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2003 Columns
Quarter 3: July thru September

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September 24, 2003 Column #13: Selection of the Next Police Chief: Can Minneapolis Make History? I don’t think so.

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

New Police Chief. Actions speak louder than words. RT Ryback’s actions speak clearly with his appointment of an Advisory Committee regarding the next police chief: African Americans are of no importance in his City Hall. The panel, to help in reviewing candidates seeking to be the next chief, has no members of the Black Police Officers Association (no role in the selection process for them), even though he appointed the White head of the Police Federation. Promises? Forget them. Score? Point, set match: Rybak wins, Blacks lose.

Current Chief Robert K. Olson will be gone no later than December 31st of this year, maybe earlier. The Mayor has no shame: in October 2001, when he was in a very close battle with then Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, Candidate Rybak sought out three high ranking African American Police Officers to pick their brains about what it was that they were concerned about. Learning or spying? They gave their points of view. Ryback used that to press his advantage in the Mayoral debates and then dropped Blacks once elected. In the course of his discussions with these African American high ranking Police Officers, RT went to great lengths to promise they would not be ignored if he won. Renegging on his promise, he now ignores them. His refusal to counsel with the Black Police Officers Association represents what is clearly an ongoing problem within the Rybak administration: the view that African Americans in the governing halls of the City of Minneapolis are really of no importance and have no place.

RT Rybak is doing what RT Rybak does best: whatever he feels is best for RT Rybak, even if it is not the best for the city or its citizens. Consequently, RT Rybak will maneuver the citizens panel to give him a favorable review of both Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold and Deputy Chief Sharon Lubinski. The story is well known with respect to the kind of consultation that was involved between Candidate Rybak and the police federation and the promises that were made for the administration. This led to the disaster that was the first three months of the Rybak administration when he attempted to fire current Chief Robert K Olson. Now the mayor intends to make good on his commitment to not only bring in a new chief but to bring in one who is acceptable to the Police Federation. Lest any forget, the Federation is a powerful political entity within City Hall. Ask yourself this: will there be a repeat of what we saw a little over 8 years ago, when the search for a police chief included two African Americans, one from the St. Louis, Missouri Police Department and one from the Houston, Texas Police Department? Neither one made it to the final cut. This time around we suspect there will not be any finalists of color (Black, Hispanic, Asian). But to say would rub the Rybak administration the wrong way so we’ll take the posture of wait and see. But for those who envision the dream of Minneapolis joining St. Paul, and selecting an African American to head its Police Department, you’ll have to wait until later in this century.

Vikings:  To be here or not be here, that is the question. Will the Vikings be in Minnesota for the 2004 football season? We’re not sure. We have to assume Red McCombs has worked with his attorneys to find a way to get out of the Metrodome lease. There is still no doubt in our mind that Red McCombs is sticking to the plan to leave. The University of Minnesota has announced it is going to get its stadium by whatever means necessary. We know the Twins will get something (and let’s hope they achieve another American League Central Division Championship). But not the Vikes. Monday of last week, CCO went into great detail about how unhappy Red is. He is an unhappy camper even though his team is 2 and 0 in the first two weeks of the season and people are already talking Superbowl (let’s not get carried away folks). The question remains: how important is the loyalty of our beloved Vikings fans and does Red McCombs give loyalty to the fans who continually pack the Metrodome? It doesn’t matter. The former owners sold it to him to move them so they wouldn’t have to take the heat. He continues to maneuver to take our beloved team, the Vikings, somewhere else.

September 10, 2003 Column #12: Hollman low-income housing lost: A Dream Deferred: Here yesterday, gone today, nothing for tomorrow

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Here yesterday

On April 20, 1995, many thought the long-held dream of affordable housing was realized in the courtroom of Federal Judge James Rosenbaum, who presided over the consent degree settlement known as ***Hollman vs. Cisneros***, and now referred to as ***Hollman vs. Martinez*** (Cisneros and Martinez being the secretaries of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at the time of these lawsuits).

On that spring day in 1995, many African Americans who had been forced out of the public housing known as Sumner Olson in North Minneapolis assumed that sometime during their lifetimes they would have a right of return.

Well, there has since been much speculation and many rumors on that subject; but it now appears, at long last, that the dream is terribly deferred, judging from a series of correspondence culminating in an August 12 letter from William O. Russell, deputy assistant secretary of HUD for public housing and voucher programs.

