December 2016 News and Events from Commissioner Linda Higgins

Commissioner Linda Higgins, Hennepin County, MN




Hennepin County is a great place to work!

Browse open positions or sign up to receive job notification emails from the county. 

Browse current library openings.


Linda Higgins
Commissioner, District 2

Tina Sanz
Principal Aide

Beverly Hammond
Administrative Secretary

You can also send comments via my feedback form


For past issues of my monthly newsletter, visit my webpage


District 2 serves the cities of Golden Valley, Medicine Lake, north and northeast Minneapolis, southeast Plymouth and St. Anthony.

2nd District Hennepin County

View larger map


County departments, agencies and other entities

Elected and appointed officials

Hennepin County libraries

Hennepin County Medical Center

Hennepin volunteers

Online services

Phone directory

Service Center information

Make an appointment at a service center

Sign up to receive e-newsletters and notifications

Understanding your property tax

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter.

I was looking for something substantive to share with our readers as we enter into this season of joy and I came across this quote from Agnes Mae Pharo that I find quite beautiful. I hope you do too.

"What is Christmas?  It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.  It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace." 

Be sure to check out the great holiday events in this month’s newsletter, and think about subscribing to other interesting topics offered by Hennepin County.

Wishing you and yours peace, hope and a happy holiday season!

Higgins signature

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Top stories

Holiday train image

CP Rail Holiday Train at night (image via CP Rail)

See the CP Rail Holiday Train December 10

The Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train is coming to Hennepin County on Saturday, December 10! This year is also the first year that the train will stop in Golden Valley.

The Holiday Train is a delight for children and adults alike. At 1,000 feet in length and  decorated with hundreds of thousands of LED lights and holiday designs, lights, music and entertainment surrounds. This is the 18th year for the train in an effort to raise money, food and awareness for local food banks and food shelves. Last year, approximately 450,000 people celebrated with CP Holiday Train, raising more than $1.4 million for food banks.

You can also view the CP Rail Holiday Train behind the scenes mini-documentary at To continue to support the Holiday Train and receive updates for this year’s program, visit it Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @CPHolidaytrain #CPHolidayTrain.​ The U.S. schedule is at

CP Rail Holiday Train schedule

Cranberry sangria

Spiced cranberry sangria

Sangria is a no-fuss cocktail that can be prepared for larger or small parties.

Looking for a new recipe to try this holiday season? I found this delicious looking sangria recipe that can spice up your holiday gathering (note: it can be made with or without Cointreau and wine for your guests who do not drink alcohol). Thanks, PBS food blog!


  • 1 (12-ounce) bag of cranberries (1/4 cup cranberries reserved for garnish)
  • 2 oranges, juiced, plus a few orange slices for garnish
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-inch knob of fresh ginger, sliced
  • 1 1/4 cups pure cane sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup Cointreau
  • 1 green apple, sliced
  • 1 bottle of white wine (you could also use a light red wine)


  1. In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, orange juice, water, fresh ginger, sugar and cinnamon stick. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened. Run the cranberry syrup through a fine-mesh sieve and press the cranberries to release any juices; transfer the syrup to a large pitcher.
  2. Pour in the Cointreau and wine; give it a good mix. Add the reserved cranberries, orange slices and sliced green apple. Transfer to the fridge to chill for 1 to 2 hours. Stir the sangria before serving. Serve over ice.

Yield: 6-8 servings. Recipe via the PBS food blog,

New contracting approach will increase participation of small businesses for Hennepin projects

Hennepin County is launching a new contracting approach that will increase participation of small businesses on county projects. The goals of this program are to create a more diverse contracting pool and create more contracting opportunities for women and minority owned small businesses on county contracts that include general contracting, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and painting.

Beginning in 2017, the county will have a pool of qualified small businesses who will be awarded work on county building construction, repair and remodeling projects based on their price quotes. 

Hennepin County will pre-qualify general contractors and specialty-trade contractors for a Job Order Contracting Program. In addition, the county will request qualifications information from size-eligible general and specialty trade contractors that are certified as an SBE for a Targeted Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program. Contractors can submit qualifications information for either or both programs. 

Interested contractors may contact Gilbert Odonkor via email at RFQs are due December 5, 2016, by 12 pm. More information is at

Somali exhibit

Image of painting by featured artist Aziz Osman via Somalia Online.

Somali culture celebrated at the Hennepin County Government Center Gallery

The Somali Museum of Minnesota is presenting “The Somali Museum of Minnesota: Treasures of the Diaspora” at the Hennepin Gallery, featuring highlights from the museum’s collection. The display showcases the cultural roots that Somalis in Minnesota share, and uses traditional arts as a platform for all Minnesotans to experience the richness of Somali culture and glimpse their Somali neighbors’ history and traditions. 

