Category Archives: Minneapolis

Logan Park Honors a National War Hero and Patriot

Logan Park residents enjoying the ten-acre open space where neighbors gather probably do not spend much time reflecting on the life and times of their community’s namesake; it’s unlikely that most even know the political drama that surrounded the selection of John A. Logan for the honor.  Still, Logan was a legend in his own time — racist turned anti-slavery advocate in defense of the Union, Major General in the Civil War, Republican nominee for vice president in 1884, and the man generally credited with the establishment of Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day), a day to honor those who died in the Civil War.

In 1883, when the park was first designated it was christened First Ward Park, later changed to Ninth Ward Park when the political wards were restructured.  At that point, in 1887, the Civil War veterans of the Dudley Chase Post of the Grand Army of the Republic proposed the park recognize the deeds of John A. Logan.   After some Park Board deliberations, the name selection went instead to one Cadwallader C. Washburn, founder of the Washburn Crosby Company (now General Mills) and one-time Governor of Wisconsin.

Next, the Park Board decided the honor should go to Cadwallader’s brother William who actually ran the Minneapolis business interests of Washburn Crosby.  William Washburn, a former Congressman and a friend of a couple of park commissioners, was subsequently sent to Washington DC when Minneapolis voters elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1889.

That’s when the Park Board had a change of heart – and John A. Logan’s name reappeared on the agenda of the Park Board Nomenclature Committee.  Later Dr. William Folwell, who served on t he Nomenclature Committee, explained the turn of events and the role of Northeast DFLer and Park Board member Patrick Ryan, in this way:  “Because Paddy Ryan wanted that name, it probably was named for Major-General John A. Logan, who was also a United States Senator for while Paddy was a good Democrat, he also was a good politician and that may be the reason for naming the park after a republican statesman and Major-General.”

Minneapolis park historian David C. Smith suggests that [Ryan] preferred naming the park for a man who had been elected from both political parties in Illinois instead of the brother of the incumbent Republican senator from Minnesota.”

No matter the politics, Logan’s name and reputation add to the rich history of the park and the neighborhood.

John Alexander Logan was born in 1836 in what is now Murphrysboro, a Southern Illinois town that began with a gift of 20 acres of land donated by Logan’s parents.  After three years of study at Shiloh College Logan served as a second lieutenant with the Illinois Infantry in the Mexican-American War, earned a degree in law from the University of Louisville, practiced law and dabbled in local politics.  His political career took him from county clerk to the State House of Representatives and in time to election as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives.

With the onset of the Civil War Logan, once pro-Southern and thus pro-slavery, determined that “the union must prevail.”   While still a member of Congress, Logan fought at Bull Run as a volunteer with a Michigan regiment.  He returned to Washington, resigned his Congressional seat, and entered the Union army as Colonel of the 31st Illinois Volunteers which he organized.  It was there that he acquired the nickname “Black Jack” because of his dark complexion and black eyes; the nickname stayed with him throughout his lifetime.  Nickname or no he went on to succeed as a military hero, ultimately named by Sherman to command the Union army during the May 1865 Grand Review in Washington.  Some historians have identified Logan as the most prominent volunteer general in the Civil War.

After the war Logan, now a Republican, returned to his seat in the House of Representatives and then to the Senate.  It was his involvement in veteran’s affairs that motivated him to lead efforts to create Memorial Day, then Decoration Day, as a tribute to those who lost their lives during the War Between the States.  He was elected to serve in the Senate in 1871 and again in 1877.

In 1884 Logan was nominated for Vice President on the presidential ticket with James G. Blaine, Republican from Maine.  He nomination was based to a great extent on his military record and on his personal following as a platform speaker and partisan spokesperson.  Though the Republican ticket was defeated in that election by Grover Cleveland Logan continued to serve in the Senate until his untimely death in 1886 at the age of sixty.

Today, Logan Park is not the only public tribute to John A. Logan.  Minneapolitans know Logan Avenue, of course.  Travelers may have had their pictures taken at the equestrian statue at Logan Circle in Northwest Washington DC or at Grant Park in Chicago. Visitors to Murphrysboro will know the Logan Museum in his hometown.

Over the years, Logan Park, the park itself, has thrived as the locus and gathering place for countless community events for every age.  Dancing, singing, theater, sports events, ice skating and scores of other lively activities have engaged and united the neighborhood.   Today, Logan Park, the neighborhood, blossoms as the epicenter of the flourishing arts area that is the pride of Northeast Minneapolis.

The story of its namesake, military hero and political leader James A. Logan, simply adds a brilliant splash of color to the rich tapestry that is the Logan Park neighborhood of today..

 

 

 

One Minneapolis-One Read Selection Offers Stories of the Impact of U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this 150th commemoration of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 Minnesotans struggle to unravel the facts and, even more, to internalize the reality of a War so near at hand, so close in time, and so unknown to 21st Century Minnesotans.

