When you wish upon a city: How the future looked back in 2000

Star Tribune

Star Tribune

(This is a reprint of a City Pages feature from Jan. 5, 2000.)

We know, we know: The end of the year--the century, the millennium--has always occasioned a bit of fantasizing. I'll start exercising! I'll change my oil every 3,000 miles! By God, I will return my library books on time! And by all means, we second the wish for self-improvement. But there must be life beyond fabulous abs, a clean engine, and a clear conscience. What if our fantasies and hopes were concerned not with personal betterment but with the public good?

Blink your eyes. Do your magic. If you could change one thing about the Twin Cities in order to make life better here, what would it be? We invited dozens of local architects, lawyers, artists, restaurateurs, teachers, ministers, organizers, business owners, even Lake Harriet's resident elf, to spend some time imagining a single enhancement that would improve, in some small or sweeping measure, their hometown. Forget all the reasons it couldn't come true, we said--the money, the politics, the laws of gravity. All we asked was that answers be specific. So, for instance, merely installing more parkland would be too vague, but proposing that Lakewood Cemetery be opened for live recreation--that's more like it. Similarly, saying you'd make it easier to get around town doesn't solve much, whereas resurrecting the streetcar, patching up potholes, installing metrowide light rail, doubling the bus fleet, blazing new bike paths, and flogging sluggish motorists--well, you get the idea.

They mused. They fretted. They weighed in, thought better, called back. While we'd envisioned brainstorms that were concrete (an environmentally friendly alternative to those annoying corrugated sleeves that keep your carry-out coffee cup from burning your fingers would be nice, for instance), hardly anyone we asked could resist dreaming up the Big Fix--which often had to do with social justice. But then, that should have come as no surprise, given our citizenry's optimistic mien and penchant for populist crusading (the downside of which may be a few blind spots when it comes to less lofty matters, like coffee cups).

In the end our participants' collective reverie gave rise to a vision of the Twin Cities that we hope--and why not?--even the most jaded among us would be proud to call home.


community activist

Get rid of the clutter! I would love to see the billboards gone so we could see the beautiful skyline in St. Paul. There are about 630 billboards in St. Paul and about 400 in Minneapolis right now. They've been around a long time, but the early ones were very small. Think of the Burma Shave signs you could read from your car at 25 mph. They weren't lighted; they were more like lawn signs. Now when you whip by at 80, the billboards are so enormous you can read the fine print! Many of them now are lit up, which is a real downer if you happen to live in an apartment near one. Plus, national research shows that there are many more billboards in inner-city neighborhoods, and that these are more likely to advertise alcohol and gambling. That's just wrong.

This is just a simple thing--but hey, we ought to be able to see the river and the capitol without all these billboards all over the place. Driving down University Avenue ought to be more interesting than looking through the yellow pages.


chief curator, Walker Art Center

The ongoing dumbing-down of the city's skyline and the Mississippi's shoreline is one thing I would love to see change. The absence of architectural vision and innovation is progressively turning our vertical city into a cluster of undifferentiated high-rises with rental-information banners as their only distinguishing features. Similarly, the cookie-cutter housing which is spreading along the banks of America's most legendary river is a serious misunderstanding of that river's power as a destination.

I hope that in the new millennium, those people with the money to build and those who issue their permits will stop and think more about what makes a great city and less about what it costs per square foot.


senior editor, Utne Reader

I mean no disrespect to the dearly departed, but I'd like to see the gorgeous piece of land that is Lakewood Cemetery swept of the dead and given back to the living. I'd rather watch kids booting a Hacky Sack and making out under the willows by the pond than bow my head before all the somber stones in rows, each etched with a few quietly desperate words whispering to me like the ads in the personals. (I find them oddly similar and equally depressing.)

True, when it comes to guarding green space from urban growth, the dead fare better than the living. You may remember the open space where the north half of the Walker's sculpture garden now sprawls like an airplane graveyard in the desert. The Guthrie, we know, would do much the same to the nearby baseball diamonds if given the chance. I've seen displays of exquisite grace and beauty at both the museum and the theater, but none more sublime than a girl running or a dog leaping for a Frisbee. Would the city's creative life really be served by taking a stage from so many performing artists and giving it to a few? I have my doubts.

Meanwhile, the residents of Lakewood hold their ground, perhaps because no one dares to ask them to leave. But what if they were asked--politely, and with all the reverence they deserve for saving that pretty place from a land-eating century? The newly liberated park could be given over to life and its pleasures, among them art and sport, which would have room to exist side by side, as well they should, both being forms of play--the true source of creativity. It would be an interesting social experiment, I think, to worship play for a while instead of bones.


owner of Big Daddy's Old Kentucky Bar-B-Que

I would make St. Paul more vibrant in the Lowertown area. Put a baseball stadium there, maybe, though that's voted against already. I've had a business in St. Paul since 1979--my place is in Lowertown, on Fourth Street, in the old Union Depot. After 5:00 p.m., they just roll up the sidewalks around here and call it quits. I was hoping that Mayor Coleman would be able to turn that around. People need to come see me more; don't let me get so lonely at night. So I say let's get some nightlife here, get people out in Lowertown, and stop all this shutting down at dark. That's just boring.


founder and president of Summit Brewing Company

I'd bring back all of the architecturally significant buildings that were razed during the 'urban renewal' time of the 1960s. I would also include with that the old trolley system.


