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Archive | April, 2016

Bonnies Cafe_5363

Neighborhood ‘community’ closes its doors

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

Bonnie’s Cafe forced to close after 38 years on University Ave.

Personal reflections from waitress MARIA HERD

“How would you like your eggs with that?”

After graduating from Hamline University last year, I set out to pursue a career in journalism. I had been itching to get out in the world and ask hard questions to policymakers and those who influence our community. But with a competitive job market, I found myself waitressing at a cafe and asking different types of questiocasns.

Bonnies Cafe_5363“For your toast that comes with the meal, would you prefer white, wheat or English muffin?”

However, a job that I took to make ends meet, ended up being a window into a community, a family-run business and a piece of St. Paul history that I feel grateful to have been a part of.

Bonnie’s Cafe (photo left by Maria Herd), 2160 University Ave., was opened in 1978 by Juanita “Bonnie” Roell. Bonnie passed away in 2013 with cancer and gave the cafe to her daughters to run.

When I first started working at Bonnie’s last summer, I learned a lot about Bonnie just from all the articles that were posted around the cafe.

The year she died, the City of Saint Paul designated June 5 as Bonnie Roell Day, honoring her for creating a lasting neighborhood diner that served generations of customers, as well as her “entrepreneurship and character.”

And from an old Midway Como Monitor article, “But she was also well-known for hiring staff from all walks of life, and for making an effort to give jobs to those in need of a second chance.”

I can’t tell you how many times an older customer would tell me, “Oh I use to come here all the time in the 80s, the place hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Then you must have known Bonnie,” I would usually say.

And everyone did know Bonnie. The way they spoke about the woman seemed to bring her to life—sometimes I felt like she could walk through the kitchen any minute.

They went on about her big heart, her graciousness, always making sure that no one left her cafe hungry, even if they couldn’t afford it.

Bonnie’s legacy lived on. I saw that same spirit among the customers during my time waitressing.  On several occasions, a customer gave me extra money for their bill and asked me to put it toward another person’s bill who appeared in need of a helping hand.
It would warm my heart when it was my turn to pass along the message that their meal was covered by a kind stranger. It’s not every day that you see someone’s face light up like that.

Furthermore, after the cafe closed at the end of March, our cook Chris Johnson organized to donate the leftover food to the Union Gospel Mission and Lutheran Church Wellness Center, which fed over 200 people.

“My message is to uphold my mother’s impeccable reputation, her dignity, and respect for others. Let it be known I did everything to carry out her legacy, of which I couldn’t have done without our stand-up staff members, our dedicated customers, our community and supporters, every single person who walked through those doors,” Bonnie’s daughter and owner Becky Moosebrugger told me as her final statement about the cafe.

How Bonnie’s Cafe had to close finally after almost 40 years, was really, really sad. The Dubliner, the bar next door, made a deal with the landlord to take over the space and turn it into a restaurant. Becky hadn’t known about the negotiations and had no say in the matter.

What’s even more sad, is that Becky was planning to give the cafe to her children. Her son’s fiancee, my manager Allie, worked at Bonnie’s for over two years. Bonnie’s Cafe was a small family business that had been run by three generations.

In her interview with KARE11 on our final day of business, Allie said, “The saddest part for me is the customers. There are people we see on a daily basis, and now they won’t have that to come to.”

Bonnies Cafe_5303Photo right: Bonnie’s Cafe was packed with customers wanting one more omelette or blueberry pancake on its closing day—March 26, 2016. (Photo by Maria Herd)

The regulars at Bonnie’s Cafe is another aspect of what made the restaurant so special. So many people would come in for breakfast every day, or couples and families would stop by every weekend. We knew all of these people by name, and they knew us. We would ask about their kids and their jobs; they would ask us about our dogs and vacations. Bonnie’s Cafe was its own little community.

Okay, maybe I didn’t know everyone’s name. But I did recognize a lot of the same people. There were the “coffee and water guys” who always sat at a booth and only had coffee and water. There was the guy with a book who always got blueberry pancakes.

Then there were people I remembered because they always asked for peanut butter on the side, or always ordered the Around the Clock with extra crispy bacon.

And of course, we knew a lot of the regulars’ orders by heart. We would start making their breakfast and getting their coffee or diet Pepsi as soon as they walked in the door.

Furthermore, friendships were made in the Cafe. Later on, I found out that some of the men who frequently ate breakfast together actually met at Bonnie’s.

Bonnies Cafe_5380Stepping into the cafe was like stepping back in time. Up until our last day in 2016, we still didn’t take credit cards. I swear that our ancient looking cash register (photo left by Maria Herd) belongs in a museum next to a typewriter. The cafe sported vintage green booths, green and white checkered tablecloths and floral wallpaper from the 70s.

Last but not least, I miss the food. Bonnie was not only an incredible and caring person—she knew good breakfast. Bonnie’s Cafe won the “best breakfast” and “best cafe” in the Twin Cities awards from City Pages multiple times.

Some of our most popular dishes were the roast beef hash, the polish sausage and the biscuits and gravy. My favorite recommendations were the blueberry pancakes, the scrambler, and the Denver omelet.

Bonnie’s spirit and legacy will live on—in our stomachs as well as our hearts.

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Frustration grows over fast pace of soccer stadium planning

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE

Spillover parking into adjacent neighborhoods and worsening traffic congestion are among the fears community members have about a $150 million Major League Soccer stadium and a redeveloped Midway Center. Community members finally got to question Mayor Chris Coleman and project leaders at a Mar. 15 open house at Concordia University. And, on Mar. 21, Union Park District Council (UPDC) Land Use Committee members met with city staff to review plans.

001_ViewSouth_DayThough a formal stadium groundbreaking wouldn’t happen until this summer, crews are already doing site work. The soccer stadium would occupy much of the former Metro Transit Snelling bus garage site and land now occupied by Rainbow Foods and other center businesses. Midway Centre owner RK Midway owns the rest of the 34.5-acre superblock bounded by Pascal St. and University, Snelling and St. Anthony avenues. RK Midway has unveiled plans that would put high-rise offices, retail, a movie theater, restaurants, housing and hotels on its property.

While there is excitement about redevelopment, many neighbors have concerns about how the area will handle 20,000 soccer fans coming to games. Some pointed out that they now get to deal with more construction and congestion after Green Line light rail and Snelling Bridge and street reconstruction.

And if area residents and business owners are frustrated, so are members of the Snelling Midway Community Advisory Committee. Members are questioning how they are supposed to weigh in with such tight project timelines, and a lack of new information.
Other issues raised range from bird safety in stadium design to access for people with disabilities. Those advocates were reassured that their concerns would be addressed. But the $18+ million city subsidy for soccer infrastructure and other needs, and Minnesota United’s quest for a property tax and sales tax exemptions at the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, also drew protests. Hamline Midway resident and 2015 City Council candidate Tom Goldstein held up a sign stating “Want Soccer? Build More Parks, Not Stadiums” and debated with Coleman about subsidies. Merriam Park resident Mike Madden’s sign said, “I pay my taxes.”

