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Minneapolis

LegacyWebHorizontalI’ve long held forth to anyone I could buttonhole, whom I thought I had a reasonable chance of educating, that Minnesota and the Twin Cities are not some frozen hinterland of the continental upper Midwest, but instead offer some of the best arts, dance, theater and music in the country.

 

Usually I’ve had these conversations in airport bars or at trade shows and business seminars. Few people have been inclined to listen much, but that hasn’t dampened my spiritual calling to civic boosterism. I love Minnesota and the Twin Cities, always have, and if you love something you want to let others know.

 

Minnesota is known for a lot of things — our lakes, our sports teams, our universities, our liberal politics — but it’s not generally known as a center of the arts and a major supporter of the arts community. It should be.

 

While not generally known even to native Minnesotans, our state is home to more than 1,500 arts and cultural organizations. Each year, these organizations pump more than $830 million into the local economy. Of that, the creative sector produces some $700 million in revenues with $430 million in consumer retail sales — equal to about 70% of all sports sector revenues combined. The creative sector employs some 20,000 residents in Minneapolis alone, amounting to about 5% of all jobs in the city. The Playwrights’ Center is recognized across the country as unrivaled in the cultivation of new playwrights and their works. There are nearly 100 theater companies in the state with more theater seats per capita than anywhere in the country except New York City. Per capita revenues for theater companies and dinner theaters is 14 times the national average. Overall, the Twin Cities metro area is rated 6th highest in the Creative Vitality Index nationwide.

 

A lot of that artistic energy, innovation and economic vitality is the legacy of the Legacy Amendment, which I consider one of the greatest collective acts of civic philanthropy in our nation’s history and one which will serve as a model to other states once they begin to realize the astounding social, cultural and economic benefits it produces.

 

For those who need some background, in 2008 Minnesotans passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Act (Legacy Act) to the Minnesota State Constitution. The objectives of that legislation were to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater; to preserve clean drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore wetlands, prairies and forests and renew wildlife habitat; to support parks and trails; and to preserve Minnesota’s arts and cultural heritage. To accomplish those objectives, the Legacy Act called for an increase to the state sales tax of three-eighths of one percent (0.00375%) beginning on July 1, 2009 and continuing through 2034, to be divided into four funds: 33% for a Clean Water Fund; 33% for an Outdoor Heritage Fund; 19.75% for an Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and 14.25% for a Parks and Trails Fund. Note that this self-imposed tax was in addition to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) established in 1988. The Legacy Act passed with a 56% majority, even though a blank ballot counted as a “No” vote, proving to the many doubters that Minnesotan’s ongoing love affair with our state’s astonishing natural beauty and priceless water resources meant far more to them than a handful of pocket change.

 

To date, here’s how the Legacy Act funding breaks down (diagram includes ENRTF funding):

 

Legacy Act Funding

 

http://www.legacy.leg.mn/funding-overview

 

Looking just at the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, you can see why Minnesota enjoys such a lively, thriving arts community and creative sector economy: by this year’s end, for just the first five years of the Act, Minnesotans will have invested more than a quarter-billion dollars in our arts community. An investment of that kind of capital in any area of human endeavor is bound to have an enormous impact. In fact, that’s just what we are seeing.

 

In time, Minnesota will become known for more than bone-chilling winters and sky blue waters. We’ll become known as the center of arts and culture in the center of the continent and a magnet for the best and brightest. At the rate things are going, it won’t take long …

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Minnesota primary election liveblog

by Dan Burns on August 12, 2014 · 15 comments

11:10 – Hagedorn will win his race, Whelan romped in Otto-esque fashion in hers, and I’m headed for seven hours or so of the dreamless. Thank you to everyone who stopped by.
 
10:49 – Don’t mean to flip anyone out, Steve Simon will win, but something strange went down in the DFL Secretary of State primary.
 
10:43 – With 75% reporting it looks like Jeff Johnson will be the GOP gubernatorial candidate in November. He’s ahead of Kurt Zellers 30 to 24.5. But it’s a dismal showing for the party’s endorsed candidate.
 
10:10 – About 37,000 votes were cast Since I’m pretty sure one could vote for multiple candidates in the Minneapolis School Board race, I don’t know how many voters actually showed up, and Ira Jourdain beat Doug Mann for the fourth and final spot in November by 50 votes. I don’t know whether Mann can get a recount or not. Also, Applebaum did win 44B, but only by 37 votes over Tony Wagner.
 
