Monthly Archives: June 2011

Remembering John Adams, Attorney and President, on July 4th

Note:  The following piece was written to honor John Adams on Law Day, May 1.  Somehow it never got posted.  Knowing that John Adams – and Thomas Jefferson – died on July 4, 1826, it seems appropriate to rescue the piece from the “to be deleted” file and resurrect Adams’ memory in anticipation of the 4th which today is much more about picnics and fireworks than about remembering the deeds of our forefathers
and mothers.

Resistance leader and patriot, advocate and diplomat, constitutional theorist and political activist, John Adams became our nation’s first lawyer-president in 1797. Just five years before the American Revolutionary War began, he represented the British officer and soldiers charged with firing into a crowd of protestors and killing five civilians in the “Boston Massacre.”

Already a prominent leader in the American colonial resistance to British parliamentary authority, Adams agreed to take on the cases and ably defended the accused at trial. His role in the 1770 Boston Massacre trials has come to be seen as a lawyerly exemplar of adherence to the rule of law and defense of the rights of the accused, even in cases when advocates may represent unpopular clients and become involved in matters that generate public controversy.

Although each is unique in circumstance and significance, there have been other such noteworthy cases in American history. These cases range from Adams and the Boston Massacre trial to the 1846 “insanity” defense of William Freeman by William Seward, later Lincoln’s Secretary of State, to Sigmund Ziesler’s and William Perkins Black’s 1886 representation of the Haymarket 8 accused of killing a Chicago police officer (marking its 125th anniversary in 2011) to Samuel Leibowitz’s 1930s defense of nine black Alabama teenagers, the Scottsboro Boys, accused of rape to the representation by Michael Tigar and Brian Hermanson of Terry Nichols in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case to contemporary efforts by lawyers to represent Guantanamo detainees in the global war on terrorism. It is important to recognize that the passage of time can bring historical and legal perspective to passions of the day.

The 2011 Law Day theme provides us with an opportunity to assess and celebrate the legacy of John Adams, explore the historical and contemporary role of lawyers in defending the rights of the accused, and renew our understanding of and appreciation for the fundamental principle of the rule of law.

Totino’s Italian Kitchen Closes – End of a Tradition

Ignoring the torrid temps my family and I set out last weekend for Totino’s, one of our favorite eateries.  En route to Moundsview we lamented the loss of our neighborhood restaurant now ensconced in the sterile suburbs.  We reminisced about the “old” Totinos, that rambling, cozy and unpretentious pillar of Northeast culture and cuisine.  Our memories and our appetites crashed when we arrived at the “new” Totinos, the smaller, fancier, modernized and not-quite-so-inviting strip site on Highway 10.

The historic bastion of good eating greeted us with a terse “we’re closing” notice on the very modern entry that bore no resemblance to the creaky wood door that led to the checkered table cloths, cramped booths and the irresistible aromas of the original Totino’s  of Northeast.  Facing the reality of an era at its end we moped through what was, in fact, a delicious last Totino’s meal with nostalgia and fond memories.

The sad tale of loss led me to dig into files I’d long ago collected so I could better understand and appreciate the Totino’s legacy.  It’s a grand story of a family, a powerful woman, an Italian heritage tapped for the public good, persistence, wealth, ethics, hospitality and, most of all, great food.   Memories and stories, whether apocryphal and true, abound – and they are all set in the Italian families and neighborhoods of Northeast Minneapolis were the Totinos lived and worked for so many decades.  The fragrant aroma of garlic, tomatoes sausage and fresh bread somehow enhance all of the stories.

There’s the story told by Mundale and Pine (1)  of the young Rose Cruciani who faced down Mayor George Leach and saved her father’s job with the city when he got laid off because he was not a “full fledged” (read documented) citizen.

Another oft-told tales is of Rose toiling at housework for $2.50 a week, of Rose and her husband Jim experimenting with pizza recipes till, using their old car as collateral, they floated a loan to open Totino’s Italian Kitchen at Central and East Hennepin.

There are stories of Rose and Jim Totino expanding from the restaurant business to frozen foods that ultimately triumphed over competitors because of their superior flavor – and their marketing – not so much business – acumen.  One of Rose’s favorite stories on herself concerns a call from a banker asking about the company’s cash flow.  As the story goes, Rose retorted “I can assure you, sir, I don’t see any cash flowing around here.”

One great tale involves Jim Totino’s introduction of technology to the mass production process.  In a tribute to her mother’s induction into the Minnesota Inventor’s Hall of Fame, daughter Bonnie Totino Brenny recalls that “my dad, who was formally educated through the 8th grade, put his inventive mind to work.  One day he came to work with an old phonograph turntable.  In the place of an arm was a plastic tube attached to a bucket of sauce.  Somehow he attached a foot pedal allowing the turntable to stop and go.  As the turntable evolved, sauce automatically topped the crust.  His invention was successful!”

