microphone with an out of focus background containing the Streets.mn logo

Presenting Car Free Midwest: A Conversation with Councilor Mitra Jalali

New Saint Paul resident Sarah Johnson interviews city councilwoman Mitra Jalali about her thoughtful and people-centered approach to transportation infrastructure.

Show Notes

Sarah has a conversation with Councilor Mitra Jalali of Ward 4 in Saint Paul, MN.

Car Free Midwest is a podcast exploring the stories, barriers and joys of getting around the midwest without a car.

Building community around more transportation equity and less car dependency.

Hosted by:
@sj_obc

Produced by:
@joshualabure

Theme song:
The New Deal by Big Quiet https://open.spotify.com/track/4rPvzZzNhhnWDnNFhoFPJ4

Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/carfreemidwest/message

Attributions

  • This episode comes to us courtesy of Car Free Midwest.
  • Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, used by permission of its creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.
  • This episode was transcribed by Ian R Buck.

Transcript

Ian: [00:00:02] Welcome to the Streets.mn podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. You may recall that a few months ago, we interviewed Sarah Johnson about her experience moving from Omaha to Saint Paul. She’s jumping in to learn about local politics by interviewing city councilwoman Mitra Jalali on her podcast Car Free Midwest. Let me hand you off to Sarah.

Sarah: [00:00:23] All right. Well, let’s just jump right into it. Today I’m super excited to be interviewing not my new council member, but a councilor in Saint Paul, Minnesota, my new home. Um, Councilor Mitra Jalali, would you please take a second to introduce yourself?

Mitra: [00:00:39] Hi, everyone. My name is Mitra. I use she/her pronouns. Since 2018, I’ve been representing Ward 4 in the city of Saint Paul, and I’m excited to be here.

Sarah: [00:00:48] I guess, first of all, I’ll say why. I’m excited to have you on here. I’ve been kind of following you on Twitter. Of course, you know, social media, blah blah, blah. As I was preparing to move to Saint Paul from Omaha, Nebraska, um, for like political reasons actually, which maybe we’ll get into. But, uh, I heard about, you know, a lot of the hubbub around the Summit Avenue Trail project and went to, I think it was Sustain Saint Paul had kind of a bike plan review and had been following along on the interwebs some kind of the discussion and pushback about the Summit trail project. And then I watched the city council meeting and when you started talking about, I don’t know, accountability and like how our streets need to be for people and the democratization of our streets, I was like, okay, I’m going to bother her and see if she wants to come talk to us about how streets should be for people. And I guess a little bit of quick background, I won’t bag on Omaha, Nebraska too much, but it’s really refreshing, I will say, to be here and listening to legislators and lawmakers, decision makers not only saying the words, but then voting to back up what they say. And so high five because you seem to be someone who’s doing that, which I really admire. Um, and I think, you know, I was talking to Josh a second ago, we might even just put in part of the clip from that city council meeting.

Mitra: [00:02:07] I would like to speak from the heart about why I’m supporting this trail right now and to speak from a personal place. When I was not even a councilwoman yet, I was running for city council on May 9th, 2018. One of our neighbors, Alan Grande, was riding his bicycle. And he was struck and killed by a school bus. As they were crossing the intersection at Snelling and Summit. And what I remember. Is people that I knew all furiously texting each other because they did not know at the time who had died. And so there was a series of messages going around asking, “Are you okay?” There was a feeling on the other side of that message, hoping, hoping that the person I know texts back. Was it someone I know? Was it someone I know? And there is one family, the grand family. For whom the heaviest outcome. The truth about that was that it was their relative. And I remember at that time thinking, I am running for office to represent a part of this community and to take responsibility for the safety of people like Alan and also the schoolchildren on the school bus who were also traumatized by that incident because they had to see that on their way home. It disrupted thousands and thousands of our residents lives. And I remember that was a moment where it became very real and very serious for me. What is the responsibility we have to make a safer city, which will include it will fundamentally include changing the way our city is built. It will fundamentally include inconveniencing people. It will be unpopular at times and it will be the right thing to do. And now we’re here with something that we can do, Something that means we don’t have to have another ghost bike. We might not need to have another memorial ride.

