Landlordpolitics.com

MPRAC Issues & Activities

 

Rental property is the focus of an intense political struggle in some U.S. cities. Most people would think that “landlord politics” concerns the relationship between landlords and tenants. Increasingly, it concerns the relationship between property owners and predatory city government. Local elected officials have used landlords as scapegoats for crime, blaming buildings for criminal activity so that the ineffective performance of city police goes unnoticed. Another political sport is to take properties without paying for them: First vilify the property owner and then call in inspections to impose ruinous work orders. No one likes “slumlords”. If a derogatory label can be attached to the property owner, the public will tolerate almost any kind of abuse directed against this unappealing figure.

Some landlords, notably in Minneapolis, have fought back against the hostile political forces. This web site is an archives of written materials about their ideas and activities. The landlord group is called Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee.

left: MPRAC meeting with cartoons on wall ... right: a protest demonstration that featured singing

Issues & Activities links

Landlords can’t be cops They can evict tenants, not identify criminals (cantbecops) 269 words (May 1995)

Legal issues raised in a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis early in MPRAC's history (legalissues) 699 words (Sept. 1995)

Issues raised at a meeting with Minneapolis police chief Robert Olson (chiefolson) 630 words (Dec. 1995)

Follow-up letter to Chief Olson giving an example of slow response to burglary in progress (roberteubanks) 331 words (April 1996)

Why are we creating a musical disturbance? (musicaldisturb) 598 words (June 1996)

Meeting with Star Tribune editorial board representative (editorialboard) 592 words Included in the Issues & Activities section (Oct. 1996)

If you're Howie Gangestad, what happens if you call 911. (howiegangestad) 1136 words (Aug. 1997)

An Open Letter to City Officials from Howie Gangestad (howiestenants) 383 words (Aug. 1997)

MPRAC's Political Committee (1997) The political committee's agenda, meeting minutes, and recollections 18 years later (politicalcommittee) 1,625 words (Sept. 1997)

Woody Dixon's purchase of a condemned house (He was a supervisor of Minneapolis housing inspectors.) (woodydixon) 403 words (Oct. 1998)

What's with Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee (includes info on Charlie Disney for 2001 mayoral campaign) (whatswith) 1142 words (May 2001)

MPRAC Proposals for Minneapolis city government Everything from Brainstorming Notes to Formal Proposals - i.e. our best shot (mpracproposals) 3008 words (Aug. 2000-Jan. 2001)

Some Issues to Consider in Relations between Landlords and City Government (statement at 2001 DFL city convention) (moreissues) 999 words (May 2001)

A strategy for crime fighting in the Twin Cities Specific Proposals in the areas of Punishment and Prevention (crimefighting) 564 words (2002?)

Proposals to improve Minneapolis city government presented to R.T. Rybak (the future mayor) (forrybak) 2453 words (Sept. 2001)

Five more proposals presented to mayor-elect Rybak (fiveproposals) 616 words (Sept. 2001)

Nurturing Action to Influence Public Opinion (MPRAC's general approach: could it be a model for other political organizations?) (nurtureaction) 757 words (June 2002)

Letter to Don Samuels, then a northside block club leader (samuels) 305 words (Sept. 2002)

A fundraising letter to MPRAC members (fundraising) 527 words (Oct. 2002) (fundraising) 527 words (Oct. 2002)

Letter protesting Keith Ellison's election to the Minnesota legislature (ellison) 1211 words (Nov. 2002)

Letter to new Minneapolis police chief William McManus (mcmanus) 977 words (March 2004)

Letter to Minneapolis City Council President, Paul Ostrow, about developer subsidies near the light-rail line (ostrow) 826 words (April 2004)

Letter to Mayor Rybak about "problem properties" and where the housing undesirables ought to live (rybakcomplaint) 1301 words (Oct. 2004)

Letter to editor of NorthNews regarding anti-landlord statements by Council Member Don Samuels (northnews) 1265 words (Nov. 2004)

Letter to Lee McGrath of the Institute for Justice regarding a proposed city ordinance to punish landlords for tenant noise (mcgrath) 1095 words (Dec. 2005)

Prospects for MPRAC as of 12/25/05 after its monthly meetings were discontinued (an internal memo) (prospects) 527 words (Dec. 2005)

A meeting in Harrison to discuss the Northside "inspections sweep" (inspectionsweep) 1342 words (Sept. 2006)

North Minneapolis needs a drop-in center Community activist Spike Moss outlines what needs to be done long-term to reduce violent crime (dropin) 1112 words (Jan. 2007)

Letter to Mayor Rybak after a Meeting about the Drop-in Center Some arguments to deal with his concerns (spikemoss) 1012 words (March 2007)

How the Politicians Reacted to the Idea of a Drop-in Center Cool at first; may need more prodding (politicians) 1005 words (March 2007)

Crashing a Peace Rally A provocative appeal to the city to stop closing down convenience stores (peacerally) 1856 words (May 2007)

