Twin Cities Daily Planet
On Friday, May 17, Marijuana Deathsquads played at Icehouse in Minneapolis.
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
On Friday, May 17, Marijuana Deathsquads played at Icehouse in Minneapolis.MORE » ©2013 Meredith Westin
My understanding of the 80s is mostly constructed by the stereotype of the era—growing up Carebear-obsessed didn't gain me much perspective outside of what was happening in Care-A-Lot. Yeah, I know all the songs I'm supposed to and the style just like everyone else. And while Friday, May 17th's performance of Rock of Ages didn't show or tell me to anything non-cliched about what it was like to live in the 80s, I concluded that—between the crass tongue lappings, booby jokes, and repulsive hair styles—it was just simply a gross time. That probably wasn't the consensus in the midst (is it ever?), but it certainly seems to be now.
The premise of Rock of Ages is incredibly cheesey, but that's the point. The 80s is easy to parody—that much was clear based on the hordes of audience members dressed in their neon leopard-print leggings and leather cuts. Rock of Ages is a love story about a small-town girl and a city boy, and culminates in, you guessed it, "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. Wolfgang Von Colt (aka Drew) (Dominique Scott) wants to be a rocker but struggles with his identity—that is until he meets Sherrie (Shannon Mullen), an aspiring actress from Kansas who resorts to stripping to make ends meet. The two are presumably in love, because without romance there's no story! In the end, they abandon their dreams and decide that being with each other is their new dream. There is of course a villain in the form of a German developer named Hertz (Philip Peterson) who wants to tear down Bourban Room (their seedy hangout) in Los Angeles in an effort to clean up Sunset Strip's image. Hertz's son, Franz (Stephen Michael Kane), is a fan favorite and brings a certain uniqueness to his otherwise type-casted role.
And there's Lonny (Justin Colombo), the self-proclaimed narrator of the show, who constantly breaks the fourth wall; he's crass, but not in an unlikeable way. While his role is to be the funny guy and keep the audience in stitches with his predictable humor, he provides critical commentary of the era and story itself. Rock of Ages is aware of how corny it is, but it can get away with it because of the music.
The show, for better or worse, is a crowd pleaser. The first act concludes with Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" and had people bouncing in their seats. The second act ends with "Don't Stop Believin'" and the house suddenly sounded like a college bar on Karoakee night. It was admittedly hard to idly watch songs like "Wanted Dead or Alive" being danced to and sung on stage (shout out to Marcos Sanatana's choreography). The actors wanted it to be like a concert (Dominique Scott asks for people to throw their panties on stage in his bio), but that is impossible to do at the Orpheum.
Rock of Ages is only here through the weekend. You don't have to worry about not being familiar with the songs like you do with other musicals, but the a very musical theater take on rock 'n roll afterall. Some of the songs were mash-ups, which worked for the most part, and were cleverly worked into what was happening in the plot. But it was frustrating at times to not hear only portions of certain songs like "Renegade" that only got a couple lines of glory. Regardless, I couldn't help but be entertained.
My understanding of the 80s is mostly constructed by the stereotype of the era—growing up Carebear-obsessed didn't gain me much perspective outside of what was happening in Care-A-Lot. Yeah, I know all the songs I'm supposed to and the style just like everyone else. And while Friday, May 17th's performance of Rock of Ages didn't show or tell me to anything non-cliched about what it was like to live in the 80s, I concluded that—between the crass tongue lappings, booby jokes, and repulsive hair styles—it was just simply a gross time. That probably wasn't the consensus in the midst (is it ever?), but it certainly seems to be now.MORE » ©2013 Morgan Halaska 2012-13 Broadway Across America-Minneapolis Season: Rock of Ages
Art-a-Whirl, now the largest art crawl in the country, had its start in 1996. John Akre was then a volunteer at MTN, and created a 40-minute documentary about the new Northeast Minneapolis event. He's now edited the documentary down to a more concise five minutes to provide this peek into the past.
Art-a-Whirl, now the largest art crawl in the country, had its start in 1996. John Akre was then a volunteer at MTN, and created a 40-minute documentary about the new Northeast Minneapolis event. He's now edited the documentary down to a more concise five minutes to provide this peek into the past.MORE » Art-A-Whirl Presented by NEMAA
Legislative leaders and the governor announced an agreement on how they want to raise the $2 billion in new revenue to balance the next biennial budget.
“This puts us in a very good place to end the session on time,” House Speaker Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) said during a press briefing Thursday night. Although a new fourth-tier income tax rate on the state’s highest earners has been part of the mix since the start of budget negotiations, it has been unclear until tonight what that rate would be — 9.85 percent. That is higher than the House’s original position of 8.84 percent and lower than the Senate’s proposal of 10.7 percent. The 2 percent surcharge on those taxpayers to pay off the money the state owes the schools has been dropped. Gov. Mark Dayton said that money will be allocated this biennium toward a payment, and he expects to have the debt paid off during the next biennium.
While new taxes on alcohol have been dropped from the bill, cigarette smokers are likely to pay about $1.60 a pack more — a House position. Additionally, smokers could be subject to new taxes announced today to fill any funding shortfall to pay the state’s share of the stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.
While the taxes conference committee will be charged with closing some corporate loopholes, businesses could benefit from the upfront sales tax exemption on capital equipment.
There are no new consumer sales taxes being proposed (a Senate position), and the bill will eliminate sales tax payments for cities and counties. But three new business-to-business taxes have been retained. They include the provisions related to warehouses, electronic repairs and telecommunications.
Legislative leaders and the governor announced an agreement on how they want to raise the $2 billion in new revenue to balance the next biennial budget.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily
Underage drinkers looking out for their health or that of a friend could avoid a minor consumption ticket.
