Day in the Life: May 17

A pretty busy day inside and outside City Hall today. ...After a Department Heads meeting, I went to the meeting of the Midtown Community Works, the public-private group that works together on development, public safety and other initiatives to improve Midtown.

I gave an update, with Rick Collins of Ryan, on the Midtown Exchange project (If you want to see more there is an open house Thursday from 5-7). Work is going well but the real focus right now is the Global Marketplace, to make sure we can raise the money we need to make this the very special place it can be for visitors...but also a place that will create economic opportunity for merchants. 

From there I went to the Robbins Kaplan Miller Ciresi Foundation to report on the Agenda for Children and Youth.   This is a great foundation that gave us the seed money to start the project.

Next came the Open House at the First Precint...the downtown command.  A highlight here was to see how the public safety cameras are monitored from behind the front control desk.  From that desk the person can see a series of cameras around downtown and zoom in on activity that is creating a problem.  One of the important parts of the cameras is that it helps the police with evidence....so far, according to Inspector Rob Allen....every person who has been arreseted because of a crime seen on camera has pled guilty.  This will continue to be a good tool to keep repeat offenders off the street.

Next was a meeting with our lobbyist Gene Raneri about actions at the State Capital, then a meeting with a group of immigrants about police issues, followed by the first meeting of the new Latino advisory committee.

A couple internal meetings and then on to the Healthy City Awards, an evening to benefit the Medicine Clinic at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.  The winners this year were V.J. Smith, founder of Mad Dads, and John Munger, founder of the City of Lake Loppet.  The money raised helped pay for two social workers at the clinic, which serves uninsured residents of Philips, including many immigrants.  Please remember this event for next year...It's a great cause.

May 17, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

Day in the Life: May 4

Today the Hennepin County Board voted in favor of the financing plan for a ballpark.  I spoke in favor, saying it is a tremendous opportunity and a sound financing plan.  I also said that in this location we can save tens of millions of dollars because all the infrastructure is in place...roads, bridges, parking ramps.  Finally, as someone who got to take a bus from south Minneapolis to games at the old Met Stadium, I'm exicted about the fact tha a kid can get to a game at this site by rail on the Northstar Line from Big Lake, by LRT from Bloomington and even on a dedicated bike trail from any of the western suburbs right to the front door.

I've wanted the broadest possible tax so the cost is spread out.   The county tax is broader than the previous ideas of a city tax.  It's not as broad at the 7 county tax I'd prefer but the best option yet.   I would also strongly prefer that we increased this sales tax...certainly to more counties...so it could fund higher priorities, ie. transit, health care, affordable housing, etc....We don't have that yet but I'm going to promise to keep fighting for those higher priorities.

Most people who read the news paper or watch the news will assume I spent most of my time on this today.  Acutally I spend about 30 minutes, but this is one of the most frustrating parts of this issue....It so dominates coverage and attention that we can't get attention for other issues.....Friday, for instance, I got a slew of media calls about the ballpark but when I did a joint press conference with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Council Presidents about massive cuts to schools in both cities....no reporters showed up.

I spent much of the morning at the State Capital fighting cuts against transit, education and a really bad proposed set of cuts against local government.  This last piece is a proposal from the House that would have espeically hard hits on cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.  Mayor Herb Bergson of Duluth, a great partner, was having a press conference on this up there and we were in contact several times today.  Great to have his help.   Mayor Randy Kelly of St. Paul testified against it, beginning by saying all the great things St. Paul is doing and then adding something to the effect: "Dont' penalize the smart spenders; Penalize the big spenders" as he launched into a negative, and not all that accurate critique of Minneapolis.  I guess the idea was to say not to cut St. Paul and instead cut Minneapolis more.   I've very glad that virtually all the Minneapolis and St. Paul legislative delegations, virtually all the city council members of both cities and the Minneapolis Mayor all believe cities should work together in these difficult times.

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A great event in early evening...a pre Twins game picnic for  Project Success, which works with Minneapolis students by exposing them to live theater and then producing their own works.  Project Success works with these students over six years and does a wonderful job of developing a sense of self and purpose in the students.   After the picnic, we went out on the field for a pregame presentation that included a group of Project Success students singing from their musical "Sussical" that will be performed June 3 and 4. (Save this same weekend for the kickoff of Mosaic.   www.minneapolismosaic.org)

May 3, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (6)

Day in the Life: May 2

Welcome to Spring in Minneapolis. 
It was a very chilly morning but a great walk down Bloomington Av. from Lake to Franklin to commemorate the state of American Indian month.

