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Discussion of Events related to Uncle Bill's Food Market


(A) Uncle Bill's Food Market: Why certain top officials in Minneapolis do not deserve reelection


Bill McGaughey, Sept. 18, 2009 12:51 p.m.

There is a boarded-up building on the corner of Plymouth and Sheridan Avenues
in north Minneapolis. It used to be the site of Uncle Bill's Food Market, a
small grocery store serving a relatively poor neighborhood four blocks west of
Penn Avenue.

On Saturday, September 19th, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the new owner of this
building, Lennie Chism, will host a public rally at this site whose theme is
" Bring back small business to north Minneapolis." If permitted, Chism wants
to convert the ground level of the building into an outdoor cafe similar to
what exists in Uptown. The city of Minneapolis wants to demolish the

Therefore, this coming Saturday, Chism is setting up tables and chairs on the
sidewalk at the corner of Plymouth and Sheridan to suggest what could appear at
this site if he is allowed to proceed with his plans."If you build it, they
will come" - this is an invitation for persons interested in small-business
development in Minneapolis to come for an hour or two. It may be your last
opportunity to see the remains of Uncle Bill's Food Market before the
city-ordered backhoes arrive. I understand that fried chicken will be served.

Uncle Bill's has a history. (For an extended account, see On April 30, 2007, a man with
a gun terrorized an apartment building two blocks down Plymouth from Uncle
Bill's. There was no indication that this man had any connection with the
grocery story. Nevertheless, "neighbors", including former Minneapolis City
Council President Jackie Cherryhomes, accused Uncle Bill's Food Market of being
a magnet for crime and demanded that the city do something to end the problem.

At a hastily convened block club meeting attended by Cherryhomes, Council
Member Don Samuels, Mayor Rybak, and top police and Fire Department officials,
city inspectors - in this case, from the Minneapolis Fire Department - received
implicit instructions from elected officials to condemn the building. Mayor
Rybak is quoted in a Star Tribune article (May 12, 2007):"He (Rybak) vowed
to condemn the property sooner rather than later. We will not be beaten by
this place that is disturbing the neighborhood,' Rybak said. 'Don't thank me
until that store is closed.'"

Council Member Don Samuels is quoted in the same article: " This is a classic
case where you have a provider that has given inferior service in inferior
conditions ... And if you can't produce good, quality service, then you have to

The block club meeting was held on the evening of May 3, 2007. On the morning
of May 9, 2007, placards of condemnation were posted at two entrances to the
grocery store ordering that the building be vacated by May 31, 2007. There
appears to be a connection between this action undertaken by the city and the
words spoken by Rybak and Samuels at the block club meeting six days earlier.

Keep in mind that the city has a legitimate interest in inspecting buildings to
prevent conditions that might threaten the safety or health of the public. In
this case, however, the driving force behind the condemnation was not any
condition related to the building but, clearly, the incident with the gunman on
April 30th and the broader insinuation that Uncle Bill's Food Market was
bringing a criminal element into the neighborhood.

It was clearly improper, if not illegal, for Mayor Rybak to be ordering a
particular inspections outcome - i.e., find something wrong with the building
so we can condemn it - when his motive is clearly related to something else
(the crime situation). It was arrogant for Don Samuels to be making himself a
representative of the store customers in proclaiming that Uncle Bill's had to
go because the store was providing "inferior service". If that were truly the
case, the store would have gone out of business earlier as its customers took
their business elsewhere.

No, this was a case of political bullying. Samuels specializes in this type
of treatment with respect to neighborhood grocery stores (Wafanas, Big Stop) as
well as bars and other small businesses. He's closed down a number of them.

The Fire Department inspectors condemned the building that housed Uncle
Bill's Food Market because of alleged "significant structural
damage." That is indeed strange considering that the same group of
inspectors signed off on the condition of this building on July 30, 2006 -
less than a year earlier - after forcing the owner to spend $25,000 to complete
city-imposed work orders. Such expenditures seriously strained the owner's
(Bill Sanigular's) financial resources. Fire Department officials said they
might reconsider their condemnation decision if the owner hired a structural
engineer (and perhaps an architect) to certify that the building was
structurally sound; but, by then, Sanigular was short of funds.

