Ken’s Crew: Walk to Defeat ALS

ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is 100% fatal. Ultimately it peels away all of your physical abilities to include eating and breathing. Every 90 minutes someone dies or is diagnosed with ALS. The average lifespan of someone diagnosed with ALS is 2-5 years. The estimated average yearly cost of caring for someone with ALS is over $200,000. The ALS association helps to provide services and equipment for those with ALS in addition to supporting research. This year the first drug in 25 years to help slow the progression of ALS was approved.

This Saturday, September 16th, at Lake Phalen Ken’s Crew will be gathering to raise money for the ALS Association. This year it will be especially poignant as Ken died this past July at the age of 54 after being diagnosed with ALS 3 and a half years ago. Please consider walking with Ken’s Crew and/or donating at the following link >> Ken’s Crew

Patti Brown is a clinical nurse specialist at Nystrom & Associates.  She lost her husband Ken Brown from the horrible disease of ALS in July of 2017. She has two children and lives in Champlin, Minnesota.

What Amazon’s possible HQ2 could mean for Minneapolis Real Estate Market

Who out there would like’s headquarters in our beloved Minneapolis?

Or, we should say, Amazon’s SECOND headquarters. According to the Seattle Times,  on Thursday, Jeff Bezos and company announced plans to spend $5 billion on a second headquarters somewhere in North America. Bezos says will be a “full equal” to their current campus in Seattle. And wherever Amazon decides to build out HQ No. 2, they’re going to bring thousands of jobs with them…as many as 50,000 employees! These jobs are not minimum wage jobs, many, if not most, are $100k plus.

Similar projects attracted other cities to woo large companies like Alcoa, General Motors, Intel, and, Boeing requiring a ton of incentives costing these cities millions. Weighed against expected direct employment, Amazon’s HQ2 project scale dwarfs those earlier projects. “Fifty thousand people…is a big carrot,” said David Sirmon who teaches business strategy at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

And, with those high paying jobs comes development, lots of development. When there is commercial development there is always residential development to go with it. In my real estate world, development equals upward mobility. Upward mobility equals moving and selling, which equals more jobs and more housing! “We are creating a neighborhood…a district,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate, referring to their downtown Seattle campus. In Minnesota speak, that means development!

Additionally, whichever city lands Amazon’s second headquarters can expect street-level retail space to go to local restaurants, in line with what’s played out in Seattle. What would that look like for Minneapolis? Oh my! Our Twin Cities would be a great place for a new Amazon “district.” Our entertainment, shopping, and restaurant quality of life would increase exponentially.

However, as a possible consequence, would we transition into a buyer’s market? The housing market tends to cycle between shortage and surplus. Therefore factors that impact supply and demand influence housing market changes. Factors that have a widespread effect include interest rates, economic conditions, and consumer confidence levels. For example, low interest rates, good economic conditions and high levels of consumer confidence can increase the number of potential buyers. Since housing supply tends to lag behind demand, the result is movement toward a sellers’ market. Reverse those factors and buyer demand will most likely slow. When the market reaches the point where there is an excess of properties, a swing toward a buyer’s’ market generally occurs.

Amazon, in general, continues to expand like crazy, with a workforce quickly closing in on 500,000. And with the recent acquisition of Whole Foods, they’re working hard on the future of grocery shopping as well. Amazon is looking for a city with a “highly educated workforce,” and a “stable business-friendly environment,” which is business-speak for “make sure there are a lot of tax breaks.” Does any city come to mind here? Hmmm.

Amazon needs 8 million square feet of office space. For some perspective, Amazon would need the equivalent of nearly six IDS Centers or about 15 of the new Wells Fargo towers that were built next to U.S. Bank Stadium. Possible sites in the Twin Cities would include:

  • The area just west of Target Field
  • Prospect Park neighborhood
  • Arden Hills Rice Creek Commons site
  • St. Paul Ford plant property
  • Maple Grove Arbor Lakes area

But the move immediately sparked the first action in a bidding war among states and cities eager for a stake in Amazon’s empire. Mayors around the country were quick to tout their cities as a potential destination for Amazon’s expansion. Naturally, Minnesota politicians are jockeying for the headlines. Top city leaders have weighed in, kind of. Publicly, they are muddy on how they would approach this request for proposal.

