Pols push back against online mob in Mpls house demolition

A house on Colfax Avenue in Minneapolis that had seen its better days is gone now. The 122-year-old “Orth House” has been demolished despite attempts by some preservationists to save it.

But the Facebook war surrounding it goes on, providing a bit of lesson on how legions can get carried away in social network battles.

Nicole Curtis, the host of HGTV’s Rehab Addict, got things started last week when she criticized Council member Lisa Bender for supporting the demolition of the home in her district.


That earned a rebuke from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, after some commenters on Curtis’ page got carried away.


Too much? Curtis replied it’s not her fault.


This afternoon, Bender penned an essay — on Facebook — responding to the online attacks:

Last week, two buildings in the 10th Ward were demolished. Many people may be hearing about this controversy for the first time, but one of the buildings has become the subject of fierce debate over the past two and a half years and have recently been the subject of a lot of social media discussion. Since I took office, I have fielded many emails and phone calls about this issue. I attended a hearing at the Heritage Preservation Commission in March of last year to hear my constituents and others speak about this, and presided over the public hearing when the decision was appealed to the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee in April 2014. Like all of the land use decisions we make on the Council, this was a quasi-judicial proceeding, where the Council is bound by law to take into account the facts presented before us. Some people disagree with the decision that me and 10 of my colleagues made to allow the demolition of one of the two buildings. Many other people have contacted me to say they support it. I appreciate the people who took the time to respectfully engage in this discussion on both sides of the issue. I also stand by my vote to follow the City’s professional staff’s repeatedly-stated recommendation to allow the owner to demolish the property. Based on the facts in the public record, staff advised and I agreed that this building did not meet the criteria for the City government to mandate its preservation. I voted based on the facts presented and under the guidance of the law. The legal findings for this decision are available here:

Findings of Fact: http://www.scribd.com/doc/257421159

As is their right, the Healy Project twice brought this to court. Both Judge Mahill and Judge Rosenbaum agreed to allow the property owners to demolish their property. It is important to note that all of the arguments and allegations made by those who oppose demolition were made in these court proceedings, including their arguments about the interior of the house. Neither judge found these allegations to have merit.

Magill: https://www.scribd.com/…/Memorandum-Denying-Injunction-Judg…
Rosenbaum: https://www.scribd.com/…/Order-Denying-Injunction-Judge-Ros…

As a public official, I expect people to hold me accountable, disagree with me and let me know what they think. I have had, and continue to have, an open door to discuss this issue on the merits with anyone, anytime. I hold monthly events, weekly office hours, and am readily available to my constituents.

I am very disappointed by the aggressive, sometimes violent rhetoric that has been used by a few local people (and hundreds of people from elsewhere in the country who have been emailing, calling, tweeting and posting on facebook about this for over a year) to spread lies about me, call me names, and threaten me. I am disappointed to see lies continually repeated, despite correction, over months and over the past year. I am disappointed that someone or some group of people attempted to hack my Facebook account on a daily basis for over a month. I am disappointed that people have used sexualized language, name-calling and threats of violence to try to intimidate me, my colleagues, and City staff. Although most of the invective is coming from people who do not even live in Minneapolis, some of it is coming from residents, and it can at times be frightening. I have two small children and my family deserves to be and feel safe in our community just like the rest of our neighbors do.

I care deeply about our city’s history, and of the history of urban life. I favor preserving buildings that are historically significant and that is why I have worked to bring forward a historic district nomination in part of my ward. I also understand that over time, cities grow and change. Last year in Minneapolis, dozens of buildings were torn down, most outside of my ward. We have laws that govern how a property owner may use their property and laws that govern when the government will intervene in ways that constrain those rights.

I ran for office because I care deeply about our community — its history and its future. I spent the weekend organizing with constituents to campaign for workers’ rights including paid sick leave, fair scheduling, an end to wage theft and a living wage. I have led and will continue to lead efforts to make sure our transportation system works for everyone, regardless of income or ability. I am working with my colleagues to ensure everyone has shelter and that housing options are available for people of all incomes in every neighborhood. I work hand-in-hand with our police department and neighbors to ensure our community is safe and I support businesses and constituents who need a helping hand navigating our city system. Let’s return to working on the important issues at hand and move forward with civility and cooperation.

Related incivility: Curt Schilling eviscerates Twitter trolls going after his daughter (Yahoo Sports).