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Day in the Life: March 28

We had some good news today.  For the first time in memory, every department in the city underspent its budget....so if you see a manager from the city, thank them for good work.   It means we have a one time windfall.  There are plenty of pent up spending needs but I feel strongly that we have to be smart about it and use it to give us longer term financial breathing room.  My recommendation is that we use it to pay debts so it frees us money over the long term. 

Think of it like this: If you get a Holiday bonus, you could use it to go on a trip, or you could use it to pay off your credit card bills....Paying the bills first means you have more to spend over the long term.  That's why I'm recommending we use $10 million to pay off debt, which means we have $1 million a year more to spend every year for the next decade.   I have committed that that$1 million a year will go to public safety so if we do this it will head off some of the public safety cuts we don't want to make.

In addition, the good management by department heads means we will have $2 million to move forward on the One Call system that will mean as of January you can call 311 to get any department in the city. This, too, should save us money in the long term and make it easier for citizens to get service.


I had a really interesting couple hours this morning at Henry High School. My goal was to listen to kids talk about how to make their neighborhoods in north Minneapolis better.   I got a lot out of it; with all the work we are trying to do in north Minneapolis I have many many people telling me what is best for youth....so it was refreshing to hear from youth themselves.   Most of the time I listened and heard a lot.  An overwhelming theme was about not having enough places to go to feel safe and comfortable.   Think about it: where do we really welcome teenagers?  Parks that close too early, businesses that limit the hours teenagers can be there....     I heard a lot about kids wanting to find places to work...Step up helps but many added that they need work all year around.

We also got a lot into gangs and the effect they have on the kids' lives.  They are facing some real challenges but I was really impressed with how clear they were.  There were also some really good stories in the class, about kids who are facing some real obstacles but won't let that stop them....one kid moved from another school where he had gotten into some trouble but now was getting straight A s.

It's also really impressive to see how the teachers get the kids to open up.....especially John Strand, the English teacher who organized the visit for me.

I was also really happy tonight when I got to my computer to find an email from one of the students who had more ideas about what we need to do in the neighborhood.  I hope they keep writing. 

March 28, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: March 26

Saturday mornings are becoming great gathering times in north Minneapolis, thanks to Insight News' community forums at North High.  Broadcast on KMOJ, they used to be held weekeday mornings at Lucille's Kitchen.  You could usually find a good conversation but relatively small crowds...but since the forums have been moved to Saturday morning they are drawing really good crowds and creating important forums.

This morning's was focused on public safety in north Minneapolis.  I talked about the enforcement we are working on with the STOP unit and the coordination with other law enforcement bodies...but added that safety has to be about more than police and probation.  It has to include putting people to work and building community.  These were themes others repeated throughout the morning.

At noon I went to a very sad funeral Shawneece Laird, a six year old girl who died in a fire.  I had met her mother Shanwee at the hospital the day before where she was with her son Taquerious, who is three and was badly burned.  She said she wanted people to pass on their prayers for him and I hope people will remember this little boy is really struggling in the hospital.   She also wanted me to pass on how much she appreciates all the messages of encouragement she has gotten for her and her family.   

March 28, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: March 23

Just got back from the Riverview Theater where a packed house saw cartoon character Buster in TPT's production of "Sugartime."  This is the show that got some criticism because it featured two gay parents.  After seeing it I was amazed that someone could be offended by a simple story of kids being raised by people who love them and support them....I can't think of anything we need more of right now.  (If you want to help build more understanding about these issues go to www.amazeworks.org.)

I wanted to send a message that Minneapolis welcomes all families so gave Buster a key to the city....not just an ordinary one...This was was shaped like a carrot. (The idea for this came from a discussion Megan and I had with Catherine Jordan at the Plaza Verde opening.  Catherine, who is also CEO of Achieve!Minneapolis, is on the board of Heart of the Beast which made Buster's carrot.  Many thanks.)


Lunch today was the annual meeting of the Lake Street Council.  Ted Muller, outgoing chair, was honored, and the meeting was run by the excellent interm director Joyce Wisdom.  I thanked the group for partnership on a series of projects that we've done on Lake in the last couple years:  Midtown Exchange, Plaza Verde, the repaving project, the new agreement to get bus rapid transit on 35W, to name a few.  Next up include finding a way to develop a streetcar on the Midtown Greenway. I also thanked the group for its summer ambassador program, part of our Step Up summer jobs program...they are adding six more students this summer......I asked the members to help us meet our goal of 300 summer jobs (remember if you can help to go to www.achieveminneapolis.org.)

