Monthly Taize service held at Minnehaha United Methodist Church

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

The Taize service is an intimate, candle-lit gathering: a time for quiet reflection and prayer. Music, song, and words intermingle, building to a crescendo—called the Great Silence—that lasts for ten minutes or more.

Minnehaha United Methodist Church (MUMC), 3701 E. 50th St., offers an ecumenical Taize service on the second Friday of each month at 7pm (October through May).

Church members Diane Enge and Charlene Johnson have been coordinating the Taize Service at MUMC for 15 years. It’s based on a model dating back to WW II that has grown steadily over time. Enge and Johnson invite different musicians to participate each month.

Photo right: The Taize cross was made by parishioners Larry Harvey and Robert Wagner. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

On a frigid, snowy night in February, the service was guided by meditative silence, the sounds of piano, cello, and the voices of cantors Sarah Hruska Olson and Julie Cook. When readings were shared, they were delivered from the back of the church, not the pulpit. Only a few people were in attendance because of the weather, but as Enge was quick to point out, “It’s not the numbers that count.”

The original Taize Community, which has spawned a worldwide movement, is located about 250 miles southeast of Paris in the province of Burgundy. Their gatherings emphasize the need for all Christians to come together in peace, love, and reconciliation.

The Taize community especially welcomes young people, and their website can be read in 35 different languages.

Photo left: Diane Enge (left) and Charlene Johnson (right) have been organizing the monthly Taize Service at MUMC for 15 years. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The history of the community and their meditative style of worship go back a long way. In 1940, a Swiss monk named Roger Schutz purchased a small house in southern France. He left his native, politically neutral Switzerland and moved to France—where he thought he could do more to alleviate the suffering of the war. Brother Roger’s home quickly became a sanctuary for war refugees both Jewish and Christian, and eventually an ecumenical, monastic order. He served as its prior until his death in 2005. His intuitive response to a world at war was to create a community where kindness of heart and simplicity were at the center of everything.

Schutz believed that human beings implicitly thirst for one thing: a rich inner life. He wrote in the book, “Songs and Prayers from Taize,” that nothing is more conducive to communion with the living God than simple, common prayer. When the mystery of God is not smothered by too many words, then common prayer awakens worshipers to heaven’s joy on earth. To celebrate in this way, only a few people are needed.

The next Taize Service at Minnehaha United Methodist Church is scheduled for Fri., Mar. 8th at 7pm. Call the church office at 721.6231 with any questions. All are welcome to participate in this non-denominational service.






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Block Club Leader Training set for Mar. 18 at Third Precinct

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct is holding a Block Leader Training on Mar. 18 from 6:30-8pm. The meeting will take place in the community room at 3000 Minnehaha Ave. (intersection of Minnehaha and Lake.) Off-street parking is available behind the precinct building.

Third Precinct crime prevention specialist Karen Notsch, said, “This meeting is both training for new block leaders and a refresher for people who are already serving as block leaders. We keep updating our police resources while building community one block at a time.” According to Notsch, the Longfellow and East Nokomis neighborhoods are very involved in blocks clubs to reduce crime. “At this time, 90% of the blocks in these neighborhoods are involved,” she said.

There will soon be four crime prevention specialists serving the 3rd Precinct, which is the largest precinct in Minneapolis. Shun Tillman serves the Longfellow neighborhood, and Jennifer Neale serves Nokomis.

Notsch said, “A lot of people don’t know they can get information directly from crime prevention specialists. If you witness a police action and want to understand what happened, calling 911 won’t help. Call 311 instead, and ask to be directed to the crime prevention specialist responsible for the neighborhood you live in. We can’t inform you if it’s a date privacy issue (like a domestic assault), but we can let you know any specific public information. Knowing your neighbors is still the best way to reduce crime.”

People interested in attending the training should RSVP in advance to Shun Tillman, 612-673-2846, or email

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Tributary Reading Series meets monthly at Selam Coffee

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

The sounding call of the Tributary Reading Series is simple: “Love your neighbor. Drink Coffee. Dig poetry.” Created by Minneapolis poet and performer Ted King and hosted by the owners of Selam Coffee, the gathering happens on the first Saturday of each month starting at 1pm.

