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RRR: How wildlife-friendly is your yard?

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Hiawatha resident Daniel Schultz is a hard working real estate broker by day, helping people buy and sell their homes through the company he founded: Flourish Realty. After hours, he is a dedicated gardener and Master Naturalist with a passion for enhancing urban wildlife in Minneapolis – starting in his own back yard.
Schultz and his family began gardening seriously years ago, and got their yard certified as a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in 2010. He said, “I knew I wanted to be part of a community project after that happened. It made sense to be part of an urban wildlife corridor, and not just a stand-alone property.”
Now the coordinator of the Longfellow Community Wildlife Habitat Project, Schultz is encouraging others to do the same. He said, “So far, we have 56 home gardens certified through the NWF, and we need 150 to be designated a Certified Community Wildlife Habitat. We have three schools certified (four are required), and three businesses (four are required.) We’re making progress.”
Why are Schultz and others working so hard to make this happen? Because whether pollinator gardens are large or small, they provide habitat for threatened wildlife – and the greater Longfellow neighborhood is in a central migration corridor for monarchs and birds.
There are only four elements required for a garden to be certified by the NWF. The garden must provide food in the form of seeds and nectar. Clean water must be available. There must be plants to provide cover, and a place to raise young.
Schultz said, “We’re trying to demonstrate how easy it is to adopt more wildlife friendly practices. Head over to Mother Earth Gardens and buy a few native plants to get started. Consider choosing plants that have a diversity of bloom times, and see what kinds of birds, insects, and animals your yard can attract. Put up a bird bath or a nesting box. It doesn’t take much to make a positive difference.”
With more than half the world’s land mass now used for farming or grazing, the potential for pollinator diversity in urban areas is steadily growing.
Schultz said, “One example is the Minnesota state bee, called the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. According to U of M entomologists, it used to be widespread across the state – but now is making its last stand in the backyards of Minneapolis and St. Paul where native and other friendly pollinator plants offer what it needs to survive.”
To learn more about the Longfellow Community Wildlife Habitat Project, visit The cost for certification is a $20 donation to the National Wildlife Federation. Schultz and members of his team are available to help with backyard consultations or mentorships for new gardeners. Call or text Daniel Schultz at 612-408-0233 or send an email to

4 Components
of a Certified Wildlife Habitat:

1) Food – a habitat needs three of the following types of plants or supplemental feeders: seeds from a plant, berries, nectar, foliage/twigs, nuts, fruits, or sap.

2) Water – provide clean water for wildlife to drink and bathe from a birdbath, lake, stream, seasonal pool, water garden/pond, river, butterfly puddling area, rain garden, or spring.

3) Cover – provide at least two places to find shelter from the weather and predators: wooded area, bramble patch, ground cover, rock pile or wall, rosting box, dense shrubs or thicket, evergreens, brush or log pile, burrow, meadow or prairie, water garden or pond.

4) A Place to Raise Young – provide at least two places for wildlife to engage in courtship behavior, mate, and then bear and raise their young: mature trees, meadow or prairie, nesting box, wetland, host plants for caterpillars, dead trees or snags, dense shrubs or a thicket, water garden or pond, or burrow.

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Eat & Art on Lake: a community meal

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Event at Moon Palace Books celebrates immigrant and refugee-owned restaurants

The patio at Moon Palace Books is turning out to be the hot spot in Downtown Longfellow this summer. On Saturday, Aug. 10 from 6-9 p.m, yet another great event is taking place.
Eat & Art on Lake: a community meal, will be held there in celebration of Lake Street’s diverse immigrant and refugee-owned restaurants.
The celebration is the culmination of local illustrator Cori Lyn’s year-long project called, “What We Feed Ourselves,” and a launch for her new book by the same name.
In her project, Lin (who is a neighborhood organizer as well as an artist) explored the nature of food and culture.
She said, “I was interested in learning how immigrant communities feel their ethnic foods are being represented here in Minnesota. I spent time talking with the owners of five restaurants whose food will be served at the community meal: the restaurants are Moroccan Flavors, International Cuisine Bar and Grill, Willo Somali Bakery, Taqueria las Cuatro Milpas, and Gandhi Mahal.
“Through our conversations,” Lin continued, “I learned what the chefs of these restaurants cook and eat at home with their families. I tasted the foods they love, and made watercolor illustrations of several of those dishes. The interviews and watercolors make up my book project, along with personal essays written about food and home by local writers Anniessa Antar, Isela Gomez, Maryan Abdinur, Christian Alberto Ledesma, and Aarohi Narain.”
The event is being hosted by the Lake Street Council and Visit Lake Street. Lake Street Council Executive Drector Allison Sharkey said, “Lake Street has historically been a welcoming place for people new to the Twin Cities to open businesses. We estimate that, over its six mile stretch, more than 65% of Lake Street’s 2,000+ businesses are immigrant-owned.
“This event is a an opportunity to learn about how immigrants and refugees in Minneapolis pass on their food traditions to the next generation, while adapting those food traditions to make a living as restaurant owners serving the broader community. “
Eat and Art on Lake is funded by Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the City of Minneapolis, Twin Cities LISC, and State Farm Insurance.Moon Palace Books is located at 3032 Minnehaha Ave. There will be a program from 7-7:30 p.m. with comments from the Lake Street Council, artist Cori Lyn, and three short readings from writers featured in the book. Tickets are available for $10 at
Follow Cori Lin’s work at or on Instagram.


