“I never heard about Juneteenth. I grew up on the southside of Chicago, and I only heard about Juneteenth when I came to Minnesota,” said Troderick Holmes, a volunteer for Bethune Park’s “Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom Day” in Minneapolis, as the park’s Juneteenth board and planning committee gathered at the adjacent Phyllis Wheatley Community Center Monday afternoon. “Juneteenth is special, man. It’s not just for blacks. I think it’s a day for everyone, because it’s a day of peace, love, and happiness.”
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Troderick Holmes points to the Juneteenth celebration poster at Bethune Park, site of Minnesota’s biggest Juneteenth celebration Saturday.
“Truthfully, as a child, it just meant going to a park and having fun at an outdoor carnival,” said Lorna Pettis, a board member at Bethune and organizer behind this year’s celebration. “The significance of Juneteenth wasn’t really taught then. Now, I think it’s great because it gives the opportunity for children — not just black children, but all children — to learn what Juneteenth means around the celebration of black folks’ freedom. We’re teaching our children what may or may not have ever been taught as far as our culture and history and the significance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and all those leaders before us that tried to get social justice and everything in place, and everything they don’t teach in schools anymore.”
The Bethune Park celebration (11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday; 1304 N. 10th Ave., Minneapolis) is but one Juneteenth event planned around the state. Other Saturday events are the Twin Cities Juneteenth Celebration at North Mississippi Regional Park (5116 N. Mississippi Dr., Minneapolis); 2nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration—Mankato at the Verizon Center (1 Civic Center Plaza); Rochesterfest/Juneteenth Celebration at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park (1738 E. Center St., Rochester); Juneteenth Celebration 2019 at Central Hillside Community Center (12 E. 4th St., Duluth). Festivities continue Tuesday (5-7 p.m.) at Webber Park Library (4440 Humboldt Ave. N., Minneapolis), and Wednesday (6-9 p.m.) with a Juneteenth BBQ at Highland Park Pool House (1313-1333 Montreal Ave., St. Paul).
If Juneteenth feels like an underground celebration, it’s likely because “slavery” is the great skeleton in this country’s closet and thus not easily talked about in any context. National holiday or not, Juneteenth deserves our attention, imagination, and support for its lifting up of ancestors and freedom fighters in these new days of old white racism. For, as Jason Soles told last Friday’s opening night audience of the Humanize My Hoodie art exhibit in Minneapolis, “slavery never ended.”
“Juneteenth is actually the oldest celebration within the African-American community, commemorating the end of slavery,” said Lee Jordan, state and Midwest regional director for the national Juneteenth celebration, on Monday at Bethune. “It celebrates our history here in the United States. It’s always been important, but we’re still not celebrated enough for the things that we’ve accomplished, and Juneteenth is a big part of that. It’s a platform to celebrate what we have contributed.”
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Lee Jordan, state and Midwest regional director for the national Juneteenth celebration.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery.
“Dating back into 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, TX with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
“Today, the Twin Cities Juneteenth Celebration, founded 30 years ago, is said to be one of the two largest Juneteenth Celebrations in the United States, surpassing even the Texas celebrations where Juneteenth is a state holiday.
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Board members at Bethune Park gathered Monday in north Minneapolis to plan Saturday’s “Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom Day” event.
When freed slaves tried to celebrate the first anniversary of the announcement a year later, they were faced with a problem: Segregation laws were expanding rapidly, and there were no public places or parks they were permitted to use. So, in the 1870s, former slaves pooled together $800 and purchased 10 acres of land, which they deemed ‘Emancipation Park.’ It was the only public park and swimming pool in the Houston area that was open to African Americans until the 1950s.
Juneteenth celebrations waned for several decades. It wasn’t because people no longer wanted to celebrate freedom — but, as Slate so eloquently put it, “it’s difficult to celebrate freedom when your life is defined by oppression on all sides.” Juneteenth celebrations waned during the era of Jim Crow laws until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when the Poor People’s March planned by Martin Luther King Jr. was purposely scheduled to coincide with the date. The march brought Juneteenth back to the forefront, and when march participants took the celebrations back to their home states, the holiday was reborn.”
And reborn again, and with a flourish, in Bethune Park this Saturday.
“This is our second year here doing the ‘Celebration of Freedom Day,’ and it’s an awesome event where people can come out to the park and play like I did as a child, and still learn,” said Pettis. “The older kids are learning, and some of the adults don’t even know what it’s about, or even its history. So it’s a learning experience for the community, and it’s a community event. It’s not geared solely to African-Americans, but it is African-American freedom day.”
Every year, thousands of Minnesotans are faced with a difficult dilemma: go to work and earn a living or stay at home to care for a new, aging, or sick family member. This impossible conundrum pits work against family, putting many Minnesotans in dire financial circumstances that unnecessarily strain both them and their communities.
During this last legislative session, Minnesota’s DFL-House passed a bill that could have alleviated the burden of affording at-home care. Unfortunately for families across Minnesota, Republicans let the bill die in the Senate. Once again, Republicans failed to grasp the importance of measures like Paid Family and Medical Leave, which would help establish a stable financial foundation for Minnesota workers currently struggling to balance earning an income and caring for their families.
