Optimism over Future of Solar Energy
Expressed at February Forum
Our speakers for the February forum were very supportive of each others' efforts to help in the growth of the solar industry and had a great deal of optimism for its growth both in the coming years and for decades after that.
Jamez Staples, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Partners, described the new training center planned for north Minneapolis which will aim at preparing high school students and young adults in north Minneapolis and the suburbs along the Blue Line Light Rail Extension for jobs and long term careers in the growing solar energy industry. Jan Hubbard, President of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Association, described the growing use of solar energy on residential and commercial rooftops and explained the benefits of the Solar Energy Schools Bill.
Bob Blake, Outreach Coordinator of Interfaith Power and Light explained what community solar gardens were and encouraged people who are customers of Xcel Energy to participate in the community solar garden projects in the following counties: Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Dakota, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Le Sueur, Mower, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Steele, Waseca, Wright. Sign up to get an estimate from MN Interfaith Power and Light of how much subscribing would reduce your electric bill.
"Why Minnesota's Community Solar Program is the Best"
John Farrell's latest update of his article comparing Minnesota's community solar program to those in other states provides insight into the the solar industry's expectation that the industry can expect rapid growth.
He emphasizes that MN's community solar program is the best in the country "because there 10 times more community solar projects in the queue—400 megawatts—in Minnesota than have been built in the history of community solar in the United States (40 megawatts)." John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self Reliance. Find out more about Minnesota's community solar program by reading this article and others here.
Aging in Place with Gene Nicolelli
A Video Recorded by John Risken
Gene Nicolelli is an architect who is certified by the National Association of Home Builders as an Aging in Place Specialist. You can listen to a recording of the seminar Gene presented at the Think Again Brooklyns forum on November 27, 2018. When homes, apartments, and condos are built to accomdate people who require wheelchairs either temporarily or permanently, they will often be able to delay the need to live in an assisted living center or a nursing home. This makes it possible for people to continue living with family members or near friends. It also makes their living expenses more affordable as living in a home, apartment, or condo costs far less than a nursing home or assisted living facility with care, both of which can run over $9,000 a month. The high cost of care in either of these institutions is higher than most people can afford so most of the cost is often paid by Medicaid which is likely to result in increased state and county taxes.
The American Association of Retired Persons reports that only one percent of apartments and homes are fully accessible. For that reason Think Again MN is encouraging municipalities to require new construction to include accessibility standards. The cost of meeting these standards is very modest for newly constructed dwellings, but can be very high for homes that need remodeling or impossible for many of the split entry homes and three story walk up or down apartments in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park.
Vulnerable Elders Face Scare, not Care
Video by Bill Sorem, Video Producer at the Uptake
The December, 2018, Minneapolis League of Women Voters Civic Buzz presented a discussion entitled, “Vulnerable Elders Face Scare not Care.” A packed house listened and questioned. Presenters were Kris Sandberg, President of the Elder Voice Family Advocates and Sean Burke, Public Policy Director of the Minnesota Elder Justice Center. A packed house listened and questioned.
Elder housing is a continuum of care options ranging from independent living housing (rental, condominium or cooperative), assisted living facilities to nursing homes. Nursing homes are licensed by the federal government. On the other hand, Minnesota is the only state that does not license assisted living facilities according to Elder Voice Family Advocates.
Assisted living abuse issues were highlighted in a 2017 series by Chris Serres in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. One of the conclusions of this report was, “Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans are beaten, sexually assaulted or robbed in senior care homes. Their cases are seldom investigated, leaving families in the dark.”
Burke said assisted living facilities involve two components. One is the physical facility, the other the specific care providers. In some cases they are one unit, in others they are separate facility management and staffing groups. Thus responsibility and/or liability are not always clearly defined. Burke also pointed out that since Minnesota does not license assisted living facilities, there are no clear staffing requirements for training or experience.
The Scope of this Immigration Portal
This immigration portal presents the origins of current American immigration policy and the harm done to immigrants and their families, as well as to cities, states, and the national economy by the current U.S. immigration policy. It uses as examples estimates of the cost of the nation's current deportation policy on the state of Minnesota and for one suburb, Brooklyn Park. The immigration portal emphasizes the importance of human rights as the foundation for immigration policy.
In the process of researching the causes and costs of the current U.S immigration policy, it became apparent that several other policy issues are very important. These include the importance of early childhood education for children under stress; the impact of industrialized agriculture, not only on destroying the financial viability of community farming in Mexico and parts of Africa and family farms in the U.S., but also on greatly increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of rivers, streams, and lakes in the U.S. and in many other countries across the planet. This points to the need for human rights to be a central consideration in all public policy issues including climate and environmental policy, trade policy, health, education, labor, and prison policies. The United States has fallen behind in support of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights Conventions.
Begin your exploration of the immigration portal with the overview of topics covered including links to the topics.
Bill Blazar, MN Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development, presented an excellent discussion on “Immigrants' Contribution to MN's Business Success” at the April 2018 Think Again Brooklyns forum. Senior residents of Maple Grove who heard about the forum suggested that Think Again MN collaborate with the Maple Grove Senior Center to have Bill present the program again at the Maple Grove Community Center.
Kris Orluck, the Senior Program Coordinator for Maple Grove worked with Think Again MN to arrange the forum for September 26, 2018. Think Again MN’s videographer John Risken filmed the presentation so more people could gain the knowledge Bill Blazar shared of the big contribution immigrants are making to MN’s economy and the necessity of reforming U.S. immigration policy. Watch Bill Blazar's excellent presentation accompanied by informative slides on vimeo.
Creating Paths to Citizenship Can
Reduce the Growing National Deficit
As of September 30, 2017, the U.S. budget deficit was $665.7 billion or about 3.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a result of the tax bill, the budget deficit was expected to rise to $1 trillion in 2019, which is equivalent of about 4.8% of GDP. The U.S. budget that was just passed would increase next year’s deficits to about $1.2 trillion.
How might this big increase in the U.S. budget deficit be reduced? Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Congressional Budget Office Director under President H. W. Bush and currently President of the conservative American Action Forum, concluded in 2013 that increasing the number of immigrants would reduce the federal deficit by about $300 billion per year or by $2.7 trillion over 10 years.
A 2016 Center for American Progress study found that deporting 7 million unauthorized immigrants nationally, about five percent of the U.S. workforce, would amount to a loss of $4.7 trillion in gross domestic product and a loss of $900 billion in federal government revenues. This study concluded that GDP would immediately drop 1.6% and would drop by 2.6% over 10 years. The federal deficit would increase close to a trillion dollars by 2026.
Larry Krasner’s Campaign to End Mass Incarceration
By Jennifer Gonnerman, the New Yorker
October 29, 2018 Issue of the Annals of Justice