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Community response to a global situation

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Coronavirus Pandemic

Neighbors got outside and built community near Brackett Park on Sunday, March 22, 2020 for the Corona-Cautious Classic biking extravaganza. Above, Hans, Ann, and Eve Thorkelson cheer on the participants. Below Ellen Sharratt participates. One child at a time, at 10 minute intervals, vied for Fastest Lap or Most Laps in 10 Minutes and competed for costume/spirit awards. Drinks, snacks, signs, bells, bullhorns were encouraged.

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
“We are continuing to bake bread because we believe in the power of such a basic food,” said Christopher MacLeod of Laune Bread, a microbakery and bread delivery service in South Minneapolis. “To our subscribers it carries a lot of meaning – it is a weekly ritual for many of them, but it is also nutrient dense and life sustaining.”
As restaurants closed to sit-down customers and with it their pick-up sites, MacLeod and his partner, Tiff Singh, asked themselves what they should do. Should they continue baking and delivering bread? Is it safe and smart?
“We are healthy, but that isn’t a guarantee, and it is scary. It gives us a lot of anxiety,” they admitted. “We have both been sitting in front of our computers hours on end every day corresponding with our subscribers and others who ask for bread, watching the news rapidly change, and trying to develop new logistical systems and also health and food safety procedures.”
They decided to discontinue pick-up locations and do delivery only. They dropped the $1 bike delivery fee, moved to car delivery, and narrowed their delivery area. They made some changes to reduce risk, including heavily cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and their hands during the bake, and wearing food safe gloves and face masks at all times after the bread comes out of the oven and during the delivery.
Their business is flexible because it is relatively small and operates without a storefront.
This week they added a second bake to keep up with demand and to offer people a chance to purchase bread at whatever price they could afford. “In 24 hours, 51 loaves of bread have been donated through our subscribers and the community at large,” observed MacLeod.
“We want to keep offering sustenance, but beyond our regular members – last week we donated 20 loaves (we donated 10 and our members paid for 10) through our members to people who needed them: school teachers, elderly neighbors, hair stylists, and families. It’s a language of humanity – the meaning of our bread spreads beyond the bakery to those who buy it, to those who are gifted it.”
Of those donated loaves, five went to a subscriber who shared them with others.
“Your bread fed: me, my partner teacher who is caring for her mother as she recovers from having her gallbladder removed, a friend of our gym teacher who was in need, the teacher I did student teaching with who just had to adopt the younger (half) sibling of one of her kids, and a teacher who is in treatment for breast cancer,” wrote the woman. “Thank you, from all of us.”
MacLeod and Singh recognize the situation is precarious and at some point they may discontinue baking bread, but right now they’re focusing on supporting their community and are being supported in return.
“We are a small business, but the ingredients we bake with make a big difference to many people,” they said.

Annual fish fry attendance drops, church works to
encourage parish family
Each year, hundreds of people line up at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Longfellow for the Friday night Fish Fry during Lent.
But not this year.
As Governor Walz declared a peacetime emergency on Friday, March 13, church volunteers debated whether to continue with that night’s fish fry. “We did go ahead and do the dinner on March 13 because it’s a little like stopping a locomotive on a dime to try to cancel at the last minute,” observed Erin Sim, the church office and communications manager.
“Gallons of coleslaw were ready, and many pounds of fish thawed. We served about 425 people that night, as opposed to the 1,100-1,350 we might have done on a regular third night. But even Archbishop Hebda came, as he hates to miss our Fish Dinners (which one of the local radio stations called ‘The Vegas of Fish Fries!’).”
The loss of revenue will have a huge impact on the church’s budget, as it is one of two major fundraisers held each year, according to Sim. “We miss the ‘fun raising’ as well, because we have such a good time showing our guests a warm welcome and feeding them well.”
The church is considering doing some variation of the dinners when it is safe to do so, perhaps tying fish ‘n’ chips in with its annual Bingo-Rama nights in July.
“Meanwhile, as with all the faith communities, we have cancelled our masses (daily and weekend) and all other gatherings until it’s safe to offer them again. We are live-streaming our Sunday morning 9:30 a.m. mass using Facebook Live on our St. Albert the Great Facebook page and then archiving the result on our website: www.saintalbertthegreat.org, under the Worship with Us tab.
“Our small staff will take turns spending a day in the office, Tuesday through Friday, but otherwise will work from home to keep publishing the Bulletin and trying to keep our parish family informed, encouraged and together in these days when we can’t interact in person.”

Kennedy Transmission offers home pick-up and drop-off
Kennedy Transmission CVT & Auto at 3423 E. Lake St. typically has appointments scheduled one to two weeks out as they are one of only a handful of shops in the U.S. that specialize in repair of CVT (Constant Variable Transmission) and Hybrid Drive systems. Their appointment calendar has dropped off dramatically the week beginning on Monday, March 23.
“I know a number of repair shops that have closed or are expecting to close very soon and this makes me very nervous. I have a small staff of very talented people who very much want to keep working as normal,” said owner Matt Johnson. “At this point we are classified an ‘essential’ sector of the economy to facilitate transportation and as such plan on staying healthy and working through the duration if at all possible.”
He has walled off the customer area from the front desk area with plexiglass, and employees are using the shop service door instead of the customer entrance. They are disinfecting door handles, countertops and hard surfaces throughout the day and doing a thorough bleaching at night. They are wiping down customer’s steering wheels and gear shifters after completing work.
“Although some of these measures slow our workflow a bit, I think we need to do everything practical to mitigate the risk of virus spread,” remarked Johnson.
“I have always said that we have the best customers and this has really been evident the past week,” said Johnson. ”I have received a lot of calls and visits just to check in on us and make sure things are going well. Our hope is that people are able to work and stay safe at the same time; and we can continue to maintain their vehicles. I think it is generally imperative that anyone showing possible symptoms of COVID-19 quarantine themselves to limit potential spread.”
To help those with underlying health issues as well as those who simply want to limit their time in public spaces, Kennedy Transmission has begun picking up customer vehicles and dropping them back off.
“We have also decided we would do whatever we can to provide basic help to our customers at no charge,” said Johnson. “In particular, if someone in the neighborhood needs a tire aired up or a jump-start, I will try and be there in a timely manner and get them back on the road. Although it may be a little thing, I think if everyone helps a little here or there, we will weather this better together.”
He is also making a few supply runs for neighborhood residents who need something from Target or Walgreens, fitting them in between his work responsibilities.
“If Italy, Spain, etc. have any parallel to the U.S. then things will get a lot worse before they get better,” observed Johnson. “Minneapolis is a wonderful community and I think basic best hygiene, social distancing and common sense practices as well as supporting our neighbors will be the key to weathering this crisis.”