Photo right: Poet Mari Moore read from recently published work. Her honors include a Bush Artist Fellowship, multiple McKnight Artist Fellowships, The Loft Creative Non-Fiction Award, and numerous residencies. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Saxophonist David Erickson begins playing and improvising on those days at noon. Audience members trickle in by ones and twos; every month, according to King, “It’s standing room only. With this kind of reading, it’s all about the audience. Everyone should feel welcome.” The event is exactly what it’s billed as—an enjoyable, politically charged, power-hour in a cozy coffee shop.

King is the curator of the Tributary Reading Series. “I was recovering from a serious illness a couple of years ago,” he said. “I was homebound and bored. I’m a poet and a performer. I couldn’t get around much at that time, but I thought I could put together a poetry reading series. If I organized it, I could pick all the ways that would make it easy for me to participate.”

Photo left: Curator Ted King chose to call this gathering the Tributary Reading Series because, he said, “A tributary doesn’t start in the main stream!” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“Readings are almost always at night, but I wanted this one to be during the day,” King added. “Originally we met at the Lake Coffee House, until the owner lost his lease. I approached the owners of Selam Coffee a few months ago, to see if they were willing to host us—and they were. They provide us with a great space, and our series has brought them a lot of new customers. It’s a wonderful connection. The professional poets who participate say that it’s their favorite event in the metro, and they can’t wait to be invited back to read again.”

Photo right: Audience member Patrick Murphy, said, “I’m a closeted poet. I love coming to these readings, to listen to the poetry and for the sense of community. Ted King? He’s an old hipster—his funkiness runs deep.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

St. Paul poet Christine Jaspers brought her three young daughters to the February event, and said, “Almost everyone who comes to these readings is a writer.” Jasper’s ten-year-old daughter, Claire, read “The Summer Day” by American poet Mary Oliver, who recently passed away.

Selam Coffee is located at 3860 Minnehaha Ave., and can be reached at 612-722-2768.




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NENA fundraising party draws neighbors despite the cold weather

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

Despite six inches of snow on the ground and temperatures heading toward zero, 40 people showed up to hear live music and nibble on appetizers at the first annual Neighborhood Jam Fundraiser. Held at the Off-Leash Art Box, 4200 E. 54th St., on Feb. 9, the event helped raise $835 for the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association.

The neighborhood party replaced the two-year-old Crock Pot Contest and was originally scheduled for the fall. “We had venue scheduling problems, said Becky Timm, NENA’s Executive Director. “We couldn’t find an appropriate location and didn’t want to have it in December where it would compete with so many other events. The Art Box was open in February, so we booked it.”

Photo right: Charlie and Gilly Olson and Rory and Marian Thompson chat while waiting for the musical entertainment at NENA’s Neighborhood Jam. (Photo by Lisa Dahle)

Tickets for the event were $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 7 to 18, with free admission for younger kids. The Neighborhood Jam included musical entertainment, a silent auction, hot cocoa, custom mocktails, meatballs, chips and dips and more.

Those attending the afternoon event were entertained by local musicians including award-winning folk-rock performer and composer Greg Herriges, My Cousin Dallas (they describe themselves as a garage rock and Americana band) and the Huge if True jazz combo.

Robin Gast, an exercise and movement specialist at Aero Dance Fitness, led the crowd in ‘GROOVE’, a dance exercise program new to the Cities. “I am friends with Lisa Dahl who is on the board of NENA,” she said. “She asked me to come and do a group demo.” Gast teaches around the cities but has recently started a Saturday class at nearby Yoga Quest in Richfield. “I fell in love with the philosophy, left my corporate job of 23 years and am now trying to start up my business.”

Photo left: Guitarist with My Cousin Dallas, one of the local musical acts to preform at this year’s NENA fundraiser. (Photo by Lisa Dahle)

The event also included a Nokomis East trivia contest with multiple-choice questions such as, ‘In terms of population size, Nokomis East is approximately the same size as what city?’ (The answer is Bemidji.) “It was fun, but the questions turned out to be harder than I thought they would be,” said Timm. “The highest score was 10 out of 15.” The team of Kent and Elke Knopp-Schwyn took first place.