Gone today

August 12, 2003: In a letter to Ms. Cora McCorvey, executive director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), Secretary Russell lays out, in very interesting language, the interpretation leading to the federal government's decision to remove as much as $7.5 million in low-income rental subsidy dollars. It appears that all 900 Section 8 vouchers awarded to the MPHA in 1995 as part of the consent decree are in jeopardy.

Secretary Russell expresses HUD's extreme disappointment in what, at best, can only be called very poor accounting procedures by MPHA, as the mobility certificates have disappeared. This means that, right off the bat, 89 low-income rental units may not be built.

This loss is all due to the City, the developers, the MPHA, the city attorney, those who took or destroyed documents, and the NAACP.

August 29, 1999: In a letter and affidavit from Ron Edwards to Judge Rosenbaum, acting as a member of the NAACP, I proposed that a Special Master be appointed to preside over the completion of Hollman because of the number of people whose rights had been violated by the way the consent decree was being handled -- malfeasance and noncompliance by the NAACP, MPHA, etc.,

Without appointing a Special Master, a lot of time and expense would be wasted by both sides frequently returning to the court with appeals to settle differences, to fact-find, and to resolve disputes as both sides attempt to hide the accounting of missing funds. A Special Master and oversight committee could provide a neutral trust mechanism.

At that time, Tim Thompson and his cohorts (see below) felt it was ridiculous for an African American to propose such an action (kind of like the conference earlier this year in England on Palestine and Israel with no Israelis invited to participate).

August 22, 2003: A letter from Timothy Lee Thompson of the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis shows how the scramble has begun to find a scapegoat and point fingers. In this letter, this White bureaucrat does something peculiar; some might call it plagiarism, and a pessimist might say he was stealing my ideas.

An optimist, on the other hand, might say that the City and the NAACP were finally, if begrudgingly, recognizing that Ron Edwards had been right all along, for Thompson proposed what I proposed in more detail in 1999: that a Special Master be appointed to preside over the completion of Hollman/Heritage Park. I, of course, would add, "if the completion ever takes place."

September 23, 2002: The above comes on the heels of the attempt on this date by the City, public housing, and the NAACP to tamper with an order handed down by Judge Rosenbaum in April of 2002, after which things have gone steadily down hill.

Nothing for tomorrow

Next month, in mid-October, Judge Rosenbaum will hear arguments by all the parties on the future of Hollman/Heritage Park. Why? Because the conflict resolution regarding the requirements of the consent decree among the various parties regarding Hollman has failed.

Some say it's sad, because well-intended people acted with good intentions. Is that true? I don't think so. When they are trying to hide the fact that they have spent all the money, that spells bad intentions to me.

My interpretation is this: The various parties seem to think they can get the judge to give them what they want (showing the arrogance of the different sides), so they won't compromise in good faith. So now they have gotten their desired day in court. They may regret getting what they wished for. Stay tuned. Watch and listen carefully.

The bottom line: There will be no money for low-income rental programs for the project known as Hollman, because the money is gone. The mobility certificates are gone. Low-income rental properties are gone. And most definitely, low-income rental housing for African Americans in Minneapolis is gone.

August 27, 2003 Column #11: The Hollman/Heritage Park Saga Continues: A Little Bit of Poison Is OK, Afterall these are only Black children

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

What’s in the water at Heritage Park and Winter Park?

“It’s in the water” is only funny on TV sit-coms. It’s not funny at Hollman/Heritage Park. In this week’s column we explore two very interesting letters. The first is the cover letter of Richard D. Baron, Chairman and CEO of McCormack Baron Salazar (dated August 7, 2003) to Chuck Lutz of MCDA (Minneapolis Community Development Agency (charged with the city’s oversight of Heritage Park). The “Dear Chuck” letter states: “In keeping with our commitment to provide a safe and healthy environment for residents at Heritage Park, enclosed please find the sampling and analysis result from Braun Intertec Corporation.” He attaches the analysis letter from Jon A. Carlson, Vice President of Braun Intertec, also dated August 7, 2003. Why hasn’t the city made the letter public (as of August 21)? What is the MCDA hiding? This is one of the greatest shams in the history of environmental investigation.

I question Braun Intertec’s analysis because (1) we were promised an independent analysis, which is standard in the industry when there is question about work performed. As Braun Intertec was paid millions for supposedly cleaning the site before construction and are dependent on giving themselves a clean bill of health, they have a clear conflict of interest; and (2) at a meeting Thursday, August 14, the McCormack Baron/Braun Intertec folks told us the toxins were not petroleum based and didn't address the buried asbestos. The state environmental person at the meeting said that it was petroleum based. The MCDA person said they didn’t spend the money on cleanup. Clearly the fox was put in charge of the hen house. Only an independent analysis can resolve this.