“It is critical in these times to get out of our homes and get to know our neighbors. We need to be having conversations with each other about what drives people to leave their homes thousands of miles away, and come to Minnesota. Now is also the time to speak out and celebrate the economic contributions of immigrants and refugees throughout our state, and especially in our own neighborhood.”
Allison Sharkey, executive
director of Lake Street Council

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Metro Work Center collaborates with local businesses

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Cast metal during Make-and-Take event at Moon Palace Books Aug. 6
For the sixth year, metal artists Jess Bergman Tank and Sara Hanson have been awarded a Community Arts Grant through the Metropolitan Regional Arts Program. They’ve spent the last two months working with participants of the Metro Work Center, a day program for adults with developmental disabilities that operates out of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.
The Metro Work Center is in its 50th year of serving differently-abled adults in that location, but many people don’t realize that their program exists.
Bergman Tank said, “One of the goals of this project is to bring our artists into relationship with others, as part of a shared community. We’re making art together, but we’re also helping to build a climate of mutual understanding.”
Each year, business partners in the community are identified as places that will support the Metro Work Center art-making process and provide an eventual place to exhibit finished sculptures. For example, past business partners East Lake Library and the Third Precinct Police Station both have sculptures on display. This year’s business partners include the Riverview Theatre, the Riverview Café, and Mother Earth Gardens. There is no cost for business partners to commission a work of art.
No one knows what a sculpture will look like when the collaborative process begins. Several visits are made to each of the business partner sites, and the Metro Work Center artists have an opportunity to talk with people working there. They’ve brainstormed questions beforehand such as, “What do you like about your job? What are people doing around the neighborhood? What kind of food do you serve?”
Hanson said, “The metal sculptures we make reflect the conversations our artists have had with staff. They learn a lot about what people do in their jobs through these conversations. We have several participants at Metro Work Center who aren’t mobile enough to come on the site visits, so we take pictures and bring back to show them. Our artists are also very aware of textures, surfaces, and objects in the different workplaces. During this grant cycle, you may see us making clay impressions of coffee mugs at the Riverview Café, or of an Art Deco lamp at the Riverview Theater. All of these things can eventually be incorporated into our metal sculptures to tell a story.”
To celebrate the completion of this project, there will be a Make-and-Take event at the Moon Palace Books Plaza on Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 12-2 p.m.
Artist Sara Hanson said, “We’re excited to extend our collaboration to the greater community. Both Jess and I will have our portable foundries on site. Between us, we have many years of experience casting metal in diverse locations. The metal will be HOT, but the event will also be very safe – it’s appropriate for all ages. Come to the plaza to experience a live metal pour, and the chance to create and take home your own small, cast metal art object at no cost.”
The event is also an opportunity to learn more about the Metro Work Center. Participants Rickeem and Clyde (pictured above, second from left and second from right) will be program ambassadors that day. They both currently work at former business partner sites, doing cleaning and yard maintenance at Alexander’s Import Auto Repair and the Longfellow Dental Clinic.
Jessica Bergman Tank is available for community art making with her portable metal foundry, which she transports with a front loading cargo bike. Her business is called Pedal to the Metal: Traveling Foundry. She can be reached at Sara Hanson recently bought a retired MTC bus, and is in the process of converting it to a mobile classroom and foundry. The name of her business is WOW Mobile Metal Lab, and she can be reached at

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Multiple sinkholes and utility line breaks frustrate residents

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Some homeowners south of Lake Nokomis are leaving the neighborhood, and others worried about paying high project bills

That’s how much Andrea and Dave Vogeo are paying to repair their water line.
The Vogeos have been living in their home on 16th Ave. S. between Edgewater and E. 57th St. since 1976, and are both retired. They are in their 70s, and live off Andrea’s Social Security check. On June 24, 2019, they began dealing with a water break, having trouble washing dishes, doing laundry, taking showers, and more. The break wasn’t fixed for a month.
“It’s frustrating,” Vogeo said.
They have also been dealing with a tree limb that came down in a storm.
“It was a bad week,” she stated.
When the Vogeo’s line broke, they peered into the hole and saw chunks of asphalt inside, pieces that should have been removed with the repair to their neighbor’s break the year before. They suspect that the rubble left in the hole contributed to their line break, and they think that the city or prior repair company should be covering the cost of this fix.
The Vogeos are just the latest in a long line of issues that have occurred along this stretch of street since 2015.
In all, there have been nine sewer line breaks, one water line break, and too many sinkholes to count.

