Central Corridor Summit this weekend

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by Rachel Dykoski | March 1, 2009 • Saturday March 7th and Sunday March 8th community members are encouraged to attend the two-day Central Corridor Community Summit, being held at the Central Corridor Resource Center (1080 University Ave W, St. Paul). Leaders, justice and equity advocates have organized the summit to address and meet the following Summit Goals:

• Gather community members, small businesses, and organizations to share visions, issues, and solutions—new and in motion—so we can speak with a Unified Voice about the future of our neighborhoods and business communities in the Central Corridor.

• Use our Community Statement as the basis for a written agreement among governmental entities, community members, businesses and organizations that coordinates efforts and holds everyone account-able.

Members of the summit committee are community practitioners who organize residents on varied equity issues and area projects throughout the year.

In the January 2008 article, Looking for light-rail justice by Deb Pleasants, one member, Denis Presley, Sr. of Got Voice, Got Power asked the question, which this writer believes has yet to be answered, “Will the light rail do that (like I-94 did to Rondo) again to our neighborhood? I think so, no matter what our government says. I’m not happy with this at all.”

After the Stops for Us campaign, which stated the need for and sought inclusion of more stations on the line – in predominately low-income, African American and Asian neighborhoods, won “footprints” on the proposed line. These community leaders were encouraged by the change, but not satisfied.

Why?

Their win did not include actual stations or stops, but the construction of the skeletal infrastructure necessary for their eventual inclusion on the line. One community leader who wishes to remain anonymous stated, “We should change the name to ‘Stumps for Us’. It’s a promise with no clear delivery date and you know how that goes for us….”

“I think it is important to stress that this is a community-lead process to bring forward community voices, issues, and solutions in relation to the future development of the Central Corridor LRT.” shares Joan Vanhala, Coalition Organizer for the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability.

“Overall, I hear a high level of dissatisfaction on the community level on their input into all the many public meetings on the Central Corridor having a real impact,” Vanhala says.

Community members, small business owners, organizations—anyone who is concerned, have questions and has solutions to suggest are encouraged to attend.

The summit planning group includes more than 14 community and region-wide organizations. For more information about the Summit, please contact Carol Swenson, District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, 651.249.6877 or carol@dcc-stpaul-mpls.org.

Since 2007 the Metropolitan Council, the state’s government entity in charge of transportation and transit planning and expenditures, has held 26 community advisory meetings. There are links to agendas, presentations and meeting notes on the Met Council’s website here.

Speaking on behalf of the Metropolitan Council’s LRT Project Communications Manager, Laura Baenen relayed, “Our public involvement plan for the Central Corridor LRT Project identifies broad stakeholder groups. The project partners (the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis , Ramsey and Hennepin counties, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration and University of Minnesota ) are also often referred to as stakeholders. It’s this particular group of stakeholders (excluding FTA and MnDOT) that is responsible for securing funding for any desired streetscape betterment elements to be added during construction. The project can pay for only baseline elements.”

The following list are sub-grouped stakeholders Baenen provides:

• General public – residents of the seven-county metropolitan area, especially those interested in LRT and transportation issues

• Elected officials – both those representing constituencies in the corridor and those serving on key transportation and funding committees.

• Corridor residents ­– people who reside within a half mile of the line that will be served and directly affected by the Central Corridor LRT project

• Corridor businesses – owners and employees of businesses located on or near the alignment

• Transit users – especially those already using transit within the corridor

• Community groups – organized groups such as nonprofits (churches, social service agencies, etc.) that represent a geographic, demographic, or ethnic group that is directly adjacent to the line.

• Business groups – including the many chambers of commerce, and business groups serving smaller geographic segments of the corridor

• Educational institutions – the University of Minnesota and other colleges, public schools and learning centers within walking distance of the corridor

• Media – including metro media outlets, community and college newspapers serving the corridor, and ethnic newspapers and radio stations serving populations within the corridor.”

With so many stakeholders involved, and numerous contentions, concerns listed, the Met Council has a large staff to help them with their outreach.

As a frequent attendee from December 2007 to Spring of 2008, of Met Transit’s community meetings, I can tell you that they are not structured for feedback. The average Jane cannot stroll in to the meeting at Goodwill Easterseals and expect to dialog with management.

On the contrary! What I found were standardized reports rife with industry and Met Council acronyms which numb the brain pummel the spirit. They are dutifully published every month with budget numbers and projected schedules; however, their progression and costs translate to the exclusion community members’ feedback. The stumps came after the Minnesota Legislature and council members of the City of St. Paul weighed in to support the expanded stops campaign.

Just because the Met Council shares the reports doesn’t mean they reflect holistic concerns about how the project will impede, impact or potentially implode the community’s independent businesses and residents.

Please join University UNITED, Transit for Livable Communities, Jewish Community Action, ISAIAH, Community Stabilization Project, the Saint Paul NAACP, UFCW Local 789 and others as they coordinate activities and leverage resources to address Central Corridor issues in the hopes to provide inclusive solutions.

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