Minneapolis Urban League in trouble

Two weeks ago we wrote about the confusion regarding those who say the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL) is now close to death’s door (see our blog entries of April 1 and April 6), just as the St. Paul Urban League died three years ago, and current leadership who say all is well, and will get even better with more government and nonprofit funding. What do we make of the April 13, 2015 Star Tribune headline: “Minneapolis Urban League accused of potential double dipping,” and the April 16, 2015 headline: “Legislative auditor to investigate Minneapolis Urban League.”Even more troubling is that the concern seems to be the double dipping, not the fact that the programs are not working. Had they not double dipped they could have gone on, business as usual.The hard work of the MUL was once identified by Vernon Jordan as one of the most respected affiliate stars in the Urban League movement in meeting the challenges of the 1920s and on through the 80s. The decline began in 1990, right after the last “State of the MUL in 1989” (see Chapter 14 of The Minneapolis Story, “The Role of Minneapolis Black Organizations”). Continue Reading

Patrons enjoy drinks on Stub and Herb’s outdoor patio as a Green Line light rail train passes on Washington Avenue on April 14, 2015. Businesses along the transit line that faced low sales and slow foot traffic during its construction are now bouncing back.

Green Line Businesses bounce back

For some businesses along the Green Line light rail, the nearly two years of transit construction proved to be too much to keep operations steady. The light rail’s construction from 2012 to 2014 pushed some Stadium Village and Prospect Park businesses — like 56-year-old Campus Pizza and Pasta — too far below their bottom line, and many of the area’s storefronts cut costs and changed some of their business practices. But now, those businesses that survived the road work are bouncing back from the years of low sales and slow foot traffic that came with the construction.In order to stay open, many area businesses reduced their staff sizes and inventory to keep revenue flowing. Though Stub and Herbs has a loyal fan base and a 76-year-old legacy, owner Josh Zavadil said the business struggled through the two-year construction period.  Zavadil said he restructured the property’s mortgage and cut back on some spending during the construction to cope with the restaurant’s dwindling business as a result of the area’s lack of foot traffic. The business relied heavily on customers from University of Minnesota hockey and football games, he said. Other businesses along the light rail resorted to hosting events with the hopes of drawing positive attention to a depressed area.  While Art and Architecture Inc., an antique store in Prospect Park, didn’t struggle as much as other area businesses, manager Jodi Hohman said, morale in the area was low during the road work. “Everybody was down in the area,” she said. “People were closing up shop.” The antique store held a number of events, including “junk markets” — which are comparable to yard sales — to spur extra business, Hohman said. The removal of parking spots came with the light rail’s construction, and businesses that relied heavily on those spaces are still feeling the loss. During the construction, Paradigm Copies owner Gary Magee said his business on Washington Avenue Southeast removed some of its printing machines and shrank in size to reduce its rent cost.  He said the store lost a lot of walk-in business and didn’t attract any customers. But now that the light rail is up and running, Magee said his storefront is more robust, and he expects its customer base to continue to grow. “I’m seeing a lot of positive signs,” he said. “We’re on our way to doing much better.” Few business owners in the area know their exact property values, but many said most of the land prices along the Green Line have gone up in recent years.  And owners who own their own buildings instead of rent, like Textile Center in Prospect Park, say they are glad that they do. Nancy Gross,  director of the center’s administration, said since the train started running last summer, the nonprofit has seen more people visit its gallery space, and its consignment store has had higher sales. On the Green Line light rail’s route, trains slowly turn onto University Avenue Southeast after the line’s Prospect Park stop — half of their windows facing the Textile Center. “There are lots of eyes on us,” Gross said. “We love it.” Continue Reading


Fire devastates West Broadway businesses, upstairs housing units

A Wednesday (April 15) early morning fire roared through a row of businesses and residences leaving many homeless and one high profile community organization in search of new operating facilities. The fire that started in the UnBank, a check cashing business located at 913 W. Broadway in north Minneapolis, quickly spread to neighboring businesses and second floor apartments in the connected row of the 900 block of West Broadway Avenue. The first call to the fire department came in around 8:30 a.m. and by 9 a.m. the fire had already claimed several of the block’s businesses and apartments. No injuries were reported but there was extensive property damage along the block.In addition to the UnBank, a longtime neighborhood grocery store, Brix, was lost, as was the headquarters to community action group, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC). While the cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, there is speculation that the fire could have been intentional.”All we know is that the scene is under investigation, but some folks on the (fire) department that I talked to said it’s unusual as to how quickly the fire spread and how hot the fire got,” said Anthony Newby, executive director of NOC.Calls to the Minneapolis Fire Department were unreturned.Newby said while his organization is without an office, he’s most concerned with those who are without a home due to the blaze.”Our first concern is for the residents who were living in the apartments on the second story,” said Newby. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.”More than just thoughts and prayers, NOC is sending relief as well. Continue Reading