Local businesses donated items for a silent auction including two oil changes from Nelson’s Auto Repair, a Nokomis East gift basket, an electric guitar from McDonald’s Liquor and Wine, items from local artists and gift cards from Oxendale’s, Nokomis Shoe Shop and other local businesses.

Photo right: Dance moves as gentle exercise, moving to the GROOVE. (Photo by Lisa Dahle)

Timm said that NENA might switch venues next year, perhaps expanding the Jam and holding it at a restaurant. “We’d like to have more things for the kids, so families don’t have to worry about getting babysitters. We might have more games, maybe a face painter.”

“It was a fun night,” she said. “We’re planning on doing it next year but haven’t yet decided how to move forward. Next year though, we probably won’t have it in February.”

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NENA News, March 2019

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

Proposed NENA bylaw revisions: early and absentee voting
The NENA Board is proposing a revision to its bylaws that would allow for early and absentee voting for board candidates starting with the April 2020 election. Learn more about the proposed changes at NENA’s website and the General Membership will vote on the revision at NENA’s Annual Meeting on Apr. 25.

Interested in serving on the NENA Board?
The Nokomis East neighborhoods will elect community members (maybe you?) to serve on the Board at the NENA Annual Meeting on Apr. 25. NENA is hosting a Board candidate information meeting on Apr. 11, at 7:30pm in the NENA office, 4313 E. 54th St. No previous nonprofit board experience necessary, see if serving on the NENA Board is right for you. Find more information on the NENA Board, including member requirements, go to

Gateway Garden planning
Do you like to garden? Do you want to do something about the rapidly disappearing habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators? Native plant gardens like the Gateway Garden, near the 50th street LRT station, have a wide variety of environmental benefits. Join us and make a difference! Although this is a Nokomis East Neighborhood Association project, volunteers from all areas are welcome.

Join us at the NENA Office (4313 E. 54th Street) on Thur., Mar. 21, from 6:30-7:30pm to plan for the 2019 season and dream up future projects.

South Minneapolis Green Fair
You may know that sustainable, energy-efficient practices at home and work help retain the natural beauty of our community, reduces waste, and can even save you some money. However, sometimes the wealth of information available can seem daunting. Join us in April for a one-stop shop for individualized attention and advice.

The South Minneapolis Green Fair will be held Sat., Apr. 13, 12–4pm at Roosevelt High School. This event will feature information booths and demonstrations to assist you in creating a greener lifestyle. Learn how to make your yard more climate change resilient, lower your car’s carbon footprint while improving gas mileage, and other useful tips. Special presentations will focus on important topics.

Does your organization or business have a sustainability focus? Contact Program and Communication Manager Lauren Hazenson ( to receive an exhibitor application.

NENA Business Matching Grants
NENA offers two grants for Nokomis Area businesses: the Marketing Matching Grant and the Business Partnerships Grant. The goals of these grant projects are to provide support for Nokomis East business districts, encourage business partnerships, and increase customer traffic to our local businesses.

Marketing Matching Grant
Businesses seeking to update their branding, website, marketing, or looking to attract more customers can apply for up to $2,000 for their project. This grant matches $2 for every $1 spent by the participant.

Business Partnership Grant
Two or more Nokomis East businesses seeking to engage in a short or long-term marketing or public engagement partnership can apply for up to $5,000 in matching funds. This grant matches $2 for every $1 spent by the participants.

Contact Program and Communication Manager Lauren Hazenson at for more information.

Sign up for NENA News
Get your neighborhood news delivered to your inbox every other Wednesday. Sign up today at Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates on news and happenings for your neighborhood.

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City tree lottery open until Mar. 13

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

Thanks to overwhelming popularity, Minneapolis’ low-cost trees program operates by lottery. Minneapolis property owners can enter the lottery any time through Mar. 13. Lottery entrants will hear back Mar. 18. About 800 property owners will each be able to order a 5- to 8-foot tree to plant in their yards. Large species shade trees are $30 each. Fruit trees and smaller species are $40 each.