As of the date of this article, Gov. Dayton has assembled a task force lead by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman thinks we can put a competitive proposal together, but was unclear whether we should put  together an aggressive incentive package. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has said nothing (really, Mayor Hodges?). Mayoral candidate and City Council member Jacob Frey is luke-warm at best. He seems to think that because we are so awesome Amazon should come here just because we “have a highly skilled workforce and a growing economy.” That’s all you can say, Mr. Frey?

Another candidate, Tom Hoch, was more cautious in saying, “we should be open to reasonable public incentives.” Ok, that will get us nowhere while competing with Austin, Texas or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The bottom line for the Twin Cities is that it’s not a slam dunk to have enough capable workers, enough real estate and enough incentives to be attractive to Amazon. Especially if we do not have a unified and comprehensive approach from a like-minded political team.  Greater MSP is likely to coordinate a bid that includes the state, region and a local community.

GREATER MSP was created to tackle this exact proposition. Their mission is to accelerate job growth and capital investment in the 16-county region. They want to be a single, coordinated response from a unified metro area. Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley indicates that, “this why Greater MSP was created, to make sure we had a regional organization to respond to opportunities like this.” Ok, guys, let’s get to work and make this happen. The opportunities are enormous.

Will Amazon choose Minneapolis-St. Paul? I’m not seeing much hustle to get this done. If we had motivated and unified civic leaders we might be able to put together a competitive offer. But, from what I can tell, this isn’t in the cards.

Amazon plans to announce a decision next year, and start work on the first phase of a new campus by 2019.

Reporting content from Matt Day of Seattle Times and Nick Halter of Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal

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U2, My Father, Sin, and Redemption

There are some unwritten rules in life. I recently heard this one:

If you are a baseball fanatic, this passion was passed down to you from your father.

This certainly is true for me and my family. My grandfather was a Chicago Cubs fan. My dad is a Cubs fan, so by rule, I had no choice. Baseball is like that. It comes from your dad. It’s a rule.

Baseball is not all I got from my father. I also got my turn-around baseline jump shot, my dashing good looks, and my passion for music. My dad grew up in Chicago (the north side, if you’re keeping score) and he frequented the jazz clubs downtown that featured live music and a cheap meal. To this day. If I tell my dad I was in a certain neighborhood in Chicago, he will tell me about a venue that was in that area and how much he once paid for an evening of music and a steak dinner. Usually around $3.

• • •

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, it was not unusual for me to find my father alone, in the morning, listening to the radio with a cup of coffee and a donut. I see him in a robe and slippers. The radio would be playing WMBI, Chicago’s religious music station or his all-time favorite artist: Frank Sinatra. Let that sink in for a moment. Gospel music and Ol’ Blue Eyes singing about tramps, witchcraft, and sniffing cocaine. Music that celebrates sin. Music that rejoices in redemption. This theme of sin and redemption was not lost on me and it would shape how I relate to music for the rest of my days.

• • •

I was attending Bethel College in the Fall of 1983. A friend of mine, who was very bohemian, gave me a cassette tape of his latest favorite new band. On the spine of the tape was scrawled “U2 War”. All I knew about U2 was that they had a new song called NEW YEARS DAY, but I had never actually heard it. So I put in the tape. My only expectation was to hear that one track.

What I heard that day for the first time is hard to explain in words. I think Bono describes it best in 2014’s, The Miracle (of Joey Ramone):

I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense out of the world
Everything I ever lost, now has been returned
The most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

It was a miracle. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. These ten songs were bombastic anthems. Bono’s vocals were passionate. The Edge’s guitars were noisy and jangly. The drums had a snare drum, a rat-a-tat quality that seemed to call me to fall into formation. When I heard the last song, the benediction simply titled “40”, I knew that this music was anointed. I also saw the familiar theme of sin and redemption. I was a pilgrim on my way.