I was lucky enough to walk most of the way with Clyde Bellecourt on one side and Joe Rainey on the other.   Clyde, of course, has been an Indian leader for decades and told some very moving stories about moving up in an era that did not respect Indian culture.  He said his parents never spoke their languange or about their culture....but late at night, when they thought he was asleep, he would hear them downstairs with friends speaking their lauguage with friends.  The next morning they were back to English, and, fearing their children would suffer, they encouraged them to avoid their language and cluture.

       Joe's life has been very different.  Now a Senior at South, he was raised by relatives in the Jordain family to celebrate his heritage.  Today he's a star basketball player at South and looking to use his skills to open doors to younger Indian kids as a teacher who gives them pride in who they are.

     We got to the American Indian Center for the celebration of the city selling the building to the community for $1.   The community now owns the building but we all need to help with the capital campaign to pay for badly needed renovations.

May 2, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: April 27

When people think about public safety they don't often think about their own neighbors....but it's the neighbors throughout the city who have been the key to most of the best crime fighting stratgies.....and today proved that point very well:

The Minnesota Gang Strike Force finished a six month investigation of gangs in North Minneapolis today by issuing warrants for 38 people charged with selling crack or marijuana to undercover officers.   The work could only be done because residents of north Minneapolis helped identify the key places and players.   We couldn't talk about the investigation but Mike Martin, the excellent Minneapolis officer on loan to the Strike Force, said he was very satisfied earlier this week when neighbors gave a list of the worse offenders and he knew eight of them were on the list that were to get the warrants today.

Tonight I saw another great example of neighbors helping public safety when I went to Little Jaxs in northeast for the Eastside Exchange Club's annual event to honor the police.   Every year the group gets together to honor two other officers....It's really a great gesture to the officers who are protecting people every day.

Earlier today I spent two hours with a really interesting group of business leaders who are part of a task force of the Itasca Group.  Itasca is the newly formed group made up of CEOs developing a civic agenda for business leaders.  We have worked together on a comprehensive transportation agenda for the region.  The subcommittee I'm now on is addressing income and academic disparities...our report will be out in several months but it's really interesting work to find a way to mobilize business leaders to help close the gap in a metropolitan area that has one of the largest gaps between haves and have nots of any metro area in the country.

Over the noon hour I had my bi-monthly open house.  About 10 people with issues ranging from Somali community issues, to zoning, to special Olympics, to schools, to police community issues.    I do these twice a month and anyone can come down on a first come basis.

Tomorrow is the weekly Code 4 meeting.  This meeting is when the police go over the crime stats for the previous week and the actions being taken to address them.   Chief McManus and I have made them public so anyone is invited down to City Hall at 12:30 on Thurdays...we also broadcast them on cable...It's a way to open up the information to the public so they can help the department address crime. 

April 27, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

Day in the Life: April 25

A fun celebration today with kids from Bancroft School who received a check from the History Channel to support the history project they are doing with the American Swedish Institute.   I first came in contact with this program last summer when I was part of a recreation at the school that brought to life the experience of going to Bancroft in the early part of the century.  We wore period clothes, played baseball, and I played the role of the Mayor....Typecast, I guess.   

The really innovative part of the history project is that it not only helps the kids understand what it was like for Swedish immigrants, but ties that together with the immigrant experience many kids at the school are having today.   The grandmother of Laura Sether, who works in my office, was one of those immigrants who went to Bancroft earlier in the century.  She said she was sent home for a year until she learned English which, thankfully, we don't do today.

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Lunch with representatives of the Downtown Council, Chamber and Convention and Visitors Association.  Paul Ostrow and I do this once a month to go over common agenda issues.  Today we talked mostly about the increased public safety programs we are working on.  The key is that we now have the Minneapolis Police, Sheriff's Office and Transit Police coordinated, and are now working with building security...We also installed the last of the safety cameras last week and it took only 45 mnutes for it to help us apprehend a person who was committing a street crime.

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Afternoon meetings included one with Wesley Walker, head of the Northway initiative in north Minneapolis and an update on the WiFi proposal that could mean this will be a wonderfully wired city. 

April 25, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: April 22

Every few weeks I have lunch or breakfast as part of a fundraiser for a non profit organization.  Today it was with people who bid on the lunch as part of a fundraiser for the Heomotology Foundation...which provids free or reduced medical attention to people without medical coverage.