Business organizations,
neighbors support each other
Businesses in the neighborhood are facing the challenge of adjusting to the new information and restrictions that are coming out daily, observed Kim Jakus of the Longfellow Business Association. Those without direct contact with the public are taking precautions for their employees and workplaces. Restaurants and retail locations are being hit harder, reducing hours, laying off workers, transitioning to online orders, implementing pick-up or delivery options, and offering gift cards for later redemption. They’re trying to figure out how to manage expenses, pinpoint which can be delayed and which still need to be paid.
“I see a lot of generosity from the community on Next Door encouraging neighbors to still support local businesses,” Jakus said.
Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson has taken the lead on creating a Google spreadsheet listing all local businesses and whether they are still open or not. Find the link on his Facebook page.
The LBA, Lake Street Council and Redesign are partnering together to provide small businesses with information on resources available to them. They list items on their web sites and share them through regular email updates. Highlights include Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available for small businesses and monthly sales taxes have been deferred a month.
“We’re connecting on how we can work together to support businesses in our geographic scope. Probably a lot of that will come on the tail end of this crisis and figuring out what recovery looks like,” observed Jakus.

Trying to manage life
in a pandemic
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Longfellow resident Don Hammen became selective about when he left his house. On March 15, he took a tape measure to church to ensure there was over six feet between him and others.
He decided to skip the Neighborhoods 2020 meeting the next day, although it pained him. But he was still planning to pull together Elder Voices (Telling Our Stories) at Turtle Bread as usual the fourth Friday of the month.
He stocked up on frozen foods and canned goods, and continued to use Meals on Wheels. As the week went on, he discovered that buying groceries through Cub Home Delivery was becoming harder. He could no longer place a delivery in the morning and get it later that day; instead, a Thursday order wouldn’t come until Sunday.
Being dependent on mass transit, Hammen was confident he could continue to use it to get around. Things changed later in the week when Mass Transit announced new guidelines on how many people could be on a bus and restricting non-essential travel. “I can live with this but if they ever did a complete shut down I would have a real problem,” said Hammen.
Complicating things is that his refrigerator appears to be dying.
He’s wondering how “we are in this together” is actually playing out at the neighborhood level. Will social distancing mean social isolation?
“The fact of the matter is I’m still trying to figure out how to manage my life in this COVID-19 situation,” Hammen said.

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If you can sew, you can help

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Michelle Hoaglund, owner of St. Paul’s Treadle Yard Goods, handed out the first of 50 free fabric kits last weekend. Her store made the kits available for people to sew facemasks for health care workers. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

One critical need that has emerged over the past several days is the need for more personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns, in hospitals and other health care settings. In recent days, doctors and nurses have warned that they are running out of equipment to stay safe as they diagnose and treat patients.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Allina Health, along with several community partners, have launched a statewide volunteer effort, calling for people to sew and donate facemasks for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.
Michelle Hoaglund is the owner of Treadle Yard Goods, a well-established, much loved fabric store on Hamline and Grand avenues in St. Paul. Partnering with the non-profit Sew Good Goods, Hoaglund and her dedicated staff were able to put together 50 free kits with enough cotton fabric and elastic to make 28 CDC approved face masks.
Distribution of the kits began at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. By 1:05 p.m., according to Hoaglund, all of the kits were gone. The line of people, which had started to form at noon, stretched all the way to the end of the block and around the corner. People maintained a safe distance between one another, and many came to the store to buy their own material once the free kits had been given away.
“It was,” Hoaglund said, “beyond what any of us could have imagined.” She estimated there were between 80-100 people waiting in line and mused, “People who sew are just not the kind to sit around on the couch in a time of crisis.”
Treadle Yard Goods will likely continue to make more kits available and, at least at the time of printing, the store remains open for shopping. Check www.treadleyardgoods.com for updates.
If you would like to use fabrics you currently have in your own stock pile, note the following guidelines: be sure to use fabric that is 100% cotton: tightly woven for the front, flannel or other soft 100% cotton for the back. If you have any doubts about the content of your fabric, don’t use it. Prewash all fabric on hot and dry on high heat to ensure pre-shrinkage. Area hospitals or other providers will sanitize the masks.
Instructions involve the use of elastic. If that is not available, you can make fabric ties (self-made ties or twill tape), one in each of the four corners. Each tie should have a finished length of 18 inches. To make your own ties, cut fabric strips 1 ¼” wide, fold in half and press, then sew both outer edges in to the middle with a single seam. Knot the ends to keep from fraying.
It is advisable to use contrasting fabrics, so there is an obvious front and back side.
In this extraordinarily difficult time for small business owners, Hoaglund said, “I made my peace with all of the uncertainty a few days ago. I thought, we can’t control any of what is happening right now – but it’s how you love your neighbor that counts.”
Instructions and drop-off points for the CDC-approved design, approved by Allina Health, are available at sewgoodgoods.org.
This link contains additional useful information: https://blog.bluecrossmn.com/covid19masks/
Many organizations in addition to hospitals have a need for masks including homeless shelters and funeral homes.