The Minnesota Historical Society has launched a massive multi-faceted program to uncover, interpret and share the facts and forces that led to, infused and flowed from the War. Through the exhibit at the History Center, public discussions, a guide to historic sites and more, MHS has focused Minnesotans’ attention on a piece of Minnesota history long overlooked – because it is just too difficult to face.

Minneapolitans who dip into fiction for a better understanding of the 1862 tragedy are already deep into Diane Wilson’s Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past, the book chosen by the Minneapolis City Council as this year’s One Minneapolis One Read Minneapolis choice. The book explores Wilson’s Dakota Indian ancestry over generations. The story begins with the U.S-Dakota war, then follows Wilson’s family members through five generations life in South Dakota and Nebraska.

The One Minneapolis One Read initiative launches early this fall. A host of organizations and institutions are involved, all focused on encouraging local community explorations of the themes posited in the “one read.”

Spirit Car, published by the Minnesota Historical Society, is widely available in area libraries and bookstores and at MHS Press. The book can be downloaded from the Hennepin County Library and is also available in e-book format from commercial vendors.

Readers will find additional information about the book and resources about the Dakota War through the Minnesota Historical Society Press and at the MHS website. There is also a discussion guide prepared by the Minnesota Book Awards/The Friends of the Saint Pubic Public Library.

Librarians at Hennepin County Library have created a great website for readers who want to explore other writers’ perspectives on the War and its implications. The website lists a generous reading list of fiction and nonfiction titles related to the Native American experience in Minnesota along with comments from other readers. All of the titles listed are available for reserve and check-out from the library.

This is the second year of the One Minneapolis One Read program. Hundreds of Minneapolitans took part in community discussions of last year’s book, the Grace of Silence, written by NPR host and Minneapolis native Michele Norris. Rebroadcasts of One Read Week events are available on Comcast on Demand. Follow One Minneapolis One Read developments on the website, on Facebook or on Twitter. Email oneread@minneapolismn.gov.

WPA’s Legacy Shapes the Landscape of Minnesota and of Northeast Minneapolis

There’s talk these days that what this nation/state/city needs is a 21st Century Work Progress Administration (WPA).  It’s short-hand for what is, in fact, an incredibly complex story of a Depression era program of immense import to the participants and their families, to the economy, and to every American today.

Instinctively, mention of WPA conjures images of bridges, roads, buildings and other concrete (literally) memorials to the work of thousands of men and women who improved the physical infrastructure of the nation.  In part this is because those physical structures remain and the “WPA” stamp is an enduring reminder of who did the work.

One remarkable aspect of the WPA initiative is the less visible but equally lasting impact on the lives of people who were struggling through treacherous economic times.  The goal was to provide one paid job for all families where the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment.  As one recorder of WPA activities wrote in 1942, “The Work Projects Administration helped to solve the problems of the family and the city.”

The WPA was authorized in 1935 under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the inspiration and guidance of his adviser Harry Hopkins.  Framed as an outgrowth of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration WPA focused on economic recovery and on the absolute commitment to the value of a real job.  Though critics charged that WPA was a government handout, the truth is that WPA workers improved the health and welfare of millions of Americans who learned new skills, tried out ideas, and left a positive imprint of solid construction and implementation of essential community services.

During WPA’s  eight years Americans invested $13.4 billion dollars. In Minneapolis 70,000 men and women found gainful work, education and creative opportunities through WPA. When WPA was dissolved in 1943 it was not failure of the program but a more robust economy buoyed by the harsh reality that American men and women had found defense-related employment.

One hallmark of WPA was that it was largely operated by state and local governments.  Local agencies which provided 10-30% of costs worked closely with and nonprofits and community organization that played a major role in developing and delivering services.

Begun as an economic development/employment project WPA shifted with the tides of time.  As American workers found jobs in industry, labor unions worried less about their members losing jobs to WPA workers; this opened the way for WPA to venture into vocational training.  As visionaries worried about the loss of creative talent and feared that writers, artists, musicians were given unskilled labor jobs, programs in the arts emerged.  Later, as War overwhelmed the nation, existing programs were repositioned in terms of defense preparedness.

The diversity, complexity and shifting direction of WPA programs is hard to categorize. Though they are variously grouped, the WPA programs fall generally into the categories of Construction and Community Service.

Construction

Minneapolitans live in a city built with the labor of WPA workers, working for no more than $8/hour and grateful to have a job to go to in the Depression era.  A shining example of their work is the Minneapolis Armory, built in 1935, probably the most important building constructed in the Twin Cities during the Depression.

The Armory is known as the nation’s shining example of Moderne style.  Its very existence depends to some extent on the fact that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Armory construction brought $300,000 into the local market while it employed over 400 tradesmen.  All of the materials for the building were produced locally, in keeping with principles of WPA projects – steelwork by Minneapolis Moline and Gillette-Herzog, brick from Twin City Brick, granite from St Cloud and limestone from Mankato.

