Archive | OPINION

Poor governance to bring new toxicity to the ‘Arsenic Triangle’

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Erin Niehoff

Erin Niehoff

In the heart of Minneapolis’ Southside Green Zone, in an area nicknamed the “Arsenic Triangle,” East Phillips community members have vied – so far to no avail – to have a voice in a project with direct implications for their environmental health and economic opportunity.
The Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project would consolidate Public Works’ water distribution operations and employees from three different sites into one central location: the former Roof Depot site at E 28th St. and Hiawatha Ave. The original vision for the project dates back to 1991 and, thanks to a series of City Council and city agency decisions over the past five years, the site is nearing demolition in preparation for project construction.
We ask the city council to reconsider its decision to use the Roof Depot site for city operations, and to return the land to the East Phillips community. We make this request on the following grounds:
Environmental racism: Although the proposed project is expected to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in city operations, this would come at the direct expense of local environmental quality by increasing pollutants from traffic near this site. As a neighborhood that is 83% Black, Indigenous, and people of color, the East Phillips community would be expected to bear the brunt of the impact for the “greater good,” which is an unacceptable trade-off. Racism has recently been declared a public health emergency in Minneapolis. Knowingly increasing the amount of pollution in a neighborhood primarily populated by Native American, Latinx, East African and Black communities will only exacerbate this problem and demonstrate the hypocrisy of the city’s words.
Poor community engagement: Like any neighborhood, East Phillips is no monolith, and individual residents have differing perspectives on the value of the Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project. But, by almost any account, the project does not align with the stated needs or wants of the community, especially its historically disenfranchised populations of lower-income and underemployed households, Indigenous people, and people of color. Even in notes recorded by the city from community meetings, repeated patterns of marginalization emerge: sidelining requests to use part of the site for local food production, affordable housing, and jobs training; prioritizing the needs of Public Works ahead of those of the neighborhood; and failing to respond to residents’ concerns about traffic congestion and pollution on and near the site.
New conditions demanding community-led planning, affordable housing, and business development: In the wake of George Floyd’s death and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Phillips neighborhood has been home to uprising, destruction of property, and loss of revenue, income, and employment. The Roof Depot site offers a space for businesses to reopen during the reconstruction phase, support community needs for food and job training, and respond to the evolving needs as residents deal with economic fallout.
The ability for Public Works to explore alternative project sites: The city’s choice to locate the project in the East Phillips neighborhood limits options available to residents to develop their vision for a local community center that promotes sustainable food production, job training, affordable housing, and business development. Public Works has a larger geography to choose from but has chosen to invest there at the expense of community-driven plans. This is unfortunate, as this site could be championed as a step toward realizing the City’s Green Zone initiatives, and instead is moving forward in a business-as-usual mindset.
At this pivotal moment I am writing to ask Messenger readers to raise awareness, challenge council members, and think critically about the implications of the Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project for equity, sustainability, environmental racism, and environmental justice in our city.
Erin Niehoff is a Ward 12 resident and chair of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission. The following people and organizations have signed on in support of this commentary: Samara Adam, Ward 6 resident, Southside Green Zone member; Roxxanne O’Brien, Ward 4 resident, Northside Environmental Justice organizer and Northern Green Zone member; Sen. Jeff Hayden, Senate District 62; Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, Senate District 63; Community Power; DJR Architecture; EPIC East Phillips Improvement Coalition; EPNI East Phillips Neighborhood Institute; Gandhi Mahal and Curry in a Hurry; Global Shapers MSP; Land Stewardship Project; Little Earth of United Tribes Housing Corporation; Little Earth Neighborhood Early Learning Center; Midtown Greenway Coalition; Minneapolis American Indian Center; Minneapolis Climate Action; Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy; Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL); MN350; Project Sweetie Pie; Showing Up For Racial Justice Twin Cities; Sierra Club North Star Chapter; Soular Scenes; TakeAction Minnesota Climate Justice Team; Twin Cities Climate Strike; Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J); and Women’s Environmental Institute.

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Voices against violence: mired in the courts