The 14 varieties available this year include large species, flowering trees and several kinds of fruit trees. Any Minneapolis property owner can register in the lottery to order a tree to plant on private Minneapolis property this spring. Comparable trees cost about $125 at a nursery.
• Property owners can register for the lottery any time now through Mar. 13. The last people to register will have the same chances as the first.
• Low-cost trees are available for Minneapolis residents, businesses and nonprofits.
• Limit one tree per address.
• Trees must be picked up May 18, 19 or 20 at the City of Minneapolis Impound Lot at 51 Colfax Ave. N. Volunteers will be on hand to help load each new tree and a complimentary bag of mulch into vehicles.
• Go to to register online.

In the past 13 years, the City Trees program has provided approximately 14,000 trees for planting on private property. The City Trees program helps meet Minneapolis’ health goal focusing on the well-being of people and the environment. Since 2006, the City of Minneapolis has funded the City Trees program, a low-cost way for folks to help build the city’s tree canopy.

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Record ridership for the Blue Line

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

Three transit lines are connecting even more regional riders to jobs, school, services, recreation, shopping, and other activities. The Metropolitan Council’s Regional Ridership Report shows the METRO Green Line, METRO Blue Line, and A Line have all outdistanced their previous year’s ridership.

In 2018, more than 11 million rides were taken on the METRO Blue Line which runs through the Messenger delivery area, setting an annual ridership record.

The METRO Green Line between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul saw a record 13.8 million rides, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Annual ridership has risen every year since the Green Line opened in 2014.

The A Line (46th St. Station in Longfellow to Rosedale Transit Center) surpassed last year’s ridership with a record 1.6 million rides. Since introducing bus rapid transit (BRT) service, ridership throughout the A Line corridor has increased by about one-third.

The Twin Cities region experienced a just over 1 percent dip in overall ridership following the October 2017 fare increase. While ridership in the region overall is showing signs of rebounding, budget constraints have slowed growth. Given the anticipated long-term structural deficit, Metro Transit has been planning more conservatively and has been unable to reinvest in the regular route bus system, which could improve route performance and support ridership growth.


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Historic Fort Snelling to get major reno

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

The Minnesota Historical Society is proceeding with a revised project and revised budget that allows construction for the Historic Fort Snelling revitalization project to start in Fall 2019.

MNHS received $15 of the $30 million requested for the full revitalization project in the 2018 legislative session.

After consulting with project and community partners, MNHS decided that breaking up the original revitalization plan into stand-alone projects made the most sense financially. This allows MNHS to start construction this fall on the most substantial part of the project and minimize the risk of additional construction costs due to further delays. If the legislature passes a bonding bill in 2019, any funds appropriated for Historic Fort Snelling will go towards additions to the revised project and the sustainability of the site.

The revised project incorporates $19.5 million appropriated by the state so far, plus $15 million pledged in private dollars. The budget for the revised project is $34.5 million. Originally, MNHS had planned to spend $46.5 million on the full revitalization plan.

The site will remain open during construction with work expected to be completed in 2021.

The revised project includes removal of the current, failing visitor center; creating a dynamic new visitor center with a 4,000-square-foot exhibit inside a rehabilitated 1905 cavalry barracks; making updates to the landscape to provide opportunities for outdoor learning and for a place of remembrance; improving parking, wayfinding and access; and rolling out an interpretive plan developed with community partners that expands stories of the military, Dakota, African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, women and more.

The revised project does not include rehabilitating an 1880 ordnance building (building 22) to turn it into an orientation space, and updates to the landscape and parking will be reduced in scope. If additional state funding is made available in 2019, MNHS will undertake these projects on a separate timeline.