With respect to Uncle Bill's Food Market being a "crime magnet", an article in
City Pages dated July 4, 2007 reported that, three weeks after opening his
business the city of Minneapolis sent the new owner of the grocery store (Ali
Hassan Meshjell) "a letter threatening to revoke his business license, citing
neighborhood complaints. But the city was unable to gather sufficient
evidence of wrongdoing, despite stationing an undercover investigator at the
store for 45 days." Undeterred, the city moved forward to close Uncle
Bill's." Plan B was to go after the building.

An unspoken theme behind this situation was that the University of Minnesota
planned to build a new health complex in the neighborhood and land was becoming
more valuable. Jackie Cherryhomes, a neighborhood resident and Northside
political power broker, was becoming a major real-estate player. She offered
to buy out Meshjell's interest and then withdrew the offer. Some claimed that
she had an ownership interest in the building next door to Uncle Bill's.

The substantive issue here has to do with the proper relationship between the
city and private business owners with respect to crime. The city's current
position, championed by Don Samuels and Mayor Rybak, is that it is the building
owner's duty to police his own property and be punished when the results are
inadequate. (A single incident of "nuisance behavior" by tenants of an
apartment building can trigger revocation of the building's rental license,
possibly causing the owner's financial ruin.) It is the position of
property-rights advocates that the city has a statutory requirement to do the
police work and the city ought to go after individual criminals rather than
buildings. If a building such as that which housed Uncle Bill's Food Market
becomes a crime "hot spot", then a reasonable solution would be for city police
to hang out in the area, observed what is going on, and make some arrests.

The event scheduled for Saturday, September 19, will allow interested persons
to see how the city of Minneapolis has driven a legitimate neighborhood
business out of business. Can we afford to support this kind of political
behavior in an era of budget deficits and shrinking tax base? We need stable
adults running the city, not "Captain Ahabs" obsessed with harpooning the
" white whale" of neighborhood businesses serving racial minorities and the poor
whenever such an enterprise surfaces. An election year is an appropriate time
for city residents to decide what kind of representation they want. But it
would be helpful for voters to see for themselves what the incumbent officials
have actually done.

" Uncle Bill" Sanigular himself will likely attend the event on Saturday. Forty
some years ago he came to America from Africa to seek an education. After
working for Cream of Wheat for twenty years, he put his life savings into
starting a grocery store; it was his version of pursuing the American dream.
Today, "Uncle Bill" is a diabetic confined to a wheel chair, broken financially
though retaining brave and positive spirit. Talk with him and you can get
further details of his experience as a small business owner in Minneapolis. You
can also take a look at the inside of the building that he formerly owned.

Carey Joe Howell Sept. 18, 2009 2:18 p.m.

Oh, Puleeeeze! Are you kidding me? This place has a terrible history of crime
and Lennie bought it after he knew it was going to be demolished. The
neighborhood begged the city to deal with this property!!!!!!


Paul Schmelzer, Sept. 18, 2009 3:57 p.m.

I'm with Carey. I live a block north of Uncle Bill's on Sheridan (three blocks
west of Penn, not four), and I'm thrilled to see it closed. While the previous
owners seemed to have a solid business going, its most recent iteration was a
magnet for crime, some violent, and litter. The problems at the store
repeatedly came up in letters -- a few dozen from neighborhood residents,
including me -- that were sent to Samuels' office. To suggest he's arrogant for
claiming to represent the neighborhood seems to suggest a misunderstanding of
how constituent services work in the city council.


Buzzy Bohn, Sept. 18, 2009 4:33 p.m.

I understand the neighborhood wanting to see it demolished because of
the crime issues while it housed Uncle Bill's. However as a long time
Northsider and history buff, I hate to see one of the few buildings
that still remains from before the riot torn down. When I was a kid,
it was Gertz's Grocery Store. It's too bad that the building can't be
rehabbed and used for something good that won't attract drug dealers
and other criminals.

Bill McGaughey, Sept. 18, 2009 5:36 p.m.

No doubt there were many letters to Don Samuels, including from persons on this
list, urging that Uncle Bill's Food Market be closed down. That does not make
it right.

The issue is whether the owner or manager of Uncle Bill's was "encouraging" or
" condoning" crime. Granted, most of my information comes from Uncle Bill
himself. However, I did run into someone who grew up in that neighborhood and
who told me that the store owner's nickname was "Bill the Snitch". That means
someone who informs on people to the police. It tells me that Bill Sanigular
was trying to keep criminals out of his place but he was scorned for doing so,
at least by the people who were engaged in the mischief.

