[ Order a MRRSVLD t-shirt here! “This shirt is a must-have for Minneapolis City Planning Commission meetings. Make your voice heard on Channel 79: take off your shirt on live TV, then read from a seemingly endless list of complaints printed on the back.”]
Stubble: Who is the MRRSVLD? What are your goals?
MRRSVLD: Like our name says, we’re about protecting sky views and lowering density. But more than that, we’re part of a long tradition of anonymous activism; from Thomas Paine to the guy who wrote the Black People Vote on Wednesday flyer. Because, when you’re truly proud of a political message, there’s really no need to hog the glory. We can’t tell you exactly who we are. It would embarrass too many neighborhood association board members. It’s mostly us and our nephew doing the heavy lifting. But if we’ve ever invited you onto our porch to complain about roving bands of drunken renters, you’re an honorary member of MRRSVLD.
In the beginning, we turned an army of former Meg Tuthill campaign volunteers into a door-to-door distribution network for our anonymous flyers. This was how we let our neighbors know about “Dirty Don” Gerberding’s plan to mar the parking lot at Franklin and Lyndale with a 6-story luxury moon-elevator. In February, residents came out in droves for a super-shouty meeting of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA). In a neighborhood of 7,000 people, we set a record for turnout. There must have been 20 people there. Transients were put in their place.
On another front, there was our letter-writing campaign to the city. As a matter of routine, we have always added our nephew’s name to the bottom of our weekly, 15-page letters of complaint to City Hall. We figure that two names will be taken more seriously than one. Eventually, our ideas got so good that we were compelled to share credit with the whole city. So we started writing letters this way:
Dear Lisa Goodman and Friends,
Minneapolis has too many people already.
All the People, In All of Minneapolis (MRRSLVD)
Stubble: How have you used social media and civic engagement to promote your cause?
MRRSVLD: Social media has been invaluable. When our nephew told us that one person could be a nameless, faceless organization on the internet, our movement really took off. Everyone and their mother has heard about our soon-to-be obstructed rear window.
We’re sharing the Internet with our neighborhood, and our neighbors are sharing it right back at us. This comes with dangers, of course. Which is why our nephew has adjusted our Internet Settings to block the initial steady stream of critical comments. MRRSVLD wants to start a dialogue about how to do development the right way in Minneapolis. And, in the context of that dialogue, there’s no room for internet bullies and their seemingly innocuous comments saying it’s important to “foster a healthy housing market that provides new supply and promotes affordability for a growing city.”
Now, along with our sister organization the MRRDC, we’re the most respected and influential angry neighbors on the internet. Our cousins in Missouri and Arizona have been worth at least a dozen ‘likes’ on our Facebook–and all of them have written mean and degrading emails to various Council Members. Without social media, we’re not sure we could have achieved that level of success. And now there are a flattering number of imitators with impenetrably long acronyms like TCRRDC, LHRFRD, and TCRRSVLD.
Our nephew handles Twitter for us. We don’t understand it. But he tells us our Twitter has the most ‘follows’ and ‘retreats’ of any Minneapolis-based anti-density group. Sometimes he posts short video clips from public meetings that shine a light on the workings of our corrupt city government. This has helped us reach beyond our typical constituency of retired busybodies, and into a younger generation–45-59 year olds–that don’t usually have the time for tedious, 3-hour neighborhood meetings.
Stubble: Seems like the biggest point of contention for your group is the one made between homeowners and renter/transients. What are the major differences between these two groups?
MRRSVLD: Here’s what the transients don’t understand. If you wanted to insulate yourself from rising prices, you should have purchased a home. It’s not a difficult concept. 15% of households in our neighborhood figured it out. The other 85% of our neighborhood–renters–are better off learning a hard lesson from that $150 increase in their rent. Buy a house! Otherwise, pitch yourself a tent on one of the many open lots in north Minneapolis (before you accuse us of being insensitive: we hear people in Seward are camping in their yards all the time).
Homeowners in Lowry Hill East want to live in an environment that respects families and children. $1500/month, 1-bedroom apartments in luxury frat-houses are an affront to our core values. And the far more affordable, yet hideous ‘60s-era apartment buildings? Oh god, we hate those. And the condo-owners… don’t get us started on the condo-owners–buy a real house before you start acting like you’re hot shit. Bottom line: if under-employed, childless losers want to live on top of each other, they should do it in Portland.
