Posts Tagged ‘ ICA ’

JUST Equity

Veronica Burt

Veronica Burt

Veronica Burt, public policy advocate and organizer for JUST Equity, works diligently with other community organizations within the African American community in the historic Rondo neighborhood. Their shared passion for racial justice and equitable development brings awareness to community members so that they can voice their questions and concerns.

“We look at the large development projects and the impact they will have on the communities around them,” says Burt. “I look at the policies that exist on the books, to see if they will be beneficial or harmful to the community and then work to organize our communities to take action.”

JUST Equity is a network of several local community development groups, including the Aurora/Saint Anthony NDC, North Side Development Council and the NAACP (Saint Paul Chapter), all African Americans working for the betterment of their communities.

They are looking at the Central Corridor light rail line as one such project, with the hindsight of the construction of Interstate 94, in the 1960s through the Rondo neighborhood; they are hoping to see something different with this transportation project.

Community members were made aware of the project when it was still in the beginning stages and were able to ask questions about positive and negative impact on their communities and livelihoods.

JUST Equity has set out with the goal of “Lifting our community members out of poverty and not out of the community,” Burt said.

“We want to stay in our neighborhoods and we want to thrive,” says Burt. “The end goal to our particular effort and emphasis is essentially, development that takes place in this community that would be a benefit to the African American community. … What we want is a Rondo Renaissance … a revitalization vision that honors our community’s history, helps preserve what we have left in Rondo, helps restore components of the Rondo community, and builds wealth for our community members.”

JUST Equity seeks to be a partner with government agencies so that, together, they may be thoughtful planners of projects that lead to restoring and healing our communities.

About JUST Equity

JUST Equity is a network of several local community organizations, including Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, North Side Development Council, and the Saint Paul Chapter of the NAACP.

More info

Veronica Burt, Public Policy Advocate/Organizer
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Summer of Peace

At peace pole

Community elder, Ms. Bertha Givins, and Dan Kravetz, who came up with the idea for Summer of Peace two years ago.

For the third straight year, the Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, partnering with the Summit-University Planning Council and District 7 Planning Council, co-hosted The Summer of Peace celebration, a series of events that was the brain child of former ASANDC staffer Dan Kravetz. This “traveling block party” with events happening each Thursday, provided an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other and participate in activities benefitting the entire community. Thursday events included clean-up efforts, community gardening, live entertainment, cook-outs and the general spreading of goodwill and summer cheer.

We spoke with Irna Landrum, Executive Director of the Summit-University Planning Council, who shared some highlights from the Summer of Peace.

How did it go? It seemed like there was such a good feel to the events.

It definitely was a success, bigger than what we had done before, a bit overwhelming, but it went very well. We tried to do it a little differently, in the past it was more about getting out, seeing people and giving them information — more of a here’s where you go, here’s what you do, the food is over there kind of thing. We wanted it to be more interactive and thought it would be more successful if people could contribute and be engaged.

What were some of your favorite events?

The kickoff event was phenomenal. It was held on a vacant lot on Victoria and Concordia that had an interesting story: On that corner was a really dilapidated home. The neighbors wanted to buy and rehab it but that didn’t work out and the home was demolished. But they were able to buy the lot and wanted it to be an asset to the community. So we held the kickoff event there and did a peace pole planting and worked with a landscape designer, neighbors brought seeds and plantlings and we did a small vegetable garden right in the middle of the lot. Police officers, political candidates from the district, and lots and lots of neighbors came out to the party. It was just so awesome. The owners wanted everyone involved and asked for ideas about what could be done with the lot — they made a list: What I like to see is… and people voted.
Another great event was the forum in July with candidates from the Minnesota House of Representatives District 65A. When people start talking about politics it is easy to discount this neighborhood — people don’t turn out to vote — it seems easy to count out a community like ours. But that night we set out 50 chairs and we had to get more — nearly 60 people came out to ask the candidates questions. That was really rewarding

Also, we had a block party on Fuller Avenue at Chatsworth and Milton. We work with a group called Hearts and Hammers who help elderly and disabled homeowners rehab their houses. At that point Hearts and Hammers had done five houses on that block — now it’s up to seven.

How rewarding to see all that progress in one place.

It really was. And there was one event that just SWELLED. It started with an idea — our community organizer met this neighbor who drums, he plays the bongos and congas, and she asked if he would lead a drum circle. He said sure and then spread the word to his friends. It turned into multiple drummers, a stage and sound systems, it became a little block concert. It was a bit overwhelming, but all the neighbors had so much fun. And the original neighbor said he needed some work done on his house, and I handed him a Hearts and Hammers brochure and they ended up doing work on his house. It all fits together.

