Southwest Journal reporters have written scores of award-winning stories over the past 30 years, ranging from investigative reports on politicians to features on Southwest Minneapolis students, artists and activists. Below are 10 memorable stories from our archives.
Task force examines needs of growing minority population at Southwest High — April 1990
In its third issue, the Southwest Journal reported on a pair of fights at Southwest High School that led principal William Phillips to convene a task force to address issues of race and bias. The story quoted two Black students from North Minneapolis who said that the school’s curriculum ignored all other cultures except white culture and that they didn’t identify with Southwest as “their school.” Phillips said he struggled to get parents of color to join the task force, and he noted that the majority of parents of color at the school lived in distant neighborhoods. Schools in Southwest Minneapolis and across the city are still grappling with how best to integrate the district and serve families of color.
How much of a good thing? — May 1994
This story examined the clash in the Linden Hills business district at 43rd & Upton between private investors and residents who wanted to keep the neighborhood’s “village” feel. Debates around commercial development and density, especially in Linden Hills and in Uptown, have been a mainstay of Southwest Journal coverage over the past 30 years. In this case, a proposed Starbucks at 43rd & Upton drew over 300 people to a community meeting, with neighbors saying they didn’t want any more “star shops” like Creative Kidstuff and Wild Rumpus Books in the area.
Reopening the road — Sept. 24, 2001
Maybe this sounds familiar? “A reconfigured Kmart will open Nicollet Avenue once again…” begins this story about a proposal to reopen Nicollet Avenue and redevelop the surrounding land with new housing, retail and parking. The developer quoted in the article said the project was 90% certain to happen. It never materialized. Today, nearly two decades later, the reopening of Nicollet at Lake Street is almost certain, given that the city has bought out the lease of the Kmart store on the site. The building, currently home to a temporary post office, is scheduled for demolition in 2023.
Blizzard of complaints buries Park Board’s DQ deal — March 11, 2002
Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet were almost home to Blizzards and Dilly Bars. In February 2002, a Park Board committee approved a five-year deal to allow Dairy Queen to operate the concession stands at the two lakes. But commissioners reversed course after an overwhelming barrage of complaints, in part because of opposition to corporate logos in parks. Among those lobbying against the plan was a group that called itself SCOOP, short for Stop Commercialization of Our Parks.
Giving and receiving — July 8, 2002
This story explored whether there is a conflict of interest when an individual or organization that contracts with a government body makes campaign contributions to the public officials who lead it. In 2001, attorney and lobbyist Brian Rice, his wife, his law firm and his firm’s members donated over $5,000 to candidates in Park Board races. In a year in which the nine Park Board candidates raised an average of $7,942, that represented a sizable portion of all donations. Rice and the seven winning Park Board members to whom he donated said they didn’t think there was a problem with him donating to their campaigns. A commissioner who did not take money from Rice said she didn’t think it was appropriate for contracted employees of the Park Board to be involved with political campaigns of any candidates. Rice remains the Park Board’s attorney.
How pensions blew a hole in the city budget — Sept. 9, 2002
This story explained why pensions had become such a drain on the city budget. It noted how city taxpayers bore the investment risk of the Minneapolis police officer and firefighter retirement funds and how city pension funds had sustained losses because of shady activity and fraud. It also noted how the city had minimal control over pension funds. The city’s police, fire and general-employee pension funds have since merged into the statewide pension funds. This story won the prestigious Frank Premack Memorial Award for public affairs reporting.
R.I.P. Arnold the crime-fighting pig — July 18, 2005
This Stevens Square pet became a famous “watchpig” in 2001 after biting the leg of a burglar during a home invasion. Arnold was popular with police and was filmed for a BBC show called “Miracle Pets.” Said one member of the Stevens Square Community Organization: “Arnold wasn’t the most attractive pet in the neighborhood, but he was a very well-loved character.”
A Lake Harriet legend — July 26, 2010
Throughout the years, the Southwest Journal has taken pride in covering the people who make the community special. This story highlighted 85-year-old Bill Brice, also known as “Biscuit Bill,” who for almost 10 years had walked around Lake Harriet every morning and greeted the dogs he saw with biscuits. (He knew all of the pooches by name.) Brice was at the center of a community of walkers who traversed the lake each morning and it often took him more than two hours to get around the three-mile path. Brice died in December 2016.
Struggling to understand — July 27, 2017
This story was written after Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer, an event that sparked international outrage and calls for reform. The article explained how Damond, an Australia native, ended up in Minneapolis and described the pain and grief of her friends and family. Mohamed Noor, the officer who shot Damond, was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and is now serving a 12 1/2-year prison sentence.
Voices from the pandemic — Starting in April 2020
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Southwest Journal has been documenting the health crisis through the eyes of people who live and work in Southwest Minneapolis. The series has featured, among others, a Fulton couple who are living in a senior living community, a Linden Hills physician and the owners of a LynLake gym. “We’re exhausted and exasperated,” said Jennifer Vongroven, a bedside nurse at HCMC, upon her return to work after recovering from COVID-19. “To sit next to able-bodied people who refuse to believe in science is harder for me as a human being than sitting next to someone and watching them die.”