Archive | December, 2016


ASL & Coffee is gathering spot for the deaf community and friends

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
asl-and-coffee-16In the basement of the historic Charles Thompson Hall at 1824 Marshall Ave. (photo right), a coffee shop staffed by volunteers is serving up coffee and conversation on Fridays from 10am–3pm. The three-story brick building anchors the SW corner of the Fairview and Marshall avenues intersection, with an off-street parking lot and doorway leading to the coffee shop in the rear.

Once inside, it feels like many coffee shops—but with one notable difference. The patrons are all speaking in American Sign Language (ASL).

The board of directors of the Thompson Hall Deaf Club—housed in the same building—originally thought the coffee shop would be open Monday through Friday, but, according to Richard Taylor, ASL & Coffee coordinator, it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

“Our original purpose,” Taylor said, “was to make a space where ASL students from across the Twin Cities could come and practice their signing with members of the deaf community. And, of course, we wanted to have a place for the deaf community to gather mid-day.”

“Since we opened last July,” Taylor continued, we’ve realized there are a few things working against us. For starters, our building is zoned in a non-commercial district. That means we can’t have any traditional signage outside the building or on the street. We want people to know that we’re here and that anyone can stop by.”

The Thompson Hall Deaf Club is one of the oldest continuously operating deaf clubs in the country.
The club celebrated its centennial last month, with four days of festivities. Representatives from Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts college for the deaf (located in Washington DC), traveled here for the event; St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman also attended.

asl-and-coffee-03Photo left: ASL & Coffee guests relaxed on a Friday morning at the coffee shop.

The building was constructed in 1916 with funds donated by Margaret Thompson. She and her husband Charles were both active members of the local deaf community. $45,000 was given for the construction of Thompson Hall, and an additional $45,000 was invested in a trust fund to provide for long-term maintenance of the building. Thompson Hall was built by the deaf and for the deaf. Its existence has made possible a permanent home for the deaf community in the Twin Cities.

A plaque in the entryway reads: In loving memory of Charles Thompson, who found pleasure in contributing to the happiness of others.

In 2011, the building received a designation as a national historic landmark. Like any 100-year-old building, the upkeep and care required are considerable. In preparation for the anniversary celebration, Hirschfield Paints donated enough supplies to repaint all of the interior spaces.

The club has a full calendar every weekend with activities ranging from game night, quilting, planning meetings for camping and snowmobiling, holiday gatherings, Bible study and more.

As 2016 draws to a close, the future of the ASL & Coffee venture remains uncertain. Coordinator Richard Taylor and the Thompson Hall Deaf Club board of directors plan to give it another six months, to see if word spreads among nearby colleges and community education programs offering ASL classes.

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The history of Ford dealerships on University Avenue

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

Brian McMahon, author of “The Ford Century in Minnesota,” will give a free Illustrated talk on Mon., Dec. 19, at 7:pm at the Lifetrack Building (formerly the Owens Motor Company), 709 University Ave.
By the mid-1920s, there were three Ford dealerships on University Ave. The Avenue already had a cluster of auto-related businesses and had become nationally known as America’s Great Highway.

ford-dealership-sliderPhoto right: Historic photo of Owens Motor Company dealership, 709 University Ave. The building remains, and is now Lifetrack—and where Brian McMahon, author of “The Ford Century in Minnesota,” will give a free Illustrated talk on Mon., Dec. 19, at 7:pm.

McMahon will give an illustrated talk, using the Owens Motor Company, the W. H. Schmelzel Company, and the Muessel Motor Company, as a starting point to explain the evolution of the dealership system.

ford-6-3bHenry Ford not only changed the way cars were made; he changed the way they were sold. Ford realized early on that mass production could not work without mass consumption—a huge number of buyers had to purchase the cars streaming off the assembly line. To convince people to give up their horse and buy a Model T, Ford created the modern distribution system with dealerships in virtually every town with a population over 2,000. He also established a network of over 70,000 authorized service agents. Because cars were expensive to purchase, buyers needed reassurance that their complex machines could be properly maintained and serviced, particularly at a time of unpaved roads.

ford-img070Other dealerships later located on the Avenue, including Midway Ford and Saxon Ford. These are still in business but have since relocated. Ford’s trial and error methods could be hard on those who invested in their automobile franchise, and some were driven out of business by his harsh policies.