Today, 59 percent of Minnesotans lack access to any sort of family or medical leave, and only about 15 percent of Minnesotans have access to paid family or medical leave through their employer. Important to remember is that most of us will one day be confronted by the choice between working a job and providing at-home care, and 66 percent of voters in the U.S. agree they would likely face severe financial difficulty if forced to take unpaid family or medical leave.
This issue clearly affects all Minnesotans. With the costs of medical, infant, and elder-care skyrocketing, a real chasm yawns between what families need and what they can afford. Minnesotans need and deserve paid family and medical leave, and the plain answer to this conundrum is a statewide program guaranteeing that Minnesota workers can take time off to care for themselves and their families while maintaining a portion of their income.
In response to this need, Gov. Tim Walz and DFL Rep. Laurie Halverson proposed The Paid Family & Medical Leave Act, a bill that outlined a viable paid-leave plan for Minnesota. Allowing for up to 12 weeks of paid leave with costs split evenly between employers and employees, workers would contribute an average of only $2 to $3 a week to fund the program. This bill would have allowed Minnesota workers to take crucial time off to bond with newly born or adopted children, to care for elderly family members, or to even take time caring for their own serious health issues without incurring detrimental financial ruin.
While the bill passed the DFL-controlled State House, it unfortunately came to a grinding halt when it faced GOP opposition in the State Senate. GOP Majority Leader Paul Gazelka failed to hold a vote for the bill on the Senate floor, citing funding concerns and a blanket refusal to sponsor any kind of state mandate. With Minnesota Republicans having repeatedly blocked similar paid-leave measures during the last three legislative sessions, these stonewalling tactics demonstrate that there is no priority amongst GOP leaders to pass a measure ensuring the financial stability of families facing medical- and family-care crises across the state.
The question now is this: If we couldn’t pass the Family and Medical Leave Act this last legislative session, a session at first defined by bipartisanship and unity, when will it pass? The answer, to be frank, is once DFLers control both the state House and state Senate. Luckily for Minnesotans who don’t want to face the agonizing choice between work and family, DFLers already control the state House; the state Senate is up for election in 2020.
We need to work together over the next year and a half to put folks in office who prioritize Minnesota families, folks who believe that every person deserves the freedom and financial flexibility provided by Paid Family and Medical Leave. No one should have to miss rent in order to afford care for a loved one or to spend critical time with a newborn child.
Ken Martin is chair of the DFL Party.
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The first game back from a road trip usually draws plenty of media types to the Twins clubhouse before batting practice, and Tuesday was one of those days. Camera crews from three local network affiliates, along with more than a half-dozen print and digital reporters, interviewed Nelson Cruz about the shooting of fellow Dominican David Ortiz, and Jason Castro about the club’s unexpectedly dominant start.
In the midst of this, first baseman C.J. Cron, enjoying a rare day out of the lineup, walked though the clubhouse to his locker. Draped on the chair he found a red T-shirt, that night’s promotional giveaway item, celebrating the Twins’ so-called “Bomba Squad.” At that point, Cron had contributed 14 “bombas,” aka home runs, to the club’s major-league leading 125, a total that matched the 1964 club record for the most before the All-Star Break. By Thursday it was up to 132, with the break still nearly four weeks off.
Cron, 29, has quietly managed to do something difficult without fanfare or controversy. It’s hard enough to replace a popular player like Joe Mauer, whose number 7 the Twins will retire before Saturday night’s game with Kansas City. It’s even harder to upgrade the position in the process. Twins managed to do both with Cron, minus the fan outrage and awkward comparisons that often come with such transitions. Cron’s two-run homer Thursday, his ninth since May 8, gave him 15 on the season, third on the club behind Eddie Rosario (19) and Max Kepler (16).
Through 66 games, Cron’s production in most categories exceeds Mauer’s at a similar point last season. There’s a caveat, though: Mauer missed 25 games last May and June with a cervical neck strain and concussion symptoms that hastened his decision to retire. Surprisingly, Cron even has a few more homers and RBI than Mauer did in his 2009 MVP season, when back problems kept Mauer out until May 1.
Cron has hit and fielded so well that he drew more than 300,000 votes in the first round of All-Star balloting at first base, second to Luke Voit of the Yankees and about 16,000 votes ahead of last year’s starter, Jose Abreu of the White Sox. Perennial fan favorites Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols lagged farther behind. It usually takes well over 1,000,000 votes to win.
“You look at the numbers, over 300,000 people, that’s a lot of people getting on their phones and their laptops,” Cron said. “That’s the part that’s cool more than the actual All-Star part. Whether or not I go or not isn’t important. Just seeing that support has been awesome.”
That Cron was even available for the Twins to sign remains one of the head-scratching developments of the off-season. Tampa Bay designated Cron for assignment though he led the Rays with 30 homers and 74 RBI, both career highs, while mostly used as a designated hitter. Cron slugged 20 percent of the Rays’ homers and had more than twice as many as anyone else. Teams generally covet arbitration-eligible players like Cron with two years to go before free agency.