A domino effect
The issues on 16th between Edgewater and 57th St. Started in 2015 with a resurfacing project. When they ended for the day, workers left the machines parked at the north end of the street. They started to sink within a few hours, recalled Joan Soholt, who lives along the street. A manhole and two utility laterals to homes were damaged, and it took about six weeks to repair them.
Soholt recalls getting a letter from the city that the utility lines had been checked before the street work, and they were all found to be in good working order.
Since then, eight homes built around 1940 have dealt with utility line breaks. The area in the middle of the block has been the worst, with four houses dealing with the hassle of sewer and water line breaks – and the associated bills that are getting higher and higher with each project as fewer companies bid on them.
When Soholt’s line broke in 2015, she had a $4,500 bill.
The city received only one bid for the Vogeo project. At $18,500 it’s three times higher than what the Swansons paid last year.
“No one would take the bid because no one wants to work in our area,” observed Soholt. “They know the headache of this street.”
She added, “The contractors said that no other company wants to bid on the Nokomis area because it is not easy with the groundwater and higher water table, and they have plenty of other opportunities for jobs in easier locations citywide. They have to put extra workers on the job and bring in extra equipment which escalates the price even if the job does not require pumping.”
Plus, these bills are coming on the heels of the resurfacing assessments each homeowner paid in 2015 that ranged from $2,000-$2,400.

Why isn’t the city dealing with water issues?
Erik and Monica Swansons moved from Michigan to South Minneapolis six years ago, and have loved the area. They thought they’d found their long-term house when they bought their bungalow along 16th. But they’ve decided to move out and have put their house up for sale – leaving behind a sewer line in good condition for the new owners.
They’re not the only ones leaving. So are the residents across the street who are dealing with their second utility line break in the past few years, observed Soholt.
“What makes this worse is the city’s incompetence,” E. Swanson said.
Their sewer line detached in March 2018, but it took three months for them to receive a letter from the city about the project because of misinformation on the address from the city which prolonged the repairs. At one point Erik called, and was told that his line was fine.
He eventually got a letter with information on the three companies that had bid on his project. The lowest bid by InnerCity was $5,200 – a bill the Swansons were responsible for paying.
In Minneapolis, homeowners are responsible for paying for water and sewer line repairs from the connection in the middle of the street and for the wye connection to the sewer main, according to an ordinance change in February 1992. There is nothing that holds the city accountable to make sure the main is in good condition before repairs are made, pointed out Soholt.
“Most cities will pay for the line up to the meter in the house,” observed Swanson. Additionally, in Minneapolis, residents are officially required to maintain the line from the middle of the street into their homes.
“How do you maintain something that is nine feet under the ground?” Swanson asked. “I don’t get it. If it is in the house, you can maintain it. We can’t monitor what’s underground.” Swanson pointed out that every utility bill he receives from the city lists a maintenance fee, and he questions what that is for.
Homeowners can opt to pay the entire cost at the end of the project, or put it on their property tax bill and pay a 5% interest fee each year on the balance. Some residents can qualify for deferments, but interest continues to accumulate on the total amount and must be paid when a property is sold. The city bids the project out. Homeowners can solicit bids themselves, but then they can’t attach it to their tax bill and have to pay it off themselves right away.
The Swansons had just bought a cabin, and paying for that and a utility repair bill stretched their budget too far. Six months after the first repair, the line required additional work. Luckily that was warrantied by the repair company who fixed it at no charge.
Swanson said he’d be less angry about this if he didn’t pay so much in taxes, a bill that last year was about $6,000. “I don’t mind paying taxes, but I want something out of it,” he said.
Vogeo agrees. She’s frustrated that the city is using millions of taxpayer money to create bike paths but not repairing its streets and utility lines.

What’s with the sinkholes?
The issues on her street spurred Soholt to take action, and she began asking questions trying to figure out what was happening. Her street isn’t the only one on the southwest side of Lake Nokomis that is dealing with sinkholes and utility line breaks.
“Edgewater is like the Grand Canyon,” Swanson observed. A football field length of pavement has been repeatedly repaired due to sinkholes west of 16th.
One day, emergency vehicles were called because a sinkhole developed and caused a break to a gas line on park land south of the lake.
Soholt’s search for answers has led her to question why the water table in the area is rising. She learned about homes near Solomon Park just south of her where residents have lost half of their backyards to standing water and dealt with sewer back-ups in their basements. She’s spoken with people at Hope Lutheran Church (5728 Cedar Ave.) who are dealing with an elevator that has rusted because of standing water.
She questions the volume of water coming down Minnehaha Creek, and how the weir is used at Lake Nokomis. She noticed that when the culvert under Highway 62 from Mother Lake was closed last year for repair, the lake level dropped. It rose again right after the culvert draining water from Richfield into South Minneapolis was re-opened.
Together with other concerned citizens, she formed the Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability group, which is tracking water issues in the area and advocating for comprehensive water studies.
“We’re the epicenter,” said Soholt.
“We are aware that increased precipitation is the cause of the problems. What we are questioning are current water management practices in light of the forecasted changes. How can communities upstream equitably manage their own water runoff locally without sending it all downstream where it is adversely affecting other communities?”