The city was not able to prove that there was much criminal activity at Uncle
Bill's. A judge made that decision. An article in City Pages (July 4, 2007)
stated: "The city was unable to gather sufficient evidence of wrongdoing,
despite stationing an undercover investigator at the store for 45 days.
Undeterred, the city moved forward to close Uncle Bill's."

But, let's suppose there were criminals loitering in front of the grocery
store. Why blame the grocery-store owner? Uncle Bill's posted "no loitering
signs" in the store but store owners have limited powers of enforcement. Those
powers lie with the city police.

If the store was a "crime magnet", why did not the Minneapolis police hang
around the building, observe what was going on, and arrest individuals seen to
be engaged in illegal activities? That would be the proper way to handle such
situations. What's wrong with that approach?

Clearly, the city was in the wrong in manufacturing "code violations" to deal
unrelated crime problems. How do you answer that one, Carey Howell?

In summary, an injustice was done to Uncle Bill Sanigular by the city and we
mean to demonstrate that at tomorrow's event. Let the sunshine of truth fall
upon this sordid situation.

end of discussion


(B) Contractors Arrive to Remove Valuables


Bill McGaughey, Sept. 24, 2009 2:49 p.m.

On Wednesday, contractors arrived in trucks at the site of the former Uncle
Bill's Food Market, presumably to remove items of value from the building
before the city demolished it. Boards were partially removed from the upstairs
windows and a dumpster was placed behind the building.

The contractors refused to identity themselves although the current building
owner, Lennie Chism, claimed to have no association with them. Chism said that
city officials had told him he was not allowed to remove anything from the
condemned building.

Does the city of Minneapolis now "own" whatever was left in Uncle Bill's after
the condemnation date? If so, will the city sell these goods and put the
proceeds in the general fund; or do these valuables have a murky legal status
similar to goods seized by the now-defunct Metro Gang Force? Into whose bank
account will the proceeds go?

Valuable appliances were left in the upstairs apartments at Uncle Bill's.
However, the most valuable item that could be removed would be the refrigerated
food shelves installed by store owner, Ali Hassan Meshjell, before he started
his business. He spent $140,000 on them.

Meshjell, a native of Iraq, has reported moved back to his native land,
disgusted by his experience with city government in Minneapolis. If the U.S.
hopes to win the hearts and minds of moderates in the Middle East. it will have
to contend with the credible testimony of persons like Meshjell who have seen
U.S. "democracy' close up and know it's not all it is cracked up to be.

The city condemned Uncle Bill's Food Market because the store was accused of
being a "crime magnet" - this despite the fact that an undercover investigator
watching activites in the store could find no evidence of wrongdoing. At a
block club meeting in May 2007, Mayor Rybak ordered the building to be
condemned. In effect, Fire Department inspectors were ordered to find
something wrong with the building as a pretext for condemning it. The
inspectors (who had signed of on the condition of the building the previous
summer) now claimed to find "sagging floor joists". A number of experienced
building managers who toured the building last Saturday could find nothing of
the sort. In fact the floor supports in the basement appeared to be
exceptionally sturdy.

There is no doubt that this situation represents a human-rights violation
perpetrated against the store owners by Minneapolis city government. It is a
direct violation of provisions in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Where does Minneapolis city government stand with respect to other governments
accused of human-rights abuse? The Chinese have had significant
property-rights violations but dealt with such problems in legislation enacted
in March 2007. On the other hand, the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe
continues on an unrestrained rampage against politically disfavored land
owners. I would put the folks at Minneapolis City Hall somewhere in between.


Megan Goodmundson, Sept. 24, 2009 11:30 a.m.

There is so much false info and hyperbole in Bill's writing that it is hard to
even know where to start.

The contractors do not refuse to identify themselves. They are driving trucks
with business names on them and wearing hats and/or tee-shirts that identify
their company. Furthermore they have spent time talking with several different
people that are stopping by, including myself, about what is going on, although
they seem to be taking caution to stay out of the politics of it, just sticking
to facts.

They are/were removing asbestos material and garbage. Assuming the appliances
were still inside, I imagine they would consider them garbage. I highly doubt
the city told Lennie Chism to NOT remove anything from the building, and if
they did, I challenge Bill or Lennie to forward those documents with those
orders to the list. Upload the file and prove your word.