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After lunch I headed out to Oak Park Heights.  A long drive but well worth it for a day I've been waiting for for a long time.  It was the celebration for the beginning of the conversion of three coal plants to cleaner natural gas.  The third is the Riverside Coal Plant in northeast Minneapolis.  It's the number one source of air pollution in Minneapolis and when it is completed it will have a huge impact on cleaning air in a part of town with extremely high childhood asthma rates.  I started talking to them shortly after coming into office when CMs Paul Ostrow and Joe Biernat and I went to the Riverside Plant to try to get Excel's cooperation.  We were happy they joined in, and community and environmental groups were outstanding allies as this worked its way through the approval process.   A victory for business, community and government working together...it's in stark contrast to the airport where it seems the industry always seems to be trying to run over citizens and break promises, instead of finding a way to get a win win. 

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A fun late afternoon at Hiawatha School where Lollie Obeta, one of my favorite DJs on KFAI brought her Sugar Shop show to the school gym for a dance.  It was a wonderful celebration in which kids and parents could celebrate the great things that go on in the school.   I had a great quick dance with the principal, Mrs. Robinson, who, along with being a great leader for the school, can really get down.

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A special hi to Aaron, who has been on the blog, who was at the dance.   Thanks for your thoughts, Aaron!!

April 25, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (2)

Day in the Life: April 20

I spent most of tonight touring parts of the city that have had public safety challenges.   I was on the northside to see the impact of our new STOP initiative...when we have put 50 officers into a special division.  The idea is to have them be able to move quickly to places where there are challenges that take more than the ususual number of patrol officers to control.   They were working north Minneapolis tonight but could be shifted to whatever part of town is a challenge......We won't make a big announcement when/if that happens...the idea is to keep those who want to cause trouble off guard and to show force when we need to.

North Minneapolis was pretty quiet tonight and there was a very significant presence of police.  I stopped in on some of the people in the McKinley neighborhood where there have been some real challenges...and it was encouraging to see they felt it was better tonight....but we should never make a judgement on a few hours or days.......I really have a lot of respect for the neighbors here...working very hard for their communities and I'm happy to be getting them more support.    We also stopped into a couple corner grocery stores that have been trouble, and it was encouraging to see them doing more with their own security.

Next we went to south Minneapolis.  The 1800 block of Park is one I have visited before....The owners and tenants of some of the buildings have come to my open houses several times to talk over their issues....tonight it was encouraing to see that the block is in better shape.....Insp. Gerlicher, who leads the Third Precinct was there too and we learned a lot from the residents about when they are seeing challenges and how we can help.

Next was downtown where there are good signs of the new partnership between the transit police, sherrif deputies, building security and our police.   I talked to a couple members of the transit police at 7th and Hennepin and they said it has made a real difference to have more on the street.

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Along the way tonight we were driving down Glenwood west of Penn and saw the lights on in Homewood Studios, the wonderful gallery that is increasingly a gatering space for artists.  I stopped in to say hi and it was the monthly meeting of the Northside Writers Group.   Encouraing to know that a few of them will be part of the opening night of Mosaic, which this year will have three openings....one north, one south and one downtown.   Save that first weekend in June for three nights of great arts in the city.-------------------------------

Final note on another topic: Please remember those bars and restaurants in the city going through the transition with the new smoking ban.  Some are busier and some are not....so please invite some friends out to see how great it is to have cleaner air when you go out.

April 20, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: April 18

The stories you have been sending about how the bus helps your life (See "Your transit stories" in the Blog area) really helped today.   I used them as part of my testimony at a hearing on the cuts, and then had all of your comments entered into the record.  So many of you have done such a great job of putting this terrible proposal into human terms....This is how we can continue to fight this so please keep encouraging more people to post why we need to keep the bus.

After the hearing I had a very good conversation with Annette Meaks.  Governor Pawlenty appointed her to represent Minneapolis on the Metropolitan Council.  When that appointment was announced it turned a lot of heads...Annette is a very visible conservative Republican and there was concern that she might not represent the interests of the city.   While it's safe to say she and I would not vote for the same person for president...maybe ever....she has been an excellent partner......Once again she is helping us as we try to fight the bus cuts. We talked some strategy and I'm hopeful she can continue to help us in this effort.

Later in the afternoon I went to the first meeting of the Governor's Task For On Ending Long Term Homelessness.  It was held at Perspectives in St. Louis Park, a wonderful place Megan and I toured a few months back that works with families in transition to get them in stable housing and jobs.   I am a member of the task force and it includes a very impressive collection of people across many political and geographic boundaries.   The effort is being led by Tim Marx, commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and one of the very best partners we have in state government.  He works seemingly effortless across party boundaries and is one of those people in government who I admire so much who can put a lot of the personalities and general bull aside to just get things done.  He's been a great partner on our Northside Home Fund, which has now allocated more than $8 million to improve homeownership.   Tim and I were at the same national converence in New York a few months back where we talked with people from around the country about how they are attacking homelessness.  Many areas are doing great work.....I have to say Minneapolis is ahead of most in the area of supportive housing, having the services connected with the housing to make it more possible people can move up and out.   

