Mix it up: Talking transportation with Hilary Reeves at TLC

UPDATED 8/24/2011 – Transit for Livable Communities has had a busy year lobbying at the capitol and trying to ward off budget cuts to public transportation. As their advocacy work stars winding down, their programmatic work is ramped up during the summer. TLC is busy educating Twin Citians about their BikeWalk program and training people to be better about what Hilary Reeves calls, “mixing it up.” According to Reeves, a communications manager at Transit for Livable Communities, the Twin Cities would be better off if we had better regional planning and if individuals would start adding some walking, biking, and public transportation to their car use. Here’s what Reeves had to say, in person and via email, about transportation in the Twin Cities.It’s hard to get people jazzed about transportation. What’s the best way to get people to start using more than cars to get around?You don’t want to sound anti-car because that just pisses people off, but then how do you make it visceral and intuitive and get people to have that “ah-ha!” moment? Continue Reading

Fixing a broken immigration system—Wait, which part?

How does the lagging economy and an aging population affect immigrant communities in Minnesota? How should these factors affect what immigrants we let in to the country in the future, and what should we do with immigrants who are already here? Where is the immigration system most broken and what can we do to fix it?Now when you answer, choose your words wisely because they’ll say a lot about what you think and who got you to think that way—whether it was your education or political training, or your personal experience with the immigration system and/or with immigrants.This was evident as more than 80 people discussed these questions in a series of six community conversations that the TC Daily Planet co-hosted with the Minnesota Literacy Council’s English Language Learning programs across the Twin Cities, the Resource Center of the Americas/La Conexión, the Wilder Foundation, and Grove Christian Center.I facilitated all six conversations and was struck by how the tone and focus varied so greatly with each conversation and depended largely on whether the participants had worked with immigrant communities, were politically liberal or conservative, or were immigrants themselves.In general, and I really am speaking generally here, the participants in our conversations who work directly with immigrants—immigration lawyers, small business owners, teachers, social workers, and health care providers—tended to talk broadly about integration and assimilation of immigrant communities. It’s worthwhile here to take a look at the language that came up during our conversation at the Wilder Foundation, where we had highly educated and generally liberal Minnesotans and immigrants.Here are some of the words that came up repeatedly in our conversation at Wilder: “diversity, religious tolerance, improve Minnesota, citizen engagement, integration, access, defuse tension, tension, positive impact, and contribution.”Here many participants were concerned with how to best maintain and improve social services and education, promote cultural tolerance and understanding between Minnesotans and immigrant communities, and foster economic prosperity within immigrant communities.As Joel Gingery, an educator who attended our Wilder conversation put it; “How do we convince people that immigrants are a positive force in America? We need to build a vision of what people are doing in this country and what it means to be a citizen, and then we need to communicate that vision.”Several U.S.-born Minnesotans with conservative political leanings also attended our meetings. Continue Reading

Families divided: Immigration attorney talks about reform

Ever been separated from your husband, wife or children for three years? How about five? Ten? This is something that Sheila Stuhlman sees all the time in her job as an immigration lawyer. The slow immigration system can keep families apart for years and sometimes decades.Years ago Stuhlman interned at the Center for Victims of Torture and took to the idea of helping immigrants resettle in the United States. Continue Reading

Minnesota Chamber of Commerce: Immigration for “development and growth of state’s economy”

As part of our focus on immigration this month, the Twin Cities Daily Planet spoke with Bill Blazar of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Since Blazar and his colleagues began working on immigration issues, the Minnesota Chamber has been vocal about its support for federally instituted comprehensive immigration reform. Being a business man, Blazar speaks about immigration strictly from an economic perspective and says reform is necessary, if for no other reason than to support the development and growth of our state’s economy.“Clearly there are other reasons to support this and I don’t think any one would argue that the current system is humane, and that in itself is an argument for reform,” Blazar said.  “But we as business group we bring to the table the economic perspective.” Here are some of thoughts he served up.  Why is immigration important to the Minnesota business community?Our primary concern as an organization is the development and the growth of the state’s economy. Our members expect us to create an environment where the states economy can develop and grow. Continue Reading