The Somali Museum of Minnesota is the only museum in the world devoted to preserving, celebrating, and advancing Somali art and culture. The Somali Museum displays a collection of over 700 artifacts from Somalia and the diaspora.

The exhibit will kick off with a performance from Somali Museum Dance Troupe, December 8, Noon to 1 pm at the Hennepin County Government Center Skyway level.

The Hennepin Gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 6 pm, at the Hennepin County Government Center, A-level, 300. S. Sixth St., Minneapolis. This exhibit will run December through January, 2017.

The Gallery is a project of Hennepin County Communications. The exhibit is supported by the Hennepin County Multicultural Arts Committee (MCAC) and Forecast Public Art. More information is here.

Adoption day

Hennepin County Adoption Day celebrates 21 children, families

In Minnesota, 489 children are waiting for adoptive families.  (DHS October 2016)

In Hennepin County, 123 children and teens have not found permanent families.

About adoption in Hennepin County

Last year, 100 adoptions were finalized in the county; by the end of the 2016 Adoption Day celebrations, 110 children and teens will have their adoptions finalized with families who have committed to love and care for them for the long haul.  

Paths to adoption

  • Foster care: Families care for children or teens while their birth parents work to resolve their issues. Sometimes adoptive parents start out in the foster to adopt program, sometimes they are foster parents who find they can’t let the child go to another family when the birth parent’s rights are terminated.
  • Relatives: The first priority when children are removed from their homes is to find relatives to care for them. Relative adoptions happen when a grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousin or older sibling commits to raising the children and giving them a permanent home. Sometimes the “relative” can be a neighbor, friend, mentor or teacher.
  • New adoptive families: Adults who want to become parents are matched with a waiting child or teen who is living in foster care.

Help a child

Adoptive families and foster families make a powerful difference in children’s lives.  Please help us spread the word: Foster and adoptive families are needed in Hennepin County.  The reward is being there every day to see children have safe and happy childhoods.

The next foster care and adoption information meeting is Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Hennepin County Library – Brookdale, 6125 Shingle Creek Parkway, Brooklyn Center.

Learn more about foster care or adoption at

See an article from the Star Tribune about the 2016 Adoption Day celebration at


Child well-being is the focus for Child Protection Oversight Committee

At a board briefing on November 10, committee co-chairs Commissioner Mike Opat and Ann Ahlstrom, with Deputy County Administrator Jennifer DeCubellis, presented the Child Protection Oversight Committee’s findings and recommendations, drawn from 13 months of system analysis conducted by the committee and staff, community partners and residents. The work resulted in a three-year, $26.1 million work plan and a set of six core recommendations that will dramatically shape the county’s work to protect and care for children.

In the briefing county leaders discussed recommended dramatic changes to the approach the county takes to protect and care for children.

Addressing a major problem

The committee was created by the County Board in July 2015 after a series of events, including: 

  • A county-initiated study by Casey Family Programs that found serious systemic problems with child protection practices.
  • Child deaths from maltreatment in Minnesota, including in Hennepin County, that drew media scrutiny.
  • Governor Dayton’s Task Force on the Protection of Children released its recommendations. The county already authorized hiring 100 more social workers and county attorney staff, and has adopted a 24-7 response system.

The committee made a series of recommendations that will stabilize the workforce and allow for reasonable workloads; improve professional supports by co-locating work teams in the same offices; offer early and practical help to families that are at risk for violence or dysfunction; improve data collection, analysis and sharing; and establish an ongoing successor committee to continue to study and monitor achievement of program goals. 

Advancing child well-being

The biggest change is the adoption of a new focus: Child well-being. The county will use multiple platforms to prioritize children’s physical health, emotional and social health, relational health and development. That means that rather than waiting to intervene with a family when there is a crisis, workers across the spectrum of county services will work to identify children and families that are at risk, under toxic stress, or challenged by physical, mental or chemical health issues. 

The oversight group

The committee was made up of 12 experts from health care, family courts, social work, public policy, child development, law enforcement and nonprofit agencies. 

For more information about child protection services and the Hennepin County Child Protection Oversight Committee initiative, visit

SW LRT contractor open house

Hennepin Career Connections: Metro Transit Light Rail Construction Contracting Open House: METRO Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT) Project

December 5, 2016, 2 to 4:30 pm
Minnetonka Community Center
14600 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka, MN 55345

2-3 pm Presentation by Metropolitan Council staff
3-4:30 pm Contractor mixer

Construction of the planned METRO Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT) project creates many contracting and subcontracting opportunities. The prime contractors for this project will subcontract with hundreds of firms. Attend this free informational event to learn about contracting opportunities in construction, demolition, electrical, excavation, HVAC, hauling, and many more.

