Best of Neighborhoods News 4/09/19: The Prairie Island Indian Community wants net-zero emissions, and they may receive $46.2 million in funding

The Prairie Island Indian Community wants net-zero emissions, and they may receive $46.2 million in fundingJust southeast of the Twin Cities by about 45 minutes, abutting the Mississippi River, is one of the Mdewakanton reservations on Prairie Island in Red Wing, Minnesota. The tribe that calls the island home also shares a border, strangely enough, with Xcel’s nuclear plant and a cache of its radioactive waste. The facility, so precariously located just down the river, was borne out of an arrangement stipulating that Xcel must “set aside money in a state fund to develop renewable energy.” That fund has since reached about $327 million, but none of it has yet been invested in Prairie Island

So, as recent as 2018, residents set out to change just that, to finance their plan to achieve net-zero emissions and wean the island off nuclear power. In his 2019 budget plan, Governor Tim Walz has proposed allocating about $46.2 million over three years to the tribe. But currently, partisan disagreements abound over how to properly fund what many in the Legislature consider the state’s fight against climate change. Continue Reading

How campaign workers fought to achieve the first-ever collective bargaining agreement with the MN DFL

Behind the scenes of Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL)’s Nov. 6 historic general election wins, campaign workers claimed a lesser-known victory, won after a fraught struggle against  – ironically – the DFL. Minnesota campaign workers negotiated the first-ever collective bargaining agreement. Their efforts in securing this agreement from the MN DFL were aided by Campaign Workers Guild, an independent national union formed by former Bernie Sanders campaign workers. The two-year accord gives campaign workers a three percent pay raise and, for the first time in any state, time and a half pay for overtime, along with other benefits. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 03/26/19: a lesson plan for every student

A lesson plan for every studentA $2.6 million initiative is bringing change to classrooms in elementary and middle schools across Minneapolis this fall. Every school in the district will be able to hire “a differentiation specialist – a licensed teacher who will help meet the varying academic needs of students.” The pedagogy of differentiation is that teaching is predicated on student differences, above all else; differentiation is about this need to differentiate instruction effectively. This differentiation initiative is a part of Superintendent Ed Graff’s new academic priorities, which aim to deliver – with a proposed budget totaling $620.6 million – a “sense of stability” to schools and district departments. Eric Moore, a member of the superintendent’s cabinet and interim chief of academics, explained that the differentiation initiative “is really listening to our families that want rigor and positive classroom experiences.”

Learn more, read the full story at Southwest Journal. Hennepin County Attorney unveils data dashboard that allows anyone to track racial disparities and moreHennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced to the county board on March 14 that the prosecutor’s office is set to build newfangled data practices that “promote transparency” and guide “thoughtful decision making.” Such practices, the prosecutor explained, will be made possible through a statistical data dashboard, with easily accessible information that is updated daily and goes as far back as 2014. Continue Reading

What’s next for Cafe SouthSide’s founders Roxanne Anderson and Anna Meyer

For years, 3405 Chicago Ave was a radical community hub. The building housed three interconnected pillars of South Minneapolis: the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition, RARE Productions and Cafe SouthSide. The Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition came first, as a nonprofit dedicated to securing healthcare for trans and gender non-conforming people. A community of marginalized people who were seeking support, connections and belonging developed around The Coalition. Two leaders of that community, Rochelle A. James and Roxanne E. Anderson, subsequently created RARE Productions, an arts and entertainment production company centering queer and trans artists of color. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 3/12/2019: 12 years ago, the Legislature set out to end poverty in Minnesota by 2020. How’s it going?

12 years ago, the Legislature set out to end poverty in Minnesota by 2020. How’s it going? In 2007, “The Commission To End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020” was founded by 18 Minnesota State legislators, co-chaired by incumbents Rep. Carlos Mariani and Sen. John Marty. The convening of the commission was followed by subsequent tours and public hearings held throughout Minnesota, all of which and more coalesced into the publication of a report. That report articulates the commission’s goals and mission, as well as their call for “an increase in the minimum wage; expanded working family tax credits; more child care help; and credits for small businesses,” among other things. Continue Reading

Tapping immigrant roots to side-step traditional food business models

“Hustling is in our blood,” Chef Yia Vang said. “I’m not doing anything different than what my parents and my grandparents were doing in Laos and Thailand.”

Vang operates Union Kitchen, a Hmong American pop-up restaurant, alongside his cousin Chris Her. Like many immigrant food business owners, Vang’s culinary journey had humble beginnings. What started out as cooking phở in garages at church-sponsored backyard parties four years ago evolved into a pop-up restaurant just shy of two years old, now having found temporary residency outside of Sociable Cider Werks in northeast Minneapolis. Similar to Union Kitchen, Donburi is a pop-up Japanese restaurant offering up rice bowls, poke bowls and fresh sashimi. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 2/26/2019: Youth-led climate movement taken to the State Capitol

Youth-led climate movement taken to the State CapitolMinnesota Can’t Wait, a broad coalition of youth, has changed the course of Minnesota’s progressive climate politics when they packed the State Capitol in early February to enshrine the Minnesota Green New Deal. Modeled after the eponymously named federal legislative version, spearheaded by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), the Minnesota Green New Deal also proposes similar programs addressing climate change through the remaking of the economy. The Green New Deal demands an “equitable” transition to renewable energy sources by 2030; it now makes its way through the state legislature. This moment in Minnesota’s nascent climate justice movement is what one young activist calls “a model for other states and the Federal Government to bring about additional Green New Deal legislation.”

To learn more, read the Southwest Journal. Amplifying voices: The SEAD Project uses storytelling to capture historyStorytelling and art are the centerpieces of a recent initiative led by the Southeast Asian Diaspora (SEAD) Project to highlight the forgotten histories of the millions who were borne out of the U.S. involvement in the French Indochina wars. Continue Reading

How community members in Ramsey County stopped a big-data plan from flagging students as at-risk

On Jan. 28, 2019, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter made an announcement at St. Paul’s City Hall that caught many observers by surprise: after months of community resistance, city and county officials have decided to walk away from a controversial data-sharing initiative. The initiative – unanimously approved by the Ramsey County Attorney, the County Sheriff of St. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 2/12/19: Change is coming to racist murals in St. Paul City Hall

Change is coming to racist murals in St. Paul City Hall

Four racist murals hung at St. Paul City Hall are at the center of a countywide kerfuffle going as far back as the 1970s and now re-emerging as part of the national debate about the place of public art. They were first installed in 1931, shared originally by the Ramsey County Commission and the St. Paul City Council. Continue Reading

The view from here: what immigration attorneys who are immigrants themselves are seeing

Within the immigration system, lawyers “are the only ones between [the clients and] absolute chaos,” said Maya Okafor (name changed to protect her identity), a former immigration attorney. “They’re the only ones standing in the way.”

Okafor discussed being a target. The current administration is “looking for attorneys who are breaking the rules. They’re calling us ‘dirty attorneys’ who are helping people do bad things,” Okafor said, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Oct. 12, 2017 remarks to the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Continue Reading