Zimmerperson & the Retaining Wall Accusation
by LYNN MAYO
When one finds oneself in the newspaper as an anonymous bit player in part of the drama of the Zimmermann trial and verdict, it occurs to one that a certain existential choice opens up: namely, to speak or remain silent and anonymous.
I am the “domestic partner” (aka “the girlfriend”) in the Zimmermann case, referred to in the fourth indictment wherein Dean was found NOT guilty of trying to use his position as City Council person to get the nonprofit developer Powderhorn Resident Group (PRG) to build me a retaining wall.
I do not care for my role in the news as that nondescript, non admirable character in the story about the retaining wall. I dislike stories that lack depth. I hate being a prop of “reality” theater in which I did not agree to participate. Also, my apologies to the authors of the Strib stories, but their writing lacked integrity in that it improperly reinforced the storyline that the FBI was promoting: namely, that Dean was using his position of power to get something special on my behalf. The authors (whom I will leave anonymous, since they did that favor for me) had a deadline to meet, so I forgive them. Journalists are working stiffs like the majority of us, trying to survive in a world full of traps.
I would like to open a door to understanding in the matter of The Retaining Wall Accusation.
Powderhorn Resident Group (PRG) came to me wanting to do a deal. I owned (still
do) a duplex next to a project PRG was working on, and I owned the land under
that duplex. PRG wanted a land swap: their alley corner lot in exchange for
some of my north yard. (Please note: Powderhorn Resident Group came to me, not
the reverse). The lot they proposed giving me ALREADY had a retaining wall,
WHICH THEY INTENDED TO, AND ULTIMATELY DID, REMOVE
Now, I don't know about you other low- income single women out there, but I
had absolutely no experience in land swap deals.
parented two sons with a man named Dean Zimmerperson, who used to be my City
Council member, and who is the same fellow looking so disreputable in the Star
Tribune stories. But for all that, he happens to be knowledgeable about city
surveys, plot descriptions, land use and design, and he is, furthermore, a top-rate
genius handyman. (I am not exaggerating. For example, I had four, count them,
four plumbers try to get my bathroom sink to work and when I finally broke down
and called Dean, he fixed it in two hours. No more leaks.)
I give my condolences to all of Minneapolis, especially its low-income single
women, for this huge loss of a master handyman, who repaired everything including
the broken stoves, doors, floors, plumbing, roofs, and thereby the stressed
out souls of many, many residents of South Minneapolis at ridiculously low prices.
Dean, bungling guy as he may be with large amounts of cash, charged a “sliding
fee” for those of us at the bottom of the slide. Not too bright if he
were trying to pocket money, money, money.
So whom do I call to help me think about this request from PRG? Why, someone
who loves to think about such things, and who won’t charge me a dime to
think about it. Why won’t Dean charge me even a single dime? He feels
a commitment to his two sons to help their mom. (This is something you single
fathers know about, since many of us single moms work this angle all the time.)
Dean may not have been the perfect partner, but he is without a doubt the most
perfect of crises managers.
So I called Dean, who has done me many favors since we parted ways—for
example, completely renovating that duplex that sits on the very same yard that
Powderhorn Resident Group wanted for their project. This would allow me to get
some kind of a rental income for my jobless self, jobless due to my calling
as an unpaid volunteer in the community.
Fixing up a broken down duplex so I could rent it out was worth about $35,000
of Dean’s labor. It would have been closer to $150,000 if I had had a
construction firm do it. Dean did not charge me. If he had, he might not have
that $35,000 credit card bill the Star Tribune wrote about. If you wonder about
Dean’s integrity as a worker, ring me up, and I’ll take you on a
tour of the building.
So I called Dean. It is not like he has all the time in the world to come solve
a problem for his nagging ex. Since this was one of those do-it-for-the-neighborhood
situations, I knew Dean would help us out (me, PRG, the tenants, and the next
door neighbor). He is incapable of saying no to calls for help. It’s almost
a character flaw. When we were partners, I complained about his always saying
yes to whoever called at whatever hour to make a request. You know that old
song, “I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No”? Well, that’s
Dean. Except he’s not a girl. But you get the point. It’s what I
used to sing when Dean was always saying “yes, yes, yes” to everyone
who claimed desperation. He was not exaggerating when Dean told journalists
that the most fun about his job as City Council member was helping people out.
Dean has an old-time romantic idea about community.
Back to the story. I went into negotiations not especially fond PRG—they
didn’t do the townhouses the way I thought they should. I didn’t
like the land swap idea, and I won’t go into all the reasons. I was a
little cold with PRG. Maybe rude at times. But Dean liked them fine, and was
happy to help them get their project done.
So he takes on the role of the idea man. The problem solver. Dean comes and
sits down at the table with us all. Dean works to get PRG the land they need,
and tries to get me to be reasonable about what to ask for.
He is also thinking about what is good for the neighborhood and the tenants
living in the duplex on that particular piece of land, the neighbor across the
alley, and ultimately, the future residents of the town homes PRG intends to
build. With that in mind and with PRG present, we talked with the tenants and
the neighbors on the alley who would be affected by the agreement. THEY ALL
THOUGHT PRG SHOULD REPLACE THE RETAINING WALL THEY WOULD BE REMOVING.
Working with residents and developers to get the best deal for all concerned
is, I think, what an excellent citizen would do, and what a good City Council
member would do. With Dean’s help, PRG and I reached an agreement.
Was it good for the the tenants, the alley neighbors and the community that
I agreed to a land exchange without insisting that Powderhorn Resident Group
replace the retaining wall they removed? I don’t think so. Knowing what
I now know about how the alley looks, I would have told them no deal without
the retaining wall. Then again, knowing what I know now, namely, that Dean might
be spending even more years in prison had PRG ceded to my request, I’m
glad I wimped out after all.
Here is an offer to those citizens who wonder about the accused trying to get
special treatment for his girlfriend, as I was once described (flatteringly,
I thought—I am 60 years old, and like being called someone’s girlfriend—it
sounds so sexy). Come see for yourself what the alley could look like if PRG,
in doing their multimillion dollar project, had replaced the retaining wall
they took out on that short run of boulevard/alley. (As Dean and I and the neighbors
suggested.) It would be MUCH nicer for all of us, including me. And including
everyone who lives on the block. And including the community that is trying
to look more like a neighborhood and less like a ghetto. (I am not criticizing
PRG—they made their offer; I accepted.)
I thank the Star Tribune for reporting that Dean was found Not Guilty on the
fourth charge, which the Strib later identified as the retaining wall for his
former domestic partner. I just thought they and their readers might like a
little bit more of the story.
Finally, here is a pitch to any wealthy women reading this article that would
like for me and my alley neighbor (poor and single) to have a retaining wall,
and who want to express their camaraderie with their less privileged sisters:
Dean told PRG that if they would supply the materials left over from their project,
he would personally build the wall. PRG turned him down. I will happily accept
donations for bricks from the sisterhood; I’m sure I can get Dean to build
the wall. But he only has until January. Then he will be fixing what doesn’t
work at the penitentiary. ||
SEE ALSO: "Did
the FBI target Dean?" by Ed Felien