Pre-registration is not required to attend, but individuals and firms are encouraged to register online.

See printable event flyer [PDF]

Back to top

Board news

Full board meeting agendas and actions may be found at

November 1

Special levies will fund watershed projects

The board set a special levy to support projects in four watershed management organizations: Bassett Creek, Shingle Creek, West Mississippi and Elm Creek. The special levy is separate from the general property tax levy, which is set to be approved next month.

Projects include:

  • Bassett Creek: $1.3 million for three water quality improvement projects, improving water quality and stream habitat of Bassett and Plymouth Creeks within the cities of Minneapolis and Plymouth, and reducing phosphorus loading into Northwood Lake in New Hope.
  • Shingle Creek: $363,600 for three storm water retrofit projects and a diverted streamflow treatment project in the cities of Crystal, Minneapolis, and Robbinsdale, and to support a best management practices (BMP) program.
  • West Mississippi: $131,300 to complete a storm water retrofit project in Champlin and support a BMP cost-share program, which will implement small water quality projects throughout the watershed to protect and improve the quality of water resources.
  • Elm Creek: $492,812 for five water quality improvement projects including stream bank/shoreline restoration along Rush Creek in Maple Grove, Fox Creek in Rogers and the Mississippi River at the Elm Creek Dam in Champlin, repair of storm water outfalls along the Mississippi River in Champlin, and in-lake water treatment to reduce phosphorus at Fish Lake in Maple Grove.

Learn more about special levies.

Measure applies tobacco rules to e-cigs, moves authority to Public Health

The board approved an amendment to County Ordinance 21 that will apply all county tobacco regulations to electronic tobacco and tobacco-related products, such as e-cigarettes. The measure will allow the ordinance to adapt in the future to new tobacco products. This change puts Hennepin County in line with new state regulations and wording meant to better control use of tobacco products. It will also allow the board to delegate licensing of tobacco retailers to the Hennepin County Public Health Department. 

Learn more about the ordinance change.

November 15

Federal program helps offenders with mental illness

The board agreed to sign on to the White House Data-Driven Justice Initiative, which aims to keep low-risk offenders out of jail to help them become productive members of our community. 

This initiative will further efforts to consider offenders’ mental health. Nationwide, 64 percent of all people in jail have a mental illness, and the county jail may not be best suited to treat and support those individuals. 

Hennepin County committed to reduce unnecessary detention for low-risk offenders and identify appropriate alternatives for those with mental illnesses in our county jail by:

  • Identifying appropriate alternatives for the mentally ill, including diversion programs and initiatives to support high utilizers
  • Developing new strategies for probation noncompliance
  • Reducing bench warrants for people who do not appear for court
  • Eliminating delays in the legal process 
  • Ensuring that decisions to detain or release are based on validated risk assessment tools
  • Identifying opportunities to responsibly share information to improve coordination of services across systems 

Read more about the White House Data-Driven Justice Initiative.

Funding covers Southwest LRT infrastructure, environmental cleanup costs

The board approved an agreement with the Metropolitan Council to fund infrastructure and environmental investments that will improve communities on the Southwest Light Rail line: St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Minneapolis. 

The vote confirms action the board took in July 2015 to approve $8 million in local matching funds for the project. Infrastructure costs of as much as $3 million will improve plaza infrastructure items, such as benches, lighting, and bike racks, as well as community connectivity. The Environmental Response Fund will provide as much as $5 million to assess and clean up contamination exposed during construction at the Hopkins Tech Center site, Louisiana Station Area and the Hopkins Operations and Maintenance Facility site. 

Read more about the funding agreement

Back to top



  • Sunday, November 27, 11:30am to 4pm
    International Holiday Festival. Ukrainian American Community Center. 301 Main St. NE.
  • Saturday, December 3, 6-9 pm
    Interwine Northeast Community Christmas Carnival, East Side Neighborhood Services, 1700 2nd St. NE. InterwineNortheast
  • Saturday, December 10, 8am-2pm
    Holiday Bazaar at Jackson Flats. Artisans and craftspeople from the NE Arts District. Light refreshments and live music. 901 18 ½ Ave. NE. Free. JacFlats 
  • Sunday, December 11, 12-4pm
    Fix It Clinics. Get free assistance repairing small household appliances, clothing, electronics, mobile devices and more. race Center for Community Life, 1500 6th St. NE. Fix-It-Clinics