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Building community through sailing

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

On a picture perfect summer evening at Lake Nokomis, the water was calm and the west side dock was brimming with activity. A group of five kids and a couple of adults climbed into a sailboat and, after a momentary untangling of the rigging and a gentle push, they were off. Just then the wind picked up.
“It’s magic,” said the man who helped them launch.
Meet Longfellow resident Tim Brandon – sailor, boat caretaker, mentor – or “The Mayor,” as he is known by the regulars of this 50-boat marina.
Brandon is there most summer evenings (Nokomis is on his way home from his job at MSP Airport), offering assistance and encouragement to youth and adults alike.
Minnehaha resident Len Schmid, whose boat Tag You’re It is bouyed here (and who said he might have been responsible for Brandon’s nickname), called Brandon a regular “person about the lake.” Ask anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you what a tremendous resource and great guy he is. Over the course of the five years he’s had a buoy here, Brandon has helped bail, patch, rig and rescue scores of boats, from on shore and out on the water.
“He’s here every day. He helps everyone,” said Schmid. “We’re lucky to have him here.”
Sailor Siri Anderson said Brandon was very supportive when she didn’t have anyone to sail with, and Melanie Benoy said he helped her get her whole boat rigged.
Lending a hand comes naturally to Brandon.
“I’m very familiar with launching [a] boat and getting super frustrated,” he said.
Brandon began sailing as a kid on Clear Lake, California’s largest natural lake, then became a recreation director at Konocti Harbor Resort. He later joined Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley, where he met his wife, Dori. He eventually became a senior skipper in San Francisco.
Lured to Minnesota by a full-time job at Northwest Airlines (now Delta), he settled near Lake Nokomis, bought a boat and named her Doribelle, after the nickname Dori’s mom gave her as a child. Five years ago, he got a buoy on Nokomis, and he’s been a mainstay at the marina ever since. He chuckles at the “mayor” moniker and describes himself as more of an unofficial harbor master.

Youth Sailing Resources offers opportunities for kids
On this glorious summer evening, it was all about getting kids on the water. Brandon serveson the board of Youth Sailing Resources (YSR), which brings volunteer skippers and youth sailors together weekly to sail. YSR cofounders Patrick O’Leary and Jim McKie were here tonight, too.
According to O’Leary, YSR started as a nonprofit to support the Sea Scouts (a co-ed youth sailing group for ages 14-21) and to open up sailing to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity. They don’t offer classes or formal instruction. Rather, they give sailors the experience of being out on the water. All must wear a lifejacket and follow basic safety precautions, and all are shown proper care of the vessel. Sailing tips from experienced sailors, of course, flow freely.
“We wanted to make it a version of a community-based thing,” said O’Leary.

What’s the catch?
For it to work, they rely on volunteer skippers and depend on the generosity of the broader sailing community to lend their boats, as well as donate boats no longer in use. It’s a model Brandon already knew worked, from his experience at Cal Sailing.
On the low cost to participate in YSR people often ask, “What’s the catch”? There isn’t one. But maybe if people use the resources, they’ll buy into it. Maybe volunteer. Maybe one day lend a boat.
McKie cruised away from the dock on one such boat, the Avalon, on loan from a Nokomis sailor.
“If there’s two boats out, it’s a race,” said McKie, grinning. “Whether the other boat knows it or not.” He attempted to catch up to Brandon, who was now sailing with Benoy on a catamaran, but caught them at the wrong angle.
McKie explained how to gauge wind speed by the surface of the water: Silver water is calm; darker water is windier; white again (as in whitecaps), might be a good 10-15 knots. A huge part of sailing is reading signs and getting a feel for how the wind reacts.
“Kids think they can do something. The wind shifts, and they’ve got to adjust,” said McKie. “A good life lesson.”
YSR has served various youth groups over the years, including Young Life, TreeHouse, and Cub Scouts. With Lake Street-based Urban Ventures, they created an annual sailing event, which last year brought 110 kids to Lake Nokomis to sail for an afternoon – up substantially from the 20 or so participants when it first launched six years ago.
The overall goal? To have a good time on the water.
“They need to have some fun,” said McKie. “There’s a lot of boredom. If I can find a way for them to have fun, give them some excitement”– That’s what it’s about. With that, they build some responsibility for the machines they operate, and they build community, which is “so important in this day and age,” McKie said.

Sailing is many things
Sailing means different things to different people. For Brandon it can be very meditative, following the wind.
For Jen Wood, another Nokomis sailor, it’s “an exercise in humility”; early in the season she prefers sailing her boat, Beulah, in gentler winds.
On the previous night, Sea Scouts Gina Sutherland and Ryan Bohara sailed with YSR. Each has risen through the ranks in the Scouts – Sutherland the seniormost, as a boatswain ( bos’n), and Bohara a bos’n’s mate – and it’s clear sailing is part of their lifestyle.
Sutherland likes that Nokomis is “a very active lake,” with places to swim and people fishing.
Bohara loves racing. An active member of Sea Scout Ship Mendota #248, he and his mom, K.D. Bohara, make the trek from their home in Victoria, Minn,, to Nokomis weekly. He’s thrilled Wayzata will be hosting one of the nation’s qualifying regattas in August for next year’s William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup (which will be held in Galveston, Texas). Two other Mendota 248 Scouts were selected (among 10) to sail for a week with the U.S. Coast Guard aboard the tall ship Barque Eagle.
K.D. Bohara, who chairs the Mendota 248 committee, especially loves being at the lake and seeing everyone’s setup. She shared pictures of a couple of memorable boats launched from trailers at Nokomis, one in the shape of a disk and another fashioned by placing a platform across two canoes and adding umbrellas, chairs and coolers – instant pontoon.
On this night, she brought her nephew Bode LeRoach for his first time sailing. “It was fun,” he said.

