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Brotherhood Inc.

Brotherhood-Inc

Nekima Levy-Pounds at Brotherhood Inc. gathering

The hustle and bustle on University Ave. on a Friday afternoon this summer was nothing compared to the buzz going on inside the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. The office was hosting University of St. Thomas associate law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds and the new local anti-gang initiative she is spearheading in the community.

Levy-Pounds, along with four University of St. Thomas law students and law clinic fellow Artika Tyner, is proposing a center in St. Paul devoted to serving African-American youth. The facility would act as a one-stop shop for social services and business enterprises that keep young people out of gangs. They are calling the initiative, Brotherhood Inc., and are targeting youth who have been involved in gangs or criminal activity who want to make positive changes in their lives.

The project is modeled after Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries. The St. Paul initiative has named the project Brotherhood, Inc. with “Creating Change, Transforming Lives” as its tagline. Their mission statement is just as enterprising, setting forth the goal “To enable African-American youth and young adults to envision and achieve successful futures.”
Behind the press releases, community meetings and mission statement is a real energy to get things done. UST Law’s Community Justice Project, led by Levy-Pounds, is taking a leading role in making Brotherhood Inc. a reality. Tyner and Levy-Pounds have been moved by the gang activity, educational achievement gap and high incarceration rates that plague African-Americans in St. Paul.

“It has been an awakening for me, and I now have to bring the students along,” Tyner explains. She puts stock in the unique family feel that Brotherhood Inc. is designed to create. After learning about the commitment and connection among the people at Homeboy Industries, Tyner knew the same model could make a huge impact in St. Paul.
Levy-Pounds visited Homeboy Industries in 2007, and came back with a vision of starting something similar in St. Paul. Tyner said Levy-Pounds’s enthusiasm was infectious and got her to start looking at issues in the St. Paul community.

Getting dedicated students from the CJES program was an important part of creating the momentum this project needs to get off the ground.

“We don’t teach students just to ‘think like lawyers,’” Levy-Pounds emphasizes. “I think that is a shallow definition of legal education.”

Tyner and Levy-Pounds use the classroom to get to the bottom of race and class issues that affect disenfranchised youth.

Tyner explains that instead of being overwhelmed into inaction by these large social questions, “with these students, we can change the world.”

ASANDC has been an outspoken supporter of the Brotherhood Inc. project. Executive Director Nieeta Presley says that with focused action from diverse members of the St. Paul community, Brotherhood Inc. can be a reality sooner rather than later.

Energy Smart Homes

City of St. Paul LogoThe City of Saint Paul has launched the $550,000 Energy Smart Homes loan and rebate initiative that will provide Saint Paul residents with the tools to lower energy consumption and cut costs.

By renovating our homes and replacing old appliances, a person will save money and decrease energy usage in Saint Paul. This is one more way the City is improving building efficiency, lowering energy costs, and protecting our environment while solidifying Saint Paul as a national leader in environmental sustainability.

This initiative is made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Energy Smart Homes will provide funding for energy-saving improvements to houses and apartment buildings, thereby lowering monthly utility bills to residents, strengthening the City’s tax base, and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Energy Smart Homes will also create jobs, a key component of ARRA, by creating a need for contractors, including heating and insulation contractors.

Energy Smart Homes is a two-pronged initiative. $500,000 will be used to make no-interest loans up to $6,500 to homeowners to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. These funds will also leverage Xcel Energy rebates. Prior to making the improvements, each home will undergo a home energy audit to identify the greatest needs.

Eligible expenses may include furnace replacement, insulation and air sealing.

Saint Paul homeowners of all incomes are eligible to apply, though incomes will affect the loan amounts and other initiative requirements.

Another aspect of the initiative is “Cool Cash for Cold Clunkers,” which consists of cash rebates for owners of apartment buildings in Saint Paul who replace old inefficient refrigerators in their rental units with new ENERGY STAR refrigerators.

By replacing a refrigerator from the 1980s with an ENERGY STAR refrigerator could save as much as $100 each year on utility bills.

Energy Smart Homes will provide up to ten $200 rebates to owners of apartment buildings. And while the building owner will benefit from the cash rebates, many tenants will realize the monthly savings resulting from lower utility bills.

Pre-applications must be postmarked by June 11. Individuals will be selected by June 17. Selected homeowners seeking funds for energy-saving improvements will be invited to complete a full application and selected apartment building owners seeking refrigerator rebates will be notified and informed of the process for receiving their rebates.

If you would like more details, including eligibility conditions and other requirements, go to www.stpaul.gov or call 651-266-6655 for a pre-application.

On a related note, if you are a non-profit, neighborhood or business association, you may be able to take advantage of our new Energy Challenge Grants initiative. The initiative will give non-profit organizations, neighborhood and business associations the opportunity to receive Federal stimulus funds for projects that will assist Saint Paul residents and businesses in reducing their energy use and climate change impact.

Organizations must utilize the funds for projects that promote either the Neighborhood Energy Connection’s Home Energy Squads, Center for Energy and Environment’s One-Stop Efficiency Shop Program, the Minnesota Energy Challenge or other successful cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation programs.

Eligible applicants may request up to $5,000 for projects completed by June 30, 2011. Applications for the Energy Challenge Grants must be received by June 14, 2010.

For profit businesses are not eligible.

If you are interested in this initiative, visit the Sustainable Saint Paul website at: www.stpaul.gov/sustainability or call 651-266-8520.

Surf’s Up!

This year’s Ward 1 Beach Party, organized by Ward 1 City Councilmember Melvin Carter III, will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Dec. 19 at the city’s newest recreation center and only indoor water park, Oxford Community Center, 270 Lexington Parkway North (click here for map/directions).

The free event will include food, community resource information, water park access, activities for the whole family, and great prizes and giveaways.