What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to suzanne.ziegler@startribune.com.

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Four Sullivan educators raising funds for Somali trip

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: March 28, 2014 - 4:55 PM
Pictured: James Kindle, Laura Byard, Kaitlin Lindsey, Ayan Mohamed

Pictured: James Kindle, Laura Byard, Kaitlin Lindsey, Ayan Mohamed

Two days after the end of school in June, four Minneapolis educators plan to head off to a different kind of summer school.

Three teachers and a Somali-born bilingual aide from Anne Sullivan Communication Center plan to fly to Somalia in a quest to better understand the background and educational needs of Somali-American students who make up 60 percent of the school’s enrollment.

They’ve raised $10,000 of the planned trip’s budget, but still have $6,000 to raise. They’ve established a web site where they’re appealing to the public for donations.

The belief giving rise to their travel is that they can better understand the needs of their students if they have a chance to learn more about the culture from which they spring. About 30 percent of Sullivan students are refugees.   

The four travelers are associate educator Ayan Mohamed, who was born in Somalia, and teachers Kaitlin Lindsey, James Kindle and Laura Byard.  All four work with English learner students at Sullivan.

Their two-week itinerary includes school and home visits in Somalia, Ethiopia and possibly Djibouti. They’re hoping that a deeper knowledge of Somali language and culture will help them build stronger relationships with their students and their families.

They're building on connections gained through Mohamed and her extended family.  She left Somalia at age 10 and will return for the first time at age 32. She's working as an associate educator at Sullivan while pursuing licensure to teach English learner students, which she expects to obtain this year.

Besides improving their own teaching, the Sullivan travelers plan to create what they’ve dubbed a Somali Newcomer Toolbox for other teachers. It will include a summary of their travel blog, sharing assumptions that were challenged and insights they gained; a visual presentation of recommended changes in teaching to benefit Somali students;a database of still and video images that teacher can use to make learning materials more relevant to Somali-American students, and adaptations of standard district curriculum to connect better with those students. They also plan presentations for Minneapolis teachers before school opens next August, and one the following spring for other Minnesota English learner teachers.

The educators already have invested considerable time in trying to become more competent in teaching refugee students. Three are enrolled in a Somali language and culture course. They visit student homes to build ties with families. They’ve independently studied Somali literature.

The major funding for the trip comes from a $10,000 grant obtained through AchieveMpls, the local administrator for the national Fund for Teachers.  

Key link on Hiawatha LRT bike trail opens

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 29, 2014 - 5:30 PM

You can finally get there from here easily on the Hiawatha LRT Trail following the announcement that a long-closed key segment south of downtown will reopen Thursday at 7 a.m.

The section of trail for bikes and pedestrians between 11th and 15th Avenues S. is reopening after a lengthy  closure by the Metro Council for construction of the adjacent extension of the light-rail transit line to St. Paul. The bike path generally parallels the light-rail tracks, and about 1,300 cyclists a day use it in warm weather.

The section of path closed just as the city was completing a $1.3 million extension of the north end of the trail farther into downtown,which mooted the utility of the extension. The extension pushed the north end of the trail from 11th Avenue S. to S. 3rd Street, meaning cyclists no longer were tempted to cut through several bumpy parking lots to access it. The extension connected the trail with on-street lanes on S. 3rd and 4th Streets.

During the construction closure, trail users were routed through a bumpy, narrow, noisy sidewalk route adjoinng the S. 5th Street freeway entrance to downtown.

The city said in a news release that bikers and pedestrians should keep an eye out for light-rail workers using the trail to access work sites and complete remaining tasks.  The reopened section of trail includes the junction of the blue (Hiawatha) line and green (Central) sections of track. That means there's a new surface-level track crossing where bikers and other users are required to stop for gate arms, the city said.

(Staff photo bvy Matt McKinney, looking west toward downtown at the point of the former detour.)

Apartment owner denies illegal water pumping

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 29, 2014 - 1:56 PM

The owner of an apartment building on Lake Street sued by the city for pumping groundwater into the Calhoun-Isles lagoon asserts that the city approved its plans.

Lake and Knox LLC said in an answer to the city lawsuit that city reviewed and approved its building plans and specifications, which included included information about two permanent dewatering pumps each rated at 500 gallons per minute.

