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The rain stops for our NYC harbor cruise
June 14, 2019, 8:25 pm
Filed under: New York

The last day of the big ICF conference it rained. But that’s OK – by then folks knew us and we were absolutely OK walking around like drowned rats. The best news is that the rain stopped just in time for the conference harbor cruise dinner and the unveiling of the ICF winner. Funny enough the rain started again once we got back to the pier.

It was a fantastic end to a great conference and trip!



Sleeping No More in NYC
June 14, 2019, 8:14 pm
Filed under: New York

The most interesting (aka strangest) thing we did in NYC was go to Sleep No More, a fully immersive art thing. It’s set in the McKittrick hotel. So it’s part arty haunted house. You have to wear a mask – so makes you feel like you’re in Eyes Wide Shut. And we were immediately separated, which left us to walk the halls alone.

I say walk, but Mary was singled and escorted down the hall in an old wheelchair. I walked up to the third floor. It’s very dark but arty. You walk from room to room to maze to graveyard. My favorite room artistically was the empty vintage baby cradle with decapitated dolls hanging from the ceiling like birds flocking.

There are 21 performers in the hotel. They will interact with you; you cannot instigate an interaction – or I guess you can’t touch them. Each has their own story. I feel like I maybe saw 3 of 50 stories or vignettes. Many of the spaces are empty but you can open drawers or read notes. In the bar there is a well-choreographed bar fight. The story that caught my attention was the asylum nurse. She meticulously cut words out of an old book (cleanliness/germs). Then she danced in the beds, in the bath in the dilapidated walls. The dance was amazing and she was so intriguing.

Kevin and Mary saw their own stories. We intersected a few times but briefly because it is really a singular journey. It’s not scary just eerie and maybe suspenseful. They both saw naked dancing. Not sure if I should feel disappointed or relieved that I didn’t.

We all loved the experience. We were there for two hours and decided that was enough time but agreed we’d all go back at the drop of a hat.

Before Sleep No More, we had super yummy tapas at Mercado Little Spain. After we heard jazz in the Village.

 



Work week in New York – but you can always find time for fun with friends
June 14, 2019, 7:00 pm
Filed under: New York, Uncategorized

This week I was lucky enough to be part of a contingency of 10 Minnesotans who headed off to the ICF Summit to talk about broadband and economic development and how smart communities are making their lives better. (You can read all about that on my work blog.)

On our first day we saw everything. We walked about 15 miles mostly around Midtown Manhattan. We started with a quick jaunt to Grand Central Station and then I headed to NY Public Library to get online. (Ironically the library had better access than our conference about broadband.)

There was a Stonewall exhibit at the library to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. For younger readers, Stonewall was a series of riots that began June 28, 1969 when members of the GLBTQIA crowd rioted against a police raid. It is debatably the start of expanding equal rights to people regardless of sexual orientation or preference. Sadly we’re still fighting that fight; in the last month I have seen modern renditions of some of these posters…

After lunch some of us felt the pull of the city was maybe a little stronger than the conference. (Just for the afternoon!) We walked everywhere…

Then there was the Champagne reception at the Finnish Consulate. (Yup, that was work.)

We took advantage of Museum Mile festival with free access to the Met, Cooper Hewitt (Smithsonian) and the Jewish Museum.

 

We ended the day with a fancy cocktail at the Plaza.



Three days and three girls in Winnipeg – worth 16 hours of driving!
March 27, 2019, 3:57 am
Filed under: Winnipeg

For spring break Aine and I went to Winnipeg to see Kate (at U of Manitoba) and Lily (at U of Winnipeg). The best thing about the visit was to see how nice the girls are to each other – when they’re not fighting about who is wearing whose clothes. And frankly if there were no fighting, I’d be worried.

Lilly invited us to stay at her place. So that was nice. Kate invited Aine to her dorm’s talent show on our last night. So that was nice. Few high school freshman are invited to the college freshman’s dorm for anything. Everyone posed for me under the lights of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which is my favorite thing to do in Winnipeg – so that was nice too!

