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Lola’s Superpower: Book by Nokomis resident features resilience of girl who loses a leg – echoing her own life after amputation at age six

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Elena Vaughn

Leslie Pitt’s life changed forever on the first day of summer vacation when she was six years old. After playing with her best friend, she hopped onto her bike for a short ride but before she could make it to her New Ulm home, she was struck by a dump truck. The impact completely crushed her left leg, forcing her to have it amputated. On a day that would otherwise conjure up bitterness and negativity, it’s a day that Leslie celebrates. Living with limb loss taught her that our greatest losses are the pillars of our greatest strengths. (Photo submitted)

Leslie Pitt Schneider doesn’t take any pity.
The 52-year old Irondale High School alumna lost her leg just after completing first grade. She spent her entire summer in the hospital, but was determined to get back to school. “I was not going to miss the first day of second grade – thank you very much,” said Schneider.
She was run over by a dump truck hauling gravel, and the weight of the tire crushed her left leg so severely that a life-saving amputation was necessary.
The Nokomis resident has written a children’s book called “Lolo’s Superpower” echoing her own life with one leg.
The character Lolo’s name is an acronym for Love Ourselves, Love Others. Schneider explains, “The concept behind Love Ourselves, Love Others is my belief that we must truly, madly and deeply love everything about ourselves, first… When we love all that makes us individually unique, then we can be accepting/tolerant/loving of others.
“LOLO is OLOL, in reverse; and OLOL represents my One Life with One Limb that has made me stronger. It’s how I pay homage to my life’s experience in losing a leg at the age of six and the amazing life that has ensued, in spite of being “differently abled,’” said Schneider .
Her familiar classmates and teachers helped her adjust smoothly to a new normal. “It was because my peers didn’t treat me as anything different or teased me for being ‘disabled’ that I quickly adjusted to life with a prosthetic leg,” remarked Schneider. But the bullying and teasing started in junior high. “We had moved to a new town and a new school with new kids who didn’t know my story. I was confused as to how my peers could be so cruel. It made me less shy since I had to advocate for myself in proving that I was just like everyone else.”

Dreaming big dreams
Schneider hasn’t let anything get in the way of her education. Her “education ‘itch’ every eight years” has led her to three degrees – in law, nursing, and global health and human rights. She was pre-med in college and obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology and planned to attend medical school. After graduating from Sr. Olaf, she moved to Colorado to ski on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and to “have some playtime” before applying to medical schools. However, she decided that obtaining a nursing degree would be a good interim step until deciding on medical school. Schneider explained, “I ultimately decided to obtain my Juris Doctor degree as it fit more with my personality of always trying to prevent crises.”
She completed her graduate degree at the University of Geneva, studying how proper care is “a non-reality for too many kids living with differing abilities.” She describes it as “the educational cornerstone from which I created Project Lolo.”
Schneider told her younger self “to always hold on to your larger-than-life dreams; to dream BIG dreams; and to always believe that the right dreams do come true.
“I’d also say to never lose your childhood perspective that good people always exist; that goodness always prevails; and that better times will always come with a blessing of a lesson learned.”
Schneider pointed out that “Lolo steadfastly believes that being different is a ‘superpower’ and finds strength in this core belief… Lolo teaches us to embrace everything that makes us amazingly and uniquely different from everyone else, and to return to that perspective when we’re being teased or biased against because of our ‘difference’.
“I truly believe we are given our life paths or purposes, often for a greater good… It gives me perspective as to the amazing strength we get when life challenges us as I have never, never, never considered myself as ‘disabled’ or as an ‘amputee.’ Instead, I am a human who has been given an amazing gift in using my experience to make the world a little kinder place.”
“Lolo’s Superpower” is available on www.lologlobal.com, as well as Amazon, Target.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and Walmart.com. Locally, it’s available at the “I Like You” stores Minneapolis and St. Paul. Schneider is also working on a prototype companion doll for the book that will be ready in time for the holidays later this year.
An advocate for those with limb loss for decades, she founded Project Lolo: (Love Ourselves Love Others) a non-profit organization that helps children around the world who need orthopedic care or assistive mobility devices. More at www.projectlolo.org.

