Minneapolis, MN

Stripped clean: Misty Collins just wants her house back

July 21, 2004
Misty Collins stood on a street corner one Friday last fall, with her five children, with no place to go, near the home she'd lived in for seven years.
     The house stood in a prime real estate location, in a middle-class neighborhood surrounded by parks and bike paths and old-growth trees. It had served as the site of countless birthday parties and headquarters for extended family outings to nearby Lake Nokomis.
     "It was so nice I couldn't believe it," Collins, age 33, says. "And I accomplished this on my own. A young African American woman on her own. I was the talk of everybody. I did it, in this neighborhood. I was the first person ever to have a house besides my grandma."
     But Collins no longer owns the home; her family was evicted that fall Friday. She blames equity stripping, a scam virtually unheard of just a few years ago that's rapidly become prevalent in the Twin Cities and nationwide.
     The dispute over who owns the house is scheduled to go to trial in November. It's unclear whether hers is a full-blown case of equity stripping--Prentiss Cox, an assistant in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, says several elements of the case are similar to equity stripping instances that have been prosecuted here, and some are different--but it illustrates just how far-reaching and shady the practice has become.

Sex discrimination increasing, especially for women of color

July 18, 2004
Forty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, workplace discrimination charges are rapidly increasing — especially from women of color.
     A new study by the National Partnership for Women & Families examines data on discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1992 to 2003.
     The study found that sex discrimination charges filed with the EEOC increased 12 percent in the last decade. But the percentage increases were significantly higher for women of color: up 83 percent for Asian women, 68 percent for Hispanic women, 44 percent for American Indian women and 20 percent for black women.

Minn. lawsuit targets State Farm charges

December 25, 2003
More than 150,000 Minnesota residents this week should start receiving notices in the mail to join a class-action lawsuit against State Farm insurance company, the largest home insurer in the state and nationwide.
     The suit, initially filed a year ago in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, alleges that the Bloomington, Ill.-based company improperly slapped surcharges of up to 6 percent on certain homeowners' insurance premiums between August 1997 and February 2003 because of the age of the house or its electrical system.
     State Farm's utility rating plan, or URP, was "discriminatory, illegal and constituted redlining by forcing persons in older homes to subsidize premiums for persons living in newer homes," the suit charges. Redlining is illegal and occurs when companies treat people unfairly in certain communities or refuse to do business in those areas.

ELECTION DAY: Volunteers to test polls for disabled accessibility

November 04, 2003
In the past, Margot Imdieke Cross grew frustrated while trying to vote. Polling places were often inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair. Heavy doors and awkward voting machines annoyed her. However, Cross never turned away from voting.
     "I'm real pushy though, so I never (didn't vote). But I know people who have gone away and just not voted," Cross said.
     Some of Cross's concerns, however, may be relieved after voters across the metro area go to the polls today. A group of 10 volunteers will be testing to see if Minnesota's polls are welcoming to a group often disenfranchised by inaccessible polling sites.

Landlord is racially biased, suit says

July 10, 2003
The owner of several Minneapolis apartment buildings in the Whittier neighborhood has been accused of racially discriminating against African-American tenants in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by federal attorneys.
     The suit, filed in U.S. District Court by the U.S. attorney's office and the U.S. Justice Department, accuses Robert L. Kreisler Jr. of engaging in a systematic pattern and practice of discrimination against black tenants.
     Kreisler, also known as "Bob Peterson," owns Kreisler Real Estate Co., Whittier Real Estate Co. and Whittier Community Apartments. The suit alleges civil rights and Fair Housing Act violations.

Rybak's meeting with Indians is tense at times

February 26, 2003
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak excused himself from a meeting with the city's Indian community Tuesday night, saying that it had been a long day and that he had heard the community voices he'd come to hear.
     However, the voices continued as he stood to leave the American Indian Center -- including the demand for him to issue a blanket public apology for any police wrongdoing directed at Indians.
     Earlier Tuesday, several American Indians announced that they had filed suit in U.S. District Court, alleging police brutality and discrimination in an incident that happened last September during a raid at Little Earth.

St. Paul landlord charged with sexual harassment

February 20, 2003
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against St. Paul landlord, alleging that he sexually harassed female tenants.
     The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, contends that David Beaudet subjected female tenants to severe sexual harassment in order to rent an apartment from him.
     Tenants say they had unwanted verbal sexual advances and sexual touching forced on them.

Union confident officers didn't urinate on Indian 

January 31, 2003
Two police officers accused by community activists of urinating on an American Indian man came forward on Thursday, as the head of the police union expressed confidence that they will be exonerated.
      The incident has outraged many American Indians in Minneapolis. Police Chief Robert Olson pledged a thorough investigation.
      Olson added, "If any if these allegations are true, they are very, very serious and would result in serious disciplinary action, there's no question about that."

Lawyer accuses Minneapolis firm of racial bias

January 13, 2003
Patricia Russell Brown's substantial résumé includes a chemical-engineering degree from Princeton and a law degree from Harvard, where she was an editor for a technology and law journal. She also co-chairs the intellectual-property section of the Women's Bar Association of Washington.
      Now, Brown can add something else to her résumé: plaintiff.
      Brownis suing Dorsey & Whitney LLP in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleging racial discrimination and seeking $10 million in damages. Brown alleges that she was not considered for partner after she was promised she would be when she arrived as a lateral transfer from the Venable LLP law firm in 2000.

New initiative aims to diversify white-dominated CDC

December 18, 2002
When you think about the families that live in affordable housing, a certain image comes to mind. Usually that image features an African American or another person of color.
     However, what we do not often talk about in our community is who is building this housing. Billions of dollars are spent each year creating and developing affordable housing for low-income people who are overwhelmingly people of color. However, very few developers in the Twin Cities are developers of color.
     Much of the nonprofit housing development is done through what is called a Community Development Corporation, or a CDC. A CDC is a certain type of nonprofit organization whose mission must state that they are doing some type of economic and/or community development within a designated geographic area. 

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