Uncle Bill’s Appeal of the Fire Department Condemnation Fire Department officials say he needs to give them additional reports (billsappeal) 1786 words (July 2007)

City inspectors try to change law giving them exemption to Minnesota Supreme Court ruling MPRAC co-leaders testify in opposition before House committee (legislativehearing) 578 words (May 2009)

Uncle Bill’s Food Market: The Community Celebration Revisiting the site of a grocery store two years after its building was condemned (unclebill2) words (September 2009)

A letter addressed to members of the Minnesota legislature An alternative to raising taxes and cutting state programs (legisletter) 470 words (January 2011)

Abuse of Property Rights in Minneapolis and St. Paul Examples and Types of Abuse cited by Metro Property Rights Action Committee (33points) 3900 words (January 2011)

Progress report emailed to certain MPRAC members in October 2011 No meetings or newspaper but we do have posted information & e-books (progressreport) 597 words (October 2011)

City-imposed barriers to affordable housing in Minneapolis testimony relating to federal citizen-input requirements (bowerletter) 1,397 words (October 2014)

Why MPRAC died Insufficient attention and effort given to its core issues (whyMPRACdied) 1,488 words (May 2015)

 

 

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

MPRAC’s type of organization:
1. Not a trade association but a good government group
2. Doesn’t have resources for lawsuits or lobbying at state capitol
3. Achieves objectives through publicity and election campaigns
4. Not a “good landlord” group - we make no judgments about our members
5. Show was “a cross between a public affairs show & the Jerry Springer show.

What are our issues:
1. Abuse of the inspections process - city punishes buildings for crime, excessive code violations or condemnations to drive property owners out of business & take their properties without paying for it, the human misery of condemning properties & making people homeless.
2. Abuse of police functions - the “problem property” concept which shifts the blame for crime to landlords, police fail to control crime, police organize block clubs to identify problem properties, unlawful coordination between police and inspections.
3. City policies that put us at a disadvantage - wasteful city spending that drives up property taxes, unfair subsidies to nonprofits and favored developers in competition with us, city meddling with the housing supply
4. A hostile political environment for landlords - an unholy alliance between city officials, nonprofits, neighborhood associations and block clubs, and ignorant media.

What is our function:
Started with a lawsuit but it was thrown out of court. Introduced legislation but it did not get past the committee. More successful were these:
1. A media operation - regular monthly meetings which were videotaped and shown on cable television, a free-circulation newspaper, a web site.
2. Public protest activities - have picketed public officials, spoken up at public meetings, sought coverage in the commercial media.
3. Monthly meetings so we get to know each other individually and develop sense of camraderie.
4. Supported candidates for election to city offices.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee has become a small media-content provider with the potential of arousing a political opposition to DFL control in the city of Minneapolis. As such, we need to broaden our base of support from inner-city landlords to other groups which share our goals. These groups, in turn, need to support us financially and otherwise to sustain our media operations.The media operations are:

1) a cable television show which has viewer recognition within the metro area: MPRAC maintains an hour-long show on regional Channel 6 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Friday each week and irregularly on other channels. It costs us $6,000 annually to keep this time slot. In addition, we pay the cameraman/producer varying amounts for his work, supplies, and other expenses. We have recently spent $2,500 on video equipment.

2) a related free-circulation newspaper: then called "The Property Owner", now "The Watchdog", distribution every other month in a circulation of 10,000.

3) Websites and other internal communications: http://www.landlordpolitics.com, http://www.goldparty.org, http://www.propertyrights-mn.com, http://www.watchdog-news.com, plus monthly postcards or email messages to notify members of meetings, and a telephone hotline.

4) a 100-watt radio station shared with other groups (not realized): MPRAC was one of twelve organizations which applied for a license with the FCC to share a frequency for a 100-watt radio station to be located near downtown Minneapolis. However, Congress passed a law effectively preventing this in our area.

5) whatever publicity we can generate by interesting big media in our events

We also have monthly meetings that allow people to become personally acquainted.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Issues

We invite all (not just landlords) who share the following ideals to join us in seeking to make them a reality:

What we are against

1. We oppose one-party politics in Minneapolis and the abuses that come with prolonged absolute power.

2. We oppose what amounts to confiscation of private property through overly aggressive or politically directed city or state regulation.

3. We oppose the use of attorneys on the city payroll or under contract to defend unlawful city actions and win court victories by grinding opponents down on appeals.

4. We oppose the use of city police to serve political or private (property acquisition) agendas.

5. We oppose toleration of high levels of street crime in certain neighborhoods and may want to rethink the war on drugs.

6. We oppose the use of funds from foundations, corporations, or government units (often in the guise of charity) to favor the nonprofit (especially housing) sector over the private sector or to favor some political causes or some parties to lawsuits over others; and generally oppose the intrusion of “big money” into local politics.

7. We oppose mediocre or limp journalism, soft on corruption in public life, quick to stereotype persons or groups often along politically correct lines.

