Monday, September 29, 2008

A Year Of Progress: The Speech Of Chair Peter Teachout, September 25, 2008

Photo By Pam Patrek

Here is the written text of the speech of Chairman Peter Teachout, delivered September 25.

Teachout was dressed in formal attire, of course, but this photo from a Rebuilding Together event is a better likeness of the real Peter we know and love: a man who digs in and gets his hands dirty to improve the neighborhood.
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Hello, I’m Peter Teachout, Chair of the Hawthorne Area Community Council. I haven’t held that position very long, so you’re in luck, that probably means a shorter speech.

I do have a year’s worth of progress to highlight and share with you, but consider for a moment why we are all here. We’re here because this neighborhood is important to us. But, really, isn’t a neighborhood only important because, underlying everything, is the fact that each of us needs a place to feel safe and call home?

So let me tell you about something that happened in my home on Monday.

My daughter, McKenna, is just learning how to walk, and took four whole steps by herself. And the way it happened was I said, “Come to Daddy.” And that didn’t really interest her. But when I held out my cell phone, McKenna was suddenly willing to walk. Actually, she almost ran.

I think our neighborhood is like my daughter who is just starting to walk. Even though there are many in this room who have lived in Hawthorne for decades, in some ways this time is the very beginning of what our neighborhood will become.

We have many empty houses. Who comes to own these houses, who comes to live in them, whether the houses are renovated or pretty much left as they are or knocked down…these next few years will determine the character of our neighborhood for a long time.

The way I look at this community could be the way my daughter looks at walking. We can’t see this neighborhood as full of obstacles. We have to look at Hawthorne as full of opportunity. We have the opportunity to change the neighborhood we live in for the better by capitalizing on our diversity and affordability.

Here in Hawthorne, we take our steps and make our progress through committees. I’m going to tell you about the progress which our four main committees have made.

This year, our Housing Committee has helped Hawthorne establish many new relationships with various city and county departments, the Northside Home Fund, the Housing Preservation Project, and many partner organizations that form the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Hawthorne is a founding member of the NCRC, which has been engaging banks and financial institutions around the issue of the foreclosure crisis. (Would any Housing Committee members who are here please stand and be recognized?)

You hear about the foreclosure crisis all the time. And it is indeed a crisis as people are in danger of losing their homes. Hawthorne has worked through its partnership with NCRC to prevent foreclosures.

The tireless and passionate work of Housing Director Jeff Skrenes must be credited, here. Jeff is constantly plotting even more ways to reach out to people and prevent foreclosure, and keep people in Hawthorne from losing their property. When you’re talking to Jeff, even casual conversations often turn to in-depth discussion of mortgage issues.

Jeff lives, breathes, eats and sleeps mortgages and our neighborhood has benefited from that kind of focus. National publications like USA TODAY have taken note of Jeff’s work in conjunction with the CitiMortgage lawsuit.

I’ll be saying a bit at the end about that lawsuit. The good news is we sued and we got a settlement and people all over the nation took notice.

I’d like to take a moment to ask Jeff to stand up and be recognized for his heroic efforts on behalf of the Hawthorne neighborhood. Also, Mark Ireland, would you please stand? Mark is the attorney who helped us bring about this victory. (Editor's note: During the actual speech, Teachout made note of the fact Ireland was not present, but acknowledged Ireland along with Skrenes)

I look back on this year and I can hardly believe all this happened in the span of just one year.

In the last year, the Crime and Safety Committee worked with the Police Buy Back Program to help place more police where they are needed. This committee worked to coordinate National Night Out efforts and the Mobile Block Party to help neighbors connect and discuss their concerns for the development of the neighborhood.

All those in the Crime and Safety Committee? Would you please stand and be
recognized?

This year, we helped shut down open air drug markets at certain intersections. We have much work left to do and need help from our city officials. They’ve been helping us and we are very thankful. All those who work for the City of Minneapolis, if you could please stand and be
recognized.

