Month: November 2015

Ward 4 Crime Rates in North Minneapolis

Previously, I discussed the Foreclosure rates in Wards 2, 4, and 5. I have also discussed the obvious discrepancy of condemned and vacant buildings in North Minneapolis by using the City of Minneapolis Geographical Information System. But I had not yet touched on the subject of crime rates.

Although North Minneapolis does not have the highest crime rates in the City of Minneapolis, that honor belongs to the neighborhood of Downtown West, there are clear distinctions between the neighborhoods in the 4th Ward itself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Right away, the Humbolt Industrial Area sticks out. The area peaks out at a total of 2 crimes in the month of May and the total crimes committed in this area were 8: larceny in January and in February, auto-theft in March, auto-theft and larceny in May, auto-theft in June, and larceny in August and in September .

The thing to keep in mind about this area is that it is an industrial area, which means there are little to no single or multi-family units. In fact, and according to the 2001 general demographics data by the City of Minneapolis, no family or person lives in the Humbolt Industrial Area as of 2000.

A couple of other observations to keep in mind, the neighborhoods of Cleveland and Shingle Creek throughout the first three quarters of 2015 had the least number of reported crimes; whereas, the Folwell neighborhood had the highest number of reported crimes throughout that same time period. And one final note, crime appears to increase over the summer months.

This increase in crime trends over the summer months is consistent with other American cities although some may view increased crime rates and the summer months with the “Ferguson riots” of 2014 and  “Baltimore riots” of 2015. This author will not conflate the two. Rather the two ideas; that is, this author will refer to the protests of Ferguson and Baltimore as American political discourse and the number of crimes as the number of crimes.

The objective of this first article is to organize the crime information of Ward 4 in an easy and recognizable way by neighborhood; second, to illustrate that crime does increase over the summer months; and finally to illustrate that their is a difference in reported crimes within the 4th Ward itself. As previous articles have demonstrated, there are differences in the forclosure numbers and condemned and vacant buildings within North Minneapolis and therefore the 4th Ward.

Going forward, there are important questions to consider and that can be asked from this information. For example, Folwell has the highest number of reported crimes. Does Folwell also have the highest number of foreclosures and condemned and vacant buildings? Do the residents of Folwell on average have a lower level of education? Do the residents of Folwell have a higher unemployment rate on average than the rest of the 4th Ward neighborhoods? Are there more “black” residents in the Folwell neighborhood than other neighborhoods in the 4th Ward? How do “black” residents of Folwell compare to “white” residents of Folwell?

Questions like these can be posed for all of the other neighborhoods of the 4th Ward, North Minneapolis, and Minneapolis in general. Eventually these questions will lead to what Thomas Sowell once asked, what happens if “black” residents in certain neighborhoods in Minneapolis other than North Minneapolis are doing just as well in education and economic viability as “white” residents?

Author’s Notes:

  1. The crime statistics for Jordan and Willard-Hay parts of the 4th Ward were not included in analysis. This is because these areas are shared with the 5th Ward in North Minneapolis.
  2. The crime statistics for Jordan and Willard-Hay will be included in the analysis of the 5th Ward.

The Systems Scientist

Original publication date: April 2015

My name is Matt Johnson and I am an undergraduate of Systems Science at Iowa State University. My degree program is housed in the department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Although my degree program is systems science, my focus and interests reside in the sub-discipline urban dynamics, which was first proposed by Jay W. Forrester in his book Urban Dynamics.

You may be asking, “What is a systems scientist?” Systems scientists are those scientists who are interested in systems and who apply the scientific method to systems. For example, systems scientists are interested in biological systems, political systems, economic systems, social systems, and the combination of such systems, just to name a few. My discipline of urban dynamics incorporates economic, political, social (cultural), and technological systems, although I have not incorporated technological systems into my abstract modeling yet.

