Hamline News

Hamline University and Professor David Schultz Select Brooklyn Park as Next Community Assemblies Sites

Hamline University and Hamline political science professor David Schultz, noted expert on elections, politics, and public policy, have announced the selection of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota as the next Minnesota city which will host a unique new effort called Community Assemblies. Community Assemblies engages residents in local government by giving them the tools and education to help develop policy recommendations for electoral reform in their own communities.

Funded by grants totaling nearly $500,000 from the Joyce Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Professor Schultz and Hamline University will convene a total of three Community Assemblies across Minnesota that will educate and empower individuals to envision the type of local government that they believe will best serve their needs. The Red Wing Community Assembly was already completed and the Willmar Community Assembly is currently underway. The Brooklyn Park Assembly will take place on November 3, 4, 17, 18, 19, and December 1-3.

"At a time when the federal government and many state governments are polarized and often unable to act, local government is one of the only places where citizens still can have a meaningful voice,” Schultz said. “At the same time, many communities are experiencing significant demographic and economic changes, which aren’t always reflected in the officials that are elected to represent them. We will work with a demographically-representative group of residents and community members to get first-hand insight into what government reforms these often underrepresented persons believe would enact real change.”

Members of Community Assemblies will participate in an intense education process, led by a variety of experts, in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of what government does and how it operates. Then the residents will deliberate among themselves to decide what reforms may be best suited for their communities.

“The design of Community Assemblies is to go beyond the 24/7 social media news cycle, which has often produced a highly partisan, polarized, and sometimes uninformed debate about government and what it does,” Schultz said. “In Brooklyn Park, assemblies will take place in a more informed and nonpartisan fashion, hopefully providing a model for a better way to engage in political debate in the United States. The hope is that the Brooklyn Park Community Assembly will educate its residents and encourage them to become more active in the city.”

The plan is also that the information from the experiences in Red Wing, Willmar, and Brooklyn Park will be useful to other communities, government officials, and foundations and organizations that are interested in producing a better government and more well-informed political debate.

Brooklyn Park residents are encouraged to apply to participate at www.mnassembly.org/bp Anyone interested in following the Community Assemblies’ progress can go to the website www.mnassembly.org, or follow on Facebook, Twitter, or email for more information at hello@mnassembly.org.