Sarah: [00:04:06] You know, since that’s what caught my eye about you, I don’t know if we want to just jump right into that, how you thought that process went and what led you to vote the way that you did. I was just again impressed that you seemed to be learning from history and making decisions based on things that need to happen instead of just the same old, same old. So what was kind of your take on that situation?

Mitra: [00:04:25] I think that the Summit Avenue regional Trail process, it’s like it’s like a microcosm of so many things in this work, like when you’re doing a major road reconstruction or change to a road or like anything dealing with the public right of way, there’s always all this like technical expertise, right? You need to make sure that you understand correctly the relevant structural realities of the situation you are looking at. What are the possible scenarios that we could engineer and design for? What’s that going to take? What will be the funding scenario is all the complications of finding funding for these things, everything, right? But there’s this human piece to all this that like gets lost in the process and gets lost in like the technical stuff. And I think that the job of an elected official so much of the time is just to translate into everyday, simple terms like what’s the vision we have for what we want to be true in our community? How does that connect to like the facts of this situation? What are the values guiding the decision that we’re being asked to make and like? Based on that, what are we deciding? And I ended up very unexpectedly like telling a story about biking on Summit over the weekend. And it’s funny because my staff had like helped me come up with talkers for this public hearing, and I hadn’t talked for four hours at this point because we were listening.

Mitra: [00:05:50] And by the time I had listened to everyone, all the points that I had typed up and that my staff had worked on had like been said a lot of times and it was like I was the last person to talk at the end of the whole night. Like after all the council members, after all the testimony and I kind of in the moment, sorry, my computer notification should be off, I, I just kind of spoke from the heart. And so it was definitely also just on a personal level, emotional for me because of what I shared about like my transportation trauma and anxiety, but also just being a person of color who has been asked to lead our community forward in a time where, like racial equity in Minnesota is not something that we get to just like pay lip service to like we have been through too much as a community to like keep perpetuating the systems and practices and attitudes that have gotten us into this place. And we happen to be having that hearing on the night before the George Floyd… anniversary never feels like the right word for what happened. And but it was, you know, it was like the date in the year when George was murdered by the Minneapolis police. And like the the fact that, like. I just I to be very candid, felt like there was a lot of toxic whiteness on display in that public process. And I see it all the time as an elected official. And it’s very. It’s very like triggering to have to continually be in spaces where, like, I am one of very few people of color in the room, and then I’m there at this table asked to make a decision. And I’m bringing all those experiences, all those communities, beliefs, values, etcetera with me. So I feel like I’m giving you a very long answer, but it’s just kind of like I’ve been reflecting on that night and that moment and why I said what I said. I did not give like a planned speech. I was giving like a series of remarks that reflected what was going through my mind at the time. And that’s how it ended up like that.

Sarah: [00:08:04] I think that’s what caught my attention, was like the level of authenticity behind your words, which, you know, a lot of times, again, coming from Nebraska politicians, there are some good ones. I’ll shout out Senator Megan Hunt if she’s listening, she’s not. Anyway, before you were an elected official, what were you doing and how did you get into the realm of city council?

Mitra: [00:08:26] My story kind of begins in terms of my public service career as being a classroom teacher. I taught middle and high school social studies and that was a three year experience of just seeing up close like, here’s what kids are going through, here’s what we can do within the classroom and then the school system to help them. And then there’s also all this stuff happening. So outside of the schools, that is where my kids are the entire rest of the day, they’re not with me. And there were situations that really rattled me and made me like deeply furious and hurt and angry to want to do something, to make that be different. Like one of them was a student who came in a few days in a row and was clearly exhausted, and we pieced together that he was like literally just fully homeless, was not sleeping anywhere, was probably sleeping outside, like extraordinarily distressing to see that that’s happening to like a 16 year old working with him and figuring out like, who’s his nearest relative that we can work with to help coordinate some solutions, all these different things, right? And then just seeing them fall through the cracks. So many more stories like that that I could tell where I saw like when my kids had what they needed, like their basic needs and like social and emotional affirmation and safety. They could come in and write like an entire essay about. The connections that they saw, like between what was happening in their lives and the world around them. And it was like, this is this is like not rocket science. Like we need to take care of people and then their lives can be better. And it just kind of felt that simple to me. And I always knew that. But being a teacher like reaffirmed that for me in a way that felt so incredibly urgent. And so I started organizing. Other teachers started working. I was in 2012 working on the it’s so funny to talk about 2012 now. It’s like it was a simpler time. We were reelecting President Obama and we were like, it was like a lifetime ago.

