Archive | OPINION

You can write your own will

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Legal tips

David K. Porter


A lot of people are asking how to write their own wills during this Covid-19 situation. We are all having to think about the fact that we just may die before we’ve been planning to. I’ve been helping people with estates, trusts, wills, health care directives, powers of attorney, and inter-generational transfers for about 40 years. So I’ve been to this rodeo once or twice, eh? This column is not legal advice – just general education. You can also check out the Minnesota State Attorney General’s website at I also advise talking to an experienced lawyer to figure out what you need for your own specific situation.
Yes, you can write your own will if you follow some basic rules. Here are the most common problems:
1. Any will should be signed, dated, and witnessed by two people who sign their names – as witnesses – in front of the testator (the person whose will it is. The testator can sign it and then take it to two different (adult and legally competent) people and say, “This is my will. Please sign here as witnesses to my saying ‘This is my will and my signature.’ ” They do not need to know what is in the will. They do need to think you know and understand what you are doing.
2. There are a lot of people – well-meaning lawyers among them – who think the testator and the witnesses also have to have their signatures notarized. This is not true, and this kind of “obedience to the form they are used to” leads to too many people not getting their wills done. The real reason for the extra rigamarole was to cut down on the number of will contests by “shifting the burden of proof” to the contestant (opponent) rather than the proponent (in favor) of the will. As it has turned out, this hasn’t made much actual difference.
3. The most common mistake is thinking a notary takes the place of, or is just as good as, two witnesses – it doesn’t. Notaries are needed for real estate documents and powers of attorney. A health care directive (also called a “living will”) can be witnessed by two people or a notary. But that option does not apply to a will.
4. As for stating how you want things divided and distributed after you’re gone – the devil is in the details. Remember, there are going to be different points of view after you’re gone. Most often, there are very real – and very firm – opinions about what you “really wanted.” The best way to avoid this is to keep it simple and get some competent help. I tell people who want to write their own wills, “It’s a lot like doing your own plumbing behind a plaster wall. By the time they find out it’s leaky, it gets really expensive to fix.”
5. The person writing their own will can get caught up in a swirl of conflicting and competing emotions and thoughts. This can result in wording that makes perfect sense to the person who wrote it, but turns out to be hard for everyone else involved to agree on what was meant.
Plainly put, people who write their own wills can make more work for lawyers than they meant to. I once handled an estate of a woman who lived over by Wagner’s Greenhouse. She was a real antique collector, and would often take whatever was left over after estate sales, take it all home to her own garage, and sort through things looking for treasures. And she left a house full of things like original Thomas Edison cylindrical wax records, with Edison’s own voice. She wrote her own will, but it got complicated when she started assigning “whatever is in the front bedroom to my nieces and nephews on my husband’s side, the back bedroom to my cousins, and the kitchen. . .” We ended up with something like 32 people all wanting to get in the house at the same time, each with their own ideas about what they were entitled to. Her estate sale had so many antiquers lining up the night before that the neighbors called the cops just to get some peace and quiet before the sale. One of the cops turned out to be a niece of the decedent, so she got the bright idea of handing out numbers to everyone herself so that the buyers could get back in their cars and get some sleep before the sale opened up. Long story short, it cost an extra $10,000 in various lawyers’ fees just trying to straighten things out.
6. Half the job of writing a straightforward estate plan is figuring out what you want. The other half is writing it up clearly and simply, and using the right documents. Sometimes a living trust is a good idea – but not always. You’re giving an awful lot of power to someone who can rob you blind. Same with a power of attorney. Transfer on death deeds make sense IF there are a very small number of recipients. I’m talking like one or two here, because the recipients are going to be the immediate owners, and if they want to sell, their spouses are going to have to join in, too. I’ve got one going now where all five kids – and their respective spouses – now have to agree on whether and when to sell, AND price, terms, timing, and getting all the documents signed.
7. A will can be handwritten. It still needs to be witnessed by two people. I’ve done a few by hand, writing as clearly as possible while sitting next to someone literally on their death bed at 3 in the morning. I don’t recommend it, and I sure as heck don’t want to be doing it for someone infected with this Covid-19 stuff.
So – do it before you need it. Please. Your family and friends (and even your lawyer!) will be grateful.
David K. Porter is a lawyer with more than 35 years experience in estate planning, probate, trusts, and real estate. He is certified as a real estate specialist by the Minnesota State Bar Association. He’s at: 5208 Bloomington Ave., Minneapolis.

Comments Off on You can write your own will

Is Facebook your best friend?

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

View from the Messenger

Denis Woulfe has been working for the Monitor and Messenger since her was a college intern from Hamline.


