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Thursday September 24th 2020

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Common Sense for the Common Good

Commentary on EPNI Urban Farm
By HARVEY WINJE

Before Covid-19, many cities across the U.S.–including Mpls.–were responding to climate change and racial discrimination by changing guidelines, revenue recipients, zoning, and goals. Housing, food, and jobs near public transportation—walking paths, bike trails, bus, and light rai—were common goals for the common good that was common sense.

During Covid-19, increased awareness of inequities of healthcare, housing, food, and jobs demands more common sense for the common good of everyone.

Nonetheless, the Mpls. City Council and Staff are continuing to flaunt their power against our neighbors’ Urban Farm, Affordable Housing, and Jobs Center Initiative in the highly diverse and low-income East Phillips area near public transportation. The City is going up against laws, and against their own environmental Green Zone Guidelines as they continue to seize control of the seven acres of land and a 236,000 square foot building (recently renovated) adjacent to Little Earth of United Tribes Housing, other residences, the Midtown Greenway, Pioneer and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery, Smiley’s Point Health Clinic, Hi-Lake Shopping Center, and close to the YWCA and a Hennepin County Service Center and Transportation Hub. On this vital land, the City is forcing creation of a large storage depot and large truck and car parking lot.

In 1975, one half of Little Earth of United Tribes housing was uninhabitable and almost demolished only three years after it was built. This was partially due to substandard design and construction; more significantly, it was threatened because of greed to seize prime development land near downtown Minneapolis and on the route to Mpls.-St. Paul International Airport—Hiawatha Avenue. That threat was fought and won by neighbors and the American Indian Movement. Once again, land in the same area is threatened by greed, institutional racism, and incompetent urban planning; all made worse by conflicts of interest by key City politicians and bureaucrats.

Continued development of seven acres for warehousing and truck parking by the City is counterintuitive and counterproductive to the merits of the site, well-being of neighbors, goals of Green Zoning incentives, and good urban planning. Releasing more pollutants during demolition—including the arsenic beneath the large building—and adding more vehicular pollution adjacent to housing and four forms of less polluting transportation is counter to commonsense.

Wendell Phillips, namesake of the Phillips Community, said it well seventeen decades ago, “Commonsense doesn’t ask for an impossible chessboard, it takes the one before it and plays the game.” City of Minneapolis: Take the situation and land before you, use commonsense, and do the right thing. Listen to voices from the past, like Wendell Phillips, but much more importantly, listen to the voices of “the many” TODAY. Join in adapting the seven acres into the new norm of housing, jobs, transportation, food distribution, and cultural improvisation instead of a metropolitan garage for parking and storage that is much less advantageous for serving the purpose of the common good.

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