 

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Schools revised?

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Minneapolis schools propose major overhaul

Minneapolis Public Schools has proposed some sweeping changes that would affect where 63% of its students attend school beginning in fall 2021. Parents brought their questions about high school changes to a meeting at Roosevelt High on Feb. 24, 2020. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Here’s what you need to know about how the Minneapolis Public School Comprehensive District Design would affect high schools.
• High school transition would begin with 2021-22 incoming ninth graders.
• 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students would remain in current high schools until graduation.
• This proposal aligns high school boundaries with middle school attendance areas to keep middle school cohorts together.
• It builds enrollment on the north side. Right now, North High is at 17.5% capacity with only 326 students.
Career and Tech Ed
The district is seeking to centralize its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs by consolidating classes at three sites.
1) North Tech Center at North High: engineering, computer science-information technology, robotics, and web and digital communications
2) Northeast Tech Center at Edison High: business, law and public safety, and agriculture
3) South Tech Center at Roosevelt High: auto, construction, machine tool, welding, and healthcare
• Schools that lose their CTE programming could opt to have afterschool programs and clubs, or use school budgets for elective courses.
• Currently, across MPS, CTE is up to 82.2% underenrolled

Vote planned in April
In December 2017, the district began comprehensive design with system-wide assessment, and the school board authorized the superintendent to create recommendations for changes in the district at its Oct. 19, 2019 meeting. The district released its high school plans to the public in late February 2020. The board plans to vote on the design in April despite community requests to take more time.

 

High School Boundaries
Above: Current

Below: Proposed revision

Under the proposed plans, K-5 and 6-8 magnet schools would be moved so that they are more centrally located, markedly changing school options in South Minneapolis. The district would stop offering K-8 options, which are heavily used by immigrant groups. Several magnet programs would go away, including Folwell, Dowling, Bancroft, Windom and Armatage Montessori. Note colored dots.

Which elementary schools feed into which middle schools is modified under the proposal in an attempt to reduce transportation costs and create stronger community schools.

All graphics but top table courtesy of Minneapolis Public Schools.
Find detailed presentations on the district’s web site.

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Adopt-a-Drain: simple way to make a big difference and protect state waterways

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Sweep up, rake up, pick up!

(L>R) City Council Member Andrew Johnson with drain adopters Mandy LaBreche and Jillian Kaster are joined by Minneapolis Public Works Engineer Bryan Dodds at the 10,000th drain adopted by Mandy.

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Everyone knows that trash is no good for lakes, rivers, and streams. But do you know that natural debris such as leaves, grass clippings, and pet waste also pollute the waterways? When these natural pollutants are swept into the storm water system, they end up in the nearest body of water. Eventually the organic matter will break down, release phosphorous, and stimulate the growth of algae.
The Minneapolis Adopt-a-Drain Program was created in 2016 to help address this problem. Minneapolis joined a metro-wide program when it was launched last year.
The concept is simple, and it’s working. Residents learn about Adopt-a-Drain and volunteer on the program website (www.adopt-a-drain.org). Adopt-a-Drain asks residents to adopt a storm drain in their neighborhood, and keep it clear of leaves, trash, and other debris to reduce water pollution. Volunteers commit to keeping a storm drain unimpeded. Storm drains flow directly into local lakes, rivers, and wetlands, acting as a conduit for trash and organic pollutants.

Minneapolis leads cities
Program Manager Lane Christianson said, “2019 was a year of exceptional growth for the Adopt-a-Drain Program. We’re thrilled to report that Minneapolis is leading all cities in total participants and adopted storm drains. We had 1,561 storm drains adopted with 825 new participants last year. Most participants take care of multiple drains; some do entire intersections. We ask volunteers to sweep/rake/shovel leaves, trash and other debris off the drain surface year round.”
Volunteers can report as often as they like – but are asked to report their observations at least twice yearly, in the spring and fall via an online account. For those who don’t have access to the online system, a reporting postcard is mailed out annually.
Christianson recommends the following tools for making the job easier: broom, rake, gloves, snow shovel or dustpan, pail, and compostable yard waste bag.

(L>R) Mandy LaBreche and Jillian Kaster; drain adopters with the 10; 000th adopted drain.

He said, “Only the surface of the storm drain grate and the area around it should be cleaned. Do not remove the grate or otherwise attempt to clean inside the storm drain. If your drain is plugged, contact the city of Minneapolis at 311.”
As part of the job, waste is separated and placed in the appropriate trash, recycling, or compost carts at the volunteer’s home. Note that sediment or dirt collected in the spring is not compostable, as it likely contains chemical residue from deicers used over the winter and motor oil. Bag it, and put it in the trash.
Once these pollutants get into the storm water system and start to decay, organic matter releases nutrients (phosphorous is the biggest culprit) that feed algae and invasive plants.
When lakes get covered with algae, sunlight can’t reach the bottom and desirable plants start to die off. In the long term, the ecosystem changes so fewer aquatic animals, fish, and native plants can survive.

Make a big difference
Christianson said, “It doesn’t take a lot of time to clean a storm drain, and it makes a big difference collectively. Volunteers like Mandy LaBreche, who recently adopted the 10,000th drain through our program, are eager to do something that makes a positive difference in improving local water quality.”
Minneapolis participants receive a yard sign that helps spread the word about this volunteer program. For more information or to adopt-a-drain of your own, go to www.adopt-a-drain.org.