Tim Mangan lives in Snelling Park, a tiny neighborhood bounded by Pascal and Marshall, Snelling and Concordia avenues. Residents use Pascal as their route in and out. “No one’s coming to us to address our concerns,” he said. “You’re going to shut down my only egress. Where are all those people going to go?”

Sandy Vincent and Billy Todd live on Sherburne Ave. which already has spillover Green Line commuter parking and parking spillover from the Turf Club. Vincent said she is going to start a residential permit parking petition because of the problems. “I don’t know where they think 20,000 people coming to games are going to park,” Vincent said.

Nan Fergen, who lives one block off of Snelling near Hamline University, said her neighborhood already deals with parking issues. “Traffic in the last five years has been horrible. What relief do we get?”

Coleman told the 150-plus people at the Mar. 15 meeting that the city is studying traffic and parking issues and will work with the community to resolve those. He said the intent of redevelopment is to have the stadium and shopping center redevelopment blend into the fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods. The intent is not to create what the mayor described as a “state fair” atmosphere.

The projects’ impacts are being studied in an Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR), said Josh Williams, senior planner with the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED). The initial scoping phase of the AUAR closed Mar. 23. Scoping identified different development plans to analyze.

The AUAR process studies issues such as traffic, parking, transit, light, noise, air quality and other impacts that could be tied to redevelopment. “The AUAR is meant to look at a project’s impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts,” Williams said. The draft document is to be published in late May and will be the focus of a meeting in June. State agencies then weigh in with their comments. The final document should be compiled by mid-July.

While there are questions about the rapid pace of stadium development, the flip side are worries on how long Midway Center redevelopment could take. UPDC Land Use Committee Member David Rasmussen said he’s concerned about how long it will take to redevelop the shopping center itself, and the prospect of an empty lot in the meantime.

But Williams said while some redevelopment, such as the planned plazas along University Ave., will be built with the stadium, the city’s power in approving a master plan for the shopping center doesn’t include requiring the developer to meet a timeline.

Other reviews are also underway. The engineering consulting firm SRF is conducting a traffic study, which will be ready in this month. Metro Transit is looking at transit capacity of Green Line light rail, regular route bus service and A Line rapid bus service which starts in June.

Another frustration for some community members is how quickly the review and approval processes are moving, and how the review processes are overlapping each other.

014_InteriorSouthMinnesota United wants to start playing soccer here in 2018. The St. Paul Planning Commission is expected to see the stadium site plan and the master plan for the rest of the superblock this spring, with a public hearing in May. Recommendations then go to the St. Paul City Council by mid-July or August, with final votes on each plan.

The studies will consider existing streets and not the possibility of connecting Ayd Mill Road at its north end, said Williams. He also said that by the end of April, city staff and community members should have a better idea of the overall project impacts. But the complexity of who is responsible for which aspects of development, and the conceptual nature and lack of a timeline for shopping center redevelopment, are frustrating.

UPDC Executive Director Julie Reiter said “We don’t know how a transportation study can be done if we don’t know where the cars are going,” she said.

Parking for soccer is the responsibility of Minnesota United and not the city. Where people park for soccer games and stadium events could change over time, so the transportation and transit issues are being studied in that context. Williams said because the shopping center redevelopment is likely to take place over a period of many years, where people park for games and events could change.

Shuttles and off-site parking are already being studied, Williams said. “We don’t have enough capacity to carry everyone on the buses to the train at the same time, and we certainly don’t want everyone to drive to the games,” he said. Short-term ideas include remote lots and shuttles, including the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Funding the soccer stadium is complicated

Tax exemptions, $18.4 million for infrastructure, 52-year lease, and Tax Increment Financing all in the mix

By JANE MCCLURE

With development agreements, a lease and an $18.4 million infrastructure commitment in place, the proposed Minnesota United FC stadium plans are moving ahead toward an anticipated June groundbreaking and 2018 completion.

But getting agreement on the financing package, and a disagreement over future tax increment financing (TIF) for Midway Center redevelopment, roiled the St. Paul City Council in March. The council approved the stadium subsidies on 5-2 votes Mar. 2, and shot down the notion of banning a future TIF district 3-4 on Mar. 23.

The stadium project now rests in the hands of the 2016 Minnesota Legislature. State lawmakers are being asked to provide an ongoing exemption from paying property taxes on the stadium site and any improvements. A construction materials sales tax exemption is also sought, as is a liquor license. One potentially tricky procedural issue is that because last year’s session ended without a tax bill passed, any stadium request will have to be added to the stalled 2015 tax bill.

If the exceptions aren’t passed, City Finance Director Todd Hurley said the stadium agreements are terminated.

The $150 million Major League Soccer stadium construction and maintenance would be privately funded. The almost 150 pages of documents that are part of the agreements don’t cover all details of the planned mixed-use redevelopment of the entire 34.5 acre Midway Center superblock, which is bounded by Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling, and University avenues. But Minnesota FC owner Bill McGuire and Rick Birdoff of the shopping center ownership group RK Midway have said the stadium is the catalyst for the long-awaited center redevelopment. Birdoff also issued a statement after the Council vote saying he is working with Rainbow Foods owner Supervalu to find space on the site for a relocated grocery store.

Lengthy debate at the Mar. 2 St. Paul City Council meeting preceded votes on the agreements. A full house of project proponents looked on, including many young soccer players, as well as foes of public subsidy for sports facilities. The council split 5-2, with Dan Bostrom and Jane Prince against and Amy Brendmoen, Rebecca Noecker, Russ Stark, Dai Thao and Chris Tolbert in support.

Bostrom said it’s concerning when the city has so many other unmet needs and is making cutbacks in areas including public safety, that stadium infrastructure funding moves to the front of the line. “Yet for other neighborhood projects we cannot get a dime.”

But other council members said the city has considered the potential risks and needs to take advantage of the opportunity to bring soccer here. Stark said that while the proposal does have risks, those are “greatly outweighed” by the benefits the stadium would bring. As to concerns about parking, Stark said that providing a lot of on-site parking would simply encourage more people to drive to the stadium.

Opponents said the project is moving too quickly and that the impacts on the surrounding community haven’t been fully explored.

“I-94 and Snelling are already very congested, and I don’t know why we’d want to put any more congestion there,” said Hamline-Midway resident Claire Press. She also questioned how the neighborhood, which has years of street and light rail construction, would get through another two years of stadium construction.

160225_Midway Presentation overview niteBut supporters cited the spinoff economic development potential, jobs creation, the possibility of youth soccer stadium use and the convenience of having soccer games in the community as benefits. “We have the opportunity here to really transform the Midway,” said Midway Chamber Board Chairman Jeff Fenske. He said the stadium would bring new jobs and new businesses, and revitalize the area.

The Mar. 2 council vote sealed the lease and financing agreements, as well as the development and stadium use pacts. The lease between the city and Metropolitan Council for the bus barn property is for 52 years. The club will pay the city, and then the city will pay the council $556,623.96 per year.

Minnesota FC will also pay to maintain areas such as sidewalks and green space. It won’t pay city right-of-way maintenance assessments.

