April 17 -Remembering The Fall of Cambodia

I attended a very moving presentation at the Minnesota Humanities Center on April 17.  The title of the event was “April 17 – Year Zero to Infinity, the Cambodian Experience.”   Many of the people there were either Cambodians who made it to America, had been in the military or had been providing services to the refugees.

On April 17, 1975, Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge.  During the five years of fighting, approximately 10% of Cambodia’s 7 million people died. After the fall, hundreds of thousands died or were murdered.  One person present said ” April 17 is the day our hearts dropped to the bottom.”

Several people shared their stories of flight and refugee camps.  One presenter said he was ten years old at the time when he and his family started to flee.  Their father had already been executed by the communists.  He was twenty-three when he arrived in Minnesota. People were trying to make it to Thailand, but he said even the Thais were complicit in cruelty to his group.

While the stories are dramatic, it seems that the survivors did not often talk about about their experiences. There is an effort now to capture those stories.




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MAC Listening Session in Eagan

The Metropolitan Airport Commission held a Listening Session tonight at the Eagan Community Center. There was a presentation  on landings & departures, procedures, and info regarding future plans for the airport.

A staff person with the airport control tower gave a pretty detailed description of  procedures that are normally used as well as those in special circumstances. With the new landing procedures, there seems to be less pollution.

There were a number of questions that were asked after the presentation. The general theme seemed to be that the number of planes flying above their homes seems to be quite frequent and they had thought the number would decrease.  The response was that there are 20-minute busy cycles and then there is a break. We were informed that new planes are more quite and use less fuel.

Overall what can be done to accomodate complaints is limited usually for safety reasons, but the listening sessions are meant to address the issues as best as they can.

For additional information, contact: NOISE PROGRAM OFFICE WEBSITE at www.macnoise.com or Aircraft Noise Complaints & Questions at 612-726-9411.

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New Addition at Burnsville High School

School Board Member Darcy Schatz was kind enough to offer a tour of the new addition at Burnsville High School.  It is impressive! We started at the end  where social studies classes take place.  Tables and chairs are used in place of desks so the students are able to work in small groups. There are tables and chairs placed in the hallways as well, again so they can collaborate or meet as their schedules allow.  It tends to look more like an office environment than a traditional school setup.  The technology available in the classrooms is incredible.  The media center is very large and welcoming. Then we went into the area where the arts takes place.  There is now a piano room.  My understanding is that piano and guitar courses are now available.  There is also a room for dance. It was interesting to see how many portions of the school are involved in the theatre production that will be taking place in the near future.

There is a new training facility. We toured the activities center last, which is essentially three gymanasiums with a running track at the top.

School District #191 should be very proud of this new additon. I was told that many of these facilities are available for public use as well.



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Lunchtime at William Byrne Elementary

I went to William Byrne Elementary School on Friday to observe the students at lunchtime. I had heard some really impressive comments from #191 Food Service Staff about how they encourage students to try new foods and to eat healthier and wanted to see this in person.

The students have a variety of choices for their entrees.  On Friday, chicken sandwiches and peanut butter &  jelly sandwiches were some of the options. They are strongly encouraged to take a vegetable and a fruit. Carrots and broccoli were the two vegetable choices.  I saw  carrots most often on the trays of the kindergartners and they did look good.  There are multiple fruit choices on the fruit buffet. The staff is very good about monitoring the students and encouraging them to eat the food on their trays.

I did talk with the principal and some of the staff about the importance they place on the students being well-fed.  It is hard for a students to learn when their stomachs are growling because they haven’t had enough to eat.  It sounds like the staff at this school really concentrates on the well-being of their students.


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Masin/Carlson Town Hall On Health Care

Thank you to all who attended the Town Hall Meeting on Saturday at Metcalf Middle Schoool. There were over a hundred people that came, so there is a broad concern about our health care system. Senator Carlson and I were very pleased to have a number of people help us focus on issues in the health care field.

Bernadine (Bunny) Engledorf presented some of the priorities of  the Minnesota Nurses Association.  Safe staffing is still a top concern in many hospitals .  This ranges from patients not receiving appropriate medications and help in a timely manner to violence against nurses and other personnel.

Beth Tollefson of Living Well talked about the difficulty in keeping staff in group homes and community facilities.  The turnover rate for their company is well over 40%.   The problem is the compensation is so low that people can make more money  in fast-food places and grocery stores without all the stress involved in helping our most vulnerable citizens.  The pay is set by the legislature and  has not kept up with rising costs over the past decade. House File 873/ Senate File 669 provide for a 4% raise. The speaker said that is not nearly enough,but it something. House File 1776 by Representative Considine has a 10% percent increase.  At this point, it is uncertain whether either of these will be passed this year.  This would be a travesty!  The need is critical  and  people believe their taxes should be used to help in this area.

A resident talked about his experiences working in medical clinics in refugee camps.  He stressed that about of the people there are children.  He mentioned one child that is a triple amputee.

Then Senator John Marty talked about the health care access in our country and the fact that other countries have better outcomes than our country in spite of all the money spent here. He is the author of the Minnesota Health Plan.  Representative David Bly, who carries the bill in the House, also made some comments about the shortfalls of our current health system.  We were fortunate to have others present who provided additional information about health care and health insurance.

There is much work to be done in  this area and no time to lose in creating a system that benefits all.

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CD2 Meeting/Eagan

I attended another of the CD2 Town Hall Meetings yesterday, this one at the Wescott Library in Eagan.  The moderator said that  Congressman Jason Lewis was informed, but he responded that he was not able to attend.  Residents of the Second Congressional District are coordinating these efforts because Congressman Lewis is not scheduling any open meetings with constituents and they want to have dialogue with him.  The room was packed, as was my previous experience at the Burnsville Library.  We are told that the proceedings are being taped  and  will be made available to the Congressman as well as the notecards collected will be given to him.

Bob, from Inver Grove Heights, stated the Trump has told agencies to make access to the Affordable Care Act as difficult as possible.  He said to fix the ACA, don’t repeal it. Shelley, from, Apple Valley, wants Representative Lewis to look at the pharmaceutical industry.  Her son needs medicine that costs $1200 and that is not affordable. She also said that no vouchers should be given to schools that don’t take care of special education students. Sasha, from Eagan, stressed the importance of helping students with special needs.  Ed. from Eagan, said there needs to be discussion about Russia and the fact that Trump campaigned about removing sanctions against Russia.

Dee, from Eagan, said Lewis has been inacessible and is an extremist.  People want to be involved. Mark, also from Eagan, wanted to address hate and cited the attacks on Jewish institutions. Greg,from Eagan, wants Mecicare for all.

The meeting started at 1:00 and ended after 5:00. People are very concerned about the direction of government and the lack of attention being paid to the needs of the average citizens while the funding seems to be directed to big business and big-money interests.


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Black Dog Pipeline Project

On Monday evening, Xcel Energy hosted an informational meeting at the Burnsville City Hall regarding the Black Dog Natural Gas Pipeline Project. Xcel is planning to construct a 2.2 mile high pressure pipeline from the Northern Natural Gas Company’s Cedar Station in Eagan to the Black Dog Generating Plant in Burnsville. The facility is converting from  coal-fired electrical generators to a gas-fired facility.  The construction is slated to start in April and should be completed by September.

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CD2 Meetings -Signs Of The Times

I went to the Burnsville Library yesterday after seeing a flyer that said Town Hall Meeting with or without Jason Lewis.  When I first arrived, there were about 30 to 40 people standing outside the library. I was told the meeting room was filled to capacity and they decided to gather outside and talk about their concerns and expectations. Some of the topics had to do with health care, education, and Russian involvement in issues regarding our country.

Then I went inside to listen to the people there.   One of the most emotional testimonies came from a young woman who said that she was one of the people that was using up a lot of our health care money.  She said that she had breast cancer and she wanted to live so that she could take care of children. Looking around, I saw a number of people who had tears in their eyes after listening to this young woman.  She received a standing ovation when she finished.

What is amazing to me is how many gatherings are springing up because people are so concerned about what is happening in Washington, D. C. and they want to talk to Congressman Lewis. It seems he is not making himself readily available and he did not attend this meeting. It is the residents of CD2 that are setting up these meetings as a way to express their frustration and make sure the Congressman knows how his constituents feel about the way their government is being conducted.  Several of the people that I talked with said they had never been active politically before. While many are concerned about the immediate issues, even more are concerned about the future for our children and grandchildren.


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Minnesota Nurses Association

I had the opportunity to visit with some nurses the other day.  Their main issue is still safe staffing.  In essence, this means that a nurse’s caseload should be structured so that each patient is able to get the services necessary. What seems to be happening is delays in care or treatment, delays in medications, and increased inability to answer call lights.  Ideally, there should be a mechanism whereby units could be closed until a strategy is in place to deal with additional responsibilities. Another item of concern is the number of times nurses submitted requests for additional help and requests were ignored or given inappropriate responses.  This hardly builds confidence in the level of care being received.

My understanding is that the care situations haven’t  improved in the hospitals where the strikes took place.  First, nurses shouldn’t have to take such drastic actions to make sure their patients get the care they deserve. Secondly, I wonder whether administrators are placing costs over care.

We are facing problems in many aspects of healthcare and we should be able to do better. The Concern for Safe Staffing Report will be released on March 1, 2017.



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Somali Cultural Night

Students at Eagan High School invited the community to a Somali Cultural Night at Eagan High School. The program included singing, dancing, poetry, speakers and a fashion show. One young lady talked about the security and love that her parents provided throughout her life, part of which was spent in a refugee camp. It was very moving. The reception afterwards had the same enthusiasm and energy level. A very special evening! The students did a great job and deserve a lot of praise for their efforts.

Somali Cultural Celebration, Eagan High School

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