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Violent labor protest rockS South Minneapolis in the 1930s

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Police claim picketers fired on them, protesters blame armed guards for ‘fomenting strife’

By Iric Nathanson

On the Midtown Greenway at 27th Ave., a foliage-clad structure known as the Ivy Building was caught up in the violent protests that swept through the East Lake corridor following George Floyd’s murder. The artists and small businesses that occupied the historic building were forced to vacate when the building caught fire on May 28, 2020.
During the height of the Great Depression more than 80 years ago, that same corner of 27th Ave. and 27th St. was the site of another violent protest that rocked South Minneapolis for three nights in September 1935.
In 1935, the Ivy Building was the home of the Flour City Ornamental Iron Works, a metal fabricating business owned by Walter Tetzlaff. That year, the fiercely anti-union Tetzlaff had faced off against a Minneapolis labor organization, the Ornamental Iron Workers Local 1313, that was working to organize his plant. A year earlier, Minneapolis’s beleaguered labor movement had scored a major victory. The victory came when the Teamsters union was able to win major concessions from of group of local trucking companies after a bloody summer-long strike.

During the height of the Great Depression, the Ivy Building at the corner of 27th St. and 27th Ave. was home to Flour City Ornamental Iron Works. It was the site of a three-day protest by the iron workers union. By the end, two were shot to death and 28 injured. The same building was damaged by fire in the May 2020 protests over the murder of George Floyd by police officers in South Minneapolis.

With an emboldened labor movement follow the settlement of the truckers strike, Walter Tetzlaff found himself on the defensive as he pushed back against Local 1313’s demands. When Tetzlaff refused to bargain with the union, Local 1313 called his workers out on strike on July 11. At first, Tetzlaff tried to keep Flour City open with a nonunion crew. But faced with a hostile crowd of labor sympathizers who surrounded the plant night after night, he backed down, at least temporarily, and closed the factory on July 28.
Later in the week, a small contingent of Tetzlaff’s non-striking workers met with Minneapolis Mayor Thomas Latimer and told him that they wanted to go back to work. Latimer assured the group’s leaders that they would get ample police protection if the plant reopened. On Friday, July 31, a few of the men were able to get through picket lines with the help of about 50 Minneapolis policemen. That night, as they were leaving the plant, a crowd of nearly 1,000 union sympathizers stoned the strikebreakers. Tetzlaff closed the plant again but obtained a court order a month later which enabled him to keep a skeleton crew of armed guards inside the plant.
Tetzlaff’s ploy only succeeded in further enraging the strikers who surrounded the plant for days at a time. “Each night the singing and shouting crowd passed in front of the plant,” the pro-business Minneapolis Tribune reported, “missiles were hurled through windows. The crush of broken glass sounded above the imprecations shouted at the workers housed inside the plant.”
By Sept. 10, the crowd had swelled to more than 5,000. Just before midnight on the 10th, the police charged with tear gas to disperse the strikers and their supporters. “Firing over their heads, “ the Tribune recounted, “the police drove the protesters and spectators, including women and children, down alleys and between buildings. In the charge, the police did not distinguish between picketers and spectators.”

Two killed on Sept. 11, both sides blame other
The next night, on Sept. 11, the picketers were back in force and so were the police. At about 11 p.m., a local police official gave the order to disperse the crowd. “Armored cars roared into action, “ the Tribune reported. “Up and down 27th Avenue they went, laying down a barrage of tear gas. The crowd scattered. It seemed for a moment that the crisis had passed. But then a new group of strikers rushed up to the plant and shouted to the crowd not to turn back.”
“Just after 11, the first shots were fired,” the Tribune told its readers. “The picketers scurried for cover as the police advanced, clearing 27th Ave. Then the battled settled into guerrilla warfare. Members of the mob dodged in and out between the houses, peppering away at the police and the plant with rocks and stones. Rifle bullets whizzed through the street and fire poured into the police line from a vacant field near the railroad tracks.”
Two hours later, the battle was over. Twenty-eight people had been wounded. Two bystanders, 21-year-old Melvin Bjorkland and 18-year-old Eugene Cooper, had been killed in the cross fire. Bjorkland happened to be walking through the neighborhood surrounding the plant after attending a church social when he was killed. Cooper was standing on the sidelines watching the battle when he was shot in the chest.
After the shooting had stopped, the police claimed that a group of picketers armed with rifles had fired on them, a charge vigorously denied by union leaders. Later in the month, a story in the Minneapolis Labor Review reported that the first shots were fired from within the plant by Tetzlaff’s armed guards. “It is known that 20 of the 26 inside the plant were private detectives brought into the plant,“ the Labor Review maintained. “There is only one conclusion that can be reached, that they were brought in deliberately with the idea of fomenting strife.”
In the end, neither side was able to prove its case. The source of the bullets that killed Bjorkland and Cooper was never determined.
Then, almost as quickly as it started, the strike at Flour City Ornamental Iron was settled when Tetzlaff and the heads of eight other iron working firms agreed to Local 1313’s demands. On Sept. 21, both side signed an agreement which enabled strikers workers to go back to work. The agreement established a 40-hour work week and gave workers a small, but significant wage increase.
In later years, Minneapolis’s labor movement would celebrate more wins and suffer more defeats. But the battles of the mid-1930s, including the one at the Flour City Ornamental Iron Works, would succeed in breaking the tight hold of Minneapolis’s anti-labor organizations on this city’s economic life.