Lennie, with Bill's help, is obviously trying to lay the ground work for a
lawsuit against the city. He paid $3000 for a building that was ordered to be
demolished and he has not met the proper needs to halt and/or reverse the
city's actions that were already set in motion. Furthermore, he filed for
office against the City Councilmember so he can further say that this
demolition of the building is due to political rivalry, sort of like Al
Flower's did when he failed to pay his water bill and the water got shut off.


Bill McGaughey, Sept. 24, 2009 11:58 a.m.

Megan Goodmundson,

What exactly is your relationship with Don Samuels?

I am not "helping" Lennie Chism lay the ground work for a lawsuit against the
city unless, unknown to me, Chism is using some of my writings to aid in such a

My statement about contractors not identifying themselves are based on
information given to me from someone who had that experience. Maybe the
contractors are selective in who they talk to.

Chism told me that he was forbidden to remove valuable items from the building
since it was condemned. Megan, if you know otherwise, I'll convey that
information to Chism so, if interested, he can get there before the
contractors. You evidently have a pipeline to information about the
contractors' plans if it is only "asbestos material and garbage" that they want
to remove.


Megan Goodmundson, Sept. 24, 2009 12:07 p.m.

My relationship with Don Samuels is that he is a neighbor with whom I share
some similar values and beliefs about how to improve my neighborhood, therefore
I help volunteer some of my time to doing things like doorknocking or phone
calling to help him get (re)elected to city council to, again, try to improve
our neighborhood. I'm an engaged and active person in my northside neighborhood
and Don Samuels is a leader. That is all.

The only information stream I have about Uncle Bill's is by stopping when I
happened to be drivingby there and asking the contractors what is up, what are
they up to.

I don't have any other info about if the city did or did not give instructions
to Lennie, I just expressed my disbelief and challenged him or you to prove
what you are saying, instead of expecting people to just swallow your bucket
full of lies and disseminating false information.


Connie Sullivan, Sept. 24, 2009 1:24 p.m.

McGaughey wrote: "Chism told me that he was forbidden to remove valuable items from the
building since it was condemned. Megan, if you know otherwise, I'll
convey that information to Chism."

Bill: Please answer Megan's question/request: Post the official order
to Chism that prohibited his removing anything valuable from the
building. Or forever hold your peace on this claim.

It's not Megan's responsibility to prove claims that YOU make.


Veg*nation (Michelle Lewis) Sept. 24, 2009 1:58 p.m.

Wow, I saw a neighbor chatting with one of the workmen this morning as I was
going to work, and I chatted with the contractor on Saturday morning myself.
As Megan said, the name of the contractor was clearly printed on their
vehicles, and it's not exactly a "mystery" how to contact them if, in fact,
Lennie actually HAS any questions about the process and isn't primarily
interested in throwing a lot of innuendo and misinformation out on the web. At
any rate, Ali certainly took out a lot of stuff after the property was first
boarded--I'd be surprised if he decided to leave anything "valuable." Although,
since Ali lived out in the burbs and drove down to our neighborhood in his
Lexus SUV and/or Mercedes sedan every day to sell expired twinkies (and watch
over the massive narcotics activity documented by undercover police stings),
and Lennie isn't able to keep any of his properties out of foreclosure, I
concede that Lennie and Ali might have different definitions of "valuable."

I don't know how much street value a truckload of used asbestos has--but maybe
Lennie would like it deposited at his house, so that he can arrange for its
safe removal?


Bill McGaughey, Sept. 25, 2009 10:37 a.m.

It's probably a good thing that this forum has a rule limiting participants to
two posts a day or I'd be spending much of my time responding to comments such
as Meg Goodmundson's, that I am "expecting people to just swallow your (my)
bucket full of lies and disseminating false information." What lies? What
false information?

A "lie" is a statement conveying false information and, beyond that, it is
information which the person knows to be false. Often, it is also a statement
made with malicious intent. Goodmundson does not know the content of my mind
(as I do not know the content of hers) so her presumption of my knowingly
making a false statement is beyond her scope of information. She makes the
accusation anyhow.

