Photo credit: Flickr user Taber Andrew Bain
The Minnesota Department of Commerce is working with U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison to stop predatory lending. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman and Congressman Ellison are holding a special Town Hall Forum on Predatory Lending on August 8 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at Neighborhood Hub in North Minneapolis. Commissioner Rothman and Congressman Ellison want to hear your stories about how predatory lending and foreclosure have affected your community so we can stop these destructive practices. All residents of North Minneapolis are invited to attend.
Predatory lending often targets low-income consumers, causing financial hardship in Minnesota neighborhoods. Scam artists and predatory lenders take advantage of consumers from all walks of life, causing foreclosures and financial hardship in our communities. In recent years, foreclosure and loan modification scams have severely harmed North Minneapolis neighborhoods.
According to the Department of Commerce, nearly 136,000 Minnesota homes have gone into foreclosure in the last seven years. That adds up to almost $13 billion in home equity lost in Minnesota alone since 2005. If your neighbor or someone down the street goes into foreclosure, the average loss in value to your home is roughly $8,500.
This week, national non-profit Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) recognized Minnesota for statewide efforts to lower drop-out rates and connect youth with higher education and jobs after high school. JAG awarded the local affiliate Job’s for Minnesota Graduates it’s most prestigious honor, the National Performance Award, after earning a 5 out of 5 rating in their yearly state assessments.
Jobs for Minnesota Graduates is a school-to-career program that seeks to raise student aspirations while teaching teamwork and leadership. The program also cultivates partnerships between schools, communities, and local/national businesses to help students transition from high school to the workforce.
The program tracks students as they leave the program to see how they are doing post-graduation. In Minnesota, 2011 graduates who participated in the program showed remarkable success just a year after high school:
• High School Graduation Rate: 97.94%
• Positive Outcomes Rate: 80.00%
• Aggregate Employment Rate: 60.00%
• Full-time Jobs Rate: 63.16%
• Full-time Placement Rate: 92.98%
• Pursuing Higher Education: 44.21%
Everyone loves summer – especially in Minnesota. Hot dogs on the grill, lazy days at the lake, county fairs and festivals everywhere you turn. But summer can also pose challenges when it comes to students who struggle to learn. Increasingly, educators are looking for ways to combat the “summer slide”, the phenomenon that has kids avoiding books and other academic activities in the months that school is out. Many children, especially struggling readers, forget some of what they've learned during the school year, making it that much harder to hit the ground running when schools back in session come fall.
That’s where summer learning programs come in, and why programs like the ones funded by the Minnesota Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Grants are so important.
The Minnesota Department of Education has administered the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program since 2002. These federal funds, authorized under Title IV, Part B, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001, help establish or expand community learning centers that provide students with enrichment opportunities during times when school is not in session.
During the last school year alone (2010-11, the most recent data available) $9,625,000 was provided to thirty 21st CCLC grantees to support programming in 98 centers located in urban, suburban and rural communities across the state. More than 21,000 students participated. Since 2002, Minnesota has awarded $77,729,219 to 68 grantees statewide, serving an average of 20,000 students each year.
It has been a bizarre stretch of weather for much of the state, from a warm and dry winter to a wet spring to a summer of drought. Crop and weather reports show Minnesota is in better condition on average than other corn-belt states, but farmers don’t farm in the aggregate.
Rainfall has been spotty, and the health of an individual farmer’s crops – and his or her financial outlook – can vary dramatically depending on whether the fields happened to be under the right cloud at the right time. For livestock producers, even those with forage and feed on hand, the hot and dry summer has stressed animals and intensified concerns about feed costs.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Minnesota’s agricultural area is abnormally dry, and sizable portions of western and southern Minnesota are now experiencing moderate or severe drought. Every day that goes by without rain makes the situation worse. Of course, the suffering extends well beyond our state borders. As of late July, nearly 80 percent of America’s corn belt was in moderate drought or worse.
Recognizing this growing crisis, we recently sat down the leaders from many of Minnesota’s top agricultural organizations to ask them how state and federal officials might help. We can’t make it rain, but we can help farmers in three specific ways: first, by making sure federal officials are aware that Minnesota farmers are suffering from this drought; second, by making it easier for farmers to find useful crop and weather information; and third, by helping farmers access the range of state and federal programs available to help them.
A rider on Minnesota’s newest mountain biking trail at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
Ask any Minnesotan—even those who don’t bicycle much—and chances are they’ll know that the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis are consistently ranked among the top bike-friendly locations across the nation. But what many Minnesotans—especially those who don’t bicycle much—probably don’t know is that there is a great resource available online that is dedicated to Minnesota bicycling.