Explore a full season of great programs at Historic Fort Snelling beginning Memorial Day Weekend. Additional hours are available for school groups in the spring and fall. Learn more at


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Upcoming events at LS Healthy Seniors

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

Join Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors and Minneapolis Community Education for a free monthly Senior Social/Health Talk on Tues., Mar. 19 at 10:30am (doors open at 10am) at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 2730 E. 31st St. The presentation is on “Hidden Risks of Dehydration.” Dehydration can be common in older adults. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and prevention of dehydration. Presented by a representative from Recover Health.

A “Coloring Jam” (open coloring session) will be held Wed., Mar. 27 from 1:30-3:30pm at Trinity Apartments, 2800 E. 31st St. Come spend time coloring and relaxing! Healthy Seniors will provide a variety of coloring books, markers, crayons, and colored pencils. A class fee of $4 covers all supplies. Registration is required by calling 612-729-5799.

Join in an Alcohol Ink Painting class using brightly colored, fast-drying alcohol inks. Different effects will create wonderful designs on tiles, synthetic paper, and other media. The classes will be held the first Wednesdays from 1:30-3:30pm on Mar. 6 and Apr. 13 at Trinity Apartments, 2800 E. 31st St. There is a $5 fee per class, which includes all materials. Class size is limited, so register by calling 612-729-5799 or email

Tai Chi Easy exercise classes are held on Mondays from 10:30- 11:30am at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Classes cost $5/each, and discounts may be available for lower-income seniors. Tai Chi is a low-impact, slow-motion exercise that’s adaptable to individual abilities. Movements vary between sitting and standing and help improve breathing, coordination, flexibility, and strength. Registration is not required, so come and try it!

A free monthly Diabetes Support Group for adults will be held on Wed., Mar. 13 from 1-2:30pm at Trinity Apartments. Anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes is invited to attend.

Additionally, Healthy Seniors is looking for “Friendly Visitor” volunteers and volunteer drivers to help seniors live independently. Call Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors at 612-729-5799 or email them at for more information on activities, services or volunteer opportunities.


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Former Commissioner McLaughlin reflects on public service

Posted on 28 January 2019 by calvin

‘Patron Saint of Lost Causes’

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a two-part series. The first section ran in the January 2019 edition of the Messenger and can be found online here.

If there’s one thing that defines Peter McLaughlin’s career as a public servant, it may be his attitude towards what others consider to be lost causes.
“I’m sort of the Patron Saint of Lost Causes,” admitted McLaughlin.

There’s something about certain projects that kept him searching for solutions, even over decades, observed McLaughlin, who was elected as District 4 Hennepin County Commissioner first in 1990 and left office in December 2018.

Photo right: In an effort to make it more cost effective to plant trees in the county, former District 4 Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin supported adding a tree nursery specifically focused on replacing trees lost to Emerald Ash Borer. Starting 20 years ago, the county has planted over 5,000 trees during Arbor Day celebrations. In addition to these plantings, a small food forest was planted in Adams Triangle in Longfellow, and 163 trees were planted along Hiawatha Ave in 2015 and 2016. (Photo submitted)

Take the Fort Snelling Upper Post, a group of 27 historic buildings that were falling apart. There wasn’t a fund of money available to pay for fixing the buildings nor anyone interested in using them. But McLaughlin believed they should be saved and so he kept talking about it with others. When the site was listed as one of the top endangered historic sites in the United States, he realized there might be a source of workers he could tap into.

Even better, the county was already paying for the Sentence-To-Service crews so it wouldn’t cost additional money.

When one of the buildings collapsed, others also started shuffling things around, working hard to find funds to pay for building materials to stabilize the buildings.

A group began meeting to talk about the future of the site, and McLaughlin chaired the Fort Snelling Upper Post Task Force. They put together a land use plan and waited for the right opportunity.

It came in 2018 when the Plymouth-based Dominium, no stranger to historical renovation projects, and the Department of Natural Resources struck a deal to redevelop the site into 176 units of affordable housing. Soon veterans and families will be breathing new life into the 47-acre site that’s the last unincorporated area of Hennepin County.

Systematic change for libraries
Things shifted for McLaughlin 12 years ago. His daughter was born, and he battled prostate cancer. “I decided at that point to work on bigger projects,” he said.

