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Day In The Life: Feb. 17

It was cold this morning but over breakfast we were thinking about this summer....making sure there are summer jobs for kids from Minneapolis schools. David Brand of Achieve!Minneapolis and I spoke to the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce about StepUp, which last year created 200 summer jobs and this summer we hope to create 300.
Last year's program was a success in part because we got great help from business leaders, like Richard Davis, president of US Bank, and Keith Moyer of Star Tribune. This morning Ben Taylor of the Star Tribune told a very moving story about a girl who had been a Step Up intern at the paper. One of the employees took this intern under her wing, helped her improve her office skills and at the end of the summer the girl came into Ben's office and said, very simply: "You changed my life." Frank asked the group: "How many ways can you change someone's life for $2,400?"
That's what it costs for a Step Up intern. We train them, screen them and help get them ready for work. You create the job or pay $2,400 to place an intern at another job. Surely a community as blessed as this one can create 300 opporunties for kids this summer. If you are interested, you can contact www.achieveminneapolis.org.
(While you are at that website, you can also find out about Impact Schools, a new web site that makes it possible for you to contribute directly to Minneapolis Schools. )
Hope you can find a way to help us with Step Up. Just remember, the person who you give that chance is the person who is going to be paying your Social Security.

February 18, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

Day In The Life: Feb. 15

      A couple events today that celebrate the great people who work for the city.

The first was this afternoon, a reception I held to celebrate my appointment of Gretchen Musicant to lead our Health Department.
Gretchen is a really rare public servant. She can see the big picture, but I've also observed that she is a very effective listener. We need both right now as we chart a course for our Health Department in a period of time when the state and federal governments are making drastic cutbacks for human service programs. She will have to help us as elected officials see ways to develop new partnerships to get the services to those most in need.....She will also have to hear very clearly what needs we have in the community. She and Ken Dahl and the rest of the staff won't have an easy job but I'm looking very forward to working with her, and them.

During the reception I spoke with a number of people who work at the community clinics we operate in city schools. They provide a very important service, and told wonderful stories about how these clinics are helping kids get through many challenges, including mental illness. I hear a really heart wrenching story about a girl who came into one of the clinics saying she was short of breath....when they checked her our it became clear she had Lupus. She had no insurance and, as in immigrant struggles with understanding the health care system. During a recent bout in the hospital she got a bill for $32,000....and was now terrified to go to the doctor. The clinic helped her, got her some financial and medical counseling and at least helped her stabilize the situation.. It really showed the need out there and gave me even more respect for the work of Sen. Linda Berglin of Minneapolis who has continued to fight for health care for people in situations like these.

The second event to celebrate city employees was tonight at the Ukranian Center where there was the annual police awards ceremony. Some real heros doing great work were honored, and, as always at these events, I was really struck by how much support our police get from their families who send them out each day and then find a way to support them when they come home.

February 18, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day In The Life: Feb. 14

Interesting lunch today: It was the third official meeting of the Metropolitan Mayors Assocaition, which is a group we have started with the Mayors of a group of cities around the metro area. We first started working together a couple years ago on the issue of affordable housing. After drafting that report we decided that we should expand our actions....knowing that the Legislature has had trouble getting across ideological divides to address issues like transportation, education, public safety, etc.
The chairs are Mayor Karen Anderson of Minnetonka and Mayor Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville.....they are great regional partners and people who I can call to talk about any issues. The Mayors who have come to these meetings include from places like Anoka, North Branch, Chanhassen, Waconia. Randy Kelly was there today. So was Gene Winsted of Bloomington. Also joining the group is a great new Mayor, Jim Hovland of Edina...who is a real transportation expert.
During the lunch we talked about what issues we wanted to take on...a wide range...but agreed that in the next few months the key will be for us to move outfront on transportation. There will be all sorts of ideas coming around at the Legislature, but the key for our group is to articulate the inpatience of it all....Let's get something done and stop sitting in congestion...That's something that unites Mayors...be they from Minneapolis or anywhere else.
You will be hearing more about the group in coming months but it is really refreshing to know that in these times when the political debate seems so isolated there is a great forum like this that can cut across ideolgical and geographic divides.
       Fun people, too.
Short Valentine's commercial: Megan and I had dinner tonight at Bakery on Grand....at 38th and Grand Av. Growing up this was one of the great corner bakeries in town....now it's a wonderful neighborhood restaurant. I really want to encourage even more of these and, in fact, have actively encouraged it by signing a number of wine and beer licenses for places like the Birchwood in Seward, etc. and a new one in Longfellow. These corner restaurants just keep making this a cooler city.