But home run power has become so ubiquitous in today’s game that most teams believe they can replace slugging as easily as a worn set of drapes. Across MLB, twenty-seven players hit at least 30 home runs last season. Twenty-seven.
Besides Cron, Tampa Bay thought it had two promising DH/first basemen on the major-league roster (Jake Bauers, a rookie they traded a few weeks after letting Cron go, and Ji-Man Choi) and two more coming in the farm system (Nathan Lowe and two-way prospect Brendan McKay). Cron was due a big raise in arbitration, another deterrent for the cash-strapped Rays; his one-year, $4.8 million deal with the Twins more than doubled his 2018 pay.
Once Mauer announced his retirement, new Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, previously a Tampa Bay coach and executive, pushed hard for Cron. Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said the club approached Tampa Bay about Cron before the Rays designated him.
“Rocco was as big an advocate for him as anyone on our staff,” Falvey said. “Our scouts liked him. The biggest question for us was, how was he going to be at first (base), because he hadn’t played it every single day at the big-league level.”
Mauer was never the same hitter after his 2013 concussion ended his days as a catcher, but he quickly proved to be an above-average defender at first base. Internally, the Twins determined his replacement had to be at least Mauer’s peer with the glove. In camp, that gave Cron the edge over former Yankee Tyler Austin, who was eventually designated for assignment and traded to the Giants. “We knew whoever was going to stand at first after Joe was going to have to fill some pretty big shoes,” Falvey said.
Cron had been a catcher until the Angels drafted him in the first round in 2011. With their help, Cron developed into a reliable first baseman. One winter, at the Angels’ minor-league complex near his home in Phoenix, he took ground balls nearly every day from Mike Gallego, the former Oakland infielder and L.A.’s director of baseball development.
“I think the major issue coming up through the minors and my first two years in the big leagues was gauging the positioning aspect of it, knowing what balls you need to go after and what balls you need to go to first on,” he said. “I think I took a little while. I wasn’t aggressive enough, I guess, going to get that ball in the hole (between first and second). The more you do it, obviously, the better you’re going to get.”
Most defensive analytics aren’t as reliable as hitting and pitching analytics. One stat, range factor, offers some basis for comparison. Last season Mauer averaged 7.71 fielding chances per game, below the league average of 8.43 and a number that declined every season after his move to first in 2014. Cron averages 7.98 chances against a league average of 8.19, a slight improvement. Better yet, if your eyes tell you Cron is a pretty good first baseman, go with that. In the fifth inning Thursday, Cron made a nice over-the-shoulder catch of a pop in short right, then cradled a hurried Micheal Pineda throw against his body to save Pineda an error.
“He has good, soft hands, and he’s very good around the bag,” Baldelli said. “He’s always worked hard at his craft and wanted to improve, and he has. He could pick some balls out of the dirt, but he wanted to continue to work at it. If he thinks he needs to spend time on something, he does. That’s what being a good, professional baseball player is all about, and that’s something he’s always brought to the table.”
In some cities, replacing an iconic figure can be traumatic for the newcomer. In 1996, when Tino Martinez took over for the sainted Don Mattingly at first base for the Yankees, fans enthusiastically booed Martinez at the home opener. This being the Yankees, there were mitigating circumstances. Mattingly hadn’t actually retired yet; he and owner George Steinbrenner had been feuding since the previous season. But fans directed their anger at the intensely-competitive Martinez, who started slowly before coming around and winning them over. By season’s end, Martinez contributed 25 homers and 117 RBI to the first of four World Series champions in five years for manager Joe Torre.
In this case, Minneapolis/St. Paul isn’t New York or Boston. And Jim Pohlad, thankfully, isn’t George Steinbrenner. Twins fans liked and appreciated Mauer but never revered him the way Yankee fans revered Mattingly. Cron eased into Mauer’s old job without the scrutiny and stress that usually accompanies such moves. Maybe that’s why he has been so good.
“I’ve seen (Mauer) around a couple of times, just mostly saying hello, how he’s been, never anything about the position,” Cron said. “That guy’s a legend here in Minnesota. I knew I wasn’t able to take that part there. Just playing my game and trying to help the team win is all I can do.”
This is new.The AP reports (via KSTP): “Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar says she would support impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump ‘beginning now.’ … The Minnesota senator’s comment to CNN Friday followed Trump’s statement this week that he’d take information from a foreign power that offered dirt on an opponent.”
Jamar Clark case update. The Star Tribune’s Rochelle Olson reports: “A Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot a 24-year-old man in November 2015 has been formally dismissed as a defendant in the excessive force lawsuit filed by the victim’s family. … Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Davis issued a one-page order dismissing the claims against officer Dustin Schwarze, with prejudice. That means the suit cannot be refiled against him.”