Superblock site planThe city will build infrastructure including streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, green space, and utilities. Of these costs, storm sewers are the biggest piece at $3.07 million. Public green space would cost $2 million. These items will be built to city standard design. Wider sidewalks as proposed would have to be covered by Minnesota FC, and on shopping center land by RK Midway.

The city will cover about $16.9 million of its $18.4 million commitment with revenue from $285,000 from the parking fund and four different tax increment financing (TIF) districts. The TIF contributions include about $7.1 million from the pending sale of the Penfield mixed-use building downtown.

The remaining $1.5 million is to be covered by state and federal grants the city is seeking. The agreements contain many other details, on everything from allowing Minnesota United FC to rename the Snelling light rail station to not allowing stadium use by gun shops, vendors of adult-only materials, pawn shops or “any so-called head shop.” There is a condition that ethnic food vendors be in the mix of stadium vendors after it opens. Another condition calls for outreach to youth sports programs but doesn’t contain specifics. There is also language about meeting affordable ticket goals. But details were left blank.

On Mar. 23, Noecker, Bostrom and Price attempted to block any future Midway Center TIF district. Noecker pointed out that there have already been significant investments in light rail and bus transit, and that the stadium developers have already asked for property tax and sale tax exemptions.

Noecker said sending the message now that TIF isn’t available would “take it off the table early.” She said that future financial scenarios for the project could include a “TIF-shaped gap” that the city would be expected to fill. And, she pointed out, that if the stadium is supposed to catalyze redevelopment as its backers contend, TIF may not be needed.

But other council members said the option to use TIF for shopping center redevelopment should be preserved. Thao was visibly angry about the idea of taking TIF away, citing the rate of poverty in his ward and the need for redevelopment. The shopping center is in his district. “At the heart of the matter, you taking away a tool for development from a community that needs it the most,” Thao said.

“You’re not doing this for the people,” Thao said to Noecker. “You’re doing this for yourself.”

The motion to block a future TIF failed, 3-4

RK Midway, the owner of the center, hasn’t applied for TIF.

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International Institute 16 slider

International Women’s Day hosts 2nd Annual Afternoon Tea

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

Local woman, Olga Zoltai, recognized for life-long achievement and contributions to helping immigrants flourish

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

International Women’s Day was celebrated in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood on Mar. 13. The International Institute of Minnesota (IIMN) hosted their second annual afternoon tea celebrating the achievements of women worldwide and in Minnesota. The event was sold out.

The global theme this year was parity, or equality, especially as it pertains to social status and income. The World Economic Forum has estimated that at its current pace, parity for women won’t be fully realized until 2133. That’s 117 years, or nearly four generations away.

Close to home, the International Institute of Minnesota (IIMN) is helping women and men achieve self-sufficiency and full participation in the community every day. Located at 1694 Como Ave., staff and volunteers there help refugees, immigrants and political asylees discover not only a new home—but a new future.

Jane Garner-Pringle, admissions and client services manager for the Nursing Assistant Program, explained, “We offer several career pathways at IIMN. The Nursing Assistant Program is just one of them. A tuition-free course of either eight or 11 weeks duration, it can be a final destination or a springboard to further advancement in a medical career for new Americans.”

“In addition to technical training,” Garner-Pringle said, “students receive English language classes, coaching around American workplace culture, community resources, and if needed, mental health support.”

The Nursing Assistant Program is open to anyone, but, according to Garner-Pringle, “We serve many more women than men.”

A graduate of the program, Samerawit Gebremariyam, was a featured speaker at the event. A native of Ethiopia, she in now working toward completion of her LPN degree. While juggling work and school responsibilities, she also cares for her family which includes three children ranging from 13 months through college age.

“When I started in the Nursing Assistant Program,” Gebremariyam said, “all of us were from different countries and different cultures, but we understood each other. I would not have gotten the education that I have without the support of the other students, the staff and the volunteers at IIMN.”

Hamline-Midway resident Olga Zoltai, creator of the Nursing Assistant Program and many other IIMN initiatives, was the guest of honor at the International Women’s Day Tea. Zoltai worked at the IIMN from 1971 until 1993. Upon her retirement, the Minneapolis Star Tribune dubbed her the local “Patron Saint of Immigrants” in a front page tribute to her career.

International Institute 16Photo left: Olga Zoltai (center) greeted well-wishers at the International Institute’s annual tea celebrating the accomplishments of women. She received the first-ever Olga Zoltai award, which will be given out each year. The award honored Zoltai’s extraordinary contributions to helping new Americans flourish. Samerawit Gebremariyam, a featured program speaker, is pictured at right. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The IIMN has created an award to be given each year at this event, called the Olga Zoltai Award. Its purpose is to acknowledge outstanding service within the community to new Americans. It was fitting that they decided to give this first year’s award to Zoltai herself, in honor of her extraordinary contributions to helping new Americans flourish.

Born in Sopron, Hungary, Zoltai learned the struggles of being a refugee early-on. In 1944, Hungary was invaded by advancing Russian troops at the close of WW II. With bombs falling from the sky, Zoltai, then 14 years of age, and her family fled on foot to safety in Austria.

The family was eventually able to emigrate to North America. They were accepted in Alberta, Canada, but had to sign an indentured service contract for two years. “My two brothers, mother, father and I hoed sugar beets from sun-up until sun-down every day to repay the Canadian government for our resettlement fees, but we were grateful,” Zoltai said.

Olga (then Wagner) married a fellow Hungarian, Tibor Zoltai, and relocated to Boston, where her husband pursued his Ph.D. in mineralogy. When he was offered a position at the University of Minnesota some years later, they moved to Roseville.

Zoltai began her 22-year career at IIMN following the birth of their third child. She started as a social worker, and eventually became Director of Refugee Services and Resettlement.

Sam Myers, an immigration lawyer and a former colleague of Zoltai’s, said, “She was tireless in her advocacy and innovation on behalf of new Americans: a sweet bulldozer of a human being.”

As already mentioned, Zoltai created the Nursing Assistant Program in 1991. The program has graduated more than 3,000 students who earn a sustainable, living wage.

Zoltai was the first to advocate hiring bilingual case managers at the IIMN, something which is now considered essential practice throughout the state and beyond.

In partnership with Myers, she created the immigration law clinic between William Mitchell College of Law and the IIMN, which ran for several years. Because of her pioneering efforts, Zoltai received the “Immigrants of Distinction Award” from the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association in 2012.

Of Zoltai’s many legacies, Myers lingered over one he affectionately called, “The Olga Case.” He explained that “the situations of immigrants and refugees are often heart wrenching and difficult to solve. Olga became known for tackling the toughest cases. She would look for, and find, loopholes in the law, and convince government officials to bend the rules when humanitarian needs were at stake. She would always argue politely, and invariably she would win. To this day, when we hear a nearly impossible story at the legal clinic, we refer to it as an ‘Olga Case.’”

To learn more about the broad spectrum of services provided by the International Institute of Minnesota, go to www.iimn.org. To donate to the ongoing work of International Women’s Day, make a “Pledge for Parity” at www.internationalwomensday.com.