8. We are against the needless destruction of housing units in a time of severe housing shortage.

9. While we oppose the “bad landlords” who neglect property maintenance or charge too much in rent, we believe that the best policy to address this situation is to increase housing supply relative to demand so that tenants in unfavorable situations have realistic alternatives. This means creating a favorable climate for investment in rental housing and restraint in demolishing units.

What we are for

1. We are for the type of city government which most citizens think it is or, at least, should be:

(a) a police department which effectively fights crime (but cuts back on publicity or political work),

(b) an Inspections department which limits itself to honest and impartial maintenance of minimum housing or health standards,

(c) a development agency which maximizes public resources to promote economic growth, and

(d) elected officials who exhibit good will toward all law-abiding persons or groups, who are thrifty with the public purse, and who accept their decisionmaking role within a representative democracy instead of delegating decisions to neighborhood, police, or other groups.

2. We are for full public disclosure of facts pertinent to city government including parties which benefit from major public expenditures or persons who complain to Inspections. (Minneapolis should not emulate East Germany’s system of government through cadres of anonymous informers.)

3. We are for government which does as much as, but not more than, is necessary to ensure the continued freedom, prosperity, safety, and well being of all its residents.

 

We are for: small businesses and property owners, small media

We are against: big money and big media

We are for: freedom, justice, prosperity, free speech, and landlords’ right to operate in a normally friendly political environment.

We are against:

1) the use of city police for political purposes
2) identity politics, political correctness, and related double standards
3) media agendas, slanted news, exclusion of legitimate political debate
4) control of politics by big money, corporate or otherwise
5) attempts to silence free speech or to marginalize people with disfavored views
6) governmental secrecy
7) the non-profit/ foundation mentality - furthering political and personal agendas with someone else’s money
8) corporate welfare
9) subversion of constitutional guarantees of private property
10) the drug war as it is being conducted
11) undue use of the courts to pursue political agendas

12) unpunished crime, slow police response times

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Some Accomplishments (written in 2000)

1. Cumulatively, we have influenced public opinion in favor of landlords through our videotaped meetings shown on cable television. This show has acquired a cult-like following. It is regularly watched even by top city officials. Viewers recognize that this is no staged event but an authentic expression of grassroots democracy and free speech.

2. By our picketing and appearances at public events, we have stood up for landlords. We have sent a message to city officials, inspectors, and others in power that they can’t kick landlords without incurring retaliation from us. Whether or not you can "mess with Texas", you don’t want to mess with Charlie Disney and company.

3. One of our members, Steve Meldahl, has a string of legal victories against the city. After pressure from him, the city changed its procedure with respect to Chapter 249 hearings. It began taperecording these hearings as required by law. After another legal challenge from Steve, the city stopped the reinspection assessment hearings. Charlie Disney, aided by Andy Ellis, won a case against the city which had sought to hold a building owner responsible for snow removal on sidewalks even if the rental lease assigned this duty to tenants.

4. Our relentless pressure against the CCP/SAFE program may have had something to do with the city’s decision to reorganize SAFE, assigning the officers to individual precincts.

5. When landlords associated with Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee and others complained of the personally intrusive four-page questionnaire which the city wanted property owners to complete before obtaining their annual rental licenses, the city quietly dropped this requirement.

6. Two inspections supervisors whose abuses our group publicized have quietly resigned from the Inspections department.

7. A Housing Court referee unfriendly to landlords was reassigned.

Some unfinished business:

1. We need to deal with the potentially huge problem of the Section 504 provision of state law which calls for appointment of outside administrators to manage landlords’ properties and raid their pocketbooks. As a first step, we are studying the so-called “Project 504” headed by attorney Gregory Luce and social worker Joan Resner who are self-appointed champions of Somali tenants in several apartment buildings in the 1800 block of Park Avenue South. While the Star Tribune has glamorized their crusade, attorney Luce has been aggressively seeking out clients to participate in rent strikes or other activities leading to possible takeovers of buildings or their management. Luce has committed several violations of professional ethics in the course of harassing activities directed at one of our members. (One of the more lurid incidents involved Luce’s strapping his infant son to his chest as a human shield to protect himself against maintenance workers angry that he was interfering with their work.) We are thinking of filing complaints against Luce to the Bar Association and of forming a committee to approach Luce’s supporters to acquaint them with his questionable conduct. Beyond this, we need to think of attacking the legislation itself, either to seek outright repeal or modifications to remove its worst features.

2. If Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee is successful in its bid to share management of a low-power radio station, we will need people to help with the programming and be liaisons with the other management partners.

3. We are thinking of broadening the content of our meetings to appeal to a broader range of guests and issues. This will involve a greater effort to connect with other groups so as to increase our political mass.

4. The 2001 city elections will be a priority. We need to revive our “political committee” to elect a more friendly mayor and City Council members while continuing negotiations with Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton.

5. There will be occasions for picketing and demonstrations

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Back to: MAIN PAGE

COPYRIGHT 2006 THISTLEROSE PUBLICATIONS - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
http://www.landlordpolitics.com/issues&activities.html