‘Calm down, take your time, be thorough’
As this evening drew to a close, Brandon gave a few pointers to Andreas Kocher and Vithue Chumara of St. Paul on storing the sail and closing up the Rebel they had just sailed. “Not a lot of people know how to sail,” said Chumara. “[Learning this] use of the wind, it’s a really good technical skill.”
Kocher said he’s struggled with ADHD, and that sailing has taught him how to “calm down, take your time, be thorough.”
He added, “A lot of kids should learn how to sail. It’s a great time. It’s a great way to spend the summer.”
Lake Nokomis seems to be the perfect place to do it.

‘Switchy twitchy’
The wind can be what Schmid described on the group’s Facebook page as “switchy twitchy.” It’s the same on all three Minneapolis lakes, he said: Bowls surrounded by trees, where the wind pushes downward and in. “You can sail two minutes and have it switch directions,” he observed.
Nokomis can also get what Brandon calls “big air” and – even on this little lake – swiftly become dangerous. It requires people to be on top of their game. Short of a storm, Brandon will go out in the big gusts, suggesting the Doribelle can handle maneuvering to and from the dock better than most boats.
McKie enjoys the challenge and said he and O’Leary will go out even when it’s “blowin’ like snot.” Having sailed in different parts of the world, McKie maintains, “If you can sail on an inland lake in Minnesota, you can sail anywhere in the world.”
More than for the wind and water, though, sailing Lake Nokomis is about the people there.
“It’s an amazing community,” said Siri Anderson, who said Nokomis is very unpretentious. “This community has become more important to me than my church.”

‘Everything I do started on a summer day on this lake’
Brandon, as administrator for the Lake Nokomis Sailing Facebook page, often posts videos of the conditions on the lake. He welcomes new sailors and boats and posts any mishaps. Recently, he alerted the community to a boat that was sinking due to a leak, which he managed to safely maneuver to shore. He said there have been times he’s posted that he could use a hand, only to arrive at the boat launch to have three cars with volunteers waiting. That’s really what its all about for him, being there for each other and creating lasting memories.
“At some point [new sailors] will say, ‘Everything I do started on this summer day on Lake Nokomis.’”
To get involved n Youth Sailing Resources, call Jim McKie or Patrick O’Leary (contacts available on their Google site). The Sea Scouts hold their annual weekend regatta on Lake Phalen Aug. 10 and 11.

(Photo courtesy of Tim Brandon)

Flotation, flotation, flotation


If Tim Brandon has a mantra for sailors, it might be this: “Have you secured your masthead flotation?” He recently posted on the Lake Nokomis Sailing Facebook page a photo of a Hobie catamaran that had capsized due to, in his opinion, the skipper “hot doggin’ it.”

Pictured above is the boat, floating sideways, its mast across the surface of the water. Clearly visible on the end of it is an empty gallon jug, which is all it takes to keep the mast from submerging – and taking the boat with it.

“The masthead flotation made all the difference,” Brandon said.

Brandon said the lake is only 14 feet deep on average, much shallower than the length of most masts, which are 20+ feet on up. That means capsized boats without the flotation run the risk of driving their masts into the mud. YSR youth who want to can practice capsizing and righting the boat with a skilled skipper.


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Your concerns are her concerns

Posted on 01 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Commissioner Angela Conley wants constituents guiding decisions from the 24th floor

A mural at the newly opened Funky Grits at Chicago Ave. and 38th. St. celebrates the contributions made by females in Minneapolis, including Angela Conley, third from left. (Photo submitted)

