Category Archives: Government

Confronting Racism in ‘Post-Racial’ America | Campus Climate

The Black Graduate and Professional Students Association presents a lecture with LaDoris Cordell, retired Superior Court judge, California. Wed., Oct 28, 1-2:30 pm. Coffman Memorial Union Theater.

Find out about Judge Cordell here.

Free and open to the public. Read more in the Facebook event.

Risky Business: Confronting Racism in ‘Post-Racial’ America | Campus Climate

Assignment:  Attend and record this lecture.  If possible, get an interview with Judge Cordell and talk to some members of her audience about the topics she raises.

Produce a report for the Morning Blend, make speech audio available for public affairs programmers

Iran Deal Roundtable

Assignment:  Attend this event at the Humphrey School on Monday, August 24th.
Collect and edit tape for a feature on the Morning Blend

Iran Nuclear Deal

Pros and Cons 

A Round Table Discussion 

Organized by United Nations Association of Minnesota

 

August 24, 2015, 5:00-7:00 P.M.

 

Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs 

University of Minnesota

 

Moderator: Dean Eric Schwartz

Panel Speaker: Professor William Beeman,

Iran Scholar and Chair of

Department of Anthropology, U of M

Panel Speaker: Steve Hunegs, Executive Director

Jewish Community Relation Council, JCRC

Guest of Honor: Congressman Keith Ellison 

Other guests have been asked but not confirmed. 

 

Co-sponsored by Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Others are invited to co-sponsor at no cost.

 

Contacts: Jay Shahidi, mjshahidiusa@aol.com

Stu Ackman: stuart.ackman@ackmanbaer.com

Minneapolis to Collect Organics

Assignment: Do an interview or report on this initiative in the City of Minneapolis to collect organics.

Organics recycling is coming to Minneapolis
Sign up to get an organics cart

April 20, 2015 (MINNEAPOLIS) Minneapolis residents are big recyclers. They already save plastic, glass, metal, cardboard, paper, cartons and other containers from homes for their recycling pickup. Soon, they will also be able to save their organics for the City to collect for composting as well.

Sign up now
The organics recycling carts will be distributed only to customers who opt in. More than 10,000 households have already signed up. The carts will be distributed in two phases: about a quarter of households will have service available in August 2015 and the rest in spring 2016. Once residents get their carts, they can start filling them with organics in a compostable bag.

Last week, the City mailed packets of information to eligible residents to help them learn about organics recycling and to encourage them to sign up.

Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling customers can request a cart by emailing swrcustomer@minneapolismn.gov – they should make sure to include their address – or by calling 612-673-2917.

What will be collected?
Organics collection will include all food scraps, including fruits, vegetables, bones, meat trimmings, breads, pasta, nut shells, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags and dairy products. Organics collection also includes food-soiled paper that can’t be recycled, including paper towels, napkins, facial tissues, waxed paper, egg cartons and pizza boxes. Just make sure the paper is not lined with plastic. Other things that can go into organics recycling include wood chopsticks, wood Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, dryer lint, animal and human hair, certified compostable plastic and houseplant trimmings.

Some of these items can’t be managed in a backyard compost bin, so people who do their own composting at home can still benefit from the program. And collection continues all year round, so people who put their own composting on hold in the winter benefit from the collections too.

What won’t be collected?
Items not accepted include milk cartons, plastic-lined paper products, vacuum cleaner bags, liquids, oils, greases and fats. If an item can go into the regular recycling, it should go there instead of in the organics collection. Yard waste must remain separate; customers should keep using yard waste collection for branches, leaves, grass clippings and other outside plant material.

How does it work?
Just like having a separate bag or container to collect recyclables at home, people use separate containers for organics recycling. It is recommended that home users keep a small organics container conveniently near the kitchen to collect materials.

There is no reason to expect a new household smell from organics; separating organics doesn’t introduce any new materials that aren’t already there. It’s simply putting them in a different place to make use of a resource, instead of managing it as trash.

Residents now get a black cart for garbage and a blue one for recycling. Organics will be collected in green carts. Any organics from the home can be put in the green cart for pickup on the weekly collection day. Organics will need to be placed in compostable bags inside the cart to keep it clean year-round and to avoid freezing to it in the winter.