• • •

In 1953, Frank Sinatra’s career was in a slump. That very year he signed a new contract with Capitol records. Capitol decided to pair the newly acquired Sinatra with a young bandleader named Nelson Riddle. Sinatra didn’t like the idea. He had a group of musicians that he was familiar with from his days at Columbia. Since his record sales were down, he finally agreed to work with Riddle. He had nothing to lose. The new duo’s first effort was, I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING. After hearing it played back for the first time, Sinatra praised Riddle’s work with the exclamation: “I’m back baby. I’m back!”

• • •

Sometimes when my dad was listening to Sinatra tunes he would belt out a line or two in his finest Sinatra voice. Usually, it was the high note that Frank was famous for. Occasionally, I would join him. We were like two bad Sinatra impersonators singing a karaoke duet. After we shared a chuckle, my dad’s face suddenly changed. There was an awkward pregnant pause. He was about to tell me something important.

He said that it was his opinion that Sinatra’s voice together with Nelson Riddle’s band was the perfect convergence of a voice with a band. My dad told me he felt blessed that he was alive to witness this pairing made by the gods, for his enjoyment. It was as if he viewed his specific date of birth as being chosen by God so that he would be alive to witness the pairing of Sinatra and Riddle. A great cosmic timeline, predestined by God, for my father’s musical enjoyment! What a concept. It was one of those moments that a son never forgets.

• • •

There is another rule in life:

All men slowly become their fathers.

My wife and kids notify me when they see this gradual metamorphosis happening. I am becoming more like my father. He felt his life was somehow intertwined on a cosmic level with Frank Sinatra, and I have the same reverence for a foursome from Ireland that I first heard on a borrowed cassette tape in 1983.

Thank you God, for life, love, and music.

• • •

In 1993, near the end of his career, Sinatra actually recorded a duet with Bono for his DUETS project. The song was Cole Porters, I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN. It was the only Sinatra album to be classified as Triple Platinum.

Jeff Velasco is a freelance graphic artist/photo art director and lives in Minneapolis, MN. You can follow him and view his work on Instagram @superjv5His father, Alfred Velasco, is retired and still resides in the Chicago suburbs.




U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin formed in 1976. The group consists of Bono (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion). U2 will be performing a sold out show on September 8th at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN.

A Skateboard, a Fanny Pack, and Cuba

This past summer I had the opportunity to live in Fort Myers, FL to intern with a non-profit organization known as Ride Nature. Ride Nature is an action sports ministry that uses skateboarding, surfing, and wakeboarding to share the good news of Jesus with a truly unreached group of people. If you are familiar with the skateboard community at all, you probably know many of the stereotypes that go along with skaters; outcasts of society, drug users, and dropouts with profane language. The skate culture is a very spiritually dark place, and Ride Nature seeks to change that by letting them know that there is a God who wants to know them and meet them as they are, and loves them so much that he sent his own son to die the death we all deserve for our sin.
This is not only the goal of Ride Nature on a local level in Florida but also on an international level throughout the world.

During the summer, I was able to go on two international trips, one to Panama and one to Cuba. Both trips were incredible, but the Cuba was quite the adventure for me, partially because I wanted to make my last trip with Ride Nature as memorable as possible. To help accomplish this goal, with the strong encouragement of the other guys, I packed for the trip using only a fanny pack. With my Bible in one hand, skateboard in the other, and a fanny pack around my waist, we set out for Cuba.

We flew into Havana with our group of about 8 people, bringing in a few dozen skateboards to donate, as well as some skim boards. Ride Nature always brings boards to donate on mission trips, but this was especially important to us while going to Cuba, as the government restrictions don’t allow skateboard to be imported to the country at all. Every skateboard in Cuba has been brought in from individuals after they visit another country. When a skater in Cuba breaks a board (which happens very often in skateboarding), it can be months before they are able to get a new one and start skating again.

Surprisingly, we made it through customs with all the boards with no hassle at all. On our previous trip to Panama, all our bags with donation boards were confiscated, and we had to go back to the airport multiple times and pay hundreds of dollars to get the bags back.

Each day of the trip in Cuba, we set out to a different skate spot to build relationships with the skaters there, hold skate contests, and share the gospel everywhere we went. We had a few different contacts in Cuba before going who were skaters, and they were able to let the community know where we would be and when. The community of skaters in Cuba is very large, but a tight knit group of guys that all seemed to know each other well.