10:00 – With almost 50% reporting the GOP governor thing is not over. Johnson 31, Zellers 24, Honour 22, Seifert 20.
 
9:50 – With almost 40% reporting in MN-01 Jim Hagedorn has about a 60-40 lead over the endorsed candidate, Aaron Miller.
 
9:41 – Matt Entenza has conceded the auditor’s race. I’m quite interested, though, to see whether that 70% spread continues to hold. If so, it will be, among a lot of other things, an indicator that the “sulfide mining uber alles!” crowd doesn’t have anything like the political heft that they (and corporate media) claim that they have.
 
9:37 – With all but one precinct reporting Rebecca Gagnon, Don Samuels, and Iris Altamirano will advance to the Minneapolis School Board general. It will be determined when that last precinct reports, whether Ira Jourdain or Doug Mann will as well.
 

9:30 – With almost 30% reporting Johnson is holding steady at about 1/3, with Zellers next at 24% and Honour in the low 20s. Also, it looks like Jon Applebaum will triumph in 44B.
 
9:15 – With all precincts in those districts reporting Phyllis Kahn and Jenifer Loon have won.
 
9:03 – 83-17, with almost 12% in. Jeff Johnson leads the GOP governor race, with almost precisely one-third of the vote.
 
8:21 – Only 1 % reporting, but it may be worth noting that Rebecca Otto is off to an 85%-15% lead.
 
Races of particular interest for me include:
 
- Otto/Entenza
- GOP governor
- Kahn/Noor (DFL60B – Minneapolis)
- An “embarrassment of riches” tripartite DFL primary in the west metro (Wagner/Tollefson/Applebaum – 44B – Minnetonka, etc.)
- Loon/Kihne (R48B – Eden Prairie)
- Minneapolis School Board at-large
- Hagedorn/Miller (R-MN01)
- And, mostly for perverse amusement, a Republican primary in the north metro featuring two real pieces of work, Abby Whelan and Justin Boals (R35A – Anoka, etc.)
 
I usually go to the SoS website for the latest. If that gets balky, as has been known to happen, CBS Minnesota has been prompt and reliable.
 

I’ll be back starting around 8:30, give or take.

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Aerial_photo_of_downtown_Minneapolis(Update: I was wrong about this. School board elections are non-partisan, and both candidates will be on the general ballot in November. There is no primary.)
 
Three Minneapolis school board districts have elections this year. Districts 1 and 3 are uncontested. District 5 has two candidates, and since both are DFLers, next Tuesday’s primary is for the prize. Nelson Inz beat Jay Larson for DFL endorsement, with 73% on the first ballot.
 

- Nelson Inz.

 

Inz believes he has an understanding of the issues facing public schools “from being on the ground and in being in the classrooms,” he said, “and being in daily contact with students.” Trained in adolescent Montessori education with an IB in three different disciplines, he currently teaches at Great River Montessori High School, a charter school in Saint Paul. There he has served on the board and has acted as chair of the personnel committee.
 
Because Inz has worked in both public schools and charter schools, he said he believes he understands the ongoing debate between which types of schools are best for students and the state. And in his campaign, he said he wants to highlight student-centered education.
 
With holistic student-centered education, the education needs to be more of a priority than the testing, he said. That doesn’t mean that testing isn’t important, but kids need a mix of tools to keep them engaged in learning, he said. In addition, Inz said he feels that the district needs to focus on lowering class sizes and reducing the reliance on testing and narrowing curriculum. “You have to have some testing, obviously,” he said, “but you can’t base your entire educational philosophy on limited results.”
(TCDP)

- Jay Larson.

 

Larson said he’s very supportive of teachers and their unions and that he believes in organizing and giving others a voice. Growing up in the North St. Paul, he said teachers really helped him through his parents’ divorce, and became heroes to him.
 
These days, as a parent, Larson has an impressive track record as a volunteer and organizer. When Larson and his wife, Sara, first moved into District 5, in the far southeastern portion of Minneapolis, Larson said that no one sent their kids to the surrounding public schools. It was just assumed, he said, that the schools in their area, such as Keewaydin and Wenonah, were not any good; instead, many kids in District 5 were going to charter schools or other nearby school districts. There was even talk, Larson added, that Keewaydin Elementary School would soon be closed.
 
But Larson has been committed to sending his own kids to public schools, he said, especially after Wenonah and Keewaydin merged into Lake Nokomis Community School in his neighborhood.
 
