Posts Tagged ‘ Central Corridor ’

Plaque Celebrates Fredrick McGhee

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Dinnertime on June 17th on University Avenue was a little more celebratory than usual. The Western Bank at 663 University Ave. dedicated a plaque and mounted it on the front of their building, commemorating the life of civil rights pioneer Fredrick McGhee. Big Daddy’s BBQ and live music by Walker West added to the festivities. The site was the former home of McGhee, who worked as Minnesota’s first African American attorney and civil rights leader in Minnesota from 1889 to 1912, when fewer than 3,500 African Americans lived in the state.

McGhee founded the predecessor to the NAACP, the Niagara Movement, working closely with Roy Wilkins and other civil rights leaders of the time. The Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASANDC) calls McGhee a “national civil rights activist and civic leader of tremendous influence and accomplishment.”

Born to slavery in Mississippi in 1861, McGhee and his family fled to Illinois, where he grew up to be an attorney. McGhee left a lucrative job and prominent position as an attorney in Chicago to serve the underrepresented African American population of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He came to Minnesota when there were no black physicians, dentists, teachers or attorneys. He came to St. Paul swinging, winning dozens of court cases and making a name for himself in one of the whitest metropolises in the nation. One of the few turn of the century African Americans of national prominence, McGhee was even chosen to be a presidential elector by the Minnesota Republican party in the spring of 1892, though he was later removed from the position.

Truly a great Minnesotan and a great American, the plaque dedicated to Fredrick McGhee is a testament to the still vibrant African American community in the Twin Cities.

— By Jake Kulju

Green Jobs a Real Opportunity to Restore City’s Economy

Majora Carter, the MacArthur Genius Award recipient, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and president of the Marjora Carter Consulting Group that focuses on “green collar” jobs, believes the way we do business is simply not sustainable. In her round of public appearances and speeches, Carter, the keynote speaker at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at St. Olaf College, made a vital assessment that we can restore the economy and alleviate poverty with the same thing, the environment.

As Carter stands at the wooden dais on a tall and extended stage in the St. Olaf College auditorium, she spreads her arms wide with a warm smile, a sort of embrace to the largely white audience in a small Midwest town and states, “Green is the new Black!” She quickly follows with, “What do I mean by this? Regardless of how poor you are, or what color, you have an inherent beauty and you should be able to look outside and see that too.”

Environmental Justice Advocate Majora Carter

Environmental Justice Advocate Majora Carter

We must, she said, invest in the people we’ve given up, thrown away and literally dumped on.  This echoes what Nieeta Presley of the Aurora/St. Anthony NDC argues about the Central Corridor: “This project should be based on neighborhoods instead of the metropolitan or statewide governments.”  Creating projects based on communities, neighborhoods and the people is the alternative strategy that Carter focuses on to move from a polluting economy to a people-based economy.  It is what Carter refers to as “Greening the Ghetto.”

Environmental justice is an increasingly important element of policy-making in transportation. As the Central Corridor LRT approaches and “green branding” increases, it is imperative that social, economic, and environmental goals not be separated, but approached holistically by asking the right questions and stipulating the importance of exploring race and class as inextricably linked to the entire health of the community.

— By Ashanti Austin

Anti-Gentrification Conference

Sushma Sheth, a longtime community organizer and racial justice activist, was keynote speaker for “Stay in Place and Thrive: Community Forum on Resisting Gentrification” at the Lao Family Community Center in Saint Paul on April 16. A native of Miami, born to immigrant parents from India, Sheth was awarded the New Voices Fellowship by the Academy for Educational Development in 2002, a Miami Fellowship by the Dade Community Foundation in 2006, and was named one of Miami’s 25 Power Women in 2006. This year, Sushma Sheth was named a Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellow.

“Stay in Place and Thrive” was sponsored by the Preserve and Benefit Historic Rondo Committee, the Asian Economic Development Association, and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability in response to the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Line.

— By Ashanti Austin

UABA determined to be heard as LRT plans move forward

The Met Council’s Joey Browner and Ax-Man owner Jim Segal discuss business issues along the Central Corridor.

The Met Council’s Joey Browner and Ax-Man owner Jim Segal discuss business issues along the Central Corridor.

Jim Segal knows how important University Avenue is. Owner and CEO of the Ax-Man surplus store, his livelihood comes from the avenue.
“I’d like to keep growing the business … and to make it as sustainable as possible,” Segal says.
Thousands of Twin Cities residents no doubt feel the same way. The Ax-Man has been in business for more than 40 years, offering quirky, rare and just plain weird surplus items to shoppers all over the state. The locally famous shop gives University Avenue much of its unique flavor.
But Segal and other University Avenue business owners are worried about challenges that the proposed Central Corridor Light Rail Transit project might pose to small businesses. A member of the University Avenue Business Association steering committee, Segal and others have been organizing to get their voices heard.
“With the bad economy on top of the fact that we have to deal with the construction, I just want to make [the construction period] the best bad situation possible,” Segal says. “Someone needs to start real solutions.” In an effort to do just that, UABA recently hired a consultant to conduct a peer city study of other rail projects around the nation. The study found alarming statistics about the effects of lengthy construction projects along business-heavy avenues.
UABA is seeking support through community channels, meetings with the Metropolitan Council and with local, regional and statewide elected officials.
“I think that the elected officials are really listening to us,” Segal says with optimism. “[UABA] creates a good forum where a group of people with the same relative interests can share ideas and voice their opinions in one place instead of the elected people dealing with 100 different people. We can amass the main issues of the group and put them forward, which gives credibility to the issues.”
One thing UABA isn’t doing is considering legal action.
“We don’t intend to put the financial resources into legal action — and let me be clear. We don’t intend to stop light rail,” said Segal. “We are concerned about the construction and development issues. We know our business is going to be severely impacted.”

— By Jake Kulju

FRAN has a plan

Nieeta Presley of ASANDC

Nieeta Presley of ASANDC

A new initiative led by nine community organizations is focusing on high-impact projects along University Avenue designed to bring prosperity to the people of the neighborhood as state and local governments prepare to build the Central Corridor light rail line. The Frogtown/Rondo Action Network, funded in part by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, and serving an area from Rice Street west to Lexington, and from Thomas south to St. Anthony, is made up of:
•    Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation
•    Community Stabilization Project
•    Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation
•    Hmong Business Association/Asian Economic Development Association
•    Jewish Community Action
•    Just Equity
•    Selby Area Community Development Corporation
•    University Avenue Business Association
•    University United
Although planning for the Central Corridor LRT in Saint Paul includes strategies to mitigate negative  effects of the project on community members and small business owners, the Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation is concerned that the project might not be focusing enough on the real needs and issues of the community as expressed by the community members and business owners.
“If the underlying premise is to ‘spur’ economic development, then the building of the LRT must be done right from start to the finish,” said Nieeta Presley, executive director of ASANDC.
FRAN’s goals are to direct resources toward community-based projects already under way that would otherwise be constrained by limited means and abilities. The idea is to have ASANDC, which has been serving the community since the 1980s, to center the coordination efforts in order to aptly prepare, strengthen and help residents and businesses not only survive the Light Rail changes but any changes that present themselves to our community.
LISC has committed three years of support to FRAN and hopes to raise and leverage additional resources both for support and implementation of FRAN projects, which have a total budget of about $7.5 million.
— By Ashanti Austin