G.A. Minutes 12-18-18

G.A. Minutes 12-18-18

If Minnesota winter weather was anything like it has been for the last 2 weeks or so, there would be one hell of a lot less whining in this city. When the first Occupiers, Anonymous members, and Water Protectors roll up to Coney Island this evening, the temperature is in the upper 30s with an occasional light breeze. The majority of the snow melted about a week ago. That’s not too shabby for mid-December.

As we are getting ourselves settled, an activist who was introduced to us a few months ago arrives. We’re happy to see her; she attended our meeting last week (we have no minutes for that one) and listened as we talked about the Human Rights Complaint concerning the security goons that have been contracted by MN Power supposedly to watch over the big MN Power building. The situation is an old story to people who regularly read our minutes but it boils down to the fact that we want them to open the Peoples Plaza vehicle entryway that they illegally closed off.

The activist, who is an experienced legal researcher, graciously offered to assist us by trying to determine the history of the easement agreement between the City of Duluth and MN Power as it concerns Peoples Plaza. Tonight she brings her initial findings.

An Occupier states, “I believe I’ve already told everyone that I turned in our Human Rights Complaint at the Human Rights Commission meeting last Wednesday. It contained the text of our complaint and the contact info for myself and the 3 witnesses. I said I would get the easement info and copies of all the ordinances, statutes and fire codes to them later. I doubt our complaint will even be looked at until the beginning of next year”.

Another Occupier exclaims, “Man, last night’s City Council meeting was certainly fucked up!” Some are not sure what she is talking about; the Occupier continues, “Well, as per usual, Essentia Health is going to make changes to our Central Hillside neighborhood again. They’re gonna build a huge high rise office building in the area where most of their other main buildings are and they want a 15 story luxury apartment building to go with it. Essentia says it needs to have fancy apartments in order to attract world-class doctors and such to come to Duluth. Some rich development company from Madison, WI has agreed to build the luxury building but they are demanding 6.2 million dollars of Duluth TIF (tax increment financing) funds to do it”.

An Anon asks, “What are TIF funds?” The Occupier continues, “That’s kinda hard for me to explain but it has something to do with an agreement that the City will charge the luxury building owner-less property taxes than normal until 6.2 million dollars of tax breaks are used up. The City said that would take about 25 years. As far as I know, all this was pretty hush-hush until very recently.

“Even the City Councilors weren’t given the complete information package until just before the meeting. Anyway, once the word got out a few days before the Council meeting the regular people in Central Hillside were furious. I’m sure the Councilor’s email boxes just about blew up. I mean, we’ve only been begging, pleading and demanding a lot more low-income housing in our hood for over 10 years. Considering the huge need, we’ve received very little. The majority of people living in unsubsidized housing in the hillside and working as much as they can are damn near starving to death in order to pay the ridiculously high rents for generally substandard housing.

“So, once the word about the ripoff of Duluth taxpayer money got out, everyone was meeting, writing and preparing to speak out at last night’s Council meeting. The general consensus was that if the building was to be allowed, there would have to be a certain number of low-income units included within it. It was also to ask/demand that the Council just table the whole issue until more information could be obtained”. The Occupier explains to one of the youngbloods, “To ‘table’ something means to put it on the back burner to deal with later”.

“About an hour before the general Council meeting there was a smaller meeting with representatives of the developer. Someone mentioned to them that they would need to have some low-income units; the developers said that if they had to include even one low-income apartment, they would not do the project. Nice huh?

“So when the City Council meeting started, most of the general public (it was standing room only with peeps standing out in the hall too) were unaware that all of the low-income stuff had already been shot down. Several guys from most of the building trades spoke in support, of course. They need good privileged jobs you know and will do just about anything to get them, the rest of the world be damned. Then speaker after speaker tried to get the Councilors to stand up and do the right thing.

“Once word got out that the developers refused to even consider any low-income units the general public in the Council Chambers became even more pissed off and/or depressed. Many of them just walked out; those of us who stayed to hear the Councilors official vote were quite disgusted with the whole thing. At first all the Councilors, one by one, expressed their anger and frustration at not being given the luxury apartment information until it was too late for them to really study it. Then they voted 6-2 in favor of going ahead with the project; actually, I should say that the vote was one and a half to six because one of the Councilor’s no vote was proceeded by his saying he would vote yes. I think he only voted no because he could see the thing was gonna pass no matter how he voted”.

One of the Water Protectors quires, “Well, why didn’t they just tell the developers no, they couldn’t have the TIF funds unless they accepted some low-income tenants. The developers may have reconsidered and if they did not, there are always other developers”. The first Occupier agrees, “As I saw things unfolding, that’s what I thought too. I wanted to go up and speak then but the speaker sign up list had already been removed so I couldn’t sign up”.

Another Occupier comments, “This manner of doing things has become the new norm in this country. A group representing the super rich shows up in the government offices of a city that is struggling financially. They offer to invest in a project that will supposedly benefit the city and its citizens but will do it on their terms only. The government officials are enticed by the amount of money being offered so they accept the terms of the super-rich. It then turns out that the rich folks lied, the project doesn’t just not benefit the city or its people, it actually harms them. The city and its people start bitching and the super rich group gathers up all the profits they have swindled and goes off to victimize the next city. Someone adds, “I’ve always been partial to the slogan Eat The Rich. We all nod in agreement.