It was quite a winter. The Pioneer Press’ Zekriah Chaudhry writes: “Work crews are scrambling to repair snow damage to the nearly century-old Minnesota State Fair cattle barn roof in time for this year’s Great Get-together. … About 20 percent of the 117,000-square-foot building’s roof collapsed March 12 after a weekend of heavy snow hit the Twin Cities. Repair costs, which are still accruing, have already topped $1 million, according to State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer.”
Cars are still king. KMSP’s Courtney Godfrey says: “Park officials have dropped a proposal that would have closed two busy streets for summer weekends, as part of a plan to bring more foot traffic along the river in Minneapolis. … Wednesday evening, a resolution directing staff to develop a framework for a pilot program was not approved by city park board commissioners.”
Happy Flag Day! MPR’s Tim Nelson report: “The Fourth of July gets fireworks and flyovers. Flag Day tends to be a much quieter patriotic observance. It doesn’t come with a day off from work, so the anniversary that marks the official adoption of the American flag in 1777 is sometimes overlooked. … But in St. Paul, the annual tribute to the Stars and Stripes is impossible to miss along some busy thoroughfares decked out in a festive display of red, white and blue. … Small plastic flags appear by the thousands each Flag Day without explanation, notice or any public funding.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar is set to take the stage on the first night of Democratic debates — but not with Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Kamala Harris.
Instead, the two night event will split the candidates into two groups on June 26 and 27, randomly determined by the Democratic National Committee. The schedule for night one, according to the New York Times, is as follows:
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator
Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Bill de Blasio, New York mayor
John Delaney, former U.S. representative from Maryland
Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. representative from Hawaii
Jay Inslee, Washington governor
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator
Beto O’Rourke, former U.S. representative from Texas
Tim Ryan, U.S. representative from Ohio
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator
The two-night event is being hosted on by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, and will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart will moderate the debates.
Both debates will air live and be streamed on the network’s digital services, including NBCNews.com and MSNBC.com, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m EST.
The second night will feature:
Michael Bennet, Colorado senator
Joe Biden, former vice president
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York senator
Kamala Harris, California senator
John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado
Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator
Eric Swalwell, California U.S. representative
Marianne Williamson, self-help author
Andrew Yang, former tech executive
Three candidates who have received attention on the trail did not make it to the first debate stage: Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton; and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam. Candidates could qualify for the debate in two ways: either by earning at least 1 percent support in three DNC-approved polls or having at least 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 different donors in at least 20 states.
But I can’t help myself (and neither can you). Recently I’ve been following the periodic rankings of The Washington Post’s “Post Power Pundits,” who at least have the good humor to assign themselves a silly name and who opine of the state of the Democratic nomination. They put out an occasionally updated list of where they think things stand in the contest for the Dem nomination, which is, technically, still in spring training with no convention delegates won by anyone and still more than six months before opening day in Iowa.
After weeks of Joe Biden being ranked first, a red hot Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren has moved into a tie with Biden for the top spot. She was ranked second last time. Megan McArdle of the Post, who wrote the commentary to go with today’s rankings, says “Biden’s campaign platform is currently ‘I’m Joe Biden,’ and that seems to be working for him — at least better than ‘I’m still not Ted Cruz.’”
Bernie Sanders holds his spot at No. 3. The power pundit opine that Warren and Sanders, “aren’t all that far apart on either their breathtaking promises for new spending or their lack of any realistic mechanism to pay for them.”
Like Warren, Pete Buttigieg moved up a half-spot from 5th into a tie with Kamala Harris for 4th.
Minnesota’s Sen. Amy Klobuchar also moved up a place into 6th, trading places with Cory Booker, who drops to 7th.
Two law-enforcement officers who are finalists to lead one of the state’s fastest-growing police agencies — the Metro Transit Police Department — made their first public pitches for the job Thursday evening, giving speeches that highlighted how they’d approach some of the agency’s biggest issues: fare evasion, homelessness and diversity among officers.
The finalists are Minneapolis police inspector Eddie Frizell and Metro Transit’s interim chief, A.J. Olson, who took the helm on a temporary basis in January, when Gov. Tim Walz appointed former Metro Transit Chief John Harrington to lead the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Leaders of the Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit, chose Frizell and Olson from a pool of 33 applicants for Metro Transit police chief. The new chief will be paid between $150,000 and $165,000 annually.
The next chief will lead a department that provides law-enforcement across almost 130 bus routes, two light-rail lines and commuter rail in the Twin Cities metro, and oversee 139 full-time and 54 part-time sworn officers. The hiring comes at a critical point for the police agency, as new bus and light rail lines are expanding the scope of officers’ duties and the number of homeless people using trains to sleep at night is on the rise.
Beyond policing existing transit lines and stations, the new leader will have to develop security plans for the under-construction Southwest light rail, as well as the planned Bottineau light-rail line linking Minneapolis and northwestern suburbs and the Orange Line BRT between Minneapolis and Burnsville, among other future bus rapid transit lines.
