COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmongtown Market drug raid: Not an issue of culture

On June 13th, authorities seized hundreds of pounds of cyanide, steroids, opiates and other mislabeled or unlabeled drugs from more than 15 vendors at a Hmong market in St. Paul. While some of the drugs were out in the open, they also found pills, syringes, and other drugs under curtains, inside baggies, and in unmarked containers. For years, the Federal Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) warned these vendors, but they still continued to sell these illegal drugs. Not only did this investigation make headlines in Minnesota, but the drug raid that happened at the Hmongtown Market this mid-June put into question the issue of the Hmong culture and legality in the United States. Continue Reading

Placemaking: loving where you live and why it matters

“What makes people love where they live, and why does it matter?” “What bonds residents to a city and how can a community foster those emotional ties to drive economic success?” Those are questions explored in the Soul of the Community Project, a major initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup pollsters. They were also the focus of several presentations by Dr. Katherine Loflin during her Placemaking Residency in the Twin Cities in early May. Loflin was lead investigator for Soul of the Community while at Knight.                            Among the events held during Loflin’s residency were a presentation and workshop, “Measuring and Understanding Place,” held at the Wilder Foundation, and a walking tour of portions of St. Paul’s Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods, combined with a discussion and placemaking brainstorming session. Both took place on May 8. Katherine Loflin (l), Tim Griffin, St. Continue Reading

SOUL FOOD MN | Lee’s & Dee’s Barbeque Express: From the back of a station wagon to a St. Paul institution

Lee’s & Dee’s Barbeque Express in St. Paul is a true family operation and is now a second generation business, having been handed over from namesakes Lee and Dee to daughters Linda Williams and Vickie Nash. The original business was born from founder Lee piling coolers of full wings and ribs into the back of his station wagon to feed workers during lunch breaks and bar-goers late at night. Lee and his wife Dee opened their traditional southern restaurant in the Summit-University neighborhood 22 years ago and, it has become a popular spot for people in search of authentic southern food.While visiting the restaurant during the lunch hour, before the busier dinner rush started, I looked over the whiteboard menu and landed on some dishes I knew I had to try. While the restaurant is known for its barbeque, Lee’s & Dee’s dishes are definitely soulful. Continue Reading

Think Big Picture: An affordable housing plan for Central Corridor

The Big Picture Project, as the name suggests, has some big ideas. The team behind the Project, which was organized to align affordable housing plans along the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit route, is made up of key players from local government, finance, urban planning, real estate development and of course, the community. Some of these individuals, as well as a summary of their findings and final recommendations, were present March 2 at a University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs brown bag forum. [Download the full PDF document of the plan here.]Affordable HousingThousands of new housing units, both market rate and affordable, will be constructed, “17,000 new housing units over the next 30 years,” according to the Central Corridor station area plans. Minneapolis and St. Continue Reading