Jim Graham's advice on dealing with "slumlords"

Wizard Marks May 9, 2009 12:45 p.m.

Presently I, too, am aggravated by a new-minted landlord in the person of
an African doctor--of what I am unaware. He's a clueless landlord on two
levels. He's from a culture so vastly different from ours, different climate,
different continent. Dollars to donuts, the city codes of the city from whence
he came are nothing like what Minneapolis has chosen to enact. He hired two men
and a chain saw to cut the shrubbery, etc. They accidentally cut down one tree,
turned two others into something that looks like a Dr. Seuss creation, whacked
all the roses, cut branches off my trees before I finally got through the noise
to shout stop. They, too were African. They did not seem to know the difference
between the plants we keep and the plants we eliminate. Previous tenants had
already poured bleach on the bushes and killed them, killing one of my bushes
in the process.

The African doctor does not understand, or is not aware of the fact that
there are now five guard dogs in his duplex and he does not have an entirely
fenced yard. These are pit bull mix with the underslung jaws, ugly creatures.
They scare the hell out of me and they are in my yard all the time, claiming my
front and side yards as their territory, guarding it against me. I asked the
guy next door to leash them and he told me that my landlord had to fence the
yard. Apparently his plan is to deny all responsibility for his dogs. Cute,


Jim Graham May 9, 2009 4:30 p.m.

Go out in your yard and let the dogs bark at you, then immediately call 911 and
report that there are killer, attack dogs loose in your neighborhood and they
are threatening to you. Ask that a squad be dispatched immediately as you are
handicapped and must get out of your house and cannot outrun the dogs.
Hopefully, the police will dispatch a squad who will also feel threatened and
will then shoot the dogs. At the least they will dispatch Animal Control.

When you give the reports to Animal Control be ABSOLUTELY certain to include
that the dogs are threatening towards you, and you WANT the owner charged.
That should end the problem. If the police will not do their duty and remove
or shoot the threatening dogs then simply take some caster bean seed, chop it
up a little fine (rubber gloves advised), put it in some hamburger and put it
in the yard. Dogs eat the hamburger, dogs go to puppy heaven. I honestly do
not know how you get the landlord to have a hamburger:-)

BTW, on a more serious note, if you call animal control each and every time
with the same report of a threatening dog, and a loose dog, they will start
ticketing the owners. Very quickly your dog problem will go away. Also, see
if you can get the building owner to give you the name of his insurance company
for the house (in case the dogs bite someone). Then call or write that
insurance company and tell them the situation and inform them that since you
have contacted both the insured owner and them that you will be seeking
punitive penalties as well as compensation for the bite, if you or anyone else
is bitten. That should get his insurance company's attention.

This is the reason I have been seeking to have the "Disorderly House"
legislation changed to include landlords who control housing or a building
where gang members live or who control a building whose occupants "Continually
and habitually disturb the peace and well-being of a neighborhood or

Since Linda Higgins, Linda Berglin, Karen Clark and a few others who represent
" impacted neighborhoods" represent us perhaps they can be urged to hurry this
legislation through. It just returns to what the legislation was a few years
ago. I had hoped it would be passed this year. Unfortunately, the budget and
a few other things over at the capital have distracted them from passing this
needed legislation this year. Someone allowing their tenants to have vicious
dogs threaten neighbors I think of as "Controlling a Disorderly House."
Another BTW: Drug Dealers and prostitutes are again coming into my
neighborhood. Just this morning we had to chase three off of my block. They
were transacting a deal with money and dope changing hands when we started
yelling at them. Called 911 also, and I started out by saying I had a drug deal
going down at my address. The 911 operator said just a minute and put me on
hold where someone rattled at me in Spanish and then hung up. Sorry, but if I
call 911, I ABSOLUTELY do NOT want to be hung up on. Either there was so much
crime going on at 9:00 AM to not wait to hear that I was going to go out and
stop the crime or they really need to train those operators better. What if
those drug dealing scum had objected to being chased and pulled a weapon of
some kind. Someone might well have been shot!


William McGaughey May 12, 2009 1:06 p.m.

Spring has sprung and some of the old political canards are back. I
have to respond to some of the remarks made by Jim Graham about
fabricating or exaggerating complaints about dogs to put a burden on
the owner and also a proposal for “Disorderly House” legislation,
again targeting the owner or manager. Due to technical problems, my
response comes somewhat late in the thread.