The main speaker was Superintendent Peebles.  Her speech went over very well, as she also called on the group to help create jobs for kids....and she added mentorships, which she said were so important to help kids see postiive models in their lives.


Spent a few hours at the State Capitol this morning.  Negotiations continue on the bonding bill...send a chocolate Easter egg or two to Rep. Margaret Anderson kelliher who has been making a heroic effort in leading Minneapolis on that bill.   Also thank Rep. Jim Davnie, who has been leading the delegation.   I talked for a while with Rep. Frank Hornstein about transportation.  He and I worked together on getting the bus rapid transit agreement on 35W and now we are working together to try to turn back some of the proposed cuts to bus service.  (If you want to help on this, go to the part of my blog where you can post stories about why buses are important to you...we are using them to lobby at the Capitol.)

     Also had a good conversation about how to protect against the bus cuts with Annette Meaks, who represents Minneapolis on the Metropolitan Council.  When people say that there aren't any Republicans who have helped Minneapolis they forget Annette, who has worked hard on issues like buses and many other city needs.   She has been a good partner.

Another quick but good convesation with Education Commissioner Alice Seagram.  The debate about schools last session was so harsh and partisan, and our kids suffered.  Commissioner Seagram has set a better tone.  I made the case that we have to increase education funding and will continue to do so. 

March 23, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: March 19

Megan and I saw a bit of history tonight at Pat O'Connor's 85th Birthday.  Pat is one of the hearts of the DFL....Over dinner he told the story about meeting this dynamic guy who was running for Mayor named Hubert Humphrey.  He volunteered in the campaign and eventually became the chief fundraiser.  Later he led financing for the national Democratic Party.   A lot of the great old time Democrats were there and some great stories.  I hope I'm as lively at 85.

March 21, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: March 18


I spent a lot of time with kids and schools today.

In the morning we went to Pillsbury School in N.E. as part of a program I helped bring in from the U.S. Conference of Mayors that brings engineers into schools.  A really great group of about 40 kids worked with the engineers who taught the kids how to build geodesic domes.   The most encouraging part was at the end, they asked the kids: "How many of you want to be scientists?"  At least half the room said yes. 


In the afternoon we had a special meeting of the Youth Coordinating Board to talk about the Youth Agenda.  The idea is to get all the partners----city, parks, schools, libraries, county, foundations----moving on the same agenda to help our kids.   We are getting direction from the kids themselves who are now working in 15 neighborhoods to define what resources they have and what they need.


At night I stopped by the Swedish Insititute to give a send off to a group of Minneapolis teachers who are going on an exchange to our sister city of Uppsala.  The delegation was organized in part by one of my favorite people in our schools: Cheryl Paschke, who coordinates arts for the district.  (She's working closely with my wife Megan on adding more school and youth related programming to Mosaic.)

I encouraged the delegation to keep their ears open for ways to promote Minneapolis as a biotechnology center.  Biotech is big in Upsalla and we have been encouraging companies there that it's logical for them to consider locating near the Institute, right in the heart of the Lifesciences Corridor.

I love going to the Swedish Institute.  I remember going there a lot as a kid...my godparents were Swedish and I guess they were trying to convert these heathen Bohemians....so we went to a lot of great events there.  Megan and I and our kids go back at least a couple times a year for the Swedish breakfast when the men's choir sings some great songs while eating a traditional buffet.  (If you go also look for Council Member Scott Benson, who is also a big fan.).

The Institute also does a good job of reaching out to immigrants of today and they have a good partnership with Bancroft School.   Bancroft was one of the centers of Swedish life for the immigrants and this past summer they had a great event where we all dressed up in historic garb.  It's encouraging now that the Institute uses that history to reach out to today's immigrants to help build bridges.


March 21, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

Day in the Life: March 16


After spending Monday lobbying for Minneapolis in Washington D.C. I spent much of today lobbying for the city at the State Capitol.

The most public event today was a press conference where I spoke in favor of a bill introduced by Sen. Linda Higgins and Rep. Keith Ellison that would be very helpful to our police department.   The bill calls for restoring the massive cuts that were made in local government aid, money we had used to fund police officers.   These cuts, along with the cuts by the federal government to local police programs, had hurt our efforts to provide safety.   Linda and Keith did a great job getting this moving and they had a very broad coalition of legislators, community and neighborhood activists, council members, Chief McManus and I.