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Third Precinct may relocate to 2633 Minnehaha Ave.

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

The Minneapolis City Council is currently reviewing a proposal from property services staff to relocate the Third Precinct Police Station into the Seward industrial area at 2633 Minnehaha Ave. A council committee received the recommendation and final approval of a lease agreement will be up for a vote on Friday, Aug. 28.
According to Ward Two Council Member Cam Gordon, “If the action is approved, the hoped for move-in date would likely be sometime in mid to late October. This facility would offer space for most of the staff formally housed at the third precinct, excluding 311. This follows and an extensive search of any and all suitable alternative locations, the recommendation from staff is to authorize a three-year lease with an option to renew, which would give the city time to make a longer-term plan.
“I regret that this proposal is moving so fast that we have not had more time to work with the community. I have until the 28th to determine my vote and to influence this decision for others. I have already made clear to staff and my colleagues that this proposal is certain to raise concerns from nearby residents and property owners. While some are likely to welcome it as a positive thing, others will have more uncertainly and some may have strong objections.
“I believe that if this move is to happen those concerns and objections need to be addressed and there needs to be clear community benefits, reassurance and accommodations made for the local residents and businesses and that those should be made with their input. I am working with staff and neighborhood leaders to convene a virtual and an outdoor meeting early next week to hear from people and get feedback. In the meantime I welcome you to send it to me.” cam.gordon@minneapolismn.gov, 612-673-2202, 612-296-0579

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Inspector discusses state of policing in Third Precinct

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

‘To be told all police officers are racist and irredeemable is hard to take’

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Inspector Sean McGinty has been coordinating the operation of the Minneapolis Third Precinct since August 2019. It has been a year filled with events he could never possibly have imagined. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Third Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) covers such a huge square area that if it were a city, it would be third biggest in the state.
Its headquarters suffered serious fire damage and looting during the Uprising, and all staff have been disbursed to work in locations across Minneapolis. Inspector Sean McGinty has been in charge of the Third Precinct since last August. He said, “Our crime prevention specialists are working from home, our investigators are operating off-site, and our beat officers are storing their gear in various other precinct buildings.”
He continued, “We started the year with 110 sworn officers. Every city department had to make cuts due to COVID, and we were heavily impacted in our precinct. Most of my discretionary officers have been absorbed into the 911 response team, and the city is in a hiring freeze.”
What does that mean for this neighborhood?
The precinct had to cut 17 Community Support Officer (CSO) positions. A CSO works 20-30 hours per week in the MPD for up to three years in a civilian capacity, while enrolled in an approved, two-year law enforcement program. The program exists to improve communication, understanding, and cooperation between MPD employees and Minneapolis’s diverse communities.
New hires to the police department come from the pool of CSOs who have completed their training and education. There was a class of 29 recruits slated to start this month. According to Inspector McGinty, “It was the most diverse class we’ve ever had, and now we can’t hire them.”
It’s anybody’s guess what the MPD will look like after the 14-month review period has ended. All six city council members from the Third Precinct support dismantling the MPD. Inspector McGinty said, “That’s very difficult for us to understand. To be told that all police officers are racist and irredeemable is hard to take.”
“Everyone agrees that deep reform must happen within the police department, and I don’t know anyone who has done more to try and change policing than MPD Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.”
For his part, Inspector McGinty attends every community meeting he is invited to. He said, “It’s not uncommon for me to spend a couple of hours after a community meeting talking with residents. We can write the word ‘reform’ on a piece of paper, but until we start human building relationships – nothing will change.”
As mentioned in last month’s Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, Inspector McGinty encourages people who live in the Third Precinct to connect with him in small, safe, backyard conversations. He can be reached at sean.mcginty@minneapolismngov, and is interested in having honest, challenging conversations.