The Armory is just one stunning example of the physical impact of WPA . Some basic statistics describe the scope:  WPA workers built eleven new city garages and reconditioned five new parks, 68 playgrounds and eight high school athletic fields enlarged and improved 14 branch and main libraries, built or repaired sewers, alleys, curbs and gutters repaired, repaved thirty miles of street and built ten new bridges.  They also installed nearly 65,000 street and traffic signs.  You get the idea.

Other construction highlights include these:

  • Columbia Golf Course, which dates from the early 1900’s,  is one WPA project with which most Northeasters are familiar.  Golfers enjoy the upgraded grass greens created by WPA workers.  The improved greens actually helped Columbia to continue to operate, though at a loss, during hard times.
  • Another local hallmark of WPA is John P. Murzyn Hall in Columbia Heights which began as a WPA project at a cost of $649,407.  Originally known as Columbia Heights Field House, the hall served da community center for the people of Columbia Heights.  The first official event at Murzyn was the January 28 Birthday Ball to celebrate Washington’s Birthday in 1939. Murzyn Hall continues to serve the community as the site of countless dances and other activities and a popular locus for weddings and other important family and community celebrations.
  • Wold-Chamberlain, then one of the largest in the country, enjoyed a major rehab subsidized with $2 million federal funds and the labors of hundreds of WPA workers.  The construction include 30,000 feet of new runway, new hangers, grading for a new naval base and more.
  • Liberal grants of federal funds and WPA labor benefitted the Minneapolis Municipal River Terminal
  • The Minnesota Soldiers Home got a new power plant along with extensive landscaping and sidewalk construction.
  • The Longfellow House was rehabbed and converted into a public library, now a charming museum and reminder of an earlier Minneapolis
  • The “belt line highway” remains a major thoroughfare that still bears the mark of the WPA workers who provided a sixty-foot main highway 66 miles long, “flanked on each side by walks and service drives.”  The goal was to “enable motorists from the west to enter the heart of Minneapolis at the most advantageous point, with minimum confusion and maximum safety.”
  • The city’s proud heritage of beautiful parks owes a debt to WPA workers who established five new parks and reconditioned thirteen others. They built five new parks and added bath houses and landscaping to Lake Calhoun and Lake Hiawatha.  The beauty of Theodore Wirth and Minnehaha Park tells the WPA story writ large.
  • They remodeled the interior of the Minneapolis auditorium and rehabbed numerous court houses offices.
  • Workers reconditioned 22 municipal buildings including seven fire and four police stations.
  • General Hospital and the University hospital received assistance for a total of 155 WPA construction workers.
  • WPA workers worked in a quieter environment to conduct a geodetic survey of Minneapolis “to determine the precise locations of boundaries and geographic points so that the city’s future may be planned intelligently and precisely.”  The report of the survey is that the “geodetic maps are accurate within an inch and less. The project is closely allied to the U.S. coastal and geodetic survey.
  • Of particular interest to Northeasters are the five greens that WPA workers constructed at the Columbia Heights Golf Course.
  • The Minnesota State Fairgrounds are not exactly Minneapolis but as the home of the Great Minnesota Get Together the Fairgrounds belong to all of us – and to WPA we all owe a debt of gratitude to the WPA workers who built the swine and horse barns, the poultry building, the cattle barn ramp, the 4_H building, with improvements to the grandstand, parking areas and the grounds – all at a cost of $2 million federal funds.

Minneapolitans who walk, drive, fly, learn, play sports or just enjoy the beauty of a city park or other public space have a WPA worker and a progressive administration to thank for the vision that merged the economic vitality of the community with the needs of a family for a steady, if minimum, income and a worker who is proud of day’s work well done.

Community Services 

One chronicler of WPA notes that, “everyone can watch the construction of a new school or a bridge in his community, see the men at work, and recognize the value of this work to himself and his fellow man.  The value of this [community service] work aimed at the educational, recreational, and cultural needs of the people as well as at their physical health and well being, is more difficult to determine.”  Still, the reporter observes, it is essential to record “what this work means in time of peace and its increased possibilities in time of national emergency.”

A quick survey of the community service programs of WPA offers a superficial hint at the truth of this observation:

1) Education.   High on the list of programs is adult education, broadly defined.  Americanization classes were a key “defense activity.” Governor Stassen observed that “such classes are a distinct aid to national unity – they help to extend the friendly hand of a free people to those who desire to become one with us.”

Other adult education programs focused on literacy assistance geared to “making Minnesota the most literate state in the union.”  Assistance went to local school boards to establish “Junior Extension colleges.”

Vocational courses such as shorthand and typing, navigation and life boat practices, first aid and safety, dressmaking and dramatics also got WPA support.  Vocational courses included foreign languages, radio code, diesel engineering and just about anything related to national defense.