My field, Systems science, is a sub-field of Ludwin Von Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory (GST), which emerged out of Biology about 6 decades ago. Systems science utilizes stochastic and chaotic applications of mathematics to model different types of systems and analyze their behavior. Systems scientists also use knowledge derived from economics, anthropology, psychology, and/or sociology (for social systems), and philosophy to understand and think about the structures and dynamics of systems. In short, systems science is an interdisciplinary field with a lot of potential, and it will drastically change the self-perspective of humanity and increase humanity’s self-actualization as more and more systems scientists are born and move out to the public forum and industry, and systems science becomes a part of the human consciousness.

My field is a young field and currently there are less than five systems science programs in all of north America. These programs are graduate level programs. No undergraduate programs exist. So how am I an undergraduate of systems science? Good question.

I was a relatively new mathematics student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. This event followed by other similar events would eventually lead me from mathematics into something a bit different. I loved mathematics and I appreciated the field and the many wonderful mathematicians (and statisticians) that I had met throughout my academic career, but I wanted something a bit different; something a bit unusual and new; and something that would help me to address and articulate scientifically some of the perceived, or observed perceptions if you prefer, discrepancies in the United States system.

One day, an acquaintance gave me a book written by Peter Senge, systems thinker, called The Fifth Discipline. Soon after that, I found and read Derek Cabrera’s dissertation Systems Thinking (If you are familiar with Derek Cabrera and his DSRP theory, then you will see much of the DSRP influence in my writings.). While this was happening, another acquaitance provided me with information explaining how I could create my own program through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  I jumped at the opportunity and with the help and guidance of George E. Mobus of the University of Washington, Tacoma, Wayne Wakeland of Portland State University, and Elanor Taylor, Betsy Hoffman, and Wolfgang Kliemann of Iowa State Univeristy, my undergraduate program was born.

Because my program is new and unique, it acts similar to that of a graduate program. Thus, I work with a distinguished group of thinkers and professionals. This group is called the Faculty Review Board. These are my board members:

  • Dr. Wolfgang Kliemann, Vice President of Research, professor of mathematics
  • Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffman, professor of economics
  • Dr. Elanor Taylor, assistant professor of philosophy
  • Dr. Chaoqun Lu, assistant professor of ecology

My program incorporates a substantial amount of mathematics (especially dynamical forms of mathematics), philosophy, and economics. For example, some of the program courses include differential equations, chaos theory, probability theory, set theory, game theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and a designed, independent systems science thesis course. Moreover, following in the foot steps of many of the systems scientist who came before me, I will be incorporating macroecology and its dynamical systems principles into my program and modeling . Finally, my program includes an undergraduate thesis which is where my interests in urban dynamics resides. But beyond all of these program necessities, my program incorporates quite a bit of outside, independent reading. Many of those books can be found on the Readings page on this website.

My main objective, besides graduate school, which will happen, is to incorporate and merge the social and empirical sciences as a systems scientist while weaving social justice issues and challenges, along with environmental considerations and efficacy, into a new philosophical and scientific paradigm, or zeitgeist if you prefer, for the urban environment. But I also recognize that I follow in the footsteps of systems scientists such as Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, Niklas Luhmann, Jay W. Forrester, Donella Meadows, Yaneer Bar-Yam, George E. Mobus, Wayne Wakeland, Peter Senge, Derek Cabrera, Michael Strevens and all of the other systems scientists, thinkers, and philosophers who have come before me.

At the moment, I have two semesters left as an undergraduate at Iowa State University. If you have any questions or comments concerning my program or field of interest, please contact me at

Foreclosure Rates: Wards 2, 4, and 5 from 2006 to 2015

Figure 1
Figure 1

Continuing the analysis of foreclosure rates in Minneapolis from the previous article Foreclosure Rates: Wards 4, 5, and 10 from 2006 to 2015, it is important to compare and contrast the wards with the highest foreclosure numbers and the wards with the lowest foreclosure numbers in the City of Minneapolis.

As Figure 1 illustrates, the 2nd Ward’s foreclosure numbers have been relatively linear since the fourth quarter of 2006. Furthermore, it can been seen that the 2nd Ward peaked at 14 foreclosures during the third quarter of 2010. In contrast, Wards 4 and 5 in North Minneapolis accounted for 172 and 86 foreclosures, respectively in that same quarter and year. That is of course a striking difference.