Sarah: [00:10:31] A lifetime ago, a lifetime ago. It was it’s so wild.

Mitra: [00:10:35] But that was the year where we were passing a school levy for Saint Paul public schools. And there were like all these important initiatives happening like like the presidential election. But there was this local school election that was really important. And I went to like every single school site in Saint Paul public schools. And I talked to teachers as part of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators, basically like a union organizer who could go and get teachers signed up for phone banks and canvassing to, like talk to our neighbors and voters about why we need to pass like additional funding for public schools. And it connected back to my teaching experience because like, we had a sheet that laid out, here’s if we pass this funding, what each school gets. And there were things on the list like if we don’t pass this Levy Central High School, which is like the biggest kind of like heart of Saint Paul Public High School, isn’t going to have a counselor. Like if you have that many students in the building and so many of them, maybe they’re the first in their family to go to college and you don’t have that like school resource. That’s an entire trajectory that could go one way or another and affect like, generations in that family. So it was like very clear to me, here’s this election, here’s what we get for it, here’s how that impacts people, and here’s why we need to win this election, and here’s the work you do to do that.

Mitra: [00:11:48] And so from there, I feel like I was just that was it. Like I, I had pivoted into like policy and organizing. And before I ran for city council, what I was doing most recently was our our Attorney General, Keith Ellison was previously a congressman. He represented the fifth Congressional District. And I worked in his district office as like a constituent services aide. And I did outreach. And it was a ton of just like government problem solving, like what’s happening to this constituent? Why is it happening? What are the systemic causes? How do we solve that with the level of government that we’re in? And what else can be done beyond the boundaries of our office’s power to like expand the outlook and horizon for fixing this problem? And I feel like that whole body of experiences was my training. And then I ran for city council because there was an unexpected special election that happened in my ward because my predecessor, his name is Russ Stark, he’s still at the city of Saint Paul. He’s our chief resilience officer now. So Russ, who was like a ten year council member for my ward and was the council president, and now he’s like our climate officer, basically. And I still work with Russ all the time, but I knew that I had big shoes to fill.

Sarah: [00:12:59] Just the fact that you have a climate officer is like, This is okay. So just super quickly about why I’m here and all this is blowing my mind. I’ve, you know, been in the bike advocacy, well, bike retail industry for 20 years, helped start a nonprofit in Omaha based on like it’s called Mode shift, you know, switching mode share, all of these things. I even ran for city council because like you, it’s like these problems need to be talked about. They don’t seem to be rocket science. We just need people with the capacity to push back. Even as you noted in your speech about the trail, sometimes unpopular, sometimes will inconvenience people. And like no one, no one’s able to say that there anyway. So when my husband and I were deciding where to move, we were really looking for a place that, like, kind of felt like a values alignment. And a lot of the work that you have been pushing specifically, I really want to thank you because like this is inspirational and this is like the reason that we’re here. And so, um, awesome to hear about your background and all of that. I’m also just digging into the fact that you are running again and you’re running unopposed. To me, that’s, that says a lot, that no one is opposing you because it’s like pretty clear that the community has your back.