Senator John Marty: Advocating universal, single-payer health care in Minnesota

Senator John Marty contacted the TC Daily Planet after he read our June coverage of health care, specifically a Q&A with Senator Dave Durenberger on his support for federal health care legislation. Senator Marty let us know that he respectfully disagreed with Senator Durenberger’s view of solutions for our health care system. This is to be expected, since he’s the chief author of the MN Health Plan, the only proposal for universal, single-payer coverage in Minnesota.The TC Daily Planet had conducted a series of community conversations on health care, so we decided to ask Senator Marty questions that participants in our conversations had raised about what a universal, single-payer system would look like.  In a nutshell, what is the MN Health Plan and why do we need it?The MN Health Plan is a single-payer health plan and it would cover all Minnesotans for all their medical needs. It’s a health care system instead of a health insurance system. The bottom line is if you need to go to the doctor or the dentist or the chiropractor and you get the care you need.There are some people with the constitutional right to health care right now, like prisoners. Continue Reading

Join the conversation on Twin Cities transportation

The Twin Cities Daily Planet’s series, The New Normal: Deciding Community Priorities in a Downsized Economy, tackles a different issue each month.In August we’ll be talking about transportation, and we’ll be asking people in the Twin Cities: “As gasoline prices bounce up and down and bikes multiply on Twin Cities streets, what transportation policies will best serve Minnesotans?” Should we:1) Fund more public transit options (light rail, high speed rail, buses, streetcars)2) Repair and expand highways and infrastructure3) Emphasize non-motorized transportation and “complete streets”4) Some other option?In our conversation we’ll talk about all kinds of new and interesting things going on in the transportation conversation. Ever heard of complete streets? Want to know what’s going on with the Light Rail? Want to know how the government shut down affects transporation? Continue Reading

How do you fix a broken health care system? Minnesotans weigh in

The health care system is sick. We don’t get enough bang for our buck, health care costs are out of control, Americans are paying ridiculously high deductibles, and tens of thousands of people are dying because they don’t have access to good health care. That’s just to name a few of the ills.”If we see the data showing all the problems and the solutions other countries have implemented, why is an alternate system so hard for people to talk about?” State Representative Alice Hausman asked at one of our June community conversations on health care policy and the New Normal.For that matter, why is health care policy in general so hard for people to talk about? Perhaps it’s because it’s particularly laden with political rhetoric and special interests. Continue Reading

Join the conversation on immigration in Minnesota

The Twin Cities Daily Planet’s series, The New Normal: Deciding Community Priorities in a Downsized Economy, tackles a different issue each month. In July we’ll be talking about immigration, and will ask people in the Twin Cities: “How can we fix immigration policy?”    Come and chat with others over snacks, learn some basics about trends in immigration, and let us know how you think we should reform immigration policy. We’ll be using research from the Wilder Foundation’s MN Compass project and an article from the Twin Cities Daily Planet to get this interactive conversation going. By participating in this discussion, though, you’ll provide the part that matters most. We’ll report on these conversations in the TC Daily Planet, and will share the results with policy makers.Wilder Foundation July 13, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.Amherst H. Wilder Foundation 451 Lexington Parkway NorthSt. Continue Reading

Papa John Kolstad speaks out on universal, single-payer health care

Musician and activist John Kolstad got involved in the health care debate back in the 1990s when he and a group of people informally studied it in a series of study circles where they’d discuss and study art, books and politics. Then the issue of health care came up. As the owner of Mill City Music, Kolstad is responsible for purchasing his and his wife’s health insurance. “I studied advanced physics and music, and I do some pretty good at those—but I could not understand my health policy,” Kolstad said. “It was maddening.” As he delved into the subject, first through his study circle and then as a concerned citizen, Kolstad became a proponent of universal, single-payer health insurance.You’re a musician. Continue Reading

Senator Durenberger on health care reform

Former Senator David Durenberger has been involved in health care policy for decades, first as a proponent of HMOs in the 1970s, and more recently as a advocate for national health care reform. He is currently a senior health policy fellow at the National Institute of Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas, and recently spoke to the TC Daily Planet about health care reform and access to health care. This is part of our New Normal coverage on health care.You’ve been involved in the health care debate for a long time. Why are you so interested in the topic?I used to work for a large employer in St. Paul, which, along with another dozen large employers in the Twin Cities decided that the only way to reduce the costs of employee benefits was to deal with the costs of health care, which were out of control. Continue Reading