Sponsored by Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), HF946 would provide that a person under age 21 who consumes or possesses an alcoholic beverage would not be subject to prosecution “if the person contacts a 911 operator to report that the person or another person is in need of medical assistance for an immediate health or safety concern, provided that the person who initiates contact is the first person to make a report, provides a name and contact information, remains on the scene until assistance arrives and cooperates with the authorities at the scene.”
The person receiving medical attention would also not be charged with underage drinking; nor would one or two persons acting in concert with the caller if they provide contact information and cooperate at the scene. “Sometimes the nature of an emergency is such that somebody needs to call while other people attend to the person with the emergency,” Liebling said.
Passed 124-8 by the House Thursday, the bill now goes to the Senate where it is sponsored by Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-Columbia Heights).
“This is a bill that tells young people that when they or a friend get into trouble, that we care more about their life and their health than we do about any punishment they might incur because of that drinking,” Liebling said.
Four University of Minnesota students spoke March 12 before the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee in favor of the bill. They said students often won’t call for medical help for fear of getting a minor consumption ticket.
"Whether it is a student who is attending a party and drinking for the first time that becomes ill and needs medical attention or a young woman who is sexually assaulted and needs help, current state law discourages that individual from seeking assistance,” said Taylor Williams, student body president on the Twin Cities campus.
“We need to do what we can to avoid a tragedy,” said Elizabeth Huebsch, who told of finding a 19-year-old girl in a dorm bathroom who’d been drinking wine. “Her roommate had never seen Brittany react to alcohol this way and wasn’t sure what to do,” Huebsch said. Brittany ultimately ended up spending more than two days in a hospital as doctors tried to determine what was wrong.
“I want everybody to know it’s OK to ask for help,” said Rep. Dan Schoen (DFL-St. Paul Park). “You might have to deal with mom and dad in the morning, but, by God, it’s better off to do it alive than dead.”
Although he supports the bill’s intent, Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) voted against it. He wanted to see it restricted to students age 18 and above. “I believe college students understand that this is a life-and-death situation, their reasoning is sound and they understand they should help the individual. I’m afraid the high school students see this as simply a way to get out of something.”
Underage drinkers looking out for their health or that of a friend could avoid a minor consumption ticket.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily
The House on Thursday signed off on a bill that’s intended to give young people a better shot at building decent lives after they end up in court.
HF392 would restrict direct public access to some electronic juvenile court records. The bill passed 120-13.
Many juvenile court records and proceedings are already closed to the public. The bill would affect records stemming from hearings in which the youth is 16 or 17 and has been charged with a felony. Those records are currently public even if an initial felony charge is later reduced or dismissed.
The bill is needed in an era when more employers do background checks and records spread far and fast on the Internet, said its sponsor, Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing). Juvenile records often make it much harder for young people to land jobs, get housing, and even go to college, she said.
The public and press would still have access to hearings and paper records, Melin said. The bill also makes exceptions that would maintain public access to electronic records in some cases, such as those involving certain violent crimes.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) is the sponsor.
The House on Thursday signed off on a bill that’s intended to give young people a better shot at building decent lives after they end up in court.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily
The House and Senate have struck a deal on a budget bill that would freeze tuition for in-state undergraduates at the state’s public colleges and universities.
Calling it “an historic win for students,” the University of Minnesota’s chief financial officer thanked lawmakers effusively for the bill. He also renewed the university’s pledge to address red flags raised at the Capitol this spring, particularly a call by many to reduce administrative spending. “We will do our part,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter. “We know you have concerns.”
The bill still needs final votes from both the House and Senate. Its sponsor also issued a stern reminder that lawmakers still need to approve the taxes to pay for new spending. “Nothing comes free,” said Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr. (DFL-Winona).
The proposed budget would increase higher education spending by quite a bit more than the $150 million that House members thought they could afford earlier this spring. The Senate plan had called for an increase of $263 million.
The bill features two-year tuition freezes at both the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, retaining the core of the House plan. The Senate’s initial budget would have paid to hold tuition steady at the university but not at MnSCU, instead capping increases at 3 percent.
The committee amended the bill to include the Prosperity Act, a measure that would extend in-state college tuition rates and financial aid to some young people who lack lawful immigration status.
The deal made by lawmakers also includes new spending on a number of initiatives that got money in the Senate budget, but not in the House. MnSCU stands to get $24 million in new money for equipment and staff compensation. It’s a fraction of what the system had asked for, but the House budget hadn’t funded those requests at all. The University of Minnesota would get close to $36 million for its MnDRIVE research initiative – double what the House had offered.
The state grant program, which offsets tuition for low- and middle-income students, would get $75 million in new money. That increase was made possible partly by unanticipated state savings that lawmakers now expect as a result of the MnSCU tuition freeze and a federal increase in Pell Grant funding.
The House and Senate have struck a deal on a budget bill that would freeze tuition for in-state undergraduates at the state’s public colleges and universities.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily
Legislative approval has been given to an omnibus bill that would provide more than $100 million in new funding for the state’s judiciary and public safety areas.
Sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), HF724/ SF671* was passed 121-12 by the House and 64-1 by the Senate Thursday. It now awaits gubernatorial action.
“We had a good conference committee and I think we came up with a good product,” said Paymar, who carried the public safety portion of the House language.
The $2.09 billion bill — nearly $1.94 million from the General Fund — is nearly $103 million over base. More than $52 million in new money is for the judiciary and $50.5 million is for public safety purposes.
For Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Court and Tax Court judges, the bill funds the governor’s request for salary and health insurance increases. Judges would see a 4 percent increase in fiscal year 2014 and 3 percent in fiscal year 2015 salary increase; however 1 percent the first year would be for their share of increased pension costs.
“We were successful in keeping the House position on specialty courts; however, we originally had it funded at $925,000 per year and that has been reduced to $875,000 per year,” said Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center). She chairs the House Judiciary Finance and Policy Committee. “We still believe that will allow us to retain the specialty courts that we currently have and will allow for two additional courts to be expanded. Specialty courts include veteran’s court, drug courts, DWI court, and domestic abuse court. … The Senate did not have that provision at all.” Often referred to as problem-solving courts, they help individuals turn their lives around and reduce future costs to the criminal justice system.
There are 19 judges on the state Court of Appeals; however, not all reside within an hour’s drive of their permanent chambers in St. Paul. Included in the bill is a provision that would provide for reimbursement of housing and mileage expenses for judges whose permanent place of residence is more than 50 miles from chambers. This provision would sunset in five years.
Salary adjustments for Corrections Department personnel of 2 percent per year, something agreed to between Gov. Mark Dayton and the department, would comprise approximately $30 million of new funding.
Also in the bill is an additional $2.6 million for additional sex offender or chemical dependency treatment. The money is from a transfer from the department’s MINNCOR program, where inmates produce goods and services used by the department or sold. A report on the spending, including amounts spent in each area, would be due the Legislature.
“When the bill left the House, the money was appropriated specifically for sex offender treatment beds, and the agreement was that we would allow the department to make the decision whether they wanted to use that money for sex offender treatment or chemical dependency treatment,” Paymar said.
Paymar previously said that 95 percent of incarcerated sex offenders would eventually be released; however, only about 30 percent of them get any treatment while incarcerated. He estimates the increased funding would allow for approximately half of the incarcerated sex offenders to get treatment. The Senate bill sought funding for chemical dependency treatment.
Because of the federal Affordable Care Act, Paymar said there are some “significant savings” in health care costs due to Medical Assistance costs that will be covered by the federal government. Those savings to the state will primarily be used to fund additional officers in community corrections as well as county probation. Some funds will also be used to fund the Safe Harbor Project, which will enable Ramsey County to develop a statewide model protocol for law enforcement, prosecutors and others on identifying and intervening with sexually exploited and trafficked youth. The county currently has such a program.
Within the $319 million for the Department of Public Safety budget is $860,000 in new money to restart the Minnesota School Safety Center, a law enforcement-centered program that helps provide technical assistance and planning for schools to assess threats, hazards and vulnerabilities and conduct exercises. Paymar said the center previously existed thanks to a federal grant, but when that money ran out the state opted not to fund the center.
To fund a replacement of the state’s antiquated criminal history and crime reporting systems, the bill would provide about $8.4 million in new money along with $699,000 for livescan fingerprinting maintenance.
The bill also would provide $800,000 to hire two additional drug chemists and two additional toxicologists at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s forensic laboratory to help with the backlog, and $500,000 to replace some outdated equipment.
An additional $3 million would be appropriated for more crime victim assistance grants that go programs such as battered women’s shelters or sexual assault services; $2 million in additional funding would be used for youth intervention programs; and $200,000 would go toward a community offender re-entry program in and around Duluth. The report also provides $100,000 each for a juvenile detention alternative initiative and community safety de-escalation grants.
Funding is included for the Department of Human Rights to add two full-time equivalent positions to its compliance staff at a biennial cost of $258,000. The fee for the department to certify a business would double from $75 to $150; however, the certification process would take place every four years instead of two to make the change revenue neutral.
Other funding provisions include:
- $2.5 million for Civil Legal Services to help with caseload reductions;
- $300,000 for the Board of Judicial Standards to settle a disciplinary matter and a disability hearing;
- $260,000 for two new Tax Court law clerks; and
- $133,000 to the Uniform Laws Commission for a base increase and paying some outstanding dues.
Three fees in the House proposal did not make the final cut: a $15 increase in the criminal traffic surcharge, a graduated increase in conciliation court fees and a bond reinstatement fee.
However, a proposed $2 court technology fee increase is in the final product. It would go into a special revenue fund to pay for the update of court technology, including e-discovery and e-filing across the state. This is expected to generate $1.6 million in the biennium.
A new policy piece in the bill relates to data collection of civil commitment records.
Hilstrom said that since 1994, all records of people who have been civilly committed and found to be either mentally ill or dangerous did not make it to the National Instant Criminal Background Check.
“We have funded that project at $1.05 million to make certain that everyone who has been found to be civilly committed that that information actually makes it to the database so that when people run background checks for the purposes of getting a gun that the accurate data is actually in there.” If a person’s rights have been restored, that information would also be transmitted to the federal system.
“The court anticipates that approximately 67,000 cases will need to be reviewed, scanned and entered into the NICS database system,” Hilstrom said. “This language also requires timely reporting of the gross misdemeanor disqualifying offenses. Currently, under Minnesota law we have some gross misdemeanor offenses that make folks ineligible to possess a firearm.”
Legislative approval has been given to an omnibus bill that would provide more than $100 million in new funding for the state’s judiciary and public safety areas.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily
A new exhibit at Juxtaposition Arts in Minneapolis is called “Question Bridge – Black Males.” It’s a video installation that threads together fifteen hundred conversations with Black men across the United States in an attempt to create more complex, multi-faceted, and whole images and narratives of Black males.
