Last week I chaired a meeting of the Dakota County Library Advisory Committee. Since joining the committee in 2019, we’ve had exactly one member of the public attend our meetings and no one has ever spoken during the public comments.
Last week an estimated 150 people attended our meeting, with more waiting outside, and 37 people spoke (including half a dozen teens) before we cut off the comment period. Local news was filming as well (though I haven’t seen a story run yet).
Running that kind of meeting is daunting.
It’s hard to explain what it meant to have a few familiar faces in the crowd.
All things considered, I think the meeting went very well. Our committee listened with politeness and respect. I’m grateful and honored to served with such an amazing group of book lovers.
A local elementary school is doing an incredible project and I hope you’ll support it with me.
What are they doing: Instead of selling candy bars, popcorn, or whatever you don’t need, they’re doing a kindness fundraiser. The kids at Moreland Arts and Health Sciences Magnet School in West St. Paul do acts of kindness and ask for your support. They’re doing all kinds of stuff, including writing notes, decorating grocery bags, making toys for a local animal shelter, a cereal box drive for a local food shelf, and much more.
Moreland kids are spreading kindness across the community.
“Small acts of kindness can mean big things for other people.”
-Moreland Principal Mark Quinn
What’s the goal: One of their goals is to raise money for a giant mural across the backside of their building. It’s the perfect fit for an arts magnet school, especially in a first-ring suburb that’s lacking public art.
I love imaging what the mural could look like:
Learn more: I wrote about this fundraiser last year and I covered it again this year. It’s just a feel-good story.
How to Donate
You can donate now to support this effort. That goes straight to the school’s main fundraising page.
You can also donate to individual kids, who create their own fundraising page to share with their family and friends. I like this approach because it directly encourages the kids who are engaged and working hard to support this effort. It’s up to families to share those links, so they’re harder to find, but this Facebook thread has a bunch.
Donate now: The fundraiser was originally scheduled to run through March 3, but one of our snowstorms messed things up a bit so they’ve extended it through March 5 to give kids a couple more days.
I’m in the midst of a member drive for my local, neighborhood news site, West St. Paul Reader. We do hyper-local news—like City Council, new restaurants in town, and local election coverage. We’re supported by members—neighbors, really (it’s a small suburb)—hence a year-end push to grow our support.
So far it’s a big success. We hit our initial goal last week—25 new or upgraded members—and then hit one of our ongoing goals—200 total members. Now we’re pushing for 225 members and then our big goal of 250 members—when we’ll add coverage of local school board meetings.
We had a pretty fun few days with the first ever Explore West St. Paul Days event. I wrote over on West St. Paul Reader about my gratitude at seeing this community come together:
“Best of all, people kept exclaiming when they recognized West St. Paul Reader. I know we have a lot of supporters, but I didn’t expect that. People kept shouting out ‘thank you’ for our coverage and telling us how much they appreciate neighborhood news. It never gets old hearing that kind of support, and getting it in the middle of a parade was an experience I’ll never forget.”
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.”
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.
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.
With 2020 nearly behind us (yay!), I’m looking back on some positive accomplishments during this pandemic year. Last time I looked at my book Better Politics, Please. This time I wanted to look at the “Community Cairn” public art project in West St. Paul.