February 18, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day In The Life: Feb. 9

I've been thinking a lot about Mark Dayton today since he made his announcement that he wasn't going to run again. All the political speculation is interesting---whose going to run, who isn't, etc.---- but there is another part of this that I hope comes through as people assess his work.
Mark, in my mind, is one of the most sincere people I know in politics. What you see is pretty much what he is.....and I think he has an overwhelming desire to help people. I've also had the clear sense that one of the things that drives him is a desire to use his office to stand up especially for those who don't have a voice...He seems to get more energy when he's fighting for the little guy.
I first met him when he was running for the Senate and I was running a candidate forum for Residents Against Airport Racket(ROAR). At that time most politicans ran as far away from this issue as possible. He seemed to have no fear.....understood the issue and wasn't the least bit intimidated by the fact that getting involved with this could put him crosswise with some of the most power political and business interests in the state. He proved over the next six years that this wasn't just an act during election time....time and time again when we needed help on this issue he was there.....never once flinching in the face of serious challenges from very powerful people.
I saw this even more directly a few weeks back when I was in Washington getting him up to date on a few issues that face the city at a federal level, especially some of the budget cuts that have fallen hard on those most in need. The passion you see in his face when he talks about fighting for those who are getting forgotten these days is really moving.....it's clear this is about more than tactical politics to him; It's about creating fairness and equity for real people.
I also remember a breakfast he and I had shortly after Paul Wellstone died. It was clear this hit him extremely hard, and in a very personal way. He talked about how he needed to pick up some of the slack for Paul's work. It was a burden he seemed ready to carry, and he seemed energized that he could help complete some of Paul's work. Walking away from the breakfast, I remember thinking that as destroyed as I was about losing Paul, it was made just a little bit easier knowing that Mark would continue some of that fight.
I don't think Mark Dayton will go down as the slickest politican who ever graced the U.S. Senate. And on so many levels I find that refreshing.

February 18, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day In The Life: Feb. 8

The big issue in the first couple days of this week was the impact the President's propsed budget would have on the city of Minneapolis. ...but the story on this goes back a couple weeks:
I first started getting details when I went to the U.S. Conference of Mayors the day before the Innaugural. Others Mayors there and I talked about the rumor that the President was going to make dramatic cuts in Community Development Block Grants.(CDBG)....these are some of the last funds cities have to get people out of poverty and into the workforce.....They are the backbone of what we use for our affordable housing programs, job training, child care, domestic violence.....people like the Somali man who got training in computer skills at Migizi Communications through our summer employment program and is now moving up the career ladder.
Knowing what was about to hit us, the Mayor's I talked to agreed that we would go back to our state's and try to build broad coalitions that could help tell the personal stories of what these cuts would mean.
The first calls I made were to the groups who receive these funds. Then I called other other Mayors in Minnesota, including a couple who have been great partners....Mayor Bergson in Duluth and Mayor Ellenbecker in St. Cloud. Then I called some key leaders of the faith community...including Spencer Simeral, dean of St. Mark's Cathedral, Rabbi Marci Zimmerman of Temple Israel, Jim Gertmenian of Plymouth Congregational Church.
When the President announced his budget Monday and, in fact, Community Development Block Grant funds were cut drastically, we got the group back together and could tell the story to the media. Jim Gertmanian was especially strong in his statement that a budget is a document of values, and the values that leave out those most in need do not represent any faith tradition he knows of......This was so powerful because in the name of faith, faith leaders are being asked to pick up much of what government is not doing. Their help is wonderful but and as I said, you can't run a just society on bake sales and passing the plate.
      Mayor Bergson also had a big gathering in Duluth...about 40 people telling these stories.
We will keep telling the story and hope all of you will call your congressional delegation....please make the point that these are the dollars that are not only spent on those in need but are also about SAVING government spending...Every person we put back to work, and get into housing saves far more in welfare, shelter, public health costs.....

It's been an interesting time to be Mayor...when both the state and the federal government do not seem to be standing up for those most in need.....but as we build these coalitions to stand up for these values, I at least know we are not alone.