Clearly Braun Intertec is not an independent, impartial, or unbiased entity in the examination of problems of toxicity and questionable environmental conditions. This is putting the fox in charge of the hen house. On the very first page and then sprinkled (if you will excuse the pun) throughout the report, was the presence of arsenic in the samples of the so called Rain Garden and the children’s playground. There’s no indication at this point (despite the taking of the samples nearly a month ago) that anyone has taken significant action to reassure the residents of that their children will be safe, now and in the future.

Arsenic does not just fall out of the sky. It’s not manna from heaven. How, since the very detailed reports prepared by the city of Minneapolis in July of 2000, and the oversight of the NAACP, has the arsenic since gotten into the ground water undetected with all the monitoring equipment that the tax payers of this city paid for to guarantee environmental protection (or did they spend it on something/someone else or just not use it?). One gets the sense that if children are poisoned it is OK as long as they are Black.

And consider this: why the intimidation attempt last week by McCormack Baron’s Braun Intertec to assassinate the character of us activists by spreading rumors that we were coming to the site packing guns? Why do they respond with slander rather than with truth, integrity and ethics? They continue The Minneapolis Story. We will continue to counter them with our daily truth fest on our web log. Truth is in our water.

Viking story suppressed; bad security risk kept on.

Last Wednesday and Thursday (8-20 &21-03), 6 & 7 days after we reported it on our web log, the suppression of the news by the papers and Clear Channel stations (owned by Vikings owner Red McCombs) about criminal activity at Winter Park was lifted. TV, led by KSTP, reported it Wednesday, the Star Tribune and PiPress on Thursday: that a White Eden Prairie Police officer was involved in credit card and identity theft of Black players. I also reported that others are involved which is not being mentioned yet. It will. The truth will come out. I’m tempted to say, “hey guys, get on a horse and catch up.” But we didn’t so much as “scoop” them as we didn’t suppress news as the team and the major media did. It makes me wonder what else they are suppressing besides this, Hollman, etc? This is about how their high level White boys are ripping off their higher paid Black players. That the Vikings have been going down hill for 20 months is no surprise to the Black community. What’s in their water that makes them think we are fooled by this? NOTE: a puzzlement: how is it that when the Black head of internal security recommended last year that this Eden Prairie officer be terminated, the White front office response was to give him more authority and responsibility? Does this mean they were protecting their own or were in on this scam or is it something else?

August 13, 2003 Column #10: The Hollman trail of lies and broken promises

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Minutes of meetings: This column reflects a trail of lies and broken promises regarding Hollman/Heritage Park, based on minutes of meetings listed below.

Late 1999: Minneapolis reported that the cleanup and cleansing of the area had begun in earnest.

July 21, 2000: City representatives discuss their commitment to the regulations and requirements of the federal government entrusted to them in 1996, as we previously reported. There was much discussion of the monitoring system and of how toxic reports pertaining to the contaminated water would be dealt with.

September 22, 2000: Additional follow-up and additional strategies were discussed with respect to the reporting process of the toxic cleanup.

October 20, 2000: A very extensive report was given to the Hollman Implementation Committee chaired by then-city council member/president Jackie Cherryhomes. There was much discussion of a $2.9 million funding request for clean-up of areas of contamination just south of Olson Memorial Highway. There was also much discussion of the monitoring mechanism that was supposed to be in place for the site north of Olson.

October 19, 2001: 365 days later, the trail of lies and broken promises continued at a meeting held with additional discussion of the systems in place; the cleanup cost had by then grown to $3.8 million. The discussion covered the existence of protective mechanisms to guarantee that cleanups had been completed, including, but not limited to, monitoring ground water, wells, and testing soil samples.

The City initiated a voluntary investigation and cleanup program (VIC), a voluntary petroleum investigation and cleanup program (VPIC), and a construction contingency plan and response action plan (CCP/RAP) for fuel oil contamination at the former Sumner Heating Plant. It also initiated the covering of asbestos-wrapped pipes buried on the site.

The monitoring process was reported as being in place. This had been reflected earlier in the City's July 2000 report to the federal government. What happened to that money? What will the federal government do about the submitted lies? And what will the City do about the illegal buried asbestos-wrapped pipes? Has there been a report? If so, when?