The two finalists come at the job with very different experiences in policing. Born and raised in eastern Montana, Olson began his law-enforcement career in 1981 as a sheriff’s deputy serving that state’s Richland County, an area with a population of less than 10,000 people that borders North Dakota. In 1984, he transferred to the police department of Sidney, Montana, where he served as a sergeant for 21 years. He joined Metro Transit’s police force in 2005, first as an officer who patrolled light rail before quickly rising through the department’s ranks. He was named deputy chief in 2007, and also served as interim chief in 2012, before Harrington took over.
MinnPost photo by Jessica Lee
Minneapolis police inspector Eddie Frizell
Throughout his time at Metro Transit, Olson says he has proven himself a strong leader who was responsible for coordinating the agency’s response to several high-profile events, including the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007; protests at the Republican National Convention in 2008; the Major League Baseball All Star Game in 2014; and the NFL’s Super Bowl LII in 2018.
Frizell is originally from Waterloo, Iowa. After graduating from the University of Iowa, he joined the Iowa National Guard, beginning a military career that would see him deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Kuwait. In 1993, he joined the Minneapolis Police Department, first serving as a mounted patrol officer, then as a SWAT negotiator and internal-affairs investigator. In 2010, he became MPD’s fifth precinct inspector, overseeing officers patrolling southwest Minneapolis. In 2014, former Chief Janeé Harteau promoted him to the agency-wide position of deputy chief of patrol.
The relationship between Frizell and Harteau changed over his decision to launch a campaign for Hennepin County sheriff against incumbent Rich Stanek, however. Frizell took a break from his MPD duties to campaign, and after losing the election asked to return to the department. When he did, Harteau demoted him to lieutenant, and he sued, claiming retaliation. A judge later dismissed the suit, ruling that Harteau hadn’t violated Frizell’s rights by changing her command staff. When Harteau was ousted from her job, though, her successor, Chief Medaria Arradondo, reinstated Frizell to his current job as inspector of the First Precinct, which covers downtown, the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus. Frizell was in the running to be St. Paul police chief in 2016, as well as one of three finalists to lead the Seattle Police Department last year.
The next Metro Transit chief will succeed Harrington, who fans say improved the department’s efforts to build relationships with riders and diversified the force.
The Metro Transit police department now claims to be the most diverse police department in the state. Of the incoming officers in 2017, more than 50 percent were women and people of color, and half of them were bilingual, according to the transit agency.
Those achievements were at the forefront of Thursday’s forum between the finalists at the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis, where Frizell and Olson answered questions for an hour and a half in front of a crowd of Met Council members, Metro Transit leaders and community members.
“Having an organization that reflects the community you serve is one of the … first steps in demonstrating that you’re interested in equity in the community,” Olson said. “One of my goals is to make sure that that never slips.”
Harrington’s successor will inherit another initiative: helping the hundreds of people per night who ride Metro Transit’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Green Line to sleep. In January, volunteers with the Minneapolis nonprofit St. Stephen’s counted 603 homeless people in Hennepin County — 431 of whom were using buses, light-rail trains or transit stations for shelter. That’s an increase from about 260 people found in a similar one-night count in 2018.
“Homelessness is not a crime, so if you get to that mode that police are the only ones attempting to act with these livability situations … you’re asking for issues,” Frizell said Thursday, emphasizing the importance of collaborating with nonprofits and mental-health professionals in responses to people in crisis or other vulnerable residents. “By collaborating with these other elements … you don’t get that same perception of those that would say … ‘You’re profiling,’ some of these other things.”
Under Harrington’s leadership, the department in 2018 established a dedicated group of officers, known as the Homeless Action Team, in response to the rising population of homeless people using trains as shelter.
MinnPost photo by Jessica Lee
Metro Transit interim chief A.J. Olson
For many of those people, sleeping on a well-lit train with others was a safer option than sleeping alone under bridges or on sidewalks. Some also avoided other types of emergency shelter due to fears over thefts or assaults.
Metro Transit police’s team eventually started using two buses to drive people to emergency shelters around the metro; a facility in Ramsey County promised to reserve space only for those brought in by the transit police team. The leader of the team, Lt. Mario Ruberto, has said they’ve made positive strides in earning trust among homeless riders since the initiative began.
In April, Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra led another overnight survey with a different goal: to quantify how many people were using Green Line trains between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. to get around, rather than as a place to sleep. He used the surveys to support a move to close the line between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekdays for maintenance work, a change that will take effect in August. (The Blue Line — which south runs between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America — is already closed during those hours.)
“There’s not just people who are homeless who are using transit that time of night; there are people on there that take advantage of vulnerable people. The people who use transit as shelter are very vulnerable,” Kooistra said in an interview this spring.
Chris Knutson, of St. Stephen’s Human Services, is among people who ride the trains routinely to talk to homeless riders. He said Metro Transit police generally seem to be responding to the homeless people on trains humanely, and he hasn’t heard of many complaints from passengers about the officers. “It’s sort of become the de facto, like, ‘This is a safe place to be. I’m not going to get hassled by the police, and I can be here for the night.’” he said. “They’ve (Metro Transit) made the best out of the situation, but that’s not to say it’s an acceptable situation.”