Roger Cummings is the Juxtaposition Arts Artistic Director. Nate Young is a multi-media artist and Juxtaposition’s Gallery and Contemporary Art Director, and Chris Johnson is one of the creators of Question Bridge. They visited KFAI's Morning Blend to talk with Brenda Bell Brown and Yvette Howie. [Audio below]
A new exhibit at Juxtaposition Arts in Minneapolis is called “Question Bridge – Black Males.” It’s a video installation that threads together fifteen hundred conversations with Black men across the United States in an attempt to create more complex, multi-faceted, and whole images and narratives of Black males.MORE »
You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.© 2013 KFAI Radio
Martha Wright is an 87-year-old grandmother and a retired nurse. When her grandson, Ulandis Forte, went to prison in 1994, she was determined to keep in touch. Wright knew her grandson had made a mistake, but she did not want him to feel abandoned. More than grandmother's intuition, research also shows that prisoners who maintain family connections are much less likely to re-offend, breaking the crime cycle.
When Ulandis was moved to a facility in Arizona, thousands of miles away from his grandmother's home in the District of Columbia, collect telephone calls were their only means of maintaining a relationship. She was spending nearly $1,000 per year of her fixed-income on phone calls limited to 15 minutes or less.
This mother's day, there are thousands of mothers and grandmothers in Minnesota who can't speak to their loved ones because of the excessive costs of making a phone call from prison. Even worse, there are over 15,000 children in the state of Minnesota who have a parent in prison. For these children, keeping in touch with their parent means paying more than $17 for just a 15-minute collect phone call. This cost is 24 times that of a normal call, according to the Center for Media Justice.
Calls made from prison, which are most often made collect and paid for by inmates' families, are so expensive because 60 percent of costs go toward commissions for corporations and prison agencies, according to Prison Legal News. Telecom companies pay for exclusive contracts at prisons and then pass on this fee to inmates' families. Across the country, these high commission rates allow corporations to pocket $152 million a year off struggling families. In Minnesota, state prisons receive 49 percent commissions on phone calls made from prisons which generate about $1.5 million in revenue each year.
Ten years ago, Wright finally reached her breaking point and decided to take action. After attempting to fight these predatory practices through the court system, she filed a petition in 2003 with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – a decade later, it is still cheaper to call Singapore than to speak to someone in a U.S. prison.
Only recently has the FCC shown signs of progress. Last year, the agency began the process of proposing new rules to regulate this lucrative industry, and in April, it finished collecting public comments. The FCC commissioners must now decide whether the financial hardship families bear to keep in touch with incarcerated loved ones is reasonable in light of the unfettered business practices that make it possible.
Prison phone calls do not have to cost this much; rates are not based on the actual cost of phone services. While 85 percent of state prisons receive commissions from telephone providers, states that have banned commissions have seen prison phone prices drop by 30 to 80 percent, according to the Center for Media Justice.
Minnesota cannot continue to bear the burden of these predatory practices either, not just financially, but also because of the toll on our communities. Maintaining healthy connections with the outside world and strong bonds with loved ones is critical for prisoners' mental and emotional stability and reduces the likelihood of repeat offenses. This is especially important since the average annual cost per inmate in Minnesota is $41,364 (Vera Institute for Justice). Studies have shown that maintaining contact with an outside support system, such as loved ones and family members, decreases the likelihood of recidivism for prisoners. These contacts help prisoners successfully reintegrate into society by meeting their basic needs, such as securing shelter, and strengthening their community connections. Phone calls are one of the most accessible ways for families to remain connected.
The FCC has had long enough to fix this unfair situation; Minnesota's congressional representatives must insist that the agency adopt final rules by the end of the year.
Interim FCC Chairman Mignon Clyburn has been a vocal advocate around this issue, saying recently in a speech that the higher phone rates are resulting in "further isolation" and "broken families." Clyburn and Chairman Nominee Tom Wheeler must prioritize the interests of families over padding corporate profits. This is essential for the promotion of strong families and safe communities.
Also in the Daily Planet: Minnesota prison phones: High rates, dropped calls, privatization and profits
(Tina McCabe, 2012)
Martha Wright is an 87-year-old grandmother and a retired nurse. When her grandson, Ulandis Forte, went to prison in 1994, she was determined to keep in touch. Wright knew her grandson had made a mistake, but she did not want him to feel abandoned. More than grandmother's intuition, research also shows that prisoners who maintain family connections are much less likely to re-offend, breaking the crime cycle.MORE » © 2013 Insight News
I took a break from the column last week because I really just needed a little time off. Such a thing probably won’t happen often, but I expect that it will happen from time to time. I’ve been making up for my lack of writing by painting and drawing whenever I get the chance. The work for my upcoming solo show is coming along nicely, but not at the speed I would like. I suppose I’ll never be satisfied until everything is finished, framed and hanging on the Smitten Kitten's walls.
The date for the show was changed to July 7, and I have to admit it threw me for a loop. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will be nervous about this show until the day after the opening reception. These nerves aren’t a reflection of self-doubt or reluctance; I just want the show to be the best it can be because it’s my very first. I know that no matter how hard I work that there are some things that I can’t control and letting go of control and accepting change is a difficult adjustment.
Last week I was going to write about the closing party for Elizabeth Erin Fowler’s solo show Sex and Sugar at the Smitten Kitten on May 5, but I put this weird pressure on myself to write about the show when I really just wanted to go and have fun. The show was lovely, there was beautiful artwork, there were sexy burlesque dancers and cupcakes so rich that I think I have diabetes now. The pink wine was flowing like a fountain and I think it’s now safe to say that red and white are officially out; which is great because I’m not a fan of either.