Indeed, Southeast Minneapolis is a smaller part of Minneapolis in area compared to North Minneapolis. But contrasting the two parts of town directly, North Minneapolis, which accounted for 258 foreclosures while Southeast Minneapolis accounted for just 14 foreclosures in the third quarter of 2010, is paramount. Thus, North Minneapolis accounted for about 18 times the number of foreclosures than Southeast Minneapolis during that time period.

Figure 2
Figure 2

We can see this difference in Figure 2 in another way. The Figure 2 graph also shows the pattern of Minneapolis foreclosures from the fourth quarter of 2006 to the second quarter of 2015. From the graph, it is clear that Ward 2’s foreclosure participation is flat and does not play much of a part in the totality of the foreclosure market in Minneapolis. However, North Minneapolis tells a different story.

It is clear from the data that Minneapolis’ foreclosure numbers have been steadily decreasing since 2008 with one sharp market peak in 2010. But during that time of recovery and increased market competitiveness and productivity, Wards 4 and 5 in North Minneapolis accounted for a large chunk Minneapolis’ total number of foreclosures. In other words, Wards 4 and 5 have accounted for a larger proportion of the foreclosure market in Minneapolis in general since at least the fourth quarter of 2006.

Figure 3
Figure 3

To really see and understand this idea of proportionality, we must view Figure 3. What Figure 3 illustrates is what is called relative frequency in mathematics and statistics. Simply put, relative frequency expresses proportionality.

Figure 2 tells a story that the total number of foreclosures in Minneapolis have been steadily decreasing, and this is certainly a positive economic component of recovery, but Figure 3 expresses North Minneapolis’ foreclosure rates have remained fairly constant compared to the rest of the city and appear to have increased in greater proportion in the past few quarters. Sending this point home, North Minneapolis has the greatest proportion of foreclosures in the City of Minneapolis.

Although it is clear from the data that the total number of foreclosures in the 4th and 5th Wards have been decreasing over the past few years, their recovery has been relative. In other words, there is still a greater proportion and total number of foreclosures in North Minneapolis than any other part of the city; that is, Northeast Minneapolis, Southeast Minneapolis, Southwest Minneapolis, and South Minneapolis.

To delve a bit deeper into these wards and subject matter, I suggest Patterns of the 5th Ward: “Race” and Comparing Zip Codes | Median Household Income for Minneapolis. For something a bit more general and that involves cities and astronomy, see A City on Mars: A Response to Elon Musk.

As always, I invite you to post your thoughts, comments, and questions below.



Understanding Complex Systems: A Neat Introduction

Complex systems are all around us. They are astronomical, for example our solar system which is composed of a parent star, eight planets with their respective moons, several dwarf planets, and thousands of other astronomical objects such as asteroids and comets.

Complex systems are also ecological. As a species, we emerged and evolved in a wide arrange of ecological systems; for example, east Africa, Eurasia, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Today, we, much of the planets human population, live in artificially constructed complex systems called cities; hence, the scientific interests of yours truly. But this video explains complex systems from the perspective of ecological systems and begins the discussion with this interesting question

Have you ever wondered how thousands of birds move in amazing patterns [of flight]?

As Ilana Shoenfeld, the narrator, illustrates in this neat and easy to understand video, complex systems are composed of interactions between system agents (think of a crowded dance floor and the dancers interacting with each other) and from these interactions, a pattern of behavior emerges in the system. This is definitely a different way of looking at the world. Enjoy the video!

Philosophy of Science: A Kuhnian Notion of Science

Historically, the notion of science has been that of a truth-seeking venture. That is, with each stop forward science takes, scientists move closer and closer to understanding the what, when, why and how of it all. The idea is that science allows scientists to see the world as it is. And this is made possible because science is continuous and cumulative.

