28 October 2009

Kleis and Clark bridge the political divide

Almost two years ago, in the anxious wake of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, bridge inspectors determined that flaws merited shutting down the so-called "De Soto/Highway 23" bridge in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The news was bad - it would be seven (7) years before reconstruction of a heavily travelled bridge.  No help was forthcoming from Washington.

In St. Paul, legislators at the State Capitol dealing with budget shortfalls  - and despite a governor famously opposed to transportation spending - nonetheless found the will and the resources to replace this bridge seen as vital to the community. They got traffic moving again not in seven years, but in less than two.

The new bridge, the “Granite City Crossing,” is a tribute to the persistence of state and local legislators, and local contractors, working with no help from Washington on a project they knew was important to nearby residents and businesses. Tomorrow (Thursday, 29 Oct 2009) the crossing will re-open to vehicular traffic. Sure, members of the Minnesota delegation to the U.S. Congress were on hand for the dedication; but the initiative and drive, the funding that made it a reality, are a credit to dedicated local politicians, such as St. Cloud's Mayor, Dave Kleis who'd spent seven years at the Capitol as Assistant Minnesota Senate Minority Leader and Minnesota state Senator Tarryl Clark. It was local commitment and leadership that solved this problem for their community.

Pictures of ribbon cuttings don't put people to work - fundamentally sound priorities such as investing in returning this bridge to service, and the courage to find money to invest in our infrastructure even in difficult financial times instead of lining the pockets of special interests, are precisely the qualities we deserve from elected officials at any level. People who act for the good of their neighbors and community are to be applauded - and encouraged to do more.

When politicians overcome partisan political posturing - when they bridge that divide - the consistent winners are the citizens they represent.

17 October 2009

Michelle Obama: I thought we had our stuff together.

Nearly one out of three children in the USA are overweight or obese, with that number rising to one half in African American and Hispanic communities.  Focusing on the profound implications of these growing numbers, First Lady Michelle Obama discussed her concern over the diminished quality of life for affected children in an appearance at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on October 16, 2009.

Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start kids on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Ms. Obama discussed the challenges that today’s parents, particularly working mothers, face in consistently providing healthy meals and snacks for their children. She shared some of her personal stories with this struggle.
"...I got a little tap on my shoulder from our kids' pediatrician who basically said, "You know, you may want to look at changing the way your children are eating," because he could see the effects. And I was shocked. I thought we all had our stuff together.

But it's a little startling when somebody tells you you need to, you know, rethink things. So you just try to figure out, well, where do you begin, what do you change, how can you change things? But what I found was that if we start small and not try to bite off too much, if we just added a few more fruits and vegetables into every single meal, if we cut down on sugary drinks and processed fruit -- foods, that we could see some changes.

The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled!

What can be done?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines, the first to be issued by the federal government, present science-based recommendations to help persons aged 6 years or older improve their health through physical activity.

Read Ms. Obama's full remarks online.  Visit CDC.gov to learn more about the contributing factors, prevalence, and statistics of childhood obesity and get tips for parents interested encouraging healthy eating habits and making sure that their kids' lifespan is longer than their own.


16 October 2009

The greening of a city

Minneapolis is slated to receive $31.8 Million from the ARRA funds to further innovative housing projects according to Mayor Raymond "R.T." Rybak, a fiscal bulldog who is poised to win re-election to a third term.

In north Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) is partnering with an array of community organizations to create a brand new senior community center that will provide a variety of medical, recreational and social services to the senior population.

Near that proposed community center, the ARRA funds will also be used to develop a new 48-unit cutting edge "green" senior housing development incorporating technologies such as solar and geothermal to provide a supportive home to the frail and elderly, particularly those who have severe memory issues.  The innovative structure, built from green materials, will reduce energy costs and consumption to reduce the structure’s carbon footprint.

Green economic initiatives go beyond environmental awareness; it starts with construction jobs that help get money flowing in the area, while the community benefits long-term -- in this case from the new facility to take care of senior citizens while having a low impact on critical resources.