I first became aware of Mr. Graham back in 1997 when he ran for the
Minneapolis City Council in the 6th ward. Minneapolis Property Rights
Action Committee, a landlord group to which I belonged, that year
established a political committee whose members were, however, only
loosely related to our organization. But we raised several thousand
dollars to support “friendly” candidates. Graham, who some thought
was a landlord, wound up receiving a large portion of that money
thanks to a committee member who was excited about his candidacy
although not everyone agreed with the decision.

Graham’s latest message advances the general theme that the community
ought to try to punish the owner of dogs or rental properties where
someone else - a dog or “gang members” - has caused problems. Yes,
there is a responsibility here but not to the degree that Graham
suggests. The person most responsible for the gang member’s behavior
is the gang member himself. If someone else is also at fault, I would
say it is the gang member’s parents or parent. But I think we all
recognize that in this day and age, parents have a hard time
controlling their children’s behavior.

A landlord could be blamed, at least in part, if he knowingly admitted
a gang member to be a tenant in a building or if he had enough advance
information to have known not to admit the person as a tenant. In the
real world, that seldom happens. And if Graham has managed buildings,
he would know this.

Usually landlords are blamed for criminal activities of tenants on the
basis of having failed to screen their applicants properly. I would
therefore ask Jim Graham if he would disclose the screening techniques
that should be used to keep gang members out of rental properties.
What steps has he taken, for instance?

I would also point out that we are not living in a perfect world where
mistakes can always be prevented. That being the case, the judgmental
attitude directed against someone other than the perpetrator of a
misdeed is not appropriate.

I do recall a television-news report several years ago that a small
child, perhaps a toddler, fell out of an upper-storey window of an
apartment building which Jim Graham managed. I do not recall the
extent of the injuries. Most people would consider that someone who
manages a building would have a supervisory responsibility for
maintaining safe conditions in the building, especially with small
children living there, although, admittedly, one cannot anticipate or
prevent every bad situation. However, that responsibility exceeds a
landlord’s responsibility for policing tenants’ personal lives.

Really, the landlord, the police, and other interested parties should
work together on problems relating to gangs. Mistakes happen.
Graham’s finger-pointing approach is unhelpful.


Constance Sullivan May 12, 2009 3:27 p.m.

William McGaughey would rather make a personal attack, it seems,
than accept that landlords have any responsibility for the way his or
her tenants control, their dogs, or not.

I had a yellow lab for years a while back. Two houses down, the
renter had a large, aggressove female dog that he would often tie up
to the front railing. When she was thus outside, the dog would try to
attack any dog who went by, and one day broke away and attacked my
dog and me as we were approaching our house after a long walk. The
dog had decided that the whole street was hers to defend. I was

I complained to the landlord. Landlord told his renter what to do.
Next day the dog had been shipped off to a relative's farm. End of

That landlord, of course, lived on my block, and was not "absentee,"
but a friend. I'll bet the owner of the house where the pit bull
lives resides in a suburb some place, and couldn't care less what
happens in south Minneapolis. If he/she did care, they'd take action
against the renters of that house with the scary pitbull.


William McGaughey May 12, 2009 5:02 p.m.

I don’t see what Connie Sullivan’s pit bull story has to do with my
posting or what relevance of absentee landlords is to anything but
Sullivan’s own stereotypes.


Jim Graham May 12, 2009 10:26 p.m.

Mr. McGaughey has done it again.

Anyone who points out that there might be a problem with a slum landlord is
attacked. Sometimes with outright lies and sometimes with miss-direction.

Let's take Bill's one at a time.

1. Landlords ARE responsible for dangerous animals they allow to come from
their property and attack or threaten neighbors. Clearly Wizard's neighbor IS
aware of this situation.

2. Mr. McGaughey is simply lying about my receiving "Thousands of dollars" from
his landlords group, or who ever was supposed to pass those contributions along
simply stole the money. Only about $100.00 came from that landlords group. A
wonderful landlor, Mr. Frank Trisko, did contribute and work tirelessly for the
campaign, but NO other members. Including Mr. McGaughey. So where ever Mr.
McGaughey and friends did with their money I have NO idea.