There were courses in practical skills such as public speaking and parliamentary law as well as special programs in handicrafts for “shut-ins” who learned skills to create products to sell.  Homebound teachers reached children with disabilities who had never been to school

Numerous other programs came under the broadly-defined education activities:

  • Nursery schools were another priority.  By 1941 over 1000 “under-privileged children ages 2-5 were enrolled in 29 nursery schools in 22 communities including several Indian reservations.
  • Children’s health was a major concern as WPA provided yearly examinations and other health measures including smallpox vaccinations, diphtheria inoculations and Mantoux tests for thousands of children.
  • The women’s WPA sewing project employed nearly 500 women in Minneapolis.  The efficient manufacturing organization was a model of efficiency, so efficient that it was threatened because the women had produced enough clothing to serve the relief department’s distribution needs for up to seven years.  At one point it was rumored that the clothing might go to England as part of the lease-lend program.
  • WPA played a significant role in the extension of public library service to a million unserved Minnesotans.  WPA opened 167 new book stations, served nearly 3000,000 Minnesotans without nearby libraries and registered 37, 117 new borrowers.
  • Under the supervision of Gratia Countryman and working at Trudeau School 183 WPA workers indexed the Minneapolis Star Journal from its beginning and microfilmed the Minneapolis Journal for the years 1878-1939.  The project also provided braille textbooks and texts in large print.
  • WPA workers were visible in school libraries.  Though many were placed as librarians in the schools, others restored thousands of damaged books and magazines – everything from repairing book bindings to erasing finger smudges from the margins.
  • Over 900 WPA workers served recreation projects serving 200 communities in 76 Minnesota counties throughout the state.  Again, emphasis was on long-term recreation programming couched in terms of national defense.

2) Arts.  The most lasting of the WPA community service are programs in the arts – visual arts, music, writing and museums.  The impact of these programs is evident and powerful sixty years later.  The Federal Writers Project and the WPA Artists Project clearly have lives of their own.

Federal arts Project:  In Minneapolis the imprint of the Federal Arts Project is pronounced.  WPA-supported visual artists created paintings, sculpture and murals in public buildings as well as easel paintings and graphic arts for public agencies.  Artists worked in realistic styles and chose familiar subjects such as cityscapes, farm scenes, people at work and play to create a portrait of Minnesota life in the era.  The murals at the Minneapolis Armory are perhaps the most evident. The Armory houses two of the few remaining examples of Federal Arts Project murals, large frescoed murals by local artists Elsa Jemne and Lucia Wiley. In recent years both the Minnesota History Center and the Weismann Museum have mounted exhibits of Federal Art Project works.

The program also included free classes for all age groups and rotating exhibits of national and local art works.  At the Walker Art Center scores of workers conducted art classes and activities for hundreds of children and adults.

Federal Writers Project.  In Minnesota as in other states the emphasis in the Writers Project was to communicate the state’s history, folklore, stories, culture and more to the written page.  Writers collected manuscripts and plumbed the memories of pioneers.  They recorded and organized thousands of stories that live today in books, libraries and particularly in the American Memory Project sponsored by the Library of Congress.

Of particular interest to Northeasters is one of these books, The Bohemian Flats, first published through WPA in 1941.  It’s the story of a small, isolated community that lay on the west bank of the Mississippi, tucked underneath the Washington Avenue bridge  From the 1779’s to the 1940’s the village was a home to generations of immigrants  – Swedish, Norwegian, Czech, Irish, Polish and especially Slovaks.  The book continues to be published, expanded and read.

Another visible WPA project is publication of Minnesota: A State Guide, part of the American Guide Series and still in print.  A fascinating story about the Guidebook is the controversy it caused when right wingers charged that it and similar guidebooks from other states were actually community propaganda.

Hundreds of photographs taken by WPA workers are now digitized and online through the Minneapolis Central Library. Photographs of neighborhood churches, monuments, landscapes and more are an essential visual record of the city as it was in the late 1930’s.

Music project. Emphasis of the Minnesota Music Project was to bring the educational, cultural and entertainment values of living music to communities who could not otherwise had had these advantages.  The project included summer band concerts and music for community singing, band clinics for young musicians, and radio concerts broadcast over the University of Minnesota radio station.

250 musicians were employed oin twelve units throughout the state – one symphony orchestra, two concert bands, one “negro” chorus, a teacher’s project, a copyist project and six small bands.  In addition WPA supported an experimental project in music therapy at the University of Minnesota Hospital

3) Research and records.  Though the work sounds tedious, the impact of the research and records programs of WPA are used every day by Minnesotans.  The project included several elements focused on arranging, indexing or improving essential records;  neglected in boom times the records are of long-time importance for administrative and research purposes as well as to Minneapolis-born residents who want to find their own birth records or those of their forbearers.

