Neighborhood NewsPublic Interest

Letter to the Editor: Standing on Chairs and Shouting: Not a Good Strategy

By Paul Hardt

I was at the Palace Community Center during the Riverview Corridor open house in May, and I saw Diane Gerth stand on the chair and shout at people. 

While that might have been emotionally satisfying for her and others, hijacking a public meeting by shouting at people is not going to change any political leaders’ minds. 

I’m a former City Council member in New Brighton and have served on several government and government-adjacent boards. Local government officials encounter NIMBY thinking (“Not in my back yard”) all the time. 

For those elective officials, projects such as the Riverview Corridor are only some of the priorities they must contend with. There is constant pressure to keep taxes low, build more affordable housing, help people get to and from their destinations for work and leisure, help keep the community healthy and so on. In the case of the Riverview Corridor, the members of the over a dozen government agencies of the Policy Advisory Committee need to plan for how thousands of Twin Citians will safely get from point A to point B, and reduce pollution, among many other priorities. 

Diane served on the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Corridor, as do I now. I understand that dealing with government officials who seem unsympathetic to local concerns can be frustrating. At the same time, my question is what did members of the CAC do, during the months when the CAC did not meet?

First, they could have clarified who it was they were trying to persuade. The key audience here is not the professional staff. They take their direction from the political leaders. So, getting all bent out of shape about the staff not listening is a waste of energy. The focus needs to be on the elected officials. 

A strategy for dealing with the officials needed to be adopted. What’s the goal? How can the needs of the audience (the political officials) be addressed, as well as the needs of the community?

A sustained effort to lobby the officials was needed. And this can still be done. Members of the CAC need to meet individually with the elected officials on a regular and sustained basis, so the officials know the people they are meeting with are committed and are in for the long haul. 

If worse comes to worse, people need to consider electing new officials… people who will be more agreeable to the community’s desires. This was one of the first things I told one member of the CAC, when I first heard about opposition to the Corridor: “If you don’t like what they’re doing, run a candidate who opposes what’s going on.” 

Listening on both sides is essential. The elected officials must truly listen to the concerns of the community. At the same time, community members must listen to the broader concerns of people all over the Metro area who want to reduce auto traffic, increase transit use, get to their destinations efficiently and do all this while being prudent with tax money. 

While I disagree with almost all the positions of the CART group, I will say they have set a good example of sustained, fact-based advocacy. 

So, standing on chairs is not the way to succeed. Doing the homework of community activism is the way to succeed. 

Paul Hardt is a member of the Riverview Corridor Community Advisory Committee and a former member of the Fort Road Federation Board.

One thought on “Letter to the Editor: Standing on Chairs and Shouting: Not a Good Strategy

  • Cher La Freniere

    I am pushing back on Paul Hardt’s comments about our dear neighbor Diane Gerth.
    Perhaps Mr Hardt is unaware of the work, the contributions, she has been involved with over many intervening years in the West 7th area.
    To call Diane a NIMBY is really over the top.
    Some of Diane’s service to our community include the following; She has been the board chair for the West 7th Community Center and helped guide its merger with Keystone to assure its survival. She was president of the Fort Road Federation during the Gopher State ethanol environmental debacle where members of our community were also derided for wanting to breathe air that didn’t smell like dead burning dog hair even with the windows closed. Over 700 households said no to the ethanol plant with darn good reason. She’s been given a West 7th service award. She been on the honor roll for her work with the Sober House Task Force. She joined and worked on St Paul’s Capitol Improvement Budget Committee for ten years. She was on the committee to look at the possible re-use of the Ford Spur as she was a railroad lawyer (25 years) with a great deal experience in this niche as she represented the biggest railroads in the US and Canada. She represented and worked with the Concerned River Valley Citizens to stop an above ground high voltage transmission line from crossing the federally protected St Croix River. I personally am grateful for that last one as I spend summer days there.
    I’m glad and actually really proud that Diane is my neighbor and friend.
    Stand on a chair and shout, hell yes.
    What has Mr Hardt done? A two year stint on the New Brighton city council. He lost a legislative election in 2006 and now he has cast aspersions on someone for literally standing up, on a dang chair. Puhleeze.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *