Category Archives: Twin Cities

Support Local News

It’s my birthday. If you’d like to help me celebrate, consider supporting one of my projects and becoming a member of West St. Paul Reader through Patreon.

What Is West St. Paul Reader?

Back in 2019 I started reporting on local news here in West St. Paul. I attend city council meetings, I find out what’s being built on the corner, I low-key bug people, I interview candidates, I research history, I take a lot of pictures, I try to celebrate the amazing things and people in this town. I can be a very dorky tour guide.

Continue reading Support Local News

An Inspiring Quote in a Troubling Time

The news is really hard right now (as if it hasn’t been for months and years and… oh). Russia invaded Ukraine. Texas is trying to bully trans kids. People are trying to ban books and pretend racism wasn’t so bad and doesn’t exist today.

It’s just a lot.

It’s hard to focus, it’s hard to work, it’s hard to stop doom scrolling. (guilty)

When that happens, I find it best to focus on small acts of love and kindness.

So among other things, I shared this on social media today from my West St. Paul Reader accounts (nothing gives me more joy than using my platforms to be a positive voice):

“I could not look my granddaughter in the eye and tell her things needed to change but do nothing to change them.”

-KaeJae Johnson, the first Black candidate to run for municipal office in West St. Paul
Continue reading An Inspiring Quote in a Troubling Time

Robert Street Underpass on the River-to-River Greenway Trail

The River-to-River Greenway through West St. Paul is now complete with the Robert Street underpass. This post has been a long time coming. I could have written it two months ago, but I’ve been busy. Also, I wrote my first post supporting this project back in 2017. And the effort to support this crossing goes back much further, to real plans around 2010 and big ideas around 2000.

Yeah, 20 years.

Sometimes progress is slow.

Continue reading Robert Street Underpass on the River-to-River Greenway Trail

School Board Elections Matter

A school board candidate threatened me with a slander lawsuit last week. I guess that’s part of community news now? (See my update at the bottom of this post for more.)

But let’s not focus on him. (My conversation on race with the only person of color still running is a much better story to focus on.)

Big election on Tuesday—lots of school boards at stake. Hope you’re ready to vote.

I put together a voter’s guide and candidate chart for the nine candidates vying for three seats in my school district, ISD 197, plus a levy renewal (yeah, it’s a lot):

It’s an off-year election and nobody turns out for school board elections (seriously: the last contested election had a turnout of 5%!).

But have you seen the headlines? People raiding school board meetings? The unhinged comments? Books being banned across the country? It’s wild.

These elections matter.

This election is feeling a bit like 2016, when everyone assumed things would work out and we all sat back and waited. And then woke up on November 9 in shock.

So vote.

Find out what’s on the ballot in your area and vote.

Tell your neighbors, tell your friends, and vote.

(And maybe support local news too. Here’s how to support my efforts.)

Two Years of Local News

Two years ago I launched the hyper-local news site West St. Paul Reader. After a few years of getting involved in my local community, starting to write about it here, and then a good several months of writing about City Council, I decided to take it to the next level.

I remember a few months before I pulled the trigger, a friend asked if I’d consider spinning off a site focused on West St. Paul. “No way,” I scoffed.

And here I am. Not only did I launch that site, but it’s working. I was able to get it up and running thanks to the support of 68 people on Kickstarter. Today I’ve got 82 people giving monthly or annual support through Patreon.

That ongoing support really makes this endeavor possible. I spent a lot of time attending City Council meetings, writing stories, taking pictures, and more. I couldn’t do that if I weren’t getting paid. So those folks are making local news happen.

To celebrate, I commissioned a local artist to create an exclusive West St. Paul postcard. It’s available to my Patreon members.

"The Road Home" by Sarah Lew

It’s pretty incredible that I’ve been doing local news for two years and that I get to create cool stuff like that postcard.

Thanks to everyone who makes this possible.

West St. Paul’s Black Lives Matter Mural

So my city, West St. Paul, made the New York Times this past week over a Black Lives Matter mural that has to come down for violating city ordinance. Then another Black man was killed by police in Minnesota on Sunday, Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Last night we had a metro-wide curfew.

It’s been a week. In the midst of a pandemic. After a summer of already doing this. During a trial where we were already reliving last summer.

I drafted a whole post about the mural controversy. It feels kind of pointless now.

But I’ll say a couple things…

I have rather ragey feelings about Black people killed by police.

I have rather mixed feelings about the mural.

Protest sign: "Matter" is the Minimum
My son and I attended a protest supporting Black Lives Matter at the Minnesota State Capitol in June 2020.
Continue reading West St. Paul’s Black Lives Matter Mural

Vote Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council

I’ve held off on making endorsements this year in a number of local political races because of my work with West St. Paul Reader. However, I am enthusiastically endorsing Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council.

The Bullying, Lying Opponent

Given the competition, my endorsement should be no surprise. I wrote extensively about her opponent, David Meisinger, in 2018 and his bullying, intimidating behavior.

He hasn’t changed.

