Crime & public safety: Folks are understandably concerned about recent high-profile crime in our community, namely carjacking. I’ve heard from a handful of residents urging the city to hire more officers in response. In my view, which I believe is shared by our chief of police based on his own communications to residents, police department staffing isn’t the issue. Did you know that almost 44 percent of our city’s general fund budget is spent on public safety? That’s almost $20M/year, the majority of which funds the police department. Our PD has the support of city council and the resources they need to do their job.
Like teachers, though, police officers operate within the larger society and they can’t do it all. Effective crime prevention and increased public safety for all will require additional tools and strategies that engage players across the metro area and beyond. It will require us to pay more attention to the urgent needs of youth in our communities impacted by generational poverty and historical trauma. It will require a deeper commitment to justice and to understanding and addressing causal factors. Our Mayor is part of a group of west metro mayors and others working with law enforcement and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to explore solutions to some of these challenges.
It’s also important to note that perception of crime and actual crime rates are often at odds. In SLP, apart from 2020, which was an anomaly in so many ways, most crime has held relatively steady here. Here’s a link to our city’s 2021 crime stats, which includes a five-year lookback that shows:
US Internet expansion: Many residents will be pleased to learn that US Internet (USI) has officially set up shop in SLP and plans to make fiber internet service available to every residential and non-residential property in the city over the next three years. Build-out of this significant underground network will be noticeable for brief periods (about a week) when construction crews are in your area; watch for communication from USI on when, where, and how. Here’s a USI coverage map that shows currently served areas and planned 2022 construction in SLP. On a related note, thanks to leadership from our all-volunteer Community Technology Advisory Commission, the city is applying for federal funding to support affordable connectivity and digital literacy efforts in SLP.
Council declares climate emergency: Climate change is already impacting our community – through more intense precipitation events, more frequent freeze-thaw cycles, and other extreme weather conditions that both increase flood risks and damage infrastructure like streets, sidewalks, and watermains. Last month, SLP joined more than 20 other Minnesota cities in declaring a climate emergency in St. Louis Park. The declaration is designed to send a message to state and federal elected officials that local governments need legislative and financial support to address climate change. It also commits SLP to a slate of new and existing local initiatives including Solar Sundown, Climate Champions, Building Operations Champions, and a new Tree Growing Program (info coming soon). Many community events are being planned for a "2022 Year of Climate Action" - details to come.
Related: In support of our city’s Climate Action Plan and commitment to Environmental Stewardship, city staff and consultants are developing a public dashboard that will include a variety of metrics around greenhouse gas emissions. The dashboard will likely go live this spring. Until then, here’s a sneak peek at some of the SLP-specific indicators that will inform the dashboard. For those who want to go deeper, here’s a 2015-2021 GHG emissions inventory and analysis presented to council in November.
Covid response: An ordinance requiring face coverings was unanimously approved by city council on Jan. 18. A raucous meeting at City Hall with many unmasked and likely unvaccinated people was not representative of most communications I received (mostly via email) from people who live/work in SLP, including the president of Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital urging a mandate to protect the health care system for us all. The emergency ordinance is set to expire Feb. 22. Council and board/commission meetings will also be conducted virtually until that date.
Fern Hill Pavement Management Public Hearing: New sidewalks, rehabilitated streets, and other infrastructure improvements are being proposed for the west side of the Fern Hill neighborhood. A virtual public hearing is set for Monday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Here’s a link to detailed project information, including how to participate in the virtual public hearing tomorrow night.
Wonky sidewalks? I sometimes hear complaints from residents, particularly when new sidewalks are proposed, that some of our current sidewalks aren’t well maintained, so why put in more? Sidewalk repair is performed annually but staff rely on residents to report on areas of concern. If you know of an area that needs repair, the best way to share information is through the mystlouispark app. Click on Streets & Sidewalks, then scroll to Sidewalks (damaged). Include the exact location of the concern and your contact information so staff can reach out for clarification if needed. You can also call engineering at (952) 924-2656.Thank you!
Serious delays for Light Rail Transit: The Met Council announced recently that the track, stations, and structures phase of the Green Line Extension is anticipated to be completed in 2025, with service launched in 2027, four years later than anticipated, at an additional cost of $450 million to $550 million. There’s no other way to say it: that’s pretty bad news. Here’s the Met Council’s web page providing more detail. Several major development projects in our community are focused around future LRT stations; this delay will likely impact at least some components such as construction timing and parking needs. I anticipate council will be learning more in the months to come.
Our developing city: If you’ve found yourself thinking, “Wow, there’s a lot of new development in SLP lately,” you are indeed correct. As noted above, transit-oriented development around future light rail stations is a major factor. For the full picture, here’s an interactive map of development projects throughout SLP – proposed, approved, and completed.
Three of these new proposed/planned developments recently received federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocations totaling more than $51 million. They are Rise on 7, Beltline Station, and Wooddale Affordable Apartments (proposed for the Aldersgate Church property). While I’m a strong proponent of home ownership opportunities for individuals and families at all income levels to build generational wealth, these affordable apartment projects have been years in the planning and I’m pleased with the amount of federal financing to help them get built.
Beltline Station Public Hearing: I’ve written previously about this major proposed development for the southeast corner of CSAH 25 and Beltline; project details are here. Developer Sherman Associates will host a virtual public hearing on the project Thursday Feb. 10 at 5:30 pm. Here’s information on how to watch and participate.
Trail app, corrected link: Apologies, in my last update I included a bad link to the trail snow removal app showing the status of snow removal on the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail. Here's the correct link.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events:
Fern Hill Pavement Management Virtual Public Hearing, Monday, Feb. 7, 6:30 pm. Info here.
Beltline Station Development Virtual Public Hearing, Thursday, Feb. 10, 5:30 pm. Info here.
Community Storytelling Forum, Thursday, Feb. 10, 6:30-7:45, via Zoom. The theme is “Love Stories.” All are welcome! Email here for the Zoom link.
Twin Cities Jewish Humor Fest: February 17-20, virtual, hosted by the Minnesota JCC. Who doesn’t need a good laugh in the middle of winter? Info here.
Children First Virtual Breakfast Fundraiser, Thursday, March 3, 7:30 am, DoubleTree in SLP. Your kids, my kids, our kids! Info here.
Quantum Mirror Immersive Art Experience, weekends through March 26, REM 5 Virtual Reality Laboratory. A unique art installation created by Guatemalan new media artist Adrian Stein and REM5 VR Lab.
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.