St. Paul’s growing political will for $15 minimum wage may mean a faster track for passage

Samuel Callahan is a single father raising his 14-year-old daughter, the youngest of his seven children. The father-daughter pair share a one-bedroom apartment in North Minneapolis. It’s cramped quarters, and yet the small family still does not get to spend enough time together. Callahan has been working at a Taco Bell for the past four years, but in 2016 he also started picking up shifts at a McDonald’s in order to make ends meet. In total, Callahan works 17 hours a day, six days per week. Continue Reading

J4, the Hmong Freedom Festival [Photos]

If you live in Saint Paul, you probably know about J4, the annual gathering and freedom celebration that takes place each July 4th weekend in Como Park. The event has been going on for 35 years, and was founded to mark the anniversary of Hmong immigration into the United States. Continue Reading

The Rural Poetry of Tired Moonlight: Paul Dickinson on Starring in the Local Festival Hit

Tired Moonlight is local filmmaker Britni West’s first film as a director, and it’s  coming to the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival tomorrow. The film is an delicate atmospheric  homage to life in rural Montana, filled with soft touches, and introspective look at relationships in small towns. I really enjoyed it!Most films that depict rural poverty in America – think about a film like Winter’s Bone – paint a bleak picture of life at the margins. Tired Moonlight manages to make the world of back roads Montana seem lovely, without resorting to the usual nostalgic clichés. It was one of the most honest meditations on small town life I’ve seen, and almost made me wish I’d grown up in a place like Kalispell.The film also stars long-time Saint Paul punk musician, poet, book seller, and professor Paul Dickinson, who owns the Dead Media bookstore and runs the Riot Act Reading Series. Continue Reading

Franklin Avenue to be repaved and improved for bikes and pedestrians

Paving and improvements to Franklin Avenue just west of trunk Highway 280 will cause street closures and other traffic disruptions this summer. St. Anthony Park Community Council member Brad Engelmann said it will be worth the trouble. The council met with city officials in early March and reacted with enthusiasm to the plan, which Engelmann said will make the street friendlier to pedestrians and bikes and help draw the neighborhood together. “They included nearly all the elements we look for in a street plan,” said Engelmann, who co-chairs the community council’s transportation committee. Continue Reading

The Disability Community is “Making Strides” Toward Better Transit Access

The recently released Making Strides 2014 Accessibility Survey provides a wealth of data about the challenges faced by members of the disability community as they seek to access the Green Line. The report also makes clear why it’s so important to make sure that people with disabilities can get to the station safely and easily.Background data drawn from Minnesota Compass research shows we’re not dealing with just a small number of people. Currently,  approximately 10% of Minnesotans have a disability, and in some areas of the Twin Cities that percentage almost doubles; for example, in downtown Saint Paul, more than 18% of the population has a disability . There are also heavy concentrations of people with disabilities living along the Green Line where 44% (7 of 16) of Saint Paul Public Housing Hi-Rise buildings are located.Another reason it’s important to make sure people with disabilities can get to the station is that many are regular transit riders who depend on the bus or the light rail to get around independently and participate in the community. The report cites Metro Transit numbers that show heavy use of the Green Line: “In September 2014, the third full month of Green Line service, seven of the fourteen stations in Saint Paul had more than 1,000 boardings by people with disabilities, …and more than 2,000 boarded at Central Station.”Waiting to board the light railThe 2014 Accessibility Survey was planned and carried out by the District Councils Collaborative (DCC) in partnership with members of the disability community, some of whom had also participated in the DCC’s 2012 Walkability Survey. Continue Reading

Increased Black home ownership would slice wealth gap

Researchers studying the affects of public policy on the racial wealth gap estimated that the median wealth of Black households would rise 451 percent if Blacks owned homes at the same rates as Whites.“With policies that advance the rate of Black and Latino homeownership to the same rate as White households, Black median wealth would more than quadruple and Latino media wealth would more than triple,” said Catherine Ruetschlin, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a public policy group that advocates for political and economic equality.A joint effort by Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP), a research group that advocates for economic opportunity, security and equity for individuals and families, detailed the key factors in housing, education, and the labor market that have contributed to the racial wealth gap for generations.The report by said that the median Black household had $7,113 in wealth holdings compared to the median White household, which had $111,146 in wealth holdings in 2011.“Black households hold only 6 percent of the wealth owned by White households, which amounts to a total wealth gap of $104,033, and Latino households hold only 8 percent of the wealth owned by White households, a wealth gap of $102,798,” stated the report. “In other words, a typical White family owns $15.63 for every $1 owned by a typical Black family and $13.33 for every $1 owned by a typical Latino family.”According to the report if public policy eliminated racial disparities in income, the median Black wealth would grow $11,488 and if disparities in college graduation rates were eradicated, median Black wealth would grow $1,313.Thomas Shapiro, the director at IASP, said that the racial wealth gap is one of the most critical issues as the United States moves into the 21st century. Shapiro said that researchers designed a new tool called the “Racial Wealth Audit,” to get a real, objective handle on the impact of policy on wealth accumulation in the United States and what the racial wealth gap really looks like.Tamara Draut, the vice president of policy and research at Demos, said that while researchers and policy analysts have been heartened by the burgeoning debate surrounding rising inequality in the United States and the implications that it has for all of our standards of living, the underlying racial divide that underpins so much of the inequality in this country is less understood and less talked about.“In addition, Black and Latino college graduates saw a lower return on their degrees than White graduates: for every $1 in wealth that accrues to median Black households associated with a college degree, median White households accrue $11.49,” stated the report.Black families also experienced lower returns on the income that they earned, when compared to White families.“If households of color had the same wealth returns estimated for White families with similar incomes, the racial wealth gap would decrease by 43 percent,” said Tatjana Meschede, the research director at IASP. “To make progress in closing the racial wealth gap, policies need to address both income inequality and differential wealth returns to income.”Meschede said policy recommendations to address income inequality included raising the minimum wage, the creation of a federal jobs program and increasing unionization.“Homeownership is the largest reservoir of wealth and financial stability that American families have,” said Thomas Shapiro, the director at IASP. “It’s just that it is so inequitably distributed at this point in time in the value of wealth that it creates.”With the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934, the United States government sanctioned lenders to use “redlining” to systematically deny Blacks access to that reservoir of wealth for decades.“While redlining was officially outlawed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, its impact in the form of residential segregation patterns persists with households of color more likely to live in neighborhoods characterized by higher poverty rates, lower home values, and a declining infrastructure compared to neighborhoods inhabited predominantly by White residents,” stated the report. Continue Reading