Potluck Blog


Timeline of our history

As Envision Minnesota prepares to merge with the Great Plains Institute, we decided to comb through our archives and feature the highlights of our work in a timeline. We've posted the timeline to our website here.

Check it out and enjoy the tromp through the years -- the vision of founder Lee Ronning, the inspiration of Henry Richmond and 1000 Friends of Oregon, the passage of the Community Based Planning Act, the award-winning Voices for the Land, Community Growth Options, Legacy Letters, the Governor's Playbook, and much more.


Where can cities turn for help becoming sustainable?

Last year Envision Minnesota was excited to announce its new community assistance program from US EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program to Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy) and the Building Sustainable Communities Consortium, which made technical assistance available to six Minnesota communities at no cost to the communities.

Through this grant we worked in 2012 with the cities of Austin, Blue Earth, LaCrescent, Lexington, Pine River, and Prior Lake on projects ranging from Complete Streets implementation to conservation development design to Main Street revitalization.

Though this was established as a five-year program, the assistance is on hold as funds for the project are held up in federal sequestration. The program will be resumed once the project funding is released from sequestration, which is likely to occur this fall.

In the meantime, what’s a city to do?

Fortunately, during this time when Envision Minnesota’s community assistance program is inactive, we can point cities to a great resource: Minnesota GreenStep Cities. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program designed to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. This free continuous improvement program, managed by a public-private partnership, is based upon 28 best practices focusing on cost savings and energy use reduction, and encourage civic innovation.

The GreenStep Cities partnership is led by the Great Plains Institute (GPI) G P I is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that takes a pragmatic approach to energy and climate change challenges—working with diverse interests to transform the way we produce, distribute, and consume energy to be both environmentally and economically sustainable.

Envision Minnesota encourages cities seeking assistance in pursuing sustainability goals to join the 54 other Minnesota cities that have already made the commitment to become GreenStep Cities.


Help shape Thrive MSP 2040 by joining a Roundtable Meeting

Thrive MSP 2040 is the Twin Cities region’s long-range planning effort. This plan will provide a regional vision for the 7-county metropolitan area for the next 30 years. 

In 2012, more than 1,100 people attended Thrive MSP meetings to share their visions and ideas about how our region should develop over the next 30 years. The Metropolitan Council is working those ideas into the long-range vision for the Twin Cities region, called Thrive MSP 2040.

The Council is now seeking additional input from community leaders, elected officials, and the general public on four key areas:

  • Regionally Significant Economic Places
  • Water Supply
  • Land Use and Transit
  • Affordable Housing

Envision Minnesota presented a policy brief to the Metropolitan Council during the fall 2012 round of Listening Sessions. You can access Envision Minnesota's goals for the Thrive MSP 2040 plan here.

Envision Minnesota also worked with the members of the Coalition for a Sustainable Region to develop further input towards the Thrive MSP 2040 planning process. The Coalition members urged the Metropolitan Council to craft a bold vision that will enhance the Twin Cities region’s economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and equitable outcomes. You can read the Coalition's brief here.

Join Metropolitan Council representatives for a roundtable discussion to examine these issues. Attendees at each meeting will have the opportunity to discuss two of the four issue areas in small groups. Join in to discuss whichever issues you're passionate about. Bring your unique perspective to the table. 

Upcoming Roundtable Meetings

April 30, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Networking at 6 p.m.
Eagan Community Center
1501 Central Parkway

St. Paul
May 4, 10 a.m. to noon

Networking at 9:30 a.m.
Washington Technology Magnet School, Cafeteria
1495 Rice Street

May 9, 6 to 8 p.m.

Networking at 5:30 p.m.
Shoreview Community Center, Community Room
4580 Victoria Street North

May 16, 6 to 8 p.m.

Networking at 5:30 p.m.
Glover-Sudduth Center
2100 Plymouth Ave. N.

The Metropolitan Council requests that you please RSVP if you plan to attend. If you can't attend one of the meetings, be sure to join the online discussion at the Your Ideas website.


The choice this session: more bus service, light rail, and safe bicycling and walking!

Act now to make it happen!

