Vaping, taxes, PLACE, and more
November greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Election day recap: Thanks for voting! Last week, about 20% of registered voters in SLP, or 6,619 voters, elected two new council members to represent us for the next four years. Larry Kraft and Nadia Mohamed and will join the council as at-large representatives; Mayor Jake Spano was re-elected with more than 80 percent of the vote. The school board will welcome three new members with C. Colin Cox, Laura McClendon and Heather Wilsey elected for the first time and incumbent Ken Morrison winning re-election. Thanks to our amazing elections staff at City Hall and our hardworking election judges for delivering Ranked Choice Voting without a hitch.
PLACE project: I’ve heard from many residents this past week regarding their concerns about delays with and changes to this major redevelopment project, straddling the future Wooddale Ave. SWLRT station at Wooddale Ave. & Hwy. 7. Years after being introduced to council and the community, the project faces ongoing financial and other challenges, with construction anticipated to start months ago not yet underway. Council will discuss the status of the project and hear from the developers at our Nov. 18 meeting.
Local sales tax?: With engineering and construction costs skyrocketing, staff and council have begun exploring the possibility of a local sales tax to raise revenue for street, sidewalk, trail, and potentially other capital projects. The benefit of a local sales tax is that both residents and non-residents contribute to projects that benefit the local community. To be implemented, a local sales tax needs to be authorized by the Minnesota Legislature and approved by local voters. Staff has engaged professionals from the University of Minnesota to study the impacts of a local sales tax in SLP.
Vaping Ordinance: Vaping can kill! As of this week, the CDC has received reports of at least 2,055 cases of severe lung injury and 40 deaths associated with the use of vaping products.And youth use is on the rise, with nearly 30% of U.S. high schoolers in 2019 reporting recently vaping compared with 10% in 2016. At this time, no one compound or ingredient has emerged as the cause of these illnesses, compelling the CDC to advise not using vaping products while their investigation is ongoing. In response to this health emergency, and using the tools we have, council recently directed staff to draft an ordinance banning the sale of vaping products in SLP, at least until further information is available. Education will be another important component in addressing this issue; I anticipate school board members will be proposing strategies soon.
Reducing our city’s carbon footprint: With the goal to be carbon neutral by 2040, reducing status quo energy use and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is an urgent priority for our community. In SLP, buildings (residential, commercial, and municipal) are the largest contributor of emissions, followed by vehicles. And while there are many more homes in SLP than businesses, commercial sector emissions are nearly double those of the residential sector. To focus our Climate Action efforts where they will have the greatest impact, staff have developed an Efficient Buildings Ordinance to support building owners in doing their part. Beginning early next year, businesses over 25,000 square feet will be required to measure their annual energy use and water consumption and report this information to staff and the public. Those with high usage will be identified for education outreach/incentive programs to reduce their carbon footprint.
Dakota Park bikeway project: Reducing vehicle miles traveled is another GHG reduction strategy identified in our Climate Action Plan, prompting modifications to some of our major car corridors to better accommodate bike and pedestrian travel. There’s understandable tension in this process as residents living on these corridors contemplate the impacts. The Dakota Park bridge and bikeway project is one example of this tension, generating significant input from residents of Dakota Avenue concerned about the loss of on-street parking. Staff will present their final recommendations for the Dakota Ave. bikeway project to council at our Nov. 18 meeting.
Wooddale Ave. bikeway: Like the Dakota Avenue bikeway, this project has generated significant input regarding the loss of on-street parking and other impacts for residents of Wooddale Ave. As staff continues to work on a final design, they’ve created an online survey and encourage residents in the Wooddale Ave. area and across the city to share their views. To access the survey, click here and enter code 931787.
Arts & Culture survey: While you’re completing surveys, why not take a few minutes to share your perceptions of arts and culture in our community? Information gathered will inform the development of a new approach to improving creativity, culture, and arts in SLP. You can access the survey here.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events:
Holy Family Catholic Church/neighborhood meeting to discuss proposed expansion: Tuesday, November 11, 7 pm, Katter Hall (lower level of school), Holy Family Catholic Church, 5900 W. Lake Street.
WASTED! The Story of Food Waste documentary showings: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 3:30-5:30 pm and 6-8 pm, followed by a short discussion. Little Theater, Lenox Community Center, 6715 Minnetonka Blvd.
St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts’ Fundraiser with Friends: Wed., Nov. 13, 5-7 pm, Steel Toe Brewing, 4848 W. 35thSt. Info here.
Fern Hill Pavement Management Open House #2: Thursday, Nov. 14, 5:30-7 pm, City Hall Council Chambers, 5005 Minnetonka Blvd. Info here.
Community Storytelling forum featuring Bob Ramsey: Thursday, Nov. 14, 6:30 pm, St. Louis Park Library, 3240 Library Lane.
My November meetup (typically scheduled for the first Sunday of the month) will take place TODAY, Nov. 10, 3-4:30 pm, at the Birchwood Park shelter, 27thSt. & Zarthan Ave. S. Attendees will set the agenda, so come with your ideas, questions, and concerns and let’s talk. All are welcome!
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.