  • Saturdays
    Family Storytime at Webber Park Library. For children of all ages. Books, stories, rhymes, music and movement. 4203 Webber Pkwy. webberparklibrary
  • Thursday, December 1, 2016, 7pm
    Daughters of the Dust at the Capri Theatre. A classic film by director Julie Dash. Theatre and musical events throughout December. capritheater
  • Friday, December 2, 6-9pm
    Holiday on 44th.  Music, crafts, face painters and magicians at Loring Community School. 44th Ave. North between Morgan and Upton Avenues N. Free. holidayon44th
  • December 17 and 18, 9:30am-4pm
    Holiday Magic, hosted by the Goddess of Glass. 4400 Osseo Rd. HolidayMagic

Bryn Mawr

  • December 8, 1-4pm Anwatin Craft Fair, Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Ave. S.

North Loop

  • Saturday, November 26, 9am-5pm
    Small Business Saturday. Holiday shop the North Loop. Celebrate and support small businesses. smallbusinesssaturday

Golden Valley

  • December 2, 24 hours a day
    Toys for Tots. Toys and gifts are collected throughout December. Golden Valley Police Department. 7700 Golden Valley Rd.
  • Saturday, December 3, 8:30-11:30am
    Santa Breakfast and Workshop. Good Shepherd Catholic Church. 145 Jersey Ave. S. SantaBreakfast

Medicine Lake

  • Thursday, December 8, 6:30 to 8pm
    Plymouth Lions Dinner Meeting and Christmas Party, Medicine Lake City Hall, Christmas Party, 10609 South Shore Dr.


  • Saturday, December 10, 2-5pm
    Old Fashioned Christmas. Visit Santa, Ms. Claus, the elves and reindeer. Refreshments and stories of Christmas past. Hay rides as sleigh bells ring. Free. Old Fashioned Christmas
  • Saturday, December 31, 6-9pm
    Ring in the New Year with family fun. Ice skating, crafts, face painting, entertainment, swimming, inflatables, food, games and open gym time, Plymouth Ice Center, 3650 Plymouth Blvd. 14800 34th Ave. N.

St. Anthony

  • Saturday, November 26, 11am-3pm
    Shop Small Holiday Market. Featuring more than 40 Minnesota businesses. Free child care and parking. St. Anthony Community Center. 3301 Silver Lake Rd.
  • Friday, December 9, 4-8pm
    Holiday Horse drawn Trolley Rides and lighting tour buses. Shopping Center. 2900 Pentagon Dr. HorseDrawnTrolley  

Holiday Activities Elsewhere

  • November 12 through January 8, 10am-5pm
    A Nordic Christmas: Celebrations of Light. American Swedish Institute. 2600 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis. nordicchristmascelebrationsoflight
  • Thursday, December 1, 10am-5pm
    Double Discount Holiday Shopping Weekend at Mill City Museum (4 days). Mill City Museum. 704 S. 2nd St.
  • December 3-4, Saturday/10-5pm, Sunday/12-6pm
    9th Annual Vine Arts Center Holiday Sale. Jewelry, photography, painting, clothing and fiber arts, cards, prints, pottery, paintings, and other great gifts. 2637 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis.
  • December 3, 10, and 17, 11:30 am-1pm
    Santa Saturdays at the Zoo. December is a great time to visit the Minnesota Zoo. Bring the kids to meet Santa. He’ll be available for photos.13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley
  • Sunday, December 4, 4:30pm and 7 pm
    A St. Thomas Christmas Gathering. Featuring over 350 student performers in nine of the university's vocal and instrumental ensembles. Tickets $17.50. Orchestra Hall Nicollet Mall. christmasgatheringconcert
  • Saturday, December 10, 11am-1pm
    Winterfest on 2nd St., Minneapolis. Sleigh rides, caroling, hot cocoa and photo booth and warm clothing drive. Mill District, 704 S. 2nd St. Winterfest2016
  • Saturday, December 17, 10am-1pm
    Mill City Holiday Farmers' Market. Shop for all the local produce, meat, cheeses, flowers, and unique hostess gifts for your holiday feasts! Plus, buy your Christmas tree, wreaths, and spruce tops from at the markets! Mill City Museum. 704 S. 2nd St.
  • Wednesday, November 30- Friday, Dec 2, 10am-5pm
    Weisman Art Museum Holiday Sale. A great selection of items for everyone. Choose from jewelry, cards, handmade goods, treats, locally made items, and more. U of M East Bank, 333 E. River Rd., Minneapolis.

Back to top