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

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

The Geography of Twin Cities Race

An earlier version of this essay appeared in the March 18, 2015 edition of Politics in Minnesota. Why are the Twin Cities so segregated?  This is the perplexing question and title of report recently issued  by Myron Orfield and the Institute of Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota.  Why perplexing?  It is because he juxtaposes how the “Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area is known for its progressive politics and forward-thinking approach to regional planning” with the reality of the educational and residential segregation that exists. Continue Reading

THE EQUITY LENS | No driver’s license, no employment

In the conversations about unemployment and poverty, “personal responsibility” and “self sufficiency” are loaded words thrown around to suggest that the unemployed and the poor should take control of their life, get a job, and pay their fair share of taxes, rather than “freeloading” off the state.  While I disagree with the language used and assumptions that simplify the plight of the poor, I would have to agree that employment is important and essential to economic empowerment. Ask the poor what they need the most, and the answer is not “more benefits,” but “a job.”Job Growth and OpportunitiesThe Department of Employment and Economic Development Department (DEED) reported that 9,500 jobs were added in December, bringing total job gains in the state to 45,900 in the past year. Of the industrial sectors, the construction industry is up 6,500 jobs from a year ago, a 7.5 percent growth rate that is more than triple the U.S. growth rate of 2.2 percent in that industry.It’s important to note that the construction industry pays particularly well ranging from an hourly wage of $15 to $30, way above the minimum wage. We often see the poor stuck in low paying jobs with little to no chance of career advancement, but an industry like construction allows for promotion, where the hourly wage/ salary can increase, and is a felon-friendly job field. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Saint Paul Impound Lot: Working class city with high priced fees

Calling in to the impound lot on Caitlin Street near the State Fairgrounds, a staff member told me that on that Wednesday, because of the Snow Emergency Alert, over 1,000 cars came into the lot. One of those cars was actually mine. While, my brother drove us there, I announced “No one’s getting a gift from me this year. Merry Christmas.” I needed my car if I was ever going to be able to afford a gift for anyone.As I arrived to pick up my car, the line of people, who also didn’t get the memo about the Snow Emergency Alert in Saint Paul, had started from early morning and circled from inside the impound office building to outside, pass the parking gate. “Thank goodness, it’s not too cold today,” a young woman said to me as we waited in line. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Reflections of an Annoyed Millennial (or Entitled Brat, Narcissist, etc)

On Thursday, I enthusiastically signed up to volunteer to help and inspire College Possible students by speaking to them about my college and application experience.I woke up at 8:30 AM on Saturday, tossing and turning in my bed, contemplating if I should drive all the way to Brooklyn Park to speak to these students. I immediately conduct a cost and benefit analysis, thinking, almost getting up, and then going back to lay down. I conclude that this drive was going to cost me more than what I would get out from it. Gas is like gold these days, and I certainly couldn’t afford to drive half an hour.I go anyways. As you see, I’m not always the most rational person.“So, how did you choose your major?” said a shy student who looked younger than her actual age.“Well you don’t have to declare your major right away, take your time to see what you really enjoy learning, and…” and then I realize my feelings towards these liberal arts majors were quite complicated.I am a Millennial. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The American Revolution II

The idea that America is heading into an all out revolution may be absurd and to some extent unthinkable to most of us. Never the less, the factors that could ignite such an event are quietly coming into place, and although not imminent, they are plausible. Especially if the trends that are creating them are not reversed. At any rate, the possibility is worth examining – along with hopeful reasons why such an event may be deterred.(Author’s note: Please be aware I am not proposing, advocating, suggesting, or encouraging the actions described below; this diary is designed for commentary and discussion)The causes of most revolutions are historical, well known, and provable. It virtually is always a rebellion against an elite, defined by excessive concentration of power and wealth. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | 50 years after the March on Washington: It’s time to arise to today’s civil-rights challenges

A version of this article originally appeared in MinnPostOn August 28, 1963, 250,000 Americans bravely descended on our nation’s capital to participate in The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The peaceful protesters poured in from all over the country to urge America to make good on her promise of “liberty and justice for all.”The March on Washington occurred during a tumultuous time in American history in which African Americans experienced racial segregation, barriers to education, employment, voting, and housing. They also faced discrimination in many of our nation’s institutions and private establishments. Indeed, just nine years prior to the March on Washington, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. the Board of Education that racially segregated schools for blacks and whites were inherently unequal and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.Although the High Court’s decision in 1954 was significant and represented a legal and moral victory for African Americans, the nation continued to struggle with issues of racial justice. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | East Side of St. Paul is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ until a serious incident happens

In recent weeks, a devastating incident occurred on the Eastside of St. Paul where several teens allegedly beat a passerby until he was unconscious. This is a circumstance that no person should have to endure. One of the notable pieces of information that has surfaced is the fact that the passerby was white and the teens were African American. Although some within the broader community argue that the attack was based on race, the reality is that in light of the circumstances under which the attack occurred, the victim could arguably have been any individual who was within the vicinity of the young people in question. Actually, a similar severe beating of an innocent Black man, Edwin Daniel, by five young Somali men occurred on the Eastside just a few years prior to this most recent incident.The factors that contribute to these types of horrific episodes, including shootings by young people against other young people, may revolve around underlying issues at the intersection of race and poverty that are pervasive on the East Side of St. Continue Reading