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Editor’s note: Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, this column by a local resident is being run anonymously.
Like most people who have experienced intimate partner violence, I was not excited to tell my story when asked. But until those of us who been abused find the courage to speak, nothing will ever change. Like other forms of intimacy, intimate partner violence takes place in the shadows, behind closed doors, and, it happens everywhere.
My experience took place a long time ago. My ex-husband and I met in 1984, and were married less than three months later. Though we hardly knew each other, we did know that we both longed for a family – and we made a really nice one.
I loved being a mother more than anything I’d ever done, and my ex-husband loved being a father to our four young children. We put all the relational energy we had into being parents, and not much energy of any kind was left over for our marriage. When he filed for divorce in 1995, I didn’t contest it. It was all a blur. We both remarried within three years, and were happier. With the help of our extended families, we managed the shared custody of our kids (ages 5-12 at the time of the divorce) reasonably well. Shared custody was the parenting arrangement preferred by Minnesota courts in the 1990s.
It was four years later that everything began to fall apart, as our three oldest children turned 16 one after the other. In succession, each of them asked to live full-time with me and their step-dad. Each child’s request was met with wrath on the part of their dad, as the divorce decree stipulated equal time spent in both households.
My ex-husband wouldn’t agree to go to mediation as a family, or to talk with the kids about their changing needs as they grew into older adolescence. Eventually, each grew tired of being a “backpack kid.” The courts at the time believed children would benefit from having two homes, but in truth, I think ours ended up feeling that they had two half homes.
There was considerable friction in my ex-husband’s home as the kids grew older, as teenagers need to be heard. Their dad responded to their growing independence with intimidation and with lawsuits. In all, he hired seven different lawyers and subpoenaed me on eight different occasions to appear in court for breach of custody. His intent was to have me put in jail because our children no longer wanted to live with him.
In all, I spent $15,000 on legal fees before giving up on attorneys. Though I had been a painfully shy person all my life, I had no choice but to represent myself in court. I knew my family’s story better than any attorney I could hire, and I was broke. Over the course of those years, I learned to use my voice with confidence. I learned that a quiet person could be unshakably firm. Those unwanted opportunities to speak my truth proved invaluable; I eventually won that sad, legal battle, and my ex-husband’s lawsuit was dismissed.
While I won’t deny that it felt good to win against steep odds, this much I know after nearly two decades have passed: in family court, there really are no winners.
In my experience, the years of family court proceedings were torturous. These protracted legal face-offs divided my ex-husband and me even further, rather than helping us to find even a particle of common ground.
Call me a fool, but what if just one of the many professionals in the court room had reminded us of the values we had shared as young parents? What if we had been coached to cultivate empathy for each other? What if we had been told to take several deep breaths, and start visioning the most peaceful solution for our children together? Families under the kind of pressure that brings them to court are in crisis, and emotional crisis intervention is, I believe, appropriate.
After the case was dismissed, the older kids fell out of contact with their dad. The exchange of the younger children between our homes became even more difficult. For years, my ex-husband never left his vehicle when he dropped the children or their possessions off at our house. He just opened his car window a crack to speak to me, even on hot summer days. The effect, I assume, was to make me feel as if I had a despicable, contagious disease. Or worse yet, that I was a despicable, contagious disease he didn’t want to catch.
I walked toward my ex-husband one morning holding two cups of coffee, and invited him to step out of his vehicle. His response was to open the car door forcefully, smashing it into my face. The cups I was holding fell to the ground and broke; and he drove off without a word.
Behaviors like these persisted until my ex-husband and his wife moved to another city. We then had our daughters full-time, without the pretense of shared parenting time. Both of our sons were living independently while attending college.
I never told the children what had happened during those years – maybe that was a mistake? To this day, I don’t know if they are aware of how our family was mired in the courts. Or of how things went from bad to worse after the balance of power was turned upside down. These are stories most abused women are scared to tell, because their kids have already been through so much. Truthfully, I don’t know if anyone wants to hear them.
My ex-husband and I are superficially civil toward one another on the rare occasion that we meet now. An onlooker might even say friendly, but the wrongs of the past have never been redressed – or even spoken of. I see what we went through in the family court system as heartbreakingly unnecessary, and wish that someone had intervened a lot sooner: called a frivolous law suit for what it was, and tossed us out into the hall after our first appearance. Ideally, someone would then have helped us to get the help we so badly needed.
But where would we have gone, given what the world offers people with their horns locked in disagreement? In my dreams, I imagine we would have found an office somewhere with a skilled practitioner: a combination of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), mediation, and counseling. I see my first family sitting in a circle. The children are little again, and each of us has time to speak without interruption. All opinions and feelings are valued; hurt is addressed and held with tenderness. My ex-husband and I are listening to each other. We all have each other’s best interests at heart, like a family – even though the parents are divorced.
Has anyone found this place?

