The August meeting of the Boys Totem Town Work Group had very limited attendance because of family and work obligations of many members. At this meeting, staff informed the group that, once again, the County has lengthened its timeline for its decisions about programming and the site. At this point, the County is no longer even guessing about a date by which they will make their decisions, but it could be more than a year from now.
As things progress, the District Council will reconvene both work group and community meetings on a regular basis so that everyone knows what is going on. Right now the only thing happening is that the County is trying to figure out what its juvenile justice programming will look like. Updates of the project will still be posted here as new information comes to us, and as we need to address misinformation that may be floating around the neighborhood.
The August meeting included a brainstorming session for how the Work Group’s community outreach will proceed given all this uncertainty. Work Group members were asked – Whose voices are still missing from our discussions? What obstacles are keeping them from participating? and How can we, as a work group and as individuals, reach out to them?
We identified the voices of renters, especially among people of color – both in single family homes and the apartments, immigrants, local business owners, young people, and families with children as those missing from the discussions to this point. We have heard other voices, recorded what was said and that information is not lost. But we need to hear from the entire community.
Obstacles to reaching these missing voices include not understanding the project and the process, being intimidated or turned off by the length of time involved and the process, the lack of specificity and the shifting timeline for decisions, lack of a local place to hold community meetings, lack of a sense of community generally, lack of trust in government, no sense of this area being a specific place/neighborhood, not being encouraged to think creatively and fear of being critiqued, and both miscommunication and lack of communication about the process and project.
We decided that we need to start by building trust between the “missing voices” and our organization, build a sense of community among those same voices, then build connections across this community to the community of homeowners. This will all be done in a variety of facilitated discussions within small groups of people – in different settings and different opportunities that come up. We will use the data gathered from surveying residents at the Peace Celebration (see summary below) to define topics around which the small groups will meet. Once the trust and sense of commonality is created we should be ready to re-engage around the BTT process itself. By then the County should be ready to decide what they will do with the site.
The other part of the meeting was a debriefing of the Peace Celebration held on July 22 and a discussion of the survey results.
Forty people were surveyed. We estimate this was between 15 and 20% of the attendees. Unfortunately demographic data of those participating were not collected so we cannot be sure that the results reflect those “missing voices” we were trying to hear from. 32 of the 40 people surveyed lived in District 1 and 32 of 40 had heard of Boys Totem Town. HOWEVER, there was not a one-to-one correlation between living in District 1 and having heard of BTT. Those not from District 1 lived mostly in Daytons Bluff, but there were also some from other neighborhoods. All responses are included in this summary, regardless of where people lived. Most people provided more than one answer to each question. We grouped similar answers and identified themes. (The complete data set can be found in a file on this page – peacesurvey.pdf)
Question 1 – What would you like to see at BTT? Twenty people responded that they would like to see programmed space at the site (places to gather to participate in programming – for example, a place for gatherings, nature center, teen center, swimming pool, etc). Fifteen people mentioned unprogrammed open space (trails, greenspace, dog park, etc.). Twelve people mentioned food related spaces (urban agriculture, community garden, food shelf – particularly mentioning a focus on providing for people in need). Eleven people mentioned job or specific commercial endeavors (workforce center, jobs for youth, board game café, etc.). Nine people mentioned housing (affordable housing – both apartments and single-family homes, senior housing, etc.). Three people specifically mentioned mixed use development (including both commercial, housing and open space). There were three miscellaneous comments – “not a prison”, “safety is important”, and “need more info and to learn more”.
Question 2 – What would you like to be able to walk to in the neighborhood? Thirteen people mentioned shopping amenities/opportunities (including ice cream shop, coffee shop, grocery, restaurant, brewery etc.). Thirteen people mentioned park facilities (both programmed and unprogrammed…) (trails, rec center, dog park, swimming pool, open space). Two mentioned types of gathering spaces (library, common meeting space). There were four mentions of miscellaneous amenities especially around transportation issues/access, but this category also included “my neighbors”. Eight people did not answer and one said the question didn’t apply in this area because of “Nature”.
Question 3 – What is needed in the community? Eleven people mentioned programmed recreational space (better teen programs, rec center, gym, swimming pool, trails, park etc.). Ten people said leave it as it is/no change or gave no answer. Eight people mentioned safety (need for more police, slower speeds, etc.). Six people mentioned community gathering space/sense of community (place to mingle, have events and learn to be safe). Four people mentioned improved transportation options (multimodes). Three people mentioned address poverty (affordable housing, food shelf etc.). Two people mentioned commercial amenities (coffee shop and “more businesses like in Hamline Midway”[?]. Miscellaneous comments included increased outreach from government and others, and “get rid of Tom Emmer”.
As mentioned above, there are some recurring themes in this survey that can be addressed regardless of what happens with the Boys Totem Town site – safety, for example. In addition, it is clear that people are unaware of what amenities are available within walking distance of the site – e.g., Battle Creek dog park, Battle Creek Water Park (although it can be expensive), existing coffee shops, playgrounds at both Highwood Hills and Taylor Park. So opportunities exist for the district council to work toward existing community goals, and we will do so…
SouthEast Community Org Staff