But let's get back to her assertion that I am disseminating false information.
I want to know specifics. There were some questions relating to the contractors
acting anonymously and the building owner not being allowed to remove valuable
items, and I thought I had cleared up those points. The more important
information, though, had to do with the cause of the building condemnation -
whether there were, in fact, sagging floor joists - and those issues
Goodmundson failed to address. Maybe she also doesn't think that the city's
behavior violates any acknowledged human-rights standards. It would be
relatively easy to enlighten her on that score.

Maybe the phrase "bucket of lies" is meant to relieve her of the need to
identify specific lies. Those lies, like water, exist amorphously inside a
metaphorical "bucket" of some sort, perhaps her own mind.

To call someone a liar, especially without citing evidence, seems to me to
violate certain rules of civility that this forum has. As many have noted, the
retiring moderator has rendered heroic service to us all so I don't want to
cast any aspersions on him. I do want to say that in some cases the quality of
discourse in this forum may not be all that high.

Worse yet, many seem not to recognize the implications of what is being
discussed. What city officials did to Uncle Bill and Ali Hassan Meshjell in
regard to Uncle Bill's Food Market was simply horrible. If the city did this
to you, would you feel the same way?

Today is the death day of Uncle Bill's Food Market. I am told that the
wreckers will have done their work by the end of the day. Then, maybe
tomorrow, Don Samuels can raise his champaign glass to celebrate another
neighborhood "victory".

I do want to comment on Michelle Lewis' posting. I did not know that Ali drove
a Lexus and lived in the suburbs. But what does it matter? This observation
merely shows that part of the animus against Ali was economic envy. He, an
Iraqi immigrant, seemed to be making lots of money while we, the deserving
ones, who were unwilling to stand behind a store counter many hours each day,
were comparative failures. Did Ali sell expired Twinkies? Then don't buy
them. I believe in the free-market system enough to suppose that if someone is
proposing to sell shoddy products at high prices, the customers have a remedy
in buying elsewhere. Also, are you sure it was "Saturday morning" when you
personally talked with the contractors? That was the day of the community
celebration (when tents were set up on the streets) and the contractors were
not there.

This, of course, is not the issue. The issue is whether the city had a
legitimate interest in tearing down the building. To my mind, that would mean
that the building was actually unsafe. Clearly the issue cited by neighbors
was something else - crime. In other words, it was the behavior of customers
or others frequenting the store. I doubt that Ali or Uncle Bill "encouraged"
criminal behavior. There was only so much that they could do to control
people's behavior so long as these people were not obviously breaking the law.
Then it was their duty to call the police. But, as we know, if you call the
police too often, building owners are blamed for failure to police their own

I say, we need to develop a better model for dealing with crime or unruly
behavior in or near commercial buildings. The current model is a cop-out by
city officials. There needs to be a more cooperative relationship between the
two parties since crime is harmful both to the city and the particular
business. If I'm elected mayor, I'll stop the current practice in its tracks.

Carey Joe Howell, Sept. 25, 2009 11:01 a.m.

So far, you haven't proven any of your allegations. Bring forward your proof
for every allegation you have made. Cite your source. Anything!

Are you expecting anyone to believe your allegations simply because you state
them? I'm not even being tongue in cheek here or sarcastic. I am seriously
asking the question.


Bill McGaughey, Sept. 25, 2009 12:18 p.m.

Carey Joe Howell wrote: "So far, you haven't proven any of your allegations.
Bring forward your proof for every allegation you have made. Cite your source.

I have cited my sources. With respect to Lennie Chism's not being allowed to
remove items of value from the building, I said that Chism had told me that.
Megan Goodmundson wrote: "I highly doubt the city told Lennie Chism to NOT
remove anything from the building, and if they did, I challenge Bill or Lennie
to forward those documents with those orders to the list. Upload the file and
prove your word."

Baloney. It's possible that Chism talked with a representative of the city and
was told this. That's a credible source. I do not owe you files with written
documents; and you will get no such thing from me. Go fish!

If you doubt my word that the building will likely be torn down today, drive
over there now and have a look for yourself.

There are ample documents up on the web to substantiate what I have written.
If you doubt my word, read the Star Tribune article on the neighborhood
shooting that led to Uncle Bill's condemnation dated May 12, 2007. You can
also read the more objective report on the closing of the store in City Pages
in an article dated July 4, 2007.

I'm tired of sycophants for city officials acting as attack dogs to defend
their bad practices when people bring them to light.

Carey Joe Howell, Sept. 25, 2009 12:47 p.m.