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Response from city to community partners

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Editor’s note: This letter was sent in response to one written by community partners printed in the September 2020 Longfellow Nokomis Messenger. Click here to read that letter.
Dear Community Partners,
Thank you for reaching out to our offices.
The killing of George Floyd sparked worldwide outrage and led to destruction from civil unrest on a scale seldom experienced in our nation’s history. It was an unprecedented situation which local and metro resources did not have the capacity to control, and which proved difficult even for a full deployment of the Minnesota National Guard.
As the civil unrest unfolded, the city of Minneapolis worked to respond on multiple fronts to aid in recovery beyond first responder roles. This included closing off intersections, hauling debris from streets, shutting off utilities to impacted properties, and restoring basic services as fast as possible.
City staff immediately began the task of assessing damage, evaluating more than 850 impacted properties and determining what resources could be pursued to help, from property tax relief to aid under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Within days we coordinated with our legislators to organize tours of the damage for State and Federal officials and pushed for support for the impacted businesses, residents, and property owners. We continue that lobbying effort and were happy to see the Minnesota House pass the PROMISE Act, which establishes $300 million in support and implements other helpful measures, including those aimed at preventing displacement of the many beloved small businesses. Unfortunately, the Minnesota Senate has refused to provide these needed resources despite the solid support of the Governor and our Minneapolis Senate delegation. Additionally, we coordinated with many entities to help restore vital community assets as quickly as possible, including access to groceries, medicine, and postal delivery and service. Much of this work has been in partnership with community-based organizations, other government entities, and officials at every level, with whom we continue to collaborate with full appreciation for the many significant contributions these partners bring to our communities. More information on our response to date is posted and updated here: www.minneapolismn.gov/recovery.
In June, the mayor and city council acted to waive fees, speed up internal business processes, and prioritize individuals and entities affected by the civil unrest. As part of both the response to the pandemic and to the civil unrest, the city provided thousands of hours of technical support to 645 businesses, of which 79% are owned by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) residents. At the onset of the pandemic, we allocated emergency gap funding which included forgivable loans targeted for BIPOC businesses hit hardest by COVID-19.
The mayor and council vice president launched the Minneapolis Forward Community Now Coalition that worked to create solutions, strategies, and tactics for immediate and long-term economic transformation, recovery, and healing of Minneapolis. This work centers racial equity. That coalition includes leaders from regional businesses, cultural institutions, community organizations, and foundations who are rooted in the expertise and experiences of our BIPOC and immigrant communities. Their work includes retaining existing businesses, supporting entrepreneurs, preserving housing, addressing the immediate needs of impacted residents, reimagining public spaces, and more. The coalition announced its first set of recommendations in August. You can find more information on the coalition and review their work here: www.minneapolismn.gov/minneapolisforward.
We know Longfellow Community Council and other partners are launching an effort to plan for the rebuilding around Lake & Minnehaha. We have also been brought into conversations led by several property owners, an effort calling itself Longfellow Rising. This is exciting work and we are interested in supporting such community-led efforts as well as exploring what a formal city recognition of this work could look like. A potential immediate next step might be to move a resolution through the Ccouncil to formally recognize these organizing efforts and commit city participation and support to these important, community-led efforts. We would be happy to work with you and the other community stakeholders who are providing leadership at this intersection on this potential resolution and know that conversations have already started outside of this letter. We also want to express our appreciation and thanks to the community groups who are leading these important efforts.
We agree the building which housed the MPD 3rd Precinct is a critical consideration for the future of this area. Staff is still assessing the damage to that building and will make a recommendation on whether the structure is salvageable. No official decisions have been made as we await this report. That said, we recognize that the building has a lot of traumatic associations both for community and for City staff. We are committed to partnering with community to seek diverse input before any decisions are made on future land use for the site.
Related to these many recovery and rebuilding efforts is the need to resolve longstanding racial disparities in policing which have caused harm and pain, ultimately helping to create the conditions for the civil unrest we saw. The mayor and council both share a commitment to realizing transformational change in policing and utilizing a racial equity lens in this work. The actions taken to this point, only some of which are highlighted in this letter, reflect the beginning of what must be a committed, long-term, holistic transformation that involves the direct participation of community. Our journey has only begun. This is a start, and our city must and will continue to move forward, and we welcome your partnership in this work.
As we promised, the city will be engaging residents over the next year to seek their input on how to reimagine our public safety system. Ensuring that engagement with over 400,000 residents is authentic, actionable, reaches people in different ways, and centers the most oppressed voices is an enormous undertaking and requires significant thought, infrastructure, and resources. While many individual elected officials have already begun engaging on this topic with their communities, the formal and centralized city effort to carry this work is expected to launch this fall. The mayor and council are uniting together to begin to implement this city-wide engagement effort. Our shared vision for public safety depends upon all voices being heard in this comprehensive engagement process.
Finally, we want to acknowledge that there have been areas where all levels of government, including the city, have fallen short of expectations. The pandemic has challenged our city in unprecedented ways, from the largest revenue shortfall in history, which created a budget crisis, to the difficulties of many staff working remotely who must also now deal with the additional workload of supervising distance learning or providing childcare. None of us expected that on top of this extraordinary state of emergency we would face another crisis, and on a scale of destruction larger than anything seen before in our state. The horrific events of May and June greatly exceeded the limited capacity of local government to respond. Unfortunately, and very frustratingly, so much of the support that would normally come from the state and federal government is being blocked by what appears to be partisan politics. All of this, taken together, resulted in some things moving far slower than any of us wanted, or things we would have liked to have happened not being possible. We know that the best forms of change must be built on a solid foundation. We stand together in our commitment to create this solid foundation. And when it comes to communication, we recognize more needs to be done to share the many things we have and are doing, which is why we greatly appreciate you reaching out with your letter and giving us the opportunity to share.
We remain committed to helping recover and rebuild stronger than before and we welcome any direct feedback from you or any residents on how we can do better.
Thank you again, and please let us know if you have any additional questions.
Sincerely,
Mayor & City Council
City of Minneapolis