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Quilt Shop Co-op opening at former Glad Creations location

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Quilt Shop Co-op board members (left to right) Steve Budas, Jennie Baltutis, and Amy Swanson. The empty shelves will soon be stocked when the first ever, consumer-owned fabric store opens in South Minneapolis this year. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The storefront at 3400 Bloomington Ave. S. housed a beloved fabric store called Glad Creations for 43 years. When the owners retired last year, dedicated employees and customers weren’t willing to give up on their lively, well-established fabric arts community in the heart of the city.
After months of preparation, they have plans for launching the first ever, cooperatively owned and managed fabric store in the U.S. The Quilt Shop Co-op is already 300 members strong, and is reaching out to sewing enthusiasts near and far to become founding members.
Board member Amy Swanson said, “Our membership demographics show zip codes from throughout the Twin Cities and out-state Minnesota. People are passionate about supporting the co-operative small business model, and about supporting fabric arts.”

Become a member
A consumer-owned business relies on many community members investing in a business they care about. A one-time membership share at the Quilt Shop Co-op costs $120. To become a member, mail a check to 3400 Bloomington Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407, or join online at www.quiltshopcoop.com.
Every member makes the same financial commitment, and receives the same benefits from the co-op’s success. Benefits include special member-only events, being asked to influence inventory selection and class topics through periodic member surveys, quarterly member discounts and annual patronage refunds once the shop is profitable, access to the community meeting space, and the satisfaction of supporting a small business in the local community.
Former Glad Creations employee and co-op board member Jennie Baltutis attended a class sponsored by the city of Minneapolis for business owners interested in the co-op model (see side bar). With the help of program consultants, she wrote a business plan for the Quilt Shop Co-op and learned about financing options.
Baltutis said, “I learned that many small businesses are closing because their owners are retiring. We’ve seen a lot of that in the Twin Cities. According to U.S. Small Business Administration data, only 20% of small businesses listed for sale actually sell. Adopting the co-operative business model can keep a business alive well into the future. The fact that a successful fabric store existed in this site for more than 40 years speaks to our customer base. It means that the feasibility study has already been done.”

More than a store
A consumer-owned co-op is much more than a store. An elected board ensures the health of the co-op and represents its members. It seems particularly appropriate for a fabric store because sewing and quilting have deep roots in community.
Board member Amy Swanson said, “Having a co-operative structure allows us to dream big. We’ll have a beautiful store that people can shop in, but maybe one day we’ll also have a mobile sewing lab? People need to learn how to sew and to fix things. The ethos of a co-op says, ‘What is best for your neighborhood, your community?’ With this model, co-op members will have a real voice in asking for what they want and need.”
In order for the Quilt Shop Co-op to secure financing through their lender, Shared Capital Co-operative, they need to have a steady increase in membership.
Board chairman Steve Budas said, “It’s essential that we double our membership in the coming months. In the short term, we are also looking for help with getting the word out to people that a beloved fabric store will live on in South Minneapolis. We have a strong six-person board and our financing application is in the final stages of review.
“In these months before we open, we need to establish social media accounts so that we can reach as many prospective members as possible. Ideally, we’re hoping to find a couple of volunteers willing to work 2-3 hours per week on this.” Email info@quiltshopcoop.com, if interested.

Co-op training available
The city of Minneapolis offers a Co-operative Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP) at no cost for participants. The feasibility training is available to new co-operatives, and existing businesses interested in converting to a co-operative model. The program also provides one-on-one technical assistance.

The city believes the co-op model benefits community by:
• Acting as an economic development tool to reduce poverty and promote social cohesion.
• Increasing racial and ethnic diversity in business ownership.
• Supporting innovation, community building, and local investment by encouraging a more collaborative business model.

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All Energy Solar celebrates 10-year anniversary

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

‘The time is now’ for solar power, according to co-owner Michael Allen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Richard Franco has an exterior Smart Meter that measures his home energy use in 15 minute increments. He also gauges his family’s energy consumption (and availability) using an indoor meter and a smart phone app. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The numbers are in. The U.S. Department of Labor’s statistics predict that over the next decade, solar installer jobs will grow more than any other occupation.
All Energy Solar is a company in the Midway that designs, installs, and monitors solar power systems for homes and businesses – and they’ve been doing it for 10 years. Their new, expanded headquarters in Energy Park made it possible for the company to stay in St. Paul during a time of significant growth.
The solar energy industry is booming, which is good news for the environment and for the economy. The jobs that are produced can’t be outsourced or done by robots – the work has to be done by local people.
President and co-owner Michael Allen said, “Last year, we installed more than 1,000 solar power systems. This year, our goal is 1,250 installations. While our company has a six-state reach, the lion’s share of our business is right here in the Twin Cities.”

‘They did the heavy lifting’
Richard Franco was an All Energy Solar customer in 2019; he had 12 solar panels installed on his home last spring. He said, “I’d been interested in solar panels for a while. There were tax credits and rebates in place, it seemed like a hedge against energy costs continually rising, and, of course, there are the obvious environmental benefits.”
Franco had seen signs for All Energy Solar in his neighborhood, and appreciated that they were a local company. When one of his neighbors had solar panels installed by All Energy Solar, Franco knocked on his door. The neighbor described his experience as extremely positive, and Franco’s would turn out to be as well.
In Franco’s words, “They came out and evaluated everything, determining that my steeply-pitched, south-facing, relatively unobstructed roof was perfect for solar panels. They did all the heavy lifting, and got the logistical stuff set up with Xcel Energy. While I was making sure my homeowner’s insurance would cover solar panels, All Energy Solar didn’t pressure me in any way.”

