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R.T. Rybak: A Great Leader for a Great City Volunteer Contribute

Monday, February 28, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 28

I don't always agreee with everything I see going on at the State Capitol, but I sure did today. Thousands of us were lined up a few hours ago on the front lawn and front steps to say Minnesota needs to put more resources into public education. It was a really encouraging rally because it reflected what I hear so often from parents and so many others in the community....Minnesota has been a brainpower state and if we want to keep it that way we have to stop underfunding education. I rode over on a bus from Kenny with a great group of kids and parents....wonderful to see so many people there.
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This afternoon I made a brief visit to one of Minneapolis' great restaurants, the Black Forest on 26th and Nicollet, to meet with businesses along the Eat Street Corridor. They are the second of several neighborhood commercial districts where I am bringing the Convention and Visitors Association. The goal is to increase business by driving conventioneers from out of town...and visitors from in town...who look to the Association's web site for attractions. We are creating special pages for these commercial districts (see post about Northeast in Day in the Life: Feb. 16) and it's a good example of the Association understanding that one of the most attractive parts of the city is it's neighborhood shopping districts.
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Commissioner Gail Dorfman, St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune and I spoke to a large group of health care professionals this morning about implementing the smoking ban...lessons we have learned. My pitch was that they should all, in the name of making the smoking ban successful, do the great service of going out and having a beer. Tough job but somebody's gotta do it. The idea is to help the small bars, espeically, with the transition by getting smokefree advocates to go out to show there is a new market that will be attracted to non smoking businesses. So if you support the smoking ban, start contacting your friends and ask them to join you after April 1 at places like the Chatterbox, Maslyk's, Nokomis Bowl, Westrums, 5-8 Club...those wonderful corner busineses that can be even better because you won't go home smelling like smoke.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 26

The Rainbow Families event this morning was really encouraging. There were hundreds of people there, celebrating the strength of GLBT families. In my introduction I said welcomed them to Minneapolis, "a city where the Rainbow Families event is not held in private, or in a small room, but in a school, filled with hundreds of people with cars overflowing the parking lot. " (I also welcomed them to Minneapolis, "a city where the Mayor doesn't know how to fix a parking ticket so be careful where you put that car in the lot.") I also declared today Deborah Talen Day in Minneapolis, to honor her work to get Rainbow Families to this 10th Anniversary.
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Fun event over the noon hour. The Food and Wine Experience was going on at the convention center....thousands of people bellying up to rows and rows of booths. I was there to help call attention to the Taste of Central Avenue, a booth orchestrated by the great John Vaughn to let people from around the state see all the great international food coming to Central. Yesterday Chiapas Restaurant was a big hit....John says that their surveys say Chiapas is the restaurant on Central that draws the most people from outside the area......Today the booth featured Cresant Moon, and I had an awesome pudding called something like Farna. Tomorrow's Palm Court, a Jamacian/Asian restaunt, which is an example of the fusion foods starting to spring up in Minneapolis; It's great to have restaurants from so many culutures but even better to start to see them mix the cuisines into something neither culture could do on it's own. This cross polination makes for better restaurants but in a larger sense...better cities.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 24

Just got back from a fascinating community meeting" Drug Court comes to the community"

Judges, attorneys, Minneapolis police and community groups came together to share experiences with drug court and see ways to make it better. I've been especially interested in this topic since two years ago when I went with an undercover police team to observe how they make drug arrests. That night our team included about eight police officers, in two cars...the first a decoy, those of us in the van with a camera. A drug buy was made, the police made the arrest and it was captured on camera. A couple days later I followed the person arrested into drug court where he was given a penalty and "geographic restrictions" that prevented him from going back into the area where the arrest was made. About a month later, we found out he was arrested again, and then again and again. This "revolving door" creates tremendous frustration for our police and certainly for the community. ...as well as those in the judicial system.
Tonight's meeting was one of several being held to make this system work better. I'm really looking forward to their recommendations, and have to applaud the judges who were open enough to bring the issue out to the community to look for ways to improve. I'm also hopeful the improvements can take advantage of the great restorative justice network that operates in these neighborhoods. (Thanks to the sponsors: Franklin Avenue Community Safety Center, Phillips Weed and Seed, Phillips Partnership, West Phillips Neighborhood, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood and Hennepin County Drug Court.)
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The day ended with crime issues, and it also stated that way. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee met to talk about coordinating public safety resources in downtown Minneapolis......Chief McManus and Inspector Rob Allen, who leads the downtown command and I have been working with the Downtown Council and the Building Owners and Managers Association on coordinating our police with building security and off duty police hired by businesses...to create a more unified force. Our city attorney has also focused on coordinated enforcement, as has County Attorney Klobuchar's office. Hennepin County has agreed to coordate its probation staff. And Chief Judge Lucy Weiland has made some real progress in working with our police and the attorneys to improve the effectiveness that cases move through their system. Her work is part of three years of efforts by Council President Ostrow, Council Member Niziolek and I to better coordinate courts and cops. -
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I had lunch at the Downtown Council meeting, where I pitched the Step Up program, hoping to get more business leaders to contribute summer jobs for our kids. The main speaker for the lunch was Vicki Tigwell, chair of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. She's speaking to a business groups these days trying to get support for a plan to expand the airport. During her presentation it was clear most of the group couldn't see the drawings so I held them up for her as she gave her talk. Too bad a photographer wasn't there....I can guarantee you there won't be many times when I'll be seen as part of a pitch on the airport.
In the question and answer period she was asked: Do you and Mayor Rybak agree or disagree on this plan. My answer was pretty direct: In 1996 there was a plan to expand the airport and in return we believe there was a very clear promise made to more than 6000 Minneapolis residents that they would get complete noise mitigation on their homes. Now the MAC wants to break that promise and use part of the money to expand the airport. So we are going to sue to protect those citizens. I think a better way would be to keep their promise, and instead of expanding the current airport, expand the Northstar Rail line to the St. Cloud airport, or high speed rail to Rochester's airport...where we could move some cargo flights and get a low cost carrier. More on this later.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 22

As Mayor I don't have an official place on city council committees, but I do go to many of them to stay coordianted with the council......and one of my favorite committees is Intergovernmental Relations. The committee's job is to help coordinate our work with other government bodies, especially the Legislature....and it has worked better than I've ever seen it under the past couple years under the chairmanship of Council member Scott Benson. It's also especially effective right now because we have a great team of lobbyists, led by our new director Gene Rieneri. Today Gene went over the details of the bonding bill that just passed out of the House and it has in it many of the important projects we are working on: the Planetarium, Northstar Rail project, Sears, the Shubert, University Research Park and Heritage Park.
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After the committee and a few internal meetings in the morning, I spoke at the annual lunch of the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors' Association. This association now includes both Minneapolis and Bloomington and Mayor Gene Winstead, who has been a good partner, also spoke.
My remarks were about two key areas: The first was transportation, making a plea to the business leaders there to be part of Go Minnesota, the bipartisan group that is pushing for more aggerssive transit action in this legislative session. The point I'm making to business leaders is that transit progress has to be made for them to be competetive.
The second point I made to them was to work with us on workforce development....if we can take the kids now going to our schools, who speak 81 different languages, and train them in the jobs of tomorrow, we will be far better able to compete in a global economy than any earlier generation. I've been saying lately that one of the biggest mistakes we ever made was to close the old Vocational High School...and we are trying to work with the community colleges to find better ways to train kids coming out of school. The short term pitch I made about this at the lunch was for them to be part of Step Up, the summer jobs program we are working on with Achieve Minneapolis, which has a goal of creating 300 jobs this year.
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I left the lunch to meet a group of USBank execs on Broadway Avenue. They have a branch at Emerson and Broadway and are interested in finding more ways to increase investment on the avenue. They really loved the Bean Scene coffee shop on Penn. Just as we were leaving Chief McManus was coming in for one of his regular open houses in the community.
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Later in the afternoon I had a meeting with Congressman Sabo about opportunities to find federal dollars to help with the Dutch Elm crisis that has taken so many of our trees.
The afternoon ended with a couple hour meeting with a group of leaders of the Asian Pacific Islander community that has been meeting since our summit two years ago.
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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 18

Yesterday started in the California Building in northeast Minneapolis with a group of business, neighborhood and arts leaders to continue our plans to bring more customers to the stores, restaurants, galleries and other businesses in the area. A few months back we talked about increasing business and I offered to bring in some of the marketing team from the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association. So this morning Mike Rainville of the GMCVA, who is also a northeast resident, walked through the internet promotion we are going to do that creates a web page for northeast on the convention and visitors site in hopes of reaching the people visiting who may not otherwise find the great collection of restaurants, galleries and stores in the area. The promotion we are working on would be called something like Arts and Eats....so keep watching www.minneapolis.org for details
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Later in the morning I headed over to the State Capital where we met with members of the Minneapolis House delegation, brought together by their new chair Rep. Jim Davnie. We got some good news about the Bonding Bill which in its current form includes money for several of the key projects we have been working on. More on that as it evolves but thank your legislators for their hard work, especially Rep. Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, whose skill moving this through the committees and negotiating with both parties has been nothing short of remarkable.
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I've spent a lot of time in public housing in Minneapolis and really marvel at how well these buildings are doing, especially considering that there has been one cut after the other to these programs.
Yesterday afternoon we faced another series of challenges as we went over the impacts of the very severe cuts by the fedearal government to the Section 8 housing program. This program has been behind some of the best affordable housing projects underway in the city right now. I have been in Washington lobbying against these changes, and we will continue to work with our delegation on this. Tough as this one is, it was encouraging to look around the table and see how many smart folks we have working on housing now.....Cora McCorvey, the very talented director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and asst. director Tom Streitz; Elizabeth Ryan, the city's new housing director who worked on many of these issues at both the Metropolitan Council and Dakota County; Lee Sheehy, who leads the community planning and economic development department; planning director Barb Sporlein who used to work at the St. Paul Public Housing Authority, David Fey and Erik Takeshita on my staff.
Unfortunately there have been quite a few meetings like yesterday when we have had to find ways to steer through deep cuts from Washington or the State Capitol, but yesterday was also one of those times when I felt a lot better looking around the table as some very smart people who can help chart the course.
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Megan and I went last night to the Marcy Open School production of Greese which has an all star cast that includes Matthew Ostrow who sings, dances.... and moons the audience. (Kind of like his father at City Council meetings.) School Board member Lydia Lee was also in the audience. I really encourage people to go to the Marcy productions if you get a chance.. We saw Sgt. Pepper there last year. They usually have big casts...I thinkthere were 50 or so last night....a lot of energy with the intermission bonus of homemade cookies.
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Before going to bed I was messing around on my email when my friend Sheila Scott sent a message that someone on ks95 had just said something nice about me. So on a whim I called the station to say thanks and dialed by mistake AM1500. If you listen to the two stations you know there is a difference.
public housing

marcy Greese
ks95 am1500. There's a difference

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 17

It was cold this morning but over breakfast we were thinking about this summer....making sure there are summer jobs for kids from Minneapolis schools. David Brand of Achieve!Minneapolis and I spoke to the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce about StepUp, which last year created 200 summer jobs and this summer we hope to create 300.
Last year's program was a success in part because we got great help from business leaders, like Richard Davis, president of US Bank, and Keith Moyer of Star Tribune. This morning Ben Taylor of the Star Tribune told a very moving story about a girl who had been a Step Up intern at the paper. One of the employees took this intern under her wing, helped her improve her office skills and at the end of the summer the girl came into Ben's office and said, very simply: "You changed my life." Frank asked the group: "How many ways can you change someone's life for $2,400?"
That's what it costs for a Step Up intern. We train them, screen them and help get them ready for work. You create the job or pay $2,400 to place an intern at another job. Surely a community as blessed as this one can create 300 opporunties for kids this summer. If you are interested, you can contact www.achieveminneapolis.org.
(While you are at that website, you can also find out about Impact Schools, a new web site that makes it possible for you to contribute directly to Minneapolis Schools. )
Hope you can find a way to help us with Step Up. Just remember, the person who you give that chance is the person who is going to be paying your Social Security.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 15

A couple events today that celebrate the great people who work for the city.

The first was this afternoon, a reception I held to celebrate my appointment of Gretchen Musicant to lead our Health Department.
Gretchen is a really rare public servant. She can see the big picture, but I've also observed that she is a very effective listener. We need both right now as we chart a course for our Health Department in a period of time when the state and federal governments are making drastic cutbacks for human service programs. She will have to help us as elected officials see ways to develop new partnerships to get the services to those most in need.....She will also have to hear very clearly what needs we have in the community. She and Ken Dahl and the rest of the staff won't have an easy job but I'm looking very forward to working with her, and them.

During the reception I spoke with a number of people who work at the community clinics we operate in city schools. They provide a very important service, and told wonderful stories about how these clinics are helping kids get through many challenges, including mental illness. I hear a really heart wrenching story about a girl who came into one of the clinics saying she was short of breath....when they checked her our it became clear she had Lupus. She had no insurance and, as in immigrant struggles with understanding the health care system. During a recent bout in the hospital she got a bill for $32,000....and was now terrified to go to the doctor. The clinic helped her, got her some financial and medical counseling and at least helped her stabilize the situation.. It really showed the need out there and gave me even more respect for the work of Sen. Linda Berglin of Minneapolis who has continued to fight for health care for people in situations like these.

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The second event to celebrate city employees was tonight at the Ukranian Center where there was the annual police awards ceremony. Some real heros doing great work were honored, and, as always at these events, I was really struck by how much support our police get from their families who send them out each day and then find a way to support them when they come home.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Day in the Life: Feb. 14

Interesting lunch today: It was the third official meeting of the Metropolitan Mayors Assocaition, which is a group we have started with the Mayors of a group of cities around the metro area. We first started working together a couple years ago on the issue of affordable housing. After drafting that report we decided that we should expand our actions....knowing that the Legislature has had trouble getting across ideological divides to address issues like transportation, education, public safety, etc.
The chairs are Mayor Karen Anderson of Minnetonka and Mayor Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville.....they are great regional partners and people who I can call to talk about any issues. The Mayors who have come to these meetings include from places like Anoka, North Branch, Chanhassen, Waconia. Randy Kelly was there today. So was Gene Winsted of Bloomington. Also joining the group is a great new Mayor, Jim Hovland of Edina...who is a real transportation expert.
During the lunch we talked about what issues we wanted to take on...a wide range...but agreed that in the next few months the key will be for us to move outfront on transportation. There will be all sorts of ideas coming around at the Legislature, but the key for our group is to articulate the inpatience of it all....Let's get something done and stop sitting in congestion...That's something that unites Mayors...be they from Minneapolis or anywhere else.
You will be hearing more about the group in coming months but it is really refreshing to know that in these times when the political debate seems so isolated there is a great forum like this that can cut across ideolgical and geographic divides.
Fun people, too.
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Short Valentine's commercial: Megan and I had dinner tonight at Bakery on Grand....at 38th and Grand Av. Growing up this was one of the great corner bakeries in town....now it's a wonderful neighborhood restaurant. I really want to encourage even more of these and, in fact, have actively encouraged it by signing a number of wine and beer licenses for places like the Birchwood in Seward, etc. and a new one in Longfellow. These corner restaurants just keep making this a cooler city.
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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tell Me What I need To Know

This is a blog thread for people to post random thoughts they think I should hear.

