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TruthToTell Monday, March 12@9AM: ALL ABOUT LOCAL: It Ain’t Just the Warm & Fuzzies - KFAI FM 90.3/106.7/KFAI.org
Painting by Tom Slack "Main Street"
Those of who have lived around or near commercial areas in the core cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis for any length of time have noticed the incursion of chains into many of the spaces once occupied by businesses owned by your neighbor down the street or your fellow church or synagogue or mosque member, or by your brothers and sisters of the local lodges.
Those were the days we knew all of our business owners by their first names and they knew ours, no matter the frequency of our patronage. They just knew us – maybe because they’d known our parents and grandparents, or maybe we were their regulars. Boy, as a 12-year-old kid, I tried slipping a quick hand onto a shelf for a candy bar or a pair of nose plugs in our local drug store and the next thing I knew, the shop owner had me by the ear and never called the cops – he or she called my parents. That was no CVS, I’ll tell you. It was the Grandendale Drug and those guys were the best. (An art gallery now sits in that space.)
These people were like family. They weren’t in the business of faceless merchandising, they were in the business to serve and service their neighboring customers. No more in too many cases. Some of the in-town, neighborhood shopping strips like Hennepin Avenue, or Grand Ave. or Payne Avenue have evolved into a series of suburban mall-like stores with owners somewhere in California or New York and few of those relationships with owners and their pride and their workmanship and their locally based products and service operations have been able to survive under the weight of discounting or affordable merchandise and neighborly service.
Not all of them, mind you, but enough to know that the value of locally-owned and managed businesses, locally made goods or repair shops – and especially the healthier and more sustainable growers with their local fresh foods.
Buying local has become something of a mantra for a growing number of businesses. I don’t know whether that’s happening much in the suburbs, but a there seems to be a resurgence of home-grown businesses around here – and all across a country tired of faceless chains.
Keeping the local tradition alive and expanding it has been the business of the Metropolitan Independent Business Association or MetroIBA – emphasis on “Independent” – for a number of years now, and it, too, has its ups and downs. After all, I know how trying to herd a bunch of entrepreneurs into a single-minded organization can be tough duty. Most couldn’t be bothered because most were trying to survive as the independent types they usually are. But Metro IBA has clearly thrived – under some committed leadership and now, energetic management.
Just this past Wednesday, Stacy Mitchell of the Institute of Local Self Reliance New Rules Project, Author, Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses and Chair of theAmerican Independent Business Alliance released her study called “Wal-Mart’s Greenwash” and put another nail in the coffin of chains and discounters for their attempts at heavily promoting sustainability initiatives that are falling substantially short. Said Mitchell: "Wal-Mart's sustainability campaign has done more to improve the company's image than to help the environment."
This is the antithesis of what would happen if most people would buy local – even when it might cost a few extra shekels.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI spend an hour with a few of the always interesting characters that comprise the MetroIBA and the concept of localism.
MARY HAMEL – Executive Director, MetroIBA
JEFF WARNER – President, Warners’ Stellian Appliance Stores in Minneapolis, St. Paul, MetroIBA President
JOHN HOESCHEN – Owner/Pharmacist, St. Paul Corner Drug, St. Paul
TruthToTell March 5: REDRAWING MINNEAPOLIS WARDS: Arranging the Power Bases - AUDIO Podcast HERE
Now that a state panel of judges has issued new district boundaries for our state and federal legislative offices after the decennial census has revealed the usual ten-year shifting of populations, it’s time for local governments to complete their redistricting of city council wards, school districts and county commissioner districts. In the case of Minneapolis, districts for the city’s separate Park Board must also be redrawn. The Minneapolis Charter requires it redistricting to occur in the first year ending in “2” following the Census. (Because its charter requires redistricting to occur in years ending in “1”, St. Paul’s Charter Commission completed its nominal redraw last year. Few changes in ward boundaries there.)
The Minneapolis redistricting process is a truly complex one from almost any perspective. Because that city is governed by a so-called Strong Council-Weak Mayor governance system (a subject for another day’s discussion), its 13 wards are powerful entities overseeing the political landscape which includes one of this nation’s most diverse populations, albeit mostly clustered in specific sets of neighborhoods. When combined with several other state and federal requirements such as ensuring that communities of interest and commonality be preserved, meeting the numbers requirement – i.e., 29,429 residents in each ward and 63,763 in each of the six park districts – makes redrawing the ward boundaries a dicey business.
(Readers and listeners and citizens can access ALL maps and detailed explanations about this critical process with which all will have to live for another ten years HERE.)(Watch our guests, Chair Barry Clegg and Adosh Unni explain process HERE.)
Needless to say (but we will), most of the communities of interest are ethnic in composition – and with a 10-year surge in East Africans (mostly Somali), Latinos, and Southeast Asians joining with African Americans and Native Americans to form such commonalities, keeping such communities together is a serious chore for the 25 members of the Redistricting Commission – a combination of the existing Charter Commission plus additional members appointed for this task.
Well-organized testimony from Latinos and East Africans, especially, has pushed the commission into considering some fairly major changes to the commission’s original draft ward maps. White folks on the fringes of the city have not shown up in great numbers and the wards thereof reflect both that and the minimal movement of their populations.
The point of all this is, of course, to increase representation of those groups both on the City Council and in public policy clout, the usual theory of strength in numbers operating here.
Two hearings were held in cramped quarters last Wednesday (North Side) and Thursday (South Side) where testimony from Somalis and Latinos came in goodly numbers, each schooled in what to say about the Commission’s draft map and offering alternatives to maintain common interest cohesion in their respective wards. The following day at a regular Commission meeting, new maps submitted by the chair and others tried to reconcile split neighborhoods and communities, especially on the South Side and up in the Harrison and North Loop communities.
Theories abound as to the advantage of so-called “packing” of like peoples in a single ward which, although likely more able to elect one from among their number but the possible limitation in representation to a single councilmember versus “cracking” – the deliberate splitting of like peoples into fragments where their political clout might be so diluted as to render them powerless, both in electing one of their own and in pushing the City Council (or Park Board) into policies favoring their interests. We’ll talk about those pressures. Clearly, most ethnic groups wish to stay together, and hang the competing theories.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI try to both make sense of this complex process with a few representative members of the Redistricting Commission and citizen activists advancing their maps and suggestions for population distribution.
BARRY CLEGG – Attorney and Chair, Minneapolis Charter and Redistricting Commissions
TERRA COLE – Redistricting Commission Member and Candidate for State House of Representatives in a North Side Minneapolis district.
LYALL SCHWARZKOPF – Longtime Minneapolis Official – Charter/Redistricting Commissioner, Former Minneapolis City Coordinator; former State Representative; retired Chief of Staff to the Governor
MARIANO ESPINOZA – Former Executive Director, Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, Representing the Latino Community map activists
MIKE DEAN – Executive Director of Common Cause-Minnesota will call in to talk about process and how citizens can dive into this morass of maps and manipulation of populations.
Submitted Maps (click on link)(Latest Commission plan to come):
Original Minneapolis Council Plan
"United Communities" March 3 Plan