The city asserts that Lake and Knox obtained temporary permits to pump water for its construction site at 1800 W. Lake St., but that it is now pumping illegally on a permanent basis.  The city, later joined by the Park Board, is suing to block the discharge and recover damages.

But lawyers for the apartment owner assert that the city expressly approved a storm drain permit, certificate of occupancy and building permit that involved permanent dewatering of the property.

Lake and Knox said it applied for a permanent Department of Natural Resources water use permit after conferring with the city. It applied in April, 2013, after construction was completed, according to state records, but the city asked the state to hold off on acting on the permit, according to Jack Gleason, a DNR area hydrologist. He said the need for a permanent permit didn't come to light until after the city inquired whether the building had one.

The owner's attorneys also deny the city's claim that a temporary water use permit was limited to lowering the water table at the construction site for excavating a foundation, insisting that the dewatering was to lower the water table in the vicinity of the property. The company also denied the city's assertion that the apartment's connection to the storm sewer system was only for drainage from the property's land and roof.

It admits that the pumping of water into the lagoon may thin the ice, but denied that the pumping impairs the lakes or the city's sewer. It said it has worked "diligently and steadfastly" with the city to address its concerns.

The proposal for what became 56 upscale apartments was controversial in surrounding neighborhoods before it was approved and constructed in 2011.  The city and Park Board recently installed for the second straight winter a drainage pipe to carry discharged water from the nearby sewer across the lagoon ice to a point in Lake Calhoun. That was done in part to accommodate skiers participating in this weekend's City of Lake Loppet events on Isles, Calhoun and the lagoon between them.  .

(A temporary 12-inch drainage pipe in the background is temporarily carrying the storm sewer discharge from the lagoon to Lake Calhoun to avoid further thinning of the ice in the lagoon)

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Park Board sues over discharge to lagoon

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 22, 2014 - 1:01 PM

A second Minneapolis agency has sued the owner of an apartment building at 1800 W. Lake St. for discharging groundwater into the lagoon between Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun.

The complaint served last week by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board against Eden Prairie-based Lake and Knox LLC follows a city lawsuit last month over the discharge of groundwater. The Park Board will ask that the two lawsuits be joined, attorney Brian Rice said.

The city and Park Board allege that the apartment owner exceed the limits of a temporary permit it was issued during construction of the 56-unit building to lower the water table to permit construction of a lower-level garage. The Park Board cites its statutory authority over waters adjacent to parks.

The Park Board asked the court to declare the discharge illegal, to enjoin further discharge and to award unspecified damages.

Lake and Knox is not due to file an answer until late this month in Hennepin County District Court to the allegations against it, nor has its attorney responded to Star Tribune inquiries.

The lawsuits allege that the apartment project is pumping an annual 89 million gallons into the lagoon. The Park Board alleges that causes thin ice and open water on the lagoon, creating hazards for skiers and others, mars the scenery, uses storm drain capacity, and impedes the effectiveness and hinders the maintenance of a grit chamber intended to remove sediment and accompanying pollutants.   

Rybak elaborates on lessons of a heart attack

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 20, 2014 - 2:52 PM
Rybak said he had more heart damage at his junior prom

Rybak said he had more heart damage at his junior prom. Photo of 1974 Breck School yearbook taken by Tane Danger

You can’t keep an ex-mayor down.

Last Wednesday, an aide to R.T. Rybak told a reporter that Rybak felt he had said all he needs to say about his recent heart attack.
 
Last Thursday, Rybak blogged 650 words on the topic.

In his post, Rybak said he’d suffered no permanent heart damage and was feeling better than he had in years.  That’s not surprising, considering that he’d had the cardiology equivalent of a Roto Rooter job on several arteries, with multiple angioplasties and stents.

Rybak said he’s doing cardiac rehab on a treadmill at Hennepin County Medical Center, but put in three full days at his new gig heading Generation Next’s focus on the achievement gap.

He said he’ll soon be back to a maniacal workout schedule, but not in time to ski this year’s City of Lake Loppet.  He’ll be at its Luminary Loppet that’s more of a social event, he said, but didn’t say whether he’ll be on skis.

He said that people have wondered how someone in his condition could have a heart attack. He said the blame is strictly attributable to genetics and his doctors have told him that conditioning contributed to his survival.  So his takeaway is to keep on sweating, with the help of medication to address his predisposition.  

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