Student debt is a problem for everyone

Bring up student loans anywhere near a college campus and you’re sure to get more than a little nervous laughter. Despite their commonality — 61 percent of University of Minnesota students graduated with debt in 2013 — little is known about student loans.  How big are they, really? How many University fees, outside of tuition, are students accountable for? And how are we ever going to get out of debt? When you enroll in college, those answers aren’t easily found.  Minnesota lawmakers have introduced several bills this session that seek to make the answers to these questions more accessible. Continue Reading

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

Mainstream Media Misses the Point on Green Line Fare Enforcement

You’re probably reading the various news stories out there regarding the Metro Transitstudy finding between 4.6 and 9 percent of Green Line Riders evade their fares in some way. Blue Line evasion rates are lower, between 2.6 and 3.6 percent. Go ahead and read the click-bait articles for a bit more information, and as always read the study itself to understand the methodology and conclusions.Articles like these bring out the region’s finest; excellent terms like “hoodlum,” “Shiny Toy Train,” “free-loaders,” and “bums” are de rigueur for any worthy internet commenter. But how does the Green Line stack up against other transportation systems?Well, for starters, we know fare evasion on proof-of-payment transit systems is extremely common. The report points out that 1994 fare evasion in the NYC Subway – a completely closed system with turnstiles and transit police – had fare evasion rates between 2.3 and 2.6 percent.Los Angeles had fare evasion rates of 6% before spending millions installing turnstyles with marginal results. Continue Reading

New bicycle advocacy group aims at students, protected bikeways

From improving existing bike lanes to giving city officials suggestions on upcoming projects, a new advocacy group at the University of Minnesota is working to address cyclists’ concerns.The group is a collaboration between members of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and the Minneapolis Public Interest Research Group. It aims to formulate plans for improving campus-area infrastructure and raise people’s awareness of bicyclists’ issues.“Our goal is to have bike infrastructure that works for students and connects them to the rest of the city,” said Daniel Lubben, an urban studies junior and co-leader of the group.He said the group is focusing on several bike projects that city officials are pushing forward in the coming years, including the Oak Street Southeast Bikeway — a city-funded project that will begin construction this year. The project will create a bike path along the west side of the street. According to a city report, the road carries more than 1,100 bicyclists a day.The group met earlier this month to discuss the new bikeway and examine its potential problems.“It is important to get the earliest generations of bike lanes correct,” said Steve Sanders, the University’s alternative transportation manager.Sanders suggested the group discuss challenges the new bike lane could pose at the busy intersection of Washington Avenue and Oak Street.Lubben said members of the bike coalition asked him and Bailey Shatz-Akin, an environmental science policy and management junior, to lead the bike advocacy group.Shatz-Akin said the group will also focus on proposing updates to the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, a plan aimed at improving bicyclists’ safety and increasing the amount of them in the city.She said the group will analyze the plan and offer suggestions to city officials.About 30 students and bike advocates showed up for the group’s first meeting on March 12. Laura Kling, Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s community organizer, said the turnout represents the high amount of involvement people have in cyclists’ issues on campus.Among those who attended the meeting was Rob DeHoff, owner of Varsity Bike and Transit in Dinkytown.DeHoff said he hopes the group can expand on existing bike projects in the University’s area, like the 15th Avenue Southeast bike lane.Chris Stanley, a neuroscience sophomore and member of the group, said the group’s goals will ultimately benefit everyone traveling in the campus area.“We’re a community of people who want to improve the way our street systems work by making it friendly for both cars and bikes,” he said.[See original post here: http://mndaily.com/news/campus/2015/04/08/new-group-rides-student-bicyclists] Continue Reading

Groundbreaking set for Long-Vacant Dealership, to Become Northside Center

All around Minneapolis proof of the economic boon can be seen with the recently developed or under development commercial and residential sites – everywhere except north Minneapolis. The new Vikings stadium is taking shape nicely, transforming the downtown landscape. Over the past few years Uptown has become unrecognizable from its former self with a plethora of upscale multi-use commercial and residential buildings now dotting the area. Development is all around it seems, with the exception of north Minneapolis. Outside of the recently completed Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) headquarters on West Broadway Avenue, development on the Northside has been stagnant … to put it mildly.To drive down West Broadway in many ways looks like a trip back to the 1960s or 1970s but there seems to be a renewed interest in developing north Minneapolis and West Broadway in particular. Continue Reading