Fowler’s artwork is layered with moist, fleshy textures that are further illuminated with the addition of glitter. Sex and Sugar is an appropriate name, as it is tempting to lick the canvas right then and there; I wonder what her artwork would look like on a cake (and Elizabeth, if you’re reading this you should totally do that). It didn’t occur to me until then that the only shows I had attended at the Smitten Kitten were shows that I had artwork in; this realization made me feel selfish. I should be going to more shows and supporting more artists in person and I hope to be doing plenty of that at Art-a-Whirl this weekend.
Another reason I took a break last week was because I just started a new position at Paper Darts and I wanted to get a feel for how it would fit into my current schedule. As it turns out I get to discuss art freely without leaving home—unless we have a staff meeting, which would be great because I’ve never met any of the other staff members in person before. Because of this new position not only am I being exposed to new artwork constantly, but I’m learning that it’s important to not only have an opinion but to know what is informing that opinion, which is something that can be a lot harder to uncover. Most of the time when you form an opinion you just leave it at that, but because art is visual all the answers to your reasoning are evident to the eye. It creates this extra responsibility to be more direct and detailed with an explanation. Though at the end of the day it’s all about personal preference, it’s still important to understand your preferences if only to better know yourself.
I don’t expect I’ll be taking another break any time soon; I love writing too much and I’m starting to get an itch to write more nonfiction. I thought about submitting something to the Paper Darts Short Fiction Contest, but I think I’m a little afraid of my own stories. I’m afraid they’re too sexual, too violent, too supernatural, and too dark to find my way through to the end. It felt as though 800 words wasn’t enough and yet I couldn’t think of anything that could fill that space; the thought was both titillating and nauseating. I want to tell more stories and I guess I’m sort of telling a story right now.
In truth, I probably made my week off seem more interesting than it actually was; I guess what I do inside of my head will always be more intriguing than what I do on the outside.
I took a break from the column last week because I really just needed a little time off. Such a thing probably won’t happen often, but I expect that it will happen from time to time. I’ve been making up for my lack of writing by painting and drawing whenever I get the chance. The work for my upcoming solo show is coming along nicely, but not at the speed I would like. I suppose I’ll never be satisfied until everything is finished, framed and hanging on the Smitten Kitten's walls.MORE » ©2013 Amina Harper
In Athens, Greece, circa 450 BCE, the blind poet Homer was bigger than the Beatles. His The Iliad and The Odyssey put him on the level of John, Paul, Luke, and Matthew in terms of laying the literary foundation of a civilization’s religious beliefs. Dramatizations of Homer’s work are always a challenge in the modern day and I can only imagine a theater approaching Homer with fear and trepidation. Director Benjamin McGovern rises to this challenge in the Guthrie Theater production of An Illiad.
An Iliad harks back to Homer’s role as an ancient vagabond storyteller. Stephen Yoakam’s solo performance is an enthralling theatrical experience. Playwrights Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare provide a retelling of the fall of Troy that comprises excerpts from Robert Fagle’s recent translation, paraphrased commentary, asides by Yoakam, and lines from The Iliad in the original ancient Greek.
Yoakam acts both as narrator and as the various characters. Like audiences of ancient times, those attending could experience the intense entertaining drama that storytellers can convey while also deciphering the multi-layered meanings within the monologue.
Michael Hoover's avant-garde set design invokes a temple under construction with various levels and elevated ramps. Yoakam’s Homer effectively uses the entire space to perform key scenes: Achilles rages against Agamemnon; Andromache pleads with Hector; Protrocolus is killed by Hector; and Achilles drags Hector’s body around the walls of Troy. At times, Homer himself seems to get caught up in the frenzy of graphic depictions of battlefield death in the Bronze Age.
The most powerful scene comes near the end of the play. Homer delivers to the audience an unsettling and scathing indictment of humanity for allowing war to continue. This climax skillfully and poetically brings Homer’s message about the futility of war to the foreground. Through Homer’s own breath, the aura of violent death and the glory of heroic self-aggrandizement spills from The Iliad and flows through three thousand years ending with the war in Afghanistan and the civil war in Syria. At the end, the audience can’t help but agree with Homer’s introductory hope that this rendition of his neverending story will be its last.
Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
In Athens, Greece, circa 450 BCE, the blind poet Homer was bigger than the Beatles. His The Iliad and The Odyssey put him on the level of John, Paul, Luke, and Matthew in terms of laying the literary foundation of a civilization’s religious beliefs. Dramatizations of Homer’s work are always a challenge in the modern day and I can only imagine a theater approaching Homer with fear and trepidation. Director Benjamin McGovern rises to this challenge in the Guthrie Theater production of An Illiad.MORE » ©2013 Dan Reiva "An Illiad" at the Guthrie Theater
Aria Simone Love is in a lot of ways your typical seven year old. She loves to play with her friends, she loves to color, and she loves to match outfits with her American Girl doll. Unfortunately, unlike many seven year olds, Aria has ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are bowel afflictions that affect near one in 200 people in the United States. The diseases involve an inflammation of the lower intestine and symptoms include frequent trips to the bathroom (sometimes over 20 times a day), stomach and gut pain, and diarrhea.The diseases affect people of all shapes and sizes and do not pay attention to people’s age, sex, or race - though it is common for people to be diagnosed when they are young adults.
Since Aria was diagnosed in August of 2011, she has been on Prednisone, Fluticasone, Sulfasalazine, Remicade, Mesalamine enemas, Hydrocortisone enemas, Asacol, and Humira shots. She also had 3 blood transfusions this past summer. When asked what it means to have ulcerative colitis, Aria says it means that she can’t eat certain foods that she likes because her colon doesn’t like them. It also means that she always has to go to the bathroom.