        The state effort is very impressive.  The bonding bill allocated $12 million to the effort and I will do what I can to support it....espeically in partnership with Gail Dorfman at Hennepin County, who has done so much.   I am also working with Phillip Mugano, who is coordianting the homelessness fight for the Bush Administration.  Both the state and federal efforts are impressive and should be complimented.  My challenge is that they are being done at the same time that the support for supportive services is being savaged.....every program we use to get people out of the shelter and into a job or permanant housing is being ripped to shreds....The vision seems to be to get people into a shelter and then leave them there....We have to keep advocating for the programs that remind us shelters are supposed to be "emergency" and "temporary."

Let me end with a totally disconnected comment: Haven't the sunsets been awesome this past week?  I'm so glad that in the middle of winter I never seem to remember how wonderful Spring really is...otherwise I'd never make it through.

April 20, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: April 15

The front page of the New York Times entertainment section had two huge articles about the new Walker Art Center, the latest in a series of great press on the museum.  And tonight Megan and I saw it first had at the opening night event.  Wow, and wow.

I've always loved the Walker and usually tell people when they move to Minneapolis that a great thing to do is to join....there is such a range of programming going on there....visual art, but also dance, film, performance...and now it's twice the size.  The papers have been filed with coverage so I won't go on but a couple real winners are the dolphin that you type messages to...and it talks back (you kind of have to be there) and the incredible combination of corridors connecting all the galleries. 

Saturday and Sunday I drove by the Walker a few times and it was so great to see people moving around the building.  I've always loved the Walker but you never got a sense going by that there was anything going on inside...the original building didn't give any sense of what was inside...now it does, really opening the musuem up to the rest of the city...inside and out.   

This is an unprecidented time in the city, starting with Walker we are going to see openings in the next couple years for the Guthrie, Institute, Children's Theater, Central Library, Planetarium, Ritz Theater, and, hopefully, the Schubert.......no other city in America is even close.....we should be proud

April 17, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day in the Life: April 14

When people tell me I have a hard job, I usually say something like: It's not as hard as a teacher....or a principal.....and today I got that proof....I spent the day as principal for a day at Rosevelt High School....a really great experiece but I have even more respect for those who do it every day.

One reason for picking Rosevelt is that I have been working on expanding connections between kids in our schools and the workforce....and we are looking at ways to help a couple of very good career track programs at Rosevelt:  one in construction and another in automotive.  So I spent a good deal of time there and found the students were very focused.  The construction classes were really inspirational, seeing the kids very smoothly design buildings with a very sophisticated computer aided design program.  The automotive classes also gave the students a lot of hands on experience, and has inspired a number of them to go into the community college programs to find a career.  But I also found one girl who wants to be a doctor but also doesn't want to have to be clueless about her car.

There were also some very interesting open discussions with classes....two different English classes....in which the kids and I asked each other questions.   A particularly deep exchange started when one of the kids asked me what I thought about Red Lake.  We got to talking about how students in high school can find themselves losing connections...slowly withdrawing if they feel no one understands them or they have no friends....and that gets into a downward cycle that can have some terrible impacts.  They've seen it before, clearly not to the degree that it played out in Red Lake, but they were clear eyed about how to see the signs of withdrawal in their classmates, and the obligation they have to help reconnect.    Another group asked me about why gas prices are so high....which led to a discussion about cars, alternative energy, and the impression many of them had that they did not want to go to Iraq to fight a war for oil that's being used to fuel people using too much gas....pretty saavy observation.

The visit to the Community Clinic was also very powerful.  Here are some very dedicated staff members who have created a safe place for students to come to talk about health issues, physical and mental....and as you heard them tell the stories about the types of challenges the students have, and the need for them to have a professional, confidential place to deal with these issues, you see why it's so important to keep this funding.

And what visit to a school would be complete without a school lunch.  It was acutally pretty good.....some really interesting conversations as I walked around the lunch room....all in all a pretty good atmosphere.

I'm sorry to say that the overwhelming impression I had was that there was great work going on that deserved more money....every single conversation turned in some way to how they are managing in spite of really dramatic cuts at all levels.  It made me even more determined to tell the stories about the good things going on and how we need as a state to get clear about making education a priority again   

April 17, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)