Both Olson and Frizell on Thursday said they would continue the culture in the department that focuses on building relationships with riders, rather than traditional policing methods that often use fear-based tactics to enforce the law. The candidates said they want to ensure officers enough time to be out and about in the community and be able to respond to situations with politeness and patience. Frizell, for example, said he tells officers to approach people on the street like they are relatives on, perhaps, one of their worst days.
To build public trust, the candidates both said they are interested in making Metro Transit incident data available online, similar to the Minneapolis Police Department’s online crime dashboard. “Sometimes, we’re a little bit hesitant to admit that there’s crime on the transit system,” Olson said. “We owe it to our public, we owe it to our community to let them know what’s going on.”
Last year, Metro Transit police documented 6,256 crimes on transit or Metro Transit property, including three sexual assaults and hundreds of cases of vandalism, theft and passengers causing a disturbance or illegally using drugs, according to data provided by the transit agency. The data show similar trends in 2016 and 2017.
“When a crime happens on a bus that has 80 or 90 people on it, one person might be the victim officially from the crime, but the other 85 people feel like they were maybe victimized too, and they don’t feel safe,” Olson said. “One of the better ways to do away with crime and disorder is the presence of the police officers there, engaging the public.”
Of all types of incidents in recent years, though, officers dedicated the most attention to people committing fraud by evading transit fares, which has been on the decline in recent years, as Olson highlighted Thursday (going from more than 2,200 incidents in 2016 to 674 last year, the data show). He said that is a result of the system’s steps to decriminalize the offense, since someone who does not pay a fare — just once — could face a $180 citation and a misdemeanor on their criminal record, if they’re caught.
“Transit police aren’t very invested in writing people citations for that,” Olson said. “They’re giving warnings, and they’ll write citations when it’s appropriate, but many times they’re just asking people to leave their vehicle and pay their fare”
Unlike city and county law-enforcement agencies, the Metro Transit police department does not have an in-house charging attorney, which means it passes its investigations to attorney’s offices elsewhere for charging decisions. The agency also hands off big, high-profile investigations to bigger police departments in the area.
Thursday marked the finalists’ third interview in the hiring process — the first two were not open to the public and led by officials including Kooistra and Met Council regional administrator Meredith Vadis, to whom Kooistra answers. Under Minnesota statute, the regional administrator has final say on the chief position, and she will announce that decision within the next month, according to a spokeswoman for the council.
“This organization is poised for greatness; it’s ready to expand,” Frizell said. “What we see now is a pretty dog-on good police department. Day-to-day operations? They’re working fine. However, in this rapidly-evolving, 21-st century policing, you’re going to have to have somebody at the helm that can take it to the next level.”
But in some cities, the trend of people in their mid-20s through mid-30s being less likely to move out to the suburbs started in the ’90s, not the 2000s, and with a different generation: Generation X.
Moving in, not out
Yongsung Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech and an author of the study, says he wanted to study different generations’ migration patterns because there’s a big question looming about millennials: is their presence in cities transitory or more permanent? Do millennials like city life like all young people like city life, or is there something stickier about their affinity for urban places?
Previous studies have looked at the change in populations of young people in urban and suburban areas. This one, its authors say, is the first to look at this level of detail at net migration, which captures the people who are actually moving — not just whether there are more or fewer people of a certain age — to give a more accurate look at migration patterns.
By using Census tract-level data on the net migration patterns of people who were ages 20 through 24, 25 through 34, 35 through 44 and 45 through 64 in the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, the researchers can see the difference in the generations’ geographic choices at different points of their young adulthood (and later lives).
An attraction to city life for young people is nothing new.
The researchers found that young baby boomers, who were in their late teens and 20s in the 1980s, tended to move out into the city in the 1980s. At the same time, boomers in their late 20s and early 30s were already showing a preference for suburban life. By the ’90s, the younger boomers, too, were gravitating toward the suburbs more often than the urban core much like their older counterparts in their generation.
At the time, boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) were the largest generation, and their penchant for single-family homes in the suburbs shaped development out into the outer ring suburbs and exurbs.
Gen-Xers were different. They flocked to the city in their early twenties, too, but as they approached their mid-20s and 30s, weren’t as likely to leave as were the boomers.
For Matty Lang, growing up in Faribault in the 1980s and ’90s, taking a trip to the city meant Burnsville, and later, the Mall of America.
But as he got older, he was looking for something bigger. And when it came time to apply for colleges, he only applied to the University of Minnesota.
“I knew that I wanted to go to a school that was in a big city, a real city,” Lang said. “There’s more people, there’s more culture, there’s more everything, so that means there was more opportunity for me to get involved.”
A year in Paris at the end of college solidified his love of urban places, where he found people interacted more in the streets and on transit.
“You get those advantages of all the different cultures, types of people, different backgrounds, different lived experiences coming together and interacting,” he said.
Landing back in Minneapolis was hard in some ways. It wasn’t Paris.
“I landed at the airport and I had to be driven away from there through Bloomington and through suburbia and it was really depressing,” he said. But if he was going to stay in Minnesota, it was going to be in the city, he said.
