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

Getting to the Green Line: Seen through the Lens of a Wheelchair User

No, I’m not in a wheelchair, but I’ve spent time walking alongside people who are, as we tested out walking and rolling routes to a couple of the Green Line stations. For me, and others who walk every day, the wheelchair user’s view offers a new lens that focuses on the challenges facing people who must navigate the walking terrain on wheels to get to the light rail station, or to any other destination.Two cars block the ramp as Rick Cardenas makes his way to the sidewalk. Photo by Carol Swenson  Now the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (DCC) is preparing to release a new report on a 2014 Accessibility Survey that shines a light on a number of access issues that were not addressed in planning for the Green Line. Equally important, the report identifies improvements that can still be made, after the fact, for the Green Line. And it highlights issues that need to be considered as additional light rail lines are being planned.A woman confronts the challenge of getting across the light rail tracks with her walker. Continue Reading

Double Dutch draws St. Paul youth like moths to a flame

Like moths to a flame, Double Dutch is the perfect sport for attracting kids and keeping them moving and motivated throughout the summer.Parents, friends, community members and double dutch enthusiasts packed into the Jimmy Lee Rec Center for the Third Annual Jump Jam Double Dutch Challenge on Aug. 16. Event-goers enjoyed a family resource fair and watched this year’s lineup of Double Dutch teams square off against each other. The event capped off a ten-week fitness program centered around Double Dutch that is sponsored through a partnership between Saint Paul YWCA, Health Partners and the City of Saint Paul.“The program also offers a healthy eating and wellness component, including cooking classes,” said School Success Manager at YWCA Saint Paul Tara Munroe. “The participants come from all different backgrounds and many are new to Double Dutch. Continue Reading

Second annual Hmong American Day celebrates with song, art, dance, and personal reflections

Hundreds gathered Wednesday, May 14 to celebrate the second annual Hmong American Day in Saint Paul.The event began with an opening ceremony at the Minnesota State Capitol’s Upper Mall, featuring speeches by Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, state Sen. Foung Hawj, and a host of others.An estimated 70,000 Hmong Americans live in Minnesota. Hmong American Day, which was proclaimed by Gov. Dayton last year, honors the 39th anniversary of Gen. Vang Pao leading a mass exodus of ethnic Hmong out of Laos—marking May 14 the beginning of the Hmong American diaspora.“Hmong American Day is an important day and significant one for us because we don’t have a day, other than Hmong American New Year, to bring the community together,” says Liz Xiong, chair of the Hmong American Day Planning Committee.  She added, “It’s new but exciting because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our history and celebrate our culture together.”The closing ceremony, celebrated at the Minnesota History Center, focused on personal stories by community leaders and former military, including Dr. Pa Der Vang of Hnub Tshiab (Hmong Women Achieving Together), who emphasized the role of women in Hmong American history; and Capt. Peter Vang, vice commander of American Veterans Legion Post 1975, who reflected on why he served in the military, and the ways in which Hmong culture informed his time in the service.Dai Thao, Saint Paul’s first Hmong city council member, also rallied the crowd, highlighting the contributions and achievements of Hmong Americans in Minnesota, as well as the work yet to be done. The closing ceremony also featured performances from young people who employed dazzling dance routines, cultural attire and song, to recount scenes from Hmong American history and pay tribute to the elders.See highlights of the closing ceremony in the video above. Check the Storify below for Tweets, photos and more video of the event. [If you don’t see the Storify photos and comments below, please refresh your browser window.]Become a supporting member of the Twin Cities Daily Planet[<a href=”//” target=”_blank”>View the story “Sights from Hmong American Day 2014” on Storify</a>]Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Continue Reading

TC Weekend | Mother’s Day, Fishing Opener, National Train Day & more!

Last weekend felt like a spring explosion with its many festivals and long-awaited burst of sun. This weekend continues the spring fun with Mother’s Day events, the Fishing Opener, National Train Day celebrations, and a host of other activities. Read on for this weekend’s lively lineup: Bring Back Our Girls, Friday, May 9Start the weekend by lending your voice and signs to raise awareness about the 276 school girls who were abducted in Nigeria by the Boko Haram militia. Organizers are asking for participants to bring a red candle, wear the color red, and bring your camera to help document the event. More details here.Lake Street and Marshall Bridge, Minneapolis/Saint Paul6 pm Minnesota Fishing Opener, May 10 Anglers rejoice! 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