Monthly Archives: November 2011

Northeast Happenings

“Talk and Taste” – It’s all about urban gardens

“Talk and Taste” is the whimsical title for a Sunday afternoon talk about urban gardens and soil contaminants.  It’s Sunday, December 4, 3:00 p.m. at Children’s Library, Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall.

The talk will be followed at 3:45 by a food tasting featuring restaurants that provide local ingredients for urban diners.  At 4:15 the Student Organic Farm at the University of Minnesota will discuss their work and the intent of the Organic Farm.Time: 3:00pm – 5:00 p.m.

“Talk and Taste” is presented in collaboration with the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Gastro Non Grata.

Holiday Rides and More at St. Anthony Shopping Center

Do you need some old – and new – fashioned winter and holiday spirit in your life?  Explore the Holiday Festivities in the Village, the shopping center in St. Anthony Village to be precise.  The center is at 2945 Pentagon Drive, where Kenzie Terrace meets Highway 88 and St. Anthony Boulevard.

The Holiday Festivities are Friday, December 9 (6-9) and Saturday, December 10 (9-4)

Highlight of Friday evening is the chance for a Carriage Ride between the shopping center and Autumn Woods.  Santa will be on hand along with a light display of the ride route.  Local merchants will feature their services and wares.  Stop for a free sample of chai at TeaSource or a taste of products from local vendors at Annona Gourmet.

Bring a donation for the food shelf, ride, sample, and learn about  the shops and friendly merchants of St. Anthony Shopping Center.   Free and open to all!

Snowshoeing on the Riverfront

The longer snow enthusiasts wait, the more eager they are to slap on those skis, skates or, in this case snowshoes, to enjoy the Winter as only a Minnesotan can.  On Sunday, December 11, 1:30-3:00 p.m.   The Mississippi Riverfront Partnership and the Lind-Bohanon Neighborhood Association will lead the pack with the next in their “Great River Outing” series – “Snowshoeing North Miss.”

The Outing is at North Mississippi Regional Park, Carl Kroening Interpretive Center, 4900 Mississippi Court.

If weather permits, it’s snowshoeing – if not it’s a walk in North Mississippi Regional Park, exploring natural wonders and the history of the park.



Write On Radio Now on Facebook

Bibliophiles who depend on audio access to the written word and its writers have a new port of entry.  Write On Radio! is now on Facebook.  Write On Radio! features weekly interviews with local and visiting writers of every literary stripe.

Write on Radio airs on Tuesdays, 7 8 p.m. (90.3 in Minneapolis and 106.7FM in St. Paul as well as live on the web at   Shows are archived at KFAI for two weeks following the show.

The past month’s interviews are also posted on the website – check it out to learn more about the breadth of authors who visit the KFAI studios to be interviewed for Twin Cities listeners.  The website also features a good introduction to other literary options including  Rain Taxi’s Literary Events Calendar and guides to open mic and spoken word events on

To sign up for the weekly email schedule send email address to

A Voice for the Public in Education – Time to Reconsider a State Board of Education?

Many years ago Governor Rudy Perpich appointed me to the Minnesota State Board of Education (of happy memory).  I was a relatively young single mom, living in Mankato, working as a librarian at a private college, a concerned parent and advocate for young learners.  When my son Steve, then a diminutive kindergartner, asked what I did as a Board member, I gave him an elevator answer about establishing policy for Minnesota public schools.

Without drawing a breath Steve cut to the chase with a poignant request:  That I fix it so that no one at any school in Minnesota could ever call anybody “Shorty!”

Steve had a couple of things right.  First, he must have had a brush with bullying, a scourge we couldn’t name, much less counter in those days.  Second, he got the concept of policy setting as a transcendent and essential component of public education.

Over the years I have thought often of Steve’s wisdom and prescience, specifically his awareness of the role of policy.  And then I ask myself who is setting policy now?  With no independent State Board of Education it’s the Legislature, the Governor, the bureaucracy and the lobbyists.  Where, I ask, are the voices of moms like me – parents and advocates who are neither beholden nor responsible to voters or taxpayers or lobbyists, but to young learners.