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series. The first part ran in the May 2019 Messenger.
Addressing unsheltered homelessness is an issue Hennepin County District 4’s new County Commissioner Angela Conley is passionate about, and one that local residents focused on when she was door-knocking during her campaign.
Many years ago, Conley had to leave where she was living for safety reasons and was technically homeless. “That experience taught me ways in which we can do better,” said Conley, who later spent 20 years working in social work at both the county and state level. “I know housing and having a place to sleep at night are basic human rights.”
Conley believes that the answer to fixing this issue is funding, and hopes to see a number of different agencies partnering together with direction from the state. This way, someone from Washington County can stay within their community and not go to a shelter in Hennepin County because that’s the only one that has space.
“This is a lot bigger than just Hennepin County,” said Conley.
Plus the answer requires more than providing a bed and a mat to those who are homeless. It will require that – and on-ramps to supportive housing and permanent housing. “We have to meet people where they are at,” observed Conley.
Right now, Hennepin County operates as a referral-based system which means that someone might get referred to four or five other agencies to meet his or her varying needs. Conley said, “It’s often a full-time job for people to get chemical health services over here and mental health services over here, and then help with finding employment over in this direction. All of that should be under one roof.”
She added, “We should be doing it with people who are involved in our shelter system because housing stability is when you have the support you need to maintain your own housing. ”
That costs money, Conley recognizes, so she’s looking at where money is being spent now, evaluating if the outcomes are good, and questioning if that money should be spent elsewhere.
“We are moving in the right direction, but we’re still not where we should be,” stated Conley. “We’re still busting at the seams.”
According to the Wilder Foundation, Minnesota is seeing the highest numbers of homelessness in the 30 years they’ve been tracking it. She pointed out, “Homelessness has jumped 10% in the last three years.”
Conley is taking a close look at how the county invests in shelters and supportive housing, as well as real estate.
“We’ve got a market out here that not a lot of people can afford anymore. It’s harder to buy a home. Houses go up for sale and they’re snatched up right away. Rent keeps going up, but wages don’t,” she remarked. When people get out of jail, landlords won’t rent to them. And women and children fleeing domestic violence make up a large percentage of the homeless and have specific needs before they can get back on their feet.
There are also members of the community who don’t go to shelters, and some of those people came together last year at the Hiawatha Encampment, the largest encampment Minnesota had ever seen.
As a Southside resident, Conley drove past the Hiawatha Encampment regularly. She recognizes there are many reasons why people opt to not use shelters, such as not being able to bring a loved one or beloved pet. Others don’t think the shelters are safe, and worry that they don’t have a place to lock up their belongings. Addiction is also an issue, and opioid addiction is hitting the fourth district hard, Conley said.
She pointed out that encampment was full of many Native American and African Americans – the two groups experiencing the highest levels of homelessness. “You had a group of folks who found community amongst each other and who chose to live amongst each other,” Conley observed.
“There are also 200 to 300 people who sleep on the trains overnight. So this is an issue that not a lot of people have talked about.”
According to Conley, the county has divested from shelters and invested in affordable housing over the years. Her question there is: “Affordable to who?”
All of the affordable housing is calculated based on median income, and affordable workforce housing is at 60% of the median income. “We have people at 30% of the median income. Where can they go?” she asked.
Also lacking is shelter that is culturally specific, and meets people where they are at even if they aren’t ready for addiction treatment.
Conley co-chairs Heading Home Hennepin, which brings together the county, city of Minneapolis and others to look at the ways people might be able to work together to provide resources to create the infrastructure needed to house more people.
“If we make these investments on the front end then the resources are already there, and we wouldn’t have to go into an encampment and provide services there because we were already on the front end working upstream to stop the build-up at the bottom,” said Conley. “There’s a lot of possibility in taking on this issue head-on. It’s going to require the political will for people to say, ‘Yes, this is an issue.’”
Conley also pushed for unsheltered homelessness to be included in the county’s federal legislative platform this year for the first time.

During her campaign, Conley started with that question because she loves talking about the county.
“I have spent my career in public service, and I wanted everybody to know what commissioners do because it’s a level of government that is sort of invisible,” observed Conley. “A lot of people know who their state reps are, they know who their senator might be, they know the governor, they know their city council, but do you know who your commissioner is? Raise your hand. We’d be in a room of 25 people and one person might raise their hand.”
She’d point out, “The county is involved in pretty much everything you do,” and deals with more than just the big, contentious issues of lightrail and stadiums.
When you take out your garbage, it’s burned at the county energy recovery center downtown. The road you drive on to get to work everyday may be a county road even in the city, and if you’re concerned about safety on it you’ll need to talk to the county. If you are on a fixed income and you need help paying for medical care or you’re experiencing food insecurity, you may apply at a county office.
“This is your largest government entity aside from the state, and it’s operating a $2.4 billion budget. We’re the second largest county in the Midwest — only to Cook County near Chicago. We’re very, very big with a far reach in people’s everyday lives,” stated Conley.
Her office will be intentional about holding community office hours for citizens to share concerns and ideas. The first was held at Sabathani, and others will be held at various places throughout the large fourth district including Longfellow, by the airport, in Cedar-Riverside, Phillips and the Central neighborhood.
“We want folks to know that their commissioner is very interested in having community lead on key decisions,” said Conley.
In March, she was part of a meeting focused on the Cedar/Highway 77/Highway 62/Edgewater area, and was most interested in hearing what those in attendance had to say. “I think community should be leading on what they know is best for their neighborhood,” stated Conley, and her staff took a ton of notes at the meeting. She plans to hold a follow-up meeting to talk about how those ideas can be implemented.
“That’s the kind of leadership you can find out of the District 4 office,” stated Conley. “I don’t want to be in this space making up solutions based on what I think the community needs. I want people in the fourth district to be guiding decisions that happen up here on the 24th floor because these are decisions that ultimately affect your life.”
For a long time, Conley didn’t feel included in decision making and so she’s taking that experience and turning it around.
“This really truly is the district four people’s office,” said Conley. “I want people to know that they have access to their commissioner, and their concerns are my concerns.”

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‘Don’t close Minnehaha Parkway’

Posted on 01 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

South Minneapolis residents say they want to continue to drive the entire length of the parkway in both directions, putting them at odds with a proposal to close a few sections and make others one-ways.