Mitra: [00:14:08] It’s weird to be it’s weird to be running unopposed because I have run like I ran in 2018 and again in 2019 and I had multiple opponents like the whole way. And so my entry into public office was like this battery of elections with like a lot of different people. And now I’m just, you know, in September is my five year anniversary at the city of Saint Paul. So I’ve been kind of doing a lot of reflecting of what have these five years been like? Right? And the things that have happened in the last five years have been like extraordinary in the good ways and the bad ways. So I feel I’ve been kind of processing even what you just said of like something feels different this time. But I do think you’re right that a lot of it is just like trust, like trust that is about doing things with community as much as possible. And like, I think that in politics too, especially in local government, you can’t you can’t always do things that people want you to do. It’s like either out of reach or not within your powers. And like, I think that trust is also. So built by being honest about what is and isn’t possible and staying committed to what you can do that’s within your responsibility and like working together to expand the parameters of what’s possible. And I just have been thinking about that because I’m like, okay, what does it mean to be in politics? What does it mean to actually be effective? How come it feels like we have to choose between effectiveness and results and like political ambition, like in terms of just our how like progressive our policy agenda can be? I’ve been like kind of wrestling with those topics in my time as an elected official and just a lot on my mind. So anyway, that was way more big picture, but it sort of connected to what you were talking about, about why is it like that right now? I’m just, I’m just out here, so.

Sarah: [00:15:55] Yeah, yeah. Um, well, that’s an awesome segue into my next question, which is what? What do you see for the next four years? A lot of the stuff that mean your website is amazing. By the way, I’ve just been like fangirling over all of your initiatives.

Mitra: [00:16:08] We worked so hard on that! So thank you.

Sarah: [00:16:11] Yeah, no, and campaign websites are like, I don’t know I yeah. Anyway, a lot, a lot of really good stuff is what I’m trying to spit out here. And a lot of the stuff that like, yeah, it seems like has momentum here. I mean you wouldn’t be campaigning on these issues if you didn’t think some of them, you know, at least seemed pretty likely or legitimate stuff that is happening here is just stuff that we’re trying to get folks to talk about in Omaha. And it’s like, oh, back in 2011 when we passed our blah, blah, blah climate resilient or maybe it was 19 climate resiliency plan, climate action, something that like we tiptoe around in Omaha, we almost think we might have consultants. I’m saying we that’s no longer we now this is we, this is exciting. They are just like piddling around, like, should we say the words climate crisis? Probably not. And you’re like, “Here’s the deal.”

Mitra: [00:16:58] Yeah, yeah, it’s in context.

Sarah: [00:16:59] Yeah. And so it just feels super exciting to see some of these things. Like, you know, the concept of highway removal is very touchy and here it’s like, no, there study is happening. I see that you’re going to push, you know MnDOT, like, wow. So, um, I would like in your own words instead of my excited blathering, tell us what you’re hoping for in the next four years.

Mitra: [00:17:19] I’m hoping for, like, a permanent, stable foundation from which Saint Paul can just be on a better course. I think that our city has has endured a lot of inequities very quietly for a very long time because that’s kind of the Minnesota story. The Minnesota story is like, look at all these amazing outcomes for kids and families until you start disaggregating by like race and class. And we get into these national, nationally ranked publications and rankings as like best state to live and all these things. And like I’m born and raised in Minnesota. I love our state. I’ve tried to leave multiple times. I’ve always ended up back here. I just I literally, like lived other places, took another. And then so there is a pull to like…

Sarah: [00:18:12] It’s like the boomerang effect. You’re gone and you come back. Yeah.

Mitra: [00:18:14] One thing I’ve been processing with a lot of people of color from Minnesota is this feeling of like, we want our state to like, live up to what we know is possible. And so when we talk about, like, what I want to do for Saint Paul, I think Saint Paul is a remarkable place. I think we are a special community. I feel at home in Saint Paul like I’ve chosen. This is where I’m going to be. This is my community. Um, I also feel like we have a lot of ground to make up. We have a lot of like entrenched sort of formulas and realities and policies that have reaped all these repercussions. So like, I’m sure we’ll get into this because we’re talking on like a Streets podcast, but the state of our roads is not like an overnight thing. That is about like the sort of like political reluctance to actually, like make proactive investments in infrastructure that challenge the status quo and made it more economically feasible and more financially and like environmentally sustainable to transport people throughout our community. It’s transit politics. It’s all these things, right? And so now, surprise, surprise, like decades of that went by and our roads are crumbling and everyone is starting to feel it, like everyone is starting to experience an $800 pothole problem, which is like the median, I think the median claim to a pothole, like the amount for damages to the city right now.