He began attending community meetings about the need to expand the Keewaydin building, he said, and was “amazed by other parents’ passion and unwavering support” for Lake Nokomis Community School. This reinforced his idea that “community schools are the backbone of a neighborhood,” he said.
(TCDP)

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Minneapolis skyline
Update: Andrew Minck has suspended his campaign.
 
(Continued from yesterday, or you can just scroll down if you’re on the MPP front page.)
 

- Don Samuels is plenty familiar to readers of this blog. On education, he’s all deformer, and it would be good to see him not even get past this primary.
 

As a school board member, Samuels plans to take a similar approach. Believing Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson “is on the right track,” she needs the school board to “be the wind beneath her wings,” to achieve success, he said.
 
To provide the kind of strategic help the superintendent needs, Samuels plans to call on his strong relationships across the city and state, in addition to using a “bully pulpit” approach. “I understand the importance of communicating, of being vocal, of staking out a position on things and repeating it frequently, and I think I also have a reputation of putting myself out there if no one else will call it that, meaning not shrinking from the most difficult questions and the most difficult actions that need to be taken.”
 
Finally, Samuels hopes to take an active role in teacher contract negotiations. Though he he’s not mad at the teacher’s union, which does a “great job of taking care of its people,” Samuels said there needs to be a “kid union” that is currently absent. “Me? I believe I am the kid union,” he said. “The school board is the children’s union, it is the parent’s union, it is the community’s union. There’s absolutely no other way to look at it.”
(TCDP)

- Doug Mann is the Green Party candidate.

 
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minneapolisIn November, Minneapolis voters will elect five candidates to their school board. (Note that if the corporate school deformer movement was ever to succeed in its entirety, voters would have no opportunity for this kind of democratic input into how schools are run. But I digress.) Three of those elected will be district seats, and two at-large. I’m talking about the at-large seats, here, because in the August 12 primary the seven candidates currently running for those will be culled to four for November.
 

I’m providing brief remarks on each of the seven, three today and four tomorrow, mostly in their own words. Don Samuels and Andrew Minck are the two with big deformer backing. You may note that I’m linking to a lot of material from Twin Cities Daily Planet (TCDP). Because it’s excellent stuff, that’s why. I’ve ordered the names at random.
 
- Ira Jourdain.
 

Jourdain feels that teachers need more support. “When you look at teachers- we’re throwing them into the fire without even base line support,” he said. “Teachers need more respect for their profession and the time and the effort they put into schools.”
 
…He sees families that are “directly affected by the district policies,” he said. “I think the education system turns a blind eye to students outside of the classroom. It’s a very different world for some students after three o’clock or whenever their school gets out, and I work directly with those affected families. I see unemployment problems that do affect children’s lives… the whole gamut of socio-economic problems that affect our kids that I think are not taken into consideration when we have things like Common Core and rigid mandating and testing.” The challenges that struggling families face mixed with high stakes testing create a “perfect storm,” he said, which disproportionately affects students of color.
(TCDP)

- Rebecca Gagnon is a DFL-endorsed, incumbent board member.
 
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Voter fraud story not quite over

by Eric Ferguson on July 14, 2014 · 1 comment

Brian Rice, we’re waiting. Not for evidence. We waited in vain for that. We’re waiting now for your apology.
 
The news Thursday was bad for Rice. Hennepin County investigated his claim of a “coordinated effort” to have people vote illegally using the address of a business that rents mailboxes. They dismissed this allegation not merely for insufficient evidence, and not even for no evidence. They actually disproved the charge. Ouch.
 
Wasn’t hard to disprove. From the Minnpost link, “In fact, all but 16 of the people who registered there had done so before January of this year.”
 
That was Thursday. It’s now Monday. Well? Any apology coming? Rice surely knew he was dragging the reputations of legal voters through the metaphorical mud. He took his claim to an irresponsible media outlet to play up the story, knowing how voter fraud claims incite the partisans of the right, knowing he was throwing charges at an immigrant community that is detested in some quarters. How detested? Let’s put it this way: the Star Tribune stopped enabling comments on articles on certain subjects because of the hate speech those subjects attract, and one of those subjects was Somalis. Articles on Somalis bring out the racists, nativists, and islamophobes. Rice must have been aware this was the atmosphere into which he was throwing his scurrilous charges.
 
It didn’t have to happen this way. Had Rice restrained himself to claiming it appeared some people voted from an address that wasn’t a residence, he would have been fine. There was evidence for that. He could have said that without claiming or implying organized fraud or individual fraud. That would have saved him looking churlish in light of this paragraph:

A large number of the improper registrations were the result of the change-of-address process, which requires Hennepin County officials to update registration information when voters move. Though many of the 141 voters involved in the complaint maintain a mailbox at the Cedar Avenue center — it’s an easy way for people who move often to keep a permanent mailing address — those voters didn’t expect that their registration information would also change to the mailing center’s address.