McLaughlin added, “You can do individual projects, but you have to turn them into something bigger, into systematic change.”
Around the same time Minneapolis started closing libraries—an option they hadn’t done even during the Great Depression, McLaughlin pointed out. And they planned to close more. Two of the three closed libraries were in McLaughlin’s district, Roosevelt and Southeast.

McLaughlin learned about the issues while attending a spaghetti dinner in the basement of a Lutheran church in his district. He didn’t hesitate about taking this project on. He supports walkable, bikeable cities, and to have that one needs destinations such as libraries. “They are places that anchor neighborhoods,” observed McLaughlin.

Photo left: Roosevelt Library was shuttered by the Minneapolis Public Library board but was then reopened after a Library fund was created to invest in libraries across the county. Former District 4 Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin had supported the merger of the Minneapolis and Hennepin County library systems that made these renovations and expanded hours happen. (Photo submitted)

There had been discussions about merging the Minneapolis Library and the Hennepin County Library systems for years, but it had never progressed. McLaughlin believed the time had come, and he worked to make the merger happen within a few months.

There were issues, such as the suburban libraries worried their money was going into a declining system, and the city libraries worried their referendum money would be used outside Minneapolis. But a deal was struck, and the merger became official on Jan. 1, 2008.

“Libraries are one of the great democratic services we provide,” stated McLaughlin. “It needed to be solid.”

Since the merger, all the closed libraries have been re-opened, nearly every library in the system has been renovated (the last project just began), and hours added. For the first time since the Kennedy administration, Central Library downtown is open seven days a week.

Fight for light rail
Neighbors stopped the freeway from going in during the 1960s, but then nothing happened along the giant swatch of right-of-way along Hiawatha Ave. for years. It took until 1985 to reach a deal about what the road would look like, and until the early 1990s to finish the project. Meanwhile, discussions had gone back and forth for years about light rail lines and which one should be the first.

“I took on the fight for rail transit,” McLaughlin said. He knew one of his biggest battles was to reach an agreement between Hennepin and Ramsey counties and keep that in place until federal and state funding was appropriated and work could begin. It was agreed that because right-of-way was available along Hiawatha, and the Environment Impact Statement already done (because of the road work), that it would be the pilot project.

Governor Carlson signed off on a $40 million appropriation, and then Governor Ventura (who had attended Roosevelt High School) made the line a priority. A bonding bill was passed in 1999 during Ventura’s first year in office that included the last $60 million needed from the state.

“I always told people, we put all our chips on red 26 and spun the wheel,” said McLaughlin.

Once the Blue Line was operating (2004), the Green Line followed in 2014, connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul along University Ave. The Southwest extension of the Green Line is next. When McLaughlin attended the Green Line groundbreaking on Nov. 30, 2018, he brought the same shovel he used at the Blue Line groundbreaking.

Photo right: Former District 4 Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin speaks during the South Minneapolis Hub opening along Lake St. and Hiawatha Ave. The South Minneapolis Hub represents a move to decentralize human services from downtown to make it easier for people to get county social services at a site that’s more accessible. (Photo submitted)

McLaughlin’s focus on “transit ways” has also included bus lines (such as the Orange line that will be going down 35W), and he’s had a whiteboard in his office for decades that shows a transit map of the region.

“Why do I care so much about this? Transit reinforces the center as the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul,” McLaughlin explained. It goes back to the lessons he learned in Trenton, N.J. and from Sears, and the exodus of people from the city that happened across the nation. How do you keep people in the city? If you’re McLaughlin, you give them something to stay for.

“It’s all part of how do we attract people to the city and make a more prosperous life?” McLaughlin said.

Development has come
Some of the light rail supporters, including McLaughlin, promised that there would be development along the lines. Every year for many years, a Star Tribune reporter would call him to ask when development was going to happen.

After a recession and years of planning, in 2015 McLaughlin helped broker a deal for the county to anchor a large development at Hiawatha Ave. and Lake St., and things began to snowball.

