Elections Held 1/12/09

And so we come to the re-scheduled annual election held on January 12th, 2009.  It was a miserable evening–snowing, cold, many accidents on the road.  But more than 80 people showed up for the event, a tribute to how much this neighborhood cares about its leadership.

There were eight candidates for the six slots:  Dave Haddy, Todd Heintz, Robert Hodson, Tyrone Jaramillo, Anne McCandless, Tiarah Milton, Vladimir Monroe, and Ben Myers.

At the sign-in table, each person provided proof of their eligibility to vote if that was their intent.  Most came with drivers license in hand.  There were perhaps 2 to 4 cases where a verified member vouched for someone who didn’t bring an ID.

Board chair EB Brown welcomed all, introduced board members and public officials who were present, and then turned the meeting over to Michael Browne, chair of the Nominating Committee.  He reviewed the Nominating Committee process, introduced committee members and was about to call for voting when an objection was raised.

Steve Jackson, another board member, stated that some potential candidates had been rejected unfairly while others felt the process was so onerous that they dropped out.  Mr. Jackson then spoke to the specific case of Ms. Tamara Hardy, an employee of the Jordan New Life Church.  He stated stated that “everyone” knows she works at Jordan New Life Church and has done so for six years.  He asked why she had to verify anything in order to be on the ballot.  He proposed that write-ins be permitted or nominations allowed from the floor.

Mr. Browne responded that all candidates were required to prove their eligibility to be on the board.  All candidates were treated equally in this regard.  Ms. Megan Goodmundson rose to speak and brought with her the page with her notes about the committee’s numerous attempts to contact Ms. Hardy by U.S. mail, by e-mail and by phone–even phone calls to her at Jordan New Life Church.  She noted that neither she nor Ms. EB Brown heard from Ms. Hardy until after the final deadline for getting names on the ballot.

Mr. John Zanmiller, an employee at the Jordan Probation House, asked if the bylaws permitted nominations from the floor or write-ins.  A copy of the bylaws was on hand, and it was verified that the bylaws require nominations to be closed at least a week prior to the election.  Mr. Jackson’s motion was ruled out of order since it violated the bylaws.

I want to note that Mr. Jackson brought this issue up again at the JACC press conference, apparently maintaining that some members of the community should be exempt from complying with the requirements that everyone else had to meet (and did).  I will admit that I don’t understand this logic.  As a member of the Nominating Committee, I saw the extraordinary lengths the committee went to to be sure there could be no accusations of giving some candidates special privileges or advantage.   Yet this is what Mr. Jackson seemed to think we should do.  I believe we did the right thing in applying the same requirements to all candidates and, at the same time, doing what we could (extending the deadline for two candidates) to be sure they had the opportunity to get on the ballot if they met those requirements.

Each candidate was given 3 minutes to speak to the group.  Of the eight candidates, two were not present, Tiarah Milton and Ben Myers.  Then the voting commenced.

While the votes were being counted (by tellers Stacy Sorenson of the NRP, Bob Cooper of the City’s Development Finance Division, and Jay Clark of the U of MN’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs with several observers watching the process), public officials were given time to speak.  Some hard questions were asked about funds for things important to this community.  Most insistent were Ms. Patrice Champion’s questions about where the Jordan money had gone and why weren’t there more youth programs available.

When the counting process was done, the results were announced:

David Haddy – 55

Todd Heintz – 64

Robert Hodson – 59

Tyrone Jaramillo – 58

Anne McCandless – 58

Tiarah Milton – 16

Vladimir Monroe – 63

Ben Myers – 20

JACC had six new board members.  One more public official spoke following the announcement, and then the meeting was adjourned.

Following the meeting, there was an altercation that has been widely discussed.  I observed only part of it, but I have spoken to a number of those involved as well as witnesses who observed it.  Here is what I can tell you based on those accounts and on my observations:

Mr. Dennis Wagner, a community member, and Ms. Patrice Champion, another community member, discussed the financial issue (“Where did the money go?”).  At some point, Mr. Jerry Moore was standing near them.  Mr. Wagner suggested that Ms. Champion should ask Mr. Moore where the money went.  As he said this, he patted Mr. Moore on the shoulder somewhat sarcastically.  Then he turned to walk away. As he stepped away, Mr. Moore swung his arm and connected hit the side of Mr. Wagner’s face with his open hand.  Mr. Wagner turned back, said something, then turned and walked away.  My attention was caught at this point because people were yelling at Denny that he should not walk away.  Mr. Wagner said he was not going to engage and continued to walk.  I observed Mr. James Everett, another community member, say several times, “Jerry was wrong in what he did, but you don’t touch a man when he’s tense…”

Ms. Megan Goodmundson approached Mr. Moore and told him to calm down.  Several people have reported that Mr. Moore gave her a hard shove.  At that point, a number of men got upset.  One, board member P.J. Hubbard told Mr. Moore, “You don’t put your hands on a woman.”  At that point, Mr. Moore swung at Mr. Hubbard, hitting him in the head with a closed fist (I observed the red mark on Hubbard’s forehead) and knocking his glasses off.  I understand that Mr. Moore also grabbed Mr. Hubbard’s vest and pulled on it, ripping off many of the buttons.  At that point, I observed a number of men attempt to hold Mr. Moore back.  Mr. Moore’s arms were flailing, attempting to hit someone (anyone he could reach?) and he was yelling threats of violence.  Mr. Hubbard was holding his glasses, attempting to see if they were damaged.  And three people were calling 9-1-1.  Mr. Moore was hustled out of the building before police arrived.

It should be noted that children were present.  Mr. Wagner’s daughter observed what happened and was being held sobbing in the arms of a family friend.  A young 13-year-old boy who attended with me was also traumatized, calling me frantically several times after the meeting to be sure everyone was okay.  We live in a neighborhood where violence has been all too visible for too long.  For the executive director (of a neighborhood organization that is committed to re-establishing peace and safety for its residents) to commit three acts of violence against community members is inexcusable.

Police arrived and took reports.  The police report says that Mr. Moore apparently went to the home of former board chair Ben Myers and called the police about 3 hours later to give his side of the story.  In the police report, Mr. Moore admits to hitting Mr. Wagner and Mr. Hubbard but claims that it was mutual and that both men had hit him.

Next up:  The new board is seated and flexes its muscles.

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