- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Oct. 28

Groundbreaking for jobs center is a boost for Somali community

Friday’s groundbreaking for a new job-training center in Minneapolis’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood serves as a reminder of both Minnesota’s can-do spirit and its long history of helping new immigrants prosper.

The neighborhood of high-rise apartments is the epicenter of the state’s large - and the nation’s largest - Somali-American immigrant community. This group also has the highest rate of poverty of any ethnic group in the state and faces another tragic challenge: Its youth are targeted by recruiters for terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

A workforce and education center won’t magically make these challenges disappear, but it is a practical step. That’s why the Star Tribune Editorial Board has advocated as part of an ongoing series of editorials pragmatic measures such as opening the jobs center, expanding the Brian Coyle Community Center, and bolstering state and federal funding for youth programs.

Political gridlock at the Minnesota Legislature this spring regrettably threatened to derail the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center, as it’s formally known. Funding of $400,000 was approved, but it was included in a tax bill that went unsigned because of political maneuvering over a special session. But local advocates, the state’s generous philanthropic community, and admirable support from Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis kept the project on track to reach the $950,000 goal. When the center fell short by $25,000 earlier this fall, and faced a deadline to sign a lease for the facility, a commitment from the Tom and Pat Grossman Fund of the Minneapolis Community Foundation put it over the top.

The support for this project reflects positively on the entire state, especially when anti-immigration sentiment has dominated the presidential campaign. Minnesotans rallied behind this project and, by extension, those it will serve. The center’s opening, slated for next spring, is a terrific new resource for this community and a timely sign that the state is honoring its tradition of aiding newcomers.


St. Paul Pioneer Press, Oct. 27

Dayton’s Law Enforcement and Community Relations council: Work in the discomfort zone

Hard work awaits the Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations created earlier this month by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Fifteen Minnesotans will join council co-chairs - Hennepin County District Judge Pamela Alexander and Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson - as voting members. They and the 17 “ex-officio” members serving with them have not been officially named.

The council’s charge is to develop recommendations to build trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve - “thereby creating a safer and more harmonious Minnesota.”

A statement from the governor’s office describes the council together as representing communities of color, law enforcement officers, the legal community, faith organizations, young people, local governments and the Minnesota legislative and executive branches, among others. It also includes representatives of the families of the men who died: Jamar Clark, in a November incident in Minneapolis, and Philando Castile, in July after a Falcon Heights traffic stop.

We heard voices of hope and concern in the east metro as the work gets underway on a pace that calls for preliminary recommendations to the governor and Legislature by Feb. 15 and a final report by June 30. Points raised merit attention:

Minnesota Philanthropy Partners President and CEO Eric Jolly told us the solutions “won’t be easy, but this is how you move a community.” Jolly, who told us he will be serving as a non-voting member of the council, describes its work as “a call to move from conversation to action, from ideas to policy.”

It offers “an opportunity to raise the level of discourse from our police and our community,” he said, “to the level of policy formation and change.”

Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and a voting member of the council, acknowledges the challenge for its law enforcement representatives to make sure they articulate “the thoughts and opinions of rank-and-file officers who work every day throughout our communities.”

Flaherty, a former St. Paul deputy mayor, said he is beginning the work with an open mind and the “hope we can share views openly and honestly and come up with some concrete ways to improve relationships” between police and people.

If members approach their work “truly interested in seeking solutions - not bashing or finger-pointing - this could lead,” he said, to “good solutions we can all put in place.”

Dave Titus, St. Paul Police Federation president, told us he appreciates the representation of rank-and-file officers Flaherty’s association and another organization will provide but is concerned that the state’s largest police unions in St. Paul and Minneapolis - those “facing these issues head-on” - are not specifically included among members.

He’s also concerned about representation of the Clark and Castile families, he said. In the Clark case, three investigations at different levels have cleared the officers involved, he told us, asking: “Where’s the voice of the two officers who most likely would have been killed if he’d have gotten that gun?”

Family representation shows him, Titus said, that the effort is “a political scam,” one that is “all about politics and not anything to do about anything productive. I’m very disappointed.”

We invited a statement in response from the governor’s office. It says that council members “reflect diverse perspectives from law enforcement and community interests, who have personal experience and investment in addressing these challenges together. Anyone who wants their voice heard in the work of the council will have the opportunity to do so at its open, public meetings.”

Hamline University President Fayneese Miller, who is leading an initiative to engage college campuses in the community’s conversation on race, told us this summer that the governor had the credibility and scope to convene a statewide group from across sectors. She is pleased that he has done so.

We asked Miller, a social psychologist, about fostering a successful process: “What it really takes is a willingness to come to the table with an open mind and not be willing to judge or be defensive.”

Things will be said that will make some people uncomfortable, she told us, but it’s in that discomfort “that we can move forward.”

The discomfort is apparent. Making progress will require council members and the Minnesotans they represent to speak openly - and listen.


St. Cloud Times, Oct. 27

Area loses more than a music legend

The world lost a musical legend Monday when Bobby Vee died at age 73. Central Minnesota, though, lost much more.

Sure, from the early 1960s into the 1970s, Vee was a pop music star. But it was the years and decades after his musical career peaked that St. Joseph and all of Central Minnesota truly saw how wonderful he was. Vee embodied what it mean to be not just a wholesome heart throb as a teen, but a family and community-minded man in small-town USA.

After all, even with his stardom, he chose to go from bright lights and big stages into the middle (OK, middle-north) of the Midwest, where he and his wife, Karen, raised three sons and a daughter, all the while continuing his musical career and showing through the music of his sons that such talents might be genetic.

More recently, Vee faced a battle increasingly common among families. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and, in 2012, announced he would step away from the music business. His family the past few months took the brave step of sharing this horrific battle with the public in hopes of raising awareness about this brutal disease and how to cope with it.

Those efforts, like so many other community-minded acts from Vee and his family over the years, are much appreciated.

Ultimately, though, appreciation for Vee rests forever with the music he created.

As media from the St. Cloud Times to the New York Times have noted, Vee got his start at age 15 when he stepped in to perform in place of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper all of whom died in a 1959 plane crash. From there, he became part of a musical era featuring the likes of Frankie Avalon, Carole King and even Bob Dylan.

A half century later, Vee had built a musical legacy topped with his 1961 No. 1 single “Take Good Care of My Baby,” plus 37 other singles that registered on Billboard’s Hot 100. All of that eventually earned him a spot in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Of course, many Central Minnesotans, especially younger generations, probably know him better as just that guy from St. Joseph who loves to make music, especially with his sons.

Indeed, his voice will be missed, but his music and community connections will always resonate in this area.

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