This year he’s making false, misleading statements, implying that he’s the sole ‘law and order,’ pro-police candidate while also suggesting we’re living in “lawless” times with “unchecked crime and disorder.” He’s wrong on both counts. No candidates in West St. Paul have attacked police or even suggested defunding police. And there is no significant spike in crime in West St. Paul.

Anyone supporting him should be asking some serious questions about the statements he makes, his lack of transparency, and his completely inappropriate behavior.

Vote for Lisa Eng-Sarne

But why waste any more time talking about him? Let’s talk about Lisa Eng-Sarne.

Eng-Sarne first ran in 2018 in a four-way primary for the Ward 3 City Council. At the time, I supported Wendy Berry. But I also wrote letters to the editor encouraging people to pick Berry or Eng-Sarne. I could only vote for one, and I ended up with Berry. But I also supported Eng-Sarne when a seat opened up on City Council and someone had to be appointed. So Eng-Sarne has represented my ward on City Council since January 2019, and I’ve been impressed with her work.

Let’s look at why.

Continue reading Vote Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council

Oh, Minneapolis

What a crap week. It’s bad enough dealing with a pandemic and all the stress and worry that entails. Then police violence and the murder of George Floyd. Then tear gas and more violence and more death and Minneapolis burning. I don’t have the words.

(Speaking of words, people like to quote Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violence, but he also spoke about riots. Some context on those comments is especially helpful.)

Since I don’t have words, two songs come to mind this week.

Let the People Be Free

The first is a protest song by Jayanthi Kyle called “Hand in Hand.” It was written in 2014 and, because of course, the lyrics are still quite relevant:

The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
But while my sister ain’t equal & my brother can’t breathe
Hand and hand with my family, we will fill these streets …

Mr. Policeman
I can’t breathe
Lay down your weapons and your badges and listen to me

Jayanthi is also in a chorus group called Give Get Sistet that’s pretty amazing. Nobody is doing performances right now, cuz pandemic, but they’d be an ideal group to bring in right now.

Oh, Minneapolis

The other song I thought of was Ben Kyle’s “Minneapolis.” The lyrics aren’t nearly as applicable, but the mournful “Oh, Minneapolis” captures about how it felt this morning to see images of the city smoldering.

O Minneapolis,
I saw you and Saint Paul kiss
Neath the moonlight in a Mississippi mist
Never saw a thing as beautiful as this
Oh Minneapolis

Rain down, purple rain (I wanna hear the sound)
I wanna feel the royal rain on me
I wanna feel the holy water running like a holy stream
I wanna be baptized in the city in the Mississippi

THanks for Supporting West St. Paul Reader

Back in May I launched West St. Paul Reader. It’s a hyper local news site focused on my town of West St. Paul. It exists thanks to the generous support of a lot of people, from my initial Kickstarter backers to my current Patreon supporters.

It’s been a wild journey, and I’m very grateful for it.

I’ve been writing about West St. Paul here on my personal blog for a while. I think it started in 2014 when we had a hotly contested mayoral election. And it grew from there. It was always a hobby, but it was taking more and more of my time. I write for a living, so that was kind of a problem. I wanted to do something more official and more sustainable. There were stories I just couldn’t tell because it was a hobby. I wanted to do something more.

But I wasn’t sure if it would work. I’ve had a lot of not-so-great ideas over the years that didn’t go anywhere. So I launched a Kickstarter campaign with some trepidation.

It only took five days to hit the initial goal. And it went up from there. That initial boost literally kickstarted West St. Paul Reader. From that initial support I was able to hire a local designer to create a logo, pay a writer to do a post on local taco joints, and hopefully pay some more writers—because it’s important to pay people for their work.

It’s also important to me that West St. Paul Reader is sustainable. I enjoy doing it, but it’s not a hobby. It’s part of my business. It takes a lot of time away from my regular freelance work—and I’ve got bills to pay.

So I’m incredibly grateful to see the ongoing support grow through Patreon. This is a way to support West St. Paul Reader through monthly payments. In return, it helps keep people informed, there are patron-only updates, and other extras.

When an email notification of a new patron comes through, I’ve pumped my first in the air or run a victory lap around my office. It’s exciting because it means this thing is working.

And that has meant some strange and wonderful things. Such as:

For a total of 83 posts.

So to everyone who has made West St. Paul Reader happen, thank you.

If you want to join the team and support West St. Paul Reader you can become a patron.

Last Day for West St. Paul Reader Kickstarter Campaign

Today is the final day of my Kickstarter campaign for West St. Paul Reader. It’s a new site to help inform people about what’s going on in West St. Paul.

The Kickstarter campaign hit the initial goal in less than five days and the site launched. Since then, we’ve been working toward stretch goals and knocking them down.

The campaign ends at midnight tonight (Central Time), so it’s your last chance to back West St. Paul Reader and help us keep people informed.

I’ve been talking about this non-stop for the past month. I’m incredibly grateful for all the support, but I’ll be happy to stop flogging it and just talk about what’s happening.

Like the West St. Paul water tower.

This comment really underscores what West St. Paul Reader is all about:

“Until today, I’ve never seen a photo of the inside of a water tower! Thanks, West St. Paul Reader!”

Matt Pennig

So do me a favor and back the project. Thanks.