Part of our work for envisioning the future of BTT, is developing community leaders for future planning for this potential project as well as others.
Join us in learning about how you can use your own power to advocate for your community. Why don't we have enough teen programs? Who owns Sun Ray Shopping Center? How can we increase transportation access? Learn how to use your own voice to make change, and how to collaborate with others to make a difference!
Building and Finding Your Own Power
with Carlos Garcia-Valesco
Monday, July 29, 6:15-7:30 pm, location TBD
Attendees are encouraged to sign up here, but you may also just show up.
All are invited.
We learned today that Ramsey County will be closing Boys Totem Town. The previously established work group (from 2017) has just started meeting again. The group's focus will be on further engaging community in discussions about what the site could look like in the future. We have, of course, already done quite a bit of this. Community feedback will be compiled into a report late in the year and shared with city and county officials, as well as the community.
District 1 and committee members do not have the authority to make a determination of what happens to the property. Our current role is to find out what community members would like to see happen with the space. We will be meeting throughout the year and hosting community gatherings for discussion and sharing. All meetings will be listed on the website calendar, via our newsletter and social media.
Note that work group meetings are designed for planning and discussion among selected group members. These are not community meetings. Neighbors are welcomed to attend, but will not be part of the discussion process.
As many of you know, we received grant funds to support Community Dialogues around Equitable Land Use. The intention of the grant is to build trust between community members pertaining to the eventual land use for the area now occupied by the Boys Totem Town (BTT) residential treatment center.
The funds D1CC received were designed to bring citizens together to explore a shared vision of our community and to increase cross-cultural communications. A “Work Group” was formed to create a cohort of neighbors to facilitate outreach and to serve as a steering committee. Member’s roles were to learn about the planning process themselves, coordinate and run meetings, and help stimulate the imaginations of neighbors about the possibilities of the location. Three open community meetings were held that allowed for larger group discussion and two smaller groups visited the site. The outcomes of the committee and gatherings were extremely successful. Community members learned a great deal about the planning process, and we were able to gather meaningful information.
In reviewing our data, we realized that we haven’t had the level of engagement with low-income residents and communities of color that we had hoped. Through discussion and a review of the grant proposal, we will move into what we are calling "Phase 2.” This process will allow us to focus on the broader equity component of the project we originally proposed to the funder. In upcoming months, staff will be intentionally reaching out to and meeting with underrepresented community members to explain how land use works, and provide education on the government planning process. As meetings are scheduled, we hope to tap the valuable knowledge and experience of the Work Group members to assist with the outreach. Staff member Chia Lor will be spearheading this initiative. Work Group members should look for an email in upcoming weeks outlining ways that they can be involved.
It’s important to note that our current role is not to make a decision about what happens to the future of the BTT site. Our role is to increase dialogue, build trust and help develop a sense of community. Our hope is that all community members know what to expect when the time comes for the City and County to explore the future of the site. This is at least three years away.
At the conclusion of our grant initiative, District 1 will compile a list of themes that emerged throughout the process, and will share those with the funder, the county and city. If you participated in the previous planning process, and would like to submit a statement or testimonial about the project, please send you messages to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will try to include this information in our report. We wish to offer a huge Thank You to all the Work Group members who committed time and energy to our process!
The Ramsey County Board met recently to discuss how it plans to set programming for its juvenile justice system. After many discussions last fall and spring with community members, and with juvenile justice professionals, they concluded that the best option for our youth is to have them housed in small, family-like settings in various neighborhoods throughout Ramsey County rather than in a single large facility. They will still need a facility for "out-patient" work and schooling and to house staff, and right now it looks like that larger facility will be in Roseville - easily accessible by public transit and more centrally located than Boys Totem Town. The girls in the system, who have all previously been sent to Greater Minnesota or out-state, will likely be housed with Hennepin County, since that County already has a program for girls. Hennepin and Ramsey County remain committed to sharing programming knowledge and resources - just NOT a single facility.
The final decision about what will happen with the placement of youth offenders won't happen until June 2018, or perhaps a bit later. But in all likelihood, only a small portion of the Boys Totem Town site will be retained by the Ramsey County for its juvenile justice program. THIS IS NOT YET A FINAL DECISION, but it is looking more and more likely.
HOWEVER, because development of the smaller facilities and their placement throughout Ramsey County will take some time, Boys Totem Town would not be vacated for AT LEAST another 2 years. The City of Saint Paul is being encouraged (by Ramsey County) NOT to begin its process until closure of Boys Totem Town is imminent, probably in 2019.
A lot can happen between now and June 2018, let alone, between now and 2020... No one wants to spend time and money planning for an uncertainty. At this point, District 1 remains committed to its community-building efforts in the Boys Totem Town vicinity, beginning with a meeting in January 2018 with Commissioner Jim McDonough to provide the latest news and to answer questions. We are having some difficulty settling on a date and place for this meeting, but it should be in the week of January 22. The Boys Totem Town Work Group will not meet again until sometime after the January meeting.
Stay tuned for more news.
The August meeting of the Boys Totem Town Work Group had very limited attendance because of family and work obligations of many members. At this meeting, staff informed the group that, once again, the County has lengthened its timeline for its decisions about programming and the site. At this point, the County is no longer even guessing about a date by which they will make their decisions, but it could be more than a year from now.
As things progress, the District Council will reconvene both work group and community meetings on a regular basis so that everyone knows what is going on. Right now the only thing happening is that the County is trying to figure out what its juvenile justice programming will look like. Updates of the project will still be posted here as new information comes to us, and as we need to address misinformation that may be floating around the neighborhood.
The August meeting included a brainstorming session for how the Work Group’s community outreach will proceed given all this uncertainty. Work Group members were asked – Whose voices are still missing from our discussions? What obstacles are keeping them from participating? and How can we, as a work group and as individuals, reach out to them?
We identified the voices of renters, especially among people of color – both in single family homes and the apartments, immigrants, local business owners, young people, and families with children as those missing from the discussions to this point. We have heard other voices, recorded what was said and that information is not lost. But we need to hear from the entire community.
Obstacles to reaching these missing voices include not understanding the project and the process, being intimidated or turned off by the length of time involved and the process, the lack of specificity and the shifting timeline for decisions, lack of a local place to hold community meetings, lack of a sense of community generally, lack of trust in government, no sense of this area being a specific place/neighborhood, not being encouraged to think creatively and fear of being critiqued, and both miscommunication and lack of communication about the process and project.
We decided that we need to start by building trust between the “missing voices” and our organization, build a sense of community among those same voices, then build connections across this community to the community of homeowners. This will all be done in a variety of facilitated discussions within small groups of people – in different settings and different opportunities that come up. We will use the data gathered from surveying residents at the Peace Celebration (see summary below) to define topics around which the small groups will meet. Once the trust and sense of commonality is created we should be ready to re-engage around the BTT process itself. By then the County should be ready to decide what they will do with the site.
The other part of the meeting was a debriefing of the Peace Celebration held on July 22 and a discussion of the survey results.
Forty people were surveyed. We estimate this was between 15 and 20% of the attendees. Unfortunately demographic data of those participating were not collected so we cannot be sure that the results reflect those “missing voices” we were trying to hear from. 32 of the 40 people surveyed lived in District 1 and 32 of 40 had heard of Boys Totem Town. HOWEVER, there was not a one-to-one correlation between living in District 1 and having heard of BTT. Those not from District 1 lived mostly in Daytons Bluff, but there were also some from other neighborhoods. All responses are included in this summary, regardless of where people lived. Most people provided more than one answer to each question. We grouped similar answers and identified themes. (The complete data set can be found in a file on this page – peacesurvey.pdf)
Question 1 – What would you like to see at BTT? Twenty people responded that they would like to see programmed space at the site (places to gather to participate in programming – for example, a place for gatherings, nature center, teen center, swimming pool, etc). Fifteen people mentioned unprogrammed open space (trails, greenspace, dog park, etc.). Twelve people mentioned food related spaces (urban agriculture, community garden, food shelf – particularly mentioning a focus on providing for people in need). Eleven people mentioned job or specific commercial endeavors (workforce center, jobs for youth, board game café, etc.). Nine people mentioned housing (affordable housing – both apartments and single-family homes, senior housing, etc.). Three people specifically mentioned mixed use development (including both commercial, housing and open space). There were three miscellaneous comments – “not a prison”, “safety is important”, and “need more info and to learn more”.
Question 2 – What would you like to be able to walk to in the neighborhood? Thirteen people mentioned shopping amenities/opportunities (including ice cream shop, coffee shop, grocery, restaurant, brewery etc.). Thirteen people mentioned park facilities (both programmed and unprogrammed…) (trails, rec center, dog park, swimming pool, open space). Two mentioned types of gathering spaces (library, common meeting space). There were four mentions of miscellaneous amenities especially around transportation issues/access, but this category also included “my neighbors”. Eight people did not answer and one said the question didn’t apply in this area because of “Nature”.
Question 3 – What is needed in the community? Eleven people mentioned programmed recreational space (better teen programs, rec center, gym, swimming pool, trails, park etc.). Ten people said leave it as it is/no change or gave no answer. Eight people mentioned safety (need for more police, slower speeds, etc.). Six people mentioned community gathering space/sense of community (place to mingle, have events and learn to be safe). Four people mentioned improved transportation options (multimodes). Three people mentioned address poverty (affordable housing, food shelf etc.). Two people mentioned commercial amenities (coffee shop and “more businesses like in Hamline Midway”[?]. Miscellaneous comments included increased outreach from government and others, and “get rid of Tom Emmer”.
As mentioned above, there are some recurring themes in this survey that can be addressed regardless of what happens with the Boys Totem Town site – safety, for example. In addition, it is clear that people are unaware of what amenities are available within walking distance of the site – e.g., Battle Creek dog park, Battle Creek Water Park (although it can be expensive), existing coffee shops, playgrounds at both Highwood Hills and Taylor Park. So opportunities exist for the district council to work toward existing community goals, and we will do so…
District 1 Council Staff