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Courageous heARTS closing, but you can keep being the magic

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Dear Community,
For the past eight years, I have bore witness to what happens when we speak our dreams outloud. In August 2012, my life was at a turning point.
Five years of intense healing and growth following the bridge collapse had opened me enough to live my best life.
That summer, I had applied to (what I thought was) my dream job at another organization. While I waited for the call to an interview, I dreamed and schemed about what I could do there. It turned out I was dreaming up Courageous heARTS.
When I didn’t get the interview for that job I thought I was destined for, I turned to the internet. Someone, somewhere said that we have to speak our dreams out loud so they can be made real. So, I started a Tumblr blog. (As one did back in 2012.)
My posts led to conversations – with the business owners who hosted my wedding reception, with the CEO of the largest nonprofit in MN, with nonprofits in other states. Those conversations led to action – First a business plan, then a trip to California, then a fiscal sponsorship, and eventually a building.
Once I spoke my dream out loud, the stars started to align and it seemed like all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. My husband would argue that I put in A LOT of hard work between those steps.
It’s true – but inspired action doesn’t feel that hard.
During that first year, magical moments continued to pile up:
• The very first grant I wrote was a success;
• This kid named Larry showed up and (lucky for me) never left;
• Larry introduced me to some of his friends, who turned the me into we by becoming our first Youth Advisory Board;
• There was a strange and wonderful series of events that led to the subject of an Academy Award winning film coming to Minneapolis to help launch our efforts with a public screening;
• And another strange and wonderful series of events that led to us having a billboard and video about graffiti and public art.
Magic moments have continued to fuel our engine since then: the right person, thing, partnership or donation showing up at just the right time. To be clear: Those magic moments were you.
Between those moments, there was also a lot of hard. Getting paid to do this work became an unexpected obstacle that led to years of side gigs and being stretched too thin. That first successful grant was followed by a lot of rejection – we were: too new, unproven, too risky, not staffed “right.” And we often struggled to fit into boxes that weren’t ready to hold us.
Despite the hard stuff, magic continued to show up at pivotal moments and felt like nudges from the universe to keep going. When COVID-19 hit and the world shut down, I persisted through the fear and uncertainty and hoped for another nudge that said keep going. When George Floyd was murdered, however, I got clear that as a white leader I needed to step back and make more space for others to step forward.
Under a different set of circumstances, I would have resigned and we would have looked for a new leader. Unfortunately, the reality is no one would do what I’ve been doing for what I get paid. I’ve often called this work a labor of love, and just like parenthood, it’s been largely an unpaid labor.
Because of these factors, and with my support, our board of directors recently passed a resolution to move forward with formal closure of the organization.
I want to be clear that our closure is not the end of what Courageous heARTS is – because heARTS is an idea and a way of being that can live on in each of you. We offered a space where:
• You didn’t need to be “good at art” to make art: Keep making art – especially if you don’t think you are good at it. Encourage others to do the same.
• Creativity and courage were synonymous: Think in new ways and have the courage to be different.
• Rules weren’t as important as values: Question the rules – live into your values.
• Young people were the copilots and collaboration was key. Be curious enough to look at things from another perspective. Listen to all the voices in the room. Get out of the way sometimes.
• No one was an expert, and everyone had something to teach. Be generous with what you know, and humble enough to learn from others (even if they are younger than you).
• Circles helped us build relationships. Get to know each other.
• Boxes were only good for cutting up. Stop trying to fit into boxes and instead let yourself flow like paint.
Over the coming weeks, we will be closing down the studio and making plans for a healthy distant goodbye gathering. If you would like to help, please visit www.courageous-hearts.org for details and updates.
It has been one of my greatest joys watching this dream come to life and meeting all the people along the way who have been our magic makers. There aren’t enough words in the English language to express my gratitude.
Keep being the magic that helps dreams come true.
Lindsay Walz, M.Ed.
Courageous heARTS Founder

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Dear Mayor Frey and Minneapolis City Council

