May greetings! Here's city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
The global pandemic continues to have major impacts on life as we know it in St. Louis Park. From quieter skies to more crowded trails to major upheavals in education and the economy, the pandemic has created new realities for today and many unknowns for tomorrow. Here are some of the ways our community is responding:
Emergency grants to small businesses: Forty-six local businesses have been awarded up to $5,000 by the City to help weather the economic effects of the pandemic. Thirty-six of the businesses receiving emergency grants are owned or managed by women, people of color, indigenous people, or veterans. Ward 1 grant recipients include Mexico City Cafe, Dunrite Automotive, and Nelson's Meats. $224,000 from the City's Revolving Loan Fund was used to fund the program. Here's a list of all businesses receiving funds.
City finances: Budgeting is a bit of a guessing game right now with many unknowns including when we'll receive property tax revenues via the County and when/how other traditional revenue sources, such as recreation revenue and building permits, will resume. As of last week, our Chief Financial Officer reported an anticipated net impact of the pandemic at about $2.4 million, or nearly 6% of the city's general fund revenue budget. In response, we plan to defer hiring for several new positions including in our police, engineering, racial equity and sustainability departments, and postpone some construction projects including Walker Lake, Fern Hill west, and 2020 alley reconstruction. We'll also pause on replacing some playground equipment & streetlights and defer the start of an incentive program for renewable energy investments. More strategies will need to be identified to fully close the gap.
SLP Senior centers are impacted: As in other communities, several senior living facilities in SLP are reporting that staff and/or residents have tested positive for Covid-19. Our city's emergency response team, headed by Fire Chief Steve Koering, continues to work closely with senior facilities to optimize the health and safety of residents, staff, and visitors. You can find a list of all senior living facilities in the state with confirmed exposure to Covid-19 here.
What's postponed/what's cancelled: If you're wondering about the status of Fourth of July fireworks, National Night Out, tennis, pickleball & basketball courts, and other community events and facilities, you can find information on the City's website here under Event & Program status. Sneak peek: Fireworks rescheduled to Labor Day weekend.
Public safety drive-by for kids' birthdays: Is there a child in your home with an upcoming birthday? Like other communities, SLP Police & Fire are conducting birthday drive-bys (when possible) to make birthdays memorable for kids missing a party this year. Call (952) 924-2618 to request a drive-by.
Making history: We're living in a historic time, one that future generations will be curious about. Help them understand what it was like! Document your experiences through photos and/or stories and share them with the St. Louis Park Historical Society here. Historical Society volunteers are especially interested in photos & stories that document changes in businesses, schools, government, and daily life due to the pandemic.
Put spare time to good use: Many of us have more downtime these days and are looking for ways to help in the community. If this is you, please check out current needs below. The City will provide instructions and materials for all activities listed; email here for more information and to volunteer.
STEP: A reminder that donated food, hygiene items, and cash for STEP can be dropped off at Vista Lutheran Church (not STEP) on Tuesdays and Saturdays; details here.
Interactive website on pandemic-related topics: Check out the city's new interactive website where you can find information and maps from a variety of sources on unemployment benefits, child care, free meals, local restaurants, trails & paths, and up-to-date local, state, national and global information on the pandemic.
In other news ...
Wooddale Avenue closure: Beginning Monday, May 4, Wooddale Avenue will be closed between the Highway 7 South Frontage Road and 36th Street for about a month while construction of the Cedar Lake Regional Trail Tunnel is completed. You can watch a short video about the tunnel project here and find a map of suggested vehicle and pedestrian detours during the construction period here.
Trees for all: Research shows that a healthy tree canopy improves air and water quality, public safety, neighborhood resilience, and overall human health. Yet tree canopies often track across economic lines, including in SLP, with lower-income neighborhoods missing out on the benefits. To address inequity in the local tree canopy, the City is working with Tree Trust to plant 225 boulevard trees near multifamily properties east of Aquila School this fall. The work is supported by a state grant.
2020 Census: SLP's community-wide response rate to the 2020 Census is currently 70.4%, compared with 69.1% in Hennepin County, 65.2% in Minnesota and a dismal 54.6% nationwide. City staff recently secured a grant to keep the momentum going and focus our efforts on historically undercounted and hard-to-count communities in SLP. Find census info, including ways you can help out locally, here.
Climate Change newsletter: My City Council colleague Larry Kraft has launched a newsletter on Climate Change in SLP - here's the first issue. You can sign up to receive the newsletter via email here.
Closing thought: As we move through this time of great change, inevitably we are altering our behaviors and our mindsets. Many of us are driving less and walking more. Many of us are slowing down our days, perhaps reflecting on all the things we enjoy and have taken for granted. Many of us are thinking more about others, particularly vulnerable populations and those in need.
We will return to normalcy - perhaps a new normal - but not this. As we do, I hope many people in our community will ask themselves and each other, what will we keep? Will we consolidate our errands, travel and consume less? Will we continue to value our local economy and support local businesses? Will we value our elders and care about their well being? Will we continue to see grocery store workers, postal workers, delivery people, retail workers, and other essential workers who provide the core services we need to keep our economy and society running, not just now, but all the time? Will we realize how profoundly we can reduce our impact on the climate if we try, and keep trying? Will we insist on investing more of our community resources in housing and other needs for seniors, essential workers, and others who are often taken for granted and overlooked?
These are some things I'm thinking about. If you are too, I invite you to share your thoughts here.
Thank you for reading, stay safe, stay home, 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.