One major records project was the Historical Records Survey designed for the use it gets today by public officials, attorneys, students of political scientists and researchers.  WPA workers surveyed public archives, the records and history of organizations, from churches and cemeteries to social organizations, objects and places, including monuments, historic sites, trails and Indian burials and mounds., manuscripts and more.  Today the Survey is a research staple.

Some 800 workers were employed at the state and county levels to refurbish, list, revise, extend, index and otherwise improve private records.  Workers also created a variety of maps for every incorporated village and city in the state, including maps of real property.  Today Minneapolitans can research their house history by referring to the WPA survey of Minneapolis homes and residents including the condition of the building and yard, the type of heating, whether the house had running water, sewer connections, mechanical refrigerator or ice box, the number of residents in the home, their ethnicity, nationality and occupation.

Minnesota’s Historical Records Survey identified and organized local public records such as the names of local officials, the function of each office and the records of historic buildings and sites.  WPA workers assisted in the development of research studies including surveys of the safest routes for school children, real estate activity surveys, income studies and the Minneapolis fire hazard survey which revealed and led to the correction of thousands of fire hazards.

Research was also a priority at public higher education institutions.  WPA supported technical undertakings, many related to national defense. The main and “farm” campuses of the University of Minnesota were at the forefront of WPA implementation.  Some 460 WPA workers worked on over one hundred project in the fields of science, history, medicine, technology and others.  Workers assisted in research several projects tied to national defense, including studies of sulfa’s use in treating wounds, burns and infections, elements of high explosives, the strength of aircraft materials.

Conclusion

Whether or not a WPA-type project is appropriate to meeting the economic and social challenges of today, the history of the initiative is a rich sources of ideas proposed, projects planned and implemented, concrete results that can be measured in terms of the degree to which they have met the test of time.

Note:  This article was written for and published in The Northeaster, the community newspaper of Northeast Minneapolis.  Much of the material in this article is based on reports by and to WPA officials.  Of particular value was the 1041 report to the Federal Works Agency, Works Projects Administration, published by the Work Projects Administraton of Minnesota.    Also important was a 1939 report by the State Administrator, Linus C. Glotzbach, prepared for Colonel F.C. Harrington, director of WPA.  A 1942 guide prepared for Social Studies Teachers, prepared with the assistance of the WPA, was also very useful 

These reports and countless others are available at Minneapolis Central Library Special Collections.

 

 

 

Celebrating My Independents!

 

 

A superfluity of wealth, and a train of domestic slaves, naturally banish a sense of general liberty, and nourish the seeds of that kind of independence that usually terminates in aristocracy.   Mercy Otis Warren, 1728-1814, political writing and propagandist

Back in June, when word came down that Celebrate Your Independents Month was the classy theme for July 2012, I made big plans to interview the independent businesses in my neighborhood.  After some futile calls around, to learn for one thing that the Northeast Neighbors and Business Association is currently dormant, I scrapped the interview plan and decided to focus instead on the great independent business owners with whom I, as an inveterate supporter, come in contact every day. 

Theirs are the stories I know, the people, the products and the services I want to celebrate! In the words of Mr. Rogers, these are the “people in my neighborhood”, the people I know not as vendors of goods and services but as friends.

Sue Johnson, the ebullient queen of all things breakfast-related at Johnson’s Bacon & Eggs Cafe in Columbia Heights, shares her culinary talents,  decorating bent, and unstinting hospitality with all comers – the daily gathering of locals and those of us in search of the perfect blueberry pancake. Great food served with a touch of class, a shared laugh and Sue’s warm friendship sends me on my way with a new take on the day to come.

Jeannie Rarick, who rules at Annona Gourmet in the newly-spruced-up St. Anthony Village Shopping Center, shares her energy and zest for life with an ever-growing cast of gourmet shoppers from the neighborhood and from far-flung environs.  Jeannie dispenses tasty samples of her wares, principally vinegars and oils, along with an encyclopedic knowledge of their histories and virtues, along with the latest tidbits from the hood.

Just next door is Corner Books, a totally irresistible bookstore owned and operated by one of the world’s great bibliophiles, Carol Urness.  Carol is a scholar, librarian, birder and traveler who knows and shares with shoppers and gawkers just about everything there is to know and share about books.  Customers know Carol is in if her brilliantly painted library cart, full of great reads, is parked outside the shop.

And then there is Jennifer Schmidt nnow reigning at Hair-O-Smith, a woman-run hair salon cum dance studio nestled in the Q.arma Building in the heart of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Area.  The funky setting is the ideal palette for Jennifer, hairdresser extraordinaire who is always at the ready with the right cut and the right take on the realities of life. 

Trish and Matt at Crafty Planet, 2833 NE Johnson, meet the talented crafter and those of us who struggle with the intricacies of dishcloth construction with equal  enthusiasm for the possibilities.  They and their staff add a personal touch to the charming shop that bursts on the seams with every conceivable pattern, material, yarn, thread, and learning opportunity. They share their knowledge with a host of classes and outreach activities, including their July 22 NoCoast Craft-O-Rama craft and art family fun event at Silverwood Park.

Though I’m not sure which comes first, I know that a visit to the Crafty Planet and a stop at The Coffee House Northeast, just across the street at 2852 Johnson NE, are inseparable.  The friendly neighborhood gathering spot offers not just coffee but a full menu of smoothies, sweets, salads, sandwiches and more.  The ongoing expansion project at The Coffee House Northeast testifies to the come-on-in spirit of this neighborhood independent business.

There are not enough hours to track my own steps through the neighborhood in order to chronicle the scores of independents I patronize – or at least visit – on a regular basis.  And there’s nowhere near the money for to help these fine businesses owners spur the economy.  Still, I am proud to tell the story of the role of independent businesses in my life neighborhood.  Through their very presence, their services and the unique products they provide, they and the scores of other independents in my neighborhood contribute immeasurably to the vitality of the community of which they are the economic and social hub.

For others’ celebratory thoughts, check the St. Paul Pioneer Press Twin Cities.Com article in which Twin Citians extol the virtues of their own favorite independent vendors of books, theater, movies, music and art. 

So much to celebrate, so little time! 

 

 

 

 

Sheldon Mains – Shameless Agitator Now on Wheels!

Those who have worked with Sheldon Mains – and most people have, it seems – know that, true to the title on his business card, Sheldon is an unabashed “shameless agitator.”  They also know that Sheldon defines “agitator” as one who works tirelessly to make his community – and the world at large – a better place.

Decades ago Sheldon marshaled his engineering background for the public good by promoting access to emerging information and communications technology.  Working with MAP for Nonprofits he turned his entrepreneurial bent to development of the circuit rider program which for the past fifteen years has continued to provide IT assistance to area nonprofits.  As usual, Sheldon was pre-peak.

Once elected to serve as a member of the Minneapolis Pubic Library Board Sheldon fought hard to preserve the city’s libraries with financial support and an independent elected governance structure.  More recently, Sheldon shared the vision of those who founded the Twin Cities Media Alliance and the Twin Cities Daily Planet.  At this writing, he continues to serve as chair of the TCMA Board.

If there is a geographic center to Sheldon’s ‘agitation,’ it is the Seward Neighborhood where he is a tireless volunteer.  He’s worked on everything from his unstinting efforts to turn around the finances of the neighborhood to promoting a wide array of neighborhood projects, all with an emphasis on community development and sustainability.

Last week Sheldon slowed his pace ever so slightly for a chance to meet at the Eastside Food Co-op in Northeast, a site selected because it’s the site of Recovery Bikes – the food co-op/bike shop environment set the tone for a rambling conversation.

Zeroing in on a moving target, Sheldon’s focus these days is on a very specific Seward initiative, a major effort to create a sustainable model for an ambitious program aptly named “SPOKES – Bike Walk Connect.” (officially that’s Seward People Operated Kinetic Energy, but don’t expect the full name to catch on.)   The launch of SPOKES marks an harmonic convergence of community organizations working in collaboration with a host of funders including a mix of contracts and direct support from organizations including the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Project of the Federal Highway Administration, MnDOT, the City of Minneapolis, and Bike Walk Twin Cities, a program of Transit for Livable Communities, with much support from countless local nonprofits.

Sheldon speaks of some of the roots of SPOKES, with special mention of the local promoters, Seward Café and DERO, a local bike equipment provider.  He also speaks of related predecessors and colleagues including Cycles of Change, a multi-purpose community project with a local site near University and Dale in St. Paul.

Sheldon lights up with enthusiasm about the ways in which the community at large has embraced biking and walking for health and the environment.  SPOKES rides a wave that’s buoyed by Nice RideBike Walk Twin Cities, and Transit for Livable Communities, all part of the scenario in which SPOKES plays a unique role.

The physical locus of SPOKES is its home at 1915 East 22nd Street, just one block off the LRT tracks and bike trail.  The demographics of the neighborhood are primarily East African and American Indian.   The target population for SPOKES is Somali and American Indian women and men, with special attention to youth.

The programs and presence of SPOKES are ubiquitous, embedded in the very fabric of the Seward community.  Sheldon envisions tangible components such as bike racks, free helmets and loaned bikes.  And there are and will be services, including a 24/7 bike repair service, classes on how to ride a bike, training on bike maintenance skills, an opportunity to earn a bike, “subscriptions: to Nice Ride”, and more

An overarching emphasis of the SPOKES program is the discipline of biking – the rules of the road, the importance of bike care and repair and etiquette. Above all, Sheldon underscores, the hallmark of SPOKES is a commitment to teaching others.

There will be a grand celebration of the launch of SPOKES, of course.  That involves rounding up all of the public, nonprofit and neighborhood organizations that have had a hand in the planning stages – a challenge in its own right.