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

As representatives of businesses, community organizations and residents in areas impacted by the rioting after the murder of George Floyd, we are concerned by the lack of leadership, transparency and coordination by our elected officials and government agencies, particularly at the City level. We are requesting answers to the following questions:
1. Rebuilding: We appreciate hearing the recommendations from Minneapolis Forward: Community Now Coalition. Can you please provide greater detail around process and timeline of implementation and how the larger community will be involved?
2. Future of Policing: How will the City purposefully engage with residents to envision, educate and collaborate on the future of policing in our City? Are there plans to rebuild the 3rd Precinct building in the same location? If not, what are alternative plans for that property and for the relocation of the 3rd precinct building? Who is informing the direction of those plans?
3. Funding: Will the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County or the State of Minnesota be allocating financial resources to businesses, local community-based and neighborhood organizations to assist in rebuilding our communities? What have you done to secure those financial resources?
4. Coordination Among Elected Officials: Are you working with your fellow elected representatives at all levels to align around a specific plan for rebuilding and to lobby the state legislature for funding to stabilize our communities over the long-term?
5. Community Engagement: How do you plan to engage residents, community organizations and businesses in plans to rebuild our communities and to find out the actual needs on the ground? If we organize the voices of businesses and residents, what processes and plans are in place for those voices to be heard?
6. Racial Equity: Please explain how your efforts (fundraising, policy, coordination etc.) are and will be done with an intentional focus on racial equity.
Until hearing the recommendations of Minneapolis Forward, few community organizations, businesses and residents of the impacted areas had received information or communication on the efforts of our City elected officials and departments. We still need responses to the above questions and action by the City to support the rebuilding of our communities. Please respond by Friday, Sept. 4. A lack of response will be interpreted as disregard for the voices of all of those who have been most deeply impacted by the recent rioting and unrest. Your responses will be shared with our communities through social and print media.
Our organizations, businesses and residents are currently engaged in many efforts and we are eager to share them with you. We are working hard on these same issues that we are asking you about, but we cannot and should not be forced to act without leadership and resources from our City, County and State governments. A more coordinated and inclusive City response is still absent, so we respectfully request that you do not direct us towards our individual City Council Members. The City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and State Officials are responsible for a coordinated response to our communities that cannot be delayed and requires your cooperation.

Please send your response(s) to info@longfellow.org
Sincerely,
Corcoran Neighborhood Association
Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association
Seward Civic and Commerce Association
Standish Ericsson Neighborhood Association
Longfellow Business Association
Longfellow Community Council
Longfellow Nokomis Messenger

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Letters to the Editor September 2020

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Police union standing in way of change

Dear Editor:
I am a union retiree so normally I would be inclined to be supportive of the interests and existence of labor unions. However, for reasons I don’t yet fully understand I do not yet embrace the existence of police unions. In the case of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation I regard it as a rogue union with rogue leadership. It is my view that no reconstitution of policing in Minneapolis which is long overdue will happen as long as this union and its leadership continue to exist or stand in the way.
Donald Hammen
Greater Longfellow

Use your voice to end human trafficking

Dear Editor:
Everyone deserves to be free, but over 40 million people are trapped in slavery today. On Thursday, June 25, the U.S. State Department released the 2020 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The TIP Report sheds light on this hidden crime and ranks 187 countries, including the U.S., on their efforts to combat it.
As Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission, says, “Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.” With the truth out there for all to see, we can no longer look away.
As we take a hard look at the injustices within our own society, I ask that our members of Congress also continue to use their power to help fight the injustice of slavery around the world by protecting the integrity of the TIP Report and the American-led programs that help rescue slaves and put their perpetrators behind bars. We’re counting on you, lawmakers, to use your voice and tip the scales towards justice. If we can summon sufficient political courage, we can end slavery in our lifetime.
Patricia Busse
Ericsson

Mail-in voting important for safe, fair election

Dear Editor:
As someone who will be using an absentee ballot this year, I’ve been concerned about doubts that are sometimes mentioned regarding mail-in ballots and want to voice some positives about that method of voting.
Voting by mail is popular, safe, and vital to voting participation – especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Federal Election Commission and nonpartisan National Vote at Home Institute:
– Voting by mail increases voting participation in local elections.
– Mail-in ballots increase voting participation among voters with disabilities
– Vote-at-home is less expensive than in-person voting.
– Ballots are only sent to registered voters.
– Ballot envelopes are barcoded to one individual voter and validated by voter signature verification.
– Tampering with or diverting a mail ballot is a felony punishable by large fines and years of jail time.
– Voters can track their ballot in real time using USPS mail-tracking tools.
I’m calling on our local Board of Elections and state election officials to take action today. To ensure a safe, fair election this November, all voters must be able to cast their ballot by mail.
Eileen Collard
Longfellow

Messenger is an asset to our community

Dear Editor:
Thank you so much for buying this newspaper and keeping it going! It’s such an asset to our community! Really helps us to bind together.
In gratitude,
Michele Bevis
Minneapolis

