In September, I attended a bunch of events-the Twin Cities Veg Fest at Como Park, the Selby Ave. Jazz Festival (we had a volunteer-staffed booth), the Mac Grove Festival, the Energy Fair at Harriet Island and a block party in Summit Hill.
What do all these events have in common?
Everyone at those events is passionate about their neighborhood, or improving society. We are very fortunate here in St. Paul in our people.
Some thoughts about each event:
Veg Fest thoughts
I’ve been a partial vegetarian (I still eat dairy, eggs and fish) for 30 years. The vegetarians and vegans I met are passionate about some combination of personal health, planetary health or treatment of animals. Vegetarianism (and especially veganism) is not for everyone-some people love meat and some need the complex proteins in meat, but it is one way to care for self and the planet. I even bought a vegetarian cookbook to try some new recipes (after the campaign…as I’m not much into cooking, that is a big deal…:)
Mac Grove Fest thoughts
Spoke to one of the mounted police. St. Paul has about 5 horses that they use for mounted police in every area of the city. I could tell the police officer I spoke to loves both the horses and what they mean for community policing. He says more people want to initiate contact and conversation when he’s on the horse. We all need more of that
Selby Jazz Fest thoughts
One conversation that stuck out was with a gentleman who sold t-shirts. At 61 years old, he’s lived in the neighborhood his whole life. His voice broke when he told me about the young men he knows who don’t have prospects for a better future. At the end of our conversation when I asked him a general question about how we could improve things, he took my hand into both of his and said something along the lines of “We need people to tell it like it is and to do something about it.” Then he turned away, full of emotion.
Energy Fest thoughts
I was thrilled to talk to the Native American owner of a small solar company in St. Paul who echoes what I believe-that the rapidly growing renewable energy industry is one of the most important ways for minority communities to learn in-demand skills and benefit from the financial opportunities that industry represents. (This gentleman has started a program in prison to help men learn those skills so when they come out they can find jobs.) I want to put him in touch with the man at the Jazz Fest. It’s a practical hope a community can trust.
Block Party thoughts
At the block party on Fairmount in Summit Hill, I also had some wide-ranging conversations (including with a small child named Dhru, who had some great questions for me like ‘Why do we use chemicals?” Wow, where do you start?)
But the last conversation that really stuck out for me was with a gentleman who volunteers at a local classroom populated mostly by kids of color. He passionately wants the kids to succeed, but also shared all the challenges, including the kids who goof off and don’t want to learn in a group and who insult the teacher and make her cry. He wanted to know what solutions I had.
After I said there was no single silver bullet, I mentioned the restorative circles in schools (which have reduced referrals by 239 in one school over just the first year), and the partnerships we could foster (similar to the one between Hamline University and Hamline Elementary which has led to improved student performance) and expanding the Right Track programs (which give kids jobs during the summer, which has led to better school attendance, better grades, and better graduation rates). He said I was the second person that had told him about the restorative circles and that he would check into them.
He paused a moment and said, “You know, there’s a lot of people in this neighborhood who want to help. We want to be part of the solution. You’ve got to find ways to harness the volunteers.”
If there’s one thing I know about the countless community meetings and events, is that those who are involved, are really involved.
And they want a mayor who will help them get involved, share their energies and ideas and find solutions to pressing challenges in our city, ranging from climate change to the achievement gap.
So do I. All along the campaign trail, I’ve tried to connect people with resources.
Next week I’ll share some of the ways I’ve been connecting with you and others to realize more of the potential in our beloved city.
In the meantime, you can help ensure that I can continue connecting people with resources as Mayor of Saint Paul by donating today!
Take care of each other, and be well,