The Board of Education that I knew was abolished  effective December 31, 1999.  [ for a summary of the Board’s authority and eventual demise see ___ ]  With that move, Minnesota made way for gubernatorial appointment of the Commissioner and legislative authority over everything else.  While we may have lost some political hacks and expedited the decision-making process, the policy piece was left in the dust.

Over the past decade individual legislators have addressed the policy-making gap.  For example, Lyndon Carlson proposed reinstatement in 2001; the matter has been discussed by legislators and legislative committees, advocacy groups and others over the years.  Though the legislature has taken no action, the discussions continue.

So just what are those policy decisions that argue for a public entity responsible for establishing policy related to an increasingly fragmented education system?

“Back in the day,” we grappled with a host of issues, ranging from minutiae to mega-issues – bussing and school desegregation, sex equity, especially Title IX, the merger of area vocational technical schools with community colleges, school district consolidation, education of American Indian students, and much more.  I didn’t always agree with the decisions, but the discussions were open, honest and free of intense political press.

A 2012 State Board of Education would face a very different roster of issues: Bullying is on the list, No Child Left Behind is obvious, and then there are issues of charter schools, education of immigrant/non-English speaking children, online learning, school closings, home schooling, teacher and administrator licensure and, of course, finances, finances, finances.

The de facto policy-makers of today are limited in their freedom and responsibility to exercise independent judgment on policy issues – too many pressures from constituents, advocates and defined authority.  Nobody enjoys the freedom of expression and action that the State Board of Education of yore enjoyed and exercised responsibly and with serious deliberation free of political ties.

Bottom line:  Is it perhaps time to re-examine the political infrastructure of our education system to see if there is a gaping hole where a committed, informed, independent State Board of Education could and should play a role?  What did we lose when the stroke of the Governor’s pen wrote off a pillar of one of this nation’s finest education systems?

It may be time to take a deep breath and explore if everything old may indeed be new again.

Note:  Attached is an overview of the current mix of state education policy-making bodies prepared by the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Northeast Update – What’s happening in the neighborhood


There’s no way to cover the myriad special holiday events in the studios and workplaces of the artists of Northeast Minneapolis.  The best we can do is a sort of a spot check of each weekend’s happenings.

The Q.arma Building, 1224 Quincy Street Northeast, will hold its Holiday Art Sale on Friday-Sunday, December 2-4.  Hours are Friday 4-9, Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 11-4.

Artists from a variety of artistic media will have their art on display and for sale.  Media including ceramics, metal, wood, fiber art, jewelry, paintings and mixed media will be featured.

Barnyard Dog will play live music during the event on Friday.

More information on Facebook or 612 683 3782.

Holiday Train

Check the timetable – On Sunday, December 11, 8 P.M. the 2011 Holiday Train will pull into Shoreham Yards, 2800 Central Avenue NE .  The train’s arrival is the highlight of the Holiday Train event sponsored by the Canadian Pacific Railway and Northeast Chamber of Commerce to support the food shelves at East Side Neighborhood Services.

The 2011 Holiday Train event, 7-9 PM gives community members the opportunity to donate cash or food to benefit neighbors in Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis and environs.  All are invited to an evening of free live musical entertainment, children’s activities,  horse drawn carriage rides, and refreshments – all to support the three ESNS food shelves that serve over 2000 individuals a year.

ESNS can be reached at 612 781 6011 or

Northeast Bike Ride

Kickstarter is a fun entrepreneurial website that aggregates support for local projects with energy and vision.

And Kickstarter is the aptly named online vehicle that is just one of the tools that planners are using to solicit financial support for the Northeast Ride scheduled for June 2, 2012.  Goal of the Kickstarter initiative is $15,000; the site will be posted until December 5, 2011.

The Northeast  Ride will take participants through the Northeast Minneapolis Arts district, touring past historic landmarks such as the Casket Arts Buildings and the Grain Belt Brewery as well as along new trails and bikeways that wind through the neighborhoods of Northeast.

Northeast Ride is sponsored by the Northeast Community Development Corporation with the support of MPLS Bike Love, Altered Esthetics and Bicycle Theory.