Rybak says that improvements on 733 already existing MPHA properties will also be undertaken using ARRA funds.  Properties have severely outdated energy and water systems will be enhanced to be more efficient and to save energy.   Even in the land of 10,000 lakes, water is one of our most precious resources, and obviously energy efficiency goes beyond economic and environmental concerns to actually enhance national security by reducing our dependence on supplies from those who have historically opposed American success.

Such investments in a community give a boost to the local economy while ultimately reducing burdens on tax-payers as well.  Rybak's Minneapolis continues to be a strong competitor for recovery funds and innovative, beneficial projects like this illustrate what a strong, effective leader skilled at advocating on behalf of their community can do.
Recovery.gov is online to see projections -- based on language in the legislation -- of where ARRA money will go, broken down state-by-state.

Mixed Greens

14 October 2009

A letter from U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN)

Dear Friends,

American families continue to struggle during these tough economic times. Job loses, rising health care costs, and the foreclosure crisis combine to put unprecedented stress on hard-working Americans.

Since entering Congress, I have worked to reduce the financial crisis' impact on our communities by supporting legislation to extend unemployment insurance, curtail predatory lending, and save working families from losing their homes.

We all know someone who has been forced to make hard choices due to the sagging economy. For example, some parents are forced to make ends meet by sending their children to school without a lunch.

I recently introduced the Expand School Meals Act (HR 3705), which would ensure that more students receive the nutritious meals they need to learn and succeed. Senator Franken joined me by introducing a Senate version of the bill.

My campaigns have always been about more than electoral victory. Since my election in 2006, I've run vigorous campaigns focused on what I call "the politics of generosity and inclusion" - a movement based on the reality that there are enough resources to go around - and that we should act that way.

In order to build the politics of generosity and inclusion, our campaign reaches out to underrepresented communities, helping citizens organize and fight for the change we need on issues like affordable health care, green jobs, and reforming our financial system.

I need your help to get out the word and organize for our progressive agenda. Conservative commentators are working overtime to spread lies and distortions, but you can fight back by making your voice heard.

Help me continue building the politics of generosity and inclusion by making a contribution of $10, $25, $50, or $100.

Thank you for your support!


Keith Ellison
Member of Congress

Learn more about the Expand School Meals Act - HR 3705 either by following that link or by using the convenient Google search box below.


Tick tick tick... Time for Climate Justice

The former U.N. Secretary General is campaigning for a climate-change initiative. Kofi Annan, winner of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, responds to questions posed by Tim Morrison of Time Magazine...

"Climate change is having a real impact on the lives of individuals and communites around the world. We must do something about it."
Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan
Download "Beds Are Burning" freely, and become a Climate Ally  at: www.TimeForClimateJustice.org

The time has come
To take a stand...


Mixed Greens

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12 October 2009

Are we running out of water?

WaterOver two billion people do not have adequate water to address basic sanitation needs (according to the World Health Organization/UNICEF report, “Meeting the MDG drinking water and sanitation target: the urban and rural challenge of the decade,” Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment, [World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, 2006].)

    Here are three questions:
  1. Do you know how much water it takes to put a pound of beef on the table?
  2. Is there much difference in the water content between a cup of coffee and/or a cup of tea?
  3. How many people don't have access to clean drinking water?
answers below

In the United States and elsewhere a number of local governments now rely on "privatized" water systems.  The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy [IATP] has produced a map and a report on the impact of water privatization in the U.S.  Links to those documents and other related materials can be found at "Helping Local Communities Thrive" at the henoticworld blog.

Water "Remunicipalization"

Nonetheless, some communities have insisted on returning water and sewage treatment services to public management -- "remunicipalization" -- forcing water multinationals to pull services out of communities world-wide. Do you know how many communities in your state are buying their water from for-profit multi-national corporations?  Is it the end of water as we know it? I know this: it's enough to make Lewis Black curse. (The following clip contains strong language that may not be appropriate for some readers.)

The answers:

  1. It requires 1500 gallons to raise and deliver a pound of beef to your kitchen (over six times more than a pound of chicken!)
  2. It takes roughly 4 times as much water to make a cup of coffee compared to a cup of tea.
  3. Over 1 billion people do NOT have access to clean drinking water.
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