New City Manager: After a four-month process that engaged community leaders, city staff and council, we’ve hired a new city manager. Kim Keller will assume the role on August 16, replacing longtime City Manager Tom Harmening who is retiring after 25 years of great service to our great community. Keller currently serves as director of regulatory services for the City of Minneapolis, where she oversees 200 employees and a $26 million budget. A retirement event is planned for Tom Harmening on Thursday, July 22, 3:30-5 pm at Westwood Hills Nature Center.
2021 Election News: More leadership change is coming, with Ward 3 council member Rachel Harris vacating her seat at the end of this year, and all four ward seats on the ballot this fall along with three school board seats. If you’re interested in becoming a candidate, you can find helpful information on how to do that here. I’m planning to run for a second term and have updated my website to reflect my priorities; check it out here and please email me with feedback and questions. Our excellent elections staff has put together an online pocket voting guide with brief explanations of the most important topics, including ranked-choice voting. An actual pocket (print) version is available at City Hall. Early voting starts Sept. 17.
Related: Election workers needed! I’ve been an election worker for almost 20 years and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend a day. Get info & apply here.
BIPOC homeownership pilot program: Historic racist practices like redlining, racial covenants, and blockbusting have resulted in huge racial gaps in the homeownership rate, particularly impacting Black households nationwide including in the Twin Cities, which has the highest racial homeownership gap in the nation. Today, almost all Black residents of SLP are renters; only about 1% of all owner-occupied homes are owned by Black heads of household. One way we can work to repair the harm done by structural and systemic racism in our own community, and create more racially integrated neighborhoods, is remove barriers to homeownership for populations that have historically been excluded. I’m excited about a new pilot program expected to come online this fall that will do just that – provide targeted financial support to first-generation homeowners, with a focus on underserved populations, so they can purchase a home in SLP. Owning a home confers many benefits, including the opportunity to build generational wealth. An estimated 4-6 households a year could benefit from this program.
Related: Homeowners considering selling their home and interested in supporting affordable homeownership in SLP are invited to contact city staff to learn about our Legacy Program. Email assistant housing supervisor Marney Olson here.
Minnetonka Boulevard redevelopment: In other housing news, city staff have skillfully assembled four older, single-family properties on the south side of Minnetonka Blvd. just west of Hwy. 100 and the Colonial Terrace Apartments with the goal to pursue development of nontraditional, owner-occupied, affordable housing on the site. Staff is working with nonprofits Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation and Homes Within Reach to determine redevelopment options and develop a land trust for the future homes which will ensure long-term affordability. We have a shortage of this type of housing in SLP and I’m excited to see it become available in Ward 1.
Affordable housing dashboard: In 2015, council adopted an inclusionary housing policy with the goal to increase the number of affordable rental units in the city. Now city staff have developed a dashboard showing the total number of affordable rental units developed since the policy was adopted. The dashboard shows proposed, completed, and under construction projects adopted under the policy; it does not reflect all affordable rental units in the city.
Local COVID updates: While the pandemic is still with us, SLP currently has one of the lowest case rates in the nation at 1.9 per 10,000 people (as of June 28), compared with 3.0 in Hennepin County as a whole. As of July 4, a total of 4,700 SLP residents have tested positive for Covid-19 and 102 have died. I’m sorry for the loss of these community members. For information on how to get vaccinated, visit the state’s vaccine connector.
New breakfast place at West End: We’re seeing a lot of new restaurants in town and I know that makes many people happy. Me too. Hope Breakfast Bar, currently in St. Paul, recently announced plans to open a second location at The West End, next to the Local. The all-day breakfast eatery with coffee and cocktails is known for over-the-top twists on breakfast classics as well as charitable giving. They plan to open this fall.
National Night Out is back: National Night Out (NNO) is a nationwide, annual community-building event aimed at creating safer and more connected neighborhoods and communities. Cancelled last year due to the pandemic, NNO is back this year on Tuesday, August 3. If your block or building doesn’t already host a party, I encourage you to plan one! It’s fun and rewarding. Registration deadline is July 27; get forms here. You can also view the locations of current registered parties (updated every other day) here. I’ll be tooling around on my bike that evening to Ward 1 parties and hope to see many of you.
Here’s a short list of upcoming events in SLP:
Racial Equity Classes: SLP Community Ed is hosting two online classes in July taught by Kristen Pehl and Meghan Malone: Educate to Liberate (Tuesdays, 4-5:30, July 13-Aug 12) and So You Want to Be Anti-Racist? (Tuesdays, 7-8 pm, July 13-August 12).
Trail of Small Wonders, Westwood Hills Nature Center, July 12-31. An installation of handmade fairy houses and abodes made by community members. Info here.
Tom Harmening retirement event: Thursday, July 22, 3:30-5 pm, Westwood Hills Nature Center. Program at 4 pm.
Candidate filing, ward councilmember and school board: July 27-Aug. 10. 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.