Now 43, Lang lives in Marcy-Holmes and commutes the short distance to his job at the University of Minnesota by walking, bike, transit or scooter.
As for his appreciation of the amenities Minneapolis affords, he said he doesn’t feel like an anomaly among people his age.
“I don’t feel super special at all, but I am a younger Gen-Xer,” he said.
There’s a couple theories about why young people have been gravitating toward urban centers — and staying put there — in recent decades, Lee said. People who are highly-educated, singles, and couples without kids or without school-age kids are more likely to live in cities.
The share of people who have college degrees and are single have been increasing since the ’60s or ’70s. People are delaying having kids, having fewer kids and buying homes later.
So one theory is that there are social demographics behind the trends.
“They’re different. Today’s young adults — they’re different,” Lee said, to sum up the hypothesis.
Another theory is that cities are more attractive today than they were then.
“Cities suffered crime rates and poor maintenance of public housing and streets were not well-maintained. These places were not as attractive as today,” Lee said.
It’s also possible those two theories are working together to produce an increasing preference for urban life among young adults.
The research suggests that because urban amenities are more important to them, millennials will stay in cities longer than adults of previous generations, but how long, it can’t tell.
“How much longer and how many millennials among them will stay in cities, we still need to wait and see,” Lee said.
How to interpret “white coat hypertension” — when a person’s blood pressure reading is high at a doctor’s office but normal at home — has long been unclear.
Some research has suggested white coat hypertension is simply a reflection of the patient’s anxiety about visiting the doctor. Other studies have reported that it may be a precursor for the development of actual hypertension.
A major new study — a meta-analysis published earlier this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine — supports that second idea, that white coat hypertension may not be benign. It found that people with untreated white coat hypertension are twice as likely to die from heart disease as people with normal blood pressure.
The study’s authors say their findings suggest that patients and doctors should take white coat hypertension more seriously.
“Our findings support the pressing need for increased out-of-office blood pressure monitoring nationwide, as it’s critical in the diagnosis and management of hypertension,” said Dr. Jordana Cohen, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, in a released statement.
“Simultaneously, we advise individuals with untreated white coat hypertension to engage in lifestyle modifications, including smoking cessation, reduction in their alcohol intake, and making improvements to their diet and exercise regimens,” she added.
Hypertension is currently defined as having a “top” blood pressure reading of at least 130 or a “bottom” reading of at least 80. More than 100 million Americans — half of all adults — have the condition, according to the American Heart Association.
For the meta-analysis, Cohen and her colleagues reviewed the findings of 27 studies from around the world involving more than 60,000 patients. The patients ranged in age from 43 to 72 (median age: 56) and were followed for three to 19 years (median follow-up period: 8 years).
About 26,000 of the patients were found to have either white coat hypertension or a similar phenomenon known as “white coat effect” (when a patient being treated with medication for hypertension has elevated blood pressure readings in medical settings).
The analysis revealed that the patients with untreated white coat hypertension were 36 percent more likely to have heart disease and 109 percent more likely to die from a cardiac event, such as a heart attack, during the follow-up periods of the studies than those with normal blood pressure. They were also 33 percent more likely to die prematurely from any cause.
The analysis found no significant link, however, between white coat effect and an increased risk of early death. In other words, when people being treated for hypertension had higher blood pressure readings in their doctors’ offices than at home, they weren’t more likely to die of cardiovascular disease (or any other cause) than people with normal blood pressure.
Limitations and implications
This meta-analysis comes with several caveats. Most notably, all the reviewed studies were observational, which means they showed only an association between white coat hypertension and increased risk of heart disease and early death, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
Also, as an editorial that accompanies the study notes, the increased cardiovascular risk associated with white coat hypertension was found to be mostly present among older adults (those over the age of 55). Furthermore, the increased risk associated with white coat hypertension was significantly lower than that associated with sustained (at-home) high blood pressure readings.
Still, the authors of the editorial — Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a cardiologist at Columbia University, and Paul Muntner, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama — believe the new study makes “an important contribution” to our understanding of the white coat hypertension phenomenon, particularly by underscoring the importance of monitoring of blood pressure at home.
“Out-of-office [blood pressure] monitoring is useful for distinguishing between [white coat hypertension] and sustained hypertension among person with high office [blood pressure],” they write.
“Studies suggest that about one in five adults may have white coat hypertension,” she says. “Our findings underscore the importance of identifying people with this condition. We believe individuals with isolated in-office hypertension — those who are not taking blood pressure medication — should be closely monitored for transition to sustained hypertension, or elevated blood pressure both at home and the doctor’s office.”
Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, things never change and we’re still talking about U.S.-Cuba relations like it’s the ’60s. Let’s get on with it.
♫ Havana, ooh na-na. And Minnesota, ooh na-na ♫
Minnesotans across the aisle disagree on a lot of things, but apparently the great unifier is Cuba. From Rep. Tom Emmer, MN-6, to Sen. Amy Klobuchar to Rep. Dean Philips, MN-3, there is a resounding chorus: the president is wrong on U.S.-Cuba relations. Read more at MinnPost.
