Off Beat

Love Triumphs

Two and a half years after Pastor Ann Sandell received a vision from God instructing her to open the doors of Minneapolis's Love Power Church to the homeless, the project may finally have cleared its bureaucratic and legal hurdles. Last week Hennepin County District Judge John McShane dismissed a lawsuit brought by seven neighbors who sought to prohibit the opening of the West Bank shelter.

The plaintiffs had argued that the church and its allies fraudulently misrepresented the project, and that the City of Minneapolis, which approved a conditional-use permit (CUP) for the facility, had violated its own ordinance for siting shelters. But Judge McShane ruled that the plaintiffs' only beef was with the project itself. "They have utilized every tactic up to and including this lawsuit," McShane wrote of the plaintiffs. "They have raised every conceivable argument, both relevant and irrelevant, before the public, the various agencies of city government and now the courts. While plaintiffs' rhetoric argues to the contrary, the court finds that the CUP was properly debated and decided." Attorney Gary Wood, who represents the plaintiffs, says that his clients plan to ask the judge to amend his decision. If that fails, they will then decide whether to appeal.

Barring future legal challenge, the 25-bed shelter will open this fall. Some residents will be enrolled in a pilot project aimed at helping them become self-sufficient. Any remaining spots will be filled through a nightly lottery held at St. Stephen's Shelter. Mary Gallini, who is spearheading the effort, says that homeless advocates are now searching for other churches willing to open their doors to those without shelter: "Love Power's sort of been the guinea pig for finding out what all the snags are." --Paul Demko


Mae and Her Minder

One of the many smart things Jesse Ventura did during his gubernatorial run in 1998 was to make Mae Schunk--a kindly white-haired, bespectacled presence--his choice for lieutenant governor as high-profile proof of his commitment to public education.

But after the election, Schunk seemed to disappear, and her absence was made more notable by the rough-and-tumble battles over education funding at the capitol the past two years. A week ago Friday, the lieutenant governor emerged in a joint appearance with Ventura at South St. Paul High School to commemorate the fulfillment of her campaign pledge to visit all of the state's school districts. The governor used the occasion to announce that she would again be on the ticket should he choose to run again.

"I feel a real electricity between us, and I am fired up. I want to continue," Schunk said in an interview at the capitol earlier that week. But the rest of the conversation, closely monitored by her aide, Steve LeBeau, perhaps revealed why the 67-year-old Schunk has been visiting schools more than reporters during her tenure.

Schunk admits she has been "disturbed" by some of the comments Ventura has levied against educators in recent years. "I've talked to the governor about it and he says, 'Well, Mae, this is the way I say things, and it sounds harsher than what I really mean from my heart,'" she explains. "I think he has done better with it recently. Sometimes our governor just comes out and says it the way he is thinking at the time, and it goes past his heart."

She says she's proud to have helped influence Ventura to provide $800 million in new education funding and to defend the Profile of Learning standards. But how does she feel about the subsequent "Big Fix," in which the state took over education funding and which has been blamed for an extreme budget crunch for districts statewide? Before she can formulate an answer, her aide speaks up: "Not to butt in," LeBeau interjects, "but the change in education funding didn't take any money away. The belt-tightening is because [the districts] spent more money than they had; they got big money the first biennium and they planned on that the second biennium. When they didn't get that, they were caught short."

Later, asked to cite the moments that have made her most proud of the governor and most disappointed in him, Schunk mentions the Profile of Learning and the 1999 budget increases as points of pride. And disappointment? "I would like to see people come together and come up with a new way to fund schools," Schunk says.

"Disappointed in the governor? That was the question," prompts LeBeau.

"Oh, I am not disappointed with the governor at all," Schunk concludes. --By Britt Robson

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