I’ve seen the world of marketing dramatically change during my years with the Messenger working to help businesses develop the most effective marketing plan. My clients today have many more options to get their messaging about products and services to their client base than they did 20 years ago. Many of our print advertisers also use Facebook and other social media corridors to reach their target audience. Some also have fairly elaborate websites which provide valuable information about their business operation and its mission.
Is Facebook a business owner’s best friend? Yes, Facebook can be a great tool for a business owner but sometimes businesses may not be aware of the obstacles that exist to really reach your target audience. For one, if you are familiar with the Facebook algorithm, you know that Facebook has its platform set up such that for most users the posts they see are most likely those of their family and friends. For a business promoting their products on Facebook, they should realize that only 5 to 10% of their followers will see their post through what’s known as organic reach. That’s when a business that has, perhaps, 1200 followers but might reach only 60 to 120 of those followers with any individual post.
As the user of your Facebook account, you can check your reach by looking at any individual post and comparing your followers with your “reach.” If you think that your post is going out to everyone who likes your business, I’m sorry to report that just isn’t happening.
The other reality is that as a business owner, your goal is to bring in new business. Facebook and other social media can be a great tool for reaching your existing fan base, but ultimately you are trying to reach new customers who have never heard of your business. That’s not going to happen if your posts on Facebook about Half Price Burger Night are most likely seen and “liked” by your Mom, your next door neighbor, and your cousin who lives in Chicago. Just because you reach someone or have a follower doesn’t mean that the follower is someone local or someone who can buy your product.
Then there’s the notion that Facebook is free. Let’s face it: if you have to hire someone to manage your social media accounts and put up content, that’s not free. Worse – if you are the owner and spend your days and nights curating your social media accounts, that’s not good either. We all learned the concept of Opportunity Cost in Economics 101, and if you are spending a lot of your time as a business owner on social media, then many other aspects of your business operation are being ignored. Time is money, after all!
Social media, for that matter, can be a mixed blessing as having a Facebook page means that others can post on your site if they have had a bad meal, a bad roofing job, or something else. Once you commit to having that social media presence, you have to be vigilant about monitoring the site and responding to feedback from other posters. Knowing how social media can embolden folks to say things online that they would never say to someone face to face, dealing with the repercussions of negative publicity can be challenging, to stay the least.
I might also add there that not every business lends itself to social media. If you have a restaurant or brewery, you likely have a following who watch for deals online, but if you’re a contractor, or nonprofit, or someone from another industry, your social media site may not be the first place that people look.
Likewise, I also know of some businesses that spend thousands of dollars setting up their websites. Some businesses have updated their websites many times over the years but still don’t have visitors to the site. Again, just because you build it doesn’t mean that people will see it. You need something to draw people to your website and not every business has it.
As I often tell my advertisers, promotion is about getting in front of prospective clients on a regular basis. It’s true that there are often better approaches in advertising–using colorful photos and graphics, having people in your advertising, using quotes, and using approaches that appeal to people’s sense of humor, their compassion, and their humanity. But much of my advertisers’ messaging focuses on encouraging folks to Buy Local and reminding readers that as business owners, they have a stake in Longfellow and Nokomis neighborhoods just like residents do. And my advertisers have also heard me advise this over the years: Repetition, repetition, repetition. Studies suggest that consumers need to see an ad message seven, eight or more times before they actually pull the trigger and make a purchase.
It is, after all, a symbiotic relationship – businesses need residents as patrons and residents need businesses to stabilize their community, contribute to the local tax base, and make their neighborhood have the kind of Walkability Index that is the envy of every other neighborhood. Wouldn’t everyone want to have their coffee shop, their dentist, and their mechanic within walking distance of their home? True, you certainly can “like” your second cousin’s coffee shop in Seattle on Facebook, but you LOVE the coffee shop that’s only 5 minutes from your front door. That’s the beauty of Buying Local!

Comments Off on Is Facebook your best friend?

Letters to the Editor May 2020

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Online tech services crucial for nonprofits

Dear Editor:
The Hennepin County Sheriff Foundation (HCSF) is an independent, nonprofit, charitable organization dedicated to strengthening public safety through youth-based activity programs, prevention, intervention, education, outreach, and 21st century crime-fighting tools and programs. It is essential that we have access to the most efficient communication and information-sharing tools, especially as public safety issues become increasingly complex and our community weathers through the COVID-19 outbreak. Because of this, it is important for our leaders to protect access to online tech services that allow organizations like the HCSF to meet the challenges of the day with force.
Each year, we identify and respond to new and emerging concerns within the community, and it is evident today how quickly one public safety challenge can become a devastating crisis when our health and safety officials are not able to preemptively and diligently contain the situation. That’s why it is important to us that we have an open, adaptive stream of communication that we can update as a situation develops.
HCSF uses a multitude of digital tools for outreach and communications, and as a board we stayed connected using Google’s G-suite and its array of apps and tools. In the last year, there has been lots of discussion regarding the regulation of the tech industry but little discussion as to how community-led organizations could be impacted.
We are concerned that regulation, if not planned and written to consider groups like ours, could undermine the work of organizations in seemingly unrelated sectors such as law enforcement.
Our communities are safer because of the foundation’s support of volunteer deputies, and we have better relationships with young residents because of outreach programs. Coordinating all of these programs on a nonprofit foundation’s budget requires access to affordable online programs, and we’re lucky to have them. I hope our experience sheds light on the need to ensure these programs remain open and available to organizations across Minnesota.
Lou Frillman
Hennepin County Sheriff Foundation

