Friday, February 11, 2011

Latest News Out Of Dakota County

For the birds

Out of consideration for birds everywhere, please stop using the phrase “bird brain.” And isn’t it decidedly wrong to talk about “jail birds,” or say that something is “for the birds” to label that which is least desirable? February is a great time to set things right by celebrating National Bird Feeding Month. No, I’m not making it up! It started in 1994 when John Porter (R-IL) recognized February as an especially tough month for wild birds and read a proclamation into the Congressional Record on behalf of birds everywhere. The theme for 2011’s bird feeding as established by the National Bird-Feeding Society is “Most Wanted-America’s Top Ten Backyard Birds.” Although it may not be politically correct, and may encourage the use of terms like “jail bird,” society members didn’t consult with me before settling on a theme. So what do wild birds have to do with Dakota County? Have you forgotten our forever wild Dakota County Parks? They’ve got birds everywhere. Outside the window of the Visitors Center at Lebanon Hills Regional Park there’s an assortment of bird feeders and a big set of binoculars. Visitors are invited to spy on—I mean, appreciate the beauty of—wild birds. The Mississippi River is an international flyway for birds and that makes Spring Lake Park Reserve a great place for bird watchers. Lake Byllesby Regional Park is also a well-know birder’s paradise, especially in the fall when lower lake levels create mud flats that birds just love.

Dakota County’s Hastings Government Center

On Jan. 31, a new café opened downstairs in the Dakota County Judicial Center. It’s called the Trio Café and it is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It’s a story about culinary cooperation that would make Jamie Oliver proud. There’s no naked chef though. Trio derives its name from its three partners: Independent School District 917, Dakota County and the food service operator who manages the Green Mill in Hastings. It’s a win, win, win. The school district gets to expand their educational opportunities in the food service industry; Dakota County gets hot and healthy food for employees and visitors; and the Green Mill helps provide training for young people who may one day work in the food industry. What’s even better is that there is no ongoing cost to Dakota County. Some updates were made to the facility, but going forward the café will be staffed by students, a full-time teacher and employees from the food service operator. It’s such a good idea, that I’ve heard a few suggest that there may be other opportunities for the school district to work together with the County in a variety of areas of vocational education.

Beating the odds

Ever feel like the odds are against you? Lots of families do. You’ve heard their unedited stories. Perhaps you’ve had stories where you’ve had to decide to either stay detached and report the story or get involved and change a desperate situation. Whatever the choice, you may wonder what is being done to help. Those who formed the Metro Alliance for Healthy Families don’t spend much time wondering what could be done. They’re busy doing it. On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Gay Bakken updated the Dakota County Board of Commissioners on the alliance’s success, shared the history—it is in its fourth year— and talked about future challenges. The Metro Alliance for Healthy Families is a home visiting program that serves new and expectant families who have risk factors that make parenting an even greater challenge—single parent, poverty, history of trauma, depression, teen parents and those with a combination of these risks. In 2010, Metro Alliance for Healthy Families reported that 91 percent of infants born to families enrolled in the program were full-term. Immunizations were current for 94 percent of visited two-year-olds compared to the seven-county metro population that was less than 59 percent. For cognitive, physical and behavioral measures, 95 percent of home-visited children were within the average range compared to a state rate of only 75 percent. Stories about life’s struggles are constant, but everyone loves a story with a good ending.

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