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Marit Speaking at St Paul Caucus

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense finds neighborhood voices

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

Local group part of national campaign for common sense gun safety

By JAN WILLMS

Moms Demand Action 001Hamline-Midway resident Anne McFaul Reid (photo right by Jan Willms) had an important conversation with a friend a little over a year ago. The conversation was about gun violence. That friend had lived in Norway and said that gun safety there had never been on her mind. But she realized when she moved back to the United States, she was worrying about gun safety all the time.

After that conversation, Reid, who lives about three blocks away from University Ave., was standing in her house one day with the windows open. She heard a gunshot.

“At the time, I had a 14-year-old boy who has a skateboard and skateboards around the neighborhood,” Reid said. “My hair stood on end, and I decided to get involved with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. You don’t know who has that gun and who’s shooting it off, and we’re about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. It’s rather simple.”

Moms Demand Action was started by Shannon Watts after the mass shooting of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, in December 2012. “She grew that organization so big that now we have a chapter in every state,” Reid noted.

Along with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Everytown Survivor Network, Moms Demand Action is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country with more than three million supporters and more than 100,000 donors.

Reid said she attended meetings where participants made cards for families who had lost someone to gun violence. “That was a very moving time,” she recalled. “We just gathered and made beautiful things and shared love.”

She said there is also a campaign about children’s safety around guns. “Common sense things, like making sure your guns are locked up. There are people trained who go to communities and have these parties, and all the moms in the neighborhood come and just open up the conversation about it. People realize ‘Oh, yeah, I really do need to check. My husband has a gun. I need to make sure it’s safely locked somewhere.’ It’s amazing how when it’s not in your awareness, you just don’t think about some of these things.”

Reid said she does not have the answer as to why the United States has so many gun-related deaths compared to other countries, other than accessibility. “You want a gun; you can so easily get one. I’m not an expert at knowing what’s happening in other countries, but knowing what my friend said, you just couldn’t have one unless it was for hunting or things of that nature.”

Reid made it clear that Moms Demand Action is an advocate for the second amendment. “We have no plans of taking away anybody’s gun,” she affirmed. “It’s just really about gun safety and making sure guns don’t get in the hands of dangerous people. That’s the bottom line, and by going at it from a legislative point of view, it’s similar to the drinking age.”

St Paul Moms Demand Action“We know that teenagers still are going to drink alcohol, but we as adults know it’s dangerous for them,’ she continued. “It causes a number of car accidents, so why not make it a little harder to get it by raising the drinking age, which we did, and it helps. So we go at it with that same philosophy.”

Photo left: Moms Demand Action members gather in St. Paul. The members of the group are not opposed to owning guns, but focus instead on what they feel is common sense gun safety. (Photo submitted)

Reid said she knows that people are still going to get guns, but why not make it a little more difficult by closing those three main loopholes: the gun show loophole, buying guns online and buying guns through private sales.

“That is the basic premise Moms Demand Action is going on, in hopes that we are not creating more of a divide but creating more of a community, about keeping us all safe,” she said.

In line with this mission, in March, the Minnesota Chapter of Moms Demand Action joined law enforcement, faith leaders, county attorneys and some gun owners in applauding the introduction of new gun safety legislation. The bill, introduced by Minnesota Sen. Ron Latz and Rep. Dan Schoen, would require background checks on all gun sales—including online sales and sales at gun shows—closing existing loopholes in Minnesota law that make it easy for felons, domestic abusers, and people suffering from dangerous mental illnesses to get guns.

Marit Speaking at St Paul CaucusPhoto left: Moms Demand Action member speaks at recent political caucus. (Photo submitted)

The legislation faces an uphill battle, however, with Republican legislators stating they would refuse to hear it in the public safety committee or see it enacted into law. Reid said the organization has not received a lot of pushback for its efforts. “Many people are in full support of this,” she said. Reid said statistics showed that 82% of Minnesotans support background checks on all gun sales. “That’s a real clear majority,” she said, “so I think it’s more about getting our representatives to hear us so it’ll get done.”

Reid added that on Lobby Day, Apr. 28, she plans to go to the Capitol. “I’m going to wear my Moms Demand Action t-shirt and stand up for gun safety,” she noted. “This is just about keeping our families safe in our communities.”

Reid said she believes gun safety will be a factor in this year’s presidential election. “With our bigger voices, we can let our candidates know we are serious, and we want this done,” she said. “It’s not a real hard thing to do.”

Reid explained that Moms Demand Action is open to fathers as well as moms, and to everyone who has an interest in promoting gun safety. She said the most challenging part, for her, is to continue with the momentum. “It’s real easy to go on with your daily life and just not check your emails and not make calls to legislators. You just have to keep taking little steps; they don’t have to be giant steps,” she said.

Reid said that 88 people every day are killed by gun violence. She is aware of the refrain that guns don’t kill people; people do. “Let’s just check our people then, before we give them a gun.”

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Twin Cities R!SE settling into Midway location

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

The Spruce Tree Center at Snelling and University avenues has a new tenant: the St. Paul branch of Twin Cities R!SE (TCR). The 22-year-old organization works with the hardest to employ segment of the population, including those who are homeless or recently incarcerated. TCR provides education, training, and support to make finding, and keeping, jobs a reality for its graduates.

R!SE 02Founder and Board Chair Steve Rothschild once said, “This is an organization with the heart of a non-profit, and the head of a business.” Rothschild, a top executive who retired at 46 from General Mills, dreamed of heading up his own business when he left the corporate world. Always deeply involved in community issues, Rothschild’s retirement dream turned to social entrepreneurship when he founded TCR in 1994.

Photo right: Keith Simons, Empowerment Institute Director, and Tina Rockett, Work Skills Coach, in the St. Paul Twin Cities R!SE offices. The non-profit has two sites: this one in the Midway area and the other in North Minneapolis.

Building careers
TCR is an anti-poverty job training program. Its mission is to transform lives through meaningful employment. Graduates have been employed by companies as diverse as American Express, Best Buy Regions Hospital, and Valspar Paints.

To be accepted into TCR, participants must be able to work legally in the US; have earned income that did not exceed $25,000 in the past 12 months; demonstrate English fluency and basic literacy; have a high school diploma or GED; and have no criminal sexual conduct or arson charges on their record.

Training is offered free of charge in a wide range of work skills areas. One-on-one coaching helps students stay on track, and can continue even after employment begins. Classes on resume and cover letter writing, job searching and interviewing are also available.

In addition to working with individuals, TCR also contracts with businesses to help them develop a skilled labor pool. In one such example, the Metro Transit Company acknowledged that 55% of their employees were 55+, white and male—and starting to retire in record numbers (the “Silver-Tsunami “ phenomenon).

MTC partnered with TCR to create the Metro Transit Technician Training Program; this one-year program prepares candidates for the two-year Associate’s degree for truck mechanics at North Hennepin Community College, leading to a career as a bus mechanic with MTC.

This partnership benefits both TCR participants and the MTC. As of now, more than 30 mechanic positions go unfilled each year at MTC due to lack of qualified candidates. After completing the technician training program, there is a skilled, diverse labor pool ready to meet employer needs. It’s a win-win situation.