One causality, M.J. Osborn, lost his dealership at 117 University and invested in another business which had a more successful outcome—Ecolab.

ford-6-3aThis lecture will explore the business practices and the colorful personalities of those who sold, serviced and maintained Ford cars and trucks, Lincoln automobiles, and Fordson tractors.

McMahon, a trained architect, will also explain how the dealership buildings evolved as a new building type for the new sales and services operations. Large storefront windows were featured to showcase new cars, and the dealers utilized several other marketing gimmicks including sponsoring marching bands, novelty vehicles, and sports’ teams.

ford-img746McMahon, who was previously the Executive Director of University UNITED, will have books on hand for sale. For information call 651-399-7221.

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TakeAction Minnesota new member meeting overflowed

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Executive director Dan McGrath reached out to interested supporters of TakeAction Minnesota the day after the election, inviting them to roll up their progressive sleeves and get involved.

take-action-mn-02Two weeks later, on Nov. 21, more than 150 people (photo left) showed up at the organization’s Hamline-Midway headquarters. They came in response to McGrath’s call to action, charged up and hoping to find a place in the recently changed political landscape. The meeting had to be moved next door to Avalon High School, a larger space that could hold the overflow crowd.

take-action-mn-10Photo right: Prospective new members answered questions that helped them clarify their own reactions to the election.

TakeAction Minnesota is a broad network of people working to realize racial and economic equity across the state. Their initiatives connect people and organizations to each other: turning someone’s individual desire for change—to pass a more progressive policy or law, to improve an institution, or to influence a harmful idea or perception—into public action.

Chris Conry, strategic campaigns director, said, “We were caught off guard by the turnout. We haven’t done an impromptu style of meeting like this before—one that required only two emails and very little planning. “

“The organization’s priorities,” according to Conry, “are fighting for positive change in health care, climate-related issues, criminal justice reform, and economic policies such as minimum wage and paid sick time.”

take-action-mn-07Photo left: Board chair Mai Ching Xiong addressed the crowd.

TakeAction Minnesota offers opportunities to learn greater effectiveness as an individual citizen and as part of a progressive group. “There will be an opportunity shortly to attend a hearing about climate change at the legislature,” Conry said. “We’ll also be sponsoring a training series about the new face of local and national government.”

To learn more about the ongoing work of this organization visit www.takeactionminnesota.org. Their office is located at 705 Raymond Ave., Suite #100, just south of University Ave.

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Como writer, jokester, ‘bearder’ amazed at good fortune

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

Two volumes of Brian Beatty’s poetry being published—‘Coyotes I Couldn’t See’ and ‘Brazil, Indiana’

2016 was a big year for Como poet and performer Brian Beatty. He had two poetry collections accepted for publication, “Coyotes I Couldn’t See” and “Brazil, Indiana.”

beatty“I’m pretty amazed at my good fortune right now,” remarked Beatty (photo right).

“At 46 years old, I was late to get something book-length published. This interest in my work motivates me to keep knocking out poems.”

Natural creative outlet
Beatty was writing poems in high school English classes when he should have been reading Mark Twain or F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Initially I was inspired by the song lyrics of my favorite bands, but I quickly realized, with the help of a great teacher, that song lyrics and poetry weren’t the same thing—mostly because I was no Bob Dylan,” recalled Beatty.

In college, he studied fiction writing because that seemed more practical. “At the time, you could still sell short stories to magazines,” stated Beatty. He sold one to Seventeen magazine during his senior year of undergrad.

His first published poem worth anything was about a homeless man who tucked the money he panhandled into his boot. It appeared in a university literary magazine, across the page from a poem by Charles Bukowski. “I was pretty pleased (and smug) about that at the time,” said Beatty.

In 1994, he earned a master of fine arts degree in fiction writing from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and then quit writing for about a year.

“I’d pushed too hard too soon,” he explained.

He questions university MFA programs, worrying that the university’s ownership of literature has done something to poetry and fiction traditions. “Not enough of writing these days is about what happens outside of academia,” said Beatty.

When he eventually returned to a computer keyboard, it was with ideas for poems instead of short stories. “I’ve stayed at it since then because I’ve never found a creative outlet that feels as natural to me,” said Beatty.

‘Odd, endearing, adored by hipsters and Wobegonians’
Over the last 25 years, Beatty has written for over 20 publications. Among them are Arts Indiana, The Bark, City Pages, Elephant Journal, The Evergreen Review, Glasgow Review of Books (Scotland), Lake Country Journal, Publishers Weekly, The Quarterly, The Rake, The Sycamore Review, The Writer, Urthona (New Zealand) and Yankee Pot Roast.