Minnesota Women’s Consortium – A Powerful Political Force Turns 30

For the young, thirty years is more than a lifetime.  For those who have shaped, joined and grown with the Minnesota Women’s Consortium for thirty years the past is prologue, a good start on the steady path to awareness of women’s issues, sound public policy and, ultimately, full equality for women and girls.

Forged by an intrepid band of committed “women’s libbers” of the early 80’s the Consortium originally brought together a small cadre of women’s groups who shared a vision and “common fate”.  Today the Consortium is the hub of a wheel that connects, listens to and speaks for over 160 organizations and their members.

After thirty years the Consortium is broader and stronger than ever, with a track record that reflects the changing times and that rivals the impact of any of the legion of high profile and well-heeled advocacy groups that flood the Capitol when it’s convenient then tend to vanish when the spotlight and the media attention fade.  Though generations of leadership in the array of member organizations cycle and recycle, the Consortium stays on a course marked by constant vigilance, coupled with a steady focus on that “common fate.”

Clearly, students of political science, better government, women’s studies, or Minnesota history must be plumbing the depths of MWC’s influence.  For the moment, a snapshot of MWC today offers a glimpse of the Consortium’s steadfast presence and indefatigable strength.

Though self-promotion is about the last thing on her to-do list, Bonnie Peace Watkins, Executive Director of the Consortium, agreed to take a deep breath and talk a bit about MWC at thirty. Because the list of concerns and possibilities is overwhelming, we focused on just one of MN2020’s priorities, health care.

Watkins  cites “woman-centered health care” as one of the “five dreams of women.”  With sardonic humor she dismisses some prevailing stereotypes then describes what the Consortium has been doing, including convening an episodic series of conversations with member groups concerned about health care issues.

Looking back on  health care and wellness discussions Watkins lists a host of topics explored in collaboration by those MWC member organizations:  “choice, of course, but also DES (cervical cancer), breast cancer, the Heart Association Go Red campaign for women’s heart health, the home economists’ assertion that we have to address childhood obesity, better nutrition education and more physical fitness minutes in K-12 schools, disparities special concern to women of color and recent immigrants.”  Clearly, the discussions are broad range and anticipatory of issues that have subsequently become mainstream on the public agenda.

Watkins reflects that “we have educated ourselves together and assertively interacted with experts such as former Senator Berglin, Senator Marty, and Nancy Feldman, CEO of UCare among others.”  She smiles when she recalls that Senator Franken “convened a special meeting of women’s groups on this issue in our basement in the midst of the crazy town hall meetings elsewhere when Congress was debating ACA…That was a very deep and impressive conversation – we were so glad he recognized the wealth of expertise.”

Woman-centered health care is one of many priorities with which the Consortium and its diverse members grapple every day in myriad ways.  Though the persistent work of the Consortium is day-by-day a website, unique, a countless public programs offer the latest on issues and an astounding calendar of relevant events, all access to individuals and organizations who want to learn and to share.   MWC sets a pace that proves beyond a doubt that you really can trust an organization over thirty!


ElderNomics Explores Seniors’ Options and Possibilities



Option 1:  Pity the older Minnesotan dependent on relatives and other caregivers and public assistance to provide essential resources or services.  Option 2:  Focus on the economic status of older people who should in theory be able to purchase the services and care they want and need, when and where they want.   Elder-Nomics, a unique data-driven program initiated by the Minnesota Women Consortium, opts for #2;  the Consortium and its partners are working unstintingly to share the data and stories collected.


Briefly stated, the Consortium has unique data on the true cost of living for Minnesota elders – basically twice the federal poverty level.  The data covers every county and, within that, data for singles, couples, renters, homeowners still paying on a mortgage and those with mortgage paid off, for those in good, fair, and poor health, for average costs of transportation, housing, food, and out-of-pocket medical care.”


The Consortium has also studied in detail the financial impact on caregivers who leave lucrative positions and terminate benefits in order to provide care for the elderly who have “have just enough money so they qualify for nothing.”


