From going to work to getting groceries, from doctor’s appointments to religious worship, our ability to move through our communities determines our quality of life and access to opportunities. Whether Black or brown, immigrant or Indigenous, elder or student, having safe, affordable and fast transportation choices are the avenues to our freedom, dignity and connection to community.
For too long, residents of north Minneapolis and the northwest suburbs have been overlooked and undermined when it comes to transportation projects. We’ve had major arterials, like Olson Memorial Highway, tear through and destroy a thriving Black business district, leaving an unsafe scar that divides our community to this day. We’ve had promises of light rail bringing housing development that is out of reach for our residents, pushing our neighbors out and then rerouting and leaving those of us who remained without any benefit.
So low-income, immigrant and communities of color along the Blue Line Extension Corridor have good reason to be wary of this billion-dollar investment. But we also reject the false binary that’s gained traction with the help of public cynicism, conservative think tanks and unexamined racism.
This cannot be a simple either/or conversation that pits transportation options against housing stability and small business. We must stay committed and accountable to the more challenging both/and discussion that pairs high-quality transit and anti-displacement measures in ways that could make the Twin Cities a model for the nation.
The bottom line is that our communities deserve the best. We deserve public and private investment — on our own terms. We deserve the time and intentionality to get this transit project right — so the people who call the corridor home have the ability to stay and thrive.
And we’re making progress.
For more than a decade, the Blue Line Coalition has been working to build community-based power that ensures BIPOC, immigrant and low-wealth communities along the Blue Line Extension Corridor are able to stay in their homes and businesses, create wealth and economic development, and enhance their wellbeing and access to opportunity throughout the region. Thanks to the BLC’s sustained advocacy, Hennepin County invested in a first-of-its-kind Anti-Displacement Working Group that convened for 18 months and, this summer, put forward clear community priorities and policy recommendations.
Now it’s time for accountability and action from leaders at the local, state and federal level to implement these recommendations and break out of the binary that has harmed our communities for generations.
In June, leaders from jurisdictions along the corridor voted to adopt the Anti Displacement Working Group report and recommendations, making verbal commitments to present the anti-displacement policies in their respective cities. Hennepin County also officially adopted the report, moving its Anti-Displacement Initiative under the Department of Disparity Reductions, and allocated $500,000 for equitable development across the corridor. Just this month, we saw leaders adapt the project based on community feedback from North Side residents and present an Anti-Displacement Timeline.
These are the first steps toward a new approach that redirects resources, repairs harm, and builds accountable relationships between government and community. But identifying solutions must be followed by implementation — in a way that matches the timeline of the project. Our communities need anti-displacement protections and resources before, during and after construction, which makes action on many of these policies all the more urgent for those of us whose lives are on the line.
Strong policies are the foundation, and anti-displacement is also a lasting mindset that continues to confront and disrupt entrenched historical patterns and racial inequities. It replaces the deep-seated narrative that public investment is charity with the mandate that communities that have been harmed are overdue for repayment on generations of economic oppression and exclusion. It rejects the hands-off approach that allows our community assets to be sold to the highest bidder and embraces reasonable regulations that protect our people’s homes and businesses so they can put down roots and generate lasting wealth from their land and labor.
Anti-displacement is an ongoing relationship that begins to rebuild trust and accountability between community and government officials.
That’s why now is such a critical moment. From the State Capitol to the city councils along the corridor, we must see immediate and significant movement toward an anti-displacement agenda that puts the policies and resources in place to ensure low-wealth, immigrants and communities of color benefit from the Blue Line Extension project.
Denise Butler is associate director at ACER, Karla Arredondo is executive director at Pueblos de Lucha y Esperanza, and Candy Bakion is the Minneapolis chapter organizer at MICAH. The piece was also signed by Tambryanna Williams (CAPI USA), Jose Zayas Caban (Our Streets Minneapolis), Nichole Buehler (Harrison Neighborhood Association), Ricardo Perez (The Alliance), Anndrea Young (Heritage Park Neighborhood Association), Sunny Chanthanouvong (Lao Assistance Center), Daylon Prochaska (MN350) and Krista Lucas (Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Local 59).