Monthly Archives: August 2014

Minnesotans Roll Out the Red Carpet for Elected Officials from Around the Nation

This post was originally written for and published in Minnesota 2020 8-21-14

If the conversation on Nicollet Mall is politically charged this week, there’s good reason.   Gathered at the Convention Center are several hundred elected representatives from around the nation and the world. All week I have had the opportunity to marinade in the lively presence of attendees at the National Conference of State Legislatures – elected representatives and staff of the fifty states’ very diverse governmental entities as well as an impressive contingent of international visitors.

Though members of the Minnesota Legislature are everywhere, the local press seems to me to be conspicuous by their absence. They and their readers are missing a great story – some highlights:

Most notable, perhaps, is the fact that the gathering is remarkably civil. Elected officials with diametrically opposed political views are managing somehow to respect each others’ opinions, to listen, and to discuss with marked civility. I’ve observed discussions of everything from voter registration to health care to humane treatment of farm animals and found attendees willing, if not eager, to hear our their colleagues’ perspective.

One good example of collegiality happened on Tuesday when the members of NCSL conveyed special honors on former Congressman Martin Olav Sabo, recognized as a founding father of NCSL. Particular mention was made of the Congresman’s work on government transparency, specifically Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law. It was a privilege to hear Mr. Sabo accept the recognition and to commend and further inspire the collaborative approach of NCSL.

Minnesotans starred again on Wednesday when Senator Amy Klobuchar joined Cindy McCain (yes, wife of John McCain) to lay out the facts of sex trafficking in this nation. Mincing no words, they outlined the steps these elected officials might make in their own states, as legislators and as community leaders. Their frank and practical approach was clearly an eye-opener for many attendees.

Minnesota leaders, including Governor Dayton and Mayor Hodges as well as a number of legislators are involved as speakers and panelists throughout the conference. Senate President Sandy Pappas and Speaker Paul Thissen headed up the cadre of Minnesota legislators who.master-minded event planning. It was the legislators who arranged the feature of the conference that stands out in my mind as the crowning glory of the Summit – to wit:

Staffers of the Minnesota Legislature are the omnipresent guides that are making the Summit stress-free! Clad in bright blue shirts, volunteers are everywhere! They are smart, smiling, ready to go the extra mile to guide a lost legislator who may be reluctant to admit that she’s overwhelmed by the cavernous Convention Center. The guides don’t just answer but anticipate the visitor’s question. This congenial, informed squadron of local experts sets a high standard not just for Minnesota Nice but for Minnesota Informed!




Consider the humble — but ever nimble — bus!

On the Monday after the blast-off of the Green Line I stopped at a bus shelter for a quick transfer, rejoicing that I was making my way across town – by bus – in record time. As I waited on that sun-drenched morning an elderly gentleman stopped by the shelter to check the new bus route routes and schedules. After a quick perusal of his expanded transit options he declared, “I’m just going to ride ALL of those new routes, just to see where they really do go!”

He didn’t care so much about the train or the details of the bus routes – he wanted to explore the neighborhoods, malls, diners and parks that the new bus routes opened to him! I continue to applaud his commitment to experiential learning!

The fact is that the much-heralded Green Line is the tip of the transit iceberg that has been expanding and improving transit options these past months. The Green Line captures the limelight while some of the less glamorous – and less costly – bus options that recently came on line actually make more difference in the lives of public transit riders.

In recent months Metro Transit has published fascinating previews on their newsy blog ( Still, like that determined gentleman at the shelter, some of us need the riding experience to make it real. My hope is that some of the highlights will lure readers to take a closer look at the new and revamped routes. A few examples give the flavor of the Twin Cities public transportation-work-in-progress.

  • Take, for example the expanded Route 67 which replaces the old Route 8.   The rehabbed 67 runs mostly on Franklin and Minnehaha between downtown St. Paul and the Blue Line Franklin Avenue Station, with a connection to Green Line stations at Fairview and Raymond. Better yet, the bus runs every 20 minutes Monday-Saturday with hourly runs on Sunday. It even takes a dip in the route to accommodate Augsburg College and the Fairview University Medical Center.
  • Or consider Route 83, constructed to fill a gap in North-South service between Snelling and Dale. The run goes between the Roseville Super Target and Montreal Circle just South of West 7th  The 83 travels for the most part on Lexington with stops at popular sites including the Ramsey County Library on Hamline and the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.   The bus connects with the Green Line Lexington Parkway Stations. with service every 30 minutes seven days a week.
  • Or there’s my personal favorite, Route 30, which has expanded my transit horizons and saved me countless hours on the bus. The 30 connects North and Northeast Minneapolis riders with the Green Line at University and Raymond, entry point to the wonders of the Capitol City without the usual slow trek through downtown Minneapolis.   Built with federal funds the route will be evaluated after one year of service – thus my high motivation to fill the seats of Route 30 which currently operates just five days a week.