Demand details on 5G

Dear Editor:
Myriad Twin Cities residents have been asking city councils and mayors for transparency in the roll-out of 5G in our communities. At this time, with 5G’s signal promising to be 300x stronger than current 4G signals, questions about environmental, animal and human impacts have not been answered by city council members in all counties. Many fear that we may be facing the implementation of a network that will undo all of our good work in increasing insect and wildlife populations, and will additionally impact the health of our communities. Reports from areas around the world of the implementation of 5G vary depending on the source.
Minnesota is notorious for slow implementation of projects that should require an environmental review, however nothing in the press indicates that this project is “rolling out” much less facing a review. We hear whispers that there is 5G signal infrastructure throughout Minneapolis, but the city council apparently doesn’t know (or won’t divulge) where the signal receptors are located. If, as is whispered, these sites are already located in both schools and hospitals, what does this mean for the health of our children, the staff in all locations as well as hospital patients?
Anyone concerned about this issue should immediately request their city council member and mayor put a stop to future implementation of 5G without offering the citizens an opportunity to get answers and weigh in. At a minimum, a map that shows current and future 5G installation sites throughout our communities is in order.
Please join me in putting pressure on our representatives to release information about this very pressing issue.
Annette Rondano

Comments Off on Letters to the Editor May 2020

Hope for the Heartbroken

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

An inspired journey

Angela Woosley of Inspired Journeys

By Angela Woosley,

Over the past month, the Coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives, and many of us are struggling to adjust to the new normal. Unemployment, job insecurity, health scares, and general anxiety are common features of life during this topsy-turvy time. But for many of us, this pandemic comes at the absolute worst time – at a time of grief.
If someone you love has died, whether due to COVID-19 or not, it may feel like the world is spinning out of control. It’s common to feel out of sorts when we are grieving under normal circumstances, but with everything else we are experiencing, death of a loved one right now may feel like too much to handle. I want to offer some words of advice and comfort for those who need it most.

Take a deep breath
It’s okay to slow down and take a moment to gather your thoughts. Death is not an emergency, so if you are having trouble sorting through your jumbled ideas, press pause. Think about your wishes for a service and what you know about the deceased’s wishes for a service. Do you want burial or cremation? What kind of service do you want? Write your wishes down; sort through your thoughts over time. You can honor and remember your loved one the way you want, but it may look a little different. Be flexible with timing; don’t let anyone rush you.

Hang onto these moments
There’s a fair chance you were unable to be with the person who died just before their death. Most facilities aren’t allowing visitors in order to keep patient populations healthy. You are not alone in this heartbreak. Perhaps you can ask staff to take pictures of your loved one – a picture of their face, a picture of staff holding their hand – either before or after death. If you are able to be with the person you love, take pictures together. Times like this can be a blur; pictures can help us freeze these moments to help us remember and work through our grief later.

Be present with your grief
When you hurt with grief, it can hurt so much you may wish you could feel anything else. Grief is a healthy, natural reaction to losing someone we love, and it’s okay to sit with these feelings and experience them. Remember to eat and hydrate, then do what feels right. Light a candle, say a prayer, write a letter to them, draw for them, walk in nature, cry your eyes out, laugh your heart out, remember the best moments you shared. Share your grief with others and let them know what you need. Grief is not the time to be Minnesotan about it – ask people directly. They likely want to help but have no idea what to say or do. You’re doing them a favor to ask for their help.

Adapt your funeral
Due to limitations on gatherings, you may be planning a simple service with only a few people present. Don’t forget to include people remotely! With a Zoom meeting, Tribucast service, FaceBook Live, or other webcast/livestream service, you can include people from far and wide at the funeral. For folks who can’t participate online, let them know when the service will be and ask them to light a candle or say a prayer at that time. Look at your list of wishes and see what you can include in a service now.

Plan for the future
Next, think ahead to the coming months. Eventually, guidelines about social distancing will relax, allowing you to hold a celebration of life that incorporates the elements you can’t include now. To help you focus some of your energy (and possibly your feelings of grief), work on plans for that larger celebration of life now. Gather together their most treasured belongings, enlist friends to make handmade crafts, sort through photos for a video or picture board, make a playlist of songs, and find the perfect readings.