We had lots of good food. We met Lily’s boyfriend Sean – who is very easy to fit into the dinner table. Gotta like that in a guy. And he has awesome taste in music (and girls). Lily and I walked around her new, pretty upscale, neighborhood for a couple hours one day. We didn’t see as many murals as we saw in the old neighborhood but we didn’t hear as much yelling either.

We went to see some bands and maybe the worst comic ever at a coffee shop one night. That was fun. Again, few high school freshman get to hang with the big dogs until 11pm seeing bands. And we even went for crepes afterward. Few people older than 14 want crepes after 10pm but we managed it.

We all spent the day today at the Forks – a market of sorts by the River. It’s nice walk around that area – there’s a great view of the Human Rights Museum, St Boniface and the whole downtown. We had different kinds of food and mostly just hung out.

Tomorrow Aine and I will leave at the crack of down – two hours after Lily has started working her shift at the airport. And we’ll look forward to having them home with us for Easter!



Housing is too expensive for many families, they need help to thrive and Minnesota needs thriving families
March 14, 2019, 12:18 am
Filed under: St Paul

Today I attended Homeless Day on the Hill. Mostly I attended the press conference because the Committee Session was full, the overflow room was full and even the halls were filled with people watching the session of the Health and Human Services Finance Division. They were talking about HF1043, increasing shelter, services and housing.

The issue is that people can’t live with the MFIP subsidies provided. MFIP subsidy is unemployment insurance for jobs that don’t provide it; its income for children and hasn’t increased since 1986 – $437/month for a parent and child. We heard from one woman (video below) who lives in Duluth on $532 in support a month; she has two children. Her story was that one morning, about a year ago, she woke up with seizures. Now work is an issue. We heard from several people today. The Street Voices for Change folks had a lot of experience understanding how and why people needed help. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office had stories of what happened when everyone worked together as happened in St Paul during some of our coldest days.

BUT the video I’ll start with is my friend, homeless advocate, Monica Nilsson. She was interviewed (unprepared, except she’s always prepared) by the media on general questions about homelessness – such as how does homelessness happen and what policies could help.

Very simply, homelessness happens because housing costs more than many people can afford, especially when you factor in the need for first and sometimes last month deposit. There isn’t enough affordable housing to go around – especially for families. Homelessness has increased 40 percent in the last 4 years. And it’s not just an urban issue. It may seem like that, especially after last summer and the homeless encampments in St Paul and Minneapolis but one-third of homeless Minnesotans are in Cities, one-third in suburbs and one-third in rural areas.

Normally I’d just post this on Facebook – but Facebook is broken today. (Which means no livestreaming of meetings, which means loss of remote civic engagement – but that’s another post!) I don’t want to lose the thoughts. And on a personal note, it’s fun when you see your friend be so good at her job.



Surveying the homeless for Hennepin County: 8 million stories in the naked city
January 24, 2019, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis

Last night I joined about 50 other volunteers to survey people experiencing homeless for the Point in Time count for Hennepin County. I ask a bunch of questions; the answer-er gets $5. It’s less money than for the Wilder Survey, which is done every three years, but there are fewer and easier questions.

Volunteers attended a quick training where I learned that this is HUD-mandated reporting. I think the reporting is important – that which gets measured, gets done. But I’m not sure why volunteers are needed if HUD mandates it. At least three quarters of the people in the room were in the industry. They were outreach workers, shelter workers or maybe the brand new Commissioners (such as Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey, Jennifer Ho, head Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and a few folks from Met Council). Kudos and thanks to all of them for being there – but imagine if people got paid to administer the surveys.

Imagine if people got paid a living wage to do much of the work that many of us do as volunteers. Don’t get me wrong, I find the work interesting. I don’t mind doing it. But maybe if HUD is going to mandate the reporting, maybe they need to pay for it. And maybe that would help end homelessness for some people.