Richard Franco’s home as seen from the back yard. His 12 solar panels generate between 20-24 kilowatt hours on a sunny day. On a typical day, his family uses between 5-7 kilowatt hours. The surplus is sold back to Xcel Energy for .08 cents/kilowatt hour.(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Individualized assessments set them apart
Michael Allen was working in the solar energy industry for 10 years before he started All Energy Solar with his brother Brian a decade ago. He said, “It’s easy enough to buy a solar energy system over the internet, but it will likely end up costing you more in the long run. We believe that individual attention is essential for having a system work optimally. If it isn’t installed properly, it might not be up to code or pass the insurance inspection.”
He added, “We model every home or business we work on in 3-D imaging, and interpret exactly how the panels will be integrated with smart, efficient design. There are trees and structures that get in the way of the sun. If the south side of a property is shaded, maybe the panels will have to be placed on the east or the west.
“Our consultants are highly skilled at at site design, and every site is different.”
All Energy Solar helps homeowners choose a system that is appropriate not only to their site, but also to their energy needs. Energy use is evaluated on a 12-month cycle, and those numbers inform the design of each solar power system.
Community solar gardens are growing in popularity, and Allen supports the idea – to a point. He explained, “When you look at it carefully, it’s a continuation of the idea of renting electricity. Somebody builds a solar garden in an outlying area, pumps a lot of energy into the grid, and customers get a slight credit on their Xcel bill.”
He believes the motivation for installing a home solar energy system is the same as what gets people to buy, rather than rent, their home. It’s empowering to generate your own electricity — and it’s a sound investment.”

‘The time is now’
According to Allen, the technology of solar panels hasn’t changed much over time. They use the same technology developed by scientists at Bell Laboratories in 1954. What has changed tremendously in the inversion technology that converts DC (direct current electricity collected from the sun) into AC (alternating current electricity that can be used in the home).
Solar panels typically come with a 25-year warranty. Once they’re installed, they are relatively maintenance free. There is no need to keep them clear of snow and ice. The panels are dark colored, and will clear themselves on their own. Allen said, “Don’t go up on your roof to check on them!”
The solar industry is a global industry, with the U.S. being – so far – a very small part of the market. According to Allen, “Not even 2% of the energy used in this country comes from renewable sources. Collecting energy from the sun is a simple, safe technology that we just haven’t adopted in a big way. We have the opportunity to move forward with the Green Economy in this state and in this country, and revolutionize our infrastructure to be truly renewable. All of the technology is ready. The time is now.”
For more information on installing solar panels on your home, or to learn about job opportunities with All Energy Solar, visit www.allenergysolar.com.

“We’re proud to be part of this economic sector based on renewable energy. With Governor Walz calling for statewide carbon-free energy by 2050, awareness of the benefits of solar energy
will continue to grow.”
~ Michael Allen

Benefit this year
If you install a solar panel system in 2020, 26% of your total project costs (including equipment, permitting and installation) can be claimed as a credit on your federal tax return. If you spend $10,000 on your system, you owe $2,600 less in taxes the following year. The solar tax credit will be less in 2021, and will expire in 2022.

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River Adventure Program challenges kids to learn about nature and themselves

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Adventuring outdoors

 

The Winter River Adventure Challenge introduces fourth graders to five different outdoor stations set up at Fort Snelling State Park. Each station offers a blend of simple orienteering activities, recreation, and nature awareness. David Kappelhoff, Mississippi Park Connect Education Coordinator, said, “So many people in Minnesota complain and stay indoors all winter! This program is teaching students that they can enjoy cold weather. This positive connection to winter early-on creates an adaptive mindset and builds confidence.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Winter River Adventure Challenge is a new field trip being piloted at Fort Snelling State Park for Minneapolis and St. Paul Public School students. It is a collaboration between the National Park Service (NPS) and their non-profit partner, Mississippi Park Connection.
The program is designed to introduce fourth grade students to basic orienteering skills and, as a side benefit, meets some of the geography standards for that grade level. It also gives students a chance to have a blast outside in winter – working together in teams while enjoying the natural surroundings along the Mississippi River.
Seven different Twin Cities Title I Schools participated in this year’s Winter River, for a total of 11 different visits. A Title I school is one where at least 40% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The Winter River Adventure Challenge begins in the classroom, before anybody sets foot outdoors. NPS River Educators visit each classroom to help students prepare well in advance for their field trip.
David Kappelhoff is the education coordinator for Mississippi Park Connection. He said, “A lot happens on the sides of this program. Students get to see what it means to be in a more natural and wooded area during winter. Students walk between the five stations that are set up for them to explore. Each station offers a blend of simple orienteering activities, recreation and nature awareness.
“They might see signs of wildlife like an eagle’s nest or animal tracks in the snow while they’re walking. Someone in the park might have built a snow shelter, or a cross country skier might pass by. Even experiencing an outdoor satellite bathroom can be a memorable experience.”

Taking ownership, feeling
successful
Before their field trip, students learn that they will be staying outdoors for two and one-half hours. One of the goals of this program is to help students prepare for winter activities by learning to dress properly. River Educators introduce the idea of dressing in layers to stay warm outdoors.
Students are encouraged to inventory what winter clothing they already have – and then to work with teachers, families, neighbors, and friends to get the rest. The program has a small collection of boots, mittens, hats, and coats that can be borrowed if a student arrives inadequately dressed on the day of their field trip. REI has donated to this collection, as has Wilderness Inquiry (another programming partner), and Bogs Footwear.
“Students start to formulate new questions and ideas about what it means to be outdoors in winter. They prove to themselves that they can have fun, if they come well-prepared. They learn to take ownership for their own warmth – and they can feel successful for having prepared themselves for the cold.”
During the classroom visit, students are introduced to different kinds of maps. They are shown a map of Fort Snelling State Park, and start to identify basic map symbols they would not see on a mobile phone map app. Students are encouraged to start thinking about maps and symbols, and to connect them to their physical surroundings.
They are also introduced to the National Park Service arrowhead symbol, which they will see again on their field trip day. Fort Snelling State Park is included in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. This area protects a 72-mile corridor along the Mississippi River including the section that flows through the Twin Cities.

