Northeast Needs

KFAI Radio Interview

On October 19th, KFAI radio (90.3 FM) aired a news story on the First Ward Council race. Four of the five competitors were interviewed, and those interviews were edited into individual segments. Here's mine:

Building a Voluntary City

During last week-end’s doorknocking I was asked to say more about what I mean by encouraging volunteer groups that help our city work better.

My biggest and most personal example is the Northeast Citizen Patrol (NECP). We’re extra eyes and ears for the police. When an NECP patrol is on the sidewalk, the bad guys have a hard time doing business. We‘ve proven our effectiveness over five years. The Mayor even proclaimed May 11th, 2009, to be Northeast Citizen Patrol Day.

I understand patroling is not for everyone. Less-formal walking groups and block clubs help our city work better by helping prevent crime. I want to encouage participation in any form that is effective.

The Eastside Food Co-op began a plastics recycling program with support from the City. Now EFC is continuing the program on its own, supporting all of us to leave a smaller footprint on the planet. And that’s just one example from this hive of volunteer energy.

The Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association puts on the spectacular Art-a-Whirl every year. They promote arts and culture in Northeast and the whole city without taxpayer subsidies. Times are tough, and although City Hall can’t afford artful water fountains, our arts community can step forward to help make Northeast more awesome.

Can We Escape Walt’s Shadow?

The Minnesota Independent is running a series of stories about each City Council race. The First Ward was covered last. In the story, one name not on the ballot got significant mention:

Ranallo’s signs look a little like he’s running for sheriff, with a Wild West typeface and the word “WANTED” on top. It’s an approach, he says, inspired by Walt Dziedzic, who represented the ward before Ostrow for 22 years and once used the same word on his lawn signs.

Dziedzic is the first person Reich names when asked who he’d look to as a model for holding elective office.

Northeast is still living under Walt’s shadow.

Maybe that’s why we’ve been treated as a municipal afterthought. Dziedzic built an empire over two decades. As I hear the stories, Walt knew how to deliver the goods for his supporters. We even have a street named after him (18th Ave NE), which is proof of something. He was the face behind the city-wide attitude that “Northeast can take care of itself”.

Northeasters love their history. But the Independent hints that today’s Northeast is not Walt’s old nordeast:

Riverside Ribbon Cutting

Yesterday afternoon I attended the opening ceremony for the Riverside Powerplant’s conversion from coal to natural gas. It was awesome to hear the President of the Marshall Terrace neighborhood association commend Xcel for their cooperation and partnership. Too often, neighborhood groups face big corporations as enemies. The Riverside Plant is proof that this attitude is not necessary. Businesses and even the heaviest of industry can be partners and neighbors with residents. This is an essential point to keep in mind as we work to improve Central Avenue. Certainly, the difficulties will be smaller in Shoreham Yards.

I don’t live in Marshall Terrace, so I did not understand the costs the plant imposed on the neighborhood. When I first heard about the conversion, it seemed silly. The USA has so much coal, and we keep hearing about dwindling supplies of oil and gas. Minneapolis needs electric power, and it appeared to make more sense to generate that power with a more reliable and cheaper fuel. I felt for the neighbors, but whatever the costs, they had been part of the bargain all property owners assumed when buying next to a coal powerplant.

I have learned. Natural gas is relatively abundant and can be delivered at reasonable cost. The coal soot problem was a genuine health issue, not just an inconvenience. And the conversion included a small up-rating of the plant’s capacity, so we get more electricity. It’s a triple-win situation.

Is “Nordeast” a Good Brand?

I think “Nordeast” is not the best name for our part of town. It has become a term of endearment for many of us, but to outsiders, it is a put down.

The term comes from our Eastern European immigrant heritage and how those non-native speakers pronounced the “Northeast”. The people of Northeast are seen as a little slow-witted and maybe a bit too close-knit to kin and tradtition. “Nordeast” reinforces our place as a backwater part of the City, as a municipal afterthought.

A Candidate for the Rest of Us

Do you think our city government needs to grow up? Are you tired of them spending your money chasing rainbows instead of providing competent core services?

Government’s job is:

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