Meanwhile, SPOKES is up and rolling rolling and the community is sharing the load.   Nice Ride provided free bike checkout for a first learn-to-ride class last week – fifteen East African men and women showed up to face the challenge.  During the month of July SPOKES will be the beneficiary of the SEED Project funding from Seward Coop customers. And Sheldon is promoting a “Used Bike Drive” scheduled for late July.

For just a moment, Sheldon beams as he  ruminates on the future of SPOKES and his beloved Seward community.  While others might take a breath to rest on their laurels, Sheldon shamelessly ponders his next agitation for the public good.

Minneapolis Opens Discusion with Survey of the City’s Digital Inclusion Status

For the better part of an hour the 25-30 concerned Minneapolitans gathered at Northeast Library to learn the results of a recent survey of the City’s digital inclusion status.  This was the first of three public meetings to share and discuss the survey process and implications.  Otto Doll from the City IT department kicked off the discussion with an informative power point report on the recently released Community Technology Survey, a profile of Minneapolis residents’ access to the tools and skills of  “digital inclusion” for individuals and families, “digital justice” for the community

Doll explained the intent and principles of the study including a diagram showing stages of development from physical access to equipment, to technology literacy, to a public embrace of a digitally-inclusive community.  The presentation offered helpful graphics which included maps of the areas of the city depicted in terms of basic access to the Internet and practical uses of web technology as well as bar charts that illustrate the state of digital inclusion by gender, race and ethnicity, education and income.

The digital inclusion survey, conducted under contract with the City by the National Research Center, Inc. was mailed to 80,000 Minneapolis residents clustered into eleven communities.  The 30% response rate reflects 2,578 completed surveys with a margin of error at a plus or minus nine percent. Results were weighted to reflect the 2012 Census profile within each of the communities and with the City at large. Residents whose first language is Spanish, Somali or Hmong were able to request a survey in their preferred language.

Bottom line: The survey portrays a city in which digital inclusion matches with existing socio-economic realities.   While 82% of the City’s households have computer with internet access, only 57% of Phillips and 65% of Near North residents have access at home;  25% of African Americans reported they do not have Internet access in the home.

Across the board, most residents report that they are not aware of the City’s wifi network, a hot topic a decade ago when the City signed a major contract with U.S. Internet to build the wifi system.

When the presenter opened the floor for questions, hands waved, voices raised, and suggestions overtook questions as one speaker after another offered a range of ideas for creating a digitally inclusive city.  Though Doll tried with minimal success to explain that the survey was a measure of what is, not an action plan for what could and should be, the ideas flowed from attendees, the majority of whom brought to the table extensive life experience working to stem the digital divide .   Several indicated involved with the Technology Literacy Collaborative, a network of digital inclusion supporters.

A prevailing theme throughout the presentation and the discussion was the need for collaboration among agencies and organizations to assure that the Internet does not offer have not’s just one more resource to not have.

The statistics, graphics and conclusions of the survey are available online for interested individuals and organizations.  Print resources will also be shared at future public meetings which are scheduled as follows:

The City has provided the massive survey results, including the full data set, on the Minneapolis City website.  Questions or requests for additional information can be addressed to  Elise  Ebhardt at elise.ebhardt@minneapolismn.gov or 612 673 2026.

Meet, greet and learn about Sister Cities at July 15 event

The Sister Cities program, initiated through the efforts of President Dwight D Eisenhower in the mid-1950’s, represents a ray of hope,  On the one hand, the need for international communication on a human scale is stifled by protocols, politics and power at the same time technology offers the tools to create global communication and exchange among real people.  At the same, women from around the world are finding their voices – the “sister” in Sister Cities may be an unanticipated consequences  – or simply a prescient happenstance of the naming process.

Since the beginning, Minneapolis has embraced the idea of establishing roots with like-minded cities around the globe.  Today the city enjoys Sister City relationships with ten cities.

As shown below Minneapolis has 10 sister cities:[213][214]

▪    Najaf (Iraq) since 2009

▪    Cuernavaca (Mexico) since 2008

▪    Uppsala (Sweden) since 2000

▪    Eldoret (Kenya) since 2000

▪    Harbin (PR China) since 1992

▪    Tours (France) since 1991

▪    Novosibirsk (Russia) since 1988

▪    Ibaraki (Japan) since 1980

▪    Kuopio (Finland) since 1972

▪    Santiago (Chile) since 1961

And informal connections with  Hiroshima, Japan

Minneapolis once was sister cities with  Winnipeg, Canada.[215]t3Hg

 

In line with the mission of Sister Cities International Minneapolis-based initiatives “ promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.”  As one blogger observes “It was, and remains, a quintessential public diplomacy program.

Minneapolis is one of over 650 US communities that partner with more than 2000 sister cities in 135 countries.  Members of the network work largely in the areas of humanitarian assistance, economic and sustainable development, education and technical assistance.

