North Minneapolis Laotians give garden tour

On Tuesday, August 25, 80 people gathered at Olson Townhomes to participate in the North Minneapolis Laotian Garden Tour. Laotian gardeners led neighbors and fellow gardeners through dense rows of long beans, hot peppers, Vietnamese mint, cucumbers and tomatoes. Channel 5 and channel 11 also came. After the tour participants enjoyed delicious kou pun curry made with vegetables harvested from the garden

The garden tour was organized to highlight the importance of the garden to the Laotian community. The Laotians hope to be able to preserve the garden even when the construction of the Bottineau LRT and related development comes. Continue Reading

The end of remedial college classes?

 Educators and lawmakers are divided over a proposal that would cut funding for developmental courses at state-run colleges  ST. PAUL, Minn. – College students in remedial classes at state colleges and universities may find themselves taking college-level courses under a proposal that would cut funding for remedial programs.The proposal would not require Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to eliminate remedial courses, but courses that do not earn college credit would be ineligible for grants and financial aid starting in 2017. This has some administrators and legislators split.While lawmakers say the proposal would improve how many students finish their degree faster and improve enrollment retention, some educators and college administrators feel it could deter students from graduating by placing them in courses beyond their skill level.On average, students pay almost $1,000 for remedial courses and 28 percent of MnSCU students are currently taking remedial courses, according to the Office of Higher Education. Of these students, only 20 percent graduate in less than three years.“We don’t want to put [students] in a situation where they get so discouraged and drop out when a two-year degree takes three years to earn,” said Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, who is spearheading the proposal. Continue Reading

Murals Bridge Divides on Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul’s Busiest Street

[At right: Snelling Avenue sidewalks. Photo by Bill Lindeke.]Snelling Avenue is one of the busiest streets in Minnesota, but it’s also one of the most overlooked: narrow sidewalks, aging buildings, and the steady stream of traffic filled with drivers that never seem to notice the rich diversity of the neighborhood around them.This summer, the Midway Murals project, which one a coveted Knight Arts Grant last year, will try to change that. Jonathan Oppenheimer, who wrote the grant for the murals project, is trying to bring together neighbors, business owners, and skilled public artists to bridge both the physical barrier of Snelling’s high-speed traffic and the cultural barriers around different immigrant and non-immigrant communities. The project, which just reached its goal of raising $22,000 from the community,I met Oppenheimer at the Midway Murals official launch at the Turf Club last month, and recently asked him a few questions about goals of the innovative public art project. Snelling Avenue is undergoing a big construction project this summer that will widen the sidewalks and attempt to calm traffic north of University Avenue and around Interstate 94. Continue Reading

Backers push for vote on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

Maria Negreros says she risks breaking the law each day to drive her children to preschool.Jovita Morales told lawmakers that in August 2007 it took hours to reach her two children who had been inside a bus that fell along with the Interstate 35W bridge into the Mississippi River.Anna Serrano wants to see her parents — owners of a new restaurant — to be able to get behind the wheel legally and stop relying on others for rides.All testified Wednesday during an informational hearing of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee packed with supporters lobbying for a vote on legislation that would make driver’s licenses available to the state’s thousands of undocumented immigrants.“I want my parents to drive safely to work without worrying about being pulled over,” said Serrano, an 18-year-old college student from Willmar who emigrated with her parents from Mexico as a small child.Sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake),HF97 would eliminate the need for proof of lawful residency in the United States to obtain a driver’s license or state identification card, something the sixth-term lawmaker and a diverse coalition of supporters said would mean more insured drivers and safer Minnesota roads.No vote was taken on the bill, nor on identical legislation sponsored by Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls),HF98. A pair of Senate committees have already approved a companion sponsored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls). SF224 now awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. ‘Bigger than a license’Immigrant rights advocates packed a State Office Building committee room for the afternoon hearing, as well as an overflow space where they listened to live audio. While it’s an issue typically fraught with politics, Hamilton told the committee that driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants is a good idea for a simple reason.“We would have an individual who would go through trainings, would receive a license, then purchase car insurance and drive on our roads,” he said.But following more than an hour of emotional testimony from a list of backers that included immigrants and the children of immigrants, supporters representing business interests and labor groups, police departments and the church, Hamilton acknowledged the issue of letting undocumented immigrants drive legally on the state’s roads is about more than that, too.“If you listen to the testimony closely, it’ll boil down to one thing,” he said. “The Declaration of Independence, and the moral belief that it is a right; that we’re born equal to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve had the conversation — this is bigger than a driver’s license.”Two years ago, state lawmakers passed the Minnesota Dream Act into law, making the children of some undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid. Continue Reading