Need for community reform
While he believes strongly in police reform, Inspector McGinty also believes that there must be some level of community reform. He said, “There’s a hyper-partisanship rippling through everything right now. Everybody’s on a hair trigger. My officers tried to enter the homeless encampment at Powderhorn Park when an adolescent girl was raped last month, and they were chased out with rocks and bottles. We cannot provide public safety if we are under assault.”
In the wake of COVID cuts and the murder of George Floyd, there is a reduced police force in the Third Precinct more focused on crime response than crime prevention, according to McGinty. In addition to the lack of new hires and the eliminated community engagement positions, there have been officer resignations and PTSD claims filed for extended medical leave.
Editor’s Note: The Longfellow Nokomis Messenger welcomes reader comments on the future of policing in Minneapolis. What do you hope to see? How do you feel about the nature of this change for our city? Comments can be sent to editor Tesha Christensen at tesha@LongfellowNokomisMessenger.com.

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In Brief September 2020

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Midway artist part of ‘Roseville in Bloom’

Daniela Bianchini

Local artist Daniela Bianchini, a native of Argentina now based in Nokomis is one of the artists chosen to participate in the Roseville in Bloom public art project, a celebration of “20 Roses in 2020.” Bianchini designed and decorated a seven-foot-tall rose statute. The statutes are on display in public spaces throughout Roseville from July 1-Oct. 31, 2020, offering people of all ages a safe, free public art experience to enjoy in the summer and fall. The rose statues were built by TivoliToo, the local company that created the Peanuts characters for the “Peanuts on Parade” public art project in Saint Paul. The circumference of each rose blossom is 100 feet and the total weight of the statue (rose, rose pot and base) is 658 pounds.
Free rose maps are available at numerous locations throughout Roseville, or download maps at www.rosevilleinbloom.com
Black Women Rising

On June 2, nearly 10 Black women filed to run for U.S. Congress and State Senate and House Representative seconds before the deadline. To learn more about Black Women Rising and the candidates, visit www.blackwomenrising.net.

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Nokomis East Neighborhood Association September 2020

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Becky Timm, NENA Executive Director

By BECKY TIMM,
Executive Director
becky.timm@nokomiseast.org

Food resources
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were swift and continue to unfold for our Nokomis East residents and businesses. The Civil Uprising and the destruction of local stores utilized by many of our transit-dependent community members make food insecurity even more challenging. Our community is served by two nonprofit projects helping local families put food on the table. The resources are available to all:
• Minnehaha Food Shelf – Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Located in the Minnehaha Methodist Church at 3701 E 50th Street. Phone: (612) 721-6231. Website: minnehaha.org/foodshelf.html
• Nokomis East Pop-Up Food Distribution – 2nd and 4th Wednesdays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Located at 5734 Sander Drive. Outdoor event, dress for the weather. Phone: (612) 293-9683. Email: nena@nokomiseast.org

Monarch Festival re-imagined
For the past 12 years, NENA and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board have hosted the Minneapolis Monarch Festival. This year the festival looks a little different as we move online. The festival is organizing cultural, artistic, and educational virtual activities to keep the spirit of the festival alive and promote our core message of protecting the Monarch Butterfly.
We are hosting a pop-up pollinator plant sale on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lake Nokomis Community Center. Pollinator plant kits are available for online pre-order and payment. Order ahead, pick up, and plant in your yard!
Visit our festival website at www.monarchfestival.org and on Facebook at @MinneapolisMonarchFestival to see what is new!

