Whatever happened to Twin Cities Runoff?

At Twin Cities Runoff, I always encouraged writers to get away from writing about themselves. Unless it was a personal essay, I discouraged the “I” because, generally, the writer’s personal experience has nothing to do with the story. “I” essays are the stuff of confessionals and memoirs, and that voice doesn’t have a place in an exploration of a real-world story that has nothing to do with the writer. I’ve never bought the “transparency” argument for the “I,” but here I am, writing a piece in the first person, after having published many wonderful and unique first-person-inclusive pieces.Putting together and launching Twin Cities Runoff was an awesome experience, and fully worth it. The people who worked with TCR, even those who worked with us for only a short while, made it what it was, which was a website that put out great work every week. Continue Reading

October 2011 community news roundup: Ruffling feathers and tweeting up a storm

It’s the time of year when Minnesota twirls around in a fury before settling on its haunches to create its Black Swan-esque representation of the darkest, coldest months. In preparation for the covert winterlong nesting process, we pick at our problems, molt away the unnecessary ones, and forget our habits entirely, only to wake up in the feathered haze of a daylong snowstorm that keeps us locked in and self-aware for the rest of the winter.So, let’s look away from ourselves, erring city people that we are, and turn our heads to those who are used to watching the migrators. No, I’m not talking about those who work at arts nonprofits who keep an eye on the project-based freelance—I’m talking about those who stoke a Minnesota tradition that has to be older than community development: bird-watching.This month, in the community papers surveyed for this segment, there were four bird-watching columns, and because news judgment is entirely subjective, this month’s Community News Roundup will be examined first through the lens of the ornithological observers.The undisputed leader in local birdwatching journalism—largely because anything that happens in South Minneapolis always seems universally representative of our pedestrian yet progressive nature in the metro area as a whole—is John Karrigan’s Powderhorn Birdwatch. This month, Birdwatch reports on a glut of toads, which are evidently more prevalent than birds at this time of year. “There was another good toad night recently and there are probably a lot of good toad nights ahead,” writes Karrigan, reminding us to get out of our air-minded myopia and take a look and a listen to the ground once in a while. Continue Reading

September 2011 community news roundup: Linkbait vs. old news

Reading news online is often accompanied by linkbait from news organizations—those easy-skim two paragraph non-stories designed to appeal to your human curiosity like Ten Best Yoga Positions for When Your Age Is a Prime Number or Where to Console Yourself If Your Turtle Broke Free of Its Aquarium. I would click on both of those stories, but I’d regret it immediately: despite a novel headline, linkbait’s content doesn’t tell me anything new about the world.There’s also linkbait that counts as actual news, which this week stems from any triviality related to the Minnesota Vikings or a Republican presidential candidate, or news of the weird, or domestic abuse cases, which occupy a disturbingly large percentage of both local daily papers. I tend to ignore these sorts of linkbait, except for this picture of a drunk moose and these glow-in-the-dark cats. Made you click, if you hadn’t seen it all already.After seven months of Community News Roundups, I learned that Community News is the opposite of linkbait, even if you’re a huge news junkie. Gleaning over 40 papers for this roundup gets tiring on occasion, and even with lots of practiced community news judgment—the learned editorial process of sorting out what news is “important” and should be included for publication—certain same-old same-olds get pushed under the rug.One story I have tended to ignore, especially after this year of shutdowns and debt ceilings, is anything related to government budget issues. Continue Reading

Things fall apart in the Twin Cities: August 2011

Everything is decaying. Nothing is sacred. Now that the heat waves are over, we’re starting to notice the things that are falling behind on our watch. The systems we work to build fall apart if we don’t watch over them.The lack of Local Government Aid in Lauderdale—that tiny little city wedged between Minneapolis and St. Paul that you might drive through on your way to Falcon Heights for the fair this month—is causing huge problems for the city. Continue Reading

July 2011 Community News Roundup: Silent change, noiseless development, and water under the bridge

The summer has plateaued; all of July feels helpless. The state government shut down, and there was nothing any of us could do to stop it, and nothing any of us could do to fix it, and now no one is happy with the solution and it is all a big, awful knotted mess. This is, of course, following a year of conflicts across the world, across state borders, all of which everyone was powerless to stop—except for a few judges and governors and people we voted for or didn’t vote for and no one at all that any of us knew.Instead, we hit the summer doldrums the best way we know how: by shimmying up, extensively and intimately, in the least of our summer clothes to the people we know. It is the thick of block party and neighborhood gathering season, and our community newspapers largely reflected that. With a nod to how much the shutdown was terrible for everybody, our community papers shifted to focus on our celebrations even more than usual—and aside from the parties and concerts, it’s been so quiet in the Cities.Except for the demonstrations around the Capitol—and, also, those regarding CeCe McDonald, a trans woman charged with murder after a June 5 stabbing that may have been the result of a hate crime. Continue Reading

Finding fortresses for changemakers in Minneapolis and St. Paul

“Sustainability” is a buzzword, and it’s in vogue because our society is realizing the immensity of its waste. We’ve begun to realize how detrimental constant shifts in materials and trends, whether these be types of plastic or the buildings where we work. We long to become sustainable, so that we no longer have to witness the waste of continual building, but true “sustainability” requires a major shift in thought, and with every change we work for comes the inevitability of waste.Locating fortresses—the places least susceptible to collapse, the organizations that aren’t outgrowing or folding—can be difficult if stability is not what we’re told to look for. Many of us seek change, growth, and transformation, which is all well and good. To reinvent a system within, we build our own shaky shacks that we want to move out of, structures and organizations that we want to keep building, and everyone pats us on the back because the key to capitalism is growth and change, and our tiny steps forward fit right into that process. Continue Reading