They are also introducing a companion bill that would fund summer jobs for youth.  This is a vey important part of providing a safe summer.  If you agree, please join us by creating a summer job as part of Step Up (www.achiveminneapolis.com)

After this event I met with individual legislators and met others in the hall to go over a series of issues.  High on our list right now is the Bonding Bill, which we hope will include funding for the Planetarium, Shubert Theater, the Global Marketplace at Midtown Exchange (the former Sears Building) and University Research Park.   One of the hidden heros at the Capitol on the bonding bill is Sen. Keith Langseth, a farmer from northwestern Minnesota who quietly but exceptionally effectively, moves this complex bill through the Legislature and negotiates with the House and the Governor.   

I am also working with State Rep. Frank Hornstein to fight some radical cuts proposed for the regional bus system.   We are collecting as many stories as we can that tell the story about how the bus system plays a role in people's lives. (Did you know more than 40% of the people who work downtown take the bus?!  They come from all over the state and we need to tell their legislators not to cut their service.)


Later this afternoon I spoke at the annual meeting of the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors' Association.   They had a very good year and we are working on a lot together.   The big success this year was hosting the convention called the American Society of Association Executives.  This conventtion of convention planners is pivitol to booking conventions over the next decade and it was a huge hit.

     Other GMCVA projects we are working on include using their staff to help market neighborhood shopping districts and to help pr0mote a smoke free Minneapolis; promoting the openings of the Walker, Arts Institute, Guthrie, Children's Theater and Central Library. I will be going to New York with them to meet with the national press to get coverage for this....

By the way, did you see the great story in Newsweek this week about the new Walker?  Or the other great story in Men's Journal saying Minneapolis is the "smartest city " in the country?  Or the one in Popular Mechanics saying Minneapolis is the country's most high tech city?

March 16, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tell Me Your Stories

We need your help to fight proposed radical cuts in the metropolitan bus system.  Rep. Frank Hornstein and I, and many other legislators are lobbying against the cuts at the State Capitol and we need stories of why buses are important.   Tell us how the bus played a role in your life.  Can you find other people in other parts of the region who have their own stories.  Does it effect your business? Post the stories here, and Rep. Hornstein and I will get them to the legislators who are making this decision.   The proposed cuts are moving fast so please help us find these stories quickly:

March 16, 2005 in Your Stories About Transit | Permalink | Comments (25)

Day in the Life: March 14

I made a one day lobbying trip to Washington D.C. with two goals: update the Minnesota delegation in Congress on Minneapolis' agenda, and deepen contacts with other Minnesota officials in town for the League of Cities Conference.
My meetings with the delegation included Council Members Paul Ostrow, Scott Benson, Sandy Colvin Roy and Robert Lilligren. The top issue we talked about was the proposed massive cut in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). These are the dollars that are the backbone of our affordable housing and job training program, many of our health initiatives, programs like Nokomis Healthy Seniors that keep seniors in their homes. This is the second time I've been on Capital Hill to lobby against these cuts and it seems there is progress. Both Minnesota's Senators are fighting them so please thank Sen. Coleman and Sen. Dayton. And, as always, Congressman Sabo is fighting hard to protect them.
During our vitists I also delivered a petition from some of our faith partners who are working in our coalition to fight the cuts. It was very effective to be able to give the Congress people these peitions, including the one from St. Mark's Cathedral that included people from all over the region.
Another of the major issues we talked about was the airport. I've been talking with our Congressional delegation to get their support for work in Minnesota on a statewide aviation strategy....a statewide look at how airports like St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester, Willmar and even Mankato can be used to carry some traffic...improving air traffic into the state, opening access to low cost carriers and , in the process, hopefully giving our neighborhoods some relief from the worst traffic, esp. loud night flights and cargo.
After our meetings we had a reception the city hosted for Minnesota officials in D.C. for the conference. I estimate we had about 100 people there, including Mayors from many cities (Stillwater, Minnetonka, Crystal, Plymouth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Morehead) and lots of council members (including Debbie Montgomery and Dave Thune from St. Paul). Building these bridges with local officials in other parts of Minnesota is really helpful as we try to develop broader coalitions.
In the morning I heard a really great speech by Howard Dean, new chair of the party, who really rallied everyone there. It's great to see him in this position. ....he gets the need to fight hard for our principles, to not back down...but he also understands the need to build a strong grass roots organization. I'm really happy he's running the party.
Over the lunch hour I walked a couple miles through town and ran into a really interesting situation. A man who may well have been homeless was walking down the street barefoot. A few seconds after I noticed him, a woman in a bright yellow parka holding a walkie talkie approached him and very compassionately started talking to him. She moved him into the sun so he could get warm and then called on her walkie talkie for help. A homeless advocate arrived and left with the man.
I asked the woman who she worked for and found out she was a public safety ambassador who worked for the downtown association. She isn't a police officer...she works with them, identifying trouble spots before they become larger, giving people directions, making them feel safe. This is the kind of ambassador we have been talking about for downtown and some of our neighborhood commercial districts. After seeing this I called Sam Grabowski of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, who has been a strong advocate of this to say how well this works and that I want to continue to work on getting these in downtown. They are supported by the businesses and would be possible if we get the Special Service District we are proposing for downtown. I also stopped into the downtown association to hear more....so will you because this can really do a lot to improve safety and perception on our streets.