Science is a like a house. It is built upon the already established foundations of the previous generation of scientists. But of course, this is not Kuhn’s notion of science. His notion of science is rather dichotomous compared to the popular view.

To a degree, the traditional views of how science progresses is still salient in the minds of mainstream America; that is, continuous and cumulative. However, Kuhn’s notion of scientific revolutions is quite different. Perhaps dichotomous is a better term. Kuhn argues that science is discontinuous. This means there ar periods where science is not cumulating because the opposing paradigms, in the middle of the scientific revolution, are competing to see which paradigm has the tool kit to solve the recognized anomalies.

Kuhn argues that science is not cumulative, at least not during scientific revolutions. He agrees that science is cumulative and continuous during the “normal science” phase before and after the revolution has occurred. But science is neither continuous nor cumulative during the revolution. As Kuhn explains in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

…scientific revolutions are here taken to be non-cumulative developmental episodes in which an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible new one…

Thus, the consequence of this idea is that the information in the old scientific paradigm is left behind and not brought into the new scientific paradigm – discontinuity between the old and new. And this part of the notion leads back to the idea of truth. What is truth? This part of the notion will be addressed in the end. But first, how do revolutions emerge in Kuhnian philosophy?

So how do revolutions come about? Originally, it was thought that science progressed in a continuous and cumulative manner; that is, concepts, theories, and other scientific elements are built upon the preceding concepts and theories and so on and so forth in the future with little to no discontinuity. However, Kuhn challenged that belief. In contrast, Kuhn argued that science was discontinuous and the ideas of the new paradigm were not compatible with the old paradigm. To help explain this idea, Kuhn’s scientific revolution could be viewed in five stages.

The first is what Kuhn calls “normal science.” This is where there is a dominant paradigm, which provides the necessary tools to solve scientific puzzles. For example, Newtonian physics allowed scientists of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries to understand the physical world in a new way and it provided reasons for why and how physical objects act the way they do. However, anomalies in Newtonian physics provided was presented in two stages, special and general relativity, which helped to solve the anomalies from the previous Newtonian paradigm.

The anomalous stage is followed by the crisis stage. This is where the old ways of doing things – approaches, methods, and procedures – are slowly but surely tested for compatibility or to potentially replace the preceding techniques. But as anomalies continue to be produced by the former paradigm and the new methodologies that accompany the new paradigm address and solve the anomalies of the old; thus, the old makes way for the new. This is the paradigm shift.

From here, the scientific revolution completes its journey when the paradigm shift begins to produce textbooks for the next generation of scientists who will solve puzzles under the guise of the new paradigm, or as Kuhn refers to it, “normal science.” This of course infers that there is not a “normal science.” This is because the science that came before is incommensurable.

According to Kuhn, scientific paradigms are incompatible. They are, in another word, incommensurable. And the consequence of this notion is great. In comparing an old theory to a new theory, Kuhn states that the new theory benefits from

…accuracy of prediction, particularly of quantitative prediction; the balance between esoteric and everyday subject matter; and the number of different problems solved…

Thus, the new paradigm provides its practitioners with the necessary tools to address the previous anomalies brought about by the previous paradigm for which the old paradigm tools could not solve. As a further consequence, “the two are not logically compatible,” for the old paradigm has no place in this world. But it is not just the incompatibility of tolls from one paradigm to another. It is also the incompatibility of the meaning of terms and the incompatibility of how scientists view the world.

As Kuhn explains, “the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds.” Hence one practitioner sees the world as a falling body and the other sees it as a swinging pendulum. And this is another important point for what the incommensurability thesis implies about scientific change. The falling body and swinging pendulum perpetuate a dichotomous perception of the world. Who is correct? Who is closer to the truth?

A consequence of the different paradigms between a falling body and a swinging pendulum is that there are two truths at the very least. Ironically, Kuhn’s notion of science and the traditional notion of science illustrate this dichotomy of truth best. So is it indeed the case that science is only continuous and cumulative during “normal science?”

