Boys Totem Town Updates
The Ramsey County Board met recently to discuss how it plans to set programming for its juvenile justice system. After many discussions last fall and spring with community members, and with juvenile justice professionals, they concluded that the best option for our youth is to have them housed in small, family-like settings in various neighborhoods throughout Ramsey County rather than in a single large facility. They will still need a facility for "out-patient" work and schooling and to house staff, and right now it looks like that larger facility will be in Roseville - easily accessible by public transit and more centrally located than Boys Totem Town. The girls in the system, who have all previously been sent to Greater Minnesota or out-state, will likely be housed with Hennepin County, since that County already has a program for girls. Hennepin and Ramsey County remain committed to sharing programming knowledge and resources - just NOT a single facility.
The final decision about what will happen with the placement of youth offenders won't happen until June 2018, or perhaps a bit later. But in all likelihood, only a small portion of the Boys Totem Town site will be retained by the Ramsey County for its juvenile justice program. THIS IS NOT YET A FINAL DECISION, but it is looking more and more likely.
HOWEVER, because development of the smaller facilities and their placement throughout Ramsey County will take some time, Boys Totem Town would not be vacated for AT LEAST another 2 years. The City of Saint Paul is being encouraged (by Ramsey County) NOT to begin its process until closure of Boys Totem Town is imminent, probably in 2019.
A lot can happen between now and June 2018, let alone, between now and 2020... No one wants to spend time and money planning for an uncertainty. At this point, District 1 remains committed to its community-building efforts in the Boys Totem Town vicinity, beginning with a meeting in January 2018 with Commissioner Jim McDonough to provide the latest news and to answer questions. We are having some difficulty settling on a date and place for this meeting, but it should be in the week of January 22. The Boys Totem Town Work Group will not meet again until sometime after the January meeting.
Stay tuned for more news.
May and June Summary
Our apologies for not getting last month's notes out earlier. We have been extremely busy in the office with the City-wide Drop Off Day, completing our Equity Plan, getting community gardens off to their seasons, and a remodel of our office... As well as our regular day-to-day work with residents...
In May, the Work Group met to try out a new method for gathering input from the community - an individual and group mapping exercise. The method did not show promise for large group work, so staff has been reformulating other approaches to gather as much input from as many neighbors as possible. We hope to use a modified version of this mapping exercise in small groups in the future. We will roll out our new large group approach at the July 22 Peace Celebration at Battle Creek Rec (3-7p), a family-oriented celebration of cultures that is being organized by a local Somali resident.
In June, we heard from Jim Erchul of the Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services to learn about how potential developers would look at a site like Totem Town and assess whether they would invest and, if so, how they might envision development. This led to a very informative discussion about the limitations and potentials of the site - what is attractive and what is problematic, from the developer's point of view. We learned about developers' dislike of uncertainty in the outcome of their efforts - uncertainty arising from regulatory constraints, lack of preparedness and agreement on the part of neighbors, and costs of basic infrastructure. We also learned - or were confirmed in our sense - that it is extremely important that we, as a neighborhood and as a City, have a master plan for the site. We invited Jim because DBNHS is not a developer that would take on a site like this one, but one that has experience in innovative approaches to neighborhood development and with dealing with governmental partners on a regular basis. He provided deep insight into how the City and County approach projects.
We want to publicly thank Jim and DBNHS for their willingness to help in our education around these issues. As Work Group members share what they learned with their neighbors, we become better prepared for the future that we will be building together.
We still await a decision by Ramsey County for how they envision their juvenile justice facilities meeting their juvenile justice program needs. In the meantime, we continue to gather ideas for what the neighborhood and the district considers the best use for this site.
We hope to see neighbors on July 22 at Battle Creek Rec, and still plan a large community meeting about the site in the fall, with updates from the County and (we hope) more details from the City about their processes. Stay tuned...
March Work Group Notes
For the March meeting of the Boys Totem Town Work Group, we spent about a third of the meeting with updates about the neighborhood and outlining what we know and what we do NOT know about the site... the rest of the meeting was spent planning for the upcoming Community Workshop on Saturday, March 25 from 12:30p to 2:30p. The workshop will be held at Boys Totem Town in Koehler Hall (follow the signs to the hall...) and will include an opportunity to tour a portion of the grounds and the buildings. Staff has been working with Totem Town staff to make this event a fun and informative one.
The most recent news from the County is that they have not made - and are not ready to make - a decision about the direction they take with regard to how they will configure programming, and, from that, how they will need to site new facilities. However, they reiterate that their decision about Boys Totem Town will be based on what is best for the youth they are responsible for in the juvenile justice system. They also reiterate that they have heard from juvenile justice advocates that smaller facilities embedded in the communities from which the youth come are the ideal.
In terms of what happens to the Boys Totem Town site itself - the future potential use of the land (which is determined by the City, not the County) - this focus by the County means that if they retain the current site, they will be unlikely to need the full parcel.
So we proceed with our visioning and community building, thinking about what is best for all the people who live in this area. Any changes at the site including any construction would not even start for several more years. There is a lot of time and a lot of community building still to be done.
We hope to see people at the workshop on the 25th. There will be pizza and there will also be activities for children, if families attend.
SouthEast Community Org Staff