacy for Congress: “If this is the type
of behavior and rental management that Bill M. is in favor of,and this is the type
of clowns that he chooses to support, then as a candidate for elected office, he
just lost one semi-interested potential voter who happens to have a big mouth.”
Be my guest. Use your “big mouth” all you want. It will help me with what I’m
trying to do - which, in this instance, is to change city policy. However, I’m not
doing this in the context of a candidacy for Congress. LeRoy Smithrud asked me
to help him and I did. There was no mention of my campaign at today’s demonstration.
Maybe some day I can return to it.

Anissa Hollingshead as given us useful links to the official city documents. I
take such documents with a certain grain of salt.

Robin Garwood points out that the City Council subcommittee did not vote 6 to 0
to revoke Morris Klock’s rental license but 5 to 0 because the chair, Don Samuels,
abstained from voting. Yes, that is true. Sorry for the error.

Wizard Marks argues that both LeRoy Smithrud and Morris Klock were bad landlords
who deserved what they got. She doesn’t think that they merited a protest demonstration.
(We thought they did; none of the critics showed up.) She also finds fault with
Independence Party involvement in the event. I should point out that this was not
an official undertaking of the Independence Party; it was, however, personally
supported by the 5th District IP chair and by myself, a candidate for that party.

Guy Gambrill calls Klock and Smithrud “slumlords”. Go for it, Guy!

I think I’ve now gone through the criticisms. The event is history. Maybe our
effort had some impact. Terry Y. covered it in her blog."

William McGaughey
Harrison, Minneapolis

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