Advice you can ignore
One last note about planning: If your loved one “didn’t want you to make a fuss” about their death and asked you to keep it simple, you are allowed to take that advice with a grain of salt. We come together to honor, remember, and grieve for the person we loved, but more than anything, grief rituals are for US, the living. Rabbi Earl Grollman might have said it best: Grief shared is grief diminished. Find those points of connection and share your grief with rituals that speak to your love and your loss. The person you have lost is worth it.
Angela Woosley is a trained mortician, educator, end-of-life doula and celebrant who recently started Inspired Journeys in the Twin Cities, the first of its kind natural deathcare provider.

Comments Off on Hope for the Heartbroken

Go ahead: Let some things go and break a few house rules

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Have a little grace

Amy Pass


I don’t really know what to tell you. Every person is so different, and what you need right now, in this time of pandemic, is different from what someone else might need. And some of your needs will change from day to day. Some of you will find solace in a new yoga practice, learning to play the ukulele, and doing virtual museum tours. Others need to take a nap, and snuggle on the couch watching movies.
You might need a good cry from time to time. Or a good run. Some of us need to read poetry and listen to the daily briefings every day at 2 p.m. All of us need to keep getting things done, despite the fact that we’re at home much more of the time and the dishes are piling up in the sink because we’re always home and we’re doing all the cooking and the projects are strewn from one end of the house to the other.
I don’t know what you should do. But I can tell you this one thing. We all need a little kindness right now. When you’re irritated with the way everyone else in your house is doing things and your child is melting down for the umpteenth time today, remember that everything has changed in the last few weeks. Even the grocery stores are different. Your family is feeling it, too. It’s ok to not keep it all together right now.
Now is the time to give in to things. You know how there’s some things that you never, ever do with your kids…not bad things, just conventional rules that you don’t break? But every once in a while you let it go just this one time? Like during the holidays or on birthdays? I don’t know what those rules are for you, but if you find that you’re falling apart or everyone else in your house is falling apart, it might be time to break one of those rules. As a treat.
If you feel like running away, chances are good that others in your house feel the same way. Is there a way to run away together? Can you pull together rather than pulling apart? What might running away look like in this time of pandemic? Maybe you look at each other and say, “I’m tired of this, too. Let’s have a picnic.” And maybe your picnic is in the yard or at the park or maybe it’s on the living room floor. Perhaps, running away is ordering ice cream from one of the local small businesses. Or watching the comedians on YouTube while drinking orange juice out of fancy glasses. Maybe it’s a video call with family or friends…while you’re all watching the same movie?
If you’re a couple without kids, these things still apply. Be kind. To yourself and each other. Let go of something that doesn’t matter. If you’re a single person, living alone, it’s even more important. When you’re tired of everything, it’s time to walk away from the shoulds and the oughts. Break out the fancy glasses and the phone calls or video chat.
Yes, of course, it’s important to find the new routine in daily life now, to eat nutritious food, get some exercise, sleep regularly, and get the work done. To be grateful for one thing every day. To do something for someone outside your family every day. I, personally, have been watching for the routines my family is settling into so that I can reinforce them, keep coming back to the same things. Developing a rhythm helps our brains to rest and eases some of the constant background stress. But it’s also important to let some things go. Maybe even one thing every day. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to each other. We are all fighting a hard battle.
Amy Pass earned her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Bethel Theological Seminary. But perhaps her greatest lessons have come from raising two children and maintaining a 21-year marriage.


