Reclaiming communities


During the September 15 peace march, two community activists connected, sharing stories of front porches, block parties, root beer floats, and putting good people in the streets.

I participated in the delightful gorgeous peace march, symbolically from the symbol of morality (our cathedral) to the symbol of our government (the capital). In looking at the panoramic view of St Paul from the capital, I think we have greenest most beautiful city on the earth.

Opinion: Reclaiming communities

Along the way, I met an everyday hero, a person just trying to improve the local neighborhood, Larry Simpson. After some outrageous crimes happened in his neighborhood, he walks his streets at night and during school bus pick up times, calling in suspicious activity to his wife, who reports to the police. He takes pictures, take videos and most of all, he takes notice.

I thought I would write what I could remember of our conversation of the various ways to help reclaim our communities.

1) People in the street, watching, noticing and asking questions

When children are walking to bus stops, Larry notes the driver license and description of people just sitting in vehicles. He then goes and asks them what they are doing and where they live. Usually there are fuzzy wrong answers and the vehicle disappears. All this information is forwarded to the police. Our neighborhood has long been a advocate of taking notes and talking to people sitting in cars.

Larry said that the more that people are out in the street, the more that crime stops at houses. I told him our stories where we have moved sitting in back to sitting out in front. One of my neighbors does sitting out around a portable campfire in the front yard parties. Another neighbor has a sitting area on boulevard, where she sits while her son plays. I eat breakfast on my front porch.

2) Cooperating with local businesses to form community places

Larry and the community have painting murals (with owner permission) on walls of vacant buildings and businesses. All the children in the neighborhood help paint the murals.

Larry is looking up all the local landlords and contacting them, basically offering the deal where if the landlord works with the community, then community helps the landlord. The landlord agrees to rent carefully and keep the place in good repair. The community talks to and becomes friends with the renters, which makes places more rentable. The community monitors the place and lets the landlord immediately know of any trouble.

How to find out who landlords are:
1) go to
2) click on property look up
3) enter address
4) click on the pin number
5) click on truth in taxation

Larry’s experience is that landlords who know the community is watching, do better. In my neighborhood, local people have invested in local rentals, because we all know the neighborhood is getting better. An amazing number of houses have been refurbished.

I told Larry that the first people that caught on to the neighborhood thing was the realtors. Our local block parties have been selling points. Our last five set of neighbors moved in because they thought this was a great neighborhood. So Larry is going to try telling the realtors in his area about his neighborhood organization.

3) any community spirit and activities help

My street has at least one block party a year. Larry’s community had a community garage sale. The proceeds were used to finance free root beer floats at Halloween.

4) community communication and community organization help

Larry’s community group (Eastside Street Community 34 for police grid 34) meets in a local coffee shop. Both Larry and I have written community letters, delivered them taped to doors.

The punchline to all of this, is that there is no TIF funds nor other city funds, this is a grassroots self financed community activism.

So share a little bit, what’s happening in your neighborhood? What has made your neighborhood better?