Phillips neighbors oppose new Water Yard site

People in the Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis are incensed about a new proposed water-maintenance site (or, a water yard) they say will add to the pollution of the area. Seeing little promise of new jobs from the new site, neighbors will be packing the Ways and Means committee meeting of the City Council on Monday to urge council members to vote no on allowing city staff to enter into negotiations over purchasing the property. “Phillips has been dumping grounds and forget-me-nots of polluters for several years now,” says Jose Luis Villasenor, the Executive Director of the local nonprofit Tamales y Bicicletas. He’s been a resident of East Phillips for 19-20 years. “We have been working with the community and local stakeholders about how to get rid of the polluters.”

The community group East Phillips Improvement Coalition (EPIC) had two realizations when it came to the site, Villasenor said. Continue Reading

Bernie Sanders makes his first campaign appearance in Minnesota

It’s no secret that most of the heavy-hitters in the DFL are already pledged to Ms. Clinton. So who were the people who turned up to hear and cheer for Bernie Sanders? Generationally, they appeared to be a diverse crowd, ranging from 18 to 80-plus. The crowd was noticeably less diverse with perhaps 5 to 10% people of color. Primer on Bernie Sanders: He’s 73 and has been the junior Senator from Vermont since 2007. Continue Reading

Drivers license bill stalls as session ends

Much-awaited legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses (HF97) was shot down in the House Transportation Committee as the 2015 legislative session hurtled to a close.  All House Republicans voted against incorporating the language into legislation at a 5-5 vote. “The bill is included in a transportation bill, and the only thing that the house has to do is to agree with the bill that is being proposed by the Senate. The House simply has no excuse not to do this this year. They made a commitment last year. Continue Reading

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Martin Luther King Goes to the Mall (or WWMD?)

“It’s important to make an example out of these organizers, so that this never happens again.” This message was sent to the managers of the Mall of America by Sandra Johnson, the City Attorney of Bloomington, Minnesota, where the Mall is located. The “organizers,” whom she also refers to as “criminals,” assailants” and “ringleaders” were involved in one way or another with a peaceful, multi-generational, multiracial rally held in the Mall’s rotunda to draw attention to racist police brutality. Such events are what “must never happen again.”

Johnson’s over-the-top push make the defendants pay for the police overreaction has raised eyebrows in legal and business circles and alarmed civil libertarians. The Mall had earlier rebuffed her proposal to punish Mall employees for showing sympathy with the rally, citing “the potential for further press.” “Further press” is what the City Attorney appears determined to deliver. Continue Reading

MinnesotaCare should not be eliminated in the state budget

The Minnesota House passed a Republican-led budget plan last week that eliminates MinnesotaCare, a public health care program that provides coverage for the working poor. Unfortunately, such a plan would harm these individuals the most. The strongest justification that conservatives use for their budget is that the nearly 100,000 Minnesotans currently on MinnesotaCare could switch to MNsure, the insurance exchange set up through the Affordable Care Act. Even with tax credits, poor Minnesotans could pay more under MNsure than MinnesotaCare. Individuals on MinnesotaCare pay between $15 and $50 in monthly premiums for their plans. Continue Reading

Police body cameras: Who benefits? Local forum highlights divide between police and community

Police body cameras made national news when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton told an audience at Columbia University that they should be mandatory for all police departments. Currently, the use of these devices is spotty, with no state or federal mandate requiring local police to adopt their use. According to an ACLU study, about 25% of U.S. policing agencies are using the pager-sized devices, and 80% are studying them. Closer to home, police experts, local elected officials and citizen leaders shared their views on body cameras on April 29 at a panel discussion hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Policy & Affairs. Billed as a conversation about data privacy, the three separate panel discussions provided insight into a variety of issues around body cameras – including how much discretion, if any, officers should have in turning them on and off. Continue Reading

Amran Farah, right, offers advice about individual rights and police interactions. MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi

Law group teaches immigrant communities how to navigate police interactions

Late last week, scores of immigrants filled the seats of the dimly lit conference room in the Minneapolis Brian Coyle Center as a group of lawyers addressed the crowd about their legal rights when it comes to police interactions. Local leaders of the North American Somali Bar Association brought their second educational event since its launch in January to the immigrant-populated Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to educate the community about their constitutional rights and responsibilities when dealing with authorities. Among the presenters was Amran Farah, a Minneapolis attorney and an NASBA member, who spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people about possible scenarios of a legal encounter with law enforcement. If an officer pulls over a driver, Farah explained to the crowd, that driver is being seized under the Fourth Amendment.  “It’s a seizure when a police officer has flashing lights on, and in that way, you feel like you’re duty bound to submit to that authority.”

She added: But “you’re not seized when an officer merely approaches you in a public place. If an officer just walks up to you and starts a conversation, you’re not seized.”

At a time when a deep distrust exists between many police departments and many communities of color nationwide, Farah accentuated that an officer cannot legally stop someone because of the person’s skin color. Continue Reading

Gov. Mark Dayton enters the room to deliver his biennial budget proposal Jan. 27. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Dayton’s budget focused squarely on education

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a $42 billion, two-year budget heavily focused on Minnesota’s youngest residents. Unveiled Tuesday, Dayton’s budget framework would spend most of the state’s projected $1 billion surplus on program areas like early childhood education and child health, and would provide nearly $100 million in child care assistance tax credits to Minnesota families. The plan would increase state spending by roughly $2.5 billion more in 2016-2017 over the current biennium and leave $35 million of the projected surplus unspent. “I’m placing my priority on the future of Minnesota,” Dayton said during a morning news conference. The proposed spending, he said, is aimed squarely at closing the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students by doing more, earlier, to place less of a burden on the state’s schools to solve the disparities. Continue Reading