It’s time to stop the vandalism, and take back our community

By Jeff Andres
ECM, Regional General Manager

I’m a cheesehead born and raised on the eastern side of Wisconsin. Back in February of 1989 I was told that I needed to move to Minnesota for a job. The plan was that I would work here a few years and then get transferred back to Wisconsin. Well, its 2011 and I’m still here.

Twenty years ago, my wife Christine and I were looking to purchase a home. Since we worked in different cities we had a large geographical area to look for a house. We narrowed our choice to Cambridge because it was a great town. The people were friendly, the town was growing, there were beautiful parks with trails, it had great schools, and we were close to the Cities and St. Cloud if we wanted to venture out. We soon discovered a subdivision of Cambridge called Goldenwood that we loved because of all the mature red oak trees. We purchased a home and settled in for the long term to raise our family.

Over the years there have been many changes to our beloved Cambridge, some good and some not so good. Overall though, I have always been proud to say I live in Cambridge. This past couple of months though have been a roller coaster for me and my feelings about the city-more so the people who live here.

Over the last few years, there has been a person or group of people who find it necessary to grab a can of black spray paint and get creative. They have been creative on doors, garages, buildings, telephone boxes, sidewalks, benches, trees, and on and on. It is a frustrating feeling driving around town to see just all the places they have been creative. And that frustration grows when you get a letter from the city saying you have three weeks to remove their creativeness from your property. So you take time from your busy schedule to run out to buy a can of paint and a brush to paint over their creativeness.

Very early in the morning one day last month, my doorbell rang. Later that morning when I went outside, I got to witness more of this creativeness all over my truck windows. Luckily it was grease pen and some water and elbow grease was all that was needed to remove the creativeness.

Later that same week I started noticing more creativeness all around my neighborhood. There was another black spray painted image of male genitalia on the neighbor’s garage door along with spray painted trees, walking paths, and benches in Brown Park plus the back bumper of my truck. I later found out in the police report that this happened Wednesday night/Thursday morning and also happened to others in Cambridge.

The following Monday morning found me chasing a trio of kids down the street at 3:30 a.m. hoping to put a stop to the vandalism by catching them. I failed and my feelings toward the city were at a low point, or so I thought. How could people do this to someone else’s home? Why would they do this? Where were the parents? I didn’t think it could get any worse but I was wrong. I recently found out that the three I was chasing were kids I know and whose parents I know. I coached one of them in baseball. They admitted to ringing the doorbell but not to the vandalism. Trouble is I can’t believe them anymore.

My spirit was run through the ringer when the storm hit Friday, July 1. We were coming home just after the storm hit and as the closer we got to Cambridge, the more evident it would be that there would be damage. And we were right. The beloved red oaks of Goldenwood took a beating and lost. It was real sad but I’m thankfully no one was hurt but there was a lot of damage. It was great to see the city and its people come together to clean up. City staff, police, and fire were out immediately and worked long hours over the holiday weekend trying to bring the city back to a state of normalcy. And that hard work continued all week.

Just when things were starting to look good again, my spirit sank to a new low. Friday morning word started going through our office that there was a fire at the Isanti County Historical Society building. Soon after, some people started dropping off photos of the fire. My heart just sank thinking about all the treasures of our past that were gone. Soon we began to get word of other fires that were started nearby including something near and dear to me, the storage shed for the baseball association at Sandquist Park. Gone, along with a lot of equipment to keep 400 or so youth having fun in the spring/summer. Early indications are pointing to arson. There is a $2,500 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for these terrible acts.

Again, I wonder why someone would do this to their home. People spent hours raising money for both of those buildings and the projects associated with them. Both organizations have struggled to get where they are today. Members of each organization have a passion and love for history and for baseball.

Enough is enough! It is time for the people of Cambridge to do something about vandalism and arson. “Kids will be kids” can no longer be accepted. As adults, we need to stop turning our heads and be more mindful of our city. Report anything you see to the police. How many times have you heard the advice that it only gets worse when we ignore the problem? We’ve worked too hard and spent too much money making Cambridge a place where we want to raise a family to let it go backwards now.

Jeff Andres is the Regional General Manager for the Scotsman/ Isanti County News; Princeton Union Eagle/Mille Lacs County Times/Town & Country Shopper and Forest Lake Times/ECM Post Review/St. Croix Valley Peach.