Aria is the 2013 Honored Hero for this year’s Twin Cities Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis. Take Steps is an annual day of food, fun, and music - with all money raised going to help find a cure and raise awareness for these diseases. This year’s walk is June 9th on Harriet Island from 4pm-6pm. More information can be found here: cctakesteps.org/twincities.
While many suffer in silence, the walk encourages participants to “Take Steps and Be Heard!” - and Aria agrees, saying it is important to walk “because then other kids and grown-ups who have Crohn’s or UC can get support from their school, family, and friends” just like she has.
Aria Simone Love is in a lot of ways your typical seven year old.MORE »
When Cathy Heying served on the pastoral staff at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church several years ago, she took note of the common issue facing those who came to the church for assistance: they needed running vehicles.
Heying learned that people are in need of cars to get to work on time. Because most of them live each week from paycheck to paycheck, it’s difficult for them to have their old, malfunctioning vehicles repaired.
Some people with predicaments about their cars told Heying: “The car repair guy says it’s going to cost about $400. If I don’t keep my car running, I can’t get to work and I’m going to lose my job. If I lose my job, I’m not going to be able to pay for my rent, and I’m going to lose my housing.”
Heying decided to fight the issue herself.
In 2008, she went to Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, earning an associate degree in auto technology two years later. (This is in addition to her master’s degree in pastoral ministry and bachelor’s degree in social work).
In April, Heying opened The Lift Garage, a non-profit organization that provides low cost car repair for low-income Minnesotans. In the future, the organization hopes to provide a job-training program for the poor, homeless and those just released from prison.
Jennifer Rodgers, of Brooklyn Park, was one of the first clients whose 2006 Chevy Impala was repaired at The Lift Garage.
“My car was shaking a lot and my brakes were going out,” she said. “I felt unsafe driving it. My income was really limited. If I took it anywhere else to get it fixed, it would have been $700.”
And she couldn’t afford to pay that much money.
Rodgers, a mother of four, has been unemployed since January, when her 9-year-old son was diagnosed with brain tumor. She drives him to therapy five days a week. She was in need of a safe car.
Hearts & Hands, a program that provides resources to families whose children face life-threatening illness, referred Rodgers to The Lift Garage, where her vehicle was repaired for about $200.
“Cathy is great,” Rodgers said. “All the people that she has over there working on the cars are great. They showed me what was wrong with the car. They were able to fix it for me. They took the time to explain the problems with my kind of vehicle. They were just great and friendly.”‘Helping people be self-sufficient’
Although on weekdays, Heying is a human rights advocate at St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis, she serves on weekends as the executive director of The Lift Garage, which is subletting space from ReGo Electric at 5925 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis. It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Lift Garage supports economically disadvantaged groups. For now, single-person households with $17,000 or less annual income and families of four with $24,000 or less a year qualify for the service. Clients must be referred by an established social worker or an organization familiar with clients’ income.
The labor service is $15 per hour.
“[The Lift Garage] is about helping people be self-sufficient and maintaining dignity in their lives,” Heying said. “The more opportunities we can create to help them have agency over their own lives; the better it is for them, the better it is for us.”
The garage is sustained through community and individual contributions. Heying said she has raised about $50,000 in individual donations and about $20,000 in small grants.
Heying and her team have repaired five cars since The Lift Garage was opened in early April.
Andrea Gross, volunteer receptionist at The Lift Garage, said helping the cause is both educational and a community service for her.
“It exposes me to something I don’t know about,” Gross said. “I don’t know anything about car mechanics and how it works. It’s educational for me, but ultimately, what is satisfying about it is that I’m helping keep people safe.”
Gross added: “I feel like my ability to answer calls from people and acting as a receptionist helps support [The Lift Garage] mission and the overall idea of solving the problem of homelessness.”
The garage offers services in tire and battery maintenance and full repair services in suspension and steering, according to The Lift Garage website. The garage doesn’t repair air conditioning or cruise control, nor does it rebuild or overhaul engines.
When Cathy Heying served on the pastoral staff at St.MORE »
I hate throwing away food, but sometimes ... I bought the lettuce and strawberries with the best intentions in the world, but we didn't get a salad made and they migrated to the bottom of the produce drawer and now — YUCK!
So I pick through the rest of the produce drawer contents, wash what's salvageable, and disinfect the drawer. My slimy lettuce and moldy strawberries become part of what Eureka Recycling says is an average of $96 worth of food per household that hits the garbage bin or compost pile every month.
This Saturday, May 18, at Minnesota Goes Green, Eureka will present a report on the financial, environmental and social impact of composting.
Minnesota Goes Green, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., The Saint Paul Union Depot
In a phone call today, Eureka spokesperson Dianna Kennedy told me the report is about more than composting — they want to focus on prevention first, helping people like me get better at actually eating the food we buy, rather than letting it end up in the compost pile. Eureka has just launched a website (Make Dirt, Not Waste) with tools and tips to help.
According to a press statement:
Last year, Eureka Recycling provided the City of Saint Paul with a proposal for a comprehensive composting program—including education for prevention and returning compost to improve Saint Paul soils. The City wanted to conduct a public process to hear directly from residents before making decisions for the 2014 budget. .
That public process includes a not-yet-released report by Wilder Research and online feedback in the Open St. Paul Forum. (The time period for comments on the forum is now over.) According to Kennedy, in the Open St. Paul Forum, "60% of the folks chose composting as their first or second highest ranking from the choices provided. Of all the people who left comments, 3/4 of them are supportive of composting."
