Good news — and we really need it

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After the tragedy of Orlando, followed by outrageous and hateful political reactions, we need some good news. And we have it. One of the good news stories is related to Orlando, and the others come from Minnesota.

#Orlando:

The first good news story comes from a JetBlue flight attendant’s Facebook page. JetBlue, by the way, offered free flights to families of Orlando victims.

Kelly Davis Karas

Below is a picture of Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo. Omar, as his friends and family called him, was a Latino man gunned down at an LGBTQ bar in Orlando last weekend. He was 20-years-old.

Today my dear friend Melinda and I had the sad privilege of attending to his grandmother on our flight as she made her journey to Orlando to join her family during this unspeakable time.

Knowing she was making this hard journey alone, JetBlue employees made sure to be at her side every step of the way. Melinda stood quietly by her wheelchair while we waited until it was time to board. Kellie, the gate agent, boarded with her and helped get her settled. Melinda and I gave her a blanket, a pillow, a box of tissues and water so she could be as comfortable as possible. She was understandably distraught, but met us with kindness and gentleness. And gratitude.

But here’s where our flight got truly inspiring. I had the idea to pass around a piece of paper to everyone on board and invite them to sign it for this grieving grandmother. I talked it over with Melinda and she started the process from the back of the plane. As we took beverage orders, we whispered a heads up about the plan as we went.

Halfway through, Melinda called me, “Kel, I think you should start another paper from the front. Folks are writing PARAGRAPHS.” So I did. Then we started one in the middle. Lastly, running out of time on our hour and fifteen minute flight, we handed out pieces of paper to everyone still waiting.

When we gathered them together to present them to her, we didn’t have just a sheet of paper covered in names, which is what I had envisioned. Instead, we had page after page after page after page of long messages offering condolences, peace, love and support. There were even a couple of cash donations, and more than a few tears.

When we landed, I made an announcement that the company had emailed to us earlier in the morning to use as an optional addition to our normal landing announcement, which states “JetBlue stands with Orlando.” Then with her permission and at the request of a couple of passengers, we offered a moment of silence in Omar’s memory.

As we deplaned, EVERY SINGLE PERSON STOPPED TO OFFER HER THEIR CONDOLENCES. Some just said they were sorry, some touched her hand, some hugged her, some cried with her. But every single person stopped to speak to her, and not a single person was impatient at the slower deplaning process.

I am moved to tears yet again as I struggle to put our experience into words. In spite of a few hateful, broken human beings in this world who can all too easily legally get their hands on mass assault weapons – people ARE kind. People DO care. And through our customers’ humanity today, and through the generosity of this wonderful company I am so grateful to work for, I am hopeful that someday soon we can rally together to make the world a safer place for all.

I will never forget today. ‪#‎Orlandoproud

The other stories are smaller, but still good news. They come from Lowry Grove, from Brooklyn Center, from Minneapolis, and from northern Minnesota.

Lowry Grove: Good news, bad news, uncertain future

Lowry Grove mobile home park residents got a last-minute reprieve last week — the Aeon affordable housing non-profit will use a little-known and never-before-used Minnesota law to match the buyer’s offer and keep the mobile home park open. MPR interviewed Aeon president and CEO Alan Arthur:

“When people ask me, ‘Why the heck did you do this?’ It’s because the residents impressed upon us the value this place has for them, for their children, for their neighbors,” Arthur said. “We think that value is worth trying to figure out how to preserve and enhance it, so it’s a fairly simple equation for us.”

But then the owner of the land (residents own the mobile homes, but rent the land) tried an end run around the law.

“The owner just ignored the statute. Well, he just came up with some excuses. But he basically ignored the statute,” said Jack Cann, an attorney with the Housing Justice Center of Minnesota.

“According to Cann, residents should sue and would likely win.”

Antonia Alvarez is not going to go down without a fight. Neither are her neighbors.

“For the Lowry Grove campaign, she keeps a whiteboard leaning against a tree by the park’s main drive, updating it with the latest developments: “Meeting Friday.” Getting the 51 percent of residents to form the co-op was easy, she said …

“Our dream is to become a cooperative where we all own the land together,” Alvarez writes.”

The bottom line good news in this story is the courage and tenacity of Antonia Alvarez and Lowry Grove residents, and the hope and help extended by Aeon. The final outcome: looks like it will be up to the courts.

Brooklyn Center:

This inner-ring suburb voted down a proposal to limit single-family home rentals to 30 percent of homes. That’s good news for renters and for fair housing, according to this Strib article:

“Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid also opposed rental restrictions, arguing that they would disproportionately affect communities of color, because 75 percent of black residents, 92 percent of Somali-Americans and 52 percent of Hmong-Americans in Minnesota rent housing.”

The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors also opposed limiting rentals, saying that rental restrictions could drive away young people who are renting until they can afford to buy their own homes.

Northern Minnesota:

It’s not yet a done deal, but Ron Meador writes that, “We may well have heard the death knell this week for sulfide mining upstream from the Boundary Waters’ wild lakes and rivers.” The U.S. Forest Service will be taking public comments, but indicated that it is “deeply concerned” by “the inherent risks associated with potential copper, nickel and other sulfide mining operations” near the BWCA, and disinclined to renew the expired Twin Metals mining leases.

Meador (one of my favorite environmental writers) also interviewed Mike Dombeck, former head of both the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Dombeck warned that mining produces boom-and-bust cycles rather than long-term economic development and also poses huge dangers to public waters. He concluded:

“[T]he public is still left holding the bag as a result of the 1872 mining law, which was written by miners for miners while the country was preoccupied with the Civil War and its aftermath.

“Such an archaic law — it’s almost inconceivable that it hasn’t been reformed in a meaningful way since 1872.”

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