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Opinion

The Joys of Minneapolis: Why I’m Staying After All These Years

Beautiful city, progressive values. Above all, I just like it here.

Em Cassel|

The sun sets over a group of cyclists on the Sabo Bridge.

As I write this, I'm sitting in the sunny front room of my south Minneapolis home, with a crabby tuxedo cat curled up on my lap. I closed on this house on Friday, September 13, 2019, and despite that ominous first day, I've made countless wonderful memories in this home with friends and loved ones in the nearly five years that I've lived here.

I live near Powderhorn Park, and observing and participating in the vibrant life in my section of the city is amazing. Biking, running, walking my dog, hosting movie nights and dinner parties and bonfires. I know my neighbors; I'm a short bike ride away from many of my friends; I can walk to some of my favorite bars and restaurants, and often do. I sometimes joke that life here can feel like an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

I was born and raised on the East Coast and never thought I'd be able to buy a home. I certainly never planned to end up in a Midwestern city I'd never visited before I turned 26. But since I moved to Minneapolis I've fallen in love with this place, with its artful weirdos and beautiful families, its cat tours and locally famous dogs

I have received much from the city, and I like to think that I have also given much—documenting its highs and lows, it charms and quirks and challenges, first as an editor at City Pages, and now as an editor/owner with Racket. I don't know that any of us can say with certainty that "I have been a positive, contributing citizen of Minneapolis my whole life," but I have tried to be a force for good wherever possible, a friend to those who need it and a reliable member of my community.

Why am I staying? Frankly, I feel incredibly lucky to live in such a progressive city, where I believe that most of our leaders are doing their best to govern with equity at front of mind. No city is perfect, and certainly Minneapolis has had its struggles over the last several years. I had my old pickup truck stolen from my alley parking spot a few years ago (don't worry, it was recovered, and it's still road-worthy today). That's life in a big city; you take the good with the bad, and you keep moving forward.

Why would I abandon a place that has given me so much—the place where I became the person I am, where I made the most meaningful relationships of my adult life? More pointedly, why would I write a sneering piece for the local daily newspaper about leaving town, as those who are staying attempt to rebuild and learn and grow together after a number of unprecedentedly tough years?

According to Minneapolis.gov, in the Nov. 7, 2023, municipal election, 31.7% of registered voters cast ballots. It's tragic about the apathy and low voter turnout, a trend that mirrors election turnout nationally, especially in midterm years. My concern, of course, is that low voter turnout gives us an electorate that's less representative of community demographics; we know affluent voters have between 30-50% higher turnout in local elections than voters who are low income. Why, what other concern would I have? As of January, we have 565 active police officers, down from nearly 900 in 2019, and yet crime is decreasing in nearly every category. MPD was never defunded, despite what comment-section reactionaries might shriek.

How many thousands of residents, workers, and visitors stay here in the city that they love, year after year, and don't make a big fuss about it—especially not in a letter to the editor—because they live a life of quiet joy here, even if things aren't perfect? I'm staying because though I've lived in several cities, I've been happier in Minneapolis than I have anywhere else.

Em Cassel is fucking tired.

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