Three options for students
Winter River Adventure Challenge is funded by a grant from the National Park Foundation through its Open Outdoors for Kids initiative. It is also supported by staff at Fort Snelling State Park, and has direct staffing help from Wilderness Inquiry, NPS rangers, NPS River Educators, and NPS volunteers. To learn more about volunteering for this program, email NPS Volunteer Coordinator Paula Swingley at paula_swingley@nps.gov.
Winter River is one part of a three-part program designed to get urban students outdoors – and into the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – over the course of a typical school year. Working River takes place in autumn, and introduces students to the historic St. Anthony Falls area. Living River takes place in the spring. Aboard a riverboat, students learn how the Mississippi River plays host to a unique eco-system for fish and mussels.
Educators interested in scheduling any of these three river programs can contact David Kappelhoff at dkappelhoff@parkconnection.org.

Every Kid Outdoors
• Fourth graders are eligible for a free National Park Pass through a federally funded program called Every Kid Outdoors.
• The voucher program grants free entry for fourth graders, all children under 16 in their group, and up to three accompanying adults to most federally managed lands and waters.
• The pass does not cover expanded amenity fees such as camping or boat rides. For more information, go to https://everykidoutdoors.gov/index.htm.

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Area C not deemed emergency

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Area C (background), as photographed from the opposite bank of the Mississippi River, is just south of the Ford Bridge. The Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste, including solvents and paint sludge, on the floodplain of the Mississippi River below the bluff near its St. Paul assembly plant between 1945-1966. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

But community members concerned

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Over 150 people turned out to hear the latest findings about Area C from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in a packed meeting room at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on Feb. 20, 2020.
The topic of discussion, called Area C, is a dump site where the Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste, including solvents and paint sludge, on the floodplain of the Mississippi River below the bluff near its St. Paul assembly plant between 1945-1966.
MPCA hydrogeologist Amy Hadiaris has been monitoring ground and surface water in Area C since 2007. She presented the most recent data and summarized the position of MPCA by saying, “Clean-up is needed, but we do not see this as an emergency situation.”
Community members expressed a deep level of concern about the dump site during the meeting, submitting a half-inch-thick stack of index cards with questions for MPCA staff to address.
Friends of the Mississippi River Executive Director Whitney Clark asked the last question of the evening. He asked, “Is it right for the Ford Corporation to leave their waste for future generations to clean up?”
Someone then called for a show of hands for how many people would have Ford remove it all if they could – and nearly everyone in the room raised theirs, including MPCA staff.
In this investigative stage, nine groundwater monitoring wells will be added to the existing 10. Friends of the Mississippi River and the Capitol Region Watershed District requested and support this increase in monitoring activities.
Hadiaris explained, “MPCA has a set process for evaluating the safety of ground water. We are testing for 65 volatile organic compounds, and 80 semi-volatile organic compounds. One of the big concerns is lead, which was added to all paints of that era.”
At the request of MPCA, the Minnesota Department of Health reviewed site data to assess health risks related to Area C. It was determined that only minimal threat exists if trespassers contact contaminants in soil or other physical hazards. There are no other ways for people to come in contact with contaminants, unless they trespass on the site.
To further discourage trespassing, MDH recommends repairing broken fence segments and adding signage between the Hidden Falls Regional Park walking trail and the southern boundary of Area C.

Waiting for two+ floods
Hadiaris said, “This is a contemplative process. We will wait for at least two flood events before making a clean-up decision and presenting it to the Ford Corporation.”
There will be another community information meeting once MPCA completes its feasibility study. To be placed on the email update list for Area C, contact Sophie Downey at sdowney@fmr.org.

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Five vie at 63B forum

Posted on 08 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

2020: GET TO KNOW YOUR OPTIONS

By Jill Boogren
With longtime Rep. Jean Wagenius’s announcement last November that she would not be seeking reelection in 2020 to her seat in the Minnesota State Legislature, several candidates are now vying to represent the portions of south Minneapolis and Richfield that make up House District 63B.
In late January, five DFL candidates got a chance to introduce themselves and present their views to several dozen residents at a DFL candidate forum held at the Richfield Community Center.
The two-hour forum, moderated by the DFL’s Amy Livingston and Thomas Anderson, was structured around five prepared questions, with none taken from the audience.
In this historically left-voting district, all five candidates promoted progressive platforms. But while there were areas in which there was broad agreement – the need to address disparities between white residents and people of color in education, housing and health care, providing mental health services, addressing climate change – candidates did differentiate themselves in terms of priority and approach.
The result? An information-packed evening that left people with plenty to ponder.
Here are brief excerpts from candidates’ introductions and what they stated as their priorities to kick off the forum.

