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Wonsley vs. Frey: Fight!!!

Plus same ol' MPD leadership, a private equity landlord gouges north Mpls residents, and Frey appoints a homelessness czar in today's Flyover local news roundup.

3:57 PM CDT on August 29, 2023

City of Minneapolis|

These two people do NOT like each other.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Wonsley: City Hall Staff “Perpetually Doing Sheisty Shit”

Unicorn Riot recently sat down with 2nd Ward Minneapolis Council Member Robin Wonsley, giving her an opportunity to express her frustration with Mayor Jacob Frey’s office. Much of what Wonsley says is no big secret—for instance, she discusses how the so-called “strong mayor” system voters approved in 2021 was intended to diminish the power of individual wards while giving more influence to the few wealthy neighborhoods that elect the mayor. But it’s good to hear a sitting official say that stuff out loud. A potentially bigger revelation is Wonsley’s claim that the mayor’s staff has adopted retaliatory tactics to silence council members. Wonsley says that she and her colleagues who oppose Frey’s policies have heard responses like, “Okay, well, let’s see how you like it or how your constituents like it if trash don’t get picked up for a couple of days.” According to Wonsley, “Oversight has been … the biggest fight, at least for my office, because under the Frey administration [the city is] perpetually doing sheisty shit.”

Frey responded today in an email sent to Wonsley that CC'd the other council members. He wrote: "Insinuating that I or my staff have ever said—or done this—is a lie. Our residents rely on the critical city services we provide and should never, under any circumstance, be used as pawns in a political game. Intentionally creating and spreading misinformation of this magnitude is beneath the office you hold." The Star Tribune reports that seven council members told the paper they had never heard of incidents such as Wonsley referred to, with Michael Rainville saying of Wonsley's comment, "This is just bad manners."

O’Hara Fails to Find Good Apples in the MPD

At the Minnesota Reformer, Deena Winter takes a look at the records of Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara’s newly appointed nine-member leadership team. You will not be surprised to learn that many of these MPD veterans have spotty histories. In fact, you could name any department screwup/atrocity from the past few years and it's likely one of O’Hara’s appointees was involved. The hiring of Tyler Timberlake, the Virginia cop charged with assault? The head of recruitment and background checks when that occurred is now the assistant chief of community trust. The SWAT teams that killed Amir Locke and adopted paramilitary tactics during the George Floyd uprising? They were overseen by Jason Aldean fan Jon Kingsbury, who has shared tirades against “your true oppressor, the privileged criminal class” on LinkedIn and will now supervise five precinct inspectors. The former commander who ran the field training program and selected Derek Chauvin to be a field training officer? She’s now assistant chief of operations. Three other O’Hara-picked leaders have an array of misconduct complaints against them. But we’re sure the remaining three members of the team are good folks—by MPD standards, anyway.

A NYC Equity Firm is Making Millions Off North Side Renters

Progress Residential, a rental agency owned by private equity firm Pretium Partners, is making bank in north Minneapolis. According to a recent report by Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia that number is $60 million total, with $40 million coming from North Side properties alone. In 2012, during the housing market crisis, the corporation began buying up foreclosed homes, mostly in traditionally Black neighborhoods. Now, 11 years later, it’s the largest single-family renter in the U.S. That’s a big problem. “Corporate landlords take affordable homes off the market and keep homeownership out of reach for low- to moderate-income families,” writes David Pierini at North News on Progress Residential.

The corporation isn’t even keeping up with their end of the bargain. Back in January, amid reports of mold, crumbling foundations, and other health hazards at over 200 properties, the city of Minneapolis told PR to get their shit together over the next two years or get out. While there have been repairs, tenants are now complaining about hidden fees, including a standard $75 charge for maintenance requests. “That’s one of the things that’s unique about private equity landlords,” housing director Jordan Ash tells North News. “They’re going to supersize the profits and promise investors very large returns in a short period of time." 

Meet Minneapolis’s New Homelessness Czar

This Monday, strong Mayor Jacob Frey named Enrique Velázquez as director of the Regulatory Services Department, a position that serves as the touchpoint for the city’s response to things like unhoused populations and homeless encampments. But a change of hands doesn't necessarily mean a shift in policies. “Don't expect Velázquez to make any sudden changes to the city's approach,” warns Dave Orrick at the Star Tribune, as Velázquez emphasizes in the profile piece that he sees his work a "collaborative process." (The world “collaborative” is also used three times in Frey’s announcement.) Will that collaboration involve the folks who are seeking shelter at encampments? Or will the city continue to bulldoze properties and make it difficult for businesses to donate services like public restrooms? According to Velázquez, that is a "continual evolution that we are working through. There's no one-size-fits-all." Before the evolution can begin, Velázquez's appointment will need approval from City Council.

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