Tag Archives: West St. Paul

West St. Paul Reader: Five Year Anniversary

Five years ago today I launched West St. Paul Reader with the first-ever post, a recap of a City Council meeting.

That first post really epitomizes the work we do: It’s narrowly focused on what happens in our first-ring suburb. It celebrates what’s happening in the community. It serves as an archive to mark what happened, when, and why. I just spent some time reflecting on that first post five years later.

Reflecting on Five Years

We’re doing a whole five-year anniversary member drive with an audacious goal of 50 members to mark five years by 5/25. But more than flogging a member drive and trying to bring in new members, today I’m trying to reflect on five years of this work.

Continue reading West St. Paul Reader: Five Year Anniversary

Library Advisory Committee Meeting

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.

Continue reading Library Advisory Committee Meeting

Supporting Kindness & Local Art

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.

West St. Paul Reader Member Drive

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.

Continue reading West St. Paul Reader Member Drive

Explore West St. Paul Days

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.”

What a fun few days.

Thankfully, we captured the magic through pictures, hiring a local student photographer to cover both the parade and the West St. Paul Rider community bike ride. We also managed to create a new postcard.

(Photo by Sam Amundson)

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