In other words, many of the 141 did things right, registering with their current address, and adding the permanent address as the place where mail should be sent, and something got mixed up on the clerical end. Even the rest, where the voters made a mistake, were just voters making a mistake. Not one instance of fraud.
 
Republicans of course took the bait, jumping up and down in excitement because now the voter fraud accusation was being made by a DFLer. Vindication! Oops. Like every other claim of voter fraud, this one fell apart upon examination. So, Republicans, isn’t it time to admit you were wrong on this one? That you believed a charge that proved false? So far, nothing. A word of advice Republicans: if the information is coming from a Democrat, and you don’t want to get played like this again, then no matter how much you want to believe it, check it out first. You see how I saw right through it. You can do the same.
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The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

To be fair to the Star Tribune, they didn’t screw up nearly as much as KSTP. In fact, the egregious mistake was in the headline, “140 voters used single mailbox”. This wasn’t asserted in the article. However, reporters don’t write the headlines, and the Star Tribune did at some point replace that headline on the web version. They’re unfortunately stuck with it in the print edition. It’s a screw up because even Brian Rice and KSTP never asserted 140 people registered using one mailbox. They rented mailboxes from the same mailbox rental business. Yes, quite a bit different.
 
The Star Tribune writers talked to some people who registered using their mailbox instead of a residence — take note KSTP, because that’s what real reporters do — and got statements from more people than just the one guy making the accusation. The Star Tribune debunked — albeit inadvertently it appears since they didn’t point out the contradiction — the crux of the KSTP story, that there was a “coordinated effort” to commit voter fraud. “State records show that 419 Cedar Avenue S. has been used by some of the voters as far back as 2008.” Maybe Brian Rice believes people started registering back in 2008 to help Mohamud Noor run for state representative in 2014?
 
That said, some things were left out. And there was some silliness.
 
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KSTP TV spreads voter fraud myth

by Eric Ferguson on June 28, 2014 · 9 comments

KSTP TV decided to shock its viewers with the news that 140 Somali voters registered to vote at the same address. OMG, massive organized voter fraud, finally proven! Just like all those other times it was finally proven except, oops, the allegation proved groundless. This are pretty easy to debunk too, at least for anyone who thinks accusations should be accompanied by evidence. KSTP is owned by a major GOP donor, Stanley Hubbard, which often leads to suspicion about its reporting. I’ve usually not seen anything in their reporting that looks like a Fox News wannabe. This looks to me less like partisan bias and more like reporting that is sloppy and sensationalist. Of course, for the people who worked on this story, being sloppy and sensationalist should be pretty embarrassing. I do get how these stories slip through, given the general shoddiness of local TV news that has been the norm pretty much since its invention.
 

I also get now why so many people in Minneapolis spit when they say Brian Rice’s name.
 

To the specifics of the allegations:

 

According to voter registration records from the Secretary of State’s office and the DFL Voter Activation Network more than 140 people used 419 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis as their home address, when they registered to vote.
 
The address is for what’s called Cedar Mailbox Center. The building manager and mail center’s employees weren’t comfortable speaking on camera, but they said they were surprised by the allegations.
 
They say nobody put the wrong address on purpose. For 13 years, many Somali-Americans from all across the state have been getting their mail there. They say nobody lives there.

 
Brian Rice is representing Phyllis Kahn, and making the charges against Mohamud Noor, the candidates in the DFL primary in HD60B.
 
The first problem with the allegation is probably obvious to anyone who has ever rented a mailbox. People who move frequently, which describes many low income people, often rent mailboxes so they don’t have to worry about their mail following them as they move. So having a rented mailbox isn’t a sign of intending to commit the organized fraud Rice is claiming in front of KSTP’s credulous reporters when he said, “I think there is a coordinated effort to use this address to bring voters into the DFL primary election on August 12, that’s what I think is going on.” Notice he said “coordinated effort”. That’s a lot different than some voters making a mistake. What is the evidence of a “coordinated effort”, and not merely just a bunch of people renting mailboxes there? KSTP reported the owner told them they’ve been renting out mailboxes for 13 years: so did the 140 people registered to vote using that address just register, or were they using those mailboxes prior to the campaign? It would seem a simple matter for either Rice or KSTP to check this out, but they either didn’t, or they’re not sharing the result.
 