Emmer, who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee and is in charge of ensuring Republicans take back the House, is usually a reliable ally of the president. But as a co-chair of the House Cuba Working Group, the Sixth District Republican and his colleagues were clear about their thoughts on the Trump administration’s new Cuba policy:
“Every American should have the right to travel freely. The Administration’s decision to further restrict U.S. travel to Cuba not only infringes upon that right, it undercuts efforts to help promote democracy and improve the lives of the Cuban people,” their statement reads. “The United States’ failed embargo policy towards Cuba over the last 60 years has resulted in the outcome we see today.”
Democrats in the delegation have been just as clear as Emmer.
Rep. Angie Craig, MN-2, told MinnPost the decision is “another step backward on making progress with U.S. and Cuba relations.” Her colleague, Phillips, echoed that sentiment: “The Trump administration’s approach returns us to the same failed strategy that hurts Minnesota businesses — and particularly our farmers, who are already facing too many economic challenges.”
The NRCC behind closed doors
Behind closed doors, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming criticized Emmer’s leadership of the NRCC. Cheney, who outranks Emmer on Republican leadership as Republican Conference Chair, reportedly is concerned about the direction of the party as Republicans try to win back the House.
“Chairwoman Cheney is a generous supporter of the NRCC in addition to being a valued member of our House Republican Conference,” Emmer told Politico. “Her political counsel, along with the legislative agenda she is helping to craft, will be vital to our collective efforts to reclaim the majority in 2020.”
On Monday, Lewis is the planned speaker at the Republican Party of Minnesota’snext Elephant Club luncheon, where he will give “his thoughts on politics today and what we need to do to reelect President Donald Trump, gain back control of the U.S. and State House as well as keep control of the U.S. and State Senate.”
“The news of incoming federal disaster relief is welcome after an exceptionally difficult transition from winter to spring this past year,” Walz said in a statement. “Minnesota is on the road to recovery, and the assistance granted by this declaration will expedite that process enormously.”
Omar fined in campaign finance probe
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Boardruled late last week that Rep. Ilhan Omar, MN-5, misused campaign funds during her time as a state legislator.
Omar must personally reimburse her own campaign account $3,469.23 and pay a penalty of $500.
“I’m glad this process is complete and that the Campaign Finance Board has come to a resolution on this matter,” Omar said in a statement. “We have been collaborative in this process and are glad the report showed that none of the money was used for personal use, as was initially alleged.”
“I came to Washington to make government work for Minnesotans, bring down the price of healthcare and prescription drugs, and expand economic opportunity for farmers and small businesses in my district,” Craig said in a statement. “With Minnesota families seeing stagnant or falling wages for far too long, taking a pay raise at taxpayer expense is just wrong. I will not support this pay increase for Members of Congress.”
The President Next Door?
Earlier this week, Sen. Klobuchar was in Cedar Rapids for the Iowa Hall of Fame Dinner, an event that brought out what looked like rabid sports fans but who were actually presidential candidate supporters. Rep. Philips, who has endorsed Klobuchar, also traveled over to show his support.
You can of course spin this Rubik’s cube a million different ways and land on a million different profiles that suit any particular argument. For instance, Democrats clearly need to nominate a candidate who is not a white male and who is from the Midwest, preferably from a purple state, and someone whom enough Republicans are down with — or so says the future President Klobuchar.
Two polls that are particularly interesting: a Monmouth poll of potential Nevada voters and an LA Times poll of potential California voters. Both states are critical to winning the nomination, especially since California (and its 475 delegates) has been moved up in the primary season.
In the California poll, Klobuchar is nowhere near the top. She makes the cut with more than .5% support, but the survey also found that fewer than half of voters had an opinion of the Minnesota Senator.
In the Nevada poll, Joe Biden is polling at 36%, followed by Warren at 19%, then Sanders at 13%, than Buttigieg at 7%, than Kamala Harris at 6%, than Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang at 2%. At the bottom tier, Klobuchar’s polling is tied with Tulsi Gabbard and Julián Castro at 1%.
That same Monmouth Nevada poll indicated that 0 respondents prioritized opioid abuse as a deciding issue and only 3% see infrastructure as a deciding issue, the two biggest priorities for Klobuchar on the trail.
Some other news from the trail.
Republicans are concerned about a path to re-election for President Trump. CNN obtained a Trump campaign memo that cites New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada as potential battleground states as a path to victory, also arguing that Oregon and Minnesota could be in play, if it becomes clear that they cannot win Michigan.
In other news
After profusely denying for years that he accepted help from the Russians in his 2016 campaign, in an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, President Trump said he would be fine accepting information on his opponents from foreign agents.
Politico extensively detailed how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, helped coordinate special treatment for projects in her husband’s state. “The actions taken by Secretary Chao and Majority Leader McConnell are immoral, corrupt, and entirely unacceptable,” Gov. Walz said on Twitter. “This type of behavior only serves to erode faith in our public institutions and the stewards we trust to be objective and fair.”