I don't think calling people who disagree with you names is very productive. I
haven't seen anybody call you a pontificating, hysterical blowhard.


Bill McGaughey, Sept. 26, 2009 2:26 p.m.

As you may know, the building at once housed Uncle Bill's Food Market is now on
the ground. A dozen photos documenting its destruction have been posted at the
bottom of

Megan Goodmundson, Sept. 26, 2009, 2:49 p.m.

For anyone that is further interested in the demo process there are several
video clips posted at

end of discussion


(C) Argument revived in the context of Bill McGaughey's running for Mayor

(Discussion topic is: "Who gives a tinker's cuss if Flowers is still in the mayoral contest?")


Tony Hill, October 4, 2009 12:15 a.m.

It is amazing to see people discuss this on the list as if it matters. There isn't any question who the winner of the mayoral contest will be. The only question is if Mayor R.T. Rybak will beat the 82 percent Don Fraser got in 1985, which, other than the time Orlando Merriman ran unopposed, was the largest share of the vote in the city's history.

The thing working against Rybak setting a new record is the change in the electoral system. Even so, Rybak could easily set a new record for the largest margin -- the distance between the winner and the second place finisher. If there is only 25 percent vote against Rybak and it splits 10 different ways, he just might win 75-5 percent over the second place finisher.


Bill McGaughey October 4, 2009 1:09 p.m.

Tony Hill argues that, for all practical purposes, the election for Mayor is over. It's possible, even likely, that Rybak will get more than 82% of the vote and, considering IRV's impact, beat the second-place finisher by a 16-to-1 margin, he says.

Nonsense. Where are Hill's credentials to peer so accurately into the future? No one knows what the results of this year's election will be. What I would say is that, if all the news reporting of the mayoral campaign is that Rybak is a shoo-in, this will probably become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I saw such a report on a television news program several days ago. Only one of Rybak's opponents (Al Flowers) was even mentioned and then to say that this candidate had less than $1 in the bank. A political-science professor from the U of M gave his priestly judgment that the election was effectively over. This is what democracy has come to be in our community.

OK, for all those who think Rybak's challengers are political midgets with no chance of winning, I have a suggestion. Focus not on us but on Rybak. What has been his record? Does he deserve reelection? If the news media would run a few stories of this kind, some life would remain in this year's campaign. If a fuller record came out, maybe some of us challengers would even have a chance.

I mentioned an event on Sept. 19 at the site of the former Uncle Bill's Food Market, less than a week before the building was demolished, effectively on Rybak's orders. Invitations were given to all major media to see for themselves what had happened here. None except for chose to attend.

Steve Brandt says he was out of town and, besides, he would have attended a candidate forum in the First Ward instead if he had been in town. I assume he was talking about the Waite Park neighborhood association's candidate forum. Reluctantly, as a mayoral candidate, I cancelled my participation in that event to spend my time instead at the Uncle Bill's rally. And I think that was also a good place for media people to be. At candidate forums, you get to hear what the candidates say they will do. At the sites of proposed building
demolitions, you get to see what political office holders, including one running for reelection, have actually done.

Among other things, persons attending the latter event could have gone into the basement of the condemned building to look for the "sagging floor joists" which the Fire Department inspections used as a pretext for condemning the building. They were not to be found. I admit this is a more strenuous type of investigative reporting than some reporters are used to, but it would be beneficial to the community if more digging was done into claims that city officials make.

In any event, I do not believe the election for mayor is over. I do believe that it is good for our democracy that Mayor Rybak has challengers, me being one of them. We will try to bring out issues and take it from there. No predictions yet.


Carey Joe Howell October 4, 2009 1:27 p.m.

Why did Lennie buy a building that he knew was slated for demolition, why not buy a building that wasn't?

Why buy a building that the neighborhood has decided is a crime magnet? Why " invest" in a property that the neighborhood has fought to take the variance away from? Whether you agree or disagree with that, why would he do that? Are there no other buildings in north Minneapolis appropriate for building a business?


Dave Harvey October 4, 2009 2:59 p.m.

Unless someone who was there at this event was a trained building inspector or some type of engineer I don't see why any amateur's opinion should matter in the regards to the structural soundness of the building. The city report stated that it would take several hundred thousand dollars to make this building come up to code standards. Did Mr. Chism or anyone ever hire someone who was
qualified to make a report on the building that would have legal standing? If not, why not?

