This monthly column surveys over 30 community and ethnic newspapers published and distributed in the Twin Cities. Generally, included stories are directly related to community affairs in Minneapolis and St. Paul and of potential interest to residents of the whole metro area, rather than just a single neighborhood. We include items that reflect ongoing news and opinions, rather than profiles of local businesses or past community events.
In the first three months of 2011, revolutions surged overseas, and the U.S. military joined along in north Africa; Wisconsin demonstrated how governments and citizens interact; and the earth reminded us, without ambiguity, that all of our progress is subject to its moving and shaking. Although we are still seeing avalanches of effects from all of those events, April seems relatively calm, for the moment. It’s a time to reevaluate and reconsider our environment and take a tiny bit of shelter from the violent transformations of the New Year.
If you’re still wondering what major changes are happening locally, the Minneapolis Labor Review has listed “more than 50 anti-worker bills” in the Minnesota state legislature. Five former employees and one current employee are suing the Minneapolis Convention Center for racial and age discrimination, as reported by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. And, in response to the KDWB morning show’s racially insensitive parody song, Hmong comedian Tou Ger Xiong explains exactly why “30 Hmongs in a House” is not only unfunny but also hateful, beginning:
First of all, it is grammatically incorrect to refer to more than one Hmong as “Hmongs.” It’s a word that can be used singularly or in plural—for example, “one Hmong” and “many Hmong.”
In case you were confused by local media outlets that continue to reprint the lyrics of the song without providing context for why they are considered offensive, Xiong’s editorial in the Asian American Press provides a line-by-line historical and cultural annotation.
In NorthNews, Margo Ashmore describes the potential development of the Van White Boulevard Memorial Bridge (via Twin Cities Daily Planet), which would provide an entrance and exit to I-394 and would improve access to the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market and International Market Square. At a Bassett Creek Valley Redevelopment Oversight Committee meeting in March, Harrison Neighborhood Association President Maren McDonell said, regarding the bridge’s much stalled development and lack of funding, “South Minneapolis has bridges every 5-6 blocks. This is crazy, it continuously happens in this neighborhood. We’re going to be cut off again. The city keeps promising.” Some of those promises are also covered in April’s NorthNews, which contains an in-depth history of planning in North Minneapolis since the 1990s.
In other whole-hearted attempts to keep our world clean and livable, April 22 is Earth Day No. 41 in the U.S., and Twin Cities neighborhoods are celebrating all month. Although Minneapolis Park and Rec’s clean-up day was this past Saturday (April 16), the Harriet Island celebration in St. Paul is scheduled for April 24, rain or shine.
Around the Cities and throughout our region, there are plenty of efforts to improve and protect our environments. High school journalism juggernaut ThreeSixty reports on Project Green Fleet’s efforts to reduce the amount of pollution produced by local school buses. Uptown Neighborhood News implores you to combat the expansion of Hennepin County’s downtown Minneapolis garbage incinerator: “Instead of expanding the garbage incinerator, the county should build on successful curbside composting programs pioneered by several Minneapolis neighborhoods.” The Park Bugle provides instruction on the safe way to get rid of a weed called the burdock, whose burrs can harm local wildlife—especially birds. And the Circle describes the Council of Canadians’ work to establish the Great Lakes region as a commons:
The long-term goal of the network proposing the Great Lakes Basin Commons, which includes the Council of Canadians, On the Commons, and Food & Water Watch is to eventually see a full treaty between Canada and the United States that declares the Great Lakes to be a lived Commons, Public Trust and Protected Bioregion, one that is also adopted by the states, provinces and First Nations of the Basin.
But such goals seem extraordinarily lofty when compared to the annual springtime crisis of our winter-ravaged urban environment: potholes. At the Southwest Journal, Aaron Rupar examines Minneapolis’s pothole repair program in depth, concluding, “Although people think that every year is the worst year ever for potholes, [Minneapolis road maintenance supervisor Mike] Kennedy acknowledged that lack of funds ‘affected our ability to do good solid preventative maintenance, and we also have less money available for pothole repair.’” Madeleine Lowry at the Hill and Lake Press considers the benefits of potholes:
Potholes make you smarter. Their locations and depths change almost daily, keeping your mind sharp as you constantly rebuild your mental map. Potholes are what a zookeeper might call “environmental enrichment” for homo sapien drivers. The level of mental stimulation is probably on par with doing the Monday New York Times crossword puzzle.
If the mere thought of potholes drives you to vice, take note of the restrictions of where you can and can’t indulge. The Villager reports that the St. Paul City Council has quashed the Wild Onion’s request to serve liquor on its patio, while Minneapolis Ward 10 Council Member Meg Tuthill provides an update on the proposed changes to outdoor dining ordinances in Minneapolis in the LHENA Wedge. These changes generally address occupancy issues and the posting of information about noise levels and, she asserts, will not prevent liquor from being sold outdoors.
If booze isn’t your preferred method of relaxation, consider a massage—but if the massage parlor is a “sexually oriented business,” or a business that only provides massage and a steam bath, you may not find it in your non-downtown Minneapolis neighborhood. Jan Willms at the Longfellow/Nokomis Messenger describes the zoning issues surrounding Exquisite Touch, a massage-only massage parlor in South Minneapolis. Willms considers the fascinating semantics of different sorts of massage services, none of which are prostitution (it’s still illegal!) but only some of which are “sexually oriented.”
While there’s no easily Googleable historical explanation of how Minneapolis came to include massage parlors in its umbrella of sexually oriented businesses (perhaps you’d like to write about that in Twin Cities Runoff), this month’s community papers provide some more substantive histories: The St. Paul Union Advocate considers Equal Pay Day—the day when women’s average salaries catch up to men’s from the previous year, which was April 12, 2011—and provides a brief history of Fair Pay legislation in America. In the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Odera Odenyo describes the origin of Black studies at the University of Minnesota, and the Colu.mn delineates the history of Hennepin Avenue’s the Club, which provided a safe social space for LGBT youth in the 1970s. As teachers’ rights are being considered in the Minnesota legislature, the Session Weekly writes of the first-ever teachers’ strike in the United States, which took place in St. Paul in 1946.
So, as the American Craft Council and Craft Library becomes part of Northeast Minneapolis (reported in the Northeaster), Lowertown ponders its future in the face of possible rising rent (as seen in the Downtown Voice), and we all decide which powwows to attend, we can find comfort in the stability of growing public technology: the Southwest Journal reports that Hennepin County Library now has a smartphone app.