Housing resources
Housing concerns are also on the rise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its sixth month. NENA works with government agencies and nonprofits to keep you informed of available resources:
• Hennepin County Community Resources – Food, rental assistance, business assistance, health and mental health resources. and more at 612-348-5139 or www.hennepin.us/residents/emergencies/community-resources
• Foreclosure Prevention Nonprofit Organization – Minnesota Homeownership Center at www.hocmn.org
• Renters Rights Nonprofit Organizations – Tenant Resource Center at www.trc2020.com. HomeLine Legal Hotline at 612-728-5767
• NENA Programs – Low-interest home improvement loans; Staying In Place Grants for seniors, veterans, residents living with disabilities, and low-income households; home security matching grants (October); and renters rights support at www.nokomiseast.org under “Projects”

Sign up for NENA News
Your guide to news, events, and resources! Get your neighborhood news delivered to your inbox every Thursday. Sign up today at www.nokomiseast.org. Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates on news and happenings for your neighborhood.

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‘Reverend, you can lean on me’

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

When Lake St. burned, Father Joe Gillespie gathered each night with others at the Church of St. Albert the Great in Longfellow. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Father Joe Gillespie’s first pastoral ministry was at Cook County Hospital in 1968. He moved from Minneapolis to Chicago, and started his new job with energy and enthusiasm. Then Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, followed by violent anti-Vietnam War protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention. Chicago suddenly turned into a war zone.
When Lake Street burned in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Father Joe said, “Those memories of Chicago came pouring back.” He felt a sense of post-traumatic stress and abandonment, saying, “We had no police, fire department, or mail service; even the paper boy couldn’t come here.”
But Father Joe knew he had to stick around. Despite invitations from nephews in Plymouth and church administrators in St. Paul to take shelter with them, Father Joe didn’t go looking for a way out. The Church of St. Albert the Great in Longfellow is his home.
Instead, he gathered with neighbors and parishioners on the church grounds each night. Together they watched the Walgreen’s drugstore at the end of the block go up in pentecostal flames. Three dozen residents from Volunteers of America slept on the basement floor of the church during the curfew, fearing that their Lake St. residence would burn to the ground.
Father Joe walked up and down Lake St. every day during the week of unrest. Usually he walked alone, remembering places his family had frequented when he was a kid growing up in the neighborhood. His eyes welled with tears outside the ruins of the Town Talk Diner, where he had gone many times with his father. He could almost see himself and his three siblings sitting high up on stools, dangling their legs and sharing a single pancake.
Father Joe attended the Ecumenical Clergy March on June 2 with hundreds of other faith leaders, and walked the neighborhood streets once more. When the march ended at the George Floyd Memorial site, everyone was asked to kneel in silence. Father Joe dropped to one knee, but found he couldn’t stand up again unassisted. An African American woman nearby said, “Reverend, you can lean on me,” and helped him to his feet. That’s the way he sees it now. This is a time to lean in, lean on, and help each other stand strong.
The Church of St. Albert the Great recently reopened for services on Pentecost (the seventh Sunday after Easter) at half capacity. Father Joe explained, “Historically the early Christians had to celebrate in secret, just a few at a time. They celebrated in the catacombs so they wouldn’t be seen. They celebrated during the plagues. They just kept going. I guess you could say that we’re right on target.”

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‘We just want our lives back’

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

With three college degrees, Bunni ended up broke and homeless last December. She hopes to get permanent housing in September. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Bunni (last name withheld on request) has lived in Minneapolis since 2007. She moved here for college, and ended up with three degrees in art, business, and law enforcement.
Last December, she also ended up broke and homeless. There was nowhere for her to live, so she parked her van across from Powderhorn Park with her dog and called it home. From December to March, it was cold but quiet.
In the aftermath of the uprising, Powderhorn Park began to fill up fast. Eventually a group of Native American women decided to leave the park for safety reasons. They moved to a new encampment in the Longfellow neighborhood just for women, and she went with them. Bunni was formerly married to a Native American man. Of his community she said, “Once you’re welcomed in, you’re part of the family. We stick together in the native community. We share our last. We give until it hurts.”
There have been major problems in the start-up phase of the Longfellow encampment. Four ill-intentioned men, who self-identified as protectors of the women, were evicted by a coalition of encampment residents and Native American leaders on July 13. Almost 100 people descended on the encampment that night and literally shouted the four men out.
In the eight days since the encampment began, the residents find themselves starting over again – supposedly with a coalition of women leaders this time.
One of the greatest indignities about being homeless is the sheer visibility of it. Anyone passing by can see who lives there, and many stop to take pictures. Bunni said, “Not all homeless people are bad people, probably most of us aren’t. We just want our lives back. We’ve all had jobs, and lost them. We’ve all had homes, and lost them. Many of us have had children, and lost them.”
On the day of this interview, Bunni had just secured affordable, permanent housing which, unfortunately, wouldn’t become available until September. She said, “In addition to a roof over my head, I’m hoping for safety, recovery, and healing. I could really use your prayers.”