Attendees at a community meeting on June 13 check out proposals for the parkway. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Don’t close the parkway. That’s the message a majority of residents are telling the Minneaplis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB).
The proposal to close the section of Minnehaha Parkway underneath the Nicollet Ave. bridge and put a small playground and parking lot there instead is part of a larger master plan being developed for the five miles of Minnehaha Creek that stretch through the southern part of Minneapolis.
Vehicles would still be able to drive continuously on the route. Eastbound traffic would not go under the Nicollet Bridge but would instead go up and be forced to make a right-hand turn due to a median on Nicollet. Traffic from Nicollet could turn right and head back east down to the creek. Westbound traffic in that area would not change.
The current eastbound lane on the west side of the bridge would remain as a trail. The section of eastbound traffic east of the bridge would be a two-way roadway to access the climbing wall, picnic area, canoe/kayak launch and small parking lot planned for the site instead.

What’s the purpose of parkway?
During a meeting at Nokomis Recreation Center on Thursday, June 13, 2019, MPRB Planner Adam Arvidson explained that they began this process by asking, “What is the purpose of the parkway road? Is it a pleasure drive or a commuter route?”
They discovered that east of the bunny sculpture, Minnehaha Parkway is the southernmost route people use to get across town. West of the bunny, the parkway is functioning more as a pleasure route, and drivers have many options for travel throughout the area.
MPRB staff heard from many people about areas where there are safety concerns between drivers, pedestrians and bikers, including the area of the parkway just west of Portland where some traffic diverts to 50th at an angled intersection.
In order to simply things and create more space for bikers and pedestrians, MPRB is proposing that a few sections of roadway near Portland and Lynnhurst Park, as well as Nicollet, be designated as one ways.
Minnehaha Parkway crosses 50th St. just west of Portland and connect back with it at Lynnhurst about 20 blocks later. “We are talking about a portion that touches the same street twice,” said Arvidson. “There is enough redundancy in the city grid.”
He observed that planners are focused on this question: “How do we think about the park as a whole?”

‘People want to drive entire length of creek’
Several citizens pointed out that Minnehaha Parkway is part of the Ground Rounds system, and talked about how much they enjoy using this route.
Kevin Kvale at 54th and Logan, drives for a living. “You look for sources of calm and the parkway is definitely one of the sources I use,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to limit the access to it.”
Susan Reinhardt, who lives at 53rd and Girard, remarked, “We use it to show off the city. There’s an aspect of driving down the creek – it’s iconic to living in Minneapolis.”
Barbara Mahoney is 81 and uses the parkway each day to drive from East River Road to her daughter’s house in Hopkins. “I enjoy every minute,” she said, lamenting the loss of viewing the fall foliage if this plan goes through.
“People want to drive the entire length of the creek,” stressed Steve Thompson.
A number of people pointed out that due to their age and health, they are no longer able to bike or walk along the trails, and instead rely on driving.
In contrast, a younger woman said she’s excited about the plan for a park in Nicollet Hollow, and believes it is a good compromise. She pointed out that in her zip code only 11% of residents are over 65, and suggested that younger residents have childcare and other obligations that prevent them from attending an evening meeting to voice their support.
A teenage girl questioned whether it would be wise to restrict the number of cars in the area, and said she wouldn’t feel safe biking or walking in Nicollet Hollow with this plan.
Provide input on the plan at

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Kids want clean air in South Minneapolis

Posted on 01 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

The Minneapolis City Council hasn’t allowed these kids or those in support of a farm at the Roof Depot site to speak, so they gathered together on June 17 to flood city council member offices with phone calls sharing their ideas for what they want in their community. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The desire for healthy food and air brought kids and their adults to the East Phillips Cultural and Community Center on Monday, June 17, 2019 to engage in grassroots action. The group, which spanned multi cultures and ages, pulled out their phones to contact city council members to tell them they don’t want a city water yard to take up 16.5 acres at Hiawatha Ave. between 26th and 28th St.
They’d rather see an urban farm, aquaponics, solar array, affordable houses, bike shop and other small businesses at the Roof Depot site as proposed by the East Phillip Neighborhood Institute, according to organizer Cassandra Holmes of Little Earth. They don’t want 400 diesel trucks adding to the air pollution in the neighborhood and along the Midtown Greenway. “We are tired of them not listening to us and putting all their garbage on us,” she stated.
“Kids need clean air. They deserve clean air. We need to stop the polluting industries,” agreed former state representative Karen Clark. “This is what environmental injustice looks like.” Learn more about the project at

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Yes, Short Line Bridge could extend Greenway into St. Paul

Posted on 01 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Study re-opens conversation about rehabbing bridge for bikes and peds while still carrying trains