The bearded jokester has appeared on more than 15 stages, such as the Bedlam Theatre, Brave New Workshop, MPR’s Fitzgerald Theater, 2010 and 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festivals, The Playwrights’ Center, The Ritz Theater, The Soap Factory, Trylon Microcinema, The Turf Club, and the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.

For two years Beatty hosted “You Are Hear,” a monthly literary podcast, for mnartists.org, a joint project of the Walker Art Center and the McKnight Foundation.

Comedian Maria Bamford considers Beatty one of her favorite Minneapolis comics. “Odd, endearing, adored by hipsters and Wobegonians alike,” she said.

Read, steal, and avoid cliches
Beatty grew up in Brazil, Indiana and moved to south Minneapolis in 1999. He wound up in St. Paul’s Como neighborhood in 2015.

He’s a big fan of Lake Como and all that the park offers.

“My favorite thing about the Como neighborhood is how residential it is,” remarked Beatty.

“Neighbors wave across the street and chat in the alley. I love that I don’t see cranes when I look toward the horizon.”

He has started reading at Barbaric Yawp, Chris Title’s monthly reading series at Underground Music Café at Hoyt and Hamline.

Beatty recommends that aspiring poets read as much as they can and steal what they find valuable.

“Read and steal—and be as clear as you can about what you’re trying to communicate without falling into horrible cliché,” stated Beatty, who also writes marketing and advertising copy for business clients.

Comedy and poetry
Beatty’s writing process involves plopping down in his living room chair with his laptop and hoping for the best, usually first thing in the morning after the coffee is started. “When nothing’s working, I crack open a book and read until I stumble upon something that inspires me,” said Beatty.

“I typically start with a single image or phrase and follow that wherever it takes me. Most of the time, I wind up telling tiny stories or jokes in my poems.”

His first poetry collection, “DUCK!” was a 100-page humor collection he self-published in 2009.

Ravenna Press in Washington published a small pamphlet-length collection called, “Earliest Bird Calls.” It includes a couple of poems that wound up in revised versions in the Coyotes collection.

coyotes-cover“Coyotes I Couldn’t See” (photo left of cover), was printed recently by St. Paul-based Red Bird Chapbooks (redbirdchapbooks.com). This limited edition collection includes lyric and narrative poems written and published over a two-year period. The chapbook is loosely arranged to chronicle a year’s sequence of seasons. Included poems originally appeared in print and digital publications in the U.S., Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland, as well as in digital broadsides on the website of the Walker Art Center and in Motionpoems’ 2014 “Arrivals and Departures” public art project at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.

“Brian Beatty’s poems conjure complete lives—houses, yards, people, ghosts, dogs, squirrels and invisible coyotes—out of just a few stanzas,” praised Minnesota musician Charlie Parr. “This collection reads like music, creating worlds that look like everyday life complete with the terrible uncertainty, the delicate and wavering balance, the long, long drop into the bottomless.”

brazil_coverBook tribute to grandmother
Beatty’s second collection, titled “Brazil, Indiana” (cover photo left), will be published in late 2016 or early 2017 by California-based Kelsay Books/Aldrich Press.

The 100-page sequence of short, 12-line lyrics pays tribute to the people and places of the poet’s rural, small town childhood years.

“It’s one long poem in the manner of John Berryman’s Dream Songs,” explained Beatty. “The book poured out in a handful of months. It started as a tribute to my late grandmother, who was my last connection to my hometown until her death last year.”

Excerpts from the sequence first appeared in numerous publications, including Clementine Poetry Journal, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Glasgow Review of Books (Scotland), Midwestern Gothic, The Moth (Ireland), Right Hand Pointing, Third Wednesday and Yellow Chair Review.
Twin Cities-based annual Poetry City, U.S.A. published the first of the Brazil, Indiana excerpts.

“The highlight of my poetry ‘career,’ such as it is, would have to be publishing six excerpts from the Brazil book in an Irish literary magazine. Otherwise, I sat next to the poet Robert Bly at a local documentary premiere once,” said Beatty.

Check Beatty’s web site (brianbeattympls.com) for book signing events.