At the same time Consortium staff and volunteers have monitored government action at many levels, e.g. opposing deep cuts to the state Renter’s Credit tax rebate which helps elders not eligible for any special low income programs such as heating assistance or home care.  Bonnie Watkins, Executive Director of the Consortium, reports that “research shows that this rebate is spent locally on necessities such as groceries, laundry detergent, or a visit to the dentist.”


A priority of the Elder-Nomics campaign is to capture the real stories of older adults in their communities, encouraging conversation at every level around the economics of caregiving, and engaging individuals and organizations.


Anticipated outcomes include policy change on the part of governments and employers, and increased awareness of the need for self-advocacy and financial planning on the part of individuals and supportive organizations.  The long term goal is “to move beyond ;preventing the descent of elderly into poverty’ to show that sound economic policy for people of all ages leads to economic security in one’s later years.”


The Minnesota Women’s Consortium is not acting alone on the Elder-Nomics project.  Key partners include Mature Voices Minnesota in collaboration with the National Council on Aging.  Elder-Nomics is a work in process in which the Consortium and its partners are using every known communications medium to reach agencies, elderly Minnesotans and those who are responsible for anticipating and meeting their needs.


The best way to keep abreast of ongoing Elder-Nomics activities is to monitor the websites of Minnesota Women Consortium and Mature Voices Minnesota.  These sites  will link to state and local agencies, corporations and nonprofits working on the issues related to the independence and welfare of older Minnesotans.



Reminisce at Smokey Joe’s Cafe Production in Northeast

“Intergenerational” gets real at Thomas Edison High School these days as students and their teachers work tirelessly to breathe 21st Century energy into a 1995 revue with songs their parents and grandparents remember well.  Smokey Joe’s Café, this fall’s theater production at Edison is not a “play” but a fast-paced evening of music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.


Performances of Smokey Joe’s Café will be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, December 14-16, 7:00 p.m. at Thomas Edison High School, 700 22nd Avenue Northeast.  Tickets are just $6 and $8 for adults.


Leiber and Stoller, who wrote for the Drifters and the Coasters – not to mention Elvis – transcended racial and cultural boundaries of the mid 20th Century.  Max Athorn, theater teacher at Edison, observes that “it’s a great choice for Edison because we have a wonderfully diverse population and the diversity of music of Leiber and Stoller is a reflection of the many different types of artists for whom they originally wrote.”  This cast, Athorn adds, “embraces the challenge to capture the many different styles represented in the show.”


Audiences should expect music – and more music!   Thirty-nine popular standards including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and a host of perennials such as “Stand by Me”, “Jailhouse Rock,” “I’m a Woman” and “Fools Fall in Love”.


Smokey Joe’s Café, which opened on Broadway in 1995, won a Grammy in 1996 and ran for over 2000 performances off and on Broadway and in London.  For more background on “Smokey Joe’s Café” check the Wikipedia notes where there’s a full list of the songs included in the original production.


Smokey Joe’s is directed by Max Athorn in his second year of teaching at Thomas Edison.  Athorn is a graduate of Minneapolis South High and holds degrees in music and theater arts from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and teaching certification and additional graduate work in education at Hamline University.


Working with Max is Music Director Stacey Kilton, Edison’s choir teacher in her fifth year.  Kilton and Athorn were classmates at South High School before she studied music education at Ithaca College in New York.


The choreographer for the production is Skye Horton, an Edison sophomore who volunteered to choreograph the entire show.  Horton worked during the summer to compose a variety of dances for her peers to perform in the show and, according to Athorn, “has been the embodiment of the type of student leadership that we are trying to foster at Edison.


Director Athorn reflects with enthusiasm on the production and on the theater program at Thomas Edison High School.  “We are lucky to be in a school that is extremely supportive of arts education, from the principal and assistant principals to the other classroom teachers.  Edison supports young artists of all kinds — painters and photographers, singers and dancers, hair stylists and violinists. It’s a school that is celebrating and reflecting its greater community by striving to create at a high level using many different mediums.”


With obvious pride Athorn adds that “Smokey Joe’s Cafe is a big undertaking for the theater artists — we are excited to share it as we work as a whole school to establish ourselves as a leader in arts education in Minnesota.”