Mitra: [00:19:41] It starts it starts with an eight. Don’t I don’t want to say the wrong exact number, but it’s like it’s an $800 number. That’s wild. And so I know that we have to do something radically different. And that’s going to include things like narrowing roads, making it easier to move around in a not single occupancy vehicle, making physical room for more transit and expanding transit. We’re having a huge conversation in Minnesota about like transit working well, like we got transit built. And now we need transit to work really well. We can’t just, like, make these multi-billion dollar investments and then check the box. Like you need ongoing maintenance, regular frequency, all these pieces. So what is my hope for the next four years? Like imagine that one in every area of life, like community safety, we have built this approach in our city that isn’t just sending a police officer to everything. It’s in very early stages. I want that to feel like rooted and powerful and like stable. If and when I leave office. Eventually. I hope I have this, like, desire to feel like, you know, I ran again because I had the sense of my work has begun, but it is not yet finished.

Mitra: [00:20:54] And I would like that to be true in like housing, stability in our climate, resiliency, in our vision for safety, beyond just reactive policing, that whole that whole idea around community care that started in the classroom and is now in public life, for me, like that is what I want to be true for our community in a stable way, not in a way that feels like it hangs in the balance of like one election to the next, but where it’s like we’ve institutionalized these things in policy investments and like city bureaucracy so that they’re just there now. This is just the world we live in, and I think we’ve like what I’ve what I’ve gotten to do is govern through time in Saint Paul, where we’ve like begun to institutionalize a lot of that. And it just feels like I want to see this project through and feel like our city is on this like, prosperous, equitable course. So I hope that’s making sense. I know I’m like running for reelection and I should be able to give you the 30-second version. But for some reason you just make me want to tell you what I think in a non-packaged way. So I’m giving you.

Sarah: [00:21:54] Like, this is why I swear I saw you. I was like, I like this person. I’m gonna need to talk to her. So no, thank you. And this is not a 30-second podcast, so it’s good that you don’t have a 30-second response. That being said, I think I did tell Tom that I would only bother you for about a half an hour. So I do want to be respectful of your time. I know you got a million things probably going on. We can, um.

Mitra: [00:22:13] Let’s keep going. Yeah, that’s great.

Sarah: [00:22:15] Cool. Awesome. Um, okay, so you were talking about a statistic again, I keep going back to the Summit Ave vote because that was the most I heard you speak in one one moment. So I’m picking it all apart. But, you know, you’re citing statistics. I mean, part of part of what was cool to me about this is like you aren’t like, well, we’re making a decision about a bike trail, so we really just need to be thinking about these people concerned with trees and like, parking. You were like, guess what? It’s also a racial issue because it’s twice as likely for you to be injured or dead if you are a person of color on the streets. So I guess I am. That was specifically about like pedestrian specific stuff. I’m wondering what aside, you know, bike trails and it looks like on your website I saw you were, you know, under your past several years, there’s been about 30 miles of new safe bike infrastructure, something that, as you know, a new newbie to the cities. How does sidewalk shoveling happen in the winter? I saw some movement on like maybe the Minneapolis side of like a municipal sidewalk clearing program. That was something that the org worked with in Omaha, was kind of trying to push folks to think about. I’m just wondering, you know, what types.

Mitra: [00:23:26] Yeah, it’s a huge yeah, it’s a huge topic. And I think a growing number of my constituents want to see the city take on some form of municipal sidewalk shoveling. Right now, it’s pretty much left entirely to like the general public to maintain their little piece of the public, private or sorry of the of the public right of way. And we know that that’s inequitable because we know that it’s impossible to navigate the streets on foot at certain times of year when we have several inches of snow dumped on us. The city right now is working on evaluating are there sub sections of the entire sidewalk network that we could take responsibility for like major commercial corridors and the corners like the can we get like the little I feel like I’m blanking right now. It’s like a bobcat. There’s like a little thing that will go and clear out the quadrants, right? So that that at least is accessible. That’s where like a lot of snow gets dumped. So there’s there’s a need to be involved more than just what is happening right now. A parallel conversation in Saint Paul that I’m just like, here’s your official invite to the alley plowing conversation is like right now neighbors in Saint Paul like band together and they fundraise and pay someone to plow their alley like the city doesn’t plow alleys. So these are all the snow removal world of public policy is huge here. It’s it’s something that it’s a serious amount of months of the year and you know, because of climate change it’s like a longer snow season.