“For all the jabber about nobody reading poetry these days, I’m fortunate to live in a place where there’s an audience for the work I do,” said Beatty. “It means the world to me.”

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Local school joins two others to insure survival and growth

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

St. Peter Claver Catholic School joins in partnership with two Minneapolis Catholic Schools

Staff, parents and students at St. Peter Claver Catholic School, 1060 W. Central Ave., will no longer have to worry each year whether the school will continue to stay open.

The school has become a part of the newly formed Ascension Catholic Academy, described as a paradigm for urban Catholic schools in the Twin Cities. The other schools involved are Ascension Catholic School in north Minneapolis and St. John Paul II Catholic Prep School in northeast Minneapolis.

The Academy concept originated with, and was initially funded by, the GHR Foundation, started in 1965 by Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst. The Foundation seeks transformational change in education, health, and global development.

claver-3Photo right: DeMod McGruder, an 8th grader at St. Peter Claver Catholic School, at computer. (Photo submitted)

“The traditional parish school is led by a pastor, who then hires the principal and oversees the school,” said Meg Nodzon, senior program officer for the GHR Foundation. “In this model, the pastors of the three schools have ceded their authority to a board of directors that is made up of both clergy and lay people who will then manage all three schools together, which is a new form of governance for this archdiocese.”

Nodzon expressed gratitude to Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who partnered with GHR and the schools to adopt this new model.

“There was always the question of whether St. Peter Claver could stay open, and similar concerns with St. John Paul II,” Nodzon explained. “We wanted to look at whether there was a model that not only could stabilize the schools fiscally but could at the same time boost the academics so we could continue to close the achievement gap.”

Nodzon said that Ascension Catholic School was doing well both academically and financially. “They had a good basis of support, and a lot of partnerships throughout the community,” Nodzon claimed. “The model was based on Ascension being the anchor and helping to disseminate best practices and stability for all three schools.”

claver-1Photo left: Augustus Young, MS Math/Science teacher at St. Peter Claver, assists a student. (Photo submitted)

Patty Stromen, president of Ascension Catholic Academy, said the GHR Foundation had looked at many sites and at what was the cutting edge of how urban Catholic schools were succeeding. She said GHR looked at best practices and discussed what could happen locally.

“That translated to a more focused conversation around a wealth of information about what was working and what wasn’t working,” Stromen said. “Each situation is unique, so we didn’t simply take one model and institute it here, but considered the nuances of this archdiocese and the two cities. We’re bridging St. Paul and Minneapolis, and in Minneapolis, bridging north and northeast.”

Conversations have been in place for two years, and the project was put into effect Aug. 1.

Therese Shimshock, principal at St. Peter Claver, has been on board since August. She was previously an administrator at Faithful Shepherd in Eagan for 11 years.

“I took some time off and was trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up,” she recalled. “I was at daily Mass, asking God whether I should go to a public school or do consulting. Mass was at 8:30am, and at 8:32 Patty had left me a phone call. I think God was saying He had tried to give me these little subtle hints but I hadn’t gotten them, so he was going to hit me over the head with a 2×4.”

claver-06Photo right: Elonzo Simmons, Kaleb Carter, and Elijah Simmons, are all 5th grade students at St. Peter Claver. (Photo submitted)

“Patty asked me if I would be interested in coming in and talking. I told her that I am just a suburban white woman with no urban experience. We talked through that piece of it, and here I am,” Shimshock said.

The school originally opened in the 1950s and was closed in the 1980s. After about 20 years, it reopened in 2000. The school has always had an African focus, reflected in the African design on the floors of the hallway. The student population of K-8 is currently 68.

Shimshock said St. Peter Claver is in a reboot stage right now. Out of 10 teachers, eight are new. “Being under the Academy has allowed us to create a culture that is different from our past, not that we are forgetting our African roots. But it has let us start over and give these kids the academics and skills that they need to move forward.”

“One of the things Patty did was hire a dean of students,” Shimshock explained. “Even though we have a very low population in numbers, the kids that come to us have emotional or academic concerns. Andre Knight, our dean of students, is an African American man who brings that piece to it. While I work on the academic needs, he works on the behavioral part, which is phenomenal.”

All the schools in the Academy, according to Stromen, have over 70 percent of students in the free or reduced lunch program. Over 90 percent of students are children of color.

“Most of the scholars in all three of our schools come to us at an average of two years behind grade level,” she continued. “So it’s not only helping them achieve, but closing that achievement gap and progressing them through at a faster rate than students at grade level.”