Dear Editor:
With a bit of guilt I admit to glancing over but not reading your newspaper the 15 years my husband and I have lived in Longfellow… until today. Thumbing through the pages I was drawn to the precious photo of a little boy doing the all important task of watering a boulevard tree. I noted that the photographer was Margie O’Louglin, a woman with whom I’ve crossed paths a few times in the past. That led me to the beautiful photos on the back page and to read the engaging accompanying articles.
It’s nice to know I can read the daily Strib and savor the Messenger stories all month. Even the letters to the editor made me realize what I had been missing. I especially look forward to Too Much Coffee!
Sue Kearns
Longfellow

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What if I need to…

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Capturing moments

Abha Karnick

By Abha Karnick

They look at the combination, never verbally questioning. But they don’t have to – their stares speak the question as loudly as their mouths could. I don’t think too much of it anymore, unless I’m in a new situation or back home in India. The funny looks they give roll off my shoulders like water off a leaf. Gradually, but still forgotten nevertheless.
When they finally get the answer their eyes are craving, they try to play it cool.
“That’s cool that your adoptive parents are white. So what?”
Well, so…what.
What if I need to talk about how scared I am around police? To share my experiences and to hear others’ experiences. To connect with someone who has personally felt that type of fear build up in their bones.
What if school asked me to talk about all of the characteristics I “got from my mom” and why my hair is so thick and why I am so short?
What if I want to learn about my culture, immersing myself in the smells and sights and thoughts of my homeland?
What if the doctor asks me about medical history or genetic history as they’re performing tests?
What if a stranger asks me if I “know that man” as my guardian comes to pick me up from practice?
What if a pandemic and riots and racism overtake me heart, soul, and mind, and I need a safe place to process, a safe place to be fully Indian?

What if…what if I don’t have the answers?

Abha Karnick is a south Minneapolis resident with East Indian roots who graduated from Hamline University in 2019. She grew up in the Twin Cities and found her passions in music, photography, and writing. She has pieces published with CAAL, MNAsianStories, and HER Online Journal, and her passion lies in storytelling and finding the moments to capture.

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#PressIsNotTheEnemy – so why are the police acting like it?

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Too much coffee

Tesha M. Christensen, owner & editor

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN,
Owner & Editor
Tesha@LongfellowNokomisMessenger.com