Mitra: [00:25:01] There’s more variation, there’s more weird, predictable predictability or unpredictability in weather events. Was I? I hope I can laugh a little on this podcast. I was just one of the times that really I was just laughing was there was supposed to be this like massive snow event earlier this year, I think it was in like February, and it was so dire, the forecast was so dire that like both mayors and both cities, public works people and everyone, they had this press conference that was like snowmageddon, like it was just like everyone was like flanked. And you just felt like you were in the war room of some national event because the visuals of this press event were just like, There will be a lot of snow. You need to move your car. It was like a multi-jurisdiction press conference around like and it just cracked me up. I was like, This is so funny. Like, it feels like an action movie. Like, what is my life? You know, those moments where you’re like, Look at my life, look at my choices. I bet you’re wondering how I got myself in this situation. I wasn’t in that press conference, but like, I got a picture of our mayor because I felt like it was this amazing. It was just like today on the job. We are putting out the word across every major news network.

Mitra: [00:26:12] We really need you residents of our beautiful cities to move your freaking car. So it was just great. And like we and it ended up being fine, like fine with a capital F and so there so all that to say like we go through so much, it’s such an intensive operation to, to do the work of like physically hauling away tons and tons of snow to make sure that people who are elderly, who use a wheelchair, who are young, like all types of folks who need to navigate it, might be challenging so that they can get through. And it’s a huge topic. It’s a huge, huge topic. And I’ve said I think the city needs to like take on more than it does right now. We might not be able to do like a fully universal snow like sidewalk shoveling program, but we probably could do a pretty significant like subset of public right of way sections in the sidewalks across the city that suddenly make a transformative difference like we could probably at least do that. And then from there we can build on that and see how can we get to a place where, like sidewalks are shoveled equitably in our city because they’re not. So I realize I probably just spent like nine minutes talking about that, but that’s that’s all where it’s at right now in Saint Paul side. And clearly you see Minneapolis too. Interested in that.

Sarah: [00:27:30] Yeah. Speaking of Minneapolis, real quick, I just saw an article saying that they are shooting for 60% of all trips to be made without a car in Minneapolis. Yep. Uh, what the heck? That’s a bonkers number.

Mitra: [00:27:45] Big deal.

Sarah: [00:27:45] Yeah, that is. Talk about a lofty goal. Like, it’s so lofty and I’m all for. I’m always the one with, like, the radical idea. That’s why I live in Omaha anymore. Too radical, too lofty of goals, but, like, 60 freaking percent. That’s quite lofty. Uh, yeah. What do you think about that? And then also, like, what is Saint Paul doing to shoot for a mode shift?

Mitra: [00:28:06] I would say I will say I’m not up on the specifics of like where that Minneapolis plan came about or what the plan to do it is or like I’m not up on that, but I have heard about it. What I will say is and this is again, my perspective as a lifelong Minnesotan, I think that like ambitious, radical ideas have purpose in the public discourse to sort of disrupt people’s assumptions about what is possible for moving around. I think many Minnesotans believe that the main way to get around the state is always going to be in a car and that there just won’t be enough public transportation infrastructure ever to serve folks, at least in the Twin Cities. Right. Like Greater Minnesota is going to be different in different ways. They can still have different public transportation routes, but it’s like an urban in the urban core. There’s still this sense that, like even in the cities, you need a car. And I would love for our Twin Cities to get to a place where you don’t have to have a car if you don’t want to, because we have just done such a good job of funding and expanding and connecting our transit network that you can find a ride anywhere. And there’s also these little mini rideshare options.