The nostalgic tales of the entrepreneurial couple reflect a meteoric growth period in the 1960’s as Twin Cities “discovered” thin crust pizza – and wanted it close at hand in the new freezer.  Totino’s frozen pizza (“Nobody tops a pizza like Totino’s”) hit the charts.  Jim and Rose shrewdly patented their Crisp Crust frozen pizza.   When Pillsbury popped $22 million to acquire the frozen pizza line of Totino’s in 1975 Jim continued to run the Hennepin Avenue restaurant and Rose joined the corporate world – with gusto – as the company’s first female vice president.

Times change.  Jim and Rose became noted philanthropists, funding Totino-Grace High School in Fridley and the Totino Fine Arts Center at Northwestern College in Roseville.  Jim and Rose lived in Northeast Minneapolis until Jim died in 1981.  In time Rose migrated to Fridley where she died in 1994.

Jim and Rose’s grandson Steve Elwell took over management of the aging but inviting Hennepin Avenue restaurant which closed in 2007 and settled in Moundsview in 2008.  The “new” Totino’s created a suburban atmosphere and served a crowd that may have descended from but bore scant resemblance to Totino’s traditional Northeast diners.

The doors at the Moundsview site are closed, though the garlic smell will probably remain for decades.  The “old” Hennepin Avenue site still stands – empty, waiting for new tenants with fresh ideas, energy and the work ethic that created the Totino’s legend that will live in Northeast and in the memories of generations of good people who love good food and who may well have had their first taste of pizza at Totino’s.

Thanks to the Totino family for sixty good years of serving this community with gustatory delicacies and grace – and for sharing your family’s values in venues that range from the neighborhood eatery to the plush environs of the corporate boardroom.  Tante grazie!

(1) Pine, Carol and Mundale, Susan.  Self-made: The stories of 12 Minnesota entrepreneurs.  Dorn Books, 1982.



Library Celebrates Centennial of the Minneapolis Civic Celebration 1911

On Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Minneapolis Central Library will present a public program commemorating the Centennial of the Minneapolis Civic Celebration held in July 1911.  The 21st century commemoration is 6:30-7:30 pm. in the Doty Board Room, 2nd floor of the Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall.

Local “history enthusiast” Peter Sussman will lead the discussion which will include photographs and newspaper accounts the 1911 Minneapolis Civic Celebration.

The event commemorates the 1911 week of festivities in which residents of the growing city celebrated their civic growth and prosperity, their past and their hopes for the future.  The celebration, which included a ceremonial linking of Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, was replete with July 4th fireworks, parades, pageants and a week overflowing with energy and gusto.

One lasting memento of the 2922 celebration is a commemorative coin that can be viewed online.

Inbox Influence – New Tool for Tracking Influence

Sunlight Foundation has just introduced a new tool, Inbox Influence, that allows the viewer to learn at the teachable moment about the political contributions of the people and organizations that are mentioned in incoming emails.  (Sarah Palin, eat your heart out!)  According to Sunlight Foundation “the easy-to-use tool can be used for researching influence background on corporate correspondence, adding context to newspaper headlines or discovering who is behind political fundraising solicitations.”

In a word, Inbox Influence sends the text of the email and the sender information to Sunlight Foundation servers.  Again according to the Foundation “this information is used only to process the request and is not stored in any way.”  (There have been charges without attribution to the contrary)

Click here for a quick video introduction to Inbox Influence.

Sunshine Week Openthegovernment Conference Now Online

In weeks past I have written about my opportunity to participate in Sunshine Week activities in Washington, DC.  It’s a busy week with a couple of key highlights.  One is Freedom of Information Day, March 16, the birth date of freedom of information advocate James Madison.

The second major activity of Sunshine Week is a national webcast and open meeting; that event, held March 18 at the Center for American Progress, was sponsored by OpentheGovernment.  Theme for this year’s webcast was “The Road Forward on Open Government.” I was in the audience (actually with the awesome responsibility of holding up the time limit cards…) and was so wishing other advocates had the same opportunity.  Now you do – almost.

The OpentheGovernment webcast is now available online.  Speakers and panelists included, among others, Steven Croley, Special Assistant to the President for Justice and Regulatory Policy, White House Domestic Policy Council, David S. Ferriero, Archivest of the United States, and Gary Bass, Executive Director (until July 1) of OMB Watch.  Patrice McDermott, Director of OpentheGovernment moderates a great panel of journalists and other access advocates.