Empowering lives
Keith Simons is the director of TCR’s Empowerment Institute. He explained, “You’ve heard of being at the bottom rung of the career ladder? For many of our clients, TCR is the ‘on-ramp’ for getting to that bottom rung. It’s a place to start.“

R!SE 01Photo left: Students in one of Rockett’s work skills courses improve their computer skills.

Personal empowerment training is what sets TCR apart from other job training programs. Simons said, “In our culture, we’re constantly bombarded by messages, and most of them are messages of failure. “

One program graduate named Angel said, “I was looking for work, and couldn’t find anything. I was feeling helpless and hopeless. When I got to TCR, I gravitated toward the Personal Empowerment Training. The more positive thoughts I believed about myself, the more things started changing for me.” Shortly after enrolling in works skills and empowerment training at TCR, Angel got a full-time job with benefits in a call center.

“The things I learned at TCR made me a stronger, more employable person,” Angel said.
The personal empowerment training teaches students how to work with their inner selves. According to Simons, four “building block” areas are addressed: self-awareness, self-control, awareness of others (developing empathy and compassion), and relationship management. The staff at TCR believe that while work skills development may help land a job, it’s the personal empowerment training that helps graduates keep a job.

Ending poverty
A TCR participant isn’t considered a graduate until they’ve been on the job successfully for at least 12 months. Program statistics indicate that 84% of participants did just that in 2015. By comparison, the national average is 39% for participants in similar programs.
“Our graduates earn an average of $27,000 annually, not including benefits,” Simons said. “That’s a big step up and out of poverty, and remember these are folks who are considered the most difficult to employ.”

For information about volunteer opportunities, including classroom assisting or hosting an intern in your workplace, contact Chelsea at 612-279-5828. For information about the Empowerment Institute, contact Keith Simons at 612-279-5831. TCR’s Empowerment Institute is offering a new empowerment course for leaders—designed for executives, management and open to the public.

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facebook-logo-vector-art-clipart

The 21st century version of ‘over the fence’: Facebook

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

Hamline Midway Facebook page deals with everything from dog poop to the stadium to racial insensitivities

By MARIA HERD

The purpose of Facebook is to “connect with friends, family and other people that you know,” but the members of the Hamline Midway Facebook Group also use the social media platform to communicate with a lot of people that they don’t know—Facebook users all throughout Saint Paul’s Hamline Midway neighborhood.

facebook-like-button-big-free-images-at-vector-clipAs of press time, the group has nearly 4,500 members. That’s significant considering Hamline Midway’s population at the 2013 census was 9,600 people above the age of 18–meaning nearly half of the adults in the neighborhood are members of the page. Group administrator Chris Jones estimates that the page grows by about a 1,000 members a year.

“This group does wonders to keep neighborhood communication open and information flowing. As group members make connections, share resources, and discuss issues that impact our lives, many of us have found this group to be a vital part of our community-making,” reads the group’s purposes, rules, and guidelines.

Posts range from reports of suspicious activity, public service announcements, lost dogs, events, job postings, business recommendations, funny pictures, and jokes, to neighbors offering to lend a helping hand with shoveling snow or giving away food. Group administrator Christine Brinkman estimates that on an active day, there can be up to 10 posts every hour.

Laura Whitley, another group administrator, says the page is a reflection of Midway’s incredibly diverse neighborhood, as well as a sense of community and the connections between people.

Reoccurring conversations
According to the administrators, the same type of neighborhood debates continually come up at the same time every year, and generally they are the same people in the arguments.
One that come up every spring is, wait for it…dog poop.

“There is this big debate over how to get rid of dog poop,” said Brinkman. “Is it okay to throw it in someone’s garbage can? Or a public trash can? Or do you need to take it home?”

Apparently the dog poop debates became so heated, that some neighbors put stickers on their trash cans saying “No dog poop,” said Whitley. In response, other neighbors made dog-poop friendly stickers for their trash cans.

The plans for the new Midway stadium have repeatedly been debated on the page for awhile too; neighbors were even debating what to do with the space before the stadium had been proposed.

The newest group administrator, Dan Buck, has been watching these conversations over time.

“For years people have complained about the Midway Center: ‘It’s not pedestrian or bicycle friendly.’ ‘It’s rundown.’ ‘It’s dumpy.’ ‘I wish something new could happen.’ ‘Why isn’t something happening in that big lot?’” he recalled from the posts.

Buck said that before the stadium was proposed, there were comments all over the group from people wanting to fill the space with a development that was bicycle, pedestrian and traffic friendly.

“A lot of things that were talked about on the neighborhood page are in that [stadium] plan. Is that by accident or on purpose? I don’t know,” Buck said.

Buck also noted that it appears to be just a handful of people that are against the stadium and are very vocal about it on the page.

facebook-logo-vector-art-clipartBrinkman also remembers heated discussions on the page regarding the stadium. She believes that some of those conversations are a good example of the economic diversity of the neighborhood.

All the admins agree that the page has helped prevent additional crime in the neighborhood because it provides a platform for people to communicate suspicious activity.

For example, someone will post that they have seen the same person drive around the block four times, and it gets called in for appearing suspicious.

“Once or twice they have caught someone with a history,” said Jones.

Branching out
The admins recalled several instances in which after many comments and posts regarding a common interest or concern, members have branched out and created their own more neighborhood specific Facebook groups or pages.

One example is the “Hamline Park Neighbors” page. According to Brinkman, many people were voicing their concerns about issues at the Hamline Park like rough activity among unsupervised youth and drug dealing that appeared to be going on. These neighbors organized a new page, which his now used to organize plantings, park cleanups, events and extend invitations to neighbors to join them for a relaxing evening at the park.
“I truly believe that started because the community concerns were made known on the page, and from there people stepped up to take action,” said Brinkman.

The admins cited more pages that have branched off the Hamline Midway Facebook Group including a canine page, a barter page, a toddler group, a walking group, a knitting group, the Hamline Midway Craft Group and more.

“You can’t give the page credit for starting them all, but for connecting people,” explained Whitley.

One of the more heart-warming pages that has branched off is called the Hamline Midway Angels.

In the past, members falling on hard times have posted in the Hamline Midway group reaching out to their neighbors for help.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have the ability to make ends meet. They have to choose between paying bills and Christmas presents,” said Jones.

Many neighbors have not hesitated to respond to those posts and have provided meals and more for others.

However, it became apparent that some people were embarrassed to ask for help, so an anonymous “HM Angels” page was born. The page regularly organizes donations and is holding a “Fun Find May Day” egg hunt event for children in the neighborhood next month.

The group administrators are anonymous, giving off the angel persona.

“Whether it is a need for car maintenance to get to a job, help with purchasing a uniform for work until a first paycheck comes through, or to need a couple meals to get someone through until their next paycheck, the HM Angels will look to connect neighbors to each other for help, as well as existing services or resources in the neighborhood throughout the year,” reported the Hamline Midway Coalition.

“We’re not for sale”
The admins pointed out more than once that as volunteers with their own busy lives, monitoring the page constantly can be a challenge, even among four people.

However, they have heard of other Facebook neighborhood groups that monitor their posts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and have zero negativity.

Wondering how that was possible, their question was recently answered when a realtor contacted them trying to purchase the Hamline Midway Facebook Group.

