Stephen Cooper

I’ve had the pleasure of living in Brooklyn Center for over 25 years and been pleased with its multiple parks, access to the river, friendly diverse community and convenient location. I have been concerned however, with how its welfare is often an afterthought in how state and county governments address its legitimate concerns. A little about who I am. When I was just a child, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people at Martin Luther Kings’ I have a dream’s speech” in Washington DC. I was the Minnesota Commissioner of Human Rights for 4 years. I was the Director of and trial attorney for the Neighborhood Justice Center, a private nonprofit criminal defense organization focused on representing minorities, assuring they were treated fairly in the court system. Neighborhood Justice Center also did extensive outreach in the Black, Hmong, Hispanic and other communities to assure a good understanding of how the court system works and what the laws require. I also was the lead trial attorney in many of the sanctuary cases in Texas and Arizona regarding churches helping refugees from Central America who were facing death squads. I started my own law from which focuses on helping ordinary people dealing with unfairness from employers, government, and others. On a more frivolous note, I canoed the Mississippi River from tributaries in Central Ohio to New Orleans, and bicycled across much of Europe when I was quite a bit younger.

My concerns about the changes to 252 are centered on making sure a safer, more beneficial, road for all of us in Brooklyn Center is created and that we do not lock in a dangerous road for decades to come. Up to now, Brooklyn Center needs have been largely ignored and safety has been de-prioritized so that millions of more cars per year can come down 252, that currently use I 35, 169 or other north-south routes. I have been focused on understanding the strengths and weaknesses of plans for 252 since 2013. Surprisingly, previous plans were proposed and voted on without an environmental impact statement nor disclosing the plans’ failure to follow basic state and federal safety rules. It was only because of community involvement that these fatal weaknesses were revealed. We need a safer, community friendly and less polluting highway 252, not one that locks in the bad planning and execution of the existing road with intersections/interchanges too close together to be safe. To assist at assuring a better 252, the task force has put in thousands of hours learning what the safety rules are and what the risks are for not following them. We have met with virtually every major player involved in the reconstruction, and we have maintained transparency with the community including doing a survey of community attitudes and beliefs about 252 as well as having open meetings and frequent reports to members of the community. A thoughtfully designed 252 can be a great asset to Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park. A poorly designed one would waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, harm the community and lock in those conditions for the next generation.

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