These are three of dozens of bus routes and options that have been a sadly overlooked in the hoopla afforded the Green Line.   Some day I would love to have the time to follow that gentleman’s plan to explore them all. Meantime, there’s much to be gleaned from the Metro Transit blog (

In fact, for months the folks at Metro Transit have anticipated the changes; the results are on the Rider’s Almanac where there are fascinating details about the routes, the riders, the schedules and the connections. Even more fun for the armchair bus buff are the brief histories of each bus route. Here, for example, is the history of Route 30:

The first horse-drawn streetcars appeared on West Broadway Avenue in 1883. Electric streetcars were introduced in 1891. The Broadway Crosstown streetcar line [ran] between Robbinsdale on the west to Stinson Avenue the east. Buses replaced streetcars in the corridor in 1950….

Though stressed-out drivers bemoan the frequent bus stops that slow their dash to premium parking spots they should instead calculate as they simmer that each of those public transit riders means one less vehicle at the next stoplight.

I choose to celebrate this welcome move towards liberation of those who choose to capitalize on the Twin Cities public transit system. There’s lots to learn about today’s transit options. In fact, hopping on could be easier than the vehicle-dependent realize. The first trip is the hardest – and bus drivers and riders alike tend to be patient with newbies.








Spotlight on access – physical and virtual – at the 2014 Great Minnesota Get-Together!

The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt form normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life. – Robert MacIver, sociologist

It’s State Fair time — when new taste treats compete with cheese curds for olfactory prominence, military issue 4-H dorms house weary teens demo-ing the latest in control of frac-sand or groundwater pollution, research-in-progress shares space with Goldie Gopher at the aU of M show-and-tell. Still, as J.V. Bailey (for whom the building that now houses the Minnesota State Fair Foundation is named) observed the “the State Fair approaches in scope and effort an institution of learning.“

Writing in 1934 Bailey celebrated that “the State Fair teaches by exhibit, lecture and pamphlet, the means whereby two blades of grass can be grown with less cost and less effort than ever before.” A noble goal that has inspired, instructed and entertained Minnesotans of every era and every age for over 150 years!

Fair-going veterans and newbies alike are well advised to prepare for the adventure with a good online primer such as ( In case you’re tempted – or inspired to rectify the situation-  Wikipedia is out-of-date.)

The real wonder – and irresistible attraction – of the Minnesota State Fair is that the Fair continues to interpret, share and adapt the Minnesota story. The 2014 “Great Minnesota Get-Together” overflows with ideas, many having to do with access – for Fair attendees and for those who prefer a Virtual Fair Experience

Access on site

At the top of the list for many will be the increased accessibility of fair displays for people with disabilities. This includes the area that was once Heritage Square, now a new transit center, resplendent with restaurants, shops and heritage center. (Good to know that my favorite, the once-threatened Minnesota Newspaper Museum, lives on at the 4H Building!) Gone are the steps to the area that posed a barrier for anyone with mobility issues.

There are also more resources this year. Metro Mobility will have additional stops and ASL interpreters will be on hand. Wheelchair battery recharging can be found at the Care and Assistance Center.

There’s an Attraction Access Guide to assist fairgoers in making choices about rides available at all ticket outlets on the Midway and Kidway. Look for the free park and ride lot with free wheelchair-accessible bus service for people with disabilities and their companions.

This is but the tip of the physical access iceberg – The full range of expanded resources is spelled out in the most recent issue of Access Press on newsstands now – or find the issue online by clicking on

Access from home

Been there, done that and want to refresh the memories? Tried listening to the walking tour from home? There’s an app for that! or call 1-877 411 4123 – listen and remember the sights, sounds and smells.

Want some visual background? Click on the inventory of photographs of the State Fair, 1953-1968 at the Minnesota Historical Society site: photo company

Even the prestigious Library of Congress pays archival homage to the Minnesota State Fair circa 1909 –

And there are countless good reads and listens – histories, reminiscences, newspapers, podcasts, including these and more:

The Minnesota State Fair: Origins and traditions, by Kathryn R. Goetz, originally published in MNopedia, republished in MinnPost, August 20, 2013. A readable intro to the history of Minnesotans’ favorite gathering.

Minnesota State Fair: An Illustrated History, by Kathryn Strand Koutsky, Garrison Keillor, foreword by Linda Koutsky.   Coffee House Press, 2007

State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get-Together, by Susan Lambert Miller, foreword by Lorna Landvik, Minnesota Historical Society.

Minnesota State Fair, The History and Heritage of 100 Years, by Ray P. Speer and Henry J. Frost, Argus Publishing Company, 1964.

Seed Queen:The Story of Crop Art and the Amazing Lillian Colton, by Colleen Sheehy, Minnesota Historical Society, 2007.

Once again, Minnesota Public Radio is just one of the radio stations that will be broadcasting from their booth. Though with all of the politicians who will be roaming the grounds this season it’s hard to predict who will show up, here’s the link to MPR’s fair schedule:

History at the Fair

If you do go to the State Fair, don’t miss Minnesota History Day – Sunday, August 31.

A critical feature of the re-designed area on the West end of the fairgrounds is the History and Heritage Center, home of the State Fair History Display. To keep up with plans for the history display follow developments on Facebook:


National Farmers Market Week — Fresh veggies, friendly farmers, & something for the philatelist!