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1,000 MILES

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Terry Willis completes march from Alabama to George Floyd Square

Terry Willis, at center wearing a white and black bandana, is surrounded by throngs of supporters and media as he walks the last block of his historic 1,000-mile march from Alabama to the site where George Floyd was killed. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

On July 12, 2020, Terry Willis completed his 1,000-mile march from Huntsville, Alabama, to his destination in Minneapolis, 38th St. and Chicago Ave. S., where George Floyd was killed by police. As he arrived, the growing crowd was jubilant, chanting “Terry, Terry” and “One man, two feet,” Willis’ slogan for his journey. A trumpeter played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as an emotional Willis paid quiet tribute to Floyd beneath a canopy decorated with flowers that marks the site of his death. Willis began the trek on June 2, marching for “Change, Justice and Equality.” As he told reporters just before walking the final leg from the Mall of America that morning, “It’s for all of us to be seen as equals. That’s it. All of us to be seen as equals. That’s it. It’s so simple. So simple.” Mayor Jacob Frey issued an official proclamation naming July 12, 2020 Terry Willis Day.

On July 12, Terry Willis (wearing white headband) completed his 1,000-mile march from Huntsville, Ala., to his destination in Minneapolis – 38th St. and Chicago Ave. S., – where George Floyd was killed by police. As Willis arrived, the growing crowd was jubilant, chanting “Terry, Terry” and “One man, two feet,” Willis’ slogan for his journey. A trumpeter played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as an emotional Willis paid quiet tribute to Floyd beneath a canopy decorated with flowers that marks the site of his death. Willis began the trek on June 2, marching for “Change, Justice and Equality.” As he told reporters just before walking the final leg from the Mall of America that morning, “It’s for all of us to be seen as equals. That’s it. All of us to be seen as equals. That’s it. It’s so simple. So simple.” Mayor Jacob Frey issued an official proclamation naming July 12, 2020 Terry Willis Day. ~ by Jill Boogren

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Why is city excluding neighborhood residents?

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Neighborhood leaders concerned Minneapolis, state plans for rebuilding aren’t including voices from community

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Patricia Torres Ray, Minnesota Senator 63

Melanie Majors, Longfellow Community Council Executive Director

Why is the city leaving Longfellow residents and businesses out of its plans for rebuilding along E. Lake St.?
At a Zoom meeting on Thursday, July 23, of the 12 local leaders in attendance, only two had been approached by the city and only one was part of the mayor’s rebuilding task force.
People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus member and District 63 Senator Patricia Torres Ray of southeast Minneapolis has been looking for a plan she can advocate for at the state capitol, and is starting to worry about the lack of one.
“I’m absolutely shocked the city doesn’t have a plan. I’m starting to ask if that is intentional,” said Torres Ray.
She added, “I’m very alarmed about the fact that we don’t have our act together. I find it hard to understand why we are so chaotic.”
“I find it so shady that there is zero inclusion of residents or the two African American Neighborhood Executive Directors in Corcoran and Greater Longfellow,” stated Longfellow Community Council Executive Director Melanie Majors. “I think it’s intentional people are being left out of the conversation.”
The Minnesota House PROMISE Act passed on June 19 will help rebuild the areas damaged by civil unrest and it has now gone to the Senate. Torres Ray has many concerns about the new and complex redevelopment corporation being created and its ability to use eminent domain, among other things. She encouraged people to read the bill to learn more about it, and offered to provide an overview of the bill during a separate meeting. She has questions about how the redevelopment corporation will be accessible to the community, how money will be distributed, and who will get funds.
Torres Ray repeatedly stressed that community leaders need to come together to create a plan that reflects their needs and desires for the Lake St. area. Current efforts are primarily grassroots and are being done by many organizations. (See sidebar)
“I am very happy to work with you on a plan to bring your voices to the Legislature,” said Torres Ray. “You’re asking for a new day. That requires a new process.”
Majors pointed out that the Third Precinct police station is a big unknown at present. The most recent estimate to rebuild is between $10-12 million. Given its location at the E. Lake St./Minnehaha Ave. intersection, it will impact how the area is redeveloped.
Seward Redesign Executive Director Chris Romano pointed out that community members are still dealing with emotional stress and strain, which makes planning difficult. “I don’t think we’ve given them enough time to figure that out,” said Romano. He suggested that planning be done in a series rather than all at once.
Hillary Oppmann of the Seward Commerce and Civic Organization (SCCA) noted that they are still trying to support businesses as they cope with COVID-19, manage evictions, and make future plans. Plus there is the issue of homelessness and local encampments. This is on top of the issues related to rebuilding after the civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder. “All of us are working on so many different fronts,” said Oppmann. “Keep all that in mind.”
“I think people are worn out,” agreed Corcoran Neighborhood Organization Executive Director Alicia Smith. “I think we are moving very fast. White folks are moving too fast and not allowing people to grieve.” She thinks that developers want to be on the right side of history and will wait to move when people are ready.
Torres Ray stated that she is a woman of color who deals with trauma every day. “I don’t have the luxury of taking time to deal with trauma,” she stated. “I can’t afford to wait to figure it out. I have to do something today.”
She pointed out that the banks and developers aren’t waiting. “I need that plan now. I need to know what you need,” said Torres Ray, who apologized for being blunt.
The group agreed to create a steering committee with representatives from the neighborhood.
Lake Street Council Executive Director Allison Sharkey is a member of the mayor’s task force, the Minneapolis Forward: Community Now Coalition. She reported that the group is primarily focused on fundraising and lobbying at the state level. There are no neighborhood organizations represented within the group, but it is instead made up of corporate stakeholders and larger business organizations such as the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, Minneapolis Foundation and Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers.
Majors thinks that should be changed.
“One of the things I hear from residents the most is they don’t want things happening to them without them,” Majors said.
“We know that the greatest conflicts lie with money. There won’t be a collaborative community response if there isn’t at least a voice at the table.
“How do we get neighborhood representation?”

 

What are local groups doing?

Corcoran Neighborhood Association: Talking to businesses about their needs and obstacles to getting grants. Focus: Corcoran

Lake Street Council: Raised about $10 million, and is distributing $5 million in a round of grants that are being finalized. Businesses owned by Somali, Latinex and Black communities are among those receiving grants to rebuild and temporarily relocate. LSC received 500 applicants and grants will be up to $25,000. LSC is also coordinating pro bono donations of supplies of labor. Staff are leveraging additional funding to aid in site control of damaged buildings. To be better organized, LSC is adding staff for office administration and marketing. Focus: E. Lake St. from Mississippi to Bde Maka Ska

Longfellow Business Association: Distributed $1-$5,000 mini-grants to 22 businesses from a GoFundMe fundraiser in late July. Provides information and connects businesses with resources. Focus: Longfellow

Longfellow Community Council: Though a partnership with Rebuild Longfellow, LCC is matching volunteers with business needs, which range from general labor to IT to legal support to marketing. Comcast is donating $25,000 to help reach out to local businesses. Staff are engaging with residents to assist in rebuilding Downtown Longfellow, working on a longterm stabilization plan, and focusing on a rebuilding plan. They are also pulling resources together to connect with state, city and local leaders. Focus: Greater Longfellow

Longfellow Nokomis Messenger: Reaches residents and businesses with news and information, and provides an avenue for businesses to build their customer base. The free What’s Open web page connects businesses and customers. Focus: Longfellow and Nokomis

Seward Commerce and Civic Association: Offers $500 grants to help any business impacted from a total of $32,000 raised through GoFundMe. SCCA is coordinating with Augsburg University. Focus: Seward

Seward Redesign: Offers technical assistance to businesses in Seward and Longfellow, and are helping displaced businesses move. Staff are leveraging additional funding to aid in site control of damaged buildings and are considering how to revision and create a new plan for Minnehaha/Lake/27th. Focus: Seward and Longfellow

Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association: Connects with residents and businesses encouraging shop local mindset and providing support/services to small businesses to ensure a vibrant local economy. Focus: Standish-Ericsson, West of Rails businesses

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