Written by John Farrell
Stone Arch Discussion Group
Saturday, Apr. 12
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Gardens of Salonica 19 5th St NE, Minneapolis, MN
At this month's Stone Arch Discussion, Amy Lange, healthcare fellow from Growth & Justice, will reflect on the launch of Minnesota's health exchange, MNSure, how it could have gone better, and what might be done to improve it.
As usual, invite anyone interested--free and open to the public. Come, buy your coffee (the law is you can't bring food or drinks into a restaurant), learn a lot and have your questions ready.
Alternatives to Suspension
Policies Enabling Employment
Tuesday, April 15
6 p.m. Pizza and Social Time 6:30 p.m. Program
Brooklyn Park City Hall, 5200 85th Avenue N
Please RSVP and Share this invitation on Facebook if you can:
or RSVP to Carol Woehrer,
Will Be Recorded by
The war on drugs began over 30 years ago and has resulted in a quadrupling of incarceration in the United States. The explosion in the U.S. prison population due to federal and state laws requiring mandatory minimum sentences for even non-violent offenders, traditionally a concern of liberal legislators, has recently become a big concern of conservative legislators as well because of its huge expense.
Minnesota's experience, however, shows that simply reducing prison sentences will not solve the problem of nonviolent offenses which are labeled a felony. While Minnesota is second lowest in the number of people in prison at less than half the incarceration rate of the nation as a whole, Minnesota is 4th highest in the number of residents on probation or parole. Non violent felony convictions can make it almost impossible to get a job, housing, education grants, and food even if one has not served a sentence in prison. This not only makes it very difficult for people convicted of a felony to become productive citizens, but also harms their families, especially their children. Minnesota is near the top in racial disparities in arrests and convictions, income, housing, and education. This forum will cover some of the policies and methods that can help reduce these disparities.
Kate Emmons - Assistant Director for Student Services, Osseo Area Schools and
Astein Osei - Principal on Special Assignment
Reducing Disparities in the Osseo School System, Shifting from Suspension to Other Alternatives
Dee Voss - Origin of the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws
Dee Voss gives talks on the impact of the American Legislative Exhchange Council in which she covers the impact of ALEC on many aspects of state and federal law. For our forum, she will include the part related to ALEC's promotion of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug possession proposed by the Corrections Corporation of America.
Elizabeth Knight - Attorney and Brooklyn Park City Council Member
Elizabeth Knight will discuss recent and continuing efforts to reduce the impact of racial disparities on people who have completed prison sentences or probation such as Ban the Box, Voter Restoration, Expunging Criminal Records, and corporations' hiring practices.
A question and answer session will follow the presentations.
For questions, contact Gail Hanson, 763-229-5448 or Carol Woehrer,
Saturday, April 26, 1 to 4 p.m.
Maintaining Minnesota's Water Quality
2:30 to 4 p.m. - Upstairs in the Cohen Room
Moderator - Senator Chris Eaton
Professor David Mulla
W.E. Larson Chair for Soil & Water Resources
University of Minnesota
"A Lake and River Issues Primer for Brooklyn Center"
Senator John Hoffman
Vice Chair, Environment and Energy Committee
"Recent and Upcoming Water Quality Legislation"
Commissioner Mike Opat
Chair, Hennepin County Board of Commissioners
"Water Quality Issues in Hennepin County"
Associate, Regional Environmental Studies and
Permitting Manager, Burns and McDonnell
Watch for Della Young's Topic
A Question and Answer Session will follow.
70 Exhibits, Kids Activities, Food
Learn how to take small steps
to make big changes.
If you have questions, please contact Diane Sannes, 763-560-8893 or Carol Woehrer,
Jenny Gaard, Homeless Liason for the Osseo School System, reported to the packed Think Again Brooklyns audience at Brooklyn Park City Hall March 18 that the Osseo System had over 500 homeless youth in 2012. Karrie Schaaf, her counterpart in the Anoka-Hennepin School System, reported over 700 homeless students. As many students do not report that they are homeless, these are likely to be underestimates. Rev. Rachel Morey, Pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church, emphasized that these are good kids in a difficult situation and that it is important that we reach them quickly because the average homeless young person is approached by a sex trafficker within 48 hours of being on the streets.