What do you see for the future? I mean after you rest up from this!

There are three community gardens all along Victoria Street in several different neighborhoods. We want to see what kind of community identity we can build along Victoria. It seems like some of the physical barriers are really big psychological barriers — the neighborhoods are very different, but it will be good to focus on what we have in common.

It seems we need a fresh perspective, it is easy to say, “Here are the challenges and difficulties,” but it is good to hear a fresh perspective of, “This is what’s beautiful!”

Brotherhood Inc.

Brotherhood-Inc

Nekima Levy-Pounds at Brotherhood Inc. gathering

The hustle and bustle on University Ave. on a Friday afternoon this summer was nothing compared to the buzz going on inside the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. The office was hosting University of St. Thomas associate law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds and the new local anti-gang initiative she is spearheading in the community.

Levy-Pounds, along with four University of St. Thomas law students and law clinic fellow Artika Tyner, is proposing a center in St. Paul devoted to serving African-American youth. The facility would act as a one-stop shop for social services and business enterprises that keep young people out of gangs. They are calling the initiative, Brotherhood Inc., and are targeting youth who have been involved in gangs or criminal activity who want to make positive changes in their lives.

The project is modeled after Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries. The St. Paul initiative has named the project Brotherhood, Inc. with “Creating Change, Transforming Lives” as its tagline. Their mission statement is just as enterprising, setting forth the goal “To enable African-American youth and young adults to envision and achieve successful futures.”
Behind the press releases, community meetings and mission statement is a real energy to get things done. UST Law’s Community Justice Project, led by Levy-Pounds, is taking a leading role in making Brotherhood Inc. a reality. Tyner and Levy-Pounds have been moved by the gang activity, educational achievement gap and high incarceration rates that plague African-Americans in St. Paul.

“It has been an awakening for me, and I now have to bring the students along,” Tyner explains. She puts stock in the unique family feel that Brotherhood Inc. is designed to create. After learning about the commitment and connection among the people at Homeboy Industries, Tyner knew the same model could make a huge impact in St. Paul.
Levy-Pounds visited Homeboy Industries in 2007, and came back with a vision of starting something similar in St. Paul. Tyner said Levy-Pounds’s enthusiasm was infectious and got her to start looking at issues in the St. Paul community.

Getting dedicated students from the CJES program was an important part of creating the momentum this project needs to get off the ground.

“We don’t teach students just to ‘think like lawyers,’” Levy-Pounds emphasizes. “I think that is a shallow definition of legal education.”

Tyner and Levy-Pounds use the classroom to get to the bottom of race and class issues that affect disenfranchised youth.

Tyner explains that instead of being overwhelmed into inaction by these large social questions, “with these students, we can change the world.”

ASANDC has been an outspoken supporter of the Brotherhood Inc. project. Executive Director Nieeta Presley says that with focused action from diverse members of the St. Paul community, Brotherhood Inc. can be a reality sooner rather than later.

Energy Smart Homes

City of St. Paul LogoThe City of Saint Paul has launched the $550,000 Energy Smart Homes loan and rebate initiative that will provide Saint Paul residents with the tools to lower energy consumption and cut costs.

By renovating our homes and replacing old appliances, a person will save money and decrease energy usage in Saint Paul. This is one more way the City is improving building efficiency, lowering energy costs, and protecting our environment while solidifying Saint Paul as a national leader in environmental sustainability.

This initiative is made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Energy Smart Homes will provide funding for energy-saving improvements to houses and apartment buildings, thereby lowering monthly utility bills to residents, strengthening the City’s tax base, and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Energy Smart Homes will also create jobs, a key component of ARRA, by creating a need for contractors, including heating and insulation contractors.

Energy Smart Homes is a two-pronged initiative. $500,000 will be used to make no-interest loans up to $6,500 to homeowners to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. These funds will also leverage Xcel Energy rebates. Prior to making the improvements, each home will undergo a home energy audit to identify the greatest needs.

Eligible expenses may include furnace replacement, insulation and air sealing.

Saint Paul homeowners of all incomes are eligible to apply, though incomes will affect the loan amounts and other initiative requirements.

Another aspect of the initiative is “Cool Cash for Cold Clunkers,” which consists of cash rebates for owners of apartment buildings in Saint Paul who replace old inefficient refrigerators in their rental units with new ENERGY STAR refrigerators.

By replacing a refrigerator from the 1980s with an ENERGY STAR refrigerator could save as much as $100 each year on utility bills.