Comments Off on Go ahead: Let some things go and break a few house rules

Gratitude, radical acceptance and seeing the silver lining

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Too Much Coffee


Is this really happening? I don’t know about you, but I’ve asked myself that more than a few times the past weeks as we’ve gotten the news that more and more things are shutting down. Schools and colleges. Barber shops, optometrists, fitness centers, theaters, museums, and concert halls. Restaurant and coffee shops (although they’re still doing take-out and delivery as of press time). Sporting events. Government and courthouse buildings. We’re all being encouraged to stay at home, and socially distance when we’re out for only the essentials. Jobs are on hold. Education is on hold. Lives are on hold.
But are they?
Sure, we’re living in unprecedented times as we watch the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. And it involves making changes to our daily lives in big and small ways.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t still connect with each other, continue learning, and grow as people.
I have a friend who has spent a large part of her adult life in an abusive relationship, one that has continued to be traumatizing past the divorce because they have a child together. She sent me this the other day, and I found it so inspiring, I wanted to share it with Messenger readers:
“I’ve done a whole lot of work in the past few years on handling difficult things emotionally. The most impactful things I’ve found and work to model for my child are 1) gratitude; 2) radical acceptance; and 3) purposefully and consistently focusing on the silver linings.
“I highly recommend spending time reading about radical acceptance. It’s been super helpful to me. It’s basically about letting go of worrying about what you can’t control, but actually spending time reading about it is really helpful and a good thing to model for kids I think. The goal is to teach them resilience and use this experience to train their way of thinking for the inevitable obstacles life will throw in their path.
“To some extent this is helping me now, that I’ve already done this work in my head and in my son’s. We are looking at this as the best time in our life because we are together. We are safe. We have everything that we need. This will end. So we may as well enjoy it.”
This doesn’t mean that she’s not finding it tough to simultaneously work and school her child at home. It doesn’t mean that sometimes tears don’t overtake her. And it doesn’t mean she’s going around pretending this isn’t happening because she’s focused only on the good without seeing the bad.
What it does mean is that she’s accepting this current situation as she has other tough things in her life, and she’s focusing on what she can control. Herself. She can manage what is within her own grasp and she can decide what she tells herself. Mindfulness techniques and prayer have been powerful ways to get through difficult times for centuries.
New today is how we can use technology to connect while we’re staying at home. My kiddos have discovered the joys of Messenger Kids and Facetime this week as a way to see, talk to and play with their friends without physically being in the same room. This, is, indeed a different life on screen than disappearing into a video game. I’ve connected with folks via Google Hangouts, GoTo meetings and Zoom video conferencing. We held a virtual birthday party for my niece. Then there’s regular phone calls, texting, emails, and letters – and a printed newspaper Editorial page. I asked via the Messenger’s Facebook page what folks are doing right now to stay occupied and connected.
Rebekah Peterson said: “My elementary age kids are posting a video daily to their classmates (using a private Facebook group) asking one question (what was your favorite part of the day, show and tell, etc.), and asking the students in their class to respond with a short video. They love seeing their friends via video.”
Others have created private Facebook groups for their block, and focused on getting to know and help those closest to them. Nokomis East Business Association launched a new Instagram account: 34aveneba.
Morgan L’Argent shared this group: Folks are organizing some really creative and innovative things via Facebook. Some hung shamrocks in their windows for kids to look for as they walked by on St. Patrick’s Day. Musicians are live-streaming concerts, and comedians are doing live comedy hours. Others are doing live meditation and mindfulness. There’s a Live Cat Stream and the Auburn Squirrel Project. (Yep!)
Peter Danbury posted: “Inspired by a story about Italians doing something along these lines, some south Minneapolis neighbors on Nextdoor had the idea of a nightly community sing-along, with people singing through a window or from their porch or front stoop every evening at the same time. A lot of us liked the idea, and we settled on singing John Lennon’s Imagine at 7 p.m.”
If dancing is more your jam, turn on the lights in your house once it gets dark, open the shades, and dance like a maniac in your living room. Maybe you’ll find yourself doing a dance off with the neighbors.
Others are simply slowing down; baking bread, cooking a meal, reading a book, journaling, figuring out how to conserve things, and planning their gardens.
Our children are watching us (all of us, not just parents and grandparents) and learning how we handle crisis. When they look back on this time in their lives, they will remember how they felt. They will remember the emotional climate in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. They will remember the board games and movie nights and walks through the park – the dance parties and songs from our front stoops.
Let’s come together for their sakes – and our own.
I’d love to hear more about how you’re connecting and managing. Email, reach out on Facebook or Instagram, or send me a letter.

Comments Off on Gratitude, radical acceptance and seeing the silver lining

Letters to the Editor April 2019

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Responsibility for taking gender out belongs to men

Dear Editor:
I’m writing this letter in response to one published in the February Messenger.
Mr. Mark Brandt wrote, in response to your article “It should never have happened,“ to suggest a “slight rewrite” to a sentence on page 2, column 3: “Like many men, he didn’t really start showing his abusive side until…”.
Mr. Brandt suggested “Like many eventual abusers…”, claiming that “would take the gender out of it,” as he felt the sentence you wrote “was a little unfair to my gender.”
I suggest the responsibility for taking the gender out of domestic violence belongs to the 71% of abusers who are men. They are the only ones who can do this, by stopping their abuse of women, children, and other men.
There are, of course, two genders involved. The gender of the victims is mostly female, except for half of the children.
Reading about domestic violence often elicits automatic reactions from women (“If my partner ever raised a hand to me, I’d be out of there immediately.”) and men (“But what about women who abuse men?”).
Please, before shutting off what you’re reading with an automatic response, listen to the end of the story. Then look for more information about domestic violence. These excellent articles include a lot of information. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is another good resource.

Helen Hunter
St Paul

Thanks for sharing story on overlooked dark side

Dear Editor:
I wanted to thank you and Leigh Ann Block for her bravely coming forward to share her story about her daughter Mikayla Olson Tester.
It is such a sad story and of course Leigh had to relive it all over again. How brave of her!!
Thank you, Tesha, for reporting carefully and eloquently an often overlooked dark side of our society.

