Winter greetings! Here’s my monthly update for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Crime Free Ordinance – In 2008, an ordinance took effect in SLP designed to address concerns about disorderly/criminal activity in rental housing and preserve the safety and quality of life of renters and the larger community. The ordinance requires landlords to terminate leases if a certain type and/or number of violations occur involving renters on their property. In 2017, City staff report that 21 leases were immediately terminated because of violations involving illegal drugs and “criminal activity.” Last month, a KSTP-TV news story raised questions about whether the ordinance is having unintended impacts on residents through unnecessary and unfair evictions. Many community members who saw the news report are curious and concerned; I am too. Council members and staff will be discussing the ordinance at our Dec. 10 study session at City Hall starting at 6:30. The City’s FAQ on the ordinance can be found here.
Westwood Hills Nature Center Project – On November 19, Council authorized bids for the new interpretive center, which came in at $12.345 million, slightly below the budgeted $12.5 million (budget here, page 55). Given the magnitude of this investment, I think it’s important that as many community members as possible will benefit, including youth. Accordingly, I’m pushing for an agreement between the City and Schools that would get K-5 students to the nature center at least twice a year starting in 2020, when the new building is complete.
Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) – Speaking of big commitments, the $2+ billion SWLRT green line extension is finally becoming a reality; a groundbreaking ceremony took place last Friday in Hopkins. SLP will be home to three stops, including one in Ward 1 (Beltline Boulevard station) and one just outside our boundary (Wooddale station). Light rail will bring many positive changes to our community! There’s also the risk of negative impacts, including displacement of residents living in affordable housing near the line and increased rents for small businesses in the area. I’m paying attention to these potential gentrification impacts and invite your ideas and participation in this effort as well.
Ranked Choice Voting – Another change on the horizon is how we’ll vote for City Council and Mayor in 2019. Council adopted Ranked Choice Voting last year, and with the 2018 mid-terms behind us, it’s time to start educating the public about this new way of voting. Watch for publications, meetings, and fun events over the next several months designed to help voters understand and become comfortable with how RCV works. In my opinion, it’s as easy as 1-2-3!
Truth in Taxation – Property taxes fund critical and valued services for the SLP community; in my view, we have a right and responsibility to understand and voice opinions on how these shared resources we all contribute to are spent. Several residents have reached out to me with concerns about their own property tax increases in 2019. I’m interested in getting a better take on how widespread this concern is, and invite you to email me with thoughts on the topic of property taxes. You’re also invited to attend the Truth in Taxation public hearing at City Hall tomorrow night, Dec. 3, starting at 7:30 pm. to voice your support/concerns about the proposed 2019 budget and tax levy in person.
Monthly meetups – Attendance is dwindling, so I’m not sure how long I’ll keep up my First Sunday meetups unless something changes. Monthly meetups are a chance for residents of Ward 1 and beyond to come together and talk with me and each other about issues in the community you care about and want your elected officials to know. I’ll be hosting the December meetup today, Dec. 2, from 3-4:30 at the Birchwood Park warming house. Whether in person, on the phone, or via email, you can always communicate with me about City-related issues large and small, and I hope you do.
Thanks and have a good rest of the weekend!