Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Snow Removal Update -sidewalks Dec.18,2016

Editor's note, Duluth has a color coded priority system for snow cleaning, please read the story and click on the link to see which roads and sidewalks are considered high priority

 Sidewalks are an important part of Duluth's transit system. The City of Duluth is responsible for clearing sidewalks that abutt the road.

By Pakou Ly
City of Duluth Public Information Coordinator

While plow drivers are out cutting ice on residential streets, another smaller group is working to clear city managed sidewalks. Priority 1 (red) routes near schools and major bus routes are expected to be done tomorrow and the second tier (pink) routes are underway. This ice and snow mix has created significant challenges including equipment break down. Crews are out working every day though. Thank you for your patience and for doing your part to clear your own sidewalks. 

Here is a link to the sidewalk clearing system:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cold Weather Tips for Pet Owners

Cold Weather Tips for Pet Owners
By Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff
With the ASPCA
Your pet may have a fur coat, but you still need to keep in mind how the cold weather affects pets. Even if you don’t own a pet, please keep others’ pets in mind. Many years ago, my husband had the unfortunate experience of discovering a cat under the hood of his vehicle when he started the engine. The cat had crawled under the hood to stay warm, and when my husband started the car, the cat died.
Cold Weather Tips
Thinkstock (Photo of MaggieBW coming soon)

The following tips are from the ASPCA, and they are all important. See tip #2 on how to prevent inadvertently hurting a cat as you start your vehicle. Tip #5 explains how essential winter clothing is for dogs. Our dog, MaggieBW, is a shorthaired dog and we purchased a sweater for her. I first thought this was a little extravagant, but since we all know how cold it gets in the Northland, it is actually important for her health and safety.
Please follow these guidelines to protect your companion animal when the temperature drops.

  1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, cats can freeze, become lost or stolen, or be injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to fatal infectious diseases, including rabies.
  2. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes choose to sleep under the hoods of cars, where it is warmer. Then, when the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed in the fan belt. To prevent this, bang loudly on the hood of your car and wait a few seconds before starting the engine, to give a cat a chance to escape.
  3. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs frequently lose their scent in snow and ice and easily become lost. They may panic in a snowstorm and run away. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season.
  4. Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when she comes in out of the rain, snow or ice. Check her sensitive paw pads, which may bleed from snow or ice encrusted in them. Also, salt, antifreeze, or other chemicals could hurt your dog if she ingests them while licking her paws.
  5. If you own a short-haired breed, consider getting a warm coat or sweater for your dog. Look for one with a high collar or turtleneck that covers your dog from the base of her tail on top and to the belly underneath. While this may seem like a luxury, it is a necessity for many dogs.
  6. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold. Your companion animal could freeze to death.
  7. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only long enough to relieve himself.
  8. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to house train during the winter. If necessary, paper train your puppy inside if he appears to be sensitive to the weather.
  9. If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities, increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep his fur thick and healthy.
  10. Antifreeze, even in very tiny doses, is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Because of its sweet taste, dogs are attracted to it. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. To prevent accidental poisonings, more and more people are using animal-friendly products that contain propylene glycol rather than the traditional products containing ethylene glycol. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if you suspect your animal has ingested poison.
  11. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. Leave the coat in a longer style, which provides more warmth. Remember that such a style will require more frequent brushing due to dry winter air and static electricity. When you bathe your dog, make sure she is completely dry before you take her out for a walk.
  12. Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep far away from all drafts and off the floor, such as in a dog or cat bed or basket with a warm blanket or pillow in it.

(This information was provided courtesy of ASPCA, 424 East 92nd St.,New York, NY,10128-6804 (212) 876-7700

Monday, December 12, 2016

Free Tax Site gears up for 2017

By Julia Cheng
For The Hillsider 
Volunteer Recruitment
Community Action Duluth is seeking volunteers for the Free Tax Site. Walk-in clinics operate Mondays and Tuesdays, 4:30 – 9:00 pm and Saturdays, 8:45 am – 1:00 PM, January 28 – April 17.

The Tax Site depends on 80-95 volunteers every year to help more than 1500 families and individuals file their tax returns for free. Experience doing taxes or working for a tax-filing business is a plus, but we provide all necessary training, and there are other ways to help besides preparing returns. Volunteers from the community we serve, tax site clients and CAD staff are all partners in running an excellent program.

New volunteer orientations take place throughout December at CAD’s main offices in the former Lincoln Park School, 2424 West 5th Street. Tax preparer training begins on January 3. A first-year preparer starts with an introduction to basic tax concepts, and continues with required trainings in federal tax law, Minnesota tax law and TaxSlayer Pro Online return preparation software.  People who have used online tax prep sites like or Intuit TurboTax may find TaxSlayer quite user friendly.

