The big news for every community in Minnesota this has to be the passage and signing of the bill legalizing same-sex marriage. I was celebrating with neighbors last night who had just gotten married on Mother’s Day – fittingly, as they are both mothers – and it struck me how much like New Year’s Eve it seemed as we waited for the Guv to sign the bill. It felt like there should be a countdown and a ball dropping behind him. 

It certainly is a new era here in Minnesota as we have redressed an inequality that should have been taken care of long ago but which paradoxically surprised nearly everyone with the speed of its resolution. I read an interesting article about the strategy behind the campaign waged by Minnesotans United to take advantage of the momentum generated by the defeat of the Marriage Amendment last fall. In the face of even DFL legislators telling them to wait, they jumped in, buoyed by data that suggested the support was there and by research that gave them a deeper understanding of how best to change minds on the issue.

Apparently, the research told them people responded positively to one-on-one or small group conversations highlighting the commitment to the institution of marriage shared by gay (and the more inclusive term, GLBTQIA Gay/Lesbian/Bi/ Trans/Questioning/Intersex/Asexual) and straight couples. Rather than making it strictly about civil rights, this approach resonated with many conservatives who, surprise, just like the general population, have family members who are gay and loved. 

To me, the success of this approach shows the way toward rebuilding trust between our polarized political and religious communities by identifying those foundational values (like saving the planet?) we all share and reaching out to each other to find ways to work together to support them. I can’t think of many people of any demographic who would disagree with a phrase used frequently to describe yesterday’s events: Love is the law. Hallelujah and amen. 

D12 – Speaking of saving the planet, the Transition Town efforts continue to move forward. Members of the Solar group met with the SPPS folks to talk about the possibility of solar panels on public school flat roofs. The response from the school district was very positive to using one of our D12 schools to develop a prototype that could be used district-wide to reduce energy costs and fossil fuel use. The legislature has a solar component attached to the omnibus bill that would help communities and school districts put together entities to support solar. That bill has yet to be finalized and passed, but it looks like everyone is more or less happy with it, so we should know in a week or so exactly how much help it will provide…Spring brings the usual reminder from the St. Paul Police and D12 E.D. Amy Sparks to lock your bikes, garages, doors and windows. Unfortunately, warm weather brings about an increase in crimes of opportunity, so use common sense and protect your valuables. Also, write down the serial numbers of your bikes. Often they are stolen for mere transportation and found by police, but they can’t be returned to the rightful owner if they don’t have a serial number to go on. 

SCHOOLS – Teams from both StAP Elementary and Murray are set to travel to Knoxville, Tennesee next week for the global Destination Imagination finals. We wish them well…I read an interesting perspective on Minnesota’s achievement gap. Recent NAEP exam results seem to indicate that black children in Minnesota generally outperform their counterparts in other states. Because students take the same NAEP tests at the same time these exams are one of the few tools that can be used to compare students across the country. State-level exams and graduation rates are less reliable for comparisons since states and districts design their own state-level exams and even the definition of "graduation rate." While it is true that the test-score gap between white and black students is larger in Minnesota than the national average test score gap, white students in Minnesota generally score well above the national average for white students so that helps to explain some of the gap’s size. So, in comparison to the national average, we have higher performing white students and above average scoring black students. That certainly should not be cause for relaxing our efforts to reduce our achievement gap but does offer some context for our efforts. 

LISTSERV -  Volunteers are needed for the Midway Local Food Hub distribution event this Saturday. Shifts are 8-10am, 9:45-12:15, and 10-2 at the parking lot behind Gordon Parks High School. Help with seedlings, surveys,
sign-in and more. Email mallory@gardeningmatters.org to sign up…Vienna Community Arts, a nonprofit music studio in the Hampden Park co-op building, is looking for singers to join their new community Heritage choir. The choir is directed by Herbert Engelmayer, a master pianist at Vienna Community Arts and also director of the Volksfest Singers. The Heritage choir meets at Peace Lutheran Church in Lauderdale, the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month. They perform at community events and celebrations…neighbors were talking about a recent increase in low flying airplanes. It seems to be temporary and I’ve always thought it happens due to weather conditions that make approach easier over our part of the metro. Here’s a link to the Flight Tracker website where you can find out more about where the flights are going…Susan Dean from the St. Anthony Park Library Association put out the word they are once again seeking donations for their annual book sale held during the Arts Festival on Saturday, June 1. They're looking for books, CDs, and DVDs in good condition. (Sorry, no textbooks, magazines, cassette tapes, or VHS tapes.) You may leave donations on the book cart in the lower level of the library (outside the auditorium). Please don't put your donated items in the library's book return. If you have any questions or would like to volunteer to help with the sale, please e-mail Susan at smdean16@gmail.com. 

StAPnotes – The 4th of July Stuffing Party is scheduled for Tuesday, May 28th from 6:30-7:30 pm at the Langford Rec Center. This is the night the info for neighbors is put into envelopes for mailing. It’s okay to bring kids, but 20 adults can usually do it in an hour, so let’s show up in force and get it done. It’s a big help for the volunteers that make St. Anthony Park’s signature celebration happen…the little wine shoppe is celebrating our eclectic weather with an eclectic group of wines for tomorrow’s wine-tasting from 4:30–7:30pm. Portugal, France and California grapes are all well-represented, so stop by and say hi…I have from time to time suggested St. Paul could be more organized and welcoming in their approach to the business community, so I am happy to note some kudos from an online media article about how hard they are working to attract restaurants and how smooth they have made the process for licensing, etc. They are definitely sending the message that St. Paul is supportive of small business enterprises. Way to go, Mayor Coleman, who by the way rocked out on guitar during the big celebration in downtown St. Paul yesterday. There are some perks to the job.

That’s all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.