Emma Greenman
Having experienced “both comfort and poverty,” Emma Greenman said she would never forget the feeling of getting off a waiting list for subsidized housing and moving into the Towers at Cedar-Riverside, for the safety and security it provided as her mom struggled with mental illness.
A former Wellstone organizer and voting rights attorney, Greenman called 2020 “a make or break moment for our democracy,” which she said is under attack by voter suppression and money in politics. She wants to focus on fixing the system first.
“Before we can tackle the issues, we have to start by repairing and reimagining our democracy,” she said. “…When you look at common sense gun violence legislation, when you look at issues of criminal justice reform, when you look at issues of clean energy… what is holding us back is a concentrated attack on our democracy.”
Her first priority would be to restore the right to vote. She called for automatic voter registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year olds, and for ensuring every dollar spent on ads is disclosed.
Tyler Moroles
For Tyler Moroles, formerly with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and currently a manager of the Community Development Block Grant Development program in Hennepin County, addressing inequities in home ownership is a top priority.
“We have some of the worst inequalities in home ownership [between] people of color and white folks,” he said. He wants to see a renters bill of rights that ensures landlords give advance notice of vacating property and are not vacating for no reason, that gives tenants legal protections and establishes a tenant defense fund.
“Usually landlords have lawyers, tenants do not,” said Moroles.
He would also double the amount of funding for the Housing Finance Agency, which he said is twice as likely as private market lenders to give a direct home buyer assistance loan to a household of color. Moroles would also work to reduce property tax, so people, especially seniors trying to “age in place,” don’t get pushed out of their homes.
He also called for immigrants’ rights, expressing support for Driver’s Licenses for All, a bill passed by the House in 2019 that has not yet been taken up by the Senate. Born and raised in the district, Moroles describes his father as a Mexican-American Chicano migrant worker who lived “as a second class citizen his whole life.” He became addicted to opioids and died when Moroles was two years old. He was raised by his mother, who worked at a nursing home to provide for him. She was in the audience at the forum.

Husniya Dent Bradley
Husniya Dent Bradley, a chemist, campaign organizer, lawyer and program administrator/counselor for career and professional development at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said her first priority would be to work with the Metropolitan Council and the Transportation Planning Commission on solutions for the I-494 underpass and for Crosstown Highway 62. She said the proposed MnPASS lane on I-494 could also be done on Crosstown Highway 62 and suggested widening the freeways by getting easements on some of the homes. In addition to the METRO Orange Line (I-35W Bus Rapid Transitway), she suggested adding a faster train over Portand Ave.
“That would definitely ease some of the congestion and some of the transportation issues,” she said.
Dent Bradley moved with her parents from Cincinnati to Chicago, where they were involved in voting rights and marches. In his job at the postal service, her dad helped union workers fight for union rights, which is where Dent Bradley learned about speaking up and the importance of people making their voices heard. Ultimately her family moved to 43rd and Chicago Ave. in Minneapolis, where they dealt with public assistance as well as having to vacate their home due to basement flooding.

Eric Ferguson
With a campaign slogan, “What’s the Big Idea?”, Eric Ferguson, website developer, actor and three-term former DFL chair of Senate District 63, is banking on his “big ideas.” Namely, three.
The first is to use pumped hydro to create an energy storage system that would use excess power (produced from solar and wind) to push water up to a reservoir, which could then be released over hydro turbines to recreate the electricity when it’s needed again.
“If we’re going to allow renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, we have to deal with the problem of renewables not providing baseload power,” he said. “We’ll probably have battery power eventually, but global warming isn’t waiting for eventually.”
His next idea is to cover the freeways, which tore out many homes and entire neighborhoods when they were built, to create space to build more housing.
Third, he would offer a free college plan he calls “Commit to Minnesota,” which would make any post-secondary education free if students commit to living in Minnesota for five years after they leave school.
Ferguson knows it would take time to build support for these ideas, so in order to get something passed quickly, his immediate priority would be to address “a local problem that is very solvable”: expanding noise mitigation – better windows and air conditioning – to the parts of Richfield that are under the airport flyways.
Jerome T. Evans
Jerome T. Evans grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, went to Georgia Tech, then law school. After practicing law for a few years, he moved to Minnesota.
Evans, who now chairs the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association, is co-chair of the Minneapolis Public Health Advisory Committee and serves as president of his condo association, said he and his partner, Aaron, are considering growing their family of two. In putting on his “Dad hat,” he found the data to be disturbing.
“If we have a child that looks like me [a person of color] and we put them through our public education system, they will receive a lower quality education than if they look like Aaron [who is white],” said Evans. “And that does not align with our values.”
Evans emphasized the need to take a data-driven approach when talking to Republicans in the Senate.
“You can talk racial justice with them until you’re blue in the face, and you will not get anything done,” he said. “Let’s start talking data, let’s keep it real, leave the rhetoric behind.”
His first priority would be to create the “Minnesota Hope Scholarship,” which would provide a pathway for low-income students of any ethnicity to get into college in Minnesota without having to pay for tuition.

‘Five good candidates’
After the first round, candidates responded to questions about improving public safety, addressing health care needs and crisis services, addressing homelessness and affordable housing, and strengthening Minnesota’s schools, with a final round asking candidates to talk about anything that was missing (see the Q & A guide on the previous page for a snapshot of these responses).
Following closing remarks, residents and candidates mingled for a few minutes. Asked to comment, Judy Moe, of Richfield Disability Advocacy Partnership, shared her impression.
“The biggest thing I noticed is lack of mention of the disability community,” she said, despite candidates discussing other demographics and the fact that transportation, housing and health care all apply. She did acknowledge that Greenman specifically mentioned accessible housing.
DFL Senate District 63 Secretary Larry Nelson offered his take. “I think we have five good candidates. All of them have good strengths and experiences they’ll bring to the Capitol.”
This forum is viewable by searching the SD63 DFL Open Discussion Forum on Facebook. The next DFL candidate forum for House Seat 63B will take place Saturday, March 28, 1-3 p.m., at Washburn Library, 5244 Lyndale Ave. S. DFL precinct caucuses were held Feb. 25, and the Senate District 63 DFL endorsing convention will take place Sunday, April 19, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Sanford Middle School (3524 42nd Ave. S.).

