Happy new year! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
First, I want to acknowledge the violence and destruction that took place at the U.S. Capitol last week. While it happened more than a thousand miles from St. Louis Park, the events of that day have and will continue to impact our local community in many ways, both seen and unseen.
As we move into the new year and a new presidency, I’m even more committed, as a local elected official, to the vital work of making our community and world a safer, more inclusive, and equitable place. I don’t know exactly what that will look like in the coming year, but I have some ideas. Maybe you do too? If so, I invite you to share them with me so we can build even greater momentum for healing and change, right here at home.
Covid-19 local impact: Our community of about 48,300 people has seen 3,150 positive cases of Covid-19 and 84 deaths from Covid as of Jan. 12. The case rate in SLP, or number of cases per 10,000 residents in the last 14 days, is 30.8, compared with 35.6 for Hennepin County. This and lots of other detailed data is available on the Covid-19 public dashboard. Mask up and be safe!
They got the shot: All SLP PD and fire department staff have received their Covid-19 vaccines, as have staff and residents at the five skilled nursing facilities in SLP. Now the focus is on vaccinating staff and residents at assisted living facilities. Currently, about 35,000 people in Hennepin County have received at least their first shot, less than 3% of the population and far below what was anticipated, thanks to unmet commitments from the federal government. Let’s hope the new administration can speed things up so we can end the pandemic. For those who care to stay up to date, here’s a new vaccination dashboard administered by the Department of Health.
City facilities opening up: SLP facilities that were closed to the public for the past seven weeks are now open with limits that align with the Governor’s orders. Westwood Hills Nature Center is open at 25% capacity. Warming houses are open at 25% capacity, and the Rec/ROC will be open for figure skating and hockey, with spectators allowed at 25% capacity. Masks are required for all these activities.
Light rail opening delayed indefinitely: In another bit of terrible 2021 news, the Met Council announced last week that the Southwest Light Rail Transit project opening will be delayed indefinitely due to challenges in the Minneapolis portion of the route, specifically the Kenilworth tunnel and the mile-long protection wall just east of I-94. Current construction continues St. Louis Park and other communities, including stations, tunnels and bridges. More information here.
Fern Hill Pavement Management regroup: After a yearlong delay due to the pandemic, staff is gearing up for the community input phase of the Fern Hill Pavement Management Project, with construction anticipated to take place in 2022. The most cost-effective time to build new sidewalks, repair existing sidewalks, fix drainage issues and address safety concerns is during road reconstruction, so now’s the time to make your voice heard on these potential improvements. Staff have put together an interactive project map and survey questions to inform improvements and will be hosting online community meetings later this spring. Please view the project page and respond to the survey, it makes a difference!
Nature Center wins award: SLP’s newly constructed Westwood Hills Nature Center was recently recognized by the American Institute of Architects for Minnesota as one of the ten best architectural projects in 2020. I’m hopeful SLP students will be regular visitors to this beautiful instructional space in the near future, despite budget challenges faced by both our school district and PTOs. I’ve asked my council colleagues to consider dedicating city funds to ensure SLP students can visit WHNC often to reap the benefits of this community resource, and am hopeful we can put something in place soon.
Funding the Climate Action Plan: In 2018, the St. Louis Park City Council approved an ambitious Climate Action Plan that aims for the City to be carbon neutral by 2040. At our council study session Jan. 11, City staff shared that approximately $2M a year will be needed to stay on track and reach our goal. Needed funds could come from state and local government, local tax increases, program or service reductions in other areas, and/or other sources. Council is in the early stages of this discussion and will continue to keep the public informed on possible next steps.
New app for checking trail conditions: Fellow winter walkers and/or bikers, there’s a new tool you should try! This winter, the City is providing an online map of the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail showing the status of snow removal to help regular trail users make decisions about the availability of the trail for walking and biking after a significant snowfall. This is a pilot project; results will help determine if it might be expanded to other trails or areas of the city. More info here.
Want to serve our community? Every year, the City invites residents wishing to influence the policies, actions and progress of our community to apply to serve on a board or commission. Boards & commissions focus on topics ranging from Parks & Recreation to Human Rights to Environment & Sustainability. Applications are due Feb. 28. Here’s where you can find out about current openings and how to apply.
Online meetups coming next month: Pre-pandemic, I had the pleasure of hosting monthly in-person meetups to hear directly from residents about their ideas and concerns. It’s been almost a year and I miss this informal contact with community members. Beginning next month, I’ll be hosting 90-minute online meetups the second Sunday of every month at 3 pm. I’ll include a link in next month’s update, planned for Feb. 7. I hope many of you will attend!
Here’s a select list of upcoming events:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute, TODAY, Jan. 17, 3 pm. Free event streamed on YouTube and Facebook. Co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota School of Music and the Office for Equity and Diversity and hosted by G. Phillip Shoultz, III, a Ward 1 resident and Birchwood neighbor! Details on all the performers here. I can’t wait to listen to this!
Hennepin County Plastic-Free Challenge, Jan. 20 – Feb. 17. Start the new year off right by reducing your consumption of plastic, especially single-use plastic. Hennepin County's online Plastic-Free Challenge has more than 60 actions to choose from. Check it out and sign up here.
SLP & Golden Valley Artist Showcase Online Galleries, opening January 22, 5 pm. Check out local art from home! Explore three online galleries featuring visual art, digital media, music and movement work from 60 St. Louis Park and Golden Valley artists using a computer, smartphone or VR headset. Info here.
Gnome hunt, through the end of January: Here’s another fun activity City staff have come up with to help us stay entertained during the pandemic. Through the end of January, residents are invited to hunt for gnomes hidden in city parks, using clues shared every Tuesday through social media and on the city’s website. Info on the gnome hunt here; more parks & rec pandemic-inspired activities here.
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.