Or is it the case that science is continuous and cumulative throughout the aggregate of history? Or is Kuhn ultimately right; that is, truth is in the eye of the beholder? According to Kuhn, scientists view the world in fundamentally different ways. And this is fine. But if the anomalies of one paradigm are solved by the other paradigm, then how is it there are competing or multiple truths?




Systems and Systemic Discrimination: Wage Discrimination


Is there systemic wage discrimination against women? In this short video produced and hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, a well-known research institute with conservative leanings, Christina Hoff Sommers discusses systemic discrimination against women.

Final Thoughts

What about reproducibility? A part of the scientific method is the act of reproducing one’s own experiment. This is sound science. It allows the scientist, or scientists, to check for consistency and accuracy. In addition, it is important for fellow researchers to take the experiment and test to see if the results can be duplicated.

So in the case of the Yale study, there would be, initially, three important questions. First, what were the findings? Second, What was the methodology of the experiment? And third, has any other researchers attempted to reproduce the experiment? Did the follow-up experiment, or experiments, reproduce the initial findings?

Finally, every person should heed the advice of Christina Hoff Sommers. Dismissing someone else’s “scholarship,” findings, or opinions just because of their political association and/or leanings is bad science. It is a bad idea in general. And this scientist agrees with that notion. Science is not liberal and science is not conservative. Science is science. And to just wantonly suggest that systemic discrimination exists without any type of scientific analysis is just bad science and suggests some questionable critical thinking skills.


Minneapolis and its Decreasing Urban Blight

Urban decay consists of high unemployment rates, high crime rates, increasing numbers of condemned and vacant buildings, high foreclosure numbers and rates, depopulation, political inequalities, economic lethargy, and the decreased attractiveness of a city. However, and with respect to these categories, Minneapolis is currently doing very well as a whole. This of course does not mean that Minneapolis is without its challenges or discrepancies.

Data Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis - Graph Constructed by Urban Dynamics
(Figure 1)Data Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis – Graph Constructed by Urban Dynamics

The unemployment rate for “black” Minneapolis residents was more than three times that of “white” Minneapolis residents in 2011 according to the Economic Policy Institute. In general, “black” children were, and probably still are, performing at half the rate of “white” children in Minneapolis grade schools and Minneapolis had the worst high school graduation rate of the 50 largest cities in the United States in 2013 according to the Center for Reinventing Public Education. Clearly, Minneapolis has some work to do. But while Minneapolis has discrepancies, it also has its share of successes.

As Figure 1 illustrates, the total number of vacant and condemned buildings and the total number of foreclosures for Minneapolis peaked at 1,731 units in the third quarter of 2008. This was clearly within the time frame of the housing market crash and the Great Recession. Minneapolis clearly suffered its share of unfortunate economic incidents during that time period.

But as the graph also indicates, after the peak of the 748 foreclosures and the 948 vacant and condemned buildings in late 2008, Minnapolis’ urban blight has been trending downward at a fairly consistent rate. And although there have been some spikes here and there, the rate along with the total number of foreclosures and vacant and condemned buildings has been greatly reduced.

Data Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis - Graph Constructed by Urban Dynamics
Data Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis – Graph Constructed by Urban Dynamics

As of the second quarter of 2015, there were 109 foreclosures and 531 vacant and condemned buildings for a total 640 buildings throughout the whole of Minneapolis. That is a reduction of 1,091 units. In other words, Minneapolis has reduced its rate of urban blight with respect to foreclosures and vacant and condemned buildings by more than two times.

Taking this a step further, the unemployment rate was the lowest for the largest metropolitan areas in the United States at 3.1 percent in the second quarter of 2015; the average weekly wages for Minneapolis according to Figure 2 have been steadily rising since 2006 despite the Great Recession; and according to the United States Census Bureau, the population of Minneapolis has grown by more than 25,000 residents since 2010.

With these positive economic facts in mind, the urban blight of Minneapolis ought to continue to decrease as residents find jobs and their wages continue to increase, at least in theory. Time will tell. But for the short term, Minneapolis will be seeing more bright and less blight.