With people starting to divert “garbage” into the organics recycling, a lot of people will be able to switch to smaller garbage carts if they want to and save $3 every month on their utility bills.

Composting creates a resource out of valuable materials that would otherwise become trash. Using compost returns nutrients to the soil, reduces erosion, and reduces the needs for watering and for chemical fertilizers.

For more information visit http://www.minneapolismn.gov/organics.

Law Enforcement Urges $ for Early Learning

Assignment:  Attend this press event on Wednesday, April 22 and file a report for the Morning Blend

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE          CONTACT:    Jennifer Arnold jarnold@fightcrime.org

                                                                                                              (508) 439-0413

                                                                                   

 

MEDIA ADVISORY

 

Minnesota Law Enforcement Leaders Support High-Quality

Early Learning to Reduce Future Crime

 

WHO:             Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek

Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie

Ramsey County Sheriff Matthew Bostrom

WHAT:          News conference to release I’m the Guy You Pay Later, a brief linking the importance of quality early learning to future crime reduction, and calling for a minimum investment of $150 million annually in preschool programs.

WHERE:        YWCA of Minneapolis Children’s Center at Midtown

2121 East Lake Street

Minneapolis, MN 55407

WHEN:          9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 22

DETAILS:

On behalf of 82 Minnesota police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie and Ramsey County Sheriff Matthew Bostrom are encouraging lawmakers to expand access of high-quality early learning opportunities for Minnesota children as a first step toward reducing future crime.

 

The local law enforcement leaders will make their case with the release of a brief, I’m the Guy You Pay Later. Speaking in person at the event, the Sheriffs will describe how quality early learning experiences prepare children for long-term academic success, thereby reducing the likelihood they will turn to crime in later years. Approximately 20 percent of Minnesota students fail to graduate from high school on time, and research in the report shows that nationwide seven in 10 prison inmates do not have a high school diploma.

The law enforcement leaders will also discuss how raising academic achievement and graduation rates could save public dollars. Minnesota currently spends more than $487 million on prisons and corrections to incarcerate about 9,950 adults each year. The law enforcement leaders will urge lawmakers to provide a minimum investment of $150 million annually for the state’s preschool program, which would enable approximately 20,000 more children to participate. The brief projects that providing this investment of $150 million in preschool could help Minnesota reduce its prisoners by nearly 1,000 each year and save $49 million annually in corrections costs. This is only one part of larger savings from the investment that the brief highlights—at least $520 million for each graduating preschool class in the long term.

# # #

Downtown East Commons Alternative Approaches

On April 8th,  the next Downtown East Commons meeteing will lay out “alternative approaches” to shaping this new park in the middle of downtown Minneapolis.

As a new billion dollar football stadium rises in Minneapolis, planning is underway for Downtown East Commons, a green space that so far has only some lovely drawings to its name.

The development has a history tied to the new stadium and before it, the Metrodome.    An early controversy about Downtown East involved ownership and responsibility – the Minneapolis Park Board didn’t propose it and wasn’t enthusiastic about taking control of it.   An agreement from late 2014 describes an ownership hand-off sequence that gives the Vikings an undue amount of control long-term, but the design, construction and programming of the park are all question marks, clearly explained here by blogger Sam Newberg as “Joe Urban”.

Assignment:  Attend the meeting and produce a report that describes the alternatives being offered, with reaction from some of the people in attendance.

Somali-American Joins Airports Commission

Here’s an interesting press release from the Service Employees International Union Local 26.

Assignment: research the issues facing the Metropolitan Airports Commission, particularly with regard to the labor relations questions, and have a conversation with Ibrahim Mohamed about his new role on the MAC. A good first step – attend the MAC meeting on Tuesday, February 17.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2015
Contact: Josh Keller, Media Relations Coordinator | 612-270-2984

In Groundbreaking Appointment, Airport Worker Becomes First Somali-American To Serve On Metropolitan Airports Commission
The appointment by Governor Dayton lifts current airport employee into important governing role

St. Paul, MN – On Monday, February 9th, Governor Dayton announced his latest appointments to the 14 member Metropolitan Airports Commission. One of the two new Commissioners selected was Ibrahim Mohamed from Rosemount, a cart driver who works for Delta sub-contractor AirServ and has been employed at the airport for 11 years. Mohamed will be the first Somali-American to serve on the MAC and will be the only current airport employee.

