Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a familiar face — having volunteered for streets.mn since 2017 — but a new hand at a recently created role. As of last week, I became only the second managing editor of this community blog, now approaching its second decade.
The main purpose of this part-time position is “to grow the number and types of articles that we publish on Streets.mn,” according to the job description that the board of directors approved last spring. That means continuing to do what we do best — advocating to minimize climate change and for more equitable use of roads, parklands and other public spaces — while building out recurring sections, diving deeper into themes and consistently following stories as they develop.
All of that is going to require networking and research, curiosity and fearless cold calling, skills I honed during the first two decades of my career as a journalist at various magazines and newspapers in the Twin Cities.
- Who do I know, having lived and worked both in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota?
- What types of stories would our board members, readers and copy editors like to see? And where might we find partners in this media-rich community to enlarge and enrich our coverage?
- Our writers are a talented, passionate and socially conscious group. Where are they connected in various wings of the Twin Cities and throughout the state?
- How can a greater variety of writers — people of various ethnicities, ages, geographies and gender identities — enhance our coverage?
- Where can these sources lead us beyond the parameters and limitations of our own identities and experience?
Because increasingly, the many dedicated people who make up Streets.mn want to prioritize writing, podcasts, photography, and video by and for communities of color, an exciting and essential initiative called Crosswalks, launched under previous managing editor Jared Goyette.
Two examples: At a recent district council meeting, I heard a foundational member of Neighbors United Funding Collaborative in St. Paul ask pointedly why the monied patrons of Allianz Field don’t patronize local businesses — many owned by Black, Indigenous and other people of color — after Minnesota United soccer matches, and instead simply drive back home.
I’m losing count of conversations about the privilege of environmentalism, the luxury to prioritize living green. A white woman around age 70 who does own a car described how she is able to maintain bicycling as her primary form of transportation because she can afford the equipment — and the time. The “high visibility” she prioritizes as an aging cyclist requires bike lights, a reflective jacket, wheel rims that glow in the dark and two different trailers so she can haul groceries or other goods.
“I can afford to buy that stuff,” she said, noting also that lifelong insurance coverage has helped maintain her physical health. “I can’t get away from the privilege. I can’t take pride in what I do. I can only have gratitude.”
I first became involved with this member-supported, volunteer-driven community blog in 2017, once my household had relocated to St. Paul, walking distance from my livelihood. Betsey Buckheit, an acquaintance from my two decades of living in (and commuting from) Northfield — and the last writer I recall who consistently focused on issues beyond the Twin Cities — was Streets.mn’s board secretary at the time. She urged me to attend a writer’s workshop.
Urban geographer Bill Lindeke, an original board member, encouraged writing that fell into the “delight cultivating” camp of our site’s core values, the sort of fun features that position Streets.mn also as an online magazine. My husband and I got tickets to a Minnesota Orchestra concert one June, pre-pandemic, provided we were willing to bike to Orchestra Hall, attend the concert in sweaty bike clothes and then write about it.
Having been a volunteer editor for the past four years, recently under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Jenny Werness, I delighted in editing some of those delight-cultivating stories: Lindeke’s piece on urbanist books for babies (complete with adorable photo of his 1-year-old ready reader) and Christy Marsden’s reverie about skating the Riverbend Trail, way up in Warroad, Minnesota.
I admire the folks affiliated with Streets.mn who get around their world without a car, and I hope to see us feature more stories about people who are striving to become multimodal in a society designed for and worshipful of cars. (See “Waking Up from the Car Cult” by Pat Thompson, a member of the Streets.mn Climate Committee.)
Can we celebrate and dream about how our landscape, quality of life and pollution quotient would improve with fewer vehicles? I watched a video last week created for the Midway Chamber of Commerce promoting the businesses and diversity of a neighborhood struggling to get on its feet again after the civil unrest of summer 2020. All I could see was the traffic and congestion in an area amply served by the Green Line light rail and Metro Transit buses.
At a recent public meeting about the Summit Avenue Regional Trail Master Plan — a heated topic that exemplifies why the debate cannot easily be reduced to a zero sum game between climate and convenience — longtime sustainability leader Mary Morse Marti raised a question that Streets.mn is obligated to answer: “What do we think is going to happen if we keep spending money on making a world for cars?”
Our focus on cars drives the pace of our society. When you walk for transportation, as I do daily, you move only as fast as your legs will take you. When you bike, your progress depends on the vagaries of the weather. When you ride the bus or train, you’re at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. You must breathe; you watch and wait. You have to pace yourself.
Help all of us at Streets.mn to expand our outlook and imagination and hold our public leaders accountable toward our mutual mission of “inclusive conversations about better places in Minnesota.” Send me your ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s schedule a conversation. Together, we can write a better world.