Corinne S. Rockstad

Comments Off on Letters to the Editor April 2019

The fate of Minneapolis neighborhood associations beyond 2020

Posted on 08 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Candace Miller Lopez and Melanie Majors
Neighborhood Associations (NAs) have long been the connective tissue between the city of Minneapolis and its citizens, but as the Neighborhoods 2020 (N2020) planning process closes, it looks like a total unraveling is on the horizon.
NAs come in all shapes and sizes — serving from fewer than 1,000 residents to over 20,000 annually. There are 70 serving 81 separate neighborhoods. Since the early 1990s, NAs have received funding from the city under the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) and the Community Participation Program (CPP). For many, this was and is the primary source of revenue. In return, NAs provided the city with a direct link to residents. Key to the success of these programs was the emphasis on citizen-driven engagement and, in most cases, adequate resources to get the job done.
Neither program was perfect. The NRP has faced questions of disproportionately benefiting white homeowners and the CPP about the level of representation of minorities and renters on NA boards. Yes, there were unintended outcomes and not all communities benefited equally.
However, NRP was a well-resourced, $300-million bricks-and-mortar investment that, over 20 years, stabilized the city’s housing stock and made neighborhoods safer and more livable. By any standard, it was a success. The program, administered through NAs, empowered residents to develop plans for their neighborhoods. It was fully driven by citizens.
CPP, which replaced NRP around 2010, focused on broad citizen engagement and has been funded at a dramatically lower level – $4.1 million a year for the past 10 years. Because of this substantial cut in funding, many neighborhoods have been limited in the type and amount of programming and engagement they could reasonably provide.
So what is next for neighborhoods? In May 2019, the city council voted to adopt a set of draft recommendations assembled by the Neighborhood Community Relations (NCR) Department that would define the next iteration of neighborhood engagement and funding. The council included a requirement to engage an outside consultant to work with NCR, the associations, the Black, Indigeneous and People of Color (BIPOC) community and other stakeholders to address many of the concerns raised by NAs about the patriarchal and punitive nature of the draft 2020 framework as well as to gather the perspectives of marginalized groups and their relationships with NAs. The council also required the new program not to cost any more than the current one: Base funding for each neighborhood would be set at $25,000 annually. The Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) was selected to do this work.
There have been a couple of significant problems with the NCR/CURA process. First is the abbreviated timeline condensing what was supposed to be a six-month process down to six weeks during the holidays, due to delays in executing the contract with CURA. Second, a proposed set of program guidelines bears little resemblance to the input from the participants at five large group meetings. Last, key deliverables in the CURA contract, like developing the program guidelines, logic model, defining input, outcomes and how NA participation results will be evaluated, are all being developed without input from NAs. In fact, the entire process has largely ignored the insights and opinions of NA staffers and board members.
This has resulted in a new program outline, driven primarily by the results of a Racial Equity Analysis that CURA conducted of the previous funding models (NRP and CPP), and their conclusion that both programs were representative of systemic racism experienced throughout the city. It is important to know that NRP in particular was not designed with racial equity in mind. CURA has developed a program and funding model that prioritizes racial equity. Under this model, the lion’s share of $4.1 million per year would go to community-based nonprofits (CBOs) other than NAs and a select few neighborhoods with a high percentage of BIPOC and housing cost burdened residents, which will most certainly destroy the current NA system. It is important to acknowledge that across the board, participants in the large group meetings held by CURA overwhelmingly stated their support for both the need for racial equity work and the funding of CBOs to increase the efficacy of this work, but we firmly reject the idea that this is an either/or proposition.
Under this model, NAs like Standish-Ericsson and Longfellow Community Council will see their funding from the city fall to roughly $1 per resident per year, down from the current level of around $7. This means that less than 25% of available funds will go to base funding for neighborhoods. The city says it is providing this $5,000 to $10,000 in annual base funding to “preserve the network of neighborhood associations to minimum standard.” There is no minimum standard that can be supported by this paltry sum. The network the city is hoping to preserve will crumble. “Show me your budget and I’ll tell you your values.”
What happened to the council’s requirement of $25,000 in base funding? The balance of the funds will be distributed through competitive grants to NAs and CBOs focused specifically on racial equity work, with priority given to racially diverse communities experiencing gentrification and housing disparities. What does this mean for residents of neighborhoods that do not meet this criteria and whose NAs will not survive without meaningful funding from the city? No more community meetings to inform about new developments, transportation activity and other community concerns; no more summer festivals or community garage sales; no more newsletters, environmental programs or programs that serve residents like home improvement loans, support for small business, emergency grants, or clean-up events, etc.
CURA uses a racial-equity framework to inform its work. It is based on three precepts: Context, or insuring solutions address systemic inequity; Community-centered, or working with the population negatively impacted to co-create solutions; and Reparative, or co-creating solutions that are commensurate with what caused the inequity. This framework is the driving narrative in its proposed changes to the program.
We applaud the city and CURA’s intentions regarding racial equity, but we question this strategy. The new program is feeling a lot like reparations, but how on earth do they expect to address and correct inequity generated out of a $300 million capital investment with $3 million of outreach funding? This response does not fit with the CURA framework, and the declaration that all neighborhoods should be doing equity work but with only some benefiting from the city’s financial support for this work is simply wrong. Additionally, and no less important, the city has yet to define what racial equity will even look like under this new program.
The decision-making process for the future of neighborhood associations will come to a close by April 9. It has been an arduous and often frustrating process. Recommended program guidelines will be released for public comment on Feb. 24, and residents will have 45 days to review the guidelines and submit comments. As directors of two successful South Side neighborhood organizations, we want to make sure that residents understand what is at stake if the city council adopts the recommendations of NCR and CURA. Some NAs will no longer exist, all but decimating this decades-old network.
Thirty years of resident-driven organizing and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours created the NA network we have today, which has benefited the city in countless ways. In determining the fate of Minneapolis’ neighborhoods, residents must decide whether they will be voiceless consumers of local government output or citizen participants driving the decision-making process.
* Editor’s note: In order to further define the recommendations, the city postponed the release by a few days of the Neighborhoods 2020 guidelines for public comment. As of press time, it anticipated releasing the guidelines by Feb. 28.

