St. Louis Park Police in Brooklyn Center: Many people have expressed concern about the SLP police department’s presence in Brooklyn Center last month following the police killing of Daunte Wright. During several nights of protests, both peaceful and violent actions were taken and my understanding is that many people, both protestors and police officers, were caught in the middle. Why were we there? SLP is part of the West Command Mobile Field Force, a collaborative of 28 cities (excluding Minneapolis) created in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder to prevent the type of property damage and other violence that convulsed the Minneapolis-area community last summer. SLP officers were in Brooklyn Center on April 11, the first and most active night, and several other nights in their role as members of the Field Force. Our own officers did not deploy tear gas, rubber bullets, or stun grenades although those methods were deployed by other departments on the scene. Here’s detailed information on the West Command Mobile Field Force (look under the tab “Partnerships with other agencies”).
I’m opposed to the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other “non-lethal” weapons on peaceful protesters under any circumstance. I’m also opposed to protesters attempting to injure police officers or destroy property and/or supporting these actions by others. I understand the rage and back the demand for change but see violence as adding to the problem. Many of the businesses that were destroyed in the wake of George Floyd’s death were small businesses, and many were owned by people of color. In the future, I want them to be protected. I want our police officers to be protected as well. And of course, I want peaceful protesters to be able to exercise their first amendment rights without risking injury at the hands of police.
SLP City Council is in ongoing, mutually respectful dialogue with SLP PD leadership on policing in our community, including council expectations for the PD in a situation like the one that developed in Brooklyn Center. Other topics being discussed are the role of police in achieving mental health outcomes; defining and improving overall community safety; and understanding and addressing racial disparities in police use of force. We’re also developing a system for collecting race data during traffic stops to see where bias is present in order to inform training and other responses. Stay tuned for more.
Catalytic converter thefts: Like the rest of the nation, SLP is seeing an epidemic of catalytic converter thefts with more than 90 thefts in the city over the past year. More than half of all stolen converters were from a Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota Prius, or Honda CR-V. Catalytic converters are valuable to scrap metal dealers because they contain precious metals more valuable than gold. One way to reduce the likelihood of theft is to mark the converters with paint, since many scrapyards won’t purchase a converter that’s been marked. A city-hosted painting event later this month filled within an hour of opening for registration; a second event may be planned. As an alternative, local repair shops D&D Autoworks and Phoenix Auto Repair will etch license plate numbers onto converters free of charge as part of a scheduled service. You can also try these DIY solutions.
Covid-19 update: With Covid restrictions relaxing, including an end to the indoor mask mandate July 1 or sooner, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for returning to normal. In St. Louis Park, since the start of the pandemic, 4,591 residents have tested positive for Covid-19 and 95 people have died. I’m so sorry for their loss and other losses associated with pandemic isolation and hardship. To help more people get vaccinated, the SLP Fire Department is working with Park Nicollet to host vaccine pop-up clinics at public housing and other sites where people may face barriers to access. Let’s get this thing over with and start the recovery process.
New apartments along Beltline: Developer Opus Group is proposing a five-story mixed-use development near the future Beltline Boulevard light rail station. The proposed project includes 225 market-rate apartments, 25 affordable apartments, and 7,714 square feet of commercial space along with a three-story parking ramp just east of Steel Toe Brewing. Kenwood Gymnastics, currently on the site of the proposed development, plans to purchase and occupy the Roller Garden which closed May 8 after 52 years.
Sidewalk Poetry contest: Sidewalk poetry is a lovely little surprise on any walk or roll. If you haven’t seen the original poems etched into pavement in Historic Walker Lake I encourage you to take a look. Now the city is seeking more original poetry for the Texas Avenue/36th Street area near Knollwood Mall; deadline for entries is May 23. Info here.
Local elections this fall: SLP voters will choose city council ward representatives (4 seats) and school board members (3 seats) this fall in an election that opens for early voting Sept. 17 and concludes Nov. 2. City staff have put together a great set of resources for candidates and voters including workshops for anyone interested in becoming a candidate. Find all kinds of useful information on local elections here.
I plan to run for another term to leverage what I’ve learned over the past 3.5 years. I’ll be talking more about that in the coming months.
Resources for residents: Recycling and composting are good, but using less stuff is even better. City staff have produced a Reuse Directory to help residents find local businesses that rent items, repair items, or sell used items. And to promote local businesses, SLP's Sunrise Rotary has put together a book of two-for-one deals at locally owned restaurants and distilleries including Best of India, The Block, Parkway Pizza, and other favorites in their Taste of SLP coupon book. It's $20 and proceeds benefit Perspectives.
Climate podcast: My council colleague Larry Kraft has a weekly podcast called City Climate Corner that explores how small and mid-sized cities across the U.S. are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. Episode 4 features SLP! Check out the podcast here.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events:
Simulacra 2 at Rem5, online Thursday, May 13, 7-9 pm. A free digital art event with new creations from Minnesota digital artists. Visit the 3D social gallery from a laptop, mobile phone or VR headset. Info here.
Songkran Festival at Wat Prom Temple: Saturday, May 15, 10-6. Authentic Thai food, music, and dance in celebration of Thai New Year. All are welcome! Info here.
George Floyd Memorial Walk, Sunday, June 6, 6-8:30 pm, Veterans Memorial Amphitheater at Wolfe Park. Enjoy speakers, music, reflective conversation and family-friendly arts activities. This is the kickoff event for the SLP Human Rights Commission's Summer of Action, a series of events to foster social capital and community engagement with focus on race equity and justice. Info here.
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch!
I send out a monthly summary of city-related news to Ward 1 residents and interested others, posted here. If you’d like to receive it via email, let me know here.