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Searching for shared truths on teaching and race

After 25 years of teaching in Minneapolis with predominately all-white teachers and administrations, one day, I realized it got down to this …

If I never saw a white person again, especially a white woman, it would be too soon! Continue Reading

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Hooray for Mayor Hodges’ Courageous Soccer Stadium Stand!

Bill McGuire and his sports buddies the Pohlads, who own the Twins, and Glen Taylor, who owns the Timberwolves, want to build a stadium in downtown Minneapolis just for soccer.  And here’s the good news: They want to build it using private money.  And here’s the bad news: They want a rebate on sales taxes and they want a permanent exemption from paying local property taxes. Mayor Betsy Hodges went on record as saying “No,” and she said it in a public and detailed letter:
“There is no need for a subsidy for this facility, or this ownership group, whatsoever. The subsidy they are requesting will have a direct and negative impact on the taxpayers of Minneapolis. “First, the McGuire group is asking to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes—not just for a limited term of time, but forever. “The land where the MN United ownership group proposes to build the stadium is currently privately owned, so it currently pays property taxes [$334,000 a year] that would disappear if the soccer stadium were exempted from taxes. Continue Reading

Northside schools create partnership for student success

A new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus will be fully introduced this fall at both North Community High School and, a few blocks away, at the “new” Franklin Middle School. North Principal Shawn Harris-Berry and Franklin Principal Karon Cunningham are working collaboratively across the schools.There was a strong relationship back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s” between the two schools, recalls Harris-Berry, a 27-year Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) veteran. Since then, however, both schools have undergone major changes. North now is a “small college-preparatory” high school with nearly 300 students.“[It] is not a big box school. Everybody knows you by name,” proclaims North’s principal. Continue Reading

Location of a proposed soccer stadium in Minneapolis.

Tax exemptions are bad for city

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

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Meet Sadam Haska, founder of the popular Oromo Vine

On Nov. 10, 2013 Sadam Haska, 23, started his popular Facebook-based Oromo Vine with a simple post: “Hey guys plz pass these to your friends.” The page now commands more than 6000 likes.The Brisbane, Australia based comedian and satirist says he was propelled into action out of frustration that the Oromo — despite being “funny and numerous”— lacked proper venues to channel their inner funnyness.Haska is the lead actor and producer of the vlog collective. Most of his stints focus on smart caricutures of the tension between Oromo and western culture. But Haska says his work is not all for laughs: he has taken stances on social issues such as #OromoProtests and also challenges old customs such as certain Oromo marriage practices. Last month, during his visit to Melbourne, he sat down with OPride contributor Sinke Wesho. Continue Reading

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Target Center all over again

