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Minneapolis official cybersquats on political opponent's award-winning website

Carol Becker denies doing any nefarious intent in her registering the "Wedge LIVE!" name.

Carol Becker denies doing any nefarious intent in her registering the "Wedge LIVE!" name. David Brewster, Star Tribune

Are you willing to believe the first name that came to mind for Carol Becker's forthcoming podcast just so happens to belong to a website and Twitter account that's often been critical of her? 

Would you accept that Becker was not seeking a cybersquatter's revenge on John Edwards, the man behind Wedge LIVE!, who last year became so disgusted by Becker's behavior and comments he mounted a write-in campaign for Becker's seat on the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation?

Does the fact Wedge LIVE!, which covers and cracks wise about local politics on an obessively granular level, was named "Best Website" by City Pages make it more credible? Or less? 

Is there any possible not-shitty reason why Becker filed business and trademark registrations for "Wedge LIVE!" late last month?

"No," says Edwards. "She's doing it because she's got a problem with me."

As detailed in a thorough story by independent journalist Tony Webster, Becker's swoop to register a name Edwards has been using for four years was noticed by a friend and fan, who tipped Edwards to the paperwork sneak attack (where else?) on Twitter.

Asked why she'd submitted the registrations, Becker paraphrased George Mallory on climbing Mount Everest. She filed paperwork to own the name Wedge LIVE because... it was there.

"I am working on a podcast that would bring people together," Becker said in a statement, "to talk about the issues that divide us. The name Wedge Live was available so I filed a name reservation and trademark for it because I think it embodies what this podcast could be."

Sure, Carol. 

That was what Becker said Saturday. By the next day, after blowback on a local community forum and Webster's story, Becker changed her tune. Responding to accusations that Becker had seized the name out from under Edwards to run him out of the blog business, Becker said: "As to shutting something down, could you tell me what I have shut down?"

Becker says in light of the "dramatic lack of understanding" about her "Wedge Live" filings, she will withdraw the claims -- for six months. By that time, she expects to be "further down the road on this podcast and look to establish my legal entity to create a business." 

Edwards is hardly appreciative of this half-year reprieve. "It was wrong to do it now," he says, "and it's going to be wrong to do it six months from now."

Edwards says Becker is "talking out of both sides of her mouth," telling both Webster and City Pages she was only barely familiar with Edwards' work... while also seeming to be more than familiar with it.

Last year, when Minneapolis residents wondered who was funding campaign mailers aimed at defeating progressive candidates, Becker said people should be more concerned about who's funding ground-level progressive organizations like Black Lives Matter, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, and Wedge LIVE! 

In Edwards' case, the answer was: nobody. The 37-year-old graphic designer moved to town six years ago, and took a serious interest in local politics around the time of the city's 2013 elections. Edwards started attending neighborhood meetings about proposed real estate developments, and discovered a "hostile, anti-renter sentiment" expressed by "older white homeowners," whose viewpoints also seemed to be the only ones getting aired in local media.

He started live-tweeting neighborhood meetings, and soon added official city proceedings to his beat. "I didn't expect anyone to really care about it."  

They do. Last week, Edwards, who exhibits equal  zeal in his coverage of zoning, urban planning, and cats, led a "Cats of Whittier" tour through that south Minneapolis neighborhood, and a couple dozen people showed up.

Edwards says Becker's comment suggesting his website was backed by shadowy funders was one of two inspirations for his write-in campaign against her. (The other was Becker's campaign-season lawsuit against then-Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, which Edwards calls "frivolous"; a judge more or less agreed.)  

In the end, Edwards got about 1,500 write-in votes, and Becker (the incumbent board president, whose name was actually on the ballot) won with roughly 70 percent of the vote. All this time, Edwards says he and Becker have met only once, at a political convention, when Becker approached him and a Minneapolis City Council member to strike up a conversation.

It was a "jokey interaction," Edwards recalls, with Becker alluding to her offer to meet him out for a beer some time. He did not take her up on that offer.

Edwards plans to meet with an attorney this week to discuss options to protect the Wedge LIVE! name. A few have already reached out to advise him that with years of tweeting and blogging under the name, he might be "covered, legally,"  and could fight Becker in court if she tried snagging it again.

"I'm established," he says. "There's a record of me existing."

Becker stands by her belief that a podcast is a good format to talk through political disagreements, far more civil than "on-line" or on Twitter, which she considers "generally...a place for people to be really really crappy to each other."

And usually it is. For a brief period though, it's become a repository of support for a hyperlocal community blog with a quirky and unmistakable name. And for that, we have Carol Becker to thank.