Those who want to learn more and to support the work of the Sisters Cities program, locally and internationally, should check out the special event sponsored by Meet Minneapolis, an active player in the Minneapolis Sister City program.  It’s Sunday, July 15, 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Nicollet Island Pavilion.

The free and open family-friendly event in the air conditioned Pavilion offers entertainment, displays, free ice cream and a chance to get acquainted with those who participate in and plan the ciity’s Sister City program.

We all have much to learn and many opportunity to learn from colleagues in the Sister Cities program.

Picture Peace through the Lens of Minneapolis Youth

Bombarded by the media’s unrelenting coverage of a world at war, it must be a stretch for young people to imagine a world, even a neighborhood, at peace.  The public will have an opportunity to “picture peace” through the eyes and minds of twelve Minneapolis youth in a documentary photography exhibit opening June 5 at Minneapolis City Hall

Picturing Peace, created through a collaboration between the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support and The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District explores young people’s reflections and hopes for peace and safety in their communities.

Kickoff for the exhibit is Tuesday, June 5, 5:00-6:00 p.m.  The gallery exhibit will be opened, young artists will be present and refreshments served.  The exhibit is in the City Hall Rotunda Gallery, 350 South 5th Street, Minneapolis.

Picturing Peace is free and open to the public June 5-18.  RSVP for the opening event  requested at http://picturingpeace.eventbrite.com or by calling 612 673 2729.

In a related initiative the Hennepin County Library is collecting suggestions of adult and youth titles relating to the “Picturing Peace” theme.

Golden Ass at the Nimbus Theatre in Northeast

At first blush the thought of a stage adaptation of a 2nd Century novel might fail to stir the drama neophyte’s soul.   Serious students of drama who know the classics are delighted to learn that Nimbus Theatre, the intrepid “newcomer” to the Northeast theater scene, once again takes to the stage with a bold production of The Golden Ass.

The play is based on a text written by Lucius Apuleius who wrote in Latin in Romanized North Africa.   Well versed in Greek writing Apuleius reflects a strong interest in the supernatural in Eastern religions – and in magic. His work, commonly known as Metamorphoses, is the only Latin novel to survive in its entirety.   The work tells the story of a young man changed by magic into an ass. The text is said to have had a strong influence on works as diverse as those of Byron and Kafka, including the story of Pinochio.

The Golden Ass continues through May 20 at the Nimbus Theatre, 1517 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413 Performances are Thursday – Saturday evenings with a Sunday matinee. Tickets: 612-548-1380 orwww.nimbustheatre.com.

The Latest from the Greatest (Neighborhood, that is…)

Soup with the Supe

Minneapolis School Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson will be in Northeast on Thursday, December 8, for another of her Soup with the Supe conversations with families and residents of the neighborhood.  The event includes food, student entertainment and free child care for children age 3 and up.  It’s 6-8 p.m. at Northeast Middle School, 2955 Hayes Street NE.  Spanish, Hmong and Somali interpreters will be available.  Free and open to the public.

 

Northeast Seniors on the Move

Northeast Senior Services, for the past three years in residence at Northeast United Methodist Church, has moved to Autumn Woods, 2580 Kenzie Terrace.  They are in the senior building, Suite 2A.  The phone number and email remain the same 612 781 5096 or mail@neseniors.org.

Kay Anderson, Executive Director, hints that an open house for members andneighbors may be forthcoming – details to follow.

Change Comes to President’s Bike Boulevard

What’s happening in Northeast – would you believe proposed road construction!  The current challenge comes from a proposed median at Polk Street and Lowry Avenue.  The proposal and the anticipated President’s Bike Boulevard will be discussed at a special meeting on Thursday, December 15, 6-7 p.m. at Audubon Park Recreation Center, 1320 39th Avenue NE.

The rationale in support of the change includes slowed traffic on Lowry as well as a safe stopping space for bicycles and pedestrians crossing Lowry at Polk.  Negative impacts would include reduced parking on Lowry and no left turn from Lowry onto Polk/Polk to Lowry.  Motorists would also not be able to travel North-South on Polk at Lowry.

A decision by the City Council on the road changes and the impact on the President’s Bike Boulevard will be made in January.

PACIM Wigilia Dinner

A fundraiser for needy Polish orphanages, the traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal will be held at the Gasthof Restaurant, 2300 University Avenue NE, Minneapolis from 6:00 until 8:00 PM on Sunday, December 11. This community celebration features breaking of opłatek, traditional foods and singing of koledy. Same wonderful menu as last year. Tickets are $35. They can be purchased by mail by sending your check made out to PACIM to Paul Rog, 1213 Monroe Street NE, Minneapolis 55413. Be sure to include the names of the people attending and any special seating requirements you may have. For more information, contact Paul at 612-789-5972.