Each day we went to a new spot the group of skaters got bigger and bigger as word got out that we were there, and that we had skateboards to give away. It was cool to see the same guys around each day, and it was almost as if we were able to disciple them throughout the week as we shared our testimonies and gospel messages with them each day. One of the days about halfway through the trip, I broke my board while trying a trick down a ledge, which was a real bummer. Not only was it unfortunate that I couldn’t skate the rest of the week, but I also couldn’t donate that board before we left (we usually donate our own boards before we leave). On the same day shortly after that, I realized that my fanny pack had been stolen from one of the cars we were using. Praise the Lord that my passport, Bible, and most of my clothes were still back at our apartment. Believe it or not, that day was my favorite day of the trip because of what happened next.

We had a very large group of skaters gathered that day, and my friend had just given his testimony to them, and our translator and trip leader was sharing the gospel and explaining how you become a follower of Christ if you want to make that decision. One of the skaters from the crowd started talking to our translator and to all the guys in the crowd in Spanish, which we eventually found out to be something along the lines of “Guys, why wouldn’t we all want this? Let’s all pray together right now!” Then we saw nearly every one of the several dozen skaters there bow down with their eyes closed, and ask the Lord into their hearts. That is one moment from my life that I will never forget. I may have lost half of my possessions I had in Cuba that day, but that is not even comparable to seeing others saved by Jesus.

Many of the churches in Cuba don’t allow people in if they have tattoos and piercings, and they preach to their congregations that they should stay away from people who are not Christians and stay strictly surrounded by a Christian bubble, with no concept of evangelism or fulfilling the great commission. Many of the skaters we talked to were hungry for the gospel and extremely receptive but were simply rejected by the churches for not looking and acting like your average church-going people.

God doesn’t require us to clean ourselves up before coming to him, and he wants to meet us wherever we are. No matter how we look, act, or whether we pretend like we “have it all together” or not, we are all sinners. We are all sinners who have been saved by nothing but the grace of God alone, and to pretend our sin is less than the sin of others does nothing but minimize the cross and put us in a place of self-righteousness. If we have accepted the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, then we owe it to others to tell them how they can have it too.


Dave Hackett is from Maple Grove, Minnesota. He is a manufacturing engineering student at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dave is passionate about action sports and videography. Follow David Hackett on Facebook and Instagram @davehack97

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Caulk the toilet base? Yes!

Toilets are a divisive topic, but today I’ll be setting the record straight once and for all on three important toilet topics. First, the toilet paper roll: overhand or underhand? There’s only one right answer, of course, and it’s overhand. There’s no point in even discussing this one.

Toilet seat: up or down? Wrong question! It’s not about the seat. It’s about the lid. The lid is there for a reason. Put it down. Ladies, you’re guilty of this too. I’ve been in countless female-only homes where I found the lid up at every toilet. I document every one of them in my toilet lid journal.

And now, onto the most divisive topic. Unlike the first two, this one is real, and it actually gets a fair amount of discussion. Should toilets be caulked at the floor? The answer is yes.

Toilets should be caulked at the floor

As standard procedure for every home inspection that I perform, I check the toilets to make sure they’re properly anchored to the floor. Almost every time I find a toilet that’s loose, I also find missing caulk at the base of the toilet. The two go hand-in-hand.

When I find a loose toilet, I tell my client to properly secure the toilet to the floor and to caulk around the base of the toilet, but I frequently get clients that tell me they’ve heard otherwise.

The thought process behind not caulking a toilet to the floor is that if the toilet leaks at the floor, you’ll quickly find out about the leak as long as the toilet isn’t caulked. If it is caulked, the thinking is that if the toilet flange leaks, you’ll end up trapping water between the toilet base and the floor in an area that you can’t access.

In reality, toilets rarely leak onto the floor. More often, they leak through the floor around the flange. I’ve found plenty of toilets that leak down into the basement, but very few that leak onto the bathroom floor.

Why caulked?