Over 148 journalists were attacked by police in the United States between May 28 and June 4, 2020.
Yes. I said 148.
Yes, by the police.
Yes, in the United States.
Over 100 of those attacks happened between May 28 and June 1 as journalists covered the protests after George Floyd’s murder by a white police officer here in Minneapolis at Chicago and 38th.
At the investigative news website Bellingcat, senior investigator Nick Waters, who tracked the incidents jointly with the U.K. Guardian, said, “Although in some incidents it is possible the journalists were hit or affected accidentally, in the majority of the cases we have recorded the journalists are clearly identifiable as press, and it is clear that they are being deliberately targeted. This pattern of violence against journalists is replicated in several cities, but appears most intense in Minneapolis.”
Yep. Right here.
Over one-third of these attacks against the news media happened here.
Attacks on the media were reported across 24 states and in Washington, D.C. Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles recorded the most attacks outside Minneapolis, with 10 incidents each, reported the Guardian.
According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, there were more than 300 total press freedom violations during that time.
That’s:
• 49+ arrests
• 192 assaults
• 42 equipment/newsroom damage
Assault category breakdown:
• 69 physical attacks
• 43 tear gassings
• 24 pepper sprayings
• 77 rubber bullets/projectiles
The majority of these violations were done by local police departments, but some were by state troopers and National Guard.
In comparison, only 11 journalists were injured by protesters.
“I’ve never seen so many incidents with police and reporters simultaneously in different cities. Tension between cops and reporters is nothing new. Aggression on reporters in multiple locations nationally at same time is something different,” tweeted Maggie Haberman of the New York Times.
Veteran reporter John M. Donnelly tweeted, “CNN reporter on Lafayette Square says on air that a DC police officer struck the CNN cameraman with a baton, even though the cameraman was holding, um, a camera and a credential. These incidents keep piling up.”
Journalists have compared their experiences in war-torn countries with what they experienced in Minneapolis. “I’ve covered protests involving police in Ferguson, Mo., Baton Rouge, La., Dallas and Los Angeles. I’ve also covered the U.S. military in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. I have never been fired at by police until tonight,” said L.A. Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske.
As reported by Bring Me The News: Many of the assaults on media were shown on live television, with reporters from FOX 9 seeing rubber bullets smash their station vehicle windshield, along with WCCO reporters Jeff Wagner and Mike Max seen on live TV running from tear gas and rubber bullets. Star Tribune reporters Ryan Faircloth and Chao Xiong were attempting to drive home near Lake Street when Faircloth said they “mistakenly turned down a street that was blocked off at the end,” and “before we had a chance to reverse, the “Guard/ State Patrol fired #rubber bullets at our car without warning.” The shattered glass cut Faircloth’s face and arm and left shards of glass inside their vehicle.
And then there’s photojournalist Linda Tirado. Shot by a rubber bullet in the face, she is permanently blind in her left eye.
Yes. This happened in the Twin Cities. By those who are supposed to serve and protect. It didn’t happen in a country that lacks a Bill of Rights.
Instead, it occurred in a place where freedom of the press is protected by the First Amendment.
At least, it is supposed to be.
I’m seriously questioning what happened, and what this means for our country.
For 231 years, this language has been the hallmark of the United States of America, and what sets this nation apart from so many others:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
What does it mean for the country when this is violated?
When it is broken in very direct, very blatant, very violent ways by the folks who are supposed to protect it?
In Cleveland, Ohio, journalists were specifically forbidden by the police to be outside covering anything happening in the city on May 31.
What were they trying to hide? Those without anything to hide aren’t threatened by folks with pens, paper and cameras.
I’m not the only one asking that question.
I’m not the only one outraged.
As City Pages reported:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday, June 2 on behalf of reporters targeted by law enforcement while covering protests. The respondents include the city of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, police union president Bob Kroll, Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, and State Patrol Colonel Matthew Langer.
The lawsuit demands an injunction to stop police from attacking journalists, a declaration that they violated multiple constitutional amendments, and damages.
“Law enforcement is using violence and threats to deter the media from vigorously reporting on demonstrations and the conduct of police in public places,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson.
“We depend on a free press to hold the police and government accountable for its actions, especially at a time like this when police have brutally murdered one of our community members, and we must ensure that justice is done. Our community, especially people of color, already have a hard time trusting police and government. Targeting journalists erodes that public trust even further.”
Linda Tirado has filed her own lawsuit.
Minneapolis also faces a class-action lawsuit brought by protesters.
“Journalists have always been targets of criticism and back in the 1960s they were also targeted by police,” said Robert Mahoney, the deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “But there was an understanding that journalists were necessary and it was incumbent on police forces to allow them to do their job. That has changed.”
Why? Why has it changed?
Is it because of President Trump’s constant attacks on the press? He has tweeted the phrases “Fake News” and “Enemy of the People” over 800 times since getting elected. As I’ve been saying for years, just because you don’t like what’s in the news doesn’t mean it is fake. Just because you wish someone was doing something else and you read about it in the newspaper doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the newspaper. In fact, you should be thanking news sources for the information.
I hope this marks a turning point in America. I hope we’ve been sufficiently shocked by where our policies and attitudes have brought us, and we’re dedicated to real change.
There’s a lot for us to be shocked about these days, and much to work to change. This is one of those important issues. I hope you start talking about it, reading about it, and working in support of journalists.
Oh, and you might see me out and about wearing my #PressIsNotTheEnemy shirt. You might find my kids sporting their own #DemocracyDiesInSilence t-shirts. Maybe you need one, too.

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Letters to the Editor August 2020

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Musings by Anita White, Longfellow artist

City charter vote only way to long-lasting change

Dear Editor:
In “Community partnership provides repair vouchers instead of tickets,” Margie O’Loughlin presents the Lights On program as a chance for “improving police-community relations” and “healing” after the police killing of Philando Castile four years ago after he was stopped for a broken tail light. The claim is absurd. Philando Castile was killed because he was Black, not because his car needed repairs. If Philando Castile’s death is to be not entirely in vain, we need more than a program; we need a vote on the Minneapolis city charter.
I agree that handing out repair vouchers instead of fines is one easy way to help keep streets safer for everybody. But are armed police officers the best fit for the job when other alternatives are possible? Programs like Lights On might be an improvement but they are not enough when routine traffic stops for Black and Brown motorists too often turn deadly at the hands of police. In Minneapolis, we now have a chance to amend the city charter and remove the roadblocks that keep us from collaboratively and creatively re-imagining community safety. Let us vote and we can maybe finally turn tragedy into something positive and long-lasting.
Craig F. Simenson
Longfellow

Thanks for informative, courageous issues

Dear Editor:
Just read the Messenger which was delivered to my door.
Thanks for your article on LBS and the details of what we have been through. Having worked closely with Kim Jakus to draw various businesses the destruction hit close to home along with the way LoLa was supported by these businesses for so many years.
I remember sitting in LV’s Barbershop and drawing Lamberto as he worked. I later gave him the drawing. How innocent those times seem now.
Thanks for this informative courageous issue of the Messenger for these times
Anita White
Longfellow