“Realtors hate the page because it’s real life,” said Jones. The dog poop and crime posts make the area look less desirable, and in effort to sell more houses, realtors have begun to pay off the admins and pay new admins to monitor neighborhood pages.

But the Hamline Midway Facebook Group admins were unanimously against selling.

“They want to sanitize the page, whereas we want it to be a reflection of a real community,” said Whitley.

“I’m in favor of complete transparency,” added Jones.

Censoring the negativity
That’s not to say that the admins never remove posts, comments or people from the group.

The group has user guidelines and rules that state hate speech, harassment or bashing toward any one group or person is not allowed.

However, when thousands of people from different cultures and backgrounds come together in an online forum, what is considered respectful and appropriate behavior tends to be subjective, according to the admins.

“They don’t know they’re violating them [the rules] because how they speak at their dinner table consists of just their family and people who have the same thoughts as they have, and they do not realize this a huge dinner table now,” said Jones.

One of the most debated guidelines is the definition of “bashing” said Brinkman.

“It’s not okay to bash an individual or business, but then there are people who live in a world of ambiguity and want to know the difference between bashing and critiquing,” she said.

When it does come down to removing a post or comment, the admins get hit by two groups of people with different views on how the page should be run.

“We walk this fine line,” said Whitley. “There are people who are like ‘You’re depriving us of our freedom of speech’ and then there are people that are like ‘Why are they still here? Why are you allowing them to get away with it [negativity]?’”

The admins are frequently accused of censoring posts or comments when they’re not the only ones with the power to do so. The original poster, the original commenter or even Facebook itself can delete posts or comments, according to Jones.

The few times the admins have removed a person from the group, “it’s pretty egregious, or they have been told numerous times, and they’re still not getting it,” said Jones. She also said that in some cases, serious stalking and threats were being made, or in another, the user was trolling the group.

However, most recently the admins have been challenged by posts containing racist remarks that have spun out of control with hundreds of comments.

One post about a black person being searched at a Holiday gas station because “they looked like a suspect” garnered hundreds of comments and hundreds of replies to those comments. Individuals felt that they were being personally attacked, and the comments got so bad, said Jones, that they shut down the page temporarily.

This was an instance when the admins felt it was necessary to meet in person and discuss the Facebook group.

“For us dealing with them [racist remarks] there is a level of stress, and we need to all be clear that we are on the same page,” said Whitley.

“And that we’re all qualified to do,” continued Jones. “That’s kind of what our last meeting was about, recognizing that, and looking for a better way to [deal with the situation] because we’re all white females, and we see through those eyes.

“As far as myself,” she added, “I look through a white person’s eyes and I think I’m doing good, but then I realize that I’m not. And we realized our failure to quickly act on it was not the way we wanted to represent the neighborhood. We kind of dropped the ball on this.”

That’s when the admins decided it was necessary to add another administrator that could better assist with these types of issues.

“We had announced numerous times that we are looking for administrators, but there haven’t been a lot of responses,” said Jones.

Jones then convinced Dan Buck, an active member of the group who has previously called out other neighbors on their racist remarks, to be the fifth admin.

“I’m probably going to be a little more willing to step in when race becomes an issue because now I’ve been given an opportunity to do something,” said Buck. “I also don’t want to try to be speaking for all POC’s [people of color], but I’m not going to sit there and deal with the bullshit of racism.”

Buck has noticed that there are many neighbors on the page who have genuine hearts and want to help address racial issues, and they can check their privilege for a moment to see another person’s point of view. But then there are also people who have a ‘I think you’re feeling oppressed because you want to’ type of attitude, he explained.

“There obviously is still racism, especially in the neighborhood, and a lot of people don’t realize how out front it is there,” said Jones.

Nevertheless, Buck is grateful for the page. “For all the faults of the page, all the weirdness and issues and stuff, I truly am glad it exists,” he said.

As a new admin, he is hoping there is a possibility for some growth on the page.
“I’m not going to dream too big, though,” he said. “We are dealing with people through the Internet, after all.”

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Poet Guitar 1

“Poet Guitar” screens at the International Film Festival

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

Filling ‘down-time’ on the bus leads artist to poetic interpretations in an animated film

By JAN WILLMS
Lisa Rydin Erickson is a multi-tasking mom living in the St. Anthony Park area. Her multi-tasking is reflected in the variety of artwork she creates—paintings, drawings, prints, and animation.

And all of those artistic skills have resulted in a short animation film that will be shown in the 35th annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, running Apr. 7-23 at St. Anthony Main Theater, 115 SE Main in Minneapolis. Other venues are at Metro State, McNally Smith, Rochester Gallery 14, the Cathedral of St. Paul, the Basilica of St. Mary and the Uptown Theater.

Poet Guitar 1Photo left: Drawing of a Hagstrom guitar by Lisa Rydin Erickson. Created on an iPad, artworks such as this make up the animated film she has created. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Erickson’s film was shown Apr. 10 at St. Anthony Main and will screen Apr. 16 at Rochester Gallery 14. Titled “Poet Guitar,” it is described as an experimental short of poetic interpretations of Hagstrom Guitars drawn on an iPad and set to music inspired by the real-time playback of the drawing process.

Erickson, who has combined her artwork with motherhood and employment as a dental hygienist, said she started drawing on an iPad around 2011 and took it with her on her bus ride to and from work.

“It was just a way to have some down time, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon on my way home,” Erickson explained. She said the drawing app on her iPad allowed her to draw on the screen. “It’s an old app, and it’s just like finger-painting,” she said.

A lot of Erickson’s drawings have been placed in various stores, and some of them were at the American Swedish Institute (ASI) in Minneapolis. “The Institute had an exhibition last summer of Hagstrom guitars that are made in Sweden,” she said. “ASI asked me to do some drawings, so I drew 12 different guitars with different kinds of poetic interpretations of Swedish themes, and part of Hagstrom and part of midsummer, things like that. That’s where the animation came from.”

Erickson decided that the only sound she wanted with the animation was Jimi Hendrix-style guitar playing. “My husband builds guitars and plays them, so I told him I really wanted him to play some loud guitar music for the film, and he did.”

“I thought ahead with the staff at ASI, so I just went there and had the images right there. It took me a couple weeks to draw them.”

Poet Guitar 003Erickson said she used a system of researching, looking and pulling images together. “I looked up a lot of things about guitars and Scandinavian history, and I started going off that with the drawing.”

Photo right: Lisa Rydin Erickson looks through her guitar sketches as she reflects about her animated film, “Poet Guitar.” (Photo by Jan Willms)

In her research, she discovered that the Hagstrom family had an accordion factory in Sweden. Karl Erik was sent over to the United States in the 1960s to explore the accordion market.

“He went home and told his father there were no accordions; there were guitars, electric guitars.” Erickson said one of the guitars is named after Karl Erik; another is called Pearloid because this was the material used where the keys are placed on an accordion. “They use that on the fronts of their guitars,” she said. Others are names, like Goya.

Erickson said one guitar was called Corvette, but they could not use that name, so they changed it to Condor. “So one is called Corvette Switch Condor,” she said. “Switch is also the name for a part of a guitar, but they also switched the name.”