The Crime and Safety Committee is also committed to providing support to community activities and projects like the Hawthorne Clean Sweep. Another innovative project has been the Hawthorne Can-Do Bookaway. This program gives away free books to children and families to nourish and strengthen the young minds in our community.

Bryan Thoa Worra has been a driving force behind this endeavor. Bryan? Could you please stand?

Moving on from the Crime and Safety Committee…and I know it’s hard to move on from that, since these issues are so often on the front burner.

But focusing now on the Environment Committee, this committee continued to do work to promote bike lanes and rainwater gardens and encourage high standards for Hawthorne’s environmental safety for residents. Could the members of the Environmental Committee stand?

This is an extremely active committee. They’re very active with Clean Sweep.

I hope every time I say the words “clean sweep,” people are filled a desire to take charge of cleaning up their block. Clean Sweep is a lot of fun. How often can you take a trophy photo with a blown out tire and some yellow bags of litter?

Of course, one way to be an environmentalist is to use a home that’s already built, instead of going out and building another one. This year, several old and existing homes in our neighborhood were part of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Home Tours, and were promoted as examples of the best in Minneapolis.

Here in Hawthorne, we have houses. We have affordable housing stock everywhere. Tell all your friends. Get them to look around Hawthorne and buy into our neighborhood.

But we have some troublesome properties. Fortunately, this year Hawthorne was able to arrange for the demolition of some of those.

The role of business is essential to our progress. This year, the Hawthorne Business Committee has worked to build connections with the business leaders of the Hawthorne Neighborhood.

We plan to bring more regional and national attention to many of the amazing businesses we have, ranging from the world’s largest lutefisk factory to companies such as Kemps and Diamond Vogel paints and emerging businesses such as Taylor Sound that are working to revitalize our
neighborhood.

The Business Committee has worked hard to establish a new fa├žade improvement program to assist our businesses in providing a great impression for visitors and residents. (Would the member of the Business Committee please stand?)

The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council has continued to support key efforts such as the Hawthorne Huddle with partners like General Mills. We love our partner, General Mills. I have three children and they love their breakfast cereal, and General Mills makes a lot of that stuff. General Mills brings you products like Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Wheaties. When you’re shopping in the store, please remember who our corporate friends are.

Another of our valuable friends is Farview Park. We are enjoying their facilities right now, as we enjoy them many times a year. These facilities help us connect residents and community leaders with each other, where we can discuss issues ranging from education to youth mentoring, to working with the media to the role of the arts and emergency preparedness.

Paul Jaeger has been the force that keeps Farview Park such a useful
resource. Thank you, Paul Jaeger.

While you work and play and enjoy your homes, your Hawthorne Neighborhood Council represents you at key meetings and events, such as the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition—including the West Broadway Alive! Program—and the Northside Marketing Task Force and testimony before the Third Ward CARE meetings and the Minneapolis City Council on key issues ranging from problem properties to the effectiveness of the neighborhood revitalization program.

None of the things I’ve highlighted would have been possible this year, or any other year, without the support of amazing volunteers and community members like those in the audience tonight. Whether this is your first Hawthorne neighborhood event, or your 400th, we need your continued support as we face the challenges ahead.

In closing, I’d like to highlight a challenge we overcome. We filed a lawsuit against CitiMortgage for predatory lending. The lawsuit was unique in the nation. But it was based on established legal precedent about negligent lending.

The suit was recently settled and, as the Star Tribune said on Monday, we made CitiMortgage eat a $200,000 mortgage and we got a piece of property needed for the Eco-Village development for just $18,500, basically the cost of the lot.

I want to point out CitiMortgage has admitted no wrongdoing. But draw your own conclusions about who came out on top.

The Hawthorne Neighborhood took a few baby steps, and a scary giant fled in fear. Can you imagine what our future holds? We could become the place everybody wants to move, and people will wish they had bought property here when prices were so low.

We can do it, working together. This is only the beginning. We are still growing.

It is an honor to be your chair, and to present the highlights of the progress we have made together in the last year.

And now I’d like to introduce Laban Ohito.

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