Still no clues on the West Broadway fire

In April, an intense fire devastated historic buildings on West Broadway. After a press conference raised the possibility of arson, investigators are no closer to knowing what happened, while the neighborhood is rebuilding. “You already had a press conference with the fire chief,” Marie Egbujor told me. “They probably don’t know who did it. It’s pretty dead right now, business is pretty down.”

But was it arson? Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Minneapolis cab drivers perpetrate racism as Star Tribune reporters witness blatant bias

After graduating with honors from Grambling State University this past Spring, Brittany Bentley returned to Minnesota to participate in the Teach for America program. Out of ten choices, Minneapolis was her fifth.  We moved to Minneapolis when my daughter was eighteen months old, but she has always believed she’d feel more welcome in other parts of the world. My daughter has grown to accept her placement here after meeting some of the 5th graders she will be teaching in the fall. Her experience this past weekend brings some realities back to the forefront. The race relations issue in this state exists at every level of the spectrum. Here is an account of what she experienced this past weekend while trying to hail a cab in downtown Minneapolis. “Two Caucasian reporters from the Star tribune come up to me and ask how long I’ve been waiting for a cab. I tell them that I’ve been waiting for over an hour. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmong families tour Minneapolis bikeways, vote to keep streets as is

 To learn more about the possible impact of the proposed North Minneapolis Bikeway, On May 16, North Minneapolis Hmong families packed a van and went on a tour of Minneapolis bikeways.All the participants live on one of the proposed routes for the North Minneapolis Bikeway.The Hmong families toured four Minneapolis bikeways: Milwaukee Ave., Midtown Greenway, Bryant Ave. S., and 37th Ave. N.During their tour, the families saw all three major types of bikeways as described by the city of Minneapolis:Bike boulevard. Bicycle symbols and traffic calming features, parking and street remain. Seen by Hmong families at Bryant Ave. Continue Reading

Minneapolis school budgets — and a parent’s passionate plea

When community members showed up for a “community engagement session” on the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) budget, ready with lots of input for the district, MPS officials said that allocations for the 2014-2015 budget have already been made. Apparently, the MPS community engagement was planned as telling community members what the budget was, not asking for their input.Amid a rocky rollout of its 2014-2015 budget, the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has planned community engagement sessions throughout the month of April in order to ensure a budget process that is “disciplined, predictable, and transparent,” according to its website. The April 22 community engagement session was held at the district’s Davis Center headquarters, around the theme of “school board engagement.” This meant school board members were in attendance, listening to questions and concerns from community members, while the district’s Chief Operating Officer Robert Doty, finance staff member Tammy Frederickson, and Chief Academic Officer Susanne Griffin-Ziebart walked the audience through the district’s budget PowerPoint presentation and fielded questions.While Doty, Frederickson, and Griffin-Zeibart were there to explain the district’s budget allocation process and how it would support the district’s priorities, many staff, parents, and site council members from north Minneapolis’ Lucy Craft Laney School were there to question the process and advocate for their school and its students.Got something to say? Register as a user and write an article.Of particular concern was the school’s request for more dollars to expand what they say has been a successful co-teaching model. Lucy Laney principal Mauri Melander says the school has been using additional staff for math instruction since the 2011-2012 school year, and that the effects have been positive. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Councilmember Blong Yang gives City Hall tour to North Minneapolis Hmong students

On March 28, Newly elected Minneapolis councilmember Blong Yang gave a tour of City Hall to 20 North Minneapolis Hmong students on spring break from school.trying on hardhat councilmember Yang uses in city tunnelsFirst they crammed into councilmember Yang’s office.  Then they walked the halls of city hall.Some are more spellbound than others by councilmember Yang’s wordsThe students got to see council chambers where for 30 minutes they took over city council. They also saw the office headquarters for Minneapolis police, firefighters, and  Hennepin County sheriff’s office.The new mayor of Minneapolis – at least for the next 30 minutesAlong the tour, students talked with councilmember Yang about what they wanted improved in their neighborhood, from fixing potholes to fewer gunshots to more soccer fields to less snow.The next councilmember YangCouncilmember Yang talked about how important it was to stay in school, and hoped some of them would follow him as members of the Minneapolis city councilPractising his best Law and Order courtroom staredownBlong Yang is Minneapolis’s first Hmong councilmember. Many of these students know him better as soccer coach for the Farview Park soccer teamAfter the tour of city hall, the students got a chance to walk through the skyways and try some pizza.Hmong students run into councilmember Cam Gordon outside city hall, thank him for supporting Hmong police officerEnjoying some downtown pizza after city hall tour Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | North Minneapolis Hmong Families Question Proposed Bikeway