You can go to Minnesota Goes Green for free - click on the website to download a free Metro Transit pass. If you go in the morning, take along a bag and buy some FRESH lettuce at the St. Paul Farmers Market. Stop in at Black Dog Cafe and Wine Bar on your way home, and enjoy good coffee (or a glass of wine) and the satisfaction of doing your part to go green.
I hate throwing away food, but sometimes ...MORE »
Lots of food fun this weekend. Weather permitting, I'm going to jump on my bike on Saturday and do a gastronomic circuit, starting with the Mill City Farmers' Market, where May 18 has been proclaimed Backyard Bee Keeping Day. Lots of spring produce and bedding plants for sale, plus a cooking demo by market chef Heather Hartman, using honey from Beez Kneez, a local non-profit that delivers fresh local honey by bike. Beez Kneez will also be on hand at the Community Booth, providing information about the vital role that bees play in our food system. Music by the Cactus Blossoms, a terrific local country-western trio.
Next stop, the Fulton Farmers' Market, 4901 Chown Ave, S., Minneapolis, which opens for the season on Saturday. (Its sister market, the Kingfield Farmers' Market, opens on Sunday at 4301 Nicollet Ave. S.) This year's ready-to-eat vendors include Big River Pizza, Chef Shack, Patisserie 46, and more.Finally, after a little siesta, I'll head over to Top Shelf, 3040 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, which is hosting Fiesta Fantastica, a fundraiser for the Blaisdell YMCA (Saturday, 6:30 to 9 p.m.). On the menu: carnitas, vegetarian nachos, and homemade coconut ice cream, plus beer, wine, and soda—and a silent auction. ("Suggested donation of $10-$50. All proceeds benefit the Blaisdell YMCA, which fosters youth development, healthy living and social responsibility for families of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds.")
Lots of food fun this weekend. Weather permitting, I'm going to jump on my bike on Saturday and do a gastronomic circuit, starting with the Mill City Farmers' Market, where May 18 has been proclaimed Backyard Bee Keeping Day. Lots of spring produce and bedding plants for sale, plus a cooking demo by market chef Heather Hartman, using honey from Beez Kneez, a local non-profit that delivers fresh local honey by bike. Beez Kneez will also be on hand at the Community Booth, providing information about the vital role that bees play in our food system. Music by the Cactus Blossoms, a terrific local country-western trio.MORE » ©2013 Jeremy Iggers
Fartun Abdi is passionate about preserving her generation's oral histories. Abdi is a member of and researcher with the Sheeko Project, which started in 2011 to document and digitize oral stories of Somali diaspora youth. The project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center (IHRC), campus faculty, staff, and students.
“What does it mean to be Somali? Somali American? Somali diasporan? That’s what this project tried to accomplish,” she said.
“Sheeko” means story in Somali. Abdi’s role in Sheeko came out of her own research on young Somali identities. Later, with guidance and support from the IHRC, Abdi worked with a group of student researchers to record oral histories of Somali Americans and British Somalis between the ages of 18 and 25, in the Twin Cities, Minnesota and London, England.
Some of the themes of Sheeko’s oral stories include education, religious identity, understanding one’s homeland, and gender issues particularly in relation to women in Islam. Abdi presented some of the findings at IHRC’s Somali American Research Series in late April.
“Trust me, five years from now, ten years from now these experiences are not going to be similar to youth in the near future. They’re going to experience completely different struggles,” Abdi said.
She encourages everyone to document their community’s stories: “If you don’t have anything like that for your community, make sure you do it.”
Fartun Abdi is passionate about preserving her generation's oral histories.MORE » ©2013 Lolla Mohammed Nur
The University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Center will receive $8.7 million to develop new techniques for fighting the spread of AIS after a new law was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton May 9.
That appropriation is the largest recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. The 17-member commission recommended funding 46 projects during the upcoming biennium totaling more than $38 million. The new law, which is effective July 1, 2013, allows that funding to begin.
The money comes from the Natural Resources Trust Fund administered by LCCMR. The fund was created by constitutional amendment in 1988 using money generated by the Minnesota State Lottery.
Other appropriations in the law include:
- $3 million to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to continue providing grants to soil and water conservation districts and other units of local and state government. The funds are to hire staff to reenroll expiring lands and programs for conservation purposes;
- $1 million for the Department of Natural Resources to acquire authorized state trails and critical parcels within the boundaries of state parks; and
- $1 million for the DNR to continue the update and enhancement of wetland inventory maps for Minnesota.
The University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Center will receive $8.7 million to develop new techniques for fighting the spread of AIS after a new law was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton May 9.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily
A large tax cut for businesses, particularly small ones, is one of the many highlights supporters point to in the first omnibus budget bill to receive approval from the House.
Containing provisions relating to jobs and economic development, commerce, housing and energy, HF729 was passed 73-59 by the House late Wednesday. If approved by the Senate, it would head to the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton.
The bill calls for $461.8 million in spending, of which $366.85 million would come from the General Fund.
Mahoney and Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) said the $346 million tax cut to businesses cannot be understated. The funds would come from a reduction in the rate that employers pay on their unemployment assessment.
“It may well be the most significant business tax cut in the state’s history,” Atkins said.
“Every employer in the state will get a tax cut because of this bill,” Mahoney added.
Under the program, jointly operated by the federal and state government, business owners pay a base rate for their employees. Funds are used for the payment of unemployment benefits. However, special assessments were also needed during the recession to help pay the federal government which had loaned Minnesota money when its trust fund ran dry. Despite the fund being solvent, employers are still paying assessments.
If the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has $800 million in it by this September, there will be rate reductions, including another one year later. Supporters said that means that every employee is worth at least $150 and up to $450 as a tax break to that employer, and they hope that business owners use that money to advance their business by buying new equipment or train their employees to improve their skills and make more money.
Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) said Mahoney and other supporters should temper their excitement because the cut would have happened anyway, but this bill just accelerates it by one year.
“To stand on this House floor and make it sound like this Legislature is doing good thing for businesses is extremely inaccurate,” he said.
Mahoney said the bill would provide $66 million in new money for job creation.
Among the financial aspects of the economic development portion of the bill is $30 million in new money for the Minnesota Investment Fund — $10 million more than the original House bill — that awards funds to local units of government which provide loans to assist expanding businesses. Mahoney noted that in the past eight years, the Department of Employment and Economic Development estimates it has funded 53 projects through the program that has led to more than $587 million in private investment.
Further, the bill includes $24 million in new money — $5.5 million more than the original House bill — for a job creation fund that will enable DEED to use the funds to help businesses make capital investments and create jobs in the state.
The lone overseas Minnesota trade office is now in China. The bill provides an additional $1.63 million for three more offices in yet-to-be-determined locales to help Minnesota businesses sell their goods in foreign markets.
In the area of workforce development, the bill, in part, provides $3 million for the FastTRAC program, which helps those with barriers to finding a job, such as a language barrier or not having a GED, secure employment.
“Workforce development is job training,” said Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont). “I think it’s very necessary to have the best prepared workforce that we can.”
The bill would also allocate $987,000 in fiscal year 2014, on a onetime basis, for a pilot customized training program for manufacturing industries. DEED would work with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to base the manufacturing apprenticeship program at four campuses with a goal of creating skilled workers for current and projected manufacturing openings.
To encourage state licensure of foreign-trained health care professionals, the bill would allocate $450,000 for DEED to “collaborate with health-related licensing boards and Minnesota workforce centers to award grants to foreign-trained health care professionals sufficient to cover the actual costs of taking a course to prepare health care professionals for required licensing examinations and the fee for the state licensing examinations.” This would affect about 250 people.
Several different programs designed to assist disabled Minnesotans participate in the workforce are funded at levels identical to current funding and to the governor’s proposed budget: Vocational Rehabilitation Services; Extended Employment; Centers for Independent Living; State Services for the Blind; and Supported Employment.
In hopes of attracting more television and film production to the state, the bill would provide $10 million in funding to the Minnesota Film and TV Board to offer financial incentives, such as production cost rebates. The board’s oversight would be moved from the Administration Department to DEED.
There are no new fees in the bill, but it does raise some current ones for accountants, barbers and cosmetologists. There is also some restructuring of fees in the elevator and plumbing areas.
The centerpiece of the energy language merged into the bill is the state’s first proposed solar energy production standard that would create a target of 1.5 percent of the state’s total electrical generation through photovoltaic solar installations by 2020.
That figure is lower than the 4 percent by 2025 standard proposed in the House omnibus energy policy bill that passed last week. (The Senate had proposed a 1 percent target by 2020.)
Only the state’s investor-owned utilities, namely Xcel Energy, would be subject to the solar standard. Smaller utilities like municipal power agencies and cooperative electrical producers would be exempt from the requirement. A House provision that would excuse iron ore mining and paper and taconite processing plants from the standard is also included in the compromise language.
Supporters of the standard, like Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), who sponsored the omnibus energy bill in the House, have said it will help jump-start the state’s solar industry, boost the small number of solar installation manufacturers in the state and create jobs. Critics have said it will lead to higher energy costs and push the state toward a more unreliable form of energy.
Other energy provisions included in the bill include:
- incentives to residential and commercial customers who install solar panels on their homes and businesses;
- an incentive for “Made in Minnesota” photovoltaic energy systems; and
- adopted Senate language that would direct utilities to submit plans for community solar programs that allow multiple individuals or businesses to purchase and utilize a single solar installation.
Atkins, chair of the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee, said the bill largely follows the governor’s recommendations in areas overseen by his committee. Many of the agencies it oversees are fee-based.
“We kept everything in the House and got more than what we went in with,” he said.
The bill spends $700,000 for the Office of Broadband Development within the Commerce Department to improve broadband service within the state in order to drive job creation, serve the ongoing needs of the state’s education system and improve accessibility for underserved communities and populations.
The bill also includes an additional $11 million for Explore Minnesota Tourism to encourage economic activity throughout the state.
“We’ve better protected consumers and also increased business responsiveness within the Commerce Department,” Atkins said.
The bill contains a $22 million ongoing base funding increase for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
“This is the first significant increase that we’ve had in over a decade,” said Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls), chair of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee. “It will really help us address our homeless issues statewide.”
Gunther noted the bill includes a onetime $10 million appropriation for housing in communities and regions that, in part, have low housing vacancy rates, have cooperatively developed a plan that identifies current and future housing needs or have a significant portion of area employees who commute more than 30 miles to their job. This, he said, is especially important in parts of Greater Minnesota.
A large tax cut for businesses, particularly small ones, is one of the many highlights supporters point to in the first omnibus budget bill to receive approval from the House.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily
In a 126-5 vote on Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would tweak laws related to campaign finance.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights), noted two items of interest in what she described as a technical bill.
Among other changes, HF664 would revise the list of groups and people from which candidates for the Legislature or constitutional office may not accept contributions during the legislative session. Dissolving principal campaign committees would be removed from the list; associations not registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board would be added.
The bill would also eliminate a requirement that candidates who accept certain state elections campaign funds must spend at least half of that money by the end of the final reporting period before the general election.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) is the sponsor.
In a 126-5 vote on Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would tweak laws related to campaign finance.MORE » © 2013 Session Daily