Dear Editor:
Thank you so much for keeping the paper going. We loved the warbler article last month. I’ve lived in Longfellow three years and had never heard of 7 Oaks Oval until reading that article. Since then my family has visited three or four times and told several other friends about it. What a great find within walking distance of us. And we enjoyed the article this month about the game designer in Standish. It’s so nice to have local news and discover all these neat things going on right here in the neighborhood. And the Lights On article (about police giving out vouchers rather than tickets) was encouraging to read this week, in the midst of all the pain and sorrow surrounding George Floyd’s death.
Thank you for providing this newspaper to our neighborhood each month.
Take care,
Hannah Sheu
Longfellow

 

What do you think? Email letter to Tesha@LongfellowNokomisMessenger.com

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Attaining a just and safe Minneapolis

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

by Kathleen O’Brien, resident of Hiawatha neighborhood in the Longfellow community
Policing in our nation and city must be drastically transformed. The unjust murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers put a spotlight on this urgent reality for people in our neighborhood, across the nation and around the world. Our goal is a JUST and SAFE city.
Structural racism permeates our society and its institutions and is at the foundation of our need to reform policing. I believe the people of Minneapolis agree with this judgment. I believe in action that is immediate, legitimate and enduring to transform public safety in our community. I do not agree with the city council’s proposed Charter Amendment to eliminate the police department because this will not address structural racism and it will not advance essential police reforms. In fact, the amendment is a distraction from the necessary work to address structural racism.
Public safety is a basic city service. The city council’s proposed charter amendment would fundamentally change Minneapolis city government. The city council sent this proposed charter change to the Charter Commission without a public hearing or any inclusive participation. It seems that the council is proposing this dramatic action to give the appearance that they are doing something. If the city council was genuine in their effort to transform policing they would support Chief Medaria Arradondo and his reform agenda. The council could achieve substantial police reform by pursuing the necessary changes in state and federal law, expanding the partnership with Hennepin County on vital public health programs and giving the chief the funding and tools he needs to do his job.
Hennepin County provides social welfare and public health services. It has the experience, expertise and existing programs that should be expanded to work with the Minneapolis Police Department. The city should not hire social workers and duplicate Hennepin County programs.
There are many urgent needs in our city. Structural racism must be addressed. The unemployed need jobs. People need job training and placement assistance. Businesses (many that were damaged and are owned by immigrants and people of color) need advice and financial support to rebuild and reopen. People with mental health needs require the treatment and expert staff assistance. The city needs to work with partners to provide housing that is truly affordable. The homeless need safe and healthy shelter. Let’s ask our city council to work on these urgent needs. Their charter change is not urgent and not necessary to address structural racism or transform our police department.
I oppose the council’s proposed Police Charter Amendment for several reasons:
1. It is premature. The amendment eliminates the police department without a plan. Before the citizenry is asked to vote on the elimination of the police department, the council should have developed their proposal for providing law enforcement, how they intend to implement their plan and a guarantee there will be a smooth transition without a break in public safety protection. Potential changes to our municipal government could be the focus of next year’s municipal election. The citizens would have an entire election season to discuss and debate municipal structure including the Minneapolis Charter.
2. It diminishes acountability. The amendment eliminates the responsibility and authority of the mayor and places oversight in a Director of Community Safety and Violence Prevention who would report to the council and mayor. The amendment states: If there is a Division of Law Enforcement Services, “The Director of Community and Violence Prevention shall appoint the director of the division of law enforcement services, subject to confirmation by official act of the city council and mayor.” This puts in place 15 bosses for a “potential” director of the division of law enforcement. This diminishes accountability to the citizenry, adds bureaucracy and makes policing decisions more distant from the citizens.
3. It makes no commitment to have a police department. The proposed charter change removes the current charter language: that the city council must establish, organize and otherwise provide for these departments …a police department. And replaces current language with: “The council may maintain a division of law enforcement services, composed of licensed peace officers, subject to the supervision of the department of community safety and violence prevention.” Under the new charter language there is no guarantee that there would be licensed police officers serving our city.
Finally, the council action states: “This ordinance shall take effect on May 1, 2021.” It is unbelievable that the city council could implement this structural change and advance police reform in about six to seven months. The council has promised that it would engage in a full year of consultation and deliberation with the people of Minneapolis. Has the city council backed away from that commitment? Wouldn’t it be better to have the city council listen to the people of Minneapolis before a charter change? Before changing our city government?
Recently a group of hundreds of concerned and engaged citizens – called Friends of Minneapolis – have come together to encourage a healthy and productive dialogue among community members and city leaders to ensure the steps we take towards police reform guide us to a safe and just Minneapolis for all. We encourage all our neighbors to meaningfully engage and participate in this discussion and decision-making, as it will shape the vitality and safety of our city for years to come.

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