Backers push for vote on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

Maria Negreros says she risks breaking the law each day to drive her children to preschool.Jovita Morales told lawmakers that in August 2007 it took hours to reach her two children who had been inside a bus that fell along with the Interstate 35W bridge into the Mississippi River.Anna Serrano wants to see her parents — owners of a new restaurant — to be able to get behind the wheel legally and stop relying on others for rides.All testified Wednesday during an informational hearing of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee packed with supporters lobbying for a vote on legislation that would make driver’s licenses available to the state’s thousands of undocumented immigrants.All testified Wednesday during an informational hearing of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee packed with supporters lobbying for a vote on legislation that would make driver’s licenses available to the state’s thousands of undocumented immigrants.“I want my parents to drive safely to work without worrying about being pulled over,” said Serrano, an 18-year-old college student from Willmar who emigrated with her parents from Mexico as a small child.Sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), HF97 would eliminate the need for proof of lawful residency in the United States to obtain a driver’s license or state identification card, something the sixth-term lawmaker and a diverse coalition of supporters said would mean more insured drivers and safer Minnesota roads.No vote was taken on the bill, nor on identical legislation sponsored by Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls), HF98. A pair of Senate committees have already approved a companion sponsored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls). SF224 now awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.‘Bigger than a license’Immigrant rights advocates packed a State Office Building committee room for the afternoon hearing, as well as an overflow space where they listened to live audio. While it’s an issue typically fraught with politics, Hamilton told the committee that driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants is a good idea for a simple reason.“We would have an individual who would go through trainings, would receive a license, then purchase car insurance and drive on our roads,” he said.But following more than an hour of emotional testimony from a list of backers that included immigrants and the children of immigrants, supporters representing business interests and labor groups, police departments and the church, Hamilton acknowledged the issue of letting undocumented immigrants drive legally on the state’s roads is about more than that, too.“If you listen to the testimony closely, it’ll boil down to one thing,” he said. “The Declaration of Independence, and the moral belief that it is a right; that we’re born equal to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Continue Reading

‘We Are Hmong Minnesota’ exhibit opens at the Minnesota History Center

The weekend ceremony celebrating the opening of the “We Are Hmong Minnesota” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center drew thousands of people commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Hmong American resettlement in the United States. The exhibit, which consists of more than 250 items, provides a host of written, recorded and raw materials that accentuate the triumphs and trials as well as the history, culture and achievements of Hmong Americans, who four decades ago began to make their mark in Minnesota.“I’m really excited that Minnesota has recognized Hmong Americans and they’re allowing us to put this exhibit here,” said Chue Vue, St. Paul School Board member. “We have been in this country four about 40 years now, and we have made our imprints here. To have an exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society means a lot to us.”An ethnic group with ancient roots in China, as one piece in the exhibit explains, the Hmong escaped the Secret War and the Vietnam conflict in the ’60s and ‘70s and as refugees established a new life in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Another piece answers why the Twin Cities metro area has become home to the largest Hmong American population in the country:The most important factors were organizations such as Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, the International Institution of Minnesota and Church World Services. These agencies, joined by individual churches and families, provided a welcoming presence for the Hmong in Minnesota. Continue Reading

We Are Your Neighbors: Things You Might Not Understand about New Immigrants

By PM English Level 5/6 Class at the English Learning CenterThere are many things that people in Minnesota don’t understand about new immigrants. There are many things in our culture that are different.First, our religion is different. Some new immigrants are Christians, some are Muslim, and some may be another religion. One difference for Catholics from Mexico and South America is that they celebrate Virgin Mary on December 12. Muslims pray 5 times a day. Continue Reading