Make Mankato Great Again

I’ve been postulating a lot on the current administration and what it means for building better cities.But do you know what? I stopped thinking about it and you should too. You can’t help everyone and you will probably never change the course of the federal government. They, in my opinion, are too far gone.

Focus your effort back home, right here, Mankato. See something? Say something. Better yet: do something. Fix a pothole (technically illegal).Yarn bomb a tree. Rake an old lady’s leaves.

410 project yarn bombing

In my time of advocacy, I’ve found that the decision-making process is almost completely arbitrary. Many people think that a bunch of data is being handed to  decision makers, and  that these decision makers have newspapers articles and studies tacked up on the wall all connected by red string.

Nope.

There is no “A Beautiful Mind” scene at every council meeting where people are trying to figure out the best decision. Trust me, I’ve been to so many meetings and I have seen the stupidest logic applied to situations.

“Let’s build a wall around the new middle school to prevent kids from walking there.” Looking at you, Councilman Frost.

The way that a lot of decisions get made at local level is city council relying on city staff. I would bet that 90% of the decisions they make have minimal input from residents.  However, if you show up or write to your councilperson, things can change and decisions can be altered.

Here’s some anecdotal evidence. When the civic center addition (gross) was being added, the architect decided that it would be better to forego making it look like the other civic center and just picked some weird precast siding that didn’t match anything in the area.


Here’s where I come in, I was scanning the planning commission packet and said, “Wow, this is stupid.”

I shot an email off to the head of the Planning Commission:


I won’t be able to make the planning commission meeting on Wednesday, but if you would please log a recommendation to make the exterior, the pre-cast concrete, match the existing civic center. I don’t know why they chose a different texture, but it would be nice to see the same pattern used on the outside of the new expansion.

It seems that architects have something to prove now by using obscure, contemporary materials. It would be nice to see them look towards what exists already.“


And voilà!  Now we have a huge waste of money BUT it’s sided with the right kind of pre-cast concrete. Success…I guess.

This is how everything works. People make decisions as best they can using the information they believe to be true.

Often times, they don’t go out and seek other inputs, they simply reinforce what they already believe or just “go with the flow,” waiting for a senior member of the committee to make a recommendation.

This is where you come in. All you have to do is show up. Maybe just once or twice, but if it’s a subject you know something about and you can halfway articulate an argument, there might be a chance it influences a decision or changes a perspective. If nothing else, you get the moral superiority of lording it over your friends when they complain about a decision the city made. (I’m super good at this.)

In this spirit, I’m going to be launching several articles about how to “Make Mankato Great Again.” This also why my Facebook profile pic changed to a very real (not fake at all) shot of our current president donning a sweet Key City hat. Little known to the public, I was the inspiration for the iconic headwear. True news.

I’m not stranger to voicing my opinion on urban development issues in the Mankato area, but this series will be focused on things I see as critical to returning Mankato back to its former glory. When I say former glory, I mean it. We are still on a path of unsustainable development and financial insecurity.

I hope this somewhat inspires you to do the same. There’s an issue you care about, show up and say something about it. Don’t get fatigued by national politics, that stuff is largely out of your control, but you can make a difference right here, right now.

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going forward.