Fire Destroys Neighborhoods Organizing For Change Office

Activist group Neighborhoods Organizing For Change is homeless for the moment but still active. A fire destroyed the NOC office and several other buildings on Wednesday morning at 913 West Broadway in Minneapolis.None of NOC’s staff were harmed in the fire, but several people were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.A few hours later NOC organizers were busy participating in a day-long protest for higher pay for fast food workers.“NOC is more than a building. We’re a movement,” said organizer Anthony Newby.NOC has launched a fundraiser to help the residents who were injured or displaced by the fire.[See original post here:] Continue Reading


After Indiana, Minneapolis council calls on states to adopt LGBT protections

 Earlier this month, the Minneapolis City Council adopted a resolution that originally would have banned city-funded travel to Indiana, but quickly changed it to a resolution calling on Indiana and 27 other states to adopt protections for LGBT people.Council President Barb Johnson was planning to offer a resolution that would have stopped city employees from traveling to Indiana on the city’s payroll due to that state’s new “religious freedom” law. A copy of that resolution can be found here: [PDF]. However, on Thursday, Indiana’s legislature passed, and Gov. Mike Pence signed, an amendment that for the first time in Indiana’s history offers some protection for LGBT people. The amendment keeps intact nondiscrimination laws in Indiana municipalities, but does not extend nondiscrimination across the state.The changes to the religious freedom law states that the statute does not:(1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service; (2) establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal to provide such services; or (3) negate any rights available under the constitution of the State of IndianaJohnson offered a substitute resolution on Friday that acknowledges the change to Indiana’s law, but also criticizes it for not going far enough.It says [PDF]:Whereas, the State of Indiana, along with twenty-seven other states in the nation, offer no protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens, leaving these people exposed to discrimination in a variety of ways everyday of their lives;Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by The City Council of The City of Minneapolis: That the Minneapolis City Council hereby affirms the City’s commitment to civil rights and ensuring equity for all people in Minneapolis and beyond and calls on the State of Indiana as well as the other twenty-seven states in the nation which offer no protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens, to establish this group of people as a protected class and put into place these protections as quickly as possible and to then vigorously enforce and protect the civil rights of all people within their borders regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected class status and to prevent discrimination against any protected group.Minneapolis city attorney Susan Segal explained the changes:“With this addition to the law, I think that it largely corrects the concerns and objections that have been raised nationally. There still is not affirmative protections in Indiana law but that’s the situation that was before they passed the statute,” she told the council. Continue Reading

Sanneh Foundation Trains North Minneapolis Hmong, Latino Soccer Players

Last week, 40 North Minneapolis soccer players poured into Farview park for the Sanneh Foundation spring soccer clinic.Most of the soccer players were Hmong and Latino.  Many of the Hmong soccer players were born in Thai refugee camps.Several times during the year, the Sanneh foundation comes to north Minneapolis and provides training for players from poor families who could not normally afford this type of coachingSanneh Foundation fits donated soccer shoes on the feet of North Minneapolis soccer playersIn addition, the Sanneh Foundation has donated soccer shoes, soccer balls, water bottles, backpacks and shirts to the players.  The Sanneh soccer camps emphasize soccer as a fun part of a healthy lifestyle of exercise and good  eating.  Both veteran soccer players and those trying soccer for the first time enjoy coming to the clinics.  This April, in addition to learning soccer skills, players learned about good sportsmanship,  and even learned  a little Italian.  In  October,  the Sanneh foundation combines its soccer clinic with a Halloween party.  Sanneh Foundation Halloween Party and Soccer ClinicIn the fall, the North Minneapolis  Hmong and Latino soccer players play in the Minneapolis Parks League, for the Farview Park and Bethune Park soccer teams.  All the players have gotten training and soccer balls from the Sanneh Foundation, and most wear soccer shoes donated by the Sanneh Foundation.2014 Farview 13u soccer team celebrates winning Minneapolis Parks regular season championshipWith the Sanneh Foundation’s help, the Farview Park soccer team has won two city-wide tournaments and six regular season championships in the past three years, and the Bethune soccer team has won two city-wide tournaments and been runners-up in a third city-wide tournament.2014 Bethune 13u soccer team, finalists in Minneapolis Parks city-wide tournamentEach March, the Sanneh Foundation holds its major fundraiser, Gala4Goals.    And every year the Farview soccer team comes down and tells the participants how the Sanneh Foundation helps North Minneapolis soccer players.Farview soccer players at Sanneh Foundation’s Gale4Goals fundraiserIt is the soccer players’ way of saying Thank You Sanneh Foundation. Continue Reading

Crosswalks at 40th Street and 28th Avenue Are Heavily Used

We Can Make 28th Avenue Better for People

Driving 28th Avenue from 38th Street to Minnehaha Parkway in south Minneapolis is a pleasure, a little too much so. Traffic is relatively light compared to so many busy streets in the city, the speed limit is 30 MPH, the road surface was repaved last year and is nice and smooth. The only likely place you have to stop is the signal at 42nd Street, but even there you have close to 50/50 odds of a green light. There is the occasional cyclist trying to cross at the Minnehaha Creek crosswalk. Otherwise 28th Avenue is clear sailing. Continue Reading