In his 11 years at the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) Airport, Mohamed has served many roles, including Baggage Runner, Ticket Verifier and Lavatory and Water Services. He said that his range of experience, on both sides of security, will allow him to serve the residents of his district and be a voice for the workers on the front lines.

“I am excited to bring the voices of the people that I speak to on a daily basis to the MAC. In my current position as a cart driver, I speak with hundreds of elderly and disabled passengers each day. I hear about their time in MSP and am the first line of response to help,” said Mohamed. “I am excited about this opportunity to serve and to be a leader in connecting new communities to the important work of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.”

Mohamed and hundreds of other employees of AirServ at MSP have been advocating for improved working conditions over the last few years.

“There are hundreds of workers like myself who are paid minimum wage, with no benefits. I’ve made up to $12.50 at various positions, but currently make minimum wage, which just went up in August to $8.00 per hour. I will work to make sure that workers at the airport are part of the conversations at the MAC, because when workers have fair pay, decent benefits and a reliable schedule, we are able to provide world-class service to passengers,” said Mohamed. “I will continue to stand together with my fellow co-workers as we fight for dignity and respect for all workers at MSP, and will always fight to make sure the needs and concerns of workers and passengers are part of all decisions made by the MAC.”

AirServ workers like Mohamed have been fighting for years to have the right to form a union with SEIU Local 26. They have taken direct action with disability rights activists to highlight the need for sub-contractors like Air Serv to value seniors and people with disabilities by paying the workers who serve them a fair wage with decent benefits and a stable schedule.

SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo praised Ibrahim’s work to improve conditions at the airport and his new role as MAC commissioner.

“We applaud Governor Dayton for insisting that a worker be represented on the MAC, and appointing a great candidate like Ibrahim Mohamed,” Morillo stated. “I am excited to see Ibrahim continue the work he has always done fighting to make the MSP airport the best airport it can possibly be for both employees and passengers.”

Mohamed’s first MAC hearing will be this Tuesday, February 17th.

High Speed Hogs – Meat Processing Raises Questions

Who has an interest in our food supply and the way the USDA is (and is not) looking out for consumers?

We’ve received messages from a group pushing a petition  through Change.org to get the government to stop high speed meat inspections.

Assignment:  Look into allegations from the Food Integrity Campaign that Hormel and other meat processors are taking dangerous risks in Minnesota and elsewhere with casual, high speed processing.

Here’s a press release from the Food Integrity Campaign:

 

Dale,

Hope all is well. I’m Communications Manager at the Food Integrity Campaign (a program of national whistleblower protection organization, the Government Accountability Project), and was wondering if you had any interest in covering disclosures we’ve received from USDA inspector whistleblowers regarding the agency’s high-speed hog inspection program. It’s been piloted in five plants (including three owned by Minnesota-based Hormel) and inspectors who’ve worked there have raised concerns about high speeds (83 pounds of pork whizzing by every second) and deregulation – causing signs of contamination being routinely missed (such as hair, toenails, feces, cystic kidneys, etc.) and entering the food supply. See our press release below for more information and let me know if there’s any interest in reporting this public health issue.

Regards,

Sarah Damian
Communications Manager, Food Integrity Campaign
Government Accountability Project
1612 K St. NW, Washington D.C. 20006
Phone: 202-457-0034 ext. 130
Email: SarahD@whistleblower.org
Website: http://foodwhistleblower.org
Twitter: http://twitter.com/@foodinteg

January 30, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Inspectors Warn Against USDA’s High-Speed Hog Inspection Program
(Washington, DC) – Today, the Food Integrity Campaign (FIC, a program of the Government Accountability Project) is releasing evidence it has gathered from federal meat inspector whistleblowers who currently work at pork processing plants participating in a high-speed inspection pilot program. These whistleblowers voice concerns regarding the program and warn about the potential public health implications if this plan is instituted on a national level.