February 18, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day In The Life: Feb. 5

Feb 5: Just finished a quick polka on the dance floor at Jacob's 101 as part of the SNO Ball....the annual event for the Sheridan Neighborhood Association. Usually a great event but especially good today because it comes just after we approved plans for moving ahead with the Ritz Theater....which the Sheridan Neighborhood has worked so hard on for so long.....About a year from now we can see Ballet of the Dolls in their new home.Before that I was a few blocks away in the California Building for Paul Ostrow's campaign kickoff. He gave a great speech about visions for Northeast.Those two events came after a few hours in Uptown celebrating the City of Lakes Loppet...which, amazingly enough, is going to take place tomorrow morning in spite of all the weather. Really heroic efforts by a great team of amazing volunteers, led by John Munger, Piotr Bernardski, Kate Ellis, Corey, Claire...a bunch of folks who led team of people shoveling, putting packets together....Uptown was jammed today with all the skiers, and tonight it was so great to see Hennepin and 31st covered with snow that had been trucked in.....The elite Olympians skiied the course first, then came a great group of kids trying it for the first time. Tomorrw morning about 1,700 of us will take off on the course, heading toward the Lakes where...with luck, we won't be sliding through standing water...In fact, I should get to bed if I'm going to ski 30k. 

February 18, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day In The Life: Feb. 3

Feb. 3: I started and ended my day with winners of silent auctions....I do a fair amount of this...help raise money for groups by giving away either a breakfast or lunch or even a bus tour. This morning I had a breakfast in my office with two people whose bid raised money for Barton School. And tonight I went on a bus tour (they actually rented a limo) of nightlife to benefit the Human Rights Campaign Fund. These raise a lot of money and I get to meet some great folks.

One of the interesting things that happened in the middle of the day was I went to the weekly Code 4 meeting. These are the meetings the police department has every week to go over crime trends and what is being done about it. These used to be in private but Chief McManus and I believe this is the kind of information that can help citizens and police work together to make the city safer. So now they are on television live, and repeated....and we really want to invite anyone interested to come down to City Hall at 12:30 on Thursdays....among the people in the crowd this week were great citizen volunteers who have done so much to make the block watches in the Loring neighborhood so successful.

After tonight's bus tour I did a live shont on the 10 p.m. news with John Munger, the race director of the City of Lakes Loppet....the ski race that is supposed to go from Wirth Park to Calhoun Square....the warm weather is messing with that but tonight we made the decision that the race is on....Saturday night the pros and kids will ski down the streets of Uptown which will be lined with snow. From 8-9 anyone can ski, so take advantage of that rare chance to ski down the street.

Sunday the race will be one....with some changes...We are going to start and end at Calhoun Square.....how far we go and where we go depends on the weather. Not as long a ski as we thought but the spectating should be great with this weather. 

February 18, 2005 in Day In The Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day In The Life: Feb. 2

Feb 2: Some of my days are spent totally in City Hall, but today was mostly outside.

First thing I had a meeting with what's called the Itasca Group, it's a collection of CEOs of big companies, trying to get them to develop an agenda that they can help promote. They've been helpful because they have been willing to take on transportation, which is really important because they can use their contacts to break the deadlock at the State Capital that has made it hard for the state to do what needs to be done to address congestion. I am also on a subcomittee that will address racial and economic disparties.....so stay tuned.

The afternoon included a couple events with students in Minneapolis, both involving physical fitness. The first was at Waite Park in Northeast....General Mills, which has been such a great partner on so many things, gave 50,000 to the schools to help with fitness and nutrition. Part of the event included having kids jump rope and then have Council President Paul Ostrow and I try to keep up....We looked pretty stupid but it was fun.

(Leaving the school, coming down Johnson Street, we stopped quickly at two great corner businesses I highly recommend...Mary Jane's, a GREAT bakery which has the best hamburger buns around, and Marino's, where I had one of their patened Submarino Sandwhiches, which was first invented by Mrs. Marino, who I think is about 90 and still going strong)

The second event was on Cedar Lake....the city cross country ski championship. About 100 kids from four schools.....Washburn, Henry, South and Southwest. This is a sport where city schools are competing very well, and getting better.....The course was a little wet but still good...it will be part of the course we are going to use for the City of Lakes Ski Loppet this Sunday.

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