March 16, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: March 12

Megan and I were at two very different but wonderful community events in the past two nights.
Friday night (after a really nice dinner at the Birchwood) we went to Theater Mu's production of "The Walleye Kid." Theater Mu's executive director Rick Shiomi is co-chairing the Mosaic Arts celebration (www.minneapolismosaic.com) with Megan and he's one of the real bright lights in local theater. This production is based loosely on a children's fantasy story Megan and I used to read to our kids called "Peach Boy", about an elderly couple that really wants a child and gets its wish when a baby suddenly is brought to them by a magical fish. The twist in the Theater Mu production is that the baby is from Korea and her adoption reflects the experience of playright Sundraya (Sonny) Kase as she grew up in Minnesota.
It's a really wonderful production, a musical in fact, that works well for both kids and adults. Like many of the art we want to showcase in Mosaic, it deals with themes of the mixing of cultures and does a great job of showing how the adopted girl had a place in two worlds.
The story is great, as is the production.....A real gem is the star Isabella Dawis who played Annie at the Chanhassen.
The second great community event was tonight (Saturday). ....a celebration to honor one of my favorite people in Minneapolis: Laura Waterman Wittstock. Laura has been a writer, community activist, member of untold numbers of boards and one of the country's most respected American Indian voices. She started and for many years has run MIGIZI Communications, which has fostered Indian voices and trained kids of many cultures in technology and communications. She is retiring from MIGIZI but she is hardly retiring. She will continue to be very active in the community.
The speeches were really moving. Of special note was one by Kelly Morgan, co-chair of the Minneapolis Urban Indian Directors(MUD) group as she talked about how Laura has helped show her leadership roles. There were other great tributes by Roger Buffalohead, Hoang Tran, Marlene Helgemo, Kwame McDonald and Clyde Bellecort. (The master of ceremonies was Syd Beane, the executive director of the National American Indian Development Corporation....Shortly after he moved here a couple years ago, Megan and I had Laura and her husband Lloyd, and Syd and his wife over for dinner...It was an amazing evening that reminded us how lucky we are to have them in Minneapolis.)
I named today Laura Waterman Wittstock Day....and honor she deserves.
My first appointment as Mayor was to name Laura to the Library Board. She's now running for the position and I hope people support her at the DFL convention.

March 14, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: March 11

Met in the morning with the Achieve!Minneapolis Board. This is the board I serve on that raises money for Minneapolis Public Schools. Today we had a very good discussion about job training programs and how we can continue to help the schools expand this work. We also had a report on Step Up, which now has more than 200 jobs committed. I gave two more speeches on it this week to business groups and I'm encouraged that people are getting the message about the importance of getting our kids meaningful work this summer.
Wednesday we had a great celebration at Plaza Verde, the former Antiques Minnesota Building on Lake Street. The building had fallen into disrepair and was dragging down the very successful projects around it like Mercado Central, MeGusta Marketplace and Heart of the Beast. Heart of the Beast first tried to develop it alone but that did not work so Erik Takeshita of my staff and I helped bring in Neighborhood Development Center which is also doing the Global Marketplace in Midtown Exchange. NDC and Heart of the Beast ended up being great partners so the top floor has the great celebration/performance space for Heart of the Beast while the ground floor as emerging businesses and the second floor has support services for creating new businesses. One of my favorite projects we have done. Stop by and help celebrate.
Friday afternoon at the State Capital we had a big victory. The Senate Transportation Committee approve unanimously a plan to develop a statewide aviation strategy. This is the result of several years of our lobbying to get a new vision for aviation in Minnesota that moves beyond just jamming more planes into the already over burdened MSP and over the already overburdend neighborhoods of south Minneapolis. I testified with Herb Bergson, the Mayor of Duluth. Previously I've testified with the Mayors of Rochester, St. Cloud, Willmar and Mankato. This coalition has made it possible to help change the direction of aviation debate at the Capital and for the first time in many years Minneapolis is not fighting this battle alone. I also have been working with members of the Congressional delegation from around the state to get them involved in this and will be talking with them again when I'm in Washington Monday.

March 14, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)