Pedal Minnesota is the result of a partnership between a wide range of Minnesota groups and government agencies, all centered on the goal of getting Minnesotans pedaling. The site features a map of trails and bike-friendly roads (as well as worthwhile locations like bike shops, parks, and food/lodging) across the state; a list of resources for individuals, communities, and businesses; a page highlighting the many bike events occurring across Minnesota; and a “Pedal Central” blog, featuring articles on all aspects of Minnesota biking, such as tips on keeping cool while bicycling this summer.
In recognition of the important role that bicycling plays in Minnesota—economically, recreationally, and as a form of transportation—Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed last May to be Minnesota Bike Month, in an effort to also promote further efforts for bike safety. Last October was also proclaimed to be Safe Routes to School Month by Governor Dayton, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health (a PedalMN partner), to promote the positive health and academic benefits that accompany students who make a habit of walking or bicycling to school each day.
West Huddleston, CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, Chief Justice Lori Gildea, Governor Dayton, Judge Robert Rancourt and former Congressman Jim Ramstad.
Today, Governor Dayton received the All Rise Award from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Governor Dayton was presented with the honor for his commitment to Drug Courts, addiction treatment, and criminal justice reform in Minnesota. He is the first Governor to receive the award in the United States.
Minnesota currently has 49 drug courts in courthouses across the state, providing an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system for drug offenders. The treatment program that drug court participants go through combines elements of criminal justice and medical treatment, as well as basic skills training that helps offenders rehabilitate. On average, participants spend significantly less time in treatment than other offenders spend incarcerated. Incarceration costs are nearly $3,200 lower for drug court participants than for other offenders, and by many measures, drug court programs are far more effective in treating drug offenders and preventing recidivism than is traditional incarceration.
Governor Dayton proclaimed April 16, 2012 as “Drug Court Day” in Minnesota.
Officials from the US Department of Agriculture set a trap for Emerald Ash Borer
With camping season in full swing, Minnesotans have an important role to play in keeping our campsites pest-free by learning the facts about terrestrial invasive species. Help the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by stopping invasive species from following in your tracks.
Invasive species are plants, animals and micro-organisms that are not native to a particular area. These species can cause large amounts of damage in areas outside their natural habitat. Not only can invasive species harm Minnesota’s environment, but they can also have negative effects on our economy and even on human health once they take root.
Different species can spread in different ways; some can simply be blown by the wind while others are transported by humans, animals, soil, or water. In their natural habitat, these species do not usually cause problems because they live in balance with the other plants and animals. However, when aggressive species spread long-distances – a process usually assisted by humans– these species are rarely good neighbors to the existing group of plants and animals. Usually there are not natural enemies or other defenses to protect the existing group from the new, invasive species.
The 100th Anniversary of the Minnesota Governor's Residence is a year long celebration from January 2012 to January 2013 to honor the history and legacy of the Minnesota Governor's Residence. The Governor's Residence Council and the 1006 Summit Avenue Society are sponsoring the 100th Anniversary celebration. Over the course of the 100th Anniversary year, Minnesotans will have the opportunity to learn more about the Minnesota Governor's Residence through signature initiatives that will endure long after the centennial year.
An exhibit on E-Waste presented by the MPCA at the 2011 Minnesota State Fair as part of their Eco Experience facility.
In a world increasingly dependent on smartphones and laptops, the issue of responsibly disposing of these electronics is becoming more and more pressing. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reports that in the last year, Minnesota took in nearly 33 million pounds of electronic waste for recycling, making Minnesota a national leader in collections of e-waste for recycling.
What is electronic waste? E-waste, as it’s called, is what’s created when electronic materials are disposed. This can include cellphones, computers, printers, televisions, digital cameras, etc., and as technology continues to advance and we continue to upgrade our devices, the amount of e-waste we produce continues to rise as well.
Unlike throwing away a piece of paper, however, disposing of electronics can have a huge impact on the environment and on our health; e-waste contains high levels of lead, cadmium, and other chemicals that can pollute the ground and water supply if they aren’t properly disposed of. Electronic waste should always be taken to certified recycling facilities that are trained to manage these hazardous chemicals.
Gypsy moths are tree pests that can defoliate large sections of forests and are among America's most destructive tree pests, having caused millions of dollars in damage. These moths are common in Wisconsin, but are now threatening Minnesota as well. Their preferred hosts are oak, poplar, birch and willow trees. The moths spread slowly on their own, but people can unintentionally speed up the process if they unwittingly transport firewood and other objects on which the moths have laid their eggs.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has recently completed treatment of approximately 150,000 acres of land in Carlton and St. Louis Counties to slow the spread of the moth. The infestation was identified last summer and the MDA has been working hard to slow down the infestation before it takes hold.