  North Minneapolis Hmong Student Surveys Hmong Families Living on Proposed Bikeway Routes During the first three weeks of March, North Minneapolis Hmong students interviewed 20 Hmong families about  a proposed bike path in North Minneapolis.  All 20 families surveyed  live on one of the proposed routesThe City of Minneapolis has announced that plans are being developed for a greenway and bike path  in north Minneapolis, and has offered three different possible routes.  The Hmong families were given maps showing the possible bike routes, and then asked  these questions: Did you know about the proposed bike path? Answer: 19 out of 20 families said they had not heard of the proposed bike paths.  1 woman said she had heard of the proposed bike path.Has anybody asked you your opinion of the proposed bike path? Answer: All twenty families said that nobody had asked them of their opinions of the              proposed  Bike pathBased on the map, do you want to see the bike path go in, or keep your street the way it is? Answer: 19 ½ families said that they prefer to keep the street as it is.  At one house the younger sister said she wanted the bike path, her older brother said that he wanted to keep the street as is.Many Hmong families surveyed mentioned losing parking as a top concern.  They said that many Hmong households have a lot of family members and several  cars, and need  to be able to park their cars on the street in front of their house.  Several surveyed Hmong families also said that they frequently have gatherings with many guests, and they need the street parking to accommodate their guest’s vehicles. One student surveyor said his family just bought a new car for his sister to get to work, and his family doesn’t  have space in the back to put the new car. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | You really don’t want to meet the Dicks at Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America

I’m not one to cry. Truth is, I rarely cry, but during a visit to Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America I was literally reduced to tears! The bartender was abusive, abrasive, and mean as HELL. I wasn’t sure why he was in a bad mood, but later found out that it is their “niche” to be mean as spitfire. Were they really trained to treat people like this, to the point of harassment? Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The Big E sizes up MN GOP candidates

The Big E, confessing to Minnesita Progressive Project (MPP) readers and contributers, recently wrote that his heart no longer pines to hose down right wing sparkle ponies like Michele Bachmann or even review books by the likes of a Keith Ellison.  The Big E (known to his Minneapolis neighbors as Eric Pusey), is the founding scold of the MPP lefty sentry post and appears on the current edition of Democratic Visions as he retires from political blogging. After a moment of posing as a weary blogosphere elder  (as if blogging was old enough to earn elders), the smart, liberal confederate, prompted by an actual DFL elder,  Tim O’Brien, shines with bemused and bewildered takes on the current state of the Minnesota Republican Party and its clownish, hopeful State and Congressional candidates.   Mr. Pusey, who has splashed gleefully in the rushing stream of blogs, Tweets, Facebook twerking and probably Skype, does quite well in the “legacy” medium of television where I operate.  Fox Nine News knew that and for a while put him on from time-to-time.  But the Fox 9 News producers didn’t have the cojones to make him a regular pundit.   Too bad.  Mr. Pusey has good chemistry. This ten-minute Eric and Tim segment is yours to consider.  Its “tagged” (the TV producer’s sense of the word) with an homage to the late, great, populist troubadour Pete Seeger and Twin Cities activism thanks to the air guitar wonders -The Junk Yard Democrats, a peoples’ anthem, and creative editing.  Enjoy!  Enjoy!  Democratic Visions February Segments Ex-blogger Eric Pusey and Tim O’Brien on senate and gubernatorial hopefuls.Jon Spayde as a clinically depressed motivational speaker with advice for Republican hopefuls.I report on the DFL 48 Precinct Caucuses and present an award winning short film making change. Democratic Visions is handcrafted by Eden Prairie, Edina and Minnetonka volunteer Democrats at the Bloomington Community Access Television studio by arrangement with the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission. Democratic Visions Cable ScheduleMinneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m.; Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m. The entire Feburary program and 183 archived Dem Vis segments can be seen on the Democratic Visions Channel on YouTube. Democratic Visions has become the  liveliest political issues show in Minnesota.   I know.  I produce the darned thing.   Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | North Minneapolis Hmong Trick-Or-Treating

 University of Minnesota tutors and volunteers took a group of 25  North Minneapolis Hmong refugee youth out trick-or-treating last Thursday.  The tradition of taking Hmong refugee kids out trick-or-treating started in 2005.  A group of Hmong refugees had just arrived in the United States from a Thai refugee camp.  One day they reported hearing the strangest story:  That one day out of the year, they could walk up to someone’s house, mumble some noises, and the person would throw candy at them. These Hmong refugee students said that of course they were way too sophisticated to believe such a ridiculous story.  We told them it was true, and took them out for their first Halloween trick-or-treat in their lives. Every year since then volunteers have taken Hmong refugee students out for Trick-Or-Treat. This year, 25 refugee youth put on face paint in the basement of St.  Olaf church, then went over to St. Olaf Trunk-Or-Treat.Minneapolis police gave out candy at Saint Olaf Trunk-Or-Treat Finally they  then headed out to the Plymouth home of the University of Minnesota’s Jeff Corn, and visited his neighbors. Most of the Hmong refugee trick-or-treaters play soccer for Farview Park.Enjoying their new soccer balls, donated by the Sanneh Foundation The refugee trick-or-treaters got two chances to celebrate Halloween this year:  the Saturday before, the Sanneh foundation came to Farview Park and held a combination Halloween party and soccer clinic.  25 soccer players participated. There was a contest for the best costume/face paint, and the Sanneh foundation gave all the participants soccer balls. Thanks to all who helped. Continue Reading