She emphasized that all three schools have individualized learning plans, with a very specific awareness of each scholar’s needs, particularly in reading and math.

Stromen said that although it is in early stages, so far the program seems to be going well. “We’re looking at how we build structures, how we increase academic success and financial sustainability and how we bring best practices to each and every area of the organization.”

claver-2Photo right: Elicia Stevens was a 7th grade student at St. Peter Claver. (Photo submitted)

“We have a half-time enrollment manager, and half of her time is here in St. Paul, knowing we want to increase enrollment here next year.” She said that regarding structure, the Academy had built a comprehensive IT program. “Instead of each school trying to manage on its own, or manage emergencies, we now have a very cohesive way to do that. Whether it’s a piece of equipment that needs to be purchased or something that needs to be fixed, everyone knows who to go to. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a school setting it can make a big difference.”

Stromen stated that finance, HR, bookkeeping, volunteer and enrollment management, traditional development and raising of funds are all centralized.

“We brought Ascension’s best practices for finance, HR, and volunteer management to the other schools as well,” she said. “Ascension is also strengthened in the process.”

Stromen added that all three schools not only want their scholars to graduate from high school, but to also be post-secondary education ready.

Nodzon said St. Peter Claver is one of the last Catholic schools in an urban setting in St. Paul. “With the Ascension Catholic Academy, we can ensure scholars will have a school in their neighborhood for hopefully many, many years to come.”

“A school that educates children successfully, and in this case in a faith setting, brings hope to a neighborhood,” added Stromen. “We see our mission as educating any child who comes to us along with a family member who desires to be educated in a faith setting, regardless of what their faith background is.”

“Some people say why are Catholics educating non-Catholics? We say it’s because we are Catholic. It’s part of our mission to educate children who deserve strong, positive, successful education, and we welcome anyone who walks in the door.”

She said the schools are in neighborhoods where there are families of color, many living in poverty, many not Catholic. “Let’s open the doors,” she said.

Stromen said she has the delight of signing off every Thursday morning on deposits. “Today there was a $5 gift from someone and a $50,000 gift from someone,” she related. “We honor each of these gifts, no matter the size.”

“As a Twin Cities community, and as individual neighborhoods, it’s all of us together giving all of our unique gifts that are going to provide a future full of hope for these amazing scholars that we know and the scholars that are going to come to us that we don’t yet know,” Stromen continued. “Each and every child who lives in this neighborhood deserves that future of hope and deserves an education, and their needs met, and deserves to be in a safe setting.”

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Pierce Butler extension shelved again

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

The long-awaited, much-debated eastern extension of Pierce Butler Rte. is likely to remain curbed. This month the St. Paul City Council is poised to take away remaining project funds and move the dollars to other street work.

The council is being asked to identify $7 million in a lapsed federal appropriation and transfer $2,131,250 in municipal state aid and other dollars.

St. Paul Department of Public Works staff contends that spending money now on other projects is a better approach than trying to amass the millions needed to eventually extend Pierce Butler Rte. from Minnehaha Ave. and Grotto St. to Interstate 35E and the East Side’s Phalen Blvd. The city’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget Committee agrees and in November recommended that the money be moved.

Pierce Butler Rte. was platted in 1961. It was named for one of St. Paul’s native sons who served on the U.S. Supreme Court. During the 1980s and 1990s as what is now Green Line light rail was planned, Pierce Butler Route was initially eyed as a rail route. It was later discussed as a reliever street for east-west motor vehicle traffic through the area, especially truck traffic. Semi-tractor-trailers struggle to make the turns onto and off of University Ave. now that light rail is in. Street lights and even a few building awnings have been taken out by turning vehicles.

The extension was also discussed in the 1990s as an industrial area near Dale St. At that time the extension would have run parallel to the area railroad lines. But later planners made the decision to extend the street through to the south.

Controversy and costs aren’t the only factors that have slowed the project. Public Works project manager changes and changes in area district council and community development corporation staff over the years further impacted the project.

Public Works Director Kathy Lantry said extending Pierce Butler won’t be dropped as a project from the Public Works to-do list. But given the high $11 million cost of the extension from the east end to Western Ave. versus other street project needs, Pierce Butler again will wait. Lantry said Public Works will have to look at other sources of funding to get the project done, given the large amount of funding needed.