One guitar is 12-string, and Erickson said the reference is like the Scandinavian weaving on the guitar.

“With this film, you can watch the drawing being made. It’s like a playback of finger-painting on the iPad. You can watch it being drawn and erased, forward and backward. I just kind of strung them together—a pretty simple kind of idea—and then just added music to it. It is image after image being added together.” she explained.

Erickson’s background is rich with various art forms. She studied painting and printmaking in school.

“During the time of having kids I worked kind of sporadically at their schools and at the Arboretum,” she said. She did a variety of arts and science projects with a group now called Nature-Based Therapy at the University of Minnesota. “At the time it was just horticulture-based therapy; now it’s nature-based. That’s a project I have stayed with for a long time.”

Painting backdrops for a dance school in St. Paul has also been a long-time project for Erickson. She has put together other animation shorts, some in stop-motion working with John Acre of Sloppy Films, Inc.

Erickson has also taught at the Galtier Elementary School, the first school in St. Paul to get iPads. She did a science-technology-English-Math (STEM) project.

“The science teachers had the kids write stories researching endangered animals, the English teacher helped them write the stories, and we did frames per second for the math. We put the iPads on music stands so the little camera would shine down. We painted backdrops and puppets. The kids made all the animations and did the recordings,” explained Erickson.

“I didn’t realize when I first studied art that I would be doing this kind of art now,” Erickson reflected. “I still paint. But the iPad is sort of a portable studio. When I was raising kids, it was either having a studio and having my paints out all the time, which would be great, but I was also working all the time. So the iPad would instantly allow me to do what I want to do, and I’m the boss. The color, composition, design and drawing are all right there. That was a pretty good discovery at a good time.”

The most challenging part of animation for Erickson is the time, or lack of it, because she loves doing it.

“When I do paintings, it’s wonderful but it seems like they go really quickly, which is good,” she said. “When I do prints that seems to be more of the business end of it. And when I do animation, it’s like ‘Well, what do I do with that?’ So I have been able to do projects, and that’s really fun.”

Her next project is creating a notebook of drawings for a dog run that is being built at the Arboretum. “There may be an animation with it,” she said.

Once she had completed Poet Guitar, she came across Film Freeway, in which filmmakers can submit their film online. “I sat down one night and submitted the film to festivals all over the world,” she said. She said she didn’t realize that would open up the door to weekly rejections. But then one Friday she found that her film had been accepted by MSPIFF. “I opened it up, and I was accepted, and it was to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Festival. I was excited. That was the best.”

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Harrigan Cover Front Actual

Local author releases timely novel ‘Crosshairs on Castro’

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

John J. Harrigan hopes historical thriller helps readers understand decades of mistrust between Cuba and U.S.

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
As Cuba opens back up to Americans, a local author is hoping to help people understand what happened between the two countries five decades ago.

Harrigan Cover Front Actual“With President Obama’s initiative in opening up to Cuba, this a timely book that I hope everyone will read,” remarked author John J. Harrigan.

His recently published historical thriller, “Crosshairs on Castro,” weaves an assassination plot around the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The book revolves around Army lieutenant Charlie Parnell, who is blackmailed into the scheme by CIA rogue agents. Masquerading as an Irish journalist, he enters Havana only to meet danger at every step. He must elude his Cuban watcher, the tantalizing Isabel Fernandez, who learns his true identity just as the crisis erupts. While she debates what to do, Castro prepares for invasion, throwing Havana into chaos and cutting off Charlie’s escape route. He and Isabel must scramble for their lives.

The book is available in either paperback ($12.95) or Kindle ($4.50) on Amazon.com. Locally, it can be purchased at the Underground Music Cafe, 1759 Hamline Ave.

“In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis came within an eyelash of destroying the bulk of Western Civilization in a cascade of nuclear blasts,” observed Harrigan. “Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, the CIA devoted enormous energy trying to assassinate Fidel Castro. What I did was create a fictional assassination story and weave it around the real-life historical drama of the Missile Crisis. Nobody has ever done this before.”

Harrigan added that although these events of 1962 may have happened long ago, they did a lot to shape the long half-century of distrust between the two societies.

“We can’t remove that distrust unless we understand why it happened. ‘Crosshairs on Castro’ uses historical fiction to address that issue,” stated Harrigan.

Addicted to historical fiction
This is Harrigan’s third historical novel. “I’m addicted to historical fiction,” admitted the Falcon Heights resident.

Harrigan earned a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. He spent 30 years at Hamline University where he taught political science, chaired the department, served as assistant dean of Liberal Arts, and authored several textbooks.

“When the chance for early retirement appeared, I grabbed it to learn the craft of writing historical thrillers,” said Harrigan.

His debut thriller, “Patron Saint of Desperate Situations,” was praised as “excellent” by the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2007. “The Patron Saint of Desperate Situations” is built around the plane crash that killed iconic U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone.

His second novel, “The Jeeptown Sock Hop” is an exploration of home life during the Korean War of the early 1950s, seen from the eyes of a white boy who falls for a black girl in a town deeply split by racial and class divisions.

“One thread links these stories,” remarked Harrigan. “I want to help people feel what it was like to live through these critical moments. Histories can tell us what happened in the past, but only novels and movies can get us to feel what it was like.”

Experience enhances novels
Biopic HARRIGAN-used this oneEarlier in his career, Harrigan spent three years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as a U.S. Foreign Service cultural affairs officer. “I loved Brazil and would go back in a heartbeat if I had a good reason to go,” said Harrigan. He still speaks Portuguese fluently, has close Brazilian friends, reads the literature, and listens to the music. Harrigan also taught courses on Brazilian movies for Hamline’s senior OLLI program.

Photo left: John Harrigan (Photo submitted)

The heroine of his first novel is a Brazilian immigrant single mom living in Minnesota who is devastated by Wellstone’s death. A somewhat minor character in his second novel “Jeeptown Sock Hop” is a nun from Cape Verde with a Portuguese accent who has a large impact on the novel’s 15-year-old protagonist. The heroine of “Crosshairs on Castro” is a young Cuban mother.

“Without my experience in Latin America, I never could have created these characters,” noted Harrigan.

Advice for aspiring novelists
Harrigan advises aspiring novelists to keep writing and submitting their pieces to appropriate venues.

But most of all, he encourages them to seek feedback.

“I’ve found an invaluable source of critiques in the Minneapolis Writers’ Guild,” said Harrigan. “Local authors can submit pieces to us. If we have openings, and the work holdssome promise, we will critique it.”

In exchange, the authors also have to critique other peoples’ writings.

“It’s amazing how much one can learn in the process of critiquing somebody else,” remarked Harrigan. “Having a first-rate group like this examine your work is infinitely more useful than paying several hundred dollars to some ‘expert’ to review it.”

He recommends using the Meetup website as a starting place for finding local critique groups.

“Whether it’s an epic poem or an article on a local sport’s team, you simply have to strive to write the most compelling piece that you can,” said Harrigan.

He is polishing off his next book, “Spiderwoman,” a thriller-caper built around a woman’s reaction to her soldier son’s death in the Iraqi War.

