Lao civic engagement on transit & employment in North Minneapolis

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“How will they do outreach to the API community so they know about transit development Issues and can participate? If Harrison Neighborhood Center did not do it – how would they know?” Sunny Chanthanouvong.

As the Central Corridor Light Rail along University Avenue between downtown Minneapolis and St Paul moves into the phases of construction, attention is focusing on transit corridors in other parts of the Metro area such as the Bottineau Corridor, the Southwest Corridor and ‘the Interchange Project’ where the Hiawatha line and North Star line will converge with the new transit lines.

The Interchange Project is the name for the hub at a site adjacent to Target Stadium where commuters would be able to transfer from one transit system to another.

A community meeting hosted by Harrison Neighborhood Association, held in the Harrison Community Center December 6, provided an opportunity for minority residents to learn from Hennepin County Engineers and Planners about the proposed plans and alternative routes for the Bottineau Light Rail Line and give input and express their concerns.

There has been controversy surrounding the proposed Bottineau line over which route would best link Northwest Hennepin Suburbs such as Crystal and Brooklyn Park with Minneapolis. The Bottineau Line is in the early stages of planning and there are important decisions to be made regarding the actual route for the new light rail.

Environmental impact statements.

The engineers came well organized with graphs and power points to explain the projects and analysis of alternatives. During the community input, the main point stressed by many minority residents community was about jobs.

Community members did not want outside construction workers coming in from the suburbs. They wanted to see the transit line create employment for North side residents who face high levels of unemployment.

Expectations need to be met about involvement of unemployed residents in construction and eventually in maintenance and operation of these transit systems. Other issues concern minority business development and maintaining levels of affordable housing

Sunny Chanthanouvong, executive director of the Lao Assistance Center, spoke on behalf of the Lao Community. He asked city and county officials how they plan to communicate with the Lao.

Other minorities are vocal and do not experience a language problem. Yet there are thousands of Lao in the North Metro area.

Chanthanouvong said he would like to know where the information is and the job postings. Another issue is keeping costs low so Lao and other low income minorities can afford to use public transportation daily.  It has to be of value to the community so that they use it.

The meeting between planners, county officials and residents was very cordial and civil. Throughout the evening tempers remained calm and everyone was very respectful of alternative viewpoints.