3. The Land Lord I referred to as renting to the "13" gang members certainly
did know what she was doing. She was informed of it repeatedly in fact. Even
informed that she better check her property for damage, but she ignored that
advice. The neighbors were actually glad that she was stuck with the loss. She
deserved it. AND YES, Mr. McGaughey a land lord does have responsibility to a
community where he or she owns property. Your assertion that they do not
smacks of the Non-profit Slum Land lords your group always rails against

4. When a child fell from a building that I had helped with the development of,
(I NEVER managed it, a professional management company did) I immediately
started work to change codes and create landmark Minnesota legislation to
address that problem. Overcoming huge amounts of lobbying dollars I (with the
help of Senator Linda Berglin, Representative Karen Clark and others) was able
to help create model legislation that will eventually save children all over
the United States. That law is called "Laela's Law" for the little girl who
miraculously lived after falling four floors to a sidewalk. Something that I
happen to be very proud of. Something that was not my responsibility at all,
but something that someone needed to do something about. That is what
responsible people do. Before the law had even been enacted I had worked help
design and to put those child safety screens on every window of those building
the children fell from.

5. While having ANYTHING to do with Bill's group (I NEVER attended when I was
not asked to do so by their leadership) I advocated for a Landlord's
professional association that would include a code of ethics and professional
practices. Some of his Landlord's group felt this was a good idea, but some
less than scrupulous members attacked me for it, and even said they were
changing their support from me to my opponent in that election Bill talks
about. (Perhaps that is where Bill's "thousands of dollars" went.

I have rental property, and I do NOT allow drug dealers or criminals to live in
them. While I do it from ethical considerations, I would remind Bill and his
group that that is not just my opinion; IT IS THE LAW!

ONLY unethical landlords would oppose the "Disorderly House" legislation.
Reputable and ethical landlords would have nothing to fear from such a statute.
Ethical landlords KNOW that people have to live with those criminals. The
litmus teat Bill, is whether you would live in the same house with the people
you rent to, cause someone HAS to.

From what Bill has written in the past I believe Bill is an ethical land lord.
Why he continues to defend unethical slumlords when they are criticized is
beyond me. Slumlords renting to criminals harm the interests of legitimate
landlords. They destroy real estate values where a landlord has property, and
they cause good tenants to move away. The people MOST critical of slumlords
should be legitimate "Rental Property Providers". Such Slumlords hurt our
business and our industry.

So Bill, please stop putting out the falsehoods. You have been corrected
before on these points concerning me. Disagree with me all you want but why
continue with false allegations you know to be false. making such invalid
statements does not do your cause good. I think it actually hurts the
interests of landlords when they are making quite valid complaints. And there
are many such valid complaints.

William McGaughey May 13, 2009 1:15 p.m.

Let me focus on the factual portion of Jim Graham’s argument with me.

First, I did not say Graham received “thousands of dollars” from the
landlords’ political group. I said we had raised thousands of dollars
and Graham had received “a large portion” of this - it was well in
excess of $1,000 as I recall. It was from our political committee
rather from the group itself. A former Minneapolis City Council
member, now deceased, was instrumental in the donation. Does this
ring a bell? Also, in my posting I did not accuse anyone of
“ stealing” the money. It came from the committee.

Second, my knowledge of the accident involving the child comes from a
television news report which I watched several years ago. I have the
distinct recollection of Jim Graham being interviewed as a spokesman
for the property management. I don’t know what the organizational
responsibilities were - whether Graham was officially the manager, had
some other position with the firm managing the building, or had a role
in the building’s construction.

But I am not making this up. Graham himself was on camera in the role
of speaking on behalf of the property management. I assumed it was a
significant role if he was the one picked for the television
interview. I don’t know if Graham is now denying that he had a
significant role connected to the building or if he believes that his
subsequent lobbying efforts absolve him of any responsibility for that
unfortunate situation.

I am not in favor of “allowing” drug dealers to live in rental
properties. My posting said that in the real world it is sometimes
difficult to prevent unsavory characters from getting into buildings.
Graham writes that he owns rental property and doesn’t allow drug
dealers or criminals to live in his units. That’s easy to say. Prove

I asked Graham in my posting to identify the screening steps that he
takes to make sure that gang members are not admitted to his
properties. Graham simply ducked that question. So I ask him again:
What screening techniques should be used to keep gang members out of
rental properties? What steps has Graham taken, for instance?

Jim Graham accuses me of telling “outright lies” in my posting,
“ putting out the falsehoods”, or continuing with “false allegations”
that I “know to be false”. This is not true. If Graham is denying
that his 1997 campaign got more than $100 from the landlord political
committee, I believe I can find a living witness to confirm that he
got more. Whether or not Graham had a management role in the building
where the toddler fell out of the window is best known to Graham
himself. I am telling what I recall appeared in the television news
report. This is not a lie.