Mayor Jeff Lunde announced that Brooklyn Park had committed to
building or remodeling an existing building as a shelter for 10 to 12 homeless youth. It would serve about 35 homeless youth, 16 to 21 years old, a year as most youth are able to transition to another setting such as a host family or a shared apartment. Mayor Lunde said that the city would rent the building to Avenues for Homeless Youth for $1.00 a year, and the nonprofit organization would manage it. Terry Velasquez, Development Director for Avenues for Homeless Youth, estimated that the operating cost of the shelter would be about $600,000 a year, and about half of the money had been raised so far from individuals and foundations. The shelter is expected to open in the summer of 2015.
Christiaan Tarbox, Community Editor of the Brooklyn Center Sun Post wrote an excellent report on the forum, "Homeless Youth in the NW Suburbs." It includes details related by Rev. Morey on the daily struggles of homeless youth and services provided by churches, nonprofits, schools, and the city. You can read the report in your city's March 27 SunPost paper or online at:
African Immigrant Services has institutionalized a culture of community innovation and inclusion in how they understand and take action on issues directly affecting their communities. Abdullah Kiatamba, Executive Director of AIS, believes the key is access to information and then mobilizing for action.
See the storygraphic in MinnPost that outlines AIS' work and explains how they plan to use community education and engagement to change the roles of African immigrants and other underrepresented groups in the northwest suburbs of Hennepin County from observers to active leaders.
Think Again Brooklyns has worked with African Immigrant Services on the Voter Restriction Amendment and on civic engagement conversations and community forums.
Written by John Farrell
The MN Daily reports that the city of Minneapolis proclaimed Feb. 7 "Don Fraser Day" to honor the former state senator, mayor, and U.S. representative on his birthday. Don and his wife, Arvonne, were instrumental in establishing the long-running Stone Arch Discussion group and supporting many of Think Again MN's other activities.
From the article:
A former state senator representing the University of Minnesota area now has a day of his own. The City Council on Friday proclaimed Feb. 7, 2014 to be “Don Fraser Day” in honor of the former mayor and congressman’s birthday.
Council members also introduced new ordinance topics and honored the death of a community member. Fraser served as a state senator in the 1950s before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962. He became mayor of Minneapolis in 1979 and was the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history.
“I found the job of being mayor one of the most interesting jobs I’ve ever
had,” Fraser said in a short acceptance speech that was received by a
standing ovation from council members and attendees. “I appreciate this very
Read more at MNDaily.com
Read the "Don Fraser Day" Proclamation.
Written by Jeremy Wieland
Stone Arch Discussion welcomed minted Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins this January. Commissioner Higgins was elected in a special election to complete the term for former Commissioner Stenglein in District 2, which includes the Northern Half of Minneapolis, Golden Valley and Plymouth.
Issues that Commissioner Higgins jumped right into included transit issues. There are two light rail lines on the books impacting her district; the Southwest Light Rail and the Bottineau line that would run North and West. This latter line is facing much less trouble than the newsworthy Southwest Line. In fact, all of the municipalities impacted by the Bottineau line have given consent for the proposed path. Southwest Light Rail is facing more trouble as Minneapolis and St. Louis Park have no agreement on the alignment or execution. Southwest is troubled.
In addition to the Bottineau Light Rail proposal there is also a proposal for Bus Rapid Transit that would run North and South along Penn Avenue through North Minneapolis. The true value of such a line would be connecting residents of North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center to the large number of high wage jobs in the southwestern suburbs. Connecting jobs to labor is just one more benefit of developing more mass transit.