For those interested in seeing Minnesota invest more in transit and bike/walk connections, things are moving quickly at the Capitol. We successfully launched our transit vision bill but now pressure is needed to bring that vision to law through a comprehensive transportation bill that funds transit, roads and bridges, and safe, accessible connections by bicycling and walking.

Despite the momentum we’ve created, there is still great uncertainty as to whether the legislature will pass a strong transportation bill this session. It is critical that legislators hear from their constituents that they can’t punt on transit, can’t bend the knee and wait for next session to ensure safe, accessible bicycling and walking. We need to score this session on transit, bicycling, walking, and crucial road and bridge projects statewide. Working families, students, and seniors can’t afford to wait!

What’s at stake?

There are big risks to NOT passing a strong transportation bill. Without it,

  • there won’t be funds to expand the existing bus system; in fact, there will be fights ahead just to maintain the level of bus service we currently have.
  • Funding for Southwest LRT and other planned light rail or bus rapid transit lines, such as Bottineau and Gateway will be jeopardized.
  • Plans for high amenity rapid bus service and streetcars will remain just that—lines on maps without any funding to build them.
  • And there won’t be any funds to create safe new connections to transit by walking or bicycling.
  • Road and bridge projects will be delayed.

A good transit system is a key component of making a stronger economy for everyone. Let’s build it in 15 years, not “whenever.” Transit creates jobs, helps people get to jobs affordably, and reduces traffic. More transit, bicycling and walking is healthier, too, for us and the environment. Comparable regions—Dallas, Denver, and Salt Lake City—have already invested in many more miles of transit than the Twin Cities. A stronger region makes for a higher quality of life for those who live here—and that’s us!

How you can help

So what can you do? Here are three ways to demonstrate your support for expanded transportation options:

  1. Join us for a Transportation Rally at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17 at 10:00 a.m. We hope you and those in your network will come out and show your support for improved transportation choices that day.  RSVP here if you can come!
  2. Contact your legislator to express why you value transit and support the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill. Click here for more information: http://www.transit4mn.org/p/get-involved.html.
  3. And finally, talk to your friends and tell them why this matters. Spread the word through your social media networks about the actions you’re taking! You can inspire others. Thanks for your support.

Together we need to make sure everyone knows transportation is a top-tier issue. Transportation is the second largest household expense (after housing) and takes a larger share in low income households. Isn’t it time for attention to such a big budget item? Yes!


Northfield garners national recognition for policy to create streets that work for everyone

Nearly 130 communities across the United States adopted Complete Streets policies in 2012, and Northfield, MN’s was one of the best.

That’s according to the National Complete Streets Coalition, a Washington-based organization dedicated to Complete Streets advocacy. On Monday the Coalition released its list of Top 10 policies of 2012, and number 5 on the list was the City of Northfield’s Complete Streets Policy.

“Northfield’s policy should be a national standard,” said Stefanie Seskin, Deputy Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “It takes a strong stand for everyone who uses our streets, including people young and old, walking, driving, or bicycling, riding a bus or out shopping.”

“This award is partly about recognizing Northfield’s leadership on this issue. It’s also about showing other cities what a great Complete Streets policy looks like. Northfield has done that extremely well.”

“Community collaboration over 2011 and 2012 created Northfield’s policy,” said Betsey Buckheit, former City Council member. "Then college seniors Ben Hellerstein (Carleton College) and Sean Hayford O’Leary (St. Olaf College) were instrumental in organizing a college-community group which solicited letters of support from local groups including the school district, bike trail supporters, and others to ask the City to develop a policy. The Council appointed a task force of Council members, city staff, and members of the City’s Planning and Environmental Quality Commission to draft the policy which was adopted unanimously by the Council on July 17, 2012."

Complete Streets policies help make sure everyone—regardless of age, ability, income, or ethnicity, and no matter how they travel—can get around safely and conveniently. In many cities that means changing how roads and sidewalks are designed and built, to be “complete” streets.

See the full list of this year’s Complete Streets policies and learn more about what makes a great Complete Streets policy at www.smartgrowthamerica.org/complete-streets-2012-analysis.