If you have retained my posting from yesterday (May 12) at 1:09 p.m.
under “Rites of Spring”, you can see for yourself that Graham’s
assertion that I claimed his campaign had received “thousands of
dollars” is itself false. No, Graham did not receive the full amount
of the money raised but he did receive in excess of $1000. Also, I
did not say that anyone “stole” money from the committee. I said some
people disagreed with the decision to give money to Graham’s
campaign. So Graham appears to be making this up as well.

I do not take kindly to being called a liar repeatedly. Get your act
together, Graham. Be careful of your own accusations.

The main point of my posting, still unaddressed, is that it is
unhelpful to point the finger of blame at occupational or other groups
for situations that are largely beyond their control. Crime is a
difficult situation whose solution will require cooperation among
people of good will rather than assignment of blame to politically
unpopular groups.

Also, the frequent use of group epithets such as “slumlord” or “slum
landlord” may win you points in certain circles but it denotes a
rather low level of political thinking.

Bill Kahn May 13, 2009 2:06 p.m.

Witnesses, living or dead, are not necessary as Hennepin County
maintains campaign finance records; if they are from 2002 to the
present, you may access them online.

For Jim Graham's 1997 campaign, one would have to visit Downtown and
go to the records department of the Hennepin County Government Center,
but you can go to http://www.hennepin.us find the "your county
government" link at the top right, click it and find the "campaign
finance" link on the right of the next page to get where you need to
be to look up more recent records like this.

I guess that Jim is as sensitive about the window issue or more so
than Bill McGaughey is about folks describing him and other landlords
as "slumlords." From his posts over the years, the screen safety issue
is important to Jim, and as is traditional in the history of our city,
it is often tragedy that leads to greater safety and welfare of our
citizens of all ages through the actions of citizens and government in
the aftermath.

Maybe this sort of exchange is another "Rite of Spring."

Tim Bonham May 13, 2009 4:56 p.m.

"First, I did not say Graham received “thousands of dollars” from the
landlords’ political group. I said we had raised thousands of dollars and
Graham had received “a large portion” of this - it was well in excess of $1,000
as I recall. It was from our political committee rather from the group itself."

Bill, how did your committee get away with violating the Campaign Finance laws
like that? The contribution limit for City Council seats is $500 ($100 in
non-election years). Or did you have individual landlords write checks and
give the bunch of them to him? That's called 'bundling' and is also a
violation of the law.


William McGaughey May 13, 2009 6:51 p.m.

It’s a good question whether the political committee violated election
law in 1997 by giving more than $1,000 to the Graham campaign. I do
not have an answer. The person who gave the money away is no longer
available for questioning.

Jim Graham May 13, 2009 10:55 p.m.

Thank you Bill for your suggestion. I do hope people will look.

Also thank you John Ferman. I considered your suggestion about the undies, and
decided you might be correct. So I went in and changed to some loose boxers,
and suddenly decided to thank Bill Kahn rather than continue the argument with
the other Bill. Ah yes, loose undies and a cool breeze does reduce the heat of
the moment.

And thank you Alberto, for your off list post that added perspective.


William McGaughey May 14, 2009 2:22 p.m.

Barring further discussion, this will be my last post regarding Jim
Graham’s 1997 campaign for city council and related matters.

Bill Kahn has given helpful links to financing of more recent
campaigns in Hennepin County but the online records do not go back to
1997. A further complication, brought to light in this thread, is
that contributions of $500 or more to city council campaigns from a
single donor are illegal. It may be that this legal provision was
added after 1997. I don’t know. However, if it did apply then, there
would be a question about how a campaign donation of $1,000 or more
would have been handled by the Graham campaign.

I did check with Charlie Disney yesterday. He was the head of the
landlord group in 1997, though not of the political committee that
handled the donations. His recollection was that the Graham campaign
received by far the largest share of the money raised - 80% of the
money was his guess - although he had only a vague recollection of the
actual sum. I remember it being a bit in excess of $1000. About
$2,400 in total was raised for the committee. But this happened twelve
years ago.

Disney said that he had discussed the matter with Graham on at least
one occasion and that he himself had donated $50 to the Graham
campaign apart from what the political committee had given. Disney’s
beef was that he thought more of the committee’s money should have
gone to Barbara Carlson who was running for mayor that year.

This topic may be of interest mainly to me because my assertion that
the Graham campaign had received a large campaign donation from the
landlords was termed “simply lying”. I wish to set the record
straight on that point and then, hopefully, leave the subject.

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