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To have our carrots and eat them too

23 Nov

Those of us fortunate enough to live in Linden Hills live here because we love the small town feel of the neighborhood. We love having Wild Rumpus for the kids to find a book, we love having the Co-op close enough to walk and shop, and we love having Zumbro’s to take our families to on Mother’s Day.

It’s also clear many people are partial to a glass of wine on the benches at Tilia’s. The synergies from the density of businesses help each business grow. (If you give a kid a toy from Creative Kidstuff you might have to buy her a scoop of ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s.)

 The cluster of businesses exists, too, because of the synergies from the density of people. There are 2,217 single family homes in Linden Hills with an additional 1,061 multifamily units. These apartments, condos, and townhomes surround each of the business nodes providing additional neighbors and customers. Their density helps make the commercial nodes possible. We elected Betsy Hodges who called on Minneapolis to increase our population by 20 percent. We need increased density to improve the financial health of the city, to support efficient public transportation, and to grow our local food system.

If someone chooses to live on the fringe of the metro instead of Linden Hills, they are building on what was previously farmland. We love the local food at our farmers market, but those farmers will be pushed further afield without increased density in the city. Let’s support 20 percent more neighbors so we can have our carrots and eat them, too.


A Living Wage for Student Success

13 Apr

Minneapolis needs a living wage. Each year thousands of students graduate from Southwest, Washburn, Edison, and all the Minneapolis schools. Each year many of those students reach for their future and head to college. Some come from families fortunate enough to not need loans; most do not. As difficult as navigating the challenges of finding and attending college, it is even more difficult to navigate scholarships, student loan offices, and high interest rates. This difficulty is real. Minnesota students have some of the highest levels of student loan debt in the nation. Students are working 2 or 3 jobs to try to pay for their brighter future.

As kids we were told the stories of our parents or their peers working their way through college. We see them as role models and strive for success in the same way. The world is no longer the same. In 1980 the minimum wage was $3.10. In 1980 tuition at the University of Minnesota was $927. Working about 10 hours a week during the school year a student could earn enough money to pay for tuition*. This year’s tuition is $12,090. With the minimum wage bumped to $9.50 it would take a student 42 hours a week during the school year to pay for tuition. It is no wonder that student debt is piling up.

Raising the wage to $15 helps return into the realm of the possible the dream of working for a better education. At $15 an hour it would take a student 27 hours a week to pay for tuition; still a stretch, but possible. Declines in real wages and higher tuition costs have squeezed the Minnesota Miracle. It’s time to give families and students a raise. Won’t you support our students’ futures?

*The math used to calculate the weekly hours. $927/($3.10* 30 school weeks)= 10 hours a week. $12,090/(9.50*30 school weeks)= 42 hours a week. $1,090/($15* 30 school weeks) = 27 hours a week.

Palmisano should budget by our values

15 Dec

We all love living in Southwest Minneapolis. We love the strong sense of community that means three conversations while waiting for the concert to start at the band shell. We also love the high quality schools that produces top notch students and top notch theater.

We also love living in a progressive city that lives its values. It is why we elected Betsy on a platform of One Minneapolis. Which leads us to the city budget.

Councilwoman Palmisano has been put in what looks like a bind. She ran on a platform of stabilizing property taxes. Middle class and fixed income residents of her (our) district are asking her to help them stay in their homes and age in place by keeping property taxes in check; they have gone up because of million dollar homes and increases in the property tax levy. On the other hand she was elected in a wave of elections by city residents demanding serious action and investment towards ending the racial and economic injustices that hold back our city and all of its residents.

How does she best respond?

Councilwoman Palmisano should guide her decision on what we love about our neighborhood. She should channel our neighborliness and desire to stay here forever to advocate for a reallocation of senior housing investments towards Ward 13 so more seniors have the dignity to age in the city they love. She should channel our pride in our schools and teachers to advocate for affordable family housing investments in Ward 13 so more families have the opportunity of great education. This is one way to prioritize equity and meet her constituent needs.

The budget is our values in actions. Let us make them real.

Elliot Altbaum

Sharing Like a Capitalist

15 Oct

The sharing economy has received lots of media adoration over the last couple of years. A closer look reveals a more troubling truth. There are various types of companies in this new economy, but the ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft provide a useful example. In a recent article, Avi Asher-Schapiro details the effects of this model on the workers.

Uber entered cities with great fanfare. They said that they had a ridesharing system that would be cheaper for the consumer and better for the drivers. At the beginning, Uber charged costumers a fare of $2.75 per mile (with an additional 60 cents per minute under eleven mph). With drivers keeping 80 percent of the fare, it was possible to work full time and make a $15-$20 an hour. This is what prompted the media to declare ride-sharing a success; workers were making a living wage and it was cheaper for the riders. This did not last.

Within the last year, rates have been cut to less than half of the earlier ones. With the drivers having no control over the fare price, Uber slashed rates to $1.10 per mile, plus 21 cents a minute. This has left the drivers with significantly less cash for the same amount of work. Now drivers struggle to barely make minimum wage.

Drivers are fighting back. Working with Teamsters locals, the drivers have started their own drivers associations. Because Uber treats each driver as a “partner-driver” the drivers are independent contractors. This makes forging unity among the workers more difficult. Nonetheless, strikes and protests have happened in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City, and others. It is not going to be easy; Uber has raised $1.5 billion from tech investors in Silicon Valley and they want to make a lot of money.

Asher-Schapiro’s conclusion of the new sharing economy is damning:

[U]nder the guise of innovation and progress, companies are stripping away worker protections, pushing down wages, and flouting government regulations. At its core, the sharing economy is a scheme to shift risk from companies to workers, discourage labor organizing, and ensure that capitalists can reap huge profits with low fixed costs.
There’s nothing innovative or new about this business model. Uber is just capitalism, in its most naked form.

New technology and the economies it creates can be a force for bettering people’s lives. As progressives we need to raise our voice to ensure that it works for everyone.


This post first appeared a MN2020

I Marched There to Come Home Here

3 Oct

boundary_watersI wanted to go from my university in Massachusetts to the climate march in New York City so that I can come home to a Minnesota that has a brighter future.

I went to the climate march to come home to Minnesota where the Iron Range again has good middle class jobs. The northern forests can provide the basis for a sustainable economy. With careful stewardship our people can provide biofuels that can power our state and nation. With our manufacturing skill, we can provide new tools for a new economy. With clean lakes we can enjoy our lives for centuries to come.

I went to the climate march to come home to Minnesota where the Southern plains have stable jobs, free from the great swings in commodity prices. The southern prairie can provide the basis for a sustainable economy. With methods, old and new, our people can provide the food that can feed our state and nation. With our skill in caring for people, we will have a population healthy and ready to face all new challenges. With clean rivers we can enjoy our lives for centuries to come.

I went to the climate march to come home to Minnesota where the Twin Cities can be a place of opportunity for all. The Twin Cities can provide a basis for a sustainable economy. With care and precision, our people will discover new techniques and technologies that will make our state and our nation more sustainable. With our skill and commitment to education, we will have a population with the knowledge to build a new economy. With our plenty of parks we can enjoy our lives for centuries to come.

I went to the climate march to come home to Minnesotans. Climate change affects each and every one of us, but especially those already struggling. Each of us can be a part of the fight to turn the tide against an economy that exploits both people and the earth. Each of us can be a part of the movement to build a new economy that cares for both people and the earth. What will you do?


This post first appeared at MN2020