June 8, 2001: A peculiar communique was sent by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) to Braun Intertec Corporation, to the attention of Mr. Chris McElligott, their lead person for remedial environmental cleanup for Phase I of the Hollman project. Belair is identified as the recipient of $428,057 for cleaning up the contaminated soil and other areas immediately adjacent to the former Sumner Heating Plant, which was located at 631 Bryant Avenue North.

This letter was signed by Minneapolis city employee Leslie A. Woyee. The letter makes mention of the arrangement and agreement with Belair and Braun Intertec for the beginning of the cleanup of contaminated soil and other materials.

July 30, 2003: A ***Minnesota Spokesman Recorder*** front-page story shows how this is but a part of a much larger pollution problem. Their map shows the pollution sites at Hollman/Heritage Park, as well as many more sites in the area between it and the Mississippi River, with a North-South area three times the size of Hollman/Heritage Park.
In conclusion: We bring these dates and information to you in light of the City's inability (refusal?) to (1) produce reports that show that they have carried out their 1996 federally mandated responsibilities, and (2) the inability (refusal?) of the City to encourage Braun Intertec, McCormack Barron, and Urban Strategies to produce the results of the tests they have made over the past five weeks.

Reliable sources say that many documents have been destroyed or purged (many taken by Jackie Cherryhomes). In light of the discovery of the first child with blood lead content and the refusal by the City to conduct a massive examination of current residents in that facility, we have no alternative in this column but to give significant credence to the stories that the City, in violation of federal law, has, in fact, destroyed pertinent information identified by the City and certified by the City in its reports to the federal government in July 2000 and other years.

Minneapolis, McCormack Barron and Braun Intertec must prove they are not hiding anything when they use the fiction that they can't discuss tests from a public-private partnership. The reports about these contamination issues must be released to the public. They plunder the City treasury. They pick the taxpayers' pockets. They gain nothing with their Trail of Lies and Broken Promises.

Minneapolis, stop refusing to look in the mirror. Minneapolis, look and learn.

July 30, 2003 Column #9: Violation of a trust, betrayal of a people: The Hollman/Heritage Park environmental minefield chronology

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

February 11, 1994: President Clinton signed Presidential Executive Order 12898, a federal action to address environmental justice and human health conditions in minority and low-income populations, and directing federal agencies to deliver, by March 24, 1995, an environmental justice strategy that identifies and addresses disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects in minority and poor populations.

April 20, 1995: The parties in the case known as Hollman vs. Cisneros reached an agreement that included $117 million to begin the process. Despite that document and despite Executive Order 12898, the City of Minneapolis began its process of circumvention and retaliation.

October 14, 1996: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assigned to the City of Minneapolis the responsibility for environmental protection and to certify same in regular reports.

May 17, 2000: The City of Minneapolis submitted to HUD a proposal for additional funding for Hollman (now called Heritage Park), hoping to net the City $36.2 million in additional funds for the building of new housing. On page 35 of the document, the City discusses the need for "hazardous reduction" on the site, asking, on the "Baseline Data Report Budget" page, for $8,695,168 "clean up for soil contamination and other hazardous soil conditions," etcetera.

July 2000: After having contracted with SRF Consulting Group of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1 Carlson Parkway North, Suite 150), the City prepared and certified and submitted to the federal government a document identified as "Minnesota Environmental Assessment Worksheet and Federal Environmental Assessment for the Near Northside Redevelopment Project, Minneapolis, MN" (see pages 29, 30, 32, 32 and 60). We assume that this document will and can be recovered by City officials. God forbid that it has been shredded or lost.

July 23, 2003: I am puzzled by the article on this day by Steve Brandt in the StarTribune newspaper. I am particularly puzzled by the lack of admission by the City of Minneapolis of the fact that they were assigned environmental responsibility by HUD in 1996. Instead, Brandt is reporting that City officials are now saying, as of today, that there are no environmental problems that could bring about nausea, headaches, nose bleeds or medical indications; nor, God forbid, is there lead poisoning.

This is puzzling because of the documents the City has suppressed that show soil lead levels that are greater than 1,400 parts per million (ppm) on the current Hollman/Heritage Park site (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] only allows 400 ppm), and that water testing shows unacceptable levels of more than 23 milligrams of lead per liter of water.

We ask -- no, on behalf of the children, we beg -- the City of Minneapolis to make available immediately the tests results they indicate that they took approximately 10 days ago that reportedly were returned today. This must be done. It is a first step to repair the public trust that has been violated and to reverse the betrayal of African Americans and other people of color pertaining to the requirements, demands and expectations of the Executive Order identified as 12898, signed by the President of the United States, William Clinton, on February 11, 1994.

