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   Upcoming Think Again MN Forums 


Affordable Housing and Universal Design - Think Again Brooklyns Print E-mail


The Human Right to Affordable Housing

and Universal Design for Everyone


Tuesday, May 21
6 p.m. - Free Salad and Pizza Buffet                  6:30 - 8:30 p.m. - Program


Brooklyn Park City Council Chambers

5200 85th Avenue N, Brooklyn Park, MN 55443 

This forum covers the human right of individuals and families to have adequate housing. According to the Minnesota Compass Project, a majority of renters, almost 58%, in Brooklyn Park pay more than 30% of their income for their rent. 23.5% of home owners pay over 30% of their income for their housing expenses. This means about one third of Brooklyn Park’s residents are what is considered overly burdened by the cost of their housing. This housing cost burden is similar in Brooklyn Center and a little less in New Hope, Crystal, and Robbinsdale. Maple Grove and Champlin have fewer cost burdened households, but they still comprise over 20% of the residents in these cities. The first part of this forum will discuss the need for affordable housing for substantial numbers of the residents of the NW suburbs.

The second part of the forum will deal with the failure of laws regarding people with disabilities to meet the needs of MN’s rapidly aging population. Currently less than one percent of dwellings are adapted for people with disabilities. People over the age of 75 when disabilities are most common will increase by 235% between 2020 and 2040 in Minnesota.


Twin Cities Metropolitan Area Growth in 65, 75, and 85 Plus Populations


twin cities metro projected growth in 75 

Requiring Universal Design in new multi and single family construction would make it possible for people with disabilities to age in place and to continue their relationships with other people as well as their interests and activities. But that’s not all it would do. It would also save billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on assisted living facilities and nursing homes when people with disabilities are not able to function in their own homes.


breanne rothsteinWelcome and Introduction to Brooklyn Park Housing Initiatives


Breanne Rothstein - City of Brooklyn Park Economic Development

and Housing Director

Universal Design - What, When, and How Much?

Thomas J. Budzynski - Home Builder - TJB Homes

Tom Budzynski will give us an overview of what Universal Design is, when you should consider it, how it improves your chance of aging in place, and its variation in cost for new construction versus remodeling an existing home as well as for different types of homes.


traci kruseUniversal Design Keeps People with Disabilities in their Communities
Traci Kruse - U of M Professor in Occupational Therapy

Professor Traci Kruse will discuss how people with a variety of temporary and permanent disabilities due to neuromuscular diseases, heart and lung problems, hip and knee replacements, accidents, and limited vision can continue living in a dwelling that has Universal Design features that make a home accessible for them. Dr. Kruse has practiced clinically in home health for 9 years. She is passionate about aging in place and home safety, along with cognition, memory, and making it possible for people to maintain their activities of interest through their lifespan.

Question and Answer Session


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 Reports and Videos for Think Again MN

And Related Articles 


Minnesota Ranks High in Many Green State Practices PDF Print E-mail


But Did You Know It Ranks in the Middle

on Its Contribution to Climate Change?


jon watsonsonja trom eayrsWe’d like to thank the many people who attended the April Think Again Brooklyns Forum, “Reaching for Clean Air and Water in MN’s Cities and Countryside.”  Our speakers shared excellent information, Sonja Trom Eayrs on the impact of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) on the family farmers in Dodge County and Jon Watson on the aquifers that serve as the sources of water for Brooklyn Park and the filters through which it passes.  Our attendees asked many thoughtful questions.

Brooklyn Park’s water comes from 10 municipal wells that draw most of their water from the Quaternary glacial drift aquifer.  The water from this aquifer has high levels of manganese, iron, magnesium, and calcium.  The water is transmitted to Brooklyn Park’s water treatment facility where it is run through filters for 72 hours which remove the manganese and iron.  However, the calcium remains and is removed through water softeners at the point of use.  The calcium could be removed and is removed from water by the city of Minneapolis, but Jon Watson noted that it would raise the cost of water from $2.20 per thousand gallons of water to over $6 per thousand gallons.

A rating of the green status of the states, “2019’s Greenest States,” was published a few days after the forum.  Though MN ranked high in many green practices such as recycling, the number of LEED’s buildings, renewable energy consumption, smart meters, and green transportation, it ranked towards the middle on its climate change contributions.  Though MN has reduced its carbon emissions 15% through the use of renewable energy, both wind and solar, its methane emissions have increased a substantial 10% due to MN's having the 2nd highest number of CAFO's of all states.  This lowers MN’s net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GhG’s) to just 5%.


factory farms - leading states

If you haven’t seen it, for a quick introduction to the impact of CAFOs on traditional family farms, Watch the 6 minute video on Newberg Township’s battle to keep CAFOs out of Karst Country.






Installers, Trainers, and Outreach Workers Cooperate to Promote Use of Solar Energy Print E-mail
Written by Carol Woehrer   

Optimism over Future of Solar Energy

Expressed at February Forum

Our speakers for the February forum were very supportive of each others' efforts to help in the growth of the solar industry and had a great deal of optimism for its growth both in the coming years and for decades after that. 

jamez staplesJamez Staples, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Partners, described the new training center planned for north Minneapolis.  The center will aim at preparing high school students and young adults in north Minneapolis and the suburbs jan hubbardalong the Blue Line Light Rail Extension for jobs and long term careers in the growing solar energy industry.  Jan Hubbard, President of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Association, described the growing use of solar energy on  
residential and commercial ro
oftops and explained the benefits of the Solar Energy Schools Bill.

robert blakeBob Blake, Outreach Coordinator of Interfaith Power and Light, explained what community solar gardens were and encouraged people who are customers of Xcel Energy to participate in the community solar garden projects in the following counties:   Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Dakota, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Le Sueur, Mower, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Steele, Waseca, Wright.  Sign up to get an estimate from MN Interfaith Power and Light of how much subscribing to a community solar project would reduce your electric bill.





MN Leads in Community Solar Print E-mail



"Why Minnesota's Community Solar Program is the Best"


John Farrell's latest update of his article comparing Minnesota's community solar program to those in other states provides insight into the the solar industry's expectation that the industry can expect rapid growth.


minnesota community solar progress 21919 


He emphasizes that MN's community solar program is the best in the country "because there 10 times more community solar projects in the queue—400 megawatts—in Minnesota than have been built in the history of community solar in the United States (40 megawatts)."  John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self Reliance.  Find out more about Minnesota's community solar program by reading this article and others here.




Print E-mail

  Immigration Portal 



sanctuary movement paradeIntroduction - This immigration portal presents the origins of current American immigration policy and the harm done to immigrants and their families, as well as to cities, states, and the national economy by the current U.S. immigration policy.  It uses as examples estimates of the cost of the nation's current deportation policy on the state of Minnesota and for one suburb.  The immigration portal emphasizes the importance of human rights as the foundation for immigration policy. 



In the process of researching the causes and costs of the current U.S immigration policy, it became apparent that several other policy issues are very important.  These include the importance of early childhood education for children under stress; the impact of industrialized agriculture, not only on destroying the financial viability of community farming in Mexico and parts of Africa and family farms in the U.S., but also on greatly increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of rivers, streams, and lakes in the U.S.  This points to the need for human rights to be a central consideration in all public policy issues including climate and environmental policy, trade policy, health, education, labor, and prison policies.  The United  States has fallen behind in support of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights Conventions.  


Enter the Portal




Universal Design Print E-mail

 Aging in Place with Gene Nicolelli

A Video Recorded by John Risken

universal design aging in place video with gene nicolelli video 112718

Gene Nicolelli is an architect who is certified by the National Association of Home Builders as an Aging in Place Specialist.  You can listen to a recording of the seminar Gene presented at the Think Again Brooklyns forum on November 27, 2018.  When homes, apartments, and condos are built to accomdate people who require wheelchairs either temporarily or permanently, they will often be able to delay the need to live in an assisted living center or a nursing home.  This makes it possible for people to continue living with family members or near friends.  It also makes their living expenses more affordable as living in a home, apartment, or condo costs far less than a nursing home or assisted living facility with care, both of which can run over $9,000 a month.  The high cost of care in either of these institutions is higher than most people can afford so most of the cost is often paid by Medicaid which is likely to result in increased state and county taxes.

The American Association of Retired Persons reports that only one percent of apartments and homes are fully accessible.  For that reason Think Again MN is encouraging municipalities to require new construction to include accessibility standards.  The cost of meeting these standards is very modest for newly constructed dwellings, but can be very high for homes that need remodeling or impossible for many of the split entry homes and three story walk up or down apartments in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park.

Watch John Risken's video of the seminar.





MN Lacks Regulation of Assisted Living Facilities Print E-mail


Vulnerable Elders Face Scare, not Care


Video by Bill Sorem, Video Producer at the Uptake

The December, 2018, Minneapolis League of Women Voters Civic Buzz presented a discussion entitled, “Vulnerable Elders Face Scare not Care.” A packed house listened and questioned.  Presenters were Kris Sandberg, President of the Elder Voice Family Advocates and Sean Burke, Public Policy Director of the Minnesota Elder Justice Center.  A packed house listened and questioned.

Elder housing is a continuum of care options ranging from independent living housing (rental, condominium or cooperative), assisted living facilities to nursing homes. Nursing homes are licensed by the federal government. On the other hand, Minnesota is the only state that does not license assisted living facilities according to Elder Voice Family Advocates.

Assisted living abuse issues were highlighted in a 2017 series by Chris Serres in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. One of the conclusions of this report was, “Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans are beaten, sexually assaulted or robbed in senior care homes. Their cases are seldom investigated, leaving families in the dark.”

Burke said assisted living facilities involve two components. One is the physical facility, the other the specific care providers. In some cases they are one unit, in others they are separate facility management and staffing groups. Thus responsibility and/or liability are not always clearly defined.  Burke also pointed out that since Minnesota does not license assisted living facilities, there are no clear staffing requirements for training or experience.

Watch the Video




Immigrants' Contribution to MN's Business Success Video, 2018 Print E-mail


the economic necessity of immigration reform blazar 92018


bill blazarBill Blazar, MN Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development, presented an excellent discussion on “Immigrants' Contribution to MN's Business Success” at the April 2018 Think Again Brooklyns forum. Senior residents of Maple Grove who heard about the forum suggested that Think Again MN collaborate with the Maple Grove Senior Center to have Bill present the program again at the Maple Grove Community Center.


Kris Orluck, the Senior Program Coordinator for Maple Grove worked with Think Again MN to arrange the forum for September 26, 2018. Think Again MN’s videographer John Risken filmed the presentation so more people could gain the knowledge Bill Blazar shared of the big contribution immigrants are making to MN’s economy and the necessity of reforming U.S. immigration policy.  Watch Bill Blazar's excellent presentation accompanied by informative slides on vimeo. 





Paths to Citizenship Can Reduce Federal Deficit Print E-mail


Creating Paths to Citizenship

Can Reduce the Growing Federal Deficit



As of September 30, 2017, the U.S. budget deficit was $665.7 billion or about 3.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  As a result of the tax bill, the budget deficit was expected to rise to $1 trillion in 2019, which is equivalent of about 4.8% of GDP.  The U.S. budget that was just passed would increase next year’s deficits to about $1.2 trillion. 

douglas holtz-eakin 2How might this big increase in the U.S. budget deficit be reduced?  Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Congressional Budget Office Director under President H. W. Bush and currently President of the conservative American Action Forum, concluded in 2013 that increasing the number of immigrants would reduce the federal deficit by about $300 billion per year or by $2.7 trillion over 10 years

A 2016 Center for American Progress study found that deporting 7 million unauthorized immigrants nationally, about five percent of the U.S. workforce, would amount to a loss of $4.7 trillion in gross domestic product and a loss of $900 billion in federal government revenues. This study concluded that GDP would immediately drop 1.6% and would drop by 2.6% over 10 years. The federal deficit would increase close to a trillion dollars by 2026.




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MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon


steve simon


Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

Get details on how to vote at

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How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016


In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

Read the Article

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