Minimizing Terrorism by Integrating Muslims

Recently on The Daily Show, journalist Sebastian Junger and producer Nick Quested discussed their documentary Hell on Earth about the ongoing civil war in Syria. They made an intriguing comment about why ISIS terror attacks haven’t happened in the U.S. as much as they have in Europe:

“Thank God this country has been spared most of the kinds of attacks Europe has been suffering the last few years. The theory for why that is, is that the Muslim population in America has been really successfully integrated into our economy, our culture, our society. In Europe it has not. And I think the lesson for America is let’s make sure that we are as inclusive a society as possible, because that is actually what protects us from the kinds of violence, the tragedies we’ve been seeing almost every week in Europe on the news.” -Sebastian Junger, The Daily Show, June 7, 2017

Continue reading Minimizing Terrorism by Integrating Muslims

Muslims & Christians Coming Together for #LoveSomalia

The first weekend in June, more than 15,000 people came together in downtown St. Paul to pack meals for the famine in Somalia. The nonprofit Feed My Starving Children organized the mobile packing event, setting up their warehouse in the RiverCentre.

At the end of the #LoveSomalia event, nearly 5 million meals had been packed. My family attended for a shift on Sunday, doing our small part to pack a few boxes.

What’s amazing about this story is that Somali Muslims approached an unapologetically Christian organization to ask what they could do. Feed My Starving Children responded by setting up this emergency event in eight weeks.  Continue reading Muslims & Christians Coming Together for #LoveSomalia

Robert Street Tunnel on Hold for No Good Reason

Just when I was starting to blog about other things (two posts in a row!), the tunnel comes up again. This time the proposed River-to-River Greenway and Robert Street tunnel in West St. Paul received high-profile coverage in the Pioneer Press.

Unfortunately, it’s not good news:

Plans for the tunnel are on the shelf for now as officials wait for retail development to play out nearby.

As the article explains, there’s potential for development on both sides of Robert Street where the tunnel would cross. That’s not new. So far, none of those projects have come together (the last attempt by Pebb Enterprises failed because they wanted the city to pitch in $4 million to make it work).

What is new is the city saying they don’t want to hinder any potential development, so the tunnel can’t happen.

This is odd for several reasons: Continue reading Robert Street Tunnel on Hold for No Good Reason

Author Readings & American War by Omar El Akkad

This week I finished reading American War by Omar El Akkad. It’s a fascinating speculative story about a second American Civil War 50 years from now.

Two days after finishing, I turned on the radio and there was Omar El Akkad talking about his book. Even better, he was making an appearance in St. Paul the next day. Score.

A Word About Author Readings

I love seeing authors in person. It’s such a unique way to get a glimpse into who they are and how they create. It’s an opportunity that takes the book reading experience so much deeper.

And they’re almost always free.

I wish I had done a lot more of that in college when I was still learning how to be a writer. (One of my first experiences of it came in college—Wendell Berry reading Jayber Crow.)

Continue reading Author Readings & American War by Omar El Akkad

Time for Minnesota’s First Female Governor?

Today I met Tina Liebling, a Minnesota state representative who is running for governor in 2018. It feels so early to be thinking about the 2018 campaign for Minnesota governor. But if I’ve learned anything about the 2016 campaign it’s that we need to be more involved.

Everybody complained in 2016 that they didn’t like any of the candidates. Well, if you want a candidate on the ballot that you like, you need to get involved early and support the candidate you want to see. Continue reading Time for Minnesota’s First Female Governor?

Biking the River-to-River Greenway

I went for a bike ride today in the glorious June weather. I decided to check out the River-to-River Greenway trail in my own West St. Paul neighborhood.

Well, I biked the sections of nice trail, OK trail, crappy sidewalks and really bad connections that make-up what could eventually become the River-to-River Greenway trail through West St. Paul. It’s not officially designated as such just yet, mainly because West St. Paul is dragging its feet and turning its nose at about $3 million of county, state and federal money. More on that in a minute.

Here’s the path the River-to-River Greenway currently takes:

River-to-River Greenway trail in its current form

Continue reading Biking the River-to-River Greenway

The Legacy & Quiet of Muir Woods

Last week my wife and I went on vacation to San Francisco. We were there to catch a U2 concert, which was amazing. We also took in lots of other sights. But my favorite—no big surprise—was Muir Woods.

It’s an incredible place filled with 500-year old trees that tower more than 350 feet above the quiet forest floor.

Muir Woods Continue reading The Legacy & Quiet of Muir Woods

Why Won’t I Shut Up About a Trail?!

A couple weeks ago I spoke at a West St. Paul city council meeting for the third time in three months.

This is starting to get a little ridiculous, right? You might think I have aspirations to run for office, but if you’ve seen any of those appearances it should be clear that I do better behind a keyboard than a podium.

I’m speaking up a lot because I’m convinced with the current political climate we can no longer just sit back and assume everything is OK. So I’ve gone to council meetings and spoken out against firing a city manager, for accepting a grant for sidewalks (which later passed unanimously), and most recently I spoke in support of the River-to-River Greenway trail.

If you’ve been following my blog or social media lately, you may have noticed that I don’t stop talking about that trail. It’s the proposed River-to-River Greenway trail and Robert Street tunnel in West St. Paul. I’ve blogged about it, tweeted, shared on Facebook and talked about it in person. I’ve contacted my city council members, I’ve met with local leaders, I’ve attended meetings, I helped with a Rotary Club presentation. I talked at city council and wrote a letter to the editor.

So why won’t I shut up?

Because I think this trail is a great opportunity for West St. Paul.

But if we don’t support it, it won’t happen. Continue reading Why Won’t I Shut Up About a Trail?!

River-to-River Greenway Questions

I’m a big fan of the River-to-River Greenway trail, a Dakota County project that will complete a regional trail through West St. Paul with a tunnel under Robert Street.

I’ve talked about why I think it’s an awesome idea and I’ve explored some misconceptions about the project.

I’ve also been accused of spreading misinformation about the project. That’s certainly not my intent. I’ve researched the original documents from Dakota County, talked to people involved and done my best to provide clear, honest answers. I’ve pushed to have an open dialogue about this project so we can consider all arguments and make the best decision.

With that in mind, I wanted to address some of the questions I’ve heard about the project:

  1. What’s it going to cost?
  2. Why a tunnel and not a bridge?
  3. Will a tunnel be safe?
  4. How will construction impact Robert Street?
  5. What about development?
  6. Can the River-to-River Greenway cross Robert Street anywhere else?
  7. What happens when the trail crosses Wentworth Avenue?
  8. Will the trail really see 140,000 people?
  9. Why do we say WSP Greenway?

Ready? Let’s dive into the details… Continue reading River-to-River Greenway Questions

Women’s History in West St. Paul

Last fall I explored the history of women in Minnesota politics. One of the interesting angles was that West St. Paul had never had a female mayor—until now. In 2016 West St. Paul elected its first female mayor in Jenny Halverson.

It made me curious about the history of women in other roles in West St. Paul’s history, so I did a little digging.

Female Firsts in West St. Paul:

  • 1955: Police Officer, Dorothea Binder
  • 1963: City Clerk, Benedicta Southwick
  • 1967: City Council, Devona Weatherhead
  • 1996: City Manager, Dianne R. Krogh
  • 1996: Fire Fighter, Linda McMillan
  • 2005: City Attorney, Korine Land
  • 2008: Finance Director, Sandy Christensen
  • 2017: Mayor, Jenny Halverson

Continue reading Women’s History in West St. Paul

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.