Best of Neighborhoods News 05/21/2019: UMN student government reaffirms push to rename campus buildings

UMN student government reaffirms push to rename campus buildingsThe Minnesota Student Association released a letter in the wake of a decision that came after nearly a year-long contention over four University of Minnesota campus buildings named after figures with racist, anti-semitic pasts. The state university’s governing body, the Board of Regents, voted 10-1 against the renaming of Coffman Union, Coffey Hall, Nicholson Hall and Middlebrook Hall, names which go as far back as 1851. In pushing back against this decision, the MSA-issued letter reads, “We strongly believe that renaming is the first step of reckoning with our University’s [history]. That is why, to us, renaming is a when, not an if.” MSA will meet with the newly-appointed regents, as well as the incoming University President Joan Gabel, to continue conversations about renaming. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhoods News 05/15/2019: ‘Missing Middle’ housing pilot program

Wanted: ‘Missing Middle’ housingThe city of Minneapolis’ draft plan, Minneapolis 2040, includes a currently dubbed “Missing Middle” pilot program. The pilot will finance the cost-effective development of affordable housing inside new 3-to-20 unit buildings. Its aim, among other things, is to provide an important housing stock to meet the local housing needs of “single people making $32,000 or families making $45,000, the area median income.” The pilot program derives from the Minneapolis 2040 plan, “which would allow triplexes citywide and concentrate multistory development along transit corridors.”

While the plan has not yet been formally adopted, city officials are moving forward with an allocation of $40 million towards affordable housing, $500,000 of which will launch the “Missing Middle” pilot. The city is currently collecting feedback on the pilot, and will vote on its specific guidelines in June. Check out the story on Southwest Journal. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhoods News 05/08/2019: Bde Maka Ska is Lake Calhoun again, appeals court rules

Bde Maka Ska is Lake Calhoun again, appeals court rulesOver one year ago, along with the support of the Hennepin County Board, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr reverted a Southwest Minneapolis lake to its original Dakotan name, “Bde Maka Ska,” meaning “white earth lake.” The lake was named after then-Vice President John C. Calhoun, a proponent of slavery and eventual ideologue of the Confederate south. Many took solace in the strides that this symbolic moment represented in the larger efforts in the country to remove Confederate iconography and other merchants of hatred from public space. But on April 29 of this year, Minnesota’s court of appeals may have undone this when it ruled that Commissioner Landwehr lacked authority to rename the lake. The three-judge panel found that “only the Legislature can change the name of lakes that have been in state records for more than 40 years.”

Read the full story on Southwest Journal. Minnesota House Passes Measure to Create Hmong Veterans DayApril’s end was marked by more than just the hopeful bromides about spring’s arrival in Minnesota and the beginning of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhoods News 04/23/19: “Bipartisan support, disagreement on funding” in the push for more teachers of color

“Bipartisan support, disagreement on funding” in the push for more teachers of color Recent budget proposals have fallen short of the lofty $80 million called for by a coalition to be spent on the Increase Teachers of Color Act. Indeed, the support for more teachers of color has received continued bipartisan support, especially at a time when “a third of Minnesota students are now children of color.”

One of the impetus behind this bipartisan push harkens back to a law passed in 2016 requiring “school districts to evaluate their teacher pool with the goal of reflecting the diversity of their student bodies.” This was part of the state’s effort to address education gaps. At the moment, the House DFL budget has dedicated $37 million over the next two years, while Governor Tim Walz has dedicated $16 million and the Senate has remained divided over funding for the program. A hurdle to overcome, as Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker says, is to invite “the Senate to come to the table to find some common ground with us.”

For more, read the story on MinnPost. Paige Reynolds diversifying the Minnesota Opera and its audiencePaige Reynolds, as a Black, queer woman and advocate for the classical arts, is more than just Minnesota Opera’s marketing associate. Continue Reading

Municipal IDs could shape the future of immigrant rights in Minneapolis

A new form of identification –  municipal identification – will soon be implemented in Minneapolis. It is possibly a life-changing move for thousands in the metro area. Municipal identification is not a nascent thing, but rather a local, albeit legal identification that’s taken hold in large and small cities across the country, from Los Angeles to New York City and even to Northfield, Minnesota. On just a single page on the city of Minneapolis’ website, municipal IDs have certainly become part of the political lexicon, after nearly a decade of grassroots advocacy. The page begins with the declaration that, in order to show we are “One Minneapolis,” municipal IDs will “further advance the City’s racial equity goals.” The IDs, the page explains, “will connect Minneapolis residents to services, programs and benefits, regardless of immigration status, homelessness or gender identity.”