It is in fact the law that voters must register where they actually reside, even if their permanent address is different. Rookie voters, and we are talking about many inexperienced voters in the Somali community, could reasonably assume they’re supposed to use their permanent address, not just whatever temporary housing they’re using now. Registration forms don’t say this. The forms merely offer space for a mailbox if you can’t receive mail at your address, which might imply to a new voter that they should just use their permanent address only. “Voter fraud” requires intent, not merely mistakes. That’s also the law, not my opinion, yet Rice is making, and KSTP TV is airing, a specific charge, with no evidence. Anyone think the voter fraud crazies we call the Republican Party will regard the lack of evidence, or will this be ginned up into the latest national voter fraud scandal, for which most people will never hear the debunking?
 
Yet Rice can still claim to be a lawyer and KSTP TV can still claim to be journalists. Legally I mean, not in the sense of deserving professional respect.
 
For full disclosure, I haven’t backed a candidate. I’m still not ready to do that because I have reservations about both.
 
Here is the KSTP TV report.

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President Obama in Minneapolis Thursday and Friday

by Eric Ferguson on June 25, 2014 · 4 comments

President Obama will be making a couple public appearances in Minneapolis this week. On Thursday at 2:10 there’s town hall forum at Minnehaha Park, right near me but I have to work, figures. It’s invitation only and I don’t know how invitees were picked. I’m not one is all I know. Security will be presidentially tight like is normal at presidential events, but living close by, I know how to sneak in along the river and through the woods. I’m kidding!! I’ve been through the security to attend presidential events, and they lose some glamor. If I can’t sit down at some point and get some water, I don’t think I want to do that again. And no, being the local DFL chair doesn’t get me anything in terms of notice or entry or anything.

 

Friday at 10:30 the president is giving a speech on the economy, highlighting the things Minnesota has done right. This will be at the Lake Harriet bandshell. This event is open to anyone, but tickets are required. Distribution started at noon today on a first come first serve basis, so no promises you can still get a ticket. If you’re traveling in the vicinity of Minnehaha Park tomorrow or Lake Harriet Friday, be aware roads and trails might be closed.

 
Here’s the president responding to a letter from a woman in Minnesota, who apparently will get to talk to him while he’s here.
 

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Minneapolis’ population recently reached 400,000 for the first time since the mid-1970′s. That’s not a surprise if you’re a Minneapolis resident, because it’s hard to miss the building boom going on in some parts of the city, like downtown and along the Hiawatha light rail line. The city government’s goal is to increase the population to 500,000, which it reached for a few years at its peak around 1950. Minneapolis has a infrastructure designed to handle a larger population, but costs are being spread among fewer people. So a larger population spreads the costs out more. Being a political person, I can’t help doing some math and noticing that getting to half a million might mean another one and a half State Senate districts, or three State house districts, either measure meaning more representation in the legislature. Obviously that depends on how long it takes to reach that figure, and what growth happens in the state overall, but in general, more people means more political clout.

 

Unsurprisingly, our twin St. Paul has followed the same trend of decades of population decline followed by stabilization and recent gains. It tends to be a few years behind Minneapolis at any given point, but essentially it’s having the same trend, and appears set for a building boom along the Central Corridor light rail line.

 

There are some problems though with raising the population further. The Star Tribune article linked above mentions that average household size has shrunk, and Minneapolis actually has more households than in 1970, when it had 30,000 more people.

 

There’s a physical impediment to getting back to 1950 levels, which generally goes unremarked. That over-500,000 peak was reached before construction of the freeways. The trenches weren’t there. They were dug through the parts of the city unlucky enough to get picked as routes for 35W and 94. That the freeways reduced urban populations by facilitating white flight, by making it possible to work downtown and live in the metro fringes, is pretty well known, but less considered is the direct removal of housing. Check out this photo of a bit of 35W, and the residential blocks alongside:
 

Satellite photo of 35W in Minneapolis indicates how much space was lost to freeway construction.

Satellite photo of 35W in Minneapolis indicates how much space was lost to freeway construction.

Figure that 35W and 94 took out a space the width city block through the entirety of their routes, and that’s a lot of lost space. That’s why I don’t believe Minneapolis can get back to a pre-freeway population without replacing the space lost to the freeways.

 

Of course, taking out the freeways has all sorts of problems, so that won’t happen. But it doesn’t need to. There’s an alternative, one that sounded cockamamie when I first saw it suggested, but then quickly made some sense. Put a roof on the freeways.

 
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