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?

 

JEAN HUMKE
artist

I would like to see some magic moment occur when all of the old, much-loved/hated, rusted-out, high-mileage pickup trucks and cars belonging to all of us underemployed creative types would miraculously transform into the newest model overnight. Imagine the kind of shock we'd experience as we walked up to where our old vehicles were parked. Peek in, see all of our old usual junk inside and discover that the key still fits!

 

MICHELLE HENSLEY
artistic director, Ten Thousand Things Theater Company

I would make all suburban shopping malls disappear, to get rid of an incredibly ugly blight, and force people to think about what else they can do with their lives besides buying things. I would annex the suburbs to the city so that the wealth and resources of the region could be more fairly shared. People who don't live in the city but who take advantages of its cultural and other benefits should be required to shoulder a fair portion of its problems. We need a regional government, rather than the false divisions between cities and suburbs.

 

PETER RACHLEFF
social justice activist and Macalester College professor of history

If we could peer through the fog of tear gas--and mass-media misrepresentation--our vision would find in the recent anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle the kernel of a social movement that could profoundly change our lives here in the Twin Cities. It could not only change fundamental power relationships and address inequities across society, but it could bring community and purpose to our daily lives.

The Seattle demonstrations linked together a new generation of activists (such as the 27 Macalester students who took part), veterans of the anti-war and civil rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, trade unionists, farmers, environmentalists, and activists from the peace and justice, anti-racism, feminist, and sustainable-agriculture movements.

What would it mean to have a movement like this as a regular presence in the Twin Cities? The potentialities, it seems to me, are endless. When an employer, as the Holiday Inn Express recently did, has the Immigration & Naturalization Services harass its workers rather than bargain with them like human beings, 6,000 protesters could fill the streets of Minneapolis rather than the 600 that did a month ago. Rallies to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal could fill the Target Center instead of the Cedar Riverside People's Center. Nonviolent civil disobedience against Alliant Techsystems' production of weapons of mass destruction could involve so many women and men that the day's production could be halted. Protests against the relocation of Highway 55 would bring so many people into the streets that the authorities would be unable to carry them away...and the four oaks would be left standing for us and future generations to appreciate.

The presence of such a movement wouldn't just mean numbers or coalitions. It would also generate a movement culture that would bring muralists, hip-hop poets, labor troubadours, actors and directors, singers, and dancers together, provide them with diverse and engaged audiences, and encourage them to create rich, challenging, inspiring expressions of our dreams and visions. Together, as the surrealists have said, we could reach for the marvelous! Among ourselves, within the heart and soul of this movement, life itself would be poetry. Time, work, responsibility, and love would take on new meanings, along with community, solidarity, and democracy. Who knows what we might find ourselves aspiring? How might our very dreams change?

 

JIM MELBY
training director, Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center

I would have the governments in both Minneapolis and St. Paul take more of a cooperative stance toward working together. A number of things come to mind where the cities are in competition--tax breaks, art events, food shelves and shelters, and so on. There's a lot of cooperation right now between the courts in both cities, which is great, and we need more of it. I can see it happening in the same way or the same spirit in which the state fair is run--for the good of everybody.

 

DAVID WALSH
president, National Institute on Media and the Family

I would have every adult in the Twin Cities meet and make friends with two new kids so that we would know them by name and be able to tell them to "have a good day" and really mean it.

 

SKIP HUMPHREY
former Minnesota attorney general

I'd want to see Minnesota become smoke-free, so we can have a whole new generation of young children that live happier and healthier lives. If we had a smoke-free society, we would see ten to twelve years of new life given to children. I think that's about the best present any generation could give the next, particularly at the beginning of a new millennium.

 

TONY LEUNG
Hennepin County District Court judge

I'd want all people who are to have children--before they do--to have thought through their responsibilities and their obligations, in addition to thinking about the pleasures that being a parent or parents can bring. In short, my wish is that at whatever youngest grade level educators would deem appropriate, we would start to teach all kids that the idea of having kids is a very serious one.

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