That echoes concerns raised by Mayor Chris Coleman when he took the project out of the 2016-2017 city capital budget.

That frustrates Ward One Council Member Dai Thao, who cites the many years community members have waited to see the project done. “People have waited for a long time to see something done,” he said. In the Frogtown part of his ward, Pierce Butler’s east end dumps traffic into the already-busy Minnehaha Ave. and Dale St. area.

Thao also objects because land purchased for the extension has sat empty. He said the properties are trash-covered and not maintained, and that people are tired of seeing the properties remain vacant.
Eight years ago, the City Council was embroiled in a debate with two Frogtown businesses, Daisy Huang’s grocery store and bazaar, and Gennadiy Yermolenko’s salvage yard. Yermolenko had spent $1.5 million to redevelop his business near Como and Western avenues. Huang had spent much time and money developing her market. But both businesses were in the way of the street extension.

At that time, plans called for the street extension to start in 2011. Five years later, the lots remain empty, and the street isn’t done. Thao recently described the vacant properties as eyesores during a City Council budget debate.

The Pierce Butler Rte. extension, as planned, would be a four-lane road with a shoulder for bicycle commuters and a separate bike trail. Whether it is a feasible bike route has been a topic for debate among bicyclists, with some saying it provides a fast connection east to west. Others contend that using it as a bike route is dangerous because of truck traffic and vehicular speeds.

The project has long been controversial, with neighborhoods on the east end generally favoring the extension in the past. St. Anthony Park residents and property owners have opposed an extension from Transfer Road to Highway 280 and beyond. In the Midway area, most route-related issues focus on the need for traffic to slow down and make the street safer to cross.

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Hamline Elementary plans drop-in times

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

hamline-elementary_9081While Hamline Elementary is always open to prospective families and community members, they are setting aside daytime hours for interested folks to stop in, without an appointment. You can take a tour of the school and learn more about the community partnerships and programming that make Hamline Elementary outstanding and truly unique in St. Paul Public Schools. Stop by the school, 1599 Englewood Ave., Jan. 5, 1:30-2:15pm, or Jan. 10, 17, or 24 from 9-10:30am for tours, question and answer sessions with staff and current families. And mark your calendars for Hamline Elementary’s Annual Winter Warm-Up/Open House event on Thur., Jan. 19, 5-7pm. For questions about any of these events, or to schedule a tour, please call the school at 651-293-8715.

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Hausman named legislator of year

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Minnesota presented St. Paul District 66A Rep. Alice Hausman with a Legislator of the Year Award at its annual conference, held in St. Paul on Nov. 5. The award recognizes a legislator who has been an outspoken advocate for children and adults with mental illness and their families.

“Rep. Hausman is a strong advocate for affordable and supportive housing. She understands that without a home, recovery is difficult. While serving on the Capitol Investment Committee she has strongly advocated that funding for developing housing and addressing homelessness be in the bonding bill,” said NAMI’s executive director Sue Abderholden. “She was also the key advocate for funding the planning and remodeling of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. We know that the buildings there are not designed to be a therapeutic environment and NAMI advocated strongly for that funding. In addition to her interest in housing, she also authored a bill to increase the number of school support personnel to help all children succeed.

“This fall, Rep. Hausman met with NAMI members to hear about their concerns and NAMI’s legislative goals for 2017. She has taken what she learned that night to heart and has continually repeated the common theme—the need for everyone to have a place they can call home. We are so fortunate to have her as an advocate for housing and very pleased to call her a friend.”

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Ready and Resilient: To Much Stuff

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

garbage-cans-cmykBy TRUDY DUNHAM

At this time of the year, many of us buy a lot of stuff, gifts for family and friends. Some of us also indulge in the practice of buying “one for you and one for me.” Do we really need all this stuff? Do we know the true price to our environment, society, and our own personal and financial well-being? Some consumption is necessary for life. But how much stuff is really needed? Do today’s Americans need to buy five times as much clothing as we did in 1980?

Let’s examine the impact of consumerism on the environment. Everything we purchase comes from our planet: it is farmed or grown, mined or extracted, manufactured or produced from our natural resources. Consider the T-shirt. Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world, and the chemicals used to produce the cotton stay in the cloth and are released throughout its life. Making one T-shirt requires approximately 700 gallons of water. Producing and transporting it to the store adds about nine pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And only 15% of clothing is recycled.