To do anything less is to aid and abet the criminal acts being perpetrated against the children in the name of progress, developer greed, and the city's apparent desire to maintain the status quo and keep us in our place.

What's next?

How about as soon as possible the City (1) acknowledge its responsibility, (2) announce what it will do about it, and (3) list how it will evaluate its own progress and performance.

Recently, on our television program Black Focus, we suggested an approach that can begin to reestablish the trust that has been severely damaged: Make public the housing quality standard inspection documents (HQS's) that specifically pertain to Hollman/Heritage Park. Lay out the problem. Invite us to work together to resolve it. Punishment is not our goal. Restoration is. Let's lead the charge to show how.

See the award-winning story in the Dallas Morning News, "Living in Fear: Residents in Projects Find Common Neighbor, Pollution," and "Toxic Traps, Living in Fear." We are in danger. There has clearly been a violation of the rights of all. We ask the City to move with speed, dispatch and compassion.

July 16, 2003 Column #8: An Environmental Mine Field: Heritage Park/Hollman

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH OR NOT? Since April 20, 1995, the defendants in the case known as Hollman vs. the United States Government have been required to submit annual reports to the federal court (to Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum, Federal Court for the Federal District of Minnesota). The defendants have fudged their annual reports, including in the area of environmental protection.

Why is it that a week ago we came across a manager of that facility warning residents and children of the dangers of the oily water and the toxicity in the area of 7th and Van White Memorial Drive? So, on our own, using a private environmental testing agency, we had water samples taken and tested. When we get the results back we’ll report them in our next column.

We were called there by residents concerned about threats made against them if they speak out on the problems of the toxicity. We are shocked by the level of toxicity, of “stuff” bubbling up from underground, especially at children’s playgrounds. Most disturbing is the number of residents showing the effects of the toxicity: diarrhea, headaches, skin rashes, nose bleeds, etc. Indeed, each time in July that we visited Hollman, we always came away with a headache. When will the city, especially the new administration, act responsibly and begin to move to protect the interests of those citizens now placed in harm’s way?

This caused us to review both the minutes of meetings of the Nearside Implementation Committee, a citizens group which had very intense discussions about the dangerous environmental impacts taking place at Hollman, and a map put together by Braun Intertec, a company contracted by city officials ($1.2 million contract) to conduct a study of soil conditions and other problems involving toxicity (they may no longer meet but we still annually review the map that shows the “hot zones” in the Hollman site. They were to remove contaminated soil as part of the cleanup. [Footnote: it is interesting that a Braun Intertec sub-contractor, Bell Air of Minneapolis ($426,000contract), has a direct relationship with a sitting County Commissioner.] What did Braun Intertec do and what was their final report?

Key meetings include those of 2000: July 21, August 18, October 20, and 2001: February 9, May 11, September 21, and October 19. In all of these discussions, including those about contaminated soil and contaminated water, elected and appointed government officials were present. It was quite clear to all that there were serious environmental problems. Why, then, do we still have the toxicity that is there today?

We are saddened that City Hall and others have decided to do nothing with this environmental minefield. We are saddened by the number of people who have become ill. We are saddened by the threats of retaliatory action against any citizen of color that speaks out about the serious health problems that exist. Saddened but not surprised, as we wrote about these environmental problems in Chapter 8 of my book, which one person suggested, is a living witness for North Minneapolis as expressed in the old Spiritual, “How long, O Lawd, how long?”

The city council needs to have the intestinal fortitude (that means guts) to conduct a public hearing, and ask that work be suspended on that project until there is an environmental study followed by an environmental clean up. That is the least we can ask for. When can we stop saying that what is happening is what we can expect for children of color? Can you imagine the swift action if it was White children?

PARTICIPATION IN SELECTION OF NEW POLICE CHIEF OR NOT? We were not surprised to hear of the City embarking on seeking a new chief of police to replace Robert K. Olson (as first reported in this column almost two months ago). We appeal to the office of Mayor R.T. Rybak and the leadership of the City Council to allow meaningful citizen input into the selection process. The city got off on the wrong foot when the city coordinator announced he took the responsibility of beginning contract negotiations with head hunters (recruiters) to begin the selection process without any citizen input. Oops. Maybe I’m mistaken. Maybe there was citizen input, just not African American citizen input. This city desperately needs citizen participation from all groups in the selection of the next chief of the department, participation that needs to be done in an honest and forthright manner.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entires and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please cite for blog entries and solution papers.

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