NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Saturday November 18th 2017

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Commentary: Trails shaped our lives Betrayed trails harm livability Betrayal has shaped our lives We can shape it anew!

By Harvey Winje

Be-trail can be turned upside down! Help Wanted! Will you help?

Phillips Community has been betrayed in many ways over the years. This observation is as we begin to discuss the effect of traffic on liveability and how it may be calmed.

Should we blame others and risk waste of energy and a chance to unite our community or should we admit that we all need to take responsibility so we can move beyond finger pointing to solving the difficulties together? Will you help? Will you slow down? Will you take part in a discussion of what will work better?

During Black History Month we were reminded of the African concept of Ubuntu by a recent visit of Naomi Tutu. It is helpful in this regard. According to Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of ubuntu can best be summarized as follows: “A person is a person through other people strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”.[7]

Yes, that definition reaches a profound depth to understand. Yet it is also profoundly simple. The complexities of urban life are many. The best chance of improving that life together is together.

As we discuss “calming the traffic” in this issue of The Alley, we will not shy away from naming the problems and attitudes that have poisoned our lives, our reputation, and our self-esteem. Having them named, we will then suggest we agree that the enemy is us but that the solution is also in us; together. “Ubuntu…If we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am.”

A devil’s advocate would challenge that assertion reminding of the many betrayals there have been for decades in the Phillips Community; but, it is the accumulation of many successes and the lessons learned from the betrayals that can inspire hope and enhance expertise to address again the traffic across our community. [See below for list of some betrayals and some successes]

Trails were narrow; like the path from St. Anthony Falls to Cold Spring, Minnehaha Falls, and the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Some trails became roads. Some trails became streets. Some roads and streets became highways. Some highways became interstate freeways. And some freeways had no street to expand so houses and buildings were demolished. (See St. Paul’s pg 1 & above.)

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” This remark by Winston Churchill may be applied to trails, streets and freeways because they do shape us as do our vehicles. Just those words suggest forethought in designing because it will greatly affect your life.

His entire remark and the subject he was addressing [see page 5] gives an additional meaning warning that change may destroy the culture of people’s lives.

Phillips Community has been betrayed by politicians, bureaucrats and executives scores of times over the decades in many ways. Betrayal through decisions of trails, streets and freeways has been rampant with disregard of quality of life and subjectively practiced with bias in Phillips.

There have been many times when Phillips Community has betrayed itself by acquiescing to those from outside the community and allowing changes detrimental to Phillips with no regard for the culture of the community.

There have also been times when we betrayed ourselves because we succumbed to the enticement of speed even with its risk of our own wellbeing.

Consider 26th and 28th streets today with multiple accidents and several deaths over the last two decades. Read the above commentaries from 1997 that described the same situation and tragedies we have endured in the last year.

We are victims of unintended consequences because we, too, wanted to be able to drive faster.

Who of us, at one time or another, hasn’t driven along 26th and 28th streets faster than is legal and safe?

Yes, there are thousands of cars going to the 2 hospitals along Chicago Avenue—doctors, nurses, administrators, janitors, patients, and visitors; and 6 clinics. Yes, there are thousands of cars going to Wells Fargo offices next to 35-W. Yes, there are approximately 14,000 employees at the 3 largest institutions—Abbott Northwestern, Children’s MN and Wells Fargo.

Yes, there are hundreds of cars going to the other 440 businesses, 5 schools, 12 churches, and many offices in Phillips.

Yes, there are thousands of cars that pass through Phillips to get to adjacent parts of the metropolitan area.

It is all of those and the cars of the 20,000 residents who live here.

The Chief Executive Officer of Children’s MN Hospitals and Co-Chair of the Phillips Partnership has said publicly, while lauding the hospitals great life-saving work and justifying the demolition of 24 homes for a 700+ car parking ramp and Specialty Center, that “Phillips is an unlivable neighborhood!” Many agree with him, but disagree with him on what forces have made it unlivable..

“With friends like these you don’t need enemies.”

Cars speeding three and four abreast tight against the curbs jockeying for position, anticipating the next stop lights, gambling with their chance to cross, and risking their lives and those of pedestrians are large factors making it less livable in Phillips. Speed seems to be inherent with multiple lanes. Speed limit enforcement should be inherent with speed limits, but is not.

“We have the met the enemy; and he is us!” …Pogo

We can do better than this. We must do better than this.

Solutions are known. The City of Mpls. has changed other thorough fares using techniques that make the streets and sidewalks safer while accomplishing more efficient movement of traffic. Every scenario presents different concerns and must therefore employ different solutions. Some downtown Mpls. one way streets were changed to two-way. South Lyndale Ave. has divided the street with a tree-lined boulevard. An assortment of solutions are readily available.

Choosing what will work best for specific locations requires a wide assortment of people representing different needs and having varying opinions to be involved in the process of assessment and design. Planning professionals are an important resource. Drivers, pedestrians, bikers and residents must be included in the resolution to make our neighborhood safe, sane and more livable.

 

Betrayals

Senseless demolition of the old South High School of a small Hogwart’s style castle, substandard demolition of debris removal leaving that threatened the subsequent building of Little Earth for decades. Building of a new South High in a style that further insults the whole community with its ugly, monolithic bulk, and unwelcoming presence.

Senseless demolition of Phillips Jr. High School in spite of neighborhood protest because of less population and freeway limiting school’s boundaries; contradicted by the purchase and remodeling of Mt. Sinai Hospital 4 years later and 4 blocks away at a much higher total cost than to renovate Phillips; depriving Phillips of a building that could have become a unifying community center similar to Sabathani.

Senseless loss of the Green Institute and the ReUse Center from the self interest greed of academic and political outsiders wrestling control from neighborhood residents.

Victories

Garbage Transfer Station 12 year battle and subsequent victory over a return to Incinerator use; after having lost the battle for construction of the original incinerator in the late 1930’s.

Saving of the Phillips Pool and Gym, and again.

Victory over an above ground High Voltage powerline down the Midtown Greenway.

Scores of housing and two community center projects by persistent, creative volunteer planning, lobbying, and management.

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