January 12, 2012
By Carol Swenson, Executive Director, District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
"You've made a difference and we will use you as an example across the country…that if you hang together, have great projects that are for the people, and work with your delegation, you can make things happen." Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, January 2010.
What was Secretary LaHood talking about? The successful Stops for Us community campaign to restore three missing stations to the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line. After three years of community organizing, research, advocacy, and plain old tenacity, there would be light rail stations at Western Avenue, Victoria Street, and Hamline Avenue to provide equitable transit service to those who needed it the most. And, along the way, the coalition provided Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff with the ammunition he needed to change a federal policy and clear the path for building these stations.
The significance of this accomplishment was marked on December 11, 2011, when Lisa Garcia, Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Jackson, presented the Stops for Us coalition with a National Achievements in Environmental Justice award. Nearly 175 community members and public officials gathered at the Gordon Parks High School on University Avenue to celebrate the occasion. Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds emceed the ceremony, which opened with photographs from Wing Young Huie’s acclaimed University Avenue Project. Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman delivered the Proclamation of December 11, 2011 as Stops for Us Environmental Justice Day and Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter and Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh delivered remarks honoring the community and recognizing the governmental units and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, who assembled quickly the 50 percent local match to federal funding for the stations.
The centerpiece of the evening, though, was the telling of the Stops for Us story. Coalition leaders Anne White, Va-Megn Thoj, and Nieeta Presley recalled the devastating impact that construction of I-94 had on the Rondo neighborhood and the African American community, what was at stake for the community if the stations weren’t built, the organizing and research that put the stations back on the table for consideration, the agonizing times when relationships were tried and trust had to be rebuilt, and the final realization that indeed the missing stations would be built and a Draconian federal policy would be changed to boot!
Despite all the complexities and nuances of the tale, the message was really quite simple. The victory of building the stations is something to be celebrated, but the story isn’t finished. There is much work yet to do and we all need to work together to ensure that all communities along the corridor benefit equitably — that no community is left behind.
Through the generous support of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Stops for Us coalition is proud to share the campaign story and lessons learned in a short publication that is available online. For more information, please contact the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-528-8165.
The Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line stands out as a national model on many fronts, as well it should. But without the community standing united, it would not have raised the bar on transportation equity as much as it has.
Save the Date: Funders Collaborative Annual Stakeholder Event
May 9, 2012
8 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Wilder Foundation, St. Paul