August greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Covid-19 cases in SLP: The Minnesota Department of Health reports 632 people in St. Louis Park have tested positive for Covid-19, and 40 people have died of the virus as of August 10. I'm saddened by the loss of our fellow residents and extend my condolences to their family members and friends.
You can find data on the number of cases and deaths in SLP and other cities (updated weekly), as well as demographic and other data, on Hennepin County's Covid-19 public dashboard. Scroll down the page and flip through the panels to see all the data; city data is last.
Return to school: Last week the SLP School Board unanimously approved a Safe Learning Plan for Fall 2020 that includes the following recommendations:
SLP Nest to permanently close: A sad casualty of the pandemic is SLP Nest, the youth-focused creative/gathering space that was launched two years ago in the Historic Walker Lake District. I was heartbroken to hear this news, knowing how much work went into creating the Nest and having seen the beauty of student art and music displayed and performed there as well as the authentic human connections this cozy, inviting, youth-friendly space engendered. According to SLP Nest board members, the changed landscape of in-person interactions, which was the heart of the Nest's mission and purpose, combined with the need to scale up human and financial resources in the midst of a pandemic, were challenges too big for this little nonprofit to overcome. Thanks to all who dedicated time and energy to creating and running the Nest over the past 4+ years, including my former council colleague Thom Miller. The Nest will officially close August 31. You can read their statement to the community here.
Voter pro tips: Now that the primary election is over, it's time to turn our attention to the general election. If you've been following the news, you know there's a lot going on election-wise, including concerns about voting by mail and whether mailed ballots will be delivered in time to be counted. The great news is our election staff in SLP are best in class and fully committed to ensuring voting is safe, easy, and effective for everyone who is eligible and chooses to vote. Here are some of their recommendations:
3% property tax levy? In light of the current economic situation, most council members have expressed support for a maximum 3% tax levy increase for 2021. This compares with 4.96% increase last year and an average increase of 4.93% over the last five years. Once council votes on the maximum levy in September, it can be adjusted downward but not upward before the final levy is approved in December. I welcome your thoughts on property taxes here.
Dakota-Edgewood bikeway & bridge project: On the topic of taxes, it's important for people to know that the planned new bikeway & bridge over the BNSF railroad tracks near Peter Hobart is costly undertaking that will, if approved, impact our property tax levy for years to come. At our meeting tomorrow night, council will be asked to approve contractor bids totaling about $10.5M for both the bridge and bikeway. About $2.9M in federal funds will reduce local taxpayer cost to about $7.6M, with a levy impact, beginning in 2022, of about $898,000 per year if distributed over a 10-year period or $635,000 per year over a 15-year period. This project will create opportunity costs for other initiatives and projects and/or result in higher property tax levy in the years to come. While I'm struggling with the cost, I understand this bridge to be supported by many members of the community as a major connector for non-motorized travel between key north and south portions of the city. I invite your thoughts on the project here.
Conversations about public safety & policing: Earlier this month, council participated in a facilitated conversation about policing in SLP. This was the first in what is expected to be a series of exploratory conversations about policing and community safety over the next several months. I want to make it clear that there is no plan to change how our PD serves the community at this time; nor is there any inherent criticism of our own officers, who work hard to protect and serve all residents and whom I trust, in having these conversations. Rather, I see opportunities to relieve some of of the tremendous and growing burden our PD carries in being expected to address mental health, domestic violence, and other community issues they are not adequately trained or equipped to solve, and explore whether there are more effective ways to respond to these issues going forward. More to come on this.
Go see the mural! Earlier this week I participated in a ribbon-cutting event for the new mural near the intersection of Dakota Ave. & Walker Street in the Historic Walker Lake District. This is one impressive piece of public art and I encourage folks to take a stroll over to the Sorensen neighborhood to check it out. There are some pretty cool stories here about both the creators of the mural and the people featured in it. I feel very inspired by this mural and shared my inspiration at the ribbon-cutting event. For those interested, here's a link to my remarks.
Here's a select list of upcoming events & opportunities:
Wat Prom Thai Sunday Market: Thai Sunday Market is back! Today, August 16, 11am-6 pm and every Sunday through the end of September at Wat Prom Temple, 2544 Hwy. 100 S. Support a Ward 1 cultural community hub while enjoying authentic Thai food! Order food online beginning at 10:45 am today here or order in person at the temple. Highly recommend!
Art-Walk in the Park: Here's a cool idea - SLP Friends of the Arts is inviting artists of all ages and abilities to create a mini-mural on plywood. The murals will be displayed in SLP parks on weekends beginning Sept. 12. Plywood, paints, and all needed supplies provided! Info and sign up here.
Harvest distributions: SLP Seeds is hosting fresh harvest distributions through the summer on Tuesdays from 2-6 pm (pre-bagged produce) and Saturdays from 8am-2pm (farmer's market style) at 3260 Gorham Ave. S., Suite 150. Free to those in need, or donations requested with a pay-it-forward mindset. Register online to guarantee a bag each week. Info here.
City seeking youth commissioners: Volunteer positions for youth are open on several of the city's boards and commissions including Environment & Sustainability, Human Rights, Police Advisory, and others. Applications accepted through August 31. Info here.
Fresh Start Tuesdays: This new online class for SLP seniors includes weekly discussions about staying healthy, enjoying life, and dealing with the pandemic. Each session will be preceded by a TED Talk or other media presentation related to that day's topic. Info and to register here.
Hey, you made it to the end. Thanks for reading, be well, and 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.