Letter to the Editor
Minneapolis waging war on neighborhoods

Dear Editor:
The city of Minneapolis has been waging what I choose to call an undeclared war on neighborhood organizations as well as neighborhoods and neighborhood activists. By the time this letter is published and read it is likely that this attack will have reached its climax at the monthly meeting of the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (NCEC) on 2/19/20. At this meeting the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department is supposed to have made public its plan for what amounts the dissolving of NCEC.
For years the city has been pursuing “engagement” with neighborhoods and the community. Now there is evidence that the city was better off with empowered neighborhood organizations thanks to NRP (Neighborhood Revitalization Program). Dissolving NCEC will leave many neighborhood organizations on life support. Some will ultimately cease to exist. The City power grab will be complete.
The interaction between the city council, the Neighborhood and Community Relations Dept. and the Neighborhood and Community Relations Commission (NCEC) cries out for some solid, in depth investigative reporting that exposes exactly what is going on in the name of engagement and the spending of our tax dollars. A good place to start would the neighborhood grounded members of the NCEC.
Donald Hammen

Comments Off on The fate of Minneapolis neighborhood associations beyond 2020

What we’ve learned: Highlights from Intimate Partner Homicide Report

Posted on 11 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Now in its 30th edition, the Femicide Report has a new name: the Intimate Partner Homicide Report coinciding with the renaming of the Minnesota Battered Women’s Coalition to Violence Free Minnesota.
Over three decades, at least 685 people were killed due to relationship abuse. The youngest victim was just 22 weeks old; the oldest was 88. Homicide victims include not only the victim of abuse, but people who tried to intervene to stop the violence: bystanders, first-responders, neighbors, friends, family, and children. Such victims represent the ripple effect of domestic violence and how it permeates communities. In sharing their stories, we chip away at the discredited notion that domestic violence is a private, family affair to invite public discourse and action towards a violence free future.

Power and control
While public perception of relationship abuse often emphasizes long histories of physical violence and noticeable injuries, relationship abuse is about a larger pattern of power and control.
People who abuse feel entitled to use physical, sexual, financial, and emotional tactics to control, isolate, and trap their partners. Relationships that have not previously involved physical abuse may involve long histories of humiliation, intimidation, and gaslighting that can culminate in an act of homicide. These tactics are used to instill fear in victims, increase compliance, and cause psychological injury. Victims who experience such abuse may gradually lose access to support services, become isolated from social networks, start to blame themselves, and believe they do not deserve better.
Abuse can look different in every relationship but always ties back to the same motivation: to gain and maintain power and control. Abusive partners may become horrifyingly creative in their tactics, including knowingly transmitting infections to victims and endangering their health; threatening or injuring their children and loved ones; responding with severe violence to rejection; monitoring their location and movements; controlling their access to healthy relationships; and undermining their mental and chemical health by sabotaging their recovery efforts. Many victims who have experienced pervasive levels of abuse report feeling helpless, confused, “crazy,” and defeated due to a gradual breakdown of their sense of self.

Children affected
Intimate partner homicides have a devastating impact on children, as well. CDC-Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of the impact of childhood experiences on life-long health and well-being. The ACE research demonstrates that exposure to domestic violence can increase risk for physical, mental health, and substance abuse conditions. The impact of chronic domestic violence exposure in childhood was found to have long-term effects throughout the life span.
Impacts on minor children are seen throughout our 30 years of data: children who witnessed the homicide of a parent (22% of cases); children who were killed alongside their parent (16 children); and children killed as a method of coercion by an abusive partner (17 children). This data does not include the number of adult children who may have witnessed or were murdered alongside their parent. In many of the cases involving minor children, the need for protection was raised in a court proceeding or made known to another professional.
While some children are injured or killed as part of the relationship abuse against their parent, many more children are harmed by witnessing the violence. Over three decades, 151 cases of domestic violence homicide occurred with a child witnessing the murder. While experiencing and witnessing relationship violence negatively impacts children, research shows that children are most resilient and have the best emotional recovery when there is a strong relationship with the non-abusive parent. Safety of children is directly linked to the safety and support of victim-parents.
Selection of report above. Read the full report at