As we all know, everything’s coming in a little late this year – including the news that this very week, August 3-9, 2014 is National Farmers Market Week!   Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack thus declared the fifteenth annual observation in an official proclamation. The USDA is quick to remind us that there are “Thousands of Reasons to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week” — but we already knew that…. []

Farmers market development “is a cornerstone of the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative” which coordinates the USDA’s policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems, one of the pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development.

To celebrate National Farmers Market Week the U.S. Post Office has issued four Forever postage stamps, each depicting a chapter of the farmers market story – the first stamp offers an array of fresh breads, artisan cheese, eggs and cookies; a second stamp features veggies and fruits of every persuasion; the third stamp sports a lush array of fresh cut flowers; the fourth depicts live plants, herbs, colorful fruits and flowers. All of the items bear handwritten labels that identify the product and its price. The stamps are designed by Greg Breeding with illustrations by Robin Moline.

For the most part Minnesotans know their farmers market – site, hours, specialties, friendly growers, their ethnicity and their progeny! Farmers markets have become the town square of many towns and urban neighborhoods. There are countless guides to the possibilities! Each market sports its own personality, produce and promoters – try asking a random group about their favorite farmers market – observe the lively display of local farmers market chauvinism!

At great risk of missing the reader’s favorite, here is just a small starter sampler of the readily accessible guides to all that friendly freshness! – website of the Minnesota Farmers Market Association – Minnesota Department of Agriculture publication – guide to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market – guide to the Minneapolis Farmers Market

There are scores of other guides, organized by every conceivable categorical possibility.   Surf the Net to sample the season’s harvest!

 Whether you’re a farmer, a merchant

or a happy and healthy customer


Happy National Farmers Market Week

August 3-0, 2014



“Farm to Childcare” – Making the connections for kids

Most days the scholars  and policy wonks at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) ponder the complexities of world trade policy, the health hazards of GMOs, and/or the precarious state of the family farm. Then, just when we need it most, they produce a creative, practical, accessible tool that helps us all see the possibilities in an everyday situation.

Just this week IATP issued its Farm to Childcare Curriculum program, a useful guide designed to make the local farm to table story real for young learners/eaters!

IATP collaborated with New Horizon Academy (NHA) to create this kid-ready Farm to Childcare Curriculum. They have also published complementary materials including Farm to Childcare: Highlights and Lessons Learned Report that “tells the story of using that curriculum to start a comprehensive Farm to Childcare program.” Such programs, the designers note, are currently operating at 62 NHA childcare centers throughout Minnesota.

The curriculum package includes a range of resources, including:

  • Designing a Farm to Childcare menu;
  • Implementation schedule;
  • How to highlight local farmers to make the connection real for children;
  • Detailed examples of family engagement strategies;
  • Experiential learning activity suggestions to incorporate the farm to childcare themes into the children’s daily routines.

This summer IATP is building on past experience with their Farm to Head Start pilot program. They’ve been working in partnership with a Head Start program in St Paul and with the Hmong American Farmers Association who farm in Dakota County.

All of the Farm to Childcare resources are available at

The work is supported in part by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Bue Shield of Minnesota

Library card art? Check it out at St Paul Public Library!

Some folks want to see their name in lights. For others, it’s the yen to see their name in print. And then there are the few, the chosen, whose creative apex is to see their art carried with pride in the handbag, wallet or pocket of every resident of St Paul.

For those visual artists who recognize and value the coin of the literary realm, there’s the St. Paul Public Library Card Contest!

It’s open to artists of all ages who live, work and/or go to school in the City of Saints.

All forms of two-dimensional art will be accepted. Deadline September 5,

Five winners will be chosen. Their artwork will appear on the new library cards, and they will have their choice of a $100 gift card from either Micawber’s Books or Cossetta’s Italian Market and Pizzeria.

All of the details are on the art contest website: or pick up the application at any SPPL location.

Fill out the application form, provide your art on the second page, and turn in artwork and application to a SPPL staff person at any library location, or

Email your artwork and completed application to You can use the second page of the application or attach a separate file with your artwork.

Contest Rules and Information

Selection of the winning entrants will be at the discretion of the library judging panel. Winner’s name may be posted online or otherwise used in publicity materials.

Art (drawings, prints, photos, graphics, etc.) must be original creations and not infringe on copyright law.

An artist may submit more than one design.

The artist must live, work, or attend school in Saint Paul.

Artwork may be created in the space provided on the form or on an attached sheet of paper, or scanned and emailed to You can also submit artwork in person at any Saint Paul Public Library.

File types and sizes: To be considered, artwork must have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. Formats accepted include Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (CS5 or lower), EPS, PDF, JPG, and TIF. Format size should not exceed 4 MB.

Artwork will be reduced to 2.125″ high by 2″ wide to fit on the front of standard library cards (credit card size) and will be reduced to 1.125″ high by 1.5″ wide for the key ring library cards.

Winners’ names will appear on the back of the library cards; winning artwork will be displayed at SPPL locations and in the Saint Paul Art Crawl October 10-12.

Winners will be selected and contacted in mid-September and will be publicly announced September 19.

See more at: