Don’t mow the grass this May
Twin Cities suburbs such as West Saint Paul and Edina are ahead of Saint Paul in officially adopting No Mow May, a growing movement to protect pollinators by forgoing yard work until bees and other insects have had a chance to emerge from their winter slumbers. Appleton, Wisconsin, was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt this initiative. It found that participating residents had five times as many bees and three times as many bee species in their yards than regularly mowed areas.
I contacted Russ Stark, Saint Paul’s chief resiliency officer, about adopting a similar program. He was supportive and curious to learn more, and suggested the city may look into it. But for this year at least, the city ordinance requiring grass and weeds taller than 8 inches to be mowed remains in effect.
I, for one, am willing to risk judgment from passersby and even a visit from the city for the sake of the bees. In addition to not mowing, I will be leaving my leaf piles alone until June, and under no circumstances will I use any pesticides. If you’d like to join me, consider printing out a “No Mow May” sign from the Bee City USA website (beecityusa.org) and putting it in your front window or making your own pollinator-friendly yard sign.
Let’s show Saint Paul, and each other, that some things are more important than a freshly mowed lawn.
The bane of the neighborhood
April 4 marked five years since a perfectly safe and usable house was demolished at 507 S. Cleveland Ave. In dismay, I filmed the building’s destruction while reminiscing about the families who had been our neighbors over the years. The house had been sold to the final occupants for a price they were thrilled to accept. Later, I learned from the new property owner of his decision against renovating the house for rental property. Instead, demolition and conversion to an empty lot for future development was planned. The lot remains vacant and the bane of my neighborhood.
Initially, a city demolition permit was posted, which specified that the curb cut be removed within nine months if no new construction took place. The driveway remains, frequently used by adjacent apartment dwellers despite it being on private property. A complaint to the city regarding this matter was never acknowledged.
We read of the need for more housing in the city, so I cannot understand why this parcel remains undeveloped. At one time I was informed by city officials that the zoning was for multifamily housing, perhaps a duplex or triplex with a permit. A new apartment building would not be allowed, I was assured, primarily due to the lot’s size.
I’m the third generation owning and living in a house built in 1934 by my grandfather. Seeing and experiencing this makes me sad. When I was raised, I was taught to show pride in the neighborhood. This meant keeping our property in pristine condition, even sweeping the street and alley. We seemed to compete with one another in a friendly manner. Nostalgic, perhaps, but I believe it’s still essential for residents living in a community.
Free meals for all in K-12
Since the beginning of the pandemic, schools have had the option to serve meals to all students at no cost regardless of household income. It has been a critical component of our country’s pandemic response. As a mom of two and a policy analyst for a national anti-hunger organization, I don’t think we should ever go back to the old system of students paying different prices for the same meals. Healthy meals available to all should be a standard part of the school day, supporting good nutrition, health and learning.
I recently spoke with state Representative Dave Pinto and Senator Erin Murphy about legislation that would do just that. In short, it would get meals to students who need them, address stigma in the lunchroom and end unpaid school meal debt. I hope they will support legislation that ensures all students in Minnesota are hunger-free and ready to get the most out of school. California and Maine have already passed legislation to make free meals a permanent part of the school day. Hopefully, Minnesota will be next.
Carter leads on firearms storage
Thank you to Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter for asking the City Council to pass a safe firearm storage ordinance and also for his plan to use American Rescue Plan funds to distribute firearm safes and trigger locks.
Safe firearm storage–storing firearms locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition–decreases the risk of legally owned firearms falling into the wrong hands, whether they be children, suicidal loved ones or thieves. Less firearm theft means less chance that legally owned firearms will end up on the illegal market and ultimately used in crimes. As we continue to wait for our state and federal legislators to break their impasse and make progress on gun violence prevention, leadership on this issue from our mayor and City Council is so appreciated and so necessary.
Dr. Emily Benzie
Reducing juvenile crime
My first job after college was in a juvenile detention facility in my hometown in Michigan in the late 1970s. Behavior back then among youths in the juvenile justice system was generally not as bad as it is among today’s juvenile offenders. Guns were rarely involved. Apart from one or two kids, I couldn’t imagine any of the teens I worked with taking part in armed carjackings or other violent crimes so common today.
My job was to help the teens with school work, participate with them in recreational activities, have meals and snacks with them, be a role model and counsel them in better ways to deal with the problems they faced. I was paid to be a kind but strict older brother. I worked the second shift. One of my tasks was locking the kids in their cinder-block cells for the night. I never became accustomed to the locking of the steel door that shut them off from the world.
As soon as I could, I found work that was better suited to me. But before leaving the detention facility, I learned an important lesson about human behavior. The lesson came when I worked an occasional Sunday. Sunday was visiting day, and many of the parents brought to mind the old saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Since then, I’ve raised questions that few in a position of authority want to address: What percent of children in the U.S. are born to parents who have the time and the emotional, financial, intellectual and social resources to be loving and effective parents? Why does the U.S. have such an ineffective family planning system, particularly for the poor? What is it about our society that makes it so difficult to be loving and effective parents?
Unless we address these questions and the failures implicit in them, we can count on more carjackings and other violent, antisocial, self-defeating behavior that threatens everyone.
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