The Minneapolis City Council has agreed to pay an additional $24.5 million to renovate the Target Center so Glen Taylor can charge more for admission.   Taylor is the publisher of the Star Tribune and owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves—the worst team in the NBA.  They are so bad a running joke on “Saturday Night Live” is the threat to trade someone to the Timberwolves.  Taylor won’t put any money into the team to buy good players, but he wants the City of Minneapolis to fix up the arena so he can charge more for tickets.  Glen Taylor has a brilliant business plan for the Timberwolves:  Turn our elected officials upside down and see how much of the taxpayer’s money falls out.The Ways and Means Committee of the City Council voted four to two to approve the new beauty treatment for Taylor.  John Quincy, Elizabeth Glidden, Linea Palmisano and Blong Yang voted for the project and Lisa Bender and Andrew Johnson voted against it.   The full Council voted 11 to 2 in favor of the giveaway.  Only Lisa and Andrew voted against it.We asked Council Member Johnson if he wanted to comment on the vote.  He said, “I believe the referendum requirement should be followed, but most of my colleagues don’t believe it’s applicable because the Target Center is owned by the city.”Twice the citizens of Minneapolis have amended their charter to require a referendum on city funds being used for a sports stadium.  The first, Chapter 15, Section 9, says:  “any such obligations or indebtedness to be issued or incurred for any improvement, including but not limited to acquisition, development, construction or betterment, of any public building, stadium, or other capital improvement project, shall in all phases from inception to completion exceed Fifteen Million Dollars ($15,000,000.00), the Board of Estimate and Taxation shall not issue or sell any bonds or other obligations nor incur any indebtedness for such purpose without the approval of a majority of the electors voting on the question of issuing such obligations or incurring such indebtedness at a general or special election.”In other words, if the city wants to spend more than $15 million on a public building or stadium, they have to let the voters decide the question. Chapter 15, Section 13, says:“Putting Professional Sports Facility Financing Before the Voters.  The City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Community Development Agency, or any city department, agency, commission, or board, shall use no city resources over $10 million dollars for the financing of professional sports facilities without the approval of a simple majority of the votes cast on the question, in a ballot question put to the public at the next regularly scheduled election.”The charter provision makes no reference to a public or private facility.  It is quite clear.  No money more than $10 million shall go to financing a professional sports facility without the approval of the voters.Andrew Johnson continued: “I’ll tell you why I think contributing another $24.5 million to the project was a bad idea. If the Council had voted no to this $24.5 million additional funding request, the renovation of the Target Center would still have moved forward under the nearly $100 million funding package passed by the Council before ours. But because of this vote, we’ll now need to redirect more than $1.2 million of sales tax revenue per year over the next 20 years into paying off the $24.5 million in additional funding, revenue which otherwise would have gone toward capital projects and economic development activities across our city. Instead of it going where it’s most needed, it will now go largely if not entirely towards the aesthetic appearance of the Target Center’s exterior, giving it a ‘cool new look’ for passersby. With a $15-20 million annual shortfall in basic road maintenance and some of the worst disparities in the nation, I believe this was the wrong choice.” Perhaps faithful readers might remember my original critique of funding for the Timberwolves beauty treatment.  I was analyzing the budget proposal of Betsy Hodges and R T Rybak that stripped funding from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and killed the most successful citizen participation in the nation and transferred that money to renovate Target Center:“That money was originally earmarked for neighborhood organizations, but Mayor Rybak and then-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Betsy Hodges, decided to let the money go straight into the city treasury. That process of bankrupting the neighborhood organizations ended with the total elimination of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Continue Reading

Currie Avenue, Minneapolis

When We Talk About “Homelessness”, What are We Really Talking About?

I start quite deliberately with the scare quotes above because it is one of my primary objectives here to articulate my discomfort with the way the term “homelessness” is conventionally used. I will argue that it is a crude and inadequately descriptive piece of shorthand that we use when we really mean visible urban poverty. I believe that our reliance on this euphemism reflects a general and problematic queasiness about confronting the real experiences of the poorest members of our community. At the same time, it diminishes our capacity to understand and adequately address the problems we are trying to describe.The Twin Cities metro area, and especially Hennepin County, offers some of the best services for homeless people available anywhere in the United States. The combination of our brutal winter climate and our somewhat unique social and political history has made our metro, perhaps paradoxically, one of the safest places to live without a permanent address. Continue Reading

Mike Griffin of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) leading a chat of "black lives matter" on the steps of City Hall during last week's "People's State of the City" rally.  Photo by Bill Lindeke.

Dueling State of the City Events Reveal Rift Between Rhetoric and Reality of Inequality

These days it’s hard to tell whether Minneapolis is united about being divided. Last week, two contrasting “state of the city” events — Mayor Betsy Hodges official speech at the American Swedish Institute, and a rally the next morning organized a North-side grassroots group — illustrated the ongoing tension between the rhetoric and reality of racial inequality in Minneapolis.Hodges’ speech, an annual tradition for mayors across the country, emphasized the themes that led her to an easy victory in the 2013 election. As Gino Terrell wrote on the Daily Planet earlier this week, Hodges stressed education, income inequality, and climate change, as part of her plans for the upcoming year. But the well-received speech comes only months after Hodges’ efforts to devote city resources to addressing inequality became surprisingly contentious. During budget debates at City Hall, Hodges’ plans to address racial inequality sparked a small controversy, particularly in parts of the city that are struggling the most with foreclosures and racial inequality. While debating the budget, Council Members Yang and Warsame and other Council Members  voted to defund part of Mayor Hodges’ key proposals in favor of more “meat and potatoes” issues that impact neighborhoods like Jordan or Cedar-Riverside, home to many  of the highest proportions of people of color in the city. Continue Reading