FIC is making publicly available affidavits from four U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors that illustrate serious concerns with the agency pilot program that increases the speed of processing lines and reduces the number of trained USDA inspection personnel in the hog plants.

FIC Director, Amanda Hitt, stated:

The USDA already refused to listen to its own inspectors when it implemented a similar high-speed inspection program for poultry late last year. Now the agency is poised to reduce oversight and increase line speeds at plants with hogs. It’s become abundantly clear that the Department of Agriculture is not interested in listening to the food safety concerns voiced by its own staff. Since the government doesn’t wish to heed whistleblowers, we are urging pork producers to reject sub-par meat inspection that places profit before public health.
FIC has launched a Change.org petition <https://www.change.org/p/stop-high-speed-inspection-model-from-expanding-to-the-pork-industry> urging Hormel, one of the largest pork producers in the United States, to abandon its use of high-speed inspection. The company owns three out of five hog plants currently participating in USDA’s pilot program.

USDA inspectors stationed at the Hormel pilot plants have informed FIC that the high-speed inspection model will lead to more contaminated and defective products on consumers’ plates. Some of the problems that inspector affidavits raise include:

  • Plant employees take over the duties of government inspectors. While federal employees (including at USDA) have whistleblower protections and can speak on behalf of the plant workers, Hormel employees are in the private sector and have inadequate legal safeguards. They cannot safely report food safety problems or stop the lines without fear of retaliation.

 

  • Line speeds at pilot plants run up to 20 percent faster than those at plants operating under traditional inspection. Quicker speeds make it even more difficult for plant employees and USDA inspectors to detect contamination on carcasses.

 

  • Company employees lack adequate training and often fail to identify signs of defects and contamination that could result in foodborne illness or unwholesome products. Inspectors in pilot plants report a higher level of zero-tolerance food safety hazards compared to plants operating under traditional inspection.

 

  • USDA inspectors are only allowed to conduct inspections on a small sample of hogs. Samples in these plants are not representative, and don’t reflect true pathogen risk.

The affidavits released today can be found at FoodWhistleblower.org/StopHighSpeedHogs <http://www.foodwhistleblower.org/campaign/hormel-hogs/#affidavits> .

The names of three of the inspectors, and all identifying information of the specific plants, have been redacted at the request of the inspectors. However, these affidavits have the full backing and endorsement of FIC.

Direct Quotes from USDA Inspectors

– There aren’t enough eyes on the line to monitor carcasses coming by at such high speeds. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #1)

– On numerous occasions I witnessed them [company inspectors] fail to spot abscesses, lesions, fecal matter, and other defects that would render an animal unsafe or unwholesome. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #1)

– When USDA loses the authority to make plant employees engage in corrective actions, the program stops working. This is what has happened at the plant where I work. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #2)

– Other contamination such as hair, toenails, cystic kidneys, and bladder stems has increased under HIMP [pilot program]. Line speeds don’t make it any easier to detect contamination. Most of the time they are running so fast it is impossible to see anything on the carcass. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #2)

– When HIMP was originally implemented, I had high hopes that the program would improve food safety. Over the past few years, I have learned that is not the case. Instead it seems like it is just the USDA’s way of catering to the industry instead of the consumer. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #2)

– The company threatens plant employees with terminations if they see them condemning too many carcasses or carcass parts. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #3)

– It seems like the USDA is doing all it can to make sure the HIMP program succeeds in this plant, even if it means betraying consumers by hiding the truth about their food. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #3)

– It’s no longer meaningful for consumers to see that mark indicating that their product has been USDA-inspected. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #3)

– Food safety has gone down the drain under HIMP. (Anonymous Inspector, Affidavit #3)

– Personally, I will not eat any products that bear the name of the company for which this meat is produced. I don’t think that it is wholesome or safe to consume. (Joe Ferguson, Affidavit #4)

– After working in this plant for more than ten years, I definitely do not support its expansion to the rest of the industry. (Joe Ferguson, Affidavit #4)

Contact: Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 159
Email: amandah@whistleblower.org <mailto:amandah@whistleblower.org>

Contact: Sarah Damian, Communications Manager
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 130
Email: sarahd@whistleblower.org <mailto:sarahd@whistleblower.org>
Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.