36 Lyn Refuel Station in Minneapolis saves big with LED lighting improvements

The Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTs) is spearheading a statewide campaign,Light Up Your Station & Save, to help convenience stores reduce energy and maintenance costs and improve their businesses with LED lighting. We spoke with Lonnie McQuirter, owner of the 36 Lyn Refuel Station at 36th Street & Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis.  Joel Haskard: Why did you decide to upgrade your canopy lights to LEDs?We have been familiar with LED technology for some time. However, price and financial incentives as well as the long-term reliability of LED lights became clear to us a couple years ago (2013). I was tired of pulling out our 24-foot ladder in the brisk winters to change out our old metal halide bulbs. The ballasts, which use even more energy beyond the bulb itself, also were a pain to deal with.Joel Haskard: Have you seen a reduction in your energy bills?Lonnie McQuirter: We have seen a significant reduction in our energy bills, despite us using our current lights for longer periods than we had with the old metal halide bulbs. Continue Reading

Will universal pre-k close the achievement gap?

Editors Note: This is a new and ongoing series. Sheila Regan, a longtime Daily Planet writer and contributor will be asking experts in the field an important question related to education. I’m proud to unveil the first. As state legislators return to session from a break, one of the issues they’ll be hammering out is responding to Governor Dayton’s ambitious proposal to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program. Unlike recent pilot programs that put money towards early education that had a “follow the child” approach aiming at the children most in need, Dayton’s proposal takes an institutional approach, creating all-day preschool across the board for all students, using a $348 million surplus from the budget to pay for it.   There’s little debate that children who have the opportunity to attend high-quality early education programs will benefit down the road, but there are plenty of critics of Dayton’s proposal. Continue Reading

Union Organizers Call McDonald’s Wage Raise “Publicity Stunt” – April 15 Strike Still Looms

 Organizers of a fast-food worker strike scheduled for later this month say the strike threat prompted McDonald’s to announce it is giving workers a pay raise. However, the strike is still on because the raise is not enough and most McDonald’s employees won’t get it.McDonald’s President and CEO Steve Easterbrook announced on Wednesday that the company would be paying workers at least $1 more than the local minimum wage starting in July. McDonald’s will also let workers who have been with the company for more than a year earn up to five days of paid time off each year. However, that only applies to corporate owned stores. There are three corporate owned stores in the Twin Cities area — two of them in Minneapolis — with the rest owned by franchisees. Continue Reading

‘We can’t do this without you!’ Mayor Hodges sets her agenda in State of the City address

“One Minneapolis” was the central theme in Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’s State of the City Address on April 2, at the American Swedish Institute, where she discussed how the community working together can address challenges the city of Minneapolis is currently facing.“The genius we have now, right here, will make us the great city of the 21st century if we are willing to do what it takes to make sure we leave none of that genius on the table,” Hodges said.In her second State of the City Address, Hodges made a call-to-action to encourage community leaders to become graduation coaches for young men. She wants to narrow the gap between low-income and middle class families through collective bargaining in the private sector. She wants to raise the minimum wage and launch the Minneapolis Climate Champs Challenge, which will provide steps and tips as to how citizens in Minneapolis can help stop climate change.“Minneapolis, the question before us now is how much genius are we going to leave on the table?” Hodges asked.Hodges set her sights on early education, bridging the divide when it comes to income inequality and addresses climate change.Education In order to efficiently use the genius of people in the community, Hodges said it starts when a child in the community is young. When it comes to youth development, Hodges cited the fact that 80% of a person’s brain is developed by the age of 3.“What we do for our kids early on matters,” Hodges said.The city will budget $1 million for housing so many children who are low-income, could have stable living conditions. She said the focus on child development is to make sure they are ready for the workforce; however, she also wants them to be engaged in their community.“We need our kids to be more than workforce ready, we needs kids who are ready to build one Minneapolis. Continue Reading