Comments Off on What we’ve learned: Highlights from Intimate Partner Homicide Report

Letters to the Editor Feb 2020

Posted on 11 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

We are not believed about our own lives
Dear Editor:
Thank you for interviewing Leigh Ann Block and, presumably, believing her story. Unlike the lawyers, judges and social workers who cared more about giving the violent man who would murder her daughter “a chance to demonstrate good behavior.”
I could have lost either or both of my children to their abusive father many years ago. But they and I – were luckier than Mikayla and Leigh.
I had decent lawyers for my divorce, unlike Martha Eaves of SMRLS. But I knew that most people, and most professionals involved in divorce and custody cases, think women trying to protect our children from violent men in their lives are making up stories to get revenge. That’s the baseline wrong done to Leigh, Mikayla and so many other victims of abuse, most of which is perpetrated by men.
We are not believed about our own lives and our children’s lives, and the violent men in our lives. My children’s father was a – now retired – Presbterian minister. You think most people believed me about his violence, his refusal to recognize other people’s rights or boundaries, his resentment at “having to be a good boy”?
My children are grown, and caring, nonviolent, great people, We’ve survived. But part of me will feel safer when that man is dead.
Thank you, Leigh Ann, for your love and courage to keep going after being abused by that monster, suffering your little daughter’s murder, and having your warnings ignored by people who should have paid attention.
It’s a disease of “professionals,” of “experts,” to think they know better than the people who come to them for help. Doctors, lawyers, cops, judges, social workers, even some teachers and mental health workers have this disease. People die every day because of this disease of arrogance, distrust of women, racism.
Thank you again for writing this. I’m sure you’ll receive a lot of letters like mine.
Helen Hunter
St Paul

Impactful series in wake of triple murder by father
Dear Editor:
Just finished reading your two stories about domestic abuse in the most recent edition of the Monitor. Very impactful writing, especially with the tragedy today in south Minneapolis, demonstrating the worst outcome of an abusive relationship.
May I offer a correction of the name for one of the resources for those in an abusive relationship? You referred to the “Alexander House”; I believe you meant the Alexandra House in Blaine.
Joel Carter

What about men who are abused by women?
Dear Editor:
I received the newspaper today, and read the article about Leigh Ann Block and her late daughter Mikayla. The story is at once heartbreaking and frustrating, and I thank you for writing it. I admire Ms. Block’s activism, and I wish she could find more peace of mind, though given what happened, that may not be possible.
I wanted to bring up one sentence from the article, that I’m kind of stuck on. It’s on page 2, column 3, 4th full paragraph: “Like many men, he didn’t really start showing his abusive side until…..”
I feel like doing a slight rewrite on the first phrase of that sentence. Maybe something like “Like many eventual abusers….” This phrase takes gender out of it (since women are abusers, too, though not nearly as often as men) and it also shrinks the pool from all males to just abusive people. As written, that sentence struck me as a little unfair to my gender.
But I’m nitpicking, and I’ll stop now. Thanks again for the article – it was an engrossing account of a very sad situation.
Have a Happy New Year,
Mark Brandt

Editor’s note: While it is definitely true both males and females can be abusive, the majority of abusers are men, and the majority of violent abusers are men. Many do argue that while both genders employ power and control dynamics, it is significantly worse for women. This isn’t something everyone agrees on, though, and is currently a hot discussion topic with the recent renaming of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women to Violence Free Minnesota.
I hope that the graphic that accompanied the article you’re referring to helped put things in perspective by showing the exact breakdown of murders by father/mother/etc. according to the Center for Judicial Excellence.

Impactful series in wake of triple murder by father
Dear Editor:
Just finished reading your two stories about domestic abuse in the most recent edition of the Messenger. Very impactful writing, especially with the tragedy today in south Minneapolis, demonstrating the worst outcome of an abusive relationship.
May I offer a correction of the name for one of the resources for those in an abusive relationship? You referred to the “Alexander House”; I believe you meant the Alexandra House in Blaine.
Joel Carter

What happened to Parkway Motor totem pole?
Dear Editor:
There is a post on NextDoor that is asking what happened to the totem pole that was originally part of the Parkway Motor Hotel at Hiawatha Ave. and Nawadaha Blvd. It was removed from its original place during the Hiawatha Ave. reconstruction, then sat on its side by the old Bridgeman’s/SomTaste building for awhile. Do you have any knowledge of where it went to? Neighbors are dying to know!
Thanks for any info you can share!
Wade Johnson
Hiawatha nieghborhood


Comments Off on Letters to the Editor Feb 2020