Co-owner of Bryant-Lake Bowl and publisher of Siren Media

Losing my dog park to a stupid, offensive, dinosaur plan for the Highway 55 reroute has moved me from being disappointed in how we plan for the future around here to being downright embarrassed. City of Lakes? New York City has more off-leash areas and 'wilderness' than we do. The people were not heard. To make Minneapolis a better place, I would undo the carnage wrought by those tin-eared politicians wielding chainsaws in the oak grove and encourage citizens and their well-behaved dog friends to congregate willfully and often on the shores of the mighty Mississippi.


First Amendment attorney

The Y chromosome. I'd genetically re-engineer men to get rid of the Y chromosome. I'm not saying they don't make their contributions, but the more I reflect on and examine the serious problems we have, it keeps coming back to men and their Y chromosome. Go down the list: Crime, for starters. It's just got to go. And it's not like it is with dangerous genetically engineered food. Men aren't an agricultural product, unfortunately--otherwise they'd be more domesticated by now.



I don't think I'd like to change anything. It seems to me there are at least four ways to react to something you find disagreeable: You can try to change the thing that bothers you; you can change yourself; you can run away; or you can accept it. I think that accepting reality is necessary before any kind of change is possible.

Having said that, I think it'd be great if I got the right-of-way every time I drove, and that whenever anyone pisses me off with the way they drive, their car would be immediately impounded.


Star Tribune columnist

I'd bring back the streetcar system--but modernized! In 1916 it could take you everywhere, from Stillwater to Hastings to Minnetonka. I didn't see it then, obviously, but I did ride the streetcar at its very end. I started at the paper in 1947 and used to commute from out here by Lake Calhoun. What a quick way to go--they were enclosed, of course, for the weather, and there was always a back part for the smokers.


director, Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota

Real choice in airlines, and a flight path that doesn't fly right over southwest Minneapolis.


state commerce commissioner and former Minneapolis City Council member

My practical answer is that I would like a comprehensive light-rail system going north to south and east to west as quickly as possible. My whimsical answer is that I'd like to find some way for Norm Coleman to be mayor of the whole metro. It would be nice to be under his leadership--he's an out-of-box thinker, an excellent marketer of his ideas, and he's not afraid of being rejected. He just keeps throwing good ideas out there.


host of Midmorning on KNOW-FM (91.1)

All transportation and transit departments in city and state governments would be required to have a pedestrian advocate on staff so that walking and biking needs would be considered as important as cars and buses. Then I would increase the number of bike trails and walking paths. I would have a select number of sidewalks and paths heated so that in the winter you wouldn't have to worry about breaking your neck.



I would eliminate all the parking meters. With a $2 billion state surplus, who needs 25-cent meters? I would repurchase all the streetcars the 1930s gangsters sold to Toronto--which are all, by the way, still in operation. Light rail is just a dull half-measure. Let's go all the way. Put your quarter in the streetcar instead.



A complete and all-encompassing transportation system. We need a rail system that connects the Twin Cities and its suburbs with the communities of St. Cloud to the north and Hastings to the south. Think about how bad traffic is now, and couple that with our winter weather and continued growth of our metropolitan area. I would wave my wand and also fix those frustrating bottlenecks. Also, I would beef up our bus system, which would include busways to key suburbs.


meteorologist, WCCO-TV (Channel 4)

Mandatory public floggings for people who drive less than 40 mph in the left lane. Other than that, don't touch a thing--the rest of it is damned near perfect.


community activist

I'd banish common sense for a day. We've made a fetish of common sense, which has relieved us of the responsibility to think for ourselves. Too often it covers what we would otherwise instantly recognize as irrational, superstitious, prejudiced, or ignorant.

On the other hand, we're not equipped to survive for long in the world without common sense. That much is certain. So I'd banish it for 24 hours in the hope that the experience of living without it would incline us to rely more on our native wit, intelligence, and good will than has been the case hitherto.


Hennepin County assistant public defender

Racism is the most destructive influence in our community today. I see the effect of racism daily as a public defender, but its impact is never quite so personally painful as when I see my grandfather at Thanksgiving. His racist jokes and stories are as plentiful as turkey and pie. He delights in my anger, gleefully announcing that he can 'rile me up' by lamenting that Congress should have passed that law sending the Negroes back to Africa.

Unfortunately, the attitude of my grandfather is shared by many members of our community. Potential jurors in criminal trials have told me that they could not be fair jurors because they are uncomfortable around black people. One fellow told me that black boys grabbed his daughter's breast in junior high, rendering him incapable of fairness to an African-American client charged in an unrelated event ten years later.

