Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Originally published in the Star Tribune:
As I reflect on the tornado that hit the Twin Cities last year, my heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones. I am thankful for the courage and generosity of our first responders and neighbors in the face of a storm that ripped up trees and destroyed homes.
Natural disasters happen, but the way our communities respond determines whether we can overcome and move forward.
Last year, we averted a lasting tragedy thanks to courageous first responders, congregations, public workers and over 2,000 volunteers.
People of all communities came together and collaborated to achieve one selfless goal: to ease the hurt for hundreds whose lives had been suddenly upended.
Unfortunately, some are trying to paint north Minneapolis as a place where neighbors are left to fend for themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My Republican opponent, Chris Fields, recently penned an op-ed implying that north Minneapolis lacks leadership ("North Side needs attentive leadership," May 21). I strongly disagree.
I made north Minneapolis my home over 20 years ago. I raised my children on the North Side.
There are leaders in every inch of our community: block leaders, faith leaders, public safety leaders, business leaders and more. We do not have a crisis in leadership. The North Side is working to overcome generations of disinvestment.
North Minneapolis has historically faced isolation -- all the way back to the 1930s, when city planning maps referred to the North Side as the "negro slums." But now we are seeing more and more integration into the greater community thanks to the countless leaders that Mr. Fields apparently believes do not exist.
Despite hardship, I have seen people overcome tremendous hurdles. Every day is a new opportunity to make progress and move forward.
For example, I was proud to recently partner with community and government leaders to secure a $28 million grant for a Northside Achievement Zone. This effort will cut the achievement gap and give our kids a better future by providing the tools they need to succeed.
In addition, I've collaborated with my colleagues in Washington along with neighborhood leaders to secure $400,000 for Summit Academy's green jobs initiative and $150,000 for the Northside Economic Opportunity Network.
Mr. Fields, who moved to Minneapolis one month before last year's tornado, is using the natural disaster as a wedge to divide our communities. He claims to offer "leadership" but offers little in terms of a vision for moving forward. What specifically would he have done differently? These questions remain unanswered.
At the end of the day, smart leadership is about being part of the solution, not trying to tear others down. Smart leadership is offering a vision for how to move our communities forward.
As we look ahead to November's elections, Minnesotans face a clear choice between two fundamentally different visions for our district, our state and our country.
It's a choice between those who fight to defund women's health organizations and those who fight to extend affordable health care to 31,000 children with pre-existing conditions in the Fifth District. It's a choice between those who cut funding for emergency responders and those who protect the jobs of emergency responders. It's a choice between those who would let student loan rates double and those who ask the rich to pay their fair share in taxes.
Minnesotans have faced big challenges before, like last year's tornado. But we have always come together to help each other. We always will -- because this is a place where we believe that everybody counts and everybody matters.
Keith Ellison, a Democrat, represents Minnesota's Fifth District in the U.S. House.