It would seem if the city's report causing condemnation was dubious, this would be the first thing a building owner would do.


Bill McGaughey October 4, 2009 3:42 p.m.

Back to issues related to Uncle Bill's Food Market.

First, I do not know why Lennie Chism decided to buy that condemned building. Maybe he thought he could get the condemnation lifted.

Second, the "neighborhood" - whoever that might be - is not competent to decide what is a "crime magnet" - whatever that might be. Maybe criminals and other people went into a store like Uncle Bill's to buy groceries. Legally, the proprietor could not exclude them. Did Bill (nicknamed "the Snitch") Sanigular encourage crime in or near his store? I highly doubt it. I want proof of your accusation, Howell.

I quote from an article in City Pages titled "Inconvenient Youths" and dated July 4, 2007: "Ali Hassan Meshjell, an Iraqi immigrant, opened Uncle Bill's in January 2006. Just three weeks later, the city sent him a letter threatening to revoke his business license, citing neighborhood complaints. But the city was unable to gather sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, despite stationing an undercover investigator at the store for 45 days."

Neighborhood politics, too often, is based on the politics of hate - and that is wrong. You "neighbors", in this case egged on by Jackie Cherryhomes, direct hate against store owners for a situation over which they had no control. If crimes were being committed in or near the building, my question is why the police did not arrest the persons engaged in those activities?

Now for David Harvey's legalisms. Four or five persons experienced in building maintenance went into the basement looking for "sagging floor joists". None found any evidence of this. Granted, only the opinion of a certified structural engineer concerning the condition of the building would stand up in court. However, I am appealing to the court of public opinion where no such limitation applies.

However, this raises an interesting point. The building was condemned by Fire Department inspectors. Fire Department personnel are trained to fight fires, not inspect commercial buildings. Was the person or were the persons from the Fire Department who condemned Uncle Bill's properly trained in building maintenance?

With respect to the municipal election, the issue is whether the mayor should be instructing city inspectors to condemn a building - in effect, telling them to find some defect in it. This makes a mockery of the inspections process. Himself son of a drug-store owner in a crime-ridden area, Mayor Rybak ought to know better.

Carey Joe Howell October 5, 2009 7:18 a.m.

Well, Bill, you brought up Uncle Bills Food Market issue in the post I responded to. I am not making allegations, I am asking questions, what is Lennie's motivation for buying that building when there may be other more appropriate places he could purchase that are not slated for demolition? Of course, if he did that, no one could make a big stink about it and he could just go on his merry North Minneapolis reinvesting way and there would be no more reason for all this high drama.

You're running for office, Bill. The vitriol that is manifested in your posts towards neighborhood organizations or simply individuals trying to deal with real crime and livibility issues in their streets - where they live and have a right to feel safe - is a great concern to me. This tells me that you are not going to be a friend to an awful lot of your constituents.

As a candidate, show Minneapolis proof that you will be concerned. What have you done for any neighborhood lately to improve it? And no I am not going to search all over the internet to figure it out. You are the one running for office, make your case.


Bill McGaughey October 5, 2009 1:16 p.m.

I doubt that there is much interest in my perpetuating a personal argument with Carey Joe Howell. In that person's latest post, my response to points made in a previous posting is characterized as "vitriol". There is a dispute about " allegations". I am challenged to show anything good for any neighborhood or, I suppose, the city that I have done lately.

First, Howell wrote: "I am not making allegations, I am asking questions." The allegation made in the posting was that Uncle Bill's Food Market was a " crime magnet".

With respect to my own good deeds, I have served on the board of my neighborhood association for the past five years. I have been co-director of an organization that holds monthly free-speech forums to discuss issues that pertain to city government. I have personally (but unsuccessfully) lobbied Mayor Rybak for a youth drop-in center. As a landlord, I have also provided housing to low-income city residents at a reasonable price. Whether or not these help to "improve" the community depends on one's perspective.

It's true, if elected mayor, I might oppose bad ideas even if supported by "an awful lot of your constituents" who think like Howell. I do not want to see the continued destruction of small businesses and erosion of the tax base. Even without public subsidies, this city can come back. City government needs to stop being part of the problem while posing as a source of solutions.

Now let's move on to other issues - the most interesting one at the moment being the controversy over 600 Main Street and whether campaign contributions influence City Council members' decisions.

end of discussion

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