The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “I’m afraid I had a few of my facts wrong. Earlier I reported about the warming station that is being worked on for homeless peeps that are stuck outside on the deathly cold winter nights here in Duluth. After Lee Stuart (director of CHUM) came out publicly in support of warming stations and the government types figured they’d better do something, nobody called Loaves N Fishes to clue them into the fact that the City and County “suits” were meeting covertly to form a plan.

“One of the government folks, who is secretly a supporter of grassroots workers, quietly told one member of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition about the meetings. That particular grassroots person now attends the warming station meetings and that’s how the rest of us get our information, Anyway, the first experimental warming station will be set up at a senior center on 58th Ave W”. Everyone displays confused looks and the Occupier continues, “Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Lee Stuart or someone else insists that there are homeless people out that way who don’t want to come into the center of the city and that there are no types of services or shelter for them. I have no idea if that’s true or not but I know that a couple of people who have visited our recreational fires have said that it is true. Whatever……apparently this will be an experiment and if no one comes to keep warm out there, they’ll move the station to somewhere in West End (aka Lincoln Park).

“The warming station won’t open until sometime in January; it will open on every night that the forecast is for -0 temperatures from 8 pm till 8 am. They’re gonna staff it with volunteers. I might sign up to volunteer once in a while depending on which hoops they’ll want the volunteers to jump through beforehand. Their plan is certainly not ideal but I’m thinking. seeing as we were expecting the warming station idea to take years to start up, in reality, things are moving quicker and we’ll all just have to learn as we go”.

An Anon/Water Protector reminds us, “We’re gonna be making No Line 3 and other anti-fossil fuel and treaty rights banners tomorrow out on the Rez; we can use everyone’s assistance”. Some of the Occupiers and others will be able to help.

The Anon/WP tells us, “Things are getting weirder and weirder out at our rez; Enbridge has their new pipeline pieces piled all over the place on OUR land. Enbridge workers are tiptoeing around and digging in the ground. Our FDL police force has barricaded the roads to all of our usual spiritual and cultural places, telling us we can’t go there. However, the thing is that it’s OUR LAND. When we go there or to the commercial places with our signs and music and stuff, every cop in the area shows up. I mean Cloquet, Carlton County, our own tribal police and probably others that we don’t know about. They harass us and try to think up things they can arrest us for.

“All of this stuff is completely illegal. Enbridge is not supposed to have any pipes on our land until all the permits are issued but even more importantly, our rez cops, rez administration and Enbridge are all in violation of the 1854 Treaty. Treaties are the Supreme Law of the USA. The Treaty says that the Anishinaabe people will retain, forever, the right to hunt, fish and gather in all their lands and in their ceded lands too. Know what I’m saying?” Everyone says, “Yeah, we do”.

The staff guys are cleaning up again; we figure we’ll surprise them by leaving before they have to give us gentle hints. As we’re packing up, an Occupier informs everyone, “We’ll be having a recreational fire and a feast again at our place on Christmas Day (which is next Tuesday). Y’all are welcome to come over”.

G.A. Minutes 12-4-18

G.A. Minutes 12-4-18

A small group of Occupiers drag their asses through the side door of Coney Island; they are the first people to arrive for the meeting this evening. One of them comments, “I always hate the time of year that happens after we have to turn our clocks back and then it continues until Winter Solstice. It’s just too dark; it makes me want to just crawl under my bed covers and not come out til spring”. Another Occupier agrees, “For real. Today the sun didn’t come up until about 7:30am and it was gone again by 4:30pm, it’s not fair. If people had any sense they would hibernate all winter like the most intelligent animals do”.

This remark cracks the other Occupiers up; an Occupier replies, “With all the capitalism and war mongering that the 1% and their minions have going on, mass hibernation would never work. There’s many different time zones in the world and half of the planet has winter while the other half is having summer. People would be worried that if they went to sleep the other half of the planet could come and steal their shit. What’s even worse, the awake half probably WOULD come and steal all the sleeping peeps shit. We’d first have to have a major paradigm shift before any mass hibernation could take place”. The postulating Occupier inquires, “Yabut, is it a good idea?” We say, “Yup”.

Lack of light is definitely not a problem at Coney Island; the place is always lit up like the biggest Christmas tree in the world. In fact, the excess lighting is kind of annoying but…. Whatever, the staff guys always seem genuinely happy to see us even though we don’t order mass quantities of food and we take up the whole back end of the restaurant. After several years of searching, Coney Island is the only place we’ve found that is willing to accommodate us. It sure beats freezing our asses off while trying to hold a meeting in a doorway or a parking garage until someone calls the cops and they roll up and tell us to “move along”.

