St. Paul works to reduce racial disparities in juvenile justice

As Deputy Director of the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center, Michael Belton, 59, knows the current justice system is rarely blind, especially when it comes to color. During his 31-year career, Belton has witnessed youth of color repeatedly treated more severely. In April, he testified before Congress on the inequities in the juvenile justice system. 
“We have two justice systems, one for whites and one for kids of color,” said Belton. “The one for kids of color is more intrusive, harsher and longer. The one for whites is short and supportive.” Continue Reading

Tempers and tears fill St. Paul school board meeting

Superintendent Valeria Silva and the Saint Paul school board sat silently at the April 20 board meeting as a steady stream of residents marched up to the front of the packed room and voiced opposition to proposed budget cuts that will eliminate some popular school programs and close or relocate several schools. The April 20 meeting, which began before 5 p.m. for board members, ran past 1 a.m.

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Credit union popularity rises as consumers flee large banks

After feeling devalued as a customer in a large bank ten years ago, Rachel Bouchard, co-owner of Core Pilates Studio in Saint Paul, switched to Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. Though a Wells Fargo branch is within walking distance of her Macalester-Groveland studio, she believes Affinity is worth the four-mile drive. For Bouchard, some things are more important than proximity.  “I choose to bank at a credit union because they are more interested in helping their members,” said Bouchard. “They give back to the community.” Her decision was reaffirmed when the financial crisis erupted in 2008. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | Katie Stephens Spangler has a dancing heart

First impressions are crucial, which is why when Katie Stephens Spangler started her own Irish dance school at 23, she knew she needed the right name. “I always knew rince (rink ah) meant dance in Gaelic,” said Stephens Spangler. After a little research she found the perfect phrase to compliment it-na chroi (nah Kree), or of the heart. On February 27, Rince na Chroi celebrated its seventh anniversary with its annual “From Our Stage to Your Heart” performance. Now, in the midst of preparing her dancers for the hectic St. Continue Reading

Al Justiniano: Storyteller and bridge builder

“The big joke is the math guy started the theater,” said Al Justiniano while reflecting on his role as artistic director/producer for Teatro del Pueblo.  (Video below) After earning a bachelor’s degree in math from the University of Minnesota, New York native Justiniano followed his artistic passion and enrolled in film school. He is credited with making several short films, but his major work is in theater. In 1992, he started Teatro del Pueblo, a Latino-based theater located on Saint Paul’s west side. Now, as Teatro prepares to host their ninth annual Political Theatre Festival, Justiniano took a few moments out of his busy schedule to talk about his love of the Minnesota, the arts and Teatro del Pueblo. D.P. How long have you lived in the Twin Cities?A.J. Since 1982. Continue Reading

SeeClickFix: Civic solution or cyber-soapbox?

In late December, the TC Daily Planet began hosting a SeeClickFix widget. Based in New Haven, Connecticut, SeeClickFix has drawn nationwide attention by creating a platform for average citizens to air their concerns. According to Jeff Blasius, SeeClickFix co-founder, it is a “toolbox for social civic engagement.”SeeClickFix encourages citizens to report non-emergency issues, like graffiti or potholes, in a public format. SeeClickFix hopes making these and similar nuisance issues public will make the appropriate agencies more likely to address the problems.Issues reported are posted on the website. The word “open” next to an issue indicates that it is active. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | Syd Beane: “You learn organizing by doing organizing”

Growing up at the height of the Civil Rights Movement inspired Syd Beane, 68, to become a community organizer/community developer and fight for Native Americans. For nearly 40 years he traversed the country advocating for Indians and others invisible to those in power. In 1993, Beane moved to Minnesota, ending an exile imposed on the Dakota 150 years ago. From his charming, rustic home in Plymouth, MN, Beane talked about his career, his beliefs and the struggles Native Americans face.Here is his distinctive Minnesota voice: (Scroll to bottom for audio and video) Planting the seeds for change I come from a family of reformists. My great grandfather and my great uncle were actually involved in forming the first national Indian organization. Continue Reading