Back to the surveys … I pulled the cushy job interviewing folks at the train station at the Mall of America. It’s warm there, it’s well lit and there’s a bathroom. Others talked to people on the trains and in outside places. I spoke to a half a dozen people or so. I spoke to one guy in his 30s. He had a Master’s degree. He had been in the Twin Cities just a few months and had a criminal record. I spoke to a girl in her 20s who admitted that maybe she had some issues with drugs or alcohol – but she’s “working on that.” A few folks had been homeless for moths or a year. One was going to sleep outside. (It was 20 degrees and falling.) Most would hang around the trains until the coffee shops opened. Everyone I spoke to was under 50 years of age.

Everyone was pleasant, happy to talk and even happier for an opportunity to make a quick $5. A few wanted to know where to get more help. I had a brochure to share. Most had written off shelters because they seem full before they are even open. We learned that there are 1025 adults, 400-500 families and 75 youth sheltered in Hennepin County – and those beds are full.

My experience is only my experience and I think it you talk to one person experiencing homelessness, you know what it’s like for one person. Everyone’s story is different. But if you want to hear a lot of stories, you listen to my friend Monica, who spoke at the Legislature at 8 am yesterday and then spent her whole night (until 4am or later I’m sure!) doing surveys last night. If there are 8 million stories, she has heard 7 million of them!



Women’s March MN 2019 – beating the cold for change
January 20, 2019, 12:05 am
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul

It was minus two degrees when we first got to the Women’s March MN 2019. So cold! But it was sunny and beautiful. It was a day to inspire people to get involved. It was a day of rewards for folks who are involved. Hopefully it energized us all. And it gave us all bragging rights for beating the cold – although I suspect the marchers in Bemidji and Barnum may have been colder.

It was a smaller group than in 2017. Estimates that year were nearly 100,000; I just read police estimate this year was 4,000. But I don’t think attendance reflects a diminishing interest or passion – just weather. It was 35 degrees warmer in 2017! In fact, I have seen attendance at monthly civic engagement events grow in the year since I have become involved with the Women’s March. We are buoyed by the midterm election and we are ready to keep engaging until we bring change.

Back to the march today…

I was livestreaming for the March and Aine was doing SnapChat. Because I was livestreaming, I didn’t get to take notes or even Tweet notes as I like to do – but I do have the full video to share. And it gave us the opportunity to talk to a few people about why they were there.

A lot of women are there to represent the people who can’t be there, people who can’t speak for themselves, for their kids and the future generations. It’s generous and it’s good use of privileges that many of us enjoy but I think we need to be there for ourselves too. Making things better for ourselves is a good lesson for future generations and helps create a space and a history of space. For the (upcoming) Women’s March MN music podcast, I got to talk to Tina Schielske about her latest band Genital Panic. We spoke a little bit about having a platform at an age when you have someone to say. Marching for that platform at all ages for ourselves and others is a good reason to march.

Not that youth don’t have messages too. They do! The impact of the Parkland shooting and of the strength of the students of Parkland was clear from all of the young speakers. They are on the frontlines of many issues, especially gun reform. They are still in schools learning how to deal with shooters. Would you keep a job where that was part of the orientation? The speakers here noted that seeing students from Parkland, seeing someone who looked like them (young) – encouraged them to get involved.

We heard from a wide range of amazing women: an attorney who survived an 18-hour standoff at the border to get 20 asylum seekers across the border (including a 17 year old girl traveling alone who is still being detained!), a young activist who lost a leg due in part to poor healthcare coverage who recognized that you can’t always help what happens but you can help what you do with it so she’s giving her voice to better access to healthcare, a native elder who has lost sister and a daughter who is active in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, leaders from the Jewish and Muslim Women’s Coalition, Rep Ilhan Omar about her experience going from refugee camps to US congress and a young woman leading the charge for change in her school who is energized to see Omar, a woman who looks like her in Congress.

Lots of talk of change, and leadership coming from us, intersectionality – we all do better when we all do better and we all need to accept a hand up and extend a hand up. One line I loved, a quote from Shirley Chisholm – If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. We need to bring two, one for us and one for another new voice. Tokenism is out – we’re louder together.




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