Tax site assistants train to screen clients – helping them complete the intake process and get ready for a successful tax site visit.  

Bring your Social Security card or ITIN card to the Tax Site
VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) tax sites must now verify the social security number of each person on a tax return with one of these acceptable documents:
·      Original Social Security card
·      Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
·      Medicaid Card (with letter “A” after the Social Security number)
·      Form SSA-1099, Social Security benefits statement or any document issued by the Social Security Administration. Truncated numbers (“XXX-XX-1234”) are acceptable.
·      ITIN card or letter

Make sure to bring these documents to the CAD Free Tax Site or other VITA tax sites in Duluth.

PATH Act holds on EITC and ACTC refunds take effect in 2017
The IRS will hold tax year 2016 refunds that include Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit until February 15, 2017. Taxpayers should still file returns as usual, and the IRS will process returns as they receive them.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (“PATH”) extended or preserved tax credits set to expire in 2017. Many of these tax credits benefit families who use the Tax Site. However, Section 201 of the PATH Act also “provides additional time for the IRS to review refund claims based on the earned income tax credit and refundable portion of the child tax credit in order to reduce fraud and improper payments,” beginning in 2017.

No one can get you your federal refund faster than the IRS releases it, and if they say they can it will probably cost you money. Electronic filing through a VITA tax site and direct deposit of refunds can still minimize your wait time. The IRS will release all pending EITC and ACTC refunds on February 15. Refunds from returns filed after February 15 are not subject to this hold.

Julia Cheng

(Julia Cheng is the Community Action Duluth Tax Site Program Manager) 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Six Tips to Help You Stay Green During the Holiday Season

By Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff
For The Hillsider

(Editor's note: We are having some difficulty with the formatting of the paragraphs, so please excuse that because this is good information.)

Soon many of us will be doing special activities related to Christmas and other holidays. Here is a list I put together to help you to be more efficient and environmentally-friendly. Remember sometimes it is hard to change old ways, baby-steps can make it easier. If you feel you can’t make all of these changes please just choose one. Baby steps taken over time add up.

1. Bring your own shopping bags

Bringing your own bags isn't just for grocery shopping. Reduce plastic waste and

hazards to animals who mistake plastic bags as food by using your bags for gift

shopping. I use a backpack or most of my shopping trips, and it works great. I can pack a lot of items in it, and it's a lot easier to carry. Many places ask you to check a backpack, but if you’re walking or taking the bus a backpack is easiest. If you’re driving and don’t use a backpack, remember your canvas or reusable bags.

2.  Reuse recycled/recyclable gift wrap


Wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and gift bags can be expensive and aren’t always
recyclable. I save old calendars, magazines, and comic sections of newspapers for gift
wrapping. Maps and posters work well, too, or you can decorate paper bags. You can
also save gift bags and bows from gifts you’ve received and use them next year.

3. Switch to LED lights
Stringing up lights for the holidays? Switch to LED lights. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), LED lights use up to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent holiday lights. LED lights also don’t run as hot, reducing the fire hazard (especially for Christmas trees), and can last up to ten times longer.

4. Switch to Rechargeable Batteries
According to the EPA more than 40 percent of all battery sales happen during the holiday season. Many of those batteries are alkaline batteries that can't be recycled. You can replace alkaline batteries with rechargeable ones. If you are giving gifts that require batteries consider giving rechargeable batteries and a battery charger along with the gift.

5. Host a zero waste party
Holiday parties don't have to mean lots of food and disposable dishware waste. Serve
food on reusable or compostable dishware. Check the thrift shops for holiday themed
dish sets or borrow dishes from friends. My Grandma has special Christmas plates that are fun to use during the holidays. If you don't like the thought of doing dishes at the end of the party ask friends to help. Also, have recycling containers labeled for guests, and if you live in the Duluth area you can collect food waste and drop it off at Western Lake Superior Sanitary District's (WLSSD) 27th Ave W location.

6. Decorate a Living Tree
Instead of buying a cut or artificial tree, consider having a living tree that can be planted in
the spring or keep as a houseplant. Two years ago I bought a potted Norfolk Pine from Whole Foods Co-Op to use as my Christmas tree. It worked well for my small apartment, and I’ve enjoyed having it as houseplant. I’m happy that I will be able to use it for a 3rd Christmas and not have to buy a new tree.

Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff

(Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff lives in Lincoln Park, has a degree in environmental science, teaches Zumba and is interested in health and wellness. Full disclosure: She is also the daughter of The Hillsider editor  Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff.)