Day in the Life: Feb 9

I've been thinking a lot about Mark Dayton today since he made his announcement that he wasn't going to run again. All the political speculation is interesting---whose going to run, who isn't, etc.---- but there is another part of this that I hope comes through as people assess his work.
Mark, in my mind, is one of the most sincere people I know in politics. What you see is pretty much what he is.....and I think he has an overwhelming desire to help people. I've also had the clear sense that one of the things that drives him is a desire to use his office to stand up especially for those who don't have a voice...He seems to get more energy when he's fighting for the little guy.
I first met him when he was running for the Senate and I was running a candidate forum for Residents Against Airport Racket(ROAR). At that time most politicans ran as far away from this issue as possible. He seemed to have no fear.....understood the issue and wasn't the least bit intimidated by the fact that getting involved with this could put him crosswise with some of the most power political and business interests in the state. He proved over the next six years that this wasn't just an act during election time....time and time again when we needed help on this issue he was there.....never once flinching in the face of serious challenges from very powerful people.
I saw this even more directly a few weeks back when I was in Washington getting him up to date on a few issues that face the city at a federal level, especially some of the budget cuts that have fallen hard on those most in need. The passion you see in his face when he talks about fighting for those who are getting forgotten these days is really moving.....it's clear this is about more than tactical politics to him; It's about creating fairness and equity for real people.
I also remember a breakfast he and I had shortly after Paul Wellstone died. It was clear this hit him extremely hard, and in a very personal way. He talked about how he needed to pick up some of the slack for Paul's work. It was a burden he seemed ready to carry, and he seemed energized that he could help complete some of Paul's work. Walking away from the breakfast, I remember thinking that as destroyed as I was about losing Paul, it was made just a little bit easier knowing that Mark would continue some of that fight.
I don't think Mark Dayton will go down as the slickest politican who ever graced the U.S. Senate. And on so many levels I find that refreshing.

Day In The Life: Feb. 8

The big issue in the first couple days of this week was the impact the President's propsed budget would have on the city of Minneapolis. ...but the story on this goes back a couple weeks:
I first started getting details when I went to the U.S. Conference of Mayors the day before the Innaugural. Others Mayors there and I talked about the rumor that the President was going to make dramatic cuts in Community Development Block Grants.(CDBG)....these are some of the last funds cities have to get people out of poverty and into the workforce.....They are the backbone of what we use for our affordable housing programs, job training, child care, domestic violence.....people like the Somali man who got training in computer skills at Migizi Communications through our summer employment program and is now moving up the career ladder.
Knowing what was about to hit us, the Mayor's I talked to agreed that we would go back to our state's and try to build broad coalitions that could help tell the personal stories of what these cuts would mean.
The first calls I made were to the groups who receive these funds. Then I called other other Mayors in Minnesota, including a couple who have been great partners....Mayor Bergson in Duluth and Mayor Ellenbecker in St. Cloud. Then I called some key leaders of the faith community...including Spencer Simeral, dean of St. Mark's Cathedral, Rabbi Marci Zimmerman of Temple Israel, Jim Gertmenian of Plymouth Congregational Church.
When the President announced his budget Monday and, in fact, Community Development Block Grant funds were cut drastically, we got the group back together and could tell the story to the media. Jim Gertmanian was especially strong in his statement that a budget is a document of values, and the values that leave out those most in need do not represent any faith tradition he knows of......This was so powerful because in the name of faith, faith leaders are being asked to pick up much of what government is not doing. Their help is wonderful but and as I said, you can't run a just society on bake sales and passing the plate.
Mayor Bergson also had a big gathering in Duluth...about 40 people telling these stories.
We will keep telling the story and hope all of you will call your congressional delegation....please make the point that these are the dollars that are not only spent on those in need but are also about SAVING government spending...Every person we put back to work, and get into housing saves far more in welfare, shelter, public health costs.....

It's been an interesting time to be Mayor...when both the state and the federal government do not seem to be standing up for those most in need.....but as we build these coalitions to stand up for these values, I at least know we are not alone.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Day in the Life:Feb. 5

Feb 5: Just finished a quick polka on the dance floor at Jacob's 101 as part of the SNO Ball....the annual event for the Sheridan Neighborhood Association. Usually a great event but especially good today because it comes just after we approved plans for moving ahead with the Ritz Theater....which the Sheridan Neighborhood has worked so hard on for so long.....About a year from now we can see Ballet of the Dolls in their new home.Before that I was a few blocks away in the California Building for Paul Ostrow's campaign kickoff. He gave a great speech about visions for Northeast.Those two events came after a few hours in Uptown celebrating the City of Lakes Loppet...which, amazingly enough, is going to take place tomorrow morning in spite of all the weather. Really heroic efforts by a great team of amazing volunteers, led by John Munger, Piotr Bernardski, Kate Ellis, Corey, Claire...a bunch of folks who led team of people shoveling, putting packets together....Uptown was jammed today with all the skiers, and tonight it was so great to see Hennepin and 31st covered with snow that had been trucked in.....The elite Olympians skiied the course first, then came a great group of kids trying it for the first time. Tomorrw morning about 1,700 of us will take off on the course, heading toward the Lakes where...with luck, we won't be sliding through standing water...In fact, I should get to bed if I'm going to ski 30k.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Day In The Life: Feb. 3

Feb. 3: I started and ended my day with winners of silent auctions....I do a fair amount of this...help raise money for groups by giving away either a breakfast or lunch or even a bus tour. This morning I had a breakfast in my office with two people whose bid raised money for Barton School. And tonight I went on a bus tour (they actually rented a limo) of nightlife to benefit the Human Rights Campaign Fund. These raise a lot of money and I get to meet some great folks.

One of the interesting things that happened in the middle of the day was I went to the weekly Code 4 meeting. These are the meetings the police department has every week to go over crime trends and what is being done about it. These used to be in private but Chief McManus and I believe this is the kind of information that can help citizens and police work together to make the city safer. So now they are on television live, and repeated....and we really want to invite anyone interested to come down to City Hall at 12:30 on Thursdays....among the people in the crowd this week were great citizen volunteers who have done so much to make the block watches in the Loring neighborhood so successful.

After tonight's bus tour I did a live shont on the 10 p.m. news with John Munger, the race director of the City of Lakes Loppet....the ski race that is supposed to go from Wirth Park to Calhoun Square....the warm weather is messing with that but tonight we made the decision that the race is on....Saturday night the pros and kids will ski down the streets of Uptown which will be lined with snow. From 8-9 anyone can ski, so take advantage of that rare chance to ski down the street.

Sunday the race will be one....with some changes...We are going to start and end at Calhoun Square.....how far we go and where we go depends on the weather. Not as long a ski as we thought but the spectating should be great with this weather.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Day In The Life: Feb. 2

Feb 2: Some of my days are spent totally in City Hall, but today was mostly outside.
First thing I had a meeting with what's called the Itasca Group, it's a collection of CEOs of big companies, trying to get them to develop an agenda that they can help promote. They've been helpful because they have been willing to take on transportation, which is really important because they can use their contacts to break the deadlock at the State Capital that has made it hard for the state to do what needs to be done to address congestion. I am also on a subcomittee that will address racial and economic disparties.....so stay tuned.
The afternoon included a couple events with students in Minneapolis, both involving physical fitness. The first was at Waite Park in Northeast....General Mills, which has been such a great partner on so many things, gave 50,000 to the schools to help with fitness and nutrition. Part of the event included having kids jump rope and then have Council President Paul Ostrow and I try to keep up....We looked pretty stupid but it was fun.
(Leaving the school, coming down Johnson Street, we stopped quickly at two great corner businesses I highly recommend...Mary Jane's, a GREAT bakery which has the best hamburger buns around, and Marino's, where I had one of their patened Submarino Sandwhiches, which was first invented by Mrs. Marino, who I think is about 90 and still going strong)
The second event was on Cedar Lake....the city cross country ski championship. About 100 kids from four schools.....Washburn, Henry, South and Southwest. This is a sport where city schools are competing very well, and getting better.....The course was a little wet but still good...it will be part of the course we are going to use for the City of Lakes Ski Loppet this Sunday.