Mitra: [00:29:17] There’s like the Evie car share network, there’s all the like scooters and things like that. Bike share we need to get bike share back in Saint Paul also, because we’ve thoughtfully developed our communities in a way where you can just get to what you need to get to, like you can get to your job and the bodega and your haircut and your nails and/or your friend’s house all within like a short little trip of each other. And I live a pretty connected life in the Twin Cities, and I feel like I haul my EV across town every week or so for something, even though I happen to have found a job where I’m literally just like in this area of the city and everything I care about is in that little world. So, I mean, I think that there’s value in just like talking about big things publicly because it will jolt what people previously assumed was just going to be that way forever because it can’t it cannot be that way forever. Like the planet is burning and it’s scary. And we just I think in the Midwest, I’m interested in like your perception of this as another Midwest person, but like our communities are feeling it differently. We’re not necessarily at risk like how coastal cities are in like literal flooding terms and the resiliency conversation, sometimes it feels like there isn’t that same urgency here, but like people are going to move inward from the country and the coasts to the center, like we will have climate refugees. And we just I just sometimes I’m in a lot of transportation spaces in the Twin Cities. I’m on the Transportation Advisory Board excuse me, the TAB, which is like this multi jurisdictional thing that’s within the Met Council that gives guidance to the region on how to fund different transportation priorities and like being in a transportation conversation with communities around the metro, you see the range in like what people have experienced and therefore what their worldview of transportation should be and or sorry, what it is. And like we have to help everyone see that we’re in the same conversation. Actually, it’s not your community over here. You’re a community over here. When you zoom out like we’re all in this and we need to plan for the future with a fierce urgency. And so that’s where I think talking about things like, yeah, you might not need to have a car if you don’t want to. Do you want several hundred dollars back a month because you’re not paying for insurance and car payments? Yeah.

Sarah: [00:31:42] It’s like a tax that you have to I mean, that’s a lot of times, you know, we talk about how you not everyone can drive physical, financial, whatever the reason. And it’s like it feels so offensive to only be able to participate fully in your community if you drive a frickin automobile. And so, yeah, it’s just it is all connected and it is really fun to hear someone who is in a leadership role. I used to use leader in quotes a lot in Omaha, but I’m getting rid of the air quotes. You are a leader and I’m super happy to have gotten to chat with you.

Mitra: [00:32:18] I’m so grateful for this time with you. Welcome to Saint Paul. Welcome to Minnesota. I’m grateful for your podcast. I love the concept of this podcast. I love being in the transportation discourse. I feel like sometimes I like cruise my Twitter feed and I laugh at again that look at the look at your life, look at your choices. Because my Twitter is like this. It’s like this amalgam of like Minnesota politics, transportation and housing discourse from all around the country. And then just like suggested pop culture thing of the moment. Like I had a lot of you know how the algorithm just like bumps things in front of you. So when Euphoria was still airing, I was like, It was so funny because it’d be like this Upzoning this statewide Upzoning bill is like moving through the legislature. And then it was like Zendaya memes. And now it’s like now it’s like someone having a regional trail and then like Taylor Swift.

Sarah: [00:33:06] Yeah. You on a bus to the Taylor Swift concert. I appreciated. It’s all so good. Awesome. Well.

Mitra: [00:33:13] That was real. Taking the Swifties everywhere. Very good. Yeah. Thank you for. Thank you for this convo. It’s great.

Joshua: [00:33:20] And that does it for this episode of Car Free Midwest. We are here every other week with interviews, topics and documentary pieces covering all things transportation. You can find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at car Free Midwest or visit us at carfreemidwest.com. Subscribe to car free Midwest wherever you listen to podcasts and support us on Patreon. Patreon.com Slash car free Midwest. This podcast is produced by me, Joshua LaBure and hosted by Sarah Johnson. Our theme song is New Deal by the Big Quiet via Free Music Archive.

Ian: [00:34:20] Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn Podcast. This episode came to us courtesy of the Car Free Midwest podcast. All rights reserved. The music you’re hearing right now is by Eric Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at [podcast@streets.mn]. In fact, we recently had a listener write in saying that his whole family loves listening to the show. In particular, their 12 year old son is really interested in all things transit, urbanism, et cetera. And they are wondering, is there anybody else around his age who is also getting involved in these spaces? I didn’t have a great answer for them because when I think of young people in urbanism, I usually think of college students. So, hey, listeners, if there’s anybody else out here who is in the middle school to high school age range, who’s interested in all these kinds of topics, write in and let us know. And hey, maybe we can get like a little get together going. I think that would be a real cool thing. Until next time, take care.

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"