Our discards add 10 million tons of waste each year, creating additional greenhouse gases in our landfills and incinerators. Is that new T-shirt worth the true cost?

The social costs are high as well. Much of the stuff we buy is grown or produced in third world countries, often at the cost of their environmental and personal health. Their living standards and life span are often far below ours due to exposure to chemicals, pollution, and unsafe working conditions as well as the diversion of resources needed for a sustainable lifestyle.

Within our country, we’ve allowed the concept of good citizenship to be redefined as being a good consumer. Our leaders tell us that we can solve world problems by buying stuff. We are so used to the identity of consumer that it has become our go-to strategy. When faced with climate change or other major issues, our reaction is too often “I’ll buy Product X instead of Product Y.” It doesn’t solve the problem.

And then consumerism gets personal: we shop to feel better about ourselves, to deal with depression, to make statements about ourselves and identity. The difficulty is that things don’t make us happy, and the new outfit doesn’t change our abilities. Next, we bring all this stuff home, and our safe space becomes cluttered. Clutter and keeping stuff organized is a struggle and a major source of home-based stress. Then the bills arrive, along with the realization that we have spent more than we can afford, more than we want given our real interests and priorities.

Let’s step back and think this through: how can we give, consume, spend money, stay within budget, and reduce stress in ways that bring us closer to our family and friends, enhance our world, and build our personal happiness? Here are some ideas:
1) Gift your time and skills. Create a gift coupon for a home-cooked meal, walking the dog, run errands, shovel the sidewalk. Give home-made salsa, hand-knitted mittens, a poem or painting, dried flowers from your garden, photos from a shared experience.
2) Gift your money, goods and time to those in need. There are many organizations which accept donations in honor or memory of someone. So buy the goat or the tree or the winter coat that others need, and indicate it is a gift in honor of your family or friend.
3) Buy experiences. Instead of items that add clutter, purchase theater tickets, museum membership, park pass, gift cards at a favorite restaurant. Keep in the mind that the best gifts are when you participate with family or friends—so plan a night out when all can attend.
4) Borrow, rent, or download instead of purchasing. Participate in our shared economy.
5) Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Recognize that the true cost is a ratio of price to use. So buy things that will last, and wear or use them often. Don’t throw away stuff. If it no longer has use or value for you, look for ways to recycle.

And, to upgrade your perspective:
1) Recognize your relative affluence and privilege. No matter how little you have, many have much less than you do. Be generous to those in real need. It will make you feel good.
2) Recognize that our society continually tells us that we need more and better and newer. We don’t. Establish your own fashion sense and life style, and don’t believe the marketing pitch that says you need to upgrade or follow the latest trend.
3) Express your identity through your spending: the causes and the makers you support. Buy local, and buy sustainable.

There are many benefits of owning fewer possessions: healthier planet, happier people, less to clean and organize, less stress, less debt, and more money and energy for our priorities.

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

• The story of stuff: (2007 video that presents the issues around over-production and consumption of stuff.) http://storyofstuff.org/
• Better World Shopper: comprehensive, reliable account of the social and environmental responsibility of every company on the planet in a practical format that individuals can use in their everyday lives. http://www.betterworldshopper.com/
• The St. Paul Public Library http://www.sppl.org/
• The St. Paul Tool Library https://www.ioby.org/project/saint-paul-tool-library

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Como welcomes baby giraffe

Posted on 05 December 2016 by Calvin

Cbaby-giraffe_originalomo Zoo welcomed a new baby giraffe named “Prince” to its herd. Coming into the world at 6’6” tall and weighing 160 pounds, the baby made her public debut Nov. 17.

The new baby boy, born Nov. 10, is the seventh calf born to mom, Daisy, and the 20th giraffe birth at Como in the last 22 years. Como’s current herd consists of Clover, Daisy, Skeeter (Prince’s father) and Prince. The honor of naming the new giraffe was given to Como Friends supporters Gretchen and David Crary, who have been the top individual donors on ‘Give To The Max Day’ for the past three years.

The giraffe is the tallest of all land-living animal species. They can be as tall as 18 feet and have a prehensile (used for grasping) tongue as long as 18 inches. During the first two years of a giraffe’s life, it doubles in height, often standing over 12-feet tall. Giraffe gestation lasts between 14 and 15 months, after which a single calf is born. Like human fingerprints, the markings or spots of a giraffe’s coat are unique to each. Reticulated giraffes are native to the dry savannahs and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

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