Bus Rapid Transit won't be the only benefit for Penn Avenue. Both Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis and Lowry Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis are designated Community Work Projects. They'll see considerable upgrades in the coming future through economic development and improved planning.
Of course one can't talk about county level government without talking about Human Services. Hennepin County will be regionalizing its Human Services locations. Presently anyone who needs to rely on public assistance needs to travel to a single location in downtown Minneapolis. This will change in 2014. Regional offices will be opening across the county to improve access for people requiring public assistance. The offices in Minneapolis will remain to serve the city, but suburban locations will improve the number of access points for residents, eliminating the requirement to travel downtown.
In an effort to help residents of the county presently on welfare, Hennepin County had launched the WIN program. The Workforce Incentive Network program is presently small. The goal is to train recipients in higher wage skills and then provide placement services. To ensure that the county is successful in this program, a control group has also been established. This may seem unkind, but it's a considerable investment to provide training and placement. Comparing outcomes for the trained group to the untrained group is the only way to quantify the program's results.
Hennepin county is also becoming involved in education. Though the county doesn't provide any direct funding or supervision, it can be helpful. Hennepin is looking to establish stable housing for children in poverty and at risk of falling into the criminal justice system. Anyone attending our various Achievement Gap Committee meetings understands that unstable housing negatively impacts educational outcomes. Stability is helpful.
So check out your County Commissioners.
Photo by Linda Freemon
Packed House at the Roasted Pear, 2/26/14
Sponsored by ACER, Think Again MN, City of Brooklyn Park
MN's electoral process gives all citizens a chance to participate in choosing a party's
candidates and public policies. Above: Writing, discussing, and voting on a public policy.
Forum Attendee Joy Marsh Stephens posted in MN's Electoral Process: Minority Influence in 2014
9:20pm Jan 16
"If you missed it then you REALLY missed something special. Hats off to all the organizations who sponsored this really valuable educational opportunity. Thanks as well to the many speakers who took time to share their knowledge and empower a whole new base of constituents. I'm glad I was there along with so many of my neighbors."
Points Shared by the Speakers
Benjamin Kruse opened the forum with an explanation of caucuses as the starting place for MN's Electoral Process. At the caucuses, precinct chairs and vice chairs are elected, delegates to the Senate District Convention selected, and Resolutions proposed for the Party Platforms. At the Senate District Convention, candidates for state legislative offices, this year MN Representatives, are endorsed and delegates and alternates elected for the Congressional District and State Conventions. If you don't want to run to be delegate yourself, you can cast your vote for someone who plans to vote for the same candidates you prefer.
Senator Patricia Torres Ray told the diverse audience that a Caucus was an easy way to become involved in a political party. It is a way for people to have a big influence because the number of participants tends to be small. The people who participate become like an extended family. Senator Torres Ray noted that most of the legislation she proposes has been suggested by her constituents, adding that it is the public that leads on legislation. Legislators usually support legislation when the public rallies behind it.
Sarah Walker, President of the Coalition for Impartial Justice, spoke on the large number of black men, one in five, who are disenfranchised in Minnesota. Due to laws promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, many more people were convicted of felonies in states throughout the nation in the last 30 years. Most of these convictions are for drug use and do not involve violence. While drug use is similar in black and white communities, stop and search policies in black neighborhoods have resulted in a far higher rate of arrest for black men. Drug arrest policies carried out since the 1980's have resulted in the U.S. having the highest rate of incarceration of any nation in the world.
MN is one of the states lowest in incarceration, but one of the highest in probation and parole. Currently people on probation and parole are not allowed to vote. Ms. Walker stated that the Second Chance Coalition is advocating restoring the right to vote to people convicted of a felony once they complete their prison sentence. Restoring the right to vote encourages people to take on the responsibilities of citizenship and helps them to become reintegrated into the community.
Devin Montero, Brooklyn Park City Clerk, spoke on the important role of election judges, and the extra help that bilingual judges contribute to elections. He also brought one of the new voting machines and showed how the machine works.