In addition to the new development on the southwest side of Lake and Hiawatha, there is a new building on the north side, and another multi-story apartment building a few blocks south. Several buildings are planned around the 38th St. Station, and Longfellow Stations was built there on the southeast side a few years ago. A major development is in the works at 46th St., and five more are in progress.

McLaughlin tries to work within existing plans to make other things happen.

Some have accused him of being too patient. “It takes a long time to work these puzzles out,” he observed.

Hennepin County had already decided to decentralize its services and spread out buildings to be more convenient the communities it serves. It needed a hub somewhere in south Minneapolis, so McLaughlin pitched the idea of putting a service center at Hiawatha and Lake. It became part of a development that will add more than 500 housing units and a permanent space for the Midtown Farmers’ Market. The first housing unit opened on Dec. 1, 2018. Next year, a site that wasn’t generating any tax revenue while owned entirely by Minneapolis Schools will generate $300,000 in property taxes, and that’s just a start.

“You can’t do all the things you want to do with new money,” said McLaughlin. “You’ve got to do it with money you were going to spend anyway. You have to be intentional about it.”

Battling crime and building a Greenway
The Midtown Greenway is an iconic part of south Minneapolis now, but when McLaughlin started his career it was a trench where folks threw their old mattresses and trash. The city had just been dubbed “Murderopolis” by the New York Times, and south Minneapolis was the epicenter of the crime issues facing the city.

“I used to say if you’re going to go down to the Greenway to do an inspection, you need to be sure to get your tetanus shot up to date,” said McLaughlin.

He got involved with the Midtown Community Works Partnership, and they worked to convince first Honeywell and then Wells Fargo when they took over the Honeywell facility at 600 S. 4th St. to support the Greenway project.

Construction on the line began in 2000 and the final phase was done in 2007. Organizers are now considering an extension across a rail bridge to St. Paul.

“We said there would be development along the trench, and people laughed at us 20 years ago,” recalled McLaughlin. “Success will beget more success—and that’s what happened.”

The line has become one of the busiest bikeways in Minnesota and recognized as the best urban bike trail in the nation. Plus, new housing and retail have gone in along the trail.

The trail was one of several prongs of an approach focused on building up the neighborhood and reducing crime.

“You’re not going to solve crime without a comprehensive approach,” observed McLaughlin, or solve racism. For him, one part always includes adding jobs, and so he worked to build up what was already existing in the neighborhood, including Wells Fargo and Abbott hospital through work with the Phillips Partnership. They supported Abbot’s heart hospital expansion, keeping it in the city versus out in the suburbs.

They offered funds to rehabilitate old homes and increase the number of owner-occupied houses, supported by the Project for Pride in Living (PPL) Selvaggio Fund.

The group worked to create the Pathways Program to provided training at the Minneapolis College for jobs at Abbott, as well as jobs within the county itself.

McLaughlin once found himself in the elevator with three women who were part of the Pathways program. As they got out, one told him, “This job changed my life.”

“That’s why I do this work,” remarked McLaughlin.

Entrepreneurial policymaker
McLaughlin has approached policymaking by trying to fix community problems, even when there was no clear role for Hennepin County in the solution, pointed out his principal aide Brian Shekelton.

“Life’s problems aren’t categorized by a series of neat silos, and he believes that silos shouldn’t define the way to fix problems.

“Before Commissioner McLaughlin took office Hennepin County wasn’t helping to build train lines, it wasn’t helping to build permanent homes for farmers markets. It wasn’t leading a partnership to build Greenways (Midtown was a community development project, not just a transportation/recreation project). It wasn’t investing in Minneapolis parks or Minneapolis libraries. It wasn’t creating train stations like Target Field Station, and it didn’t have a tree nursery to replenish the lost Ash trees,” Shekelton

Shekelton summed up, “I’ve always thought that of Peter McLaughlin as an entrepreneurial policymaker, and I think that’s why he has been able to achieve so many goals.”

What’s next?
So, what’s next for the man who left office in December after 28 years?

He’s not sure.

“I’ve devoted my entire adult life to community work,” he said.

He doesn’t think he’s done yet.

“I’m still a believer that government can play a positive role in changing people’s lives,” remarked McLaughlin.

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