That the use of IDs now stand to be codified into law comes on the heels of years of hard work by a broad coalition of immigrant activist groups and community organizations collaborating with the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhoods News 4/09/19: The Prairie Island Indian Community wants net-zero emissions, and they may receive $46.2 million in funding

The Prairie Island Indian Community wants net-zero emissions, and they may receive $46.2 million in fundingJust southeast of the Twin Cities by about 45 minutes, abutting the Mississippi River, is one of the Mdewakanton reservations on Prairie Island in Red Wing, Minnesota. The tribe that calls the island home also shares a border, strangely enough, with Xcel’s nuclear plant and a cache of its radioactive waste. The facility, so precariously located just down the river, was borne out of an arrangement stipulating that Xcel must “set aside money in a state fund to develop renewable energy.” That fund has since reached about $327 million, but none of it has yet been invested in Prairie Island

So, as recent as 2018, residents set out to change just that, to finance their plan to achieve net-zero emissions and wean the island off nuclear power. In his 2019 budget plan, Governor Tim Walz has proposed allocating about $46.2 million over three years to the tribe. But currently, partisan disagreements abound over how to properly fund what many in the Legislature consider the state’s fight against climate change. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 03/26/19: a lesson plan for every student

A lesson plan for every studentA $2.6 million initiative is bringing change to classrooms in elementary and middle schools across Minneapolis this fall. Every school in the district will be able to hire “a differentiation specialist – a licensed teacher who will help meet the varying academic needs of students.” The pedagogy of differentiation is that teaching is predicated on student differences, above all else; differentiation is about this need to differentiate instruction effectively. This differentiation initiative is a part of Superintendent Ed Graff’s new academic priorities, which aim to deliver – with a proposed budget totaling $620.6 million – a “sense of stability” to schools and district departments. Eric Moore, a member of the superintendent’s cabinet and interim chief of academics, explained that the differentiation initiative “is really listening to our families that want rigor and positive classroom experiences.”

Learn more, read the full story at Southwest Journal. Hennepin County Attorney unveils data dashboard that allows anyone to track racial disparities and moreHennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced to the county board on March 14 that the prosecutor’s office is set to build newfangled data practices that “promote transparency” and guide “thoughtful decision making.” Such practices, the prosecutor explained, will be made possible through a statistical data dashboard, with easily accessible information that is updated daily and goes as far back as 2014. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 3/12/2019: 12 years ago, the Legislature set out to end poverty in Minnesota by 2020. How’s it going?

12 years ago, the Legislature set out to end poverty in Minnesota by 2020. How’s it going? In 2007, “The Commission To End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020” was founded by 18 Minnesota State legislators, co-chaired by incumbents Rep. Carlos Mariani and Sen. John Marty. The convening of the commission was followed by subsequent tours and public hearings held throughout Minnesota, all of which and more coalesced into the publication of a report. That report articulates the commission’s goals and mission, as well as their call for “an increase in the minimum wage; expanded working family tax credits; more child care help; and credits for small businesses,” among other things. Continue Reading

Tapping immigrant roots to side-step traditional food business models

“Hustling is in our blood,” Chef Yia Vang said. “I’m not doing anything different than what my parents and my grandparents were doing in Laos and Thailand.”

Vang operates Union Kitchen, a Hmong American pop-up restaurant, alongside his cousin Chris Her. Like many immigrant food business owners, Vang’s culinary journey had humble beginnings. What started out as cooking phở in garages at church-sponsored backyard parties four years ago evolved into a pop-up restaurant just shy of two years old, now having found temporary residency outside of Sociable Cider Werks in northeast Minneapolis. Similar to Union Kitchen, Donburi is a pop-up Japanese restaurant offering up rice bowls, poke bowls and fresh sashimi. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 2/26/2019: Youth-led climate movement taken to the State Capitol

Youth-led climate movement taken to the State CapitolMinnesota Can’t Wait, a broad coalition of youth, has changed the course of Minnesota’s progressive climate politics when they packed the State Capitol in early February to enshrine the Minnesota Green New Deal. Modeled after the eponymously named federal legislative version, spearheaded by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), the Minnesota Green New Deal also proposes similar programs addressing climate change through the remaking of the economy. The Green New Deal demands an “equitable” transition to renewable energy sources by 2030; it now makes its way through the state legislature. This moment in Minnesota’s nascent climate justice movement is what one young activist calls “a model for other states and the Federal Government to bring about additional Green New Deal legislation.”

To learn more, read the Southwest Journal. Amplifying voices: The SEAD Project uses storytelling to capture historyStorytelling and art are the centerpieces of a recent initiative led by the Southeast Asian Diaspora (SEAD) Project to highlight the forgotten histories of the millions who were borne out of the U.S. involvement in the French Indochina wars. Continue Reading