Stubble: In your group’s description you mention a major motivation for your work is the protection of CARAG’s carefully cultivated culture. How would you describe that culture and what makes it great? How is it eroding?
MRRSVLD: (This is our problem with so-called “Urban” reporters like yourself and Erik Roper. You can’t even be trusted to know the difference between CARAG and Lowry Hill East. Honestly, we couldn’t tell you the first thing about the “culture” of CARAG. We wouldn’t even drive through CARAG on the way to buy house-vigiling candles. You could obliterate three-blocks worth of the nicest homes in CARAG, replace it with Whittier’s “Turning Point K-Mart of 1978”, and nobody would notice. To top it off, their neighborhood association is run by transients. Homeowners in CARAG haven’t got the guts to stand up for themselves and take charge of their neighborhood.)
The culture of Lowry Hill East is something that we have carefully cultivated over many decades. And anyone who has moved here within, let’s say, the last five years has a lot of nerve trying to participate in it. This culture was born of a time when pimps, pushers, and prostitutes ruled the streets; things were so bad that a great many residents abandoned our neighborhood for the suburbs–you know, the good old days. Our current transients don’t even bother to do hard drugs or sell their bodies for cash. Mostly they just stumble through our yards on the weekends, leaving urine-filled beer cans in their wake.
The exodus to the suburbs brought us open streets, and not in the current, perverted sense of the phrase. In our day you could coast–downhill, both ways–without putting your foot on the gas, from Lowry Hill East to the old Metropolitan Stadium, and not have to pay for parking. Nowadays, on top of the traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood, all the extra pedestrians and cyclists make it impossible to roll through most stop signs. With gas prices being what they are, it’s a terrible situation. Budgets are tight. We can barely afford the interest-free, 100% forgivable home-improvement loans we’re getting from the city-funded neighborhood association.
When will the City of Minneapolis take the needs of homeowners into account? Our homes have increased in value four-fold over the last 30-40 years, which means we’re four times as important as we were in the ‘70s. This enormous appreciation in our home values is also a de-facto investment in the city. At any moment we could have loaded our historic, single-family, 100-year-old money pits onto trailers–and taken our property tax contributions with us. But the City doesn’t appreciate that. Certain Council Members persist in discriminating against homeowners.
Stubble: What represents the worst of the changes you are seeing in your community?
MRRSVLD: There’s a shadowy group of “internet trolls” we call the streets.mn / Max Miscreant / UrbanMSP crowd. They like to hide behind their keyboards and post nitpicky comments under their own names–you can tell that they’re jerks just by looking at the faces in their profile pictures. This is a group of right-wing, developer-shills advocating for things like a greenway in north Minneapolis.
Worst of all, they’re running interference for the men who are destroying Minneapolis: people like Michael Lander, who’s going to tear down 2320 Colfax; or, as it’s called by this one guy, the Historic Healy/Orth Chicago World’s Fair Turning Point House of 1893. We think this property is on par, visually speaking, with the parking lot at Franklin and Lyndale. It needs to be preserved. Demolition would also mean losing the most affordable housing in our neighborhood, as it’s currently a boarding house offering rents of $100/week.
Our preferred solution is that this house be sold by the current owner at a huge discount–amounting to a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars–and then converted into a single-family house. This solution respects the principle of property rights–the property rights of neighbors to decide the current owner’s fate. It also keeps the low-income boarders where they belong: in north Minneapolis. Additionally, we’d like the City of Minneapolis to supply Lowry Hill East with extra large recycling bins so we can dispose of the temporary cudgels that we affectionately call affordability. Let no one ever say our neighborhood is #notgreen!
Stubble: What represents the best? (this thing can be a person, event, particular address, etc.)
MRRSVLD: The best thing in our neighborhood has to be the Annual Healy House Ghost Stories Fundraising Spooktacular. This goes beyond the traditional fear-mongering tales of transients and violent crime. The scariest story for the past few years has been the one about the man who threatened to tear down a Healy house. As local legend tells it, for 100 years after, Healy’s ghost would post crazy shit on Facebook. Gives us chills.