Executive director Soren Jensen, at right, said, “In my eight years at the Midtown Greenway Coalition, the question I’m asked more than any other is, ‘Why doesn’t the Greenway extend into St. Paul?’ We hope our bridge study helps start conversations with railroad and government officials about how to move this project forward.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Engineering feasibility studies usually don’t have people sitting on the edge of their chairs but on June 6, 2019, supporters of the Midtown Greenway Coalition did just that.
More than 60 bike enthusiasts gathered at the Hamline Midway Library to hear the results of the Extend the Greenway feasibility report, and to discuss the possibility of extending the Minneapolis bike trail into St. Paul.
The study involved in-depth structural analysis of the 100-year-old Short Line Railroad Bridge over the Mississippi River, east of 27th St. in the Longfellow neighborhood.
Midtown Greenway Coalition executive director Soren Jensen explained, “With the support of our 35+ Extend the Greenway partners, and donations from hundreds of people on both sides of the river, we hired engineering firm Kimley-Horn and Associates to determine if the bridge could be rehabbed to safely support bikes and pedestrians.  We are pleased to announce that the results are in – and it can!”
This isn’t the first time that the Short Line Bridge has been studied.
Jensen said, “Hennepin County conducted an engineering study in 2006, and concluded that the bridge was just too old to be used as a connector. At that point, the conversation kind of died. For our study, we re-framed the question to be, ‘What would it take to strengthen the bridge to make it structurally sound?’ Kimley-Horn’s report outlined several options for rehabbing the bridge to make it safe for bikers and pedestrians. No matter which one is chosen, structural redundancies will have to be built into the bridge to make it usable.”
Jensen continued, “The idea isn’t to have all the answers right now, but to spark interest in re-examining the idea. The easiest thing would be if the train didn’t run, but ADM says they will continue investing in it as long as the Atkinson Mill on Hiawatha Ave. stays open. Almost all of our options involve sharing the bridge with the train, and could include building a replica bridge or adding a second story above the tracks.”
The existing 5.5-mile-long Greenway Bike Trail was built in three phases and, if everything works out, the expansion across the Mississippi River would be Phase Four.

What would it take to make the Short Line RR Bridge east of 27th St. on West River Parkway structurally sound so that it could continue the Midtown Greenway trail across the Mississippi River from Minneapolis into St. Paul? (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Jensen said, “It’s important to remember that transit projects take time. This one would have a complicated funding structure pooling federal dollars, support from both Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, business and non-profit sponsors, and individual donors.
“What we hope to do is get the conversation started.”
Looking ahead, if the Greenway were extended as far as Cleveland Ave. in St. Paul, there would be safer bike and pedestrian access to Alliance Field, the State Fair Grounds, the Green Line LRT and more.
The Extend the Greenway Partnership also supports the proposed Min Hi Line in South Minneapolis, which would connect the Midtown Greenway to Minnehaha Falls Park.
All Minneapolis and St. Paul non-profits, neigborhood groups, and businesses who share the vision of extending the Greenway are welcome to join the partnership. For more information, contact Soren Jensen at

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RRR: School’s out but Dowling Elementary is still buzzing

Posted on 01 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Students, community members learn about beekeeping from Pollinate Minnesota

Tracy Young, Dowling Elementary School environmental education teacher, visits the school apiary. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The students at Dowling Elementary School are done for the year, but 60,000 or so honeybees in their school yard apiary are gearing up for a busy summer.
Through a partnership with the non-profit organization Pollinate Minnesota, Dowling received two bee boxes last year – each houses one queen honeybee, enough males to ensure reproduction, and tens of thousands of hard working female worker bees. The bee boxes were placed on school property adjacent to the Dowling Community Gardens: home to 200+ community garden plots, which offer up a smorgasbord of flowering plants for the bees to feed on.
The hives have provided a living, outdoor classroom for students from the K-5 environmental magnet school since their arrival late last summer. Environmental education specialist Tracy Young and ELL teacher Jeff Johnson started thinking about having an apiary at their school a couple of years ago. They reached out to Erin Rupp, founder of Pollinate Minnesota, and were able to bring their idea to fruition.
Pollinate Minnesota is an education and advocacy organization working toward a better co-existence of pollinators and people. They offer safe, immersive experiences with honeybees for learners of all ages. As an educational organization, they teach over 100 programs a year, mostly to K-12 youth, and partner with organizations like Dowling to install and maintain their apiaries.
Tracy Young explained, “Our students have been able to interact with bees in many different ways. With the younger children, we use a combination of stories, puppets, and play activities to help them understand the different jobs that bees do – both in and around the hive. Some of our best experiences have been just sitting and watching the bees go about their business. The K-2 students are invited to approach the fenced-in apiary, but don’t go inside the 6’ tall, chain-link enclosure. Starting in third grade, students get to work with the bees up-close, wearing bee suits and other protective clothing.”
She continued, “Honeybees aren’t aggressive, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t afraid of them. There were a few children who were scared in the beginning, but once they learned about the honeybees and how they worked together – their fear went away.”
One of Young’s most successful teaching tools this year was a series of bee puppets she made with cardboard and donated chop sticks. The younger students took the puppets outside and “collected” pollen from apple trees while they were blooming. They learned about bee anatomy, bee behavior, how flowers are pollinated, and why it matters.
Pollinate Minnesota will be hosting a community bee-keeping class at the Dowling Apiary later this summer. Look for updates at in the next few weeks. For more information on forming a pollinator partnership, contact Erin Rupp at

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