Once the first Occupiers get settled, one of them tells the others, “It looks like we’re gonna get a warming station for folks who get stuck outside during the coldest days and nights of this upcoming winter”. An Occupier exclaims, “Whoa! Do tell”. The Occupier who is in the know explains, “The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition has been trying to push the City and/or some of the area churches to provide a suitable space for a warming station. We even offered to staff the place ourselves but we got pretty much the same answer from everyone we contacted; they said, “A warming station is a very good idea but we’re not able to provide a space at this time”. Then about 2 weeks ago there was an article in the Duluth News Tribune. A reporter interviewed Lee Stuart (director of CHUM); Lee stated that there was a great need for one or more warming stations during the winters in Duluth.

“This was a huge big deal. Over the past 10 years or so, there has always been a need for warming stations but Lee Stuart refused to admit it. She’s always been, understandably, protective of CHUM but CHUM has never been willing or able to house or accept all homeless people. CHUM has a lot of rules that some of the homeless ones are unable or unwilling to accept. Therefore, every winter homeless people would be found frozen to death.

“Anyway, once that article came out, the City, County and some of the major NGOs started networking behind the scenes. They scheduled a meeting for the middle of last week and at the last minute someone figured it might be a good idea to contact the lead guy at Loaves N Fishes and put him in the loop. He frantically called around to the Coalition members hoping to find someone who was able to attend that meeting and, fortunately, he was able to find someone. I was told that the City is gonna provide the space and the County is gonna wiggle its budget around in order to hire a couple of people at $15/hr. to staff the station. That’s about all I know right now; I’ll find out more at the next HPB of R Coalition meeting on this upcoming Thursday and report back to everyone”.

Another Occupier opines, “I’m really happy that there’s gonna be a warming station but the way it’s happening kinda sucks; it seems like this is the way everything happens. A whole bunch of grassroots, ordinary people can work for years trying to get their so-called representatives to provide something or do something that the ordinary people think is very important. The so-called representatives smile and offer platitudes but they never do anything to provide for the people’s needs. Then one person in a position of power speaks out publicly stating that the people’s need is valid and all the so-called representatives run around like crazy trying to at least look like they’re meeting that need. I mean, WTF?…… ordinary people are the reason that the so-called representatives have their well-paying jobs and their prestige and all that. The people in power just seem to want to take care of each other. “It makes me feel so mad that I feel like I want to go and tip over all their desks and tables and stuff”.

Another Occupier suggests, “I suppose you could go tip over a few tables if you wanted to but I doubt you would get the result you were looking for. The cops would come and arrest or maybe even shoot you; seeing as you’re a white person they probably wouldn’t kill you right off the bat but you’d still be in jail and in need of considerable bail money and a high-powered attorney. To top it off, all the major media would talk shit about you and you’d actually hurt your cause and the so-called representatives would just call the janitors to put the tables and desks right side up again.”

The Occupier who proposed tipping stuff over answers, “I know, that’s why I haven’t actually done it but don’t you all just get so pissed off about the minions’ obstruction that you want to throw things?” We all say, “Yeah”.

A group of Water Protectors, peeps from Anonymous and an elder Native organizer arrive. Someone orders a carafe of coffee and a bunch of cups; the Native elder and a few Occupy elders entertain the rest of the folks with stories from the old American Indian Movement (AIM) and other adventures from back in the day when the elders were living in Minneapolis.

Some of the Occupiers attended an event a few days ago. It was sponsored by the Native elder and some Water Protectors and concerned the ever-present trauma related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. A woman from the Sahnish Nation (North and South Dakota) has an organization that searches for murdered and missing Indigenous people. The Sahnish woman and her assistants have participated in searches throughout the northern hemisphere. Among the many things she talked about were the fact that very few police departments participate in a meaningful way in trying to locate murdered and missing Indigenous folks. She also said that in our Twin Ports area, many Indigenous women and girls go missing but even MORE Indigenous boys and young men do so. The Native organizer asks an Occupier, “If I bring the Sahnish woman here again, would you be interested in attending another event?” The Occupier enthuses, “Oh, for sure! I’ll invite all my friends too”. The Occupier thinks to herself, “I wonder if we could ever find the remains of The Woman Who Tells Good Stories?”

A few of the W.P.s are planning a trip down to the so-called southern border of the so-called USA. They will bring along medical supplies, people who are bilingual and people with medical expertise. An Occupier wants to go along and whines, “Damn! It will be warm at the border; I’m bilingual and have medical expertise too. Too bad that my old ass doesn’t have the physical stamina to endure a long ride or non-stop work with little sleep. It’s not fair”.

An Anon inquires, “Hey, is tomorrow supposed to be a national day of mourning because of the passing of George Bush Sr.?” A W.P. tells him,”Yeah, ‘fraid so”. An Occupier adds, “I won’t be doing any mourning. All I ever saw was just another soulless politician”.

We notice that the staff guys have everything cleaned up, we’re the only remaining customers and the guys are just standing quietly waiting for us to notice……again. It takes us a while because we can’t stop talking and it’s so cold outside that we all have tons of clothing to put on.

Some of us have an activity planned for tomorrow; it will require sage but we don’t have any yet. An Occupier couple has a bunch of extra sage at their house so we all pile into our vehicles and head over to gather sage….so to speak.

We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.