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?

As an African-American Minnesotan, I look to George Bonga--who is known as the state's first black resident and who was half Ojibwe; he was also a translator, so he helped in the communication between the Native and European communities. That's the model I follow. You know, Minnesota Nice isn't something to snicker at; it is also about the kind of collaboration that's been part of our past, along with all the oppression and tension and conflict.

 

STEVE CRAMER
executive director, Minneapolis Community Development Agency

One positive change would be the creation of training and employment programs by large Twin Cities employers modeled on Abbott Northwestern Hospital's "Train to Work" initiative. With employment conditions as they are, there is an unprecedented opportunity for companies to meet their growing work-force needs by tapping inner-city neighborhoods for residents who in turn finally get the chance to float with the rising economic tide!

 

KATE CAVETT
president, Hand in Hand

With a partner I've just completed a research project concerning gangs around the state. So from my professional head, I'd say my hope is that the Twin Cites would begin to spend more money on gang intervention and not just on suppression efforts. And that people would become more active in addressing this in their own neighborhoods.

Around the nation the only places where there's been success is where residents have taken the lead--things like block clubs--people who support each other--and getting to know the kids in your neighborhood. When the community decides that the violence isn't okay, and then gets serious about it and is willing to put the time into it, we've seen that it works. Closing the door, shutting yourself in, and cutting yourself off--that's why we have a gang problem.

 

DONNA ELLRINGER
leader of the Park Avenue Block Club in the Phillips neighborhood

Extradite all the gangbangers and drug dealers back to Chicago and Detroit! We'd be in pretty good shape around here if that happened. Last night I got flagged down to buy crack eight times just driving my car home. The judges keep letting the dealers go. We've got people walking around here that ought to be in prison for the rest of their lives. Sometimes I'd love nothing more than to just drive my car down the sidewalk and clear 'em out.

That's why a lot of us have gotten into gun training and preparation. We'd love to do our own drive-bys. The worst horrific crimes like homicides are being done by people from out of state. They get good money dealing drugs here, more than they get in Chicago, say, and they come here thinking we're supposed to be all naive and nice. But now we've all gotten nasty. Once they're gone, then good people will move back into the inner city and the properties will get cleaned up and we can get good renters and homeowners working together to clean up all the trash!

 

NEAL CUTHBERT
arts program officer, McKnight Foundation

That everyone could have more time--work a 20- to 30-hour week, get the same pay, full medical coverage, so that everyone could have the time to play with the kids, work in the garden, wash the car, paint the living room, read the book, talk to the neighbor, sip the coffee, sing the song, throw the football, or make the art. I think it would be a step toward a new and higher level of civilization and community life.

 

KAREN WIRTH
sculptor, and vice president of academic affairs at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul

I don't know that it would be magic, but I'd have a strong, locally derived artist publication that could reactivate the gallery scene, call attention to design issues in the built environment, and extend the reach of artists beyond the city boundaries.

This is a metropolitan area with a high percentage of artists, designers, and art educators. Since the demise of Artpaper, we do not have a public forum for sharing information or engaging critical issues. The ideal would be to foster the dynamic presence of artists contributing to the larger community both as witnesses and agents of change.

 

DAVID WASHBURN
co-owner, Red Cardinal Farms

Foster small, specialty businesses that stock quality goods, and whose owners have the expertise and passion to make patronizing these shops an enjoyable part of our days. This includes the notion that shopping for our sustenance isn't just about commerce; it is about buying from and visiting with our neighbors, too. My perspective is from running a local organic produce farm and from having been to Italy five times since 1996 for an importing business we also run. My opinion is that as the Twin Cities has suburbanized, we have sacrificed a lot of richness for convenience, consistency, homogeneity, and cheap prices. As a rule we Twin Citians have fallen in love with big-box chain stores/restaurants with big parking lots, full of stuff that is often of marginal quality that could only be sold at "everyday low prices" because most of the stuff really is crap.

What I enjoy in Italy is that there is a proliferation of small, community/neighborhood businesses that fulfill people's needs. Europeans in general seem to focus less on accumulating lots of stuff and more on purchasing fewer things but of a higher quality and durability. Most Italian shops are small and specialized in their inventory. They are mostly staffed by owners or employees who have a love for their trade. I appreciate the fact that you can actually get helped by someone who knows something about what they sell. In fact, most Italian shopkeepers seem truly interested, if not passionate about what they do. One can actually have a memorably rich experience in an Italian shop even if you don't buy anything, because of the quality of the human interaction.

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