The transcript and video are  available on C-SPAN.  Clips and the full conference are also on Facebook.



Prospective Edison Students and Families Meet with Principal Steinbach


Eighth graders choosing among their high school options can be assured of one thing – the red carpet is rolled for them at Thomas Edison High School.  If students and their families want to learn more, they are invited to join Principal Carla Steinbach for coffee, lunch and/or dinner.  These social gatherings offer a chance for entering freshmen and their families to get to know each other and to ask questions about Edison.


There are four opportunities to meet Dr. Steinbach.  Students and families are invited to attend as many as they would like.  The plans are these:


Thursday, June 16 – Dinner at Sen Yai Sen Lek from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00.

Wednesday, June 22 – Coffee at Eastside Food Co-op 8:30 a.m. – 10:00.

Lunch at Holy Land 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 23 – State of the School – District meeting with Principal Steinbach

Dinner will be provided at Firefighters Hall & Museum – 6:30 p.m.

This gathering is open to the public

Space for these events is limited.  Please RSVP by calling Julie at 612 290 3023 or email her at



Energy Audit Spurs Action Plan and Peace of Mind

An action plan and peace of mind – from my non-technical perspective that’s the result of my recent engagement with Community Energy Services, an initiative of the Center for Energy and Environment.   CEE is a nonprofit organization that “promotes the responsible use of natural and economic resources.”   Though that’s about what I know – or need to know – about CEE, their website is replete with detailed information about their resources and services – check it out.

My experience began when Anita, my daughter-in-law, asked me if I’d like to go with her to a CES introductory workshop at a nearby school – one hour, child care and treats provided.  The hour was packed with background information, tips, graphics and logical explanations that made sense even to me, a homeowner with no clue about how to conserve or what to do about energy use and planning.  On top of the great lecture and informed Q&A it’s important to note that grandson Will, age 2, spent a delightful hour with Bridget, the charming and kid-loving “babysitter”.

In the wrap up of the one hour lecture attendees were invited to make arrangements for individualized home audits ($30) to be scheduled in the near future at our convenience.  The speaker listed good reasons for the audit, the general areas the auditors would cover, and the free energy savers they with which they would be equipped.  What a deal!  Anita and I both signed up for sessions (1½ – 2 hours), paid our $30, scheduled audits within the next couple of weeks, packed up the bag of energy saving products and tips – and Will – and went home with heads full of ideas.

Less than two weeks after that orientation both of our homes have been audited by energy audit teams from CES.  We both live in older homes and have never had any good idea of the basics of insulation, windows, leaks and other structural issues, much less a clear notion of how to regulate appliances, replace energy eaters or how to incorporate energy saving technologies or techniques into our daily routines.

Both teams (one three member, one two member) were magnificent.  They came ready to make the most of the 90 minutes – fully equipped with equipment I didn’t really understand but I know it was able to identify leaks and air flows.  They checked crawl spaces, the attics no one had ever visited, measured air loss around the windows and doors, replaced old fashioned light bulbs, then sat down for a heart-to-heart about defects, strengths, options, priorities, sources of funding, rebates, financing and more – all delivered one-on-one with a written game analysis and plan.

I was left breathless but not rudderless.  I know now what needs to be done and to stop fretting about problems that don’t exist.  I know about financial assistance, possible contractors and, most of all, priorities and potential savings of energy and money.

In other words, I ended the auditors’ visit with a manageable action plan and much appreciated peace of mind.

For more information about Community Energy Services, visit the website at or contact Kyle Boehm at or 612-219-7334.

Edison High School Alumni Marching Band Marches On — What Else!

Shun the shuttle, the bling, the sheet music and the graduating trombonists.  Think high stepping/, casual uniforms, and band music learned in high school.  Now you’ve got the picture and sound Edison High School Alumni Marching Band, marching strong in Northeast Minneapolis, throughout the Twin Cities and now on the national scene at the New Orleans Mardi Gras!

If you’ve heard and seen the Band you’ll know it’s like no other.  For one thing, it’s livelier – also more musical, more dedicated, and having a whole lot more fun than their juniors.

The band began in the late 1970’s when some recent Edison alums thought it would be great fun to get together and jam.  The school’s band director, Bob Stack, went with the flow.  They borrowed some flags and drums, got a gig in the Northeast Parade, and polished off some high school favorites – and a community legend was born.  Playing the band’s signature song “Basin Street Blues” on  the Basin Street was hardly on the agenda in those days.  In the early days Band members sported black wool suits, starched white shirts and spats!

Today the band is under the direction of Edison alum and today’s business teacher, golf coach and all-round Edison enthusiast Mike Icarello.  Band members come from throughout the neighborhood and from far-flung exurban communities.  Not all but most are Edison grads.  Though ages are a little hard to determine there is a streak of grey in the group that still high steps while their juniors shuffle  and that can blast a horn to be heard for blocks – trust me, I live in Northeast.

Without a doubt the Mardi Gras parades, all three of them back to back, are the highlights of the Alumni Band’s distinguished career.  Band members even learned new music for the Mardi Gras festivities.  Mike Icarello thinks the alums may have discovered a yet another way of staying young – as if high stepping were not enough – by learning two traditional New Orleans blues songs with arranged scripted just for the instrumentation of the Edison alumni musicians.  Though band members usually suit up in casual “uniforms” that look a lot like golfers gear, for the Mardi Gras parade their duded up with Vikings helmets contributed by Murphy-Good Winery of Sonoma, CA – no surprise, the company is run by a former Minnesotan.

Still, life on the home front keeps the Alumni Band busy – They march in the Aquatennial, the Columbia Heights and St. Anthony Village parades, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Though cancellation of the Northeast Parade on June 21 was a major disappointment, the band marches on to the Aquatennial and beyond.  When it’s not parade season they play on at high school reunions, community and even family events.

Learn more about the Edison High School Alumni Marching Band on their website – or, better yet, talk to any Edison alum who will be glad to tell the story of one of the unique treasures of Northeast.




Edison High School Marching Band at the Homecoming Parade in 1976

Edison High School Marching Band at the Homecoming Parade in 1976

Beastly Readers at Edison High School Share the Fun

Though the slogan “I’m a beast when I read” may not fit the scholar or the adult bibliophile,  it’s wild with new readers in Northeast Minneapolis.  It’s the theme that Thomas Edison High School readers have adopted and have now shared with early readers at Waite Park.

Edison has a school-wide reading program known as SSR (Sustained Silent Reading).  Everybody reads a book of his or her choice for 45 minutes.  The “bookmobile” circulates so every reader has a chance to choose a favorite or a book that shows potential!  A recent survey indicates that 93% of the readers enjoy the experience – and library stats reflect a 100% increase in circulation, with 12,000 books checked out of the school library this year.

This spring Edison students decided to share their joy of reading with the “little kids” at Waite Park.  First, the teen readers produced a series of posters.  Edison students took great color photos of themselves reading.  Posters are everywhere at the high school, with smaller posters now shared with the Waite Park 2nd and 3rd graders. Next, the Edison students designed a special t-shirt promoting the theme  “I’m a beast when I read” which they wear with pride.  The t-shirts, now in sizes to fit the 2rd and 3rd graders, will also be shared with the Waite Park new readers.

The day I visited Edison all was in readiness for the field trip to Waite Park – eyes sparkled and energy filled every corner of the library as the teens talked about the plans.

The results of the Edison students’ experiences have been shared with a whole new generation of newbie readers in Northeast.  I’m betting that the libraries in Northeast will be seeing some fresh new bibliophiles during the summer months, thanks to the good work of some enthusiastic teens from Edison High School.

A whole new generation of “reading beasts” has been launched!

Edison High School Honored with GREEN Program Designation

How Green is My High School?  That could be the new theme song at Edison High School in Northeast Minneapolis.  And singing along with the Edison choristers would be Jayni and Chevy Chase who were recently on hand to kick off the GREEN Community Schools program, a national initiative designed to create a holistic model of environmenta; awareness to public schools.  Edison topped a field of hundreds of applicants to be named just the second GREEN Community School in the nation

Jayni Chase, an environmental educator, is the prime mover behind the GREEN Community School project, a joint initiative with MRG.  The GREEN project funds a Resource Coordinator who will work Edison staff to integrate green subject matter into thee curriculum and extra-curricular activities.  The program incorporates a range of topics focused on the curriculum but extending to the energy efficiency of the building and sustainable food procurement among other creative initiatives.

On hand at Edison for the kickoff on May 21 were Jayni and Chevy Chase and an all-star platform of political and community leaders including Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mayor RT Rybak, and Councilman Kevin Reich.  Edison principal Carla Steinbach described environmental projects in which Edison students, faculty and staff are involved;  one highlight was students’ production of “seed bombs”, aggregated blobs of compressed soil, compost, seeds and clay, designed to provide nutrients necessary to sustain the seeds to be scattered on empty fields and lots.  Watch for the blooming products of these Edison student-produced seed bombs throughout the community this summer.

Congratulations to Edison students, faculty and staff – and thanks to Jayni and Chevy Chase for recognizing a quality high school that has the stuff to capitalize on the opportunity to Go GREEN!