GOP candidate
Frank Pafko is running for GOP endorsement as the candidate for MN House of Representatives in District 63B. He ran in 2016 and 2018 against Rep. Jean Wagenius, who won her reelection by wide margins.

 

VOTE in the presidential primary March 3
In 2016, legislation was passed creating a presidential nomination primary, Minnesota’s first since 1992. The 2020 primary will be held Tuesday, March 3.

To vote, you must choose which party’s ballot you want. Two major parties are participating in the presidential primary, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party and the Republican Party.

http://vote.minneapolismn.gov/voters/election-day-register
Use the Voter Registration Lookup to see if you’re already registered.
Find your polling place.
Provide proof of residence.
Dial 311 Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., for election and other city information.

 

All genders invited to League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization open to all genders that:

• Encourages informed and active participation in government

• Works to increase understanding of major public policy issues

• Influences public policy through education and advocacy

The Civic Buzz meets the first Tuesday of each month, with new topics and speaker, followed by discussion. 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis. There will be no March Civic Buzz meeting as people are encouraged to vote in the Presidential primary election.

Get involved. Call the League office at 612-333-6319 or drop by 310 E. 38th St. Suite 205 at the Sabathani Center 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday – Friday.

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Original wood windows worthy of restoration

Posted on 08 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Why not work with what you already have?

HOME IMPROVEMENT

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Joe Hayes was working as an elementary school teacher in 2009, when he bought his first home. A classic South Minneapolis bungalow, the house had one major problem – its windows.
There were no storms on the outside, and all of the original glazing was gone. Metal pins held the window glass panes in place. The previous owner had cut and removed all the sash cords, and filled the side cavities with insulation. None of the windows could be opened.
The restoration project Hayes had to embark on eventually led to a career change. In the course of making many, many repairs, he realized he had a passion for it. Hayes found satisfaction in producing quality craftsmanship, and in working with his hands.
In the last three years, he has built Hayes Window Restoration into a full-service business providing repair and restoration of pre-1940 double-hung wood windows. Hayes said, “We have a clearly defined niche, and we do a good job of staying in it.”

Don’t discard and replace
In a building industry where “Discard and Replace” has become the moniker, Hayes offers homeowners a better option. Why not work with what you already have? His seven-person team brings knowledge, professionalism, and an ability to troubleshoot the nuances of older homes to every window restoration project.
Many of the older homes which dominate South Minneapolis are architectural treasures, whether they are large or small. Hayes explained, “The materials used to construct these homes were high quality, and the craftsmanship was excellent. Traditional joinery methods were brought over from Europe, and these homes, including their windows, were built to last.”
He pointed out, “The people who find us understand this. They have a sense that their old windows are meant to be there. A lot of our clients see themselves as stewards of their homes. With window repair and restoration, we’re not only doing what’s right for the house – we’re also doing what’s right for the environment.”

Old-growth white pine windows irreplaceable
Many of the nearly century-old homes in Longfellow and East Nokomis have windows made from old growth wood. Hayes said, “The old growth white pine from Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin can never be replaced. Those forests are gone.”
What’s the difference between old growth and new growth wood? Old growth wood had time on its side. Because of its age, it developed tight growth rings, dense heartwood, and is high in pitch – which makes it naturally insect and rot resistant.
The new growth wood used in replacement windows has none of those attributes, because it isn’t given time to develop them.

Original windows can be effcient too
Why are people so quick to replace their original windows? Hayes chalked it up to marketing. He said, “We live at the epi-center of three huge window manufacturers. It’s in their best interest to sell new windows, but how long will the replacements last? Look at the life of your manufacturer’s warranty; you can expect maybe 20 years before you need to replace them again.”
Window replacement companies tout energy efficiency and cost savings, but it’s worth reading between the lines. The general thinking is that it takes decades to get a return on investment. With proper care and maintenance (including weather stripping and quality storms) original windows can rival the energy efficiency of replacement windows at significantly lower cost – while keeping original windows out of the landfill or incinerator.
When considering replacement versus restoration, remember to factor in resource extraction and the energy needed to make new windows, too. The carbon foot print is not small.

Window preservation workshops
Hayes Window Restoration is licensed, insured, lead safe certified, and operates all year long. The turn-around time for full window restoration is about six weeks. They will secure your window openings for warmth and comfort while your windows are being worked on in their shop. Sash cord replacement, weather stripping installation, and other mechanical problems are done on-site, as is spot glazing in the warm months.
Hayes said, “We restore and repair windows in every kind of home from a one-bedroom Longfellow bungalow to a Cass Gilbert mansion on Summit Ave. We offer a range of services that make our services do-able for most homeowners.”
Through a partnership with Rethos (formerly the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota), Hayes has been active in teaching others how to maintain and preserve their own windows. In the past six months, he offered three workshops that covered everything from glazing to sash cord repair.
Hayes Window Restoration is also a proud new business member of ReUSE Minnesota, a non-profit organization focused on bringing visibility to the reuse, rental, and repair sector.
In the interest of promoting restoration, Hayes said, “Do it yourself if you can, and if you can’t – call us.” Their company website (www.hayeswindows.com) has a bounty of DIY tips, reports from the field, and other interesting and helpful tidbits in the section called Old Window Almanac.
“I have yet to meet an old window that I couldn’t restore,” said Hayes. “I’ve seen hopeless parts, but not hopeless windows.” To arrange for a free consultation, call 612.259.7855 or email info@hayeswindow.com.

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