We will typically allocate money raised from this fundraiser towards whatever doomed cause is most important to our neighbors in a given year. Last year everybody was really into Meg Tuthill, so we spent the money on her doomed City Council campaign. This year we sense the neighborhood is really excited about lawsuits, so half the money will be going towards a doomed Healy Project lawsuit related to 2320 Colfax. It’s hard for outsiders to understand, but wasting money has always been a top neighborhood priority.
Stubble: If you had the ear of the freeloading transients in your neighborhood (they would be sober for this) what would you tell them?
MRRSVLD: We often tell them about a program, Free One-Way Bus Rides to Duluth for Transients, that we read about in the anti-Minneapolis comment section of a Duluth-based Facebook page.
If we can’t get them on a bus to Duluth, we tell them: stop trying to make Minneapolis into New York City. This is an issue we take very personally; many of our good friends are former New Yorkers. They came to Minneapolis from places like Staten Island and Long Island in the late ‘80s to get away from five and six-story buildings. They endured years of paid parking and long commutes into Manhattan–and vowed never to do it again. Now you want to put them through that same hell all over again? This is a human rights issue. We must preserve our neighborhood as a haven for this country’s urban-refugees.
Stubble: How would you spend an ideal weekend in your neighborhood?
MRRSVLD: We love exploring our neighborhood and spending time with friends on the weekend. Starting from Franklin and Lyndale, we head over to the Wedge Co-op. We’d pick up a few things, before running into local “Healy House entrepreneur” Anders Christensen giving a walking tour of the historic breakfast aisle (“shredded wheat premiered at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893”). He would rant at us about old houses for 90 minutes. Then we’d head over to 22nd St for breakfast at a friend’s house. Of course, we’d be doing all of this by car. We’d sooner stay home and have our nephew teach us to Skype, than to walk more than a block to see our dearest neighborhood friends. It’s one of the reasons we’re so possessive of neighborhood street parking. Some of our favorite destinations are within three or four blocks of our house. The abundance and ready accessibility of parking in these areas needs to be preserved, lest we become a neighborhood of shut-ins.
After arriving at our friend’s house, we commence group-Facebooking on the porch. Perhaps we glare at the stoop-sitters drinking their coffee in front of an ugly, boxy apartment building. Mostly we just sit in unimpeded sunlight all morning, enjoying the wide-open space separating us from the house next door. Then around noon, we grill some veggie burgers on the burning stump out front.
In the evening we’d get back in the car and drive three blocks to 26th Street for an emergency neighborhood association meeting. We would then vote against one thing or another that’s happening in the neighborhood: the patio closing time of a local bar; a proposed 6-story mega-skyscraper; or maybe Council Member Lisa Bender’s street-clogging, unlicensed, dump truck of a bicycle.
This would leave us at least 5 hours to stare out our rear window at the downtown skyline. Part of our nightly routine is to pre-dial 911 into our Jitterbug5, and keep an eye out for prostitutes and pot-smokers in the parking lot below. This is the very same parking lot they want to cover over with an apartment building. The last thing we want in this neighborhood is to give criminals an apartment building to use as a hide-out. It makes no sense. Just look at the statistics: Google searches for “apartment building crime” show that by approving such development, crime will increase.
We would finish our day with an HGTV marathon of Nicole Curtis Rehab Addict episodes. She has been a real guardian angel for this neighborhood by the way. She participated in our house vigils; got people to drive from all across the midwest to attend. Her fans were really good about sending unintelligible letters to the City Council. Many of them put the entire text of their expletive-filled emails into the subject box. We hear that it was extremely frustrating for Council staffers to make sense of. All of this was very comforting to us during a difficult time. We will always be grateful.
Stubble: Did your nephew ever get that new computer?
MRRSVLD: We told him that if he produced internet videos for us, and if he was willing to knock a few hundred dollars from his budget, we’d be happy to support him in getting a new computer. And he agreed to our demands. As we’ve always said, a new computer for our nephew is good for MRRSVLD. We are not anti-computer. This is really about being responsible and buying a computer the right way. But when have we ever negotiated in good faith? We absolutely did not buy him a new computer.
The MRRSVLD is an organization of tax-paying, home-owning, long-time residents who seek the restoration of sky views and lowered density in Minneapolis. Buy their t-shirt at http://teespring.com/MRRSVLD.