“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.
Others booed, but Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St.Paul) thought for several hours before responding to an offensive remark Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker) had made about North Minneapolis.During a debate on funding for the North Star rail line Newberger said “Boy, wouldn’t that be convenient, to have that rail line going from the prison to North Minneapolis.” After hearing some grumbling he quickly added, “or to any section of our state.” Boos were heard in the House chamber.As the clock was approaching midnight, Moran got up to address the body on a point of personal privilege.“So often we say let it go, let it pass. You know, don’t respond to it. But I feel that I have a need to respond to Rep. Newberger’s comments that he made earlier.”Moran said she found Newberger’s initial comment offensive. “I truly felt disrespected myself. And I know I don’t stand alone in feeling disrespect but North Minneapolis and St. Continue Reading
A proposal for a new soccer stadium in downtown Minneapolis is drawing controversy because of how it may be funded. The owners of the Minnesota United soccer club have stated that they will privately fund the stadium, which will cost an estimated $150 million, without any direct subsidies from the state. However, their proposal for the stadium included a request for a sales tax exemption of about $3 million, as well as a permanent property tax exemption.These requested exemptions have received mixed reactions. Some are potentially supportive of the deal. Several City Council members have asked for more details about the proposal, and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he may offer public dollars for certain stadium improvements. Others oppose any permanent tax exemptions. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges called the request a “public subsidy” that “will have a direct and negative impact on the taxpayers of Minneapolis.” On Monday, the state Senate voted almost unanimously to ban state funds from being spent on the new stadium. Continue Reading
On Tuesday, when Jose Antonio Vargas took the stage at a packed University of Minnesota auditorium, he began his nearly 40-minute speech with the story of his 2012 arrest in Minnesota.“I got arrested on your freeway by driving and unfortunately listening to Beyoncé with my headset,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist told a crowd of more than 250 people at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.He joked that since it was an Asian-American officer who pulled him over — Vargas was born in the Philippines — he thought the officer wasn’t going to punish him for the violation. That didn’t happen. The officer handcuffed Vargas on the freeway after realizing that Vargas carried an invalid driver’s license.The crowd erupted into laugher when Vargas talked about how the officer found out that Vargas was also an undocumented immigrant: the officer searched Vargas’ bag, only to find three copies of a TIME magazine cover with a photo of Vargas and a story about his life as an undocumented immigrant and how people like him were coming out, as he did in a New York Times Magazine article in 2011. Vargas’ speech painted a vivid picture of what it means to lead a life of an undocumented immigrant — a story that also offered an unvarnished look at the state of the nation’s immigration policy. The discussion was part of a daylong “Out of the Shadows Immigration Symposium” event featuring, among other things, panels of policymakers and immigration advocates. Vargas, who at age 12 was smuggled into the U.S. from the Philippines, offered many examples of the legal predicaments faced by the more than 11 million undocumented people. Continue Reading
MINNEAPOLISAs thousands of low-wage workers and allies demonstrate this week for a $15 per hour minimum wage, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at Allina Hospitals ratified a new three-year contract that establishes a $15 per hour minimum wage for the first time for workers at seven hospitals across the Twin Cities region, including in Shakopee and Buffalo. “At a time when more and more jobs are low-wage jobs that cannot even begin to support a family, our new contract shows that a $15 per hour minimum wage is possible because we achieved it for all of our members at seven hospitals,” said Paula Lindquist, a scheduling coordinator at Buffalo Hospital. “We are an example of the power of workers coming together to improve wages, benefits, quality of services and the future of our communities.” “For lab assistants like me, this is our first union contract and I will see a $5 per hour raise to more than $15 per hour, and better benefits,” said Tigist Tefera of Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, whose job classification joined SEIU Healthcare Minnesota last year. “This will mean a better life for us and our families, and all workers deserve the same.” The contract provides employment security protections as well as additional health and safety protections for workers. It includes a wage increase in every year of the contract for all members, an increase in Allina’s contribution towards the members’ pension plan, and a 25 percent increase in the amount of tuition reimbursement available to all members annually. The new agreement also takes a significant step towards equal pay for equal work for workers at Allina hospitals outside the metro region, the union said.“We provide the same excellent quality care and service to our patients in Owatonna as our fellow union members do in Minneapolis and Saint Paul,” said Deb Dodds, an environmental services aide at Owatonna Hospital, “so I am glad to see that we are closing the pay equity gap for hospital workers outside the metro area, but we have more progress to make.” Coming on the heels of a new contract for 3,000 hospital workers at eight other Twin Cities hospitals – including Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Fairview Health Services, HealthEast Care System, North Memorial Health Care, and Park Nicollet Health Services (recently merged into HealthPartners) – over 99.5 percent of the workers in 16 hospitals covered by these contracts will have a $15 per hour minimum compensation. “This contract is a step forward for every union member, but there is a lot more that we need to do to improve patient care in our hospitals,” said Vivian Straumann, a licensed practical nurse at United Hospital in Saint Paul. “We will not stop raising the issue of staffing levels until we are satisfied that we have the right number of people to keep ourselves, our patients and our hospitals safe. Continue Reading
Whether or not they care to admit it, I am positive that every student, professor and community member has an opinion on body cameras for police officers. Perhaps a body camera would have been useful in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson this past summer. But while body cameras are certainly useful in situations like Brown’s, they also reward the police officers who are doing a good job. Therefore, I am glad that many police departments are moving toward using them. Having cameras available for law enforcement officers is important for several reasons. First, it enables their superiors to determine whether the officers are doing their jobs well. Most importantly, the use of cameras will help the fight to end racial injustice. A report by the Washington Post found that in three-quarters of fatal shooting cases since 2005, the police officers were white, and two-thirds of officers’ victims were black. Prosecutors won’t press charges against officers unless there is a substantial amount of evidence. Continue Reading