A Community Leader with Experience and a Vision

 Stephan Witherspoon (Photo Submitted)

Stepahn Witherspoon:

A Community Leader wit Experience and a Vision

By Jack Day
For The Hillsider

Stephan Witherspoon grew up in a three-and-a-half bedroom house with 10 siblings in the Central Hillside in Duluth, Minnesota. He said he is living a great life now as an African American Community Coach at the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, but it took a series of drastic events for him to get to where he is today.

Stephan and his mother Sharon Witherspoon. (Photo submitted)
 When Stephan was 10 years old, he was playing at a park and was called the N word for the first time. This event changed him, and he began fighting, which went on for many years.

“I got locked up where I work now because I would hurt people who called me the N word,” Stephan said. “I just couldn’t take it. We would have fights between the blacks and the whites and I thought that’s just the way it was.”

The racial tension got so bad that he decided to move away from Duluth and live in Houston with his sister for a while. But when he came back to Duluth, he experienced the most traumatic event of his life. In 1994—when he was just 19 years old—there was a triple homicide that took the lives of his brother and his two best friends.

“That was devastating to the family,” Stephan said. “The media called my house and apologized because they were trying to make the murderer look good, while making my brother and my friends look bad.” 
Stephan Witherspoon at the downtown Starbucks location.
                               (Photo by Jack Day)
Stephan with his brother, Solomon, and sister Simbarina 
enjoying Appetizers at the Green Mill last summer. (Photo Submitted)
After the homicides, Stephan turned to the microphone and started singing the blues. His first band he was a part of was called “Doctor Spoon and the Rhythm Union,” and after that he and his brothers, Solomon and Sebastian started a group called “Soul Profits.” Even though singing the blues was fun for him, Stephan was still having a difficult time with his life.

“I wanted to get out of all the trauma,” he said. “ So for about a year and a half, I was on crack cocaine.”Stephan knew that he couldn’t continue to live his life like this. The tragedy he had gone through as a 19-year-old kid was devastating, but he wanted to use it as motivation to get his life on track.“One day I got down on my knees and I talked to God. It was like a lighting bolt went through my body and I didn’t crave the drugs anymore,” Stephan said. “I had about a thousand dollars worth of crack and I flushed it down the toilet that day, and I’ve been sober ever since.”
Stephan immediately put himself in a treatment center to get his life in order. He went back to school and got his bachelor’s degree in organizational behavior. He is currently in a master’s program studying project management, but is considering pursuing law school.

Early on, Stephan’s younger brother. Solomon, had been aware that Stephan was going through devastating times, but he never doubted that his older brother would pull through.
“He’s been through some of the most desperate situations in  life, and he was able to overcome adversities that mentally and physically kill people,” Solomon said.
Solomon grew up watching his brother turn into the humble man he is today. Through all of the hardship that has occurred within their family, Solomon had faith that Stephan would turn into the man he has become.

“Stephan grew up as a true leader. From a very young age he was never afraid of a challenge,” Solomon said. “He had the mindset that if he failed, he would keep going until he was victorious.”
Stephan now belongs to a long list of organizations: Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, Voices for Racial Justice, Policy Champs, and Cross Cultural Alliance Duluth, to name a few. He said he wants kids of color to have an easier life growing up than he did.
“I just want to make sure that kids of color, low income, and people in poverty are validated and have the resources they need to succeed,” Stephan said. “My mission is to get a cultural center up and going on the Hillside, so kids and families have a safe haven.”

Stephan knows that there are a lot of people who have a difficult time succeeding because of how or where they are raised. Those are the people that he focuses on when he is working. When he joined the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, about 65-70 percent of juveniles detained were of color. After four years of Stephan being an African American Community Coach, that number is down to about 35-40 percent.

For his job, Stephan makes court call reminders and makes sure kids get to court, including taking them there himself if they are unable to find another ride. He also participates in cultural activities with the kids, cooks with them, and talks about accountability, responsibility, and the importance of education.

Solomon is not surprised at all by the success his older brother is having within the Duluth community.
“Something in his soul wouldn’t let him quit; his desire, passion, gratefulness, and his will to continue to strive for perfection makes him one of the greatest men I’ve ever met, and it just so happens that he is my older brother,” Solomon said. “He definitely makes this world a better place.”
Stephan is driven to reach a goal to make his hometown a better place for everyone.
“It hurts my heart seeing kids who don’t feel important in their own communities,” Witherspoon said. “We need to embrace each other’s cultures, and share our talents.”

Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken and Stephan Witherspoon enjoy a
moment together during the YWCA’s Women of Distinction Award Luncheon on Oct. 20.  (Photo by  Naomi Y-B)


(Jack Day is a University of Minnesota Duluth journalism student. His hometown is Hastings, Minn. Contact him at