These feelings, whether the result of a lack of interaction with people of other races and cultures, or whether related to one isolated event, are common. We need to accept the reality that racism flourishes here as it does throughout the country. Unlike my grandfather, however, most Minnesotans keep their racist beliefs to themselves.

So, with my magic wand, I choose to temporarily change the color of my grandfather's skin, and that of every other Minnesotan like him. They will retain all of the things that make them a unique individual, but when they look in the mirror they will see a person of color. What will my grandfather think when women who see him clutch their purses and cross to the other side of the street? What will he do when the police stop him routinely for no legitimate reason? What will he say to those police officers, who in the past were so friendly, when they approach his car with drawn guns and call him names? Will he be angry or hurt when he's asked, for the first time, for several forms of identification when cashing a check? How will he feel when he sees the latest KKK rally on the news? Will he be afraid that he might just be the next victim of racial violence, dragged by a chain behind a truck until he is dead?

If my grandfather and others like him would learn to fully appreciate the destructiveness of racism as a result of this experience, I would have something for which to be truly thankful next Thanksgiving.


executive director, Minnesota Tenants Union

Ditch tenant screening. People are being driven out of the city and into the streets because of profiles that say what makes a good tenant and doesn't include them. The profiles are often misleading, mostly because what goes into them isn't clear.

The main problem is the unlawful detainer--the notation in a file that says a landlord has filed an eviction action, usually for nonpayment. And that could be about anything--a tenant withheld rent because something needed to be fixed, or a roommate ran off, or the tenant's been a victim of domestic abuse, or someone's life fell apart. The more vulnerable the background of the person, the more this kind of screening hurts them and haunts them.

What it does is to subvert the ability for tenants to stick up for their elementary rights--and it works by fear. Tenants are (rightfully) afraid that if they register a legitimate complaint, they will simply be evicted and it will go on their record. That makes it harder or impossible to find another apartment, and it often drives people into overcrowded situations. It creates what I call an 'X-Files' situation for tenants: There's this sinister, omnipresent threat they can't quite pin down.


coordinator of Simpson Housing Day Shelter

I'd create enough dignified affordable housing for everyone, especially considering that at least 500 folks will be sleeping outside in Minneapolis tonight. It needs to cover the whole continuum, from enough respectful shelter spaces to next-step types of housing with some support, and then on to affordable apartments spread throughout the metro area.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.



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!


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.

Since I was appointed in 1994, I have presided over family court, and over adult criminal and civil cases. But right now my assignment is in juvenile court. From my perspective, honest to goodness, if we did this kind of education, not only would we save a lot of taxpayers' dollars for services that go into fixing situations, but it would probably in the long run create a much more fair society, where distribution of wealth would be more equal. And we'd probably have a lot less juvenile crime.



I'd bring about a greater level of civic pride that would manifest itself as beauty in architecture and beauty in diversity and beauty in public works and in art and in friendliness. Not boosterism, but genuine civic pride. I think it exists in places--San Francisco, say, or Portland, Oregon. It seems like people here get held back by the climate, or maybe by their ethnic heritage; there's just a reserve that keeps us from expressing our pleasure about living here together.


news director, KSTP-TV (Channel 5)

There's really not a lot I would change about the Twin Cities. In fact, there's less I'd change here than anyplace else I've lived. But there is one thing that might sound strange to someone who's been here a lot longer than I have: I wish the Cities would live up to their winter-weather reputation.

You can tell I'm a newcomer, can't you? But I moved here in part because I like cold weather. During three years in Florida, I had a tough time handling the heat. I missed the change of seasons and, yes, even snow. But this is my second December here, and from what I understand, the third consecutive late-arriving winter. I'm beginning to believe this whole harsh-winter story is just propaganda to keep everybody from moving here. So I'd change our weather into what the rest of the country thinks it is--at least for one winter.


pastor, Park Avenue United Methodist Church

I would invite everyone to a picnic at Powderhorn Park. We would sit together around a big table and we'd eat each other's food (tamales, ribs, tuna casserole, pho, some of that good Somalian lamb stew) and we'd listen to each other's music (salsa, rap, polka, Hmong music, gospel) and the sun would shine and the birds would sing and the egrets would fish in the lake.


director of strategic initiatives for St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman

First I'd eliminate the property tax on people's homes. And I would prohibit social-action political organizations from naming themselves after nuts, trees, nouns, dead people who nobody knew, or living people that we'd all like to forget.


the Lake Harriet elf

While I don't have a magic wand, I do have a trick knee. That aside, I'd like to see more shade trees planted. There is a burgeoning population of elves looking for affordable housing. Barring that, I think the city could use more cup holders. And side airbags. Enjoy the winter. And remember, I believe in you.

Read about how many of these wishes came true here.

Read "2020 Vision," in which we asked people the same question this year, here.