Energy Smart Homes will provide up to ten $200 rebates to owners of apartment buildings. And while the building owner will benefit from the cash rebates, many tenants will realize the monthly savings resulting from lower utility bills.

Pre-applications must be postmarked by June 11. Individuals will be selected by June 17. Selected homeowners seeking funds for energy-saving improvements will be invited to complete a full application and selected apartment building owners seeking refrigerator rebates will be notified and informed of the process for receiving their rebates.

If you would like more details, including eligibility conditions and other requirements, go to www.stpaul.gov or call 651-266-6655 for a pre-application.

On a related note, if you are a non-profit, neighborhood or business association, you may be able to take advantage of our new Energy Challenge Grants initiative. The initiative will give non-profit organizations, neighborhood and business associations the opportunity to receive Federal stimulus funds for projects that will assist Saint Paul residents and businesses in reducing their energy use and climate change impact.

Organizations must utilize the funds for projects that promote either the Neighborhood Energy Connection’s Home Energy Squads, Center for Energy and Environment’s One-Stop Efficiency Shop Program, the Minnesota Energy Challenge or other successful cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation programs.

Eligible applicants may request up to $5,000 for projects completed by June 30, 2011. Applications for the Energy Challenge Grants must be received by June 14, 2010.

For profit businesses are not eligible.

If you are interested in this initiative, visit the Sustainable Saint Paul website at: www.stpaul.gov/sustainability or call 651-266-8520.

Transit Workshop

Transit meeting

Community engagement continues to be a central issue in development and planning. When engagement is poorly managed, community members may feel an incoming assault in their neighborhoods, which can make or break a project.

“A lot of folks have anxiety about builders coming into their community,” said Leslie Moody, executive director of the Denver-based Partnership for Working Families, while presenting to an audience of over 100 participants on May 11 as part of a workshop focused on developing transit-oriented districts and walkable communities.

Held at the Wilder Foundation, the workshop, titled Equitable Development and Community Benefits, was the third in a four-part series. The session centered on leveraging a community benefits model, which builds relationships between the community, the developer and the city.

“We want the public involved in government,” said Moody. “Having active civic engagement in these processes is the way to get people to understand government and support it.”

Not all communities are created equal as pointed out by Gretchen Nicholls of the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a leading sponsor of the event series.

“Community is a term we use very easily, although it’s a very complex idea,” she said.

After Moody’s presentation, participants shared success stories from their local areas and discussed topics related to points of influence in planning, timing mismatch, connecting on different priorities, and engaging communities over time.

A panel of local community organizers offered perspective. The panel included Russ Adams, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability; Gretchen Nicholls, LISC / Corridor Development Initiative; Malik Holt-Shabazz, Harrison Neighborhood Association; Mihailo (Mike) Temali, Neighborhood Development Center; Jonathan Sage Martinson, Central Corridor Funders Collaborative; and Brian Miller, Seward Redesign.

Common themes involved engaging developers early on, the role of small business, and ensuring community involvement beyond planning and throughout implementation.

Event sponsors included Twin Cities LISC, Metropolitan Council, Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, Center for Transit-Oriented Development, Urban Land Institute and The McKnight Foundation.

The last workshop, Financing of Transit-Oriented Districts – Building Public/Private Partnerships will be from 9 a.m. to noon June 15 at Dorsey & Whitney, 50 S. 6th Street, Minneapolis. For registration details, email Gretchen Nicholls.

Firefighters Wanted!

St-Paul-FireThe application deadline for the next class of St. Paul firefighters is Friday, January 29,  at 4:30 p.m.

Salary: During 3-month Fire Academy, Trainee Salary is $1,453 / bi-weekly. Approximate Annual Rate: Starting, $47,419; 3-year, $59,458; 5-year, $61,852.

Requirements:

  • High School graduation or GED by August 31, 2010.
  • Must be 18 years of age by August 31, 2010.
  • Must possess a valid Minnesota Class D Driver’s License by August 31, 2010, or equivalent out-of-state driver’s license. The driver’s license must have no suspensions or revocations for driving-related offenses within the two year period prior to the date of appointment. Suspensions for parking-related offenses are excluded.
  • Must show proof of current State of Minnesota Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification.  Candidates may participate in the testing process and be placed on the eligible list without submitting proof of EMT certification.

Submit an application online. Do NOT submit any additional documents or information (except a DD214 for veteran’s preference) with your application. We will not retain any extra materials. Submit $25 application fee at http://www.stpaul.gov/firefighter. Applications received without the application fee will be incomplete. An information packet, including the written exam preparation guide, will be mailed after both the job application and the application fee are received.