When you wish upon a city

If you could wave your magic wand and make one improvement to the Twin Cities, what would it be?

But considering it a little bit further, I realize that to really get to the roots of poverty it probably makes more sense to try to cause a more transformative kind of change--so everyone could grasp in some real way our profound interconnectedness. Maybe it's easier for me to see, having had the fortune to work with the guys in the shelter for so many years, but we are all related, on every level. Biologically related, if you go back to the Big Bang, and socially related, if you remember that even the guys sleeping under a bridge tonight are somebody's brother, somebody's son, somebody's dad. We know that our communal strengths come from valuing everyone and treating them respectfully, and that when we don't, that's when we set off a cycle of low self-esteem and anger. At that point, everyone's standard of living suffers.

So I feel like once we acquire the insight of our connection to people around us, then we'll find ways to move forward and build folks up, and also dismantle the structures that keep racism and poverty in place. And at that point, just imagine the kind of vitality and health we would all gain.

 

BOB ROSCOE
architect, member of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission

I would like to see a new movement that could reconnect people with the traditional sense of what houses can be--for shelter, for personal expression, and for self-reliance. Using the traditional bungalow as a prototype, the new movement would be some type of private-public initiative to construct houses of basic size (1,500 square feet) that could be semicompleted, yet capable of easily achievable finishing with simply learned techniques, if the new owner so wishes, and designed to be expanded for future space requirements.

Exterior wall surfaces of specially treated wood would be developed for simple maintenance by homeowners or occupants, also fabricated in components that are easily replaced. Lot sizes would be modest. Architectural design would create these houses with the sense of the traditional combined with updated features.

The intention of the movement would be to provide houses that are truly affordable, and give people the sense that much of their shelter can be shaped and repaired with their own hands, a value that can be as intrinsic to one's self as one's spiritual beliefs and cultural values.

Of course, this is the way most people lived until a few decades ago, but somehow a nefarious coalition of market distortions and public policies caused the housing industry to take us away from the kind of house that gave us the sense of independence that grew our republic. And of course, many of the components of this new housing movement are in place today--technology capable of mass-producing performance-based products, a need for affordable dwellings, the appeal of traditional design. Also New Urbanism and a local movement--the Twin Cities Bungalow Club--are providing the physical patterns for houses such as these.

As much as many of us complain about the automobile industry, we can get more choices of vehicles today than we can of the places in which we live. We can choose from many types of compact cars, but given the houses built today, most of us are forced to live in SUVs.

 

NELLIE STONE JOHNSON
labor movement veteran

It's very simple for me. It would be for equal opportunity for people of color in education and employment. There is such a big discrepancy here between white and black people in this. It seems like there's more training and concern given to each other by animals than what we do. I always come back to a job--everyone's got to have some way to work and make money to take care of themselves and their families, and that comes back down to having an education. We're just not doing the best we could for people of color in this regard, and that's a shame.

I'm 94 years old now. I came off a farm here in Minnesota. My father was on the school board when we lived up in Pine County, and he had to do with the founding of the Farmer-Labor party--quite the radical! I cut my teeth on that, and on the ideas that work and having work gives a person dignity, and that everybody must have the means to make a living. So we've got to be providing a good education from very early on--in politics, in all kinds of economics, in the basics, and in every kind of discipline that teaches us how power works. When it comes to racial minorities and to women, this is where the weakness is today, even in labor unions. Between you and me, I'm probably the most computerless person around, but I can still put two and two together: I see the three or four generations below me, especially people of color, who really need some attention paid to their schooling and to their getting a fair go at real, decent jobs.

 

DANIEL BERGIN
senior producer, Don't Believe the Hype on KTCA-TV (Channel 2)

I'd remind people that change isn't just about building higher skyscrapers and more freeways. It's also about finding ways to invoke our past and value it, beginning with an understanding of who this place originally and always belongs to--the Native Americans. This state has always been diverse, and there's been cooperation going all the way back to the voyageurs.

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