There are two great reasons to caulk a toilet to the floor:

  • Caulk prevents a fouling area. If mop water, bathtub water, or a less pleasant “bathroom liquid” gets underneath the toilet, there is no way to clean it up. Caulking around the base of the toilet will prevent this from happening.
  • Caulk helps to keep the toilet secured to the floor. The bolts are really supposed to keep the toilet secure, but caulk helps. As I mentioned before, toilets that are caulked at the floor are rarely loose. Caulk does such a good job of keeping toilets secured to the floor that you could probably rely on caulk alone to keep a toilet secured… not that I would try this.

Besides these two great reasons, it’s also a code requirement. The Minnesota State Plumbing Code says, under section 402.2, “Where a fixture comes in contact with the wall or floor, the joint between the fixture and the wall or floor shall be made watertight.” For areas of the country where the IRC has been adopted, you’ll find nearly identical language under section P2705.1.3: “Where fixtures come in contact with walls and floors, the contact area shall be watertight.”

Some people prefer to caulk all around the toilet and leave about a one-inch gap in the caulk at the back of the toilet to allow water to escape out in the event of a leak.  It’s already tough enough to caulk behind a toilet, so if this is what you want to do, God bless. Just don’t go crazy with the caulk.

Reuben Saltzman is a second generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben has worked for Structure Tech Home Inspections since 1997, and is now co-owner and President of the company. Reuben lives in Maple Grove, Minnesota with his wife and two children. Follow Reuben on Facebook. Click here to Subscribe to Reuben’s Home Inspection Blog.

City Spotlight: Maple Grove

Maple Grove is a flourishing community in the Twin Cities metro area that over 61,000 residents proudly call home. Just twenty minutes from Minneapolis and forty-five minutes from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, citizens receive every amenity of a large city and the peace and charm of a small town.

Set within the heart of Hennepin County, Maple Grove’s vibrant history dates back to the mid 1800s when the Winnebago Indians were settled in the area. Today, over 1,000 businesses operate in this progressive city which offers people quality healthcare, year-round recreational activities, and an excellent standard of living.

Rated high by citizens as a great place to raise children, Maple Grove offers plenty of opportunities for residents to live life to the fullest. Looking for something to do with the family? Look no further than the Maple Grove Community Center which has indoor/outdoor playgrounds, ice skating, indoor/outdoor pools, and picnic area. It is also the site of the Maple Grove Farmers Market where fresh food and fun are in abundance. Check out the many community concerts and family activities at the Town Green. Don’t miss the annual Maple Grove Days festivities in July and numerous community events sponsored by local businesses and community organizations.

Maple Grove is also a great place for commerce and has a solid business community in which a number of highly regarded businesses continue to thrive.

Maple Grove has a wide range of housing options available; from rental to charming single family homes to townhouses with scenic views to exciting senior living communities and everything in between. Most of the developments come complete with play areas which are perfect for those with families or looking to start a family. Subdivisions are also within close proximity to multiple shopping and dining options so convenience is something that’s around every corner.

Retail developments combine large national retailers along with unique stores that offer a one-of-kind shopping experience. There are also a number of centrally-located areas that offer a wide array of everyday conveniences and shopping options.

In addition, enjoy a variety of eating establishments to choose from: family diners, outdoor casual eateries, upscale dining options — many nationally-known favorites as well as local flavors.

The beauty of seven different lakes can be found within Maple Grove as well as over 1,000 acres and 36 miles of meticulously maintained parks and trails and 48 playgrounds. With the attraction of the Maple Grove Arboretum and two regional park reserves, the outdoor amenities fit every age and interest.

The City of Maple Grove is dedicated to providing high-quality service to its residents, businesses and visitors to make our community one in which we can all enjoy living, working and playing!

Maple Grove…Serving Today, Shaping Tomorrow.

2017 Edina Fall into the Arts Festival

September 9th & 10th
Centennial Lakes Park

Edina Fall into the Arts Festival is a benefit for the Edina Crime Prevention Fund, which keeps the residents of Edina safe. Centennial Lakes Park is a prime location for an art fair, and said to be one of the most beautiful locations in the country.

More than 250 artists & exhibitors, food vendors and sponsors will be showing and selling their work. The festival has an assortment of exciting new artists, as well as returning favorites representing diverse media such as photography, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, wearable arts, glass, fiber arts, wood, and painting. Something for everyone!

Learn more here:

Check out a report from last year’s festival below.