For more, browse www.harriganbooks.com or http://www.cubahopes.blogspot.com.

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apple-ipod

Lyngblomsten kicks off iPod Project for Music & Memory

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

apple-ipodOn May 1, Lyngblomsten, 1415 Almond Ave., will launch the iPod Project for Music & Memory. This month-long donation drive has a goal of collecting enough iPods for each of Lyngblomsten’s 237 Care Center residents. With the help of many individuals, Lyngblomsten will be able to bring the healing power of personalized music on iPods to all of its residents to help them feel connected to their memories, their lives, and each other.

That’s good news according to Andrea Lewandoski, Director of Arts and Lifelong Learning and co-leader of the program.

“Lyngblomsten is fortunate to have the Music & Memory program,” she said. “Past generations made music an integral part of their lives. It’s important that we as caregivers respond to their needs and desires to continue to have music as a natural part of their daily lives.”

Founded in 2010, Music & Memory is a nonprofit organization that helps enhance the lives of older adults in care facilities through the use of personalized music on iPods. Lyngblomsten staff completed training in Oct. 2015 to become a Music & Memory Certified Care Facility.

The program is simple. Staff learns what residents’ favorite songs and styles of music are by asking the residents and their family members. Lyngblomsten volunteers load the personalized playlists onto iPods, and residents receive an iPod customized with their favorite music.

While the program may be simple, its benefits are powerful. In addition to being an enjoyable and fulfilling activity, listening to music has been shown to:
• Awaken memories from the past, leading to a more engaged life
• Reduce anxiety and agitation
• Lessen reliance on certain medications
• Enhance socialization

While originally designed for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the program has been successfully used with older adults suffering from chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

In addition to enhancing memories, two of the greatest benefits of listening to personalized playlists are that it enables a sense of individuality and is a valued and fulfilling activity for residents.

How you can help
Contribute to the May iPod Donation Drive.

Here are three ways you can help bring the healing power of music to older adults during Lyngblomsten’s month-long iPod donation drive in May.
1. Donate a gently used or new iPod.
2. Donate an iTunes gift card.
3. Designate a monetary gift to Music & Memory/Artful Living at www.lyngblomsten.org/donate.

There will be collection boxes on the Lyngblomsten campus to drop off in-kind and cash donations.

Kick-off event
Come to Lyngblomsten on Tue., May 10, to learn more about the Music & Memory program and kick off the Lyngblomsten iPod Project with a special showing of the award-winning documentary “Alive Inside,” a joyous 70-minute cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls. The film is showing at 6:30pm at Lyngblomsten, 1415 Almond Ave., and is open to the community. Allow 90 minutes for the film and discussion. Admission is free. Donations of iPods and iTunes gift cards are greatly appreciated.

Have questions about the Music & Memory program at Lyngblomsten? Contact Andrea Lewandoski, Director of Lifelong Learning & the Arts, at 651-632-5318 or alewandoski@lyngblomsten.org, or visit www.lyngblomsten.org/musicandmemory.

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CleaningUpPark

Earth Day: a time for celebration and resolution

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

By TRUDY DUNHAM, Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway

April is a time to celebrate our planet. The greening lawns and sun warming our faces herald Earth Day on Apr. 22. Celebrated in nearly 200 countries, Earth Day is touted as one of the largest secular celebrations in the world.

And like New Year, it is a time to step back and take global stock of where we are. How are we doing on those resolutions to adopt Earth-friendly behaviors? Are we good role models?

CleaningUpParkPhoto left: Hamline Midway residents clean up Hamline Park as a celebration of Earth Day. (Photo submitted)

The world is adopting earth-friendly practices. The United Nations agreement negotiated at the COP21 meeting in Paris last December opens for signatures on Earth Day. This agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions only goes into force when at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of the emissions have formally adopted it. Both the United States and China, responsible for 40% of the world greenhouse gas emissions, have indicated that they will sign the agreement on Earth Day. Another 120 countries will also sign on Earth Day. These Earth Day actions start building the momentum for the formal agreement adoption process.

Minnesota is a good role model. Xcel Energy announced last fall that it would cut carbon emissions 60% by 2030 by reducing its dependence on coal-fired plants and increasing its use of renewable energy sources. Some big MN businesses (including 3M, Best Buy, Cargill, General Mills and Target) have felt the impact of climate change on their supply routes, production, and sales, and are taking adaptive action. They are vocal in their support for more aggressive governmental action. Minnesota has made protecting water quality and quantity, and the tradeoffs it entails, a high-profile issue.

St. Paul is actively pursuing its status as a GreenStep City, and its Forestry Department is planting boulevard trees in our neighborhood. Hamline University has established a Director of Sustainability, Hamline Church formed a “Green Team,” and Hamline Midway Coalition is reorganizing its citizen input to strengthen our voice on environmental issues.

What can I do?
Which brings us to individual citizens. What are our goals, what do we need to do to keep the momentum building?

Many of us will take the Earth Footprint Calculator (http://www.earthday.org/take-action/footprint-calculator/). How many planets would it take if everyone lived as you do? ‘More planets than we have!’ is the usual answer. The behaviors at the forefront of change are often around our diet, transportation, and housing.

But given the current discussion about trash hauling in St. Paul (https://www.stpaul.gov/residents/live-saint-paul/utilities/organized-trash-collection), I decided to adopt trash reduction behavior as my individual goal for 2016.

It is said that if you want to understand a society, don’t look at its museums, but at its trash dump. We can’t haul our trash away—there is no “away.” Everything in our trash is a resource from our finite planet that we have wasted, which we might have put to better use.

So how can I reduce my trash? A quick look in my waste can says to start with less packaging. For whatever reason, the food and objects we purchase come elaborately wrapped in plastic, paper and cardboard. While there are debates about which covering is more environmentally friendly, the best option is as little packaging as possible. Carrying reusable containers for food is a strategy I’ll adopt:
• A reusable water bottle and coffee cup to decrease use of bottled water and disposable cups
• A “refrigerator dish” to avoid the to-go container when eating out
• Buying in bulk when feasible and using my reusable containers to carry it home
• A reusable bag or basket to hold all purchases

Composting is on my list. Ramsey County offers a how-to kit and free compostable bags (https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/recycling-waste/organic-waste). Just drop it off at the Recycling site on Pierce Butler. And give more thought to what I purchase to ensure it is a durable or reusable product, or will be consumed before its shelf life expires.

At the core of my resolution is the consistency of my behavior—I do all the things I listed some or most of the time. Just not always. If I want to reach the zero waste standard (at least 90 percent of garbage is recycled, composted or reused), I can’t be inconsistent.

But my actions aren’t enough in 2016. I will need to speak out—to policy makers and friends. I will need to write letters and use social media to advocate for less packaging and more recyclable packaging, to talk trash reduction and earth-friendly actions.

Make your personal resolution to be a good steward of our earth. Use the power you have as neighbors, family, citizens and caregivers of this planet to speak up for it, to create a new normal that recognizes there is only one Earth. We can’t afford to waste it or its resources. I think this may be more important than any other Earth Day resolution.

The Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

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