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Move Minnesota Executive Director, Sam Rockwell, Reflects on His First Year

I joined Move Minnesota just over a year ago. This personal anniversary marks a good time for reflection—about why I am here, what Move Minnesota and our supporters are working to accomplish, and about our successes, our challenges, and where we go from here.

First, a big acknowledgment: 2020 was a wild year. Move Minnesota’s staff and board navigated the hurricanes of COVID-19, George Floyd’s murder, and a Trump-fueled assault on democracy with clarity of purpose, focus, and by staying true to our organization’s values. I am grateful to have been part of such a wonderful community.

Move Minnesota’s values—a commitment to the common good, to racial justice, to climate protection—preceded my time at Move Minnesota. These values are baked into how our staff conduct their daily work and into how we make organizational decisions. And those values don’t just guide how Move Minnesota does its work; they are the rational for why we do our work and what our work is. For the Move Minnesota team knows that we cannot achieve racial justice, cannot adequately protect our climate, cannot raise up the common good without investments in the common good.

Over the last year we deepened our focus on transit in recognition that transit is a common good. Too few people recognize the potential in our transit networks: namely that if we significantly improve transit it can be a service that serves everyone, and everyone equitably. Good transit can do more than just provide access—it can be the catalyst for education, employment, civic, and social opportunities; it can relieve incredible cost and stress burdens on our communities; it can facilitate community strength without imperiling our future.

We made important progress over the last twelve months. I was, and am, so proud to be a part of Move Minnesota’s leadership in securing needed funds to build the new B and D Bus Rapid Transit lines. These routes will improve the lives of thousands of daily riders and grow interest in, and use of, transit.  We also launched our new Boost the Bus initiative to engage folks around improving our bus system today—and not just waiting until big long-term capital projects produce improvements. We hosted community conversations to understand a broad spectrum of perspectives on how use of our streets should evolve. And we organized around decriminalizing fare enforcement, building a more just I-94, providing better transportation options for workers and residents, and setting state goals around the climate impacts of transportation.

Many of these achievements are individual projects, which will provide incredible benefits for some. But are still far from transforming our transit networks into something great, just, and sustainable. And we desperately need that big change—to prevent climate breakdown, to shrink disparities, and to allow our regions to healthily grow and evolve.

In short, Minnesota needs leadership on transit—to develop a specific vision for transit’s future and to advocate and organize to realize that vision. Ideally that leadership would come from the governor, to whom state transit and transportation agencies report. But this governor has left us without a vision and without funds to do anything other than gradually reduce transit service in the coming years. This administration does not appear to have provided directives for Metro Transit or the Minnesota Department of Transportation to take necessary measures to address climate pollution or inequality in Minnesota’s transportation planning or investments.

That leaves Move Minnesota—including you, our supporters and partners—to set the vision and fill the leadership void. Move Minnesota has already taken definitive action to articulate what great, just, and sustainable transportation looks like in our state. We have shown a clear, defensible, and attainable path to achieve this vision. And with your help, we will continue to make sure our elected and civic leaders know that Minnesotans are no longer content to bicker over crumbs—that instead we demand our leaders step up to deliver justice for current and future generations.

Please continue to partner with us on this important effort—by calling elected leaders and articulating just how much our communities and our future depends on transit, by supporting Move Minnesota so we can grow our collective power, and by volunteering your time with us to help set our organization’s direction and vision. Move Minnesota has shown that true transformation of transportation in Minnesota is possible. Let’s work together to get it done.