Right now the West St. Paul city council is debating the 2018 budget and a potential 10-12% levy increase. Yes, taxes are going to go up.
This really isn’t a surprise, especially since the city has been unable to secure state help in paying for the recent Robert Street reconstruction (I explored taxes vs. investment last year).
These are preliminary numbers and the city council and mayor are working to bring those numbers down—nobody wants a huge tax increase. They will wrangle over ways to slash the budget, including closing the city pool and Thompson Golf Course, delaying improvements to Marthaler Park and more.
Budget cuts are painful, no way around it. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to invest in West St. Paul without adding to the budget?
Oh yeah, there is: The Robert Street Tunnel. Continue reading Robert St. Tunnel: Invest in West St. Paul Without Raising Taxes
Just when I was starting to blog about other things (two posts in a row!), the tunnel comes up again. This time the proposed River-to-River Greenway and Robert Street tunnel in West St. Paul received high-profile coverage in the Pioneer Press.
Unfortunately, it’s not good news:
Plans for the tunnel are on the shelf for now as officials wait for retail development to play out nearby.
As the article explains, there’s potential for development on both sides of Robert Street where the tunnel would cross. That’s not new. So far, none of those projects have come together (the last attempt by Pebb Enterprises failed because they wanted the city to pitch in $4 million to make it work).
What is new is the city saying they don’t want to hinder any potential development, so the tunnel can’t happen.
This is odd for several reasons: Continue reading Robert Street Tunnel on Hold for No Good Reason
I went for a bike ride today in the glorious June weather. I decided to check out the River-to-River Greenway trail in my own West St. Paul neighborhood.
Well, I biked the sections of nice trail, OK trail, crappy sidewalks and really bad connections that make-up what could eventually become the River-to-River Greenway trail through West St. Paul. It’s not officially designated as such just yet, mainly because West St. Paul is dragging its feet and turning its nose at about $3 million of county, state and federal money. More on that in a minute.
Here’s the path the River-to-River Greenway currently takes:
Continue reading Biking the River-to-River Greenway
A couple weeks ago I spoke at a West St. Paul city council meeting for the third time in three months.
This is starting to get a little ridiculous, right? You might think I have aspirations to run for office, but if you’ve seen any of those appearances it should be clear that I do better behind a keyboard than a podium.
I’m speaking up a lot because I’m convinced with the current political climate we can no longer just sit back and assume everything is OK. So I’ve gone to council meetings and spoken out against firing a city manager, for accepting a grant for sidewalks (which later passed unanimously), and most recently I spoke in support of the River-to-River Greenway trail.
If you’ve been following my blog or social media lately, you may have noticed that I don’t stop talking about that trail. It’s the proposed River-to-River Greenway trail and Robert Street tunnel in West St. Paul. I’ve blogged about it, tweeted, shared on Facebook and talked about it in person. I’ve contacted my city council members, I’ve met with local leaders, I’ve attended meetings, I helped with a Rotary Club presentation. I talked at city council and wrote a letter to the editor.
So why won’t I shut up?
Because I think this trail is a great opportunity for West St. Paul.
But if we don’t support it, it won’t happen. Continue reading Why Won’t I Shut Up About a Trail?!
I’m a big fan of the River-to-River Greenway trail, a Dakota County project that will complete a regional trail through West St. Paul with a tunnel under Robert Street.
I’ve talked about why I think it’s an awesome idea and I’ve explored some misconceptions about the project.
I’ve also been accused of spreading misinformation about the project. That’s certainly not my intent. I’ve researched the original documents from Dakota County, talked to people involved and done my best to provide clear, honest answers. I’ve pushed to have an open dialogue about this project so we can consider all arguments and make the best decision.
With that in mind, I wanted to address some of the questions I’ve heard about the project:
- What’s it going to cost?
- Why a tunnel and not a bridge?
- Will a tunnel be safe?
- How will construction impact Robert Street?
- What about development?
- Can the River-to-River Greenway cross Robert Street anywhere else?
- What happens when the trail crosses Wentworth Avenue?
- Will the trail really see 140,000 people?
- Why do we say WSP Greenway?
Ready? Let’s dive into the details… Continue reading River-to-River Greenway Questions
Last fall I explored the history of women in Minnesota politics. One of the interesting angles was that West St. Paul had never had a female mayor—until now. In 2016 West St. Paul elected its first female mayor in Jenny Halverson.
It made me curious about the history of women in other roles in West St. Paul’s history, so I did a little digging.
Female Firsts in West St. Paul:
- 1955: Police Officer, Dorothea Binder
- 1963: City Clerk, Benedicta Southwick
- 1967: City Council, Devona Weatherhead
- 1996: City Manager, Dianne R. Krogh
- 1996: Fire Fighter, Linda McMillan
- 2005: City Attorney, Korine Land
- 2008: Finance Director, Sandy Christensen
- 2017: Mayor, Jenny Halverson
Continue reading Women’s History in West St. Paul
Dakota County has proposed a River-to-River Greenway trail through West St. Paul that includes the Robert Street tunnel. This isn’t a new idea. A separated crossing has been proposed in various incarnations going back to the 2001 Renaissance Plan.
The proposals have shifted over the years, the cost has changed dramatically and the funding has gone from $0 to 100%. In all that time plenty of misconceptions have taken root.
I think the tunnel is a great opportunity for West St. Paul. So let’s look at some of the common misconceptions about the Robert Street tunnel that seem to be standing in the way of this project:
1. The Project is Too Expensive
The number one misconception about the Robert Street tunnel is that it’s going to cost West St. Paul too much money. A citizen comment at the Feb. 27 city council meeting urged the council to be fiscally responsible and reject the tunnel. But this is often based on earlier reports about the tunnel that had a higher price tag and no secured funding. Continue reading 7 Misconceptions About the Robert Street Tunnel
West St. Paul is “close to it all,” as our city motto proclaims, but we have an opportunity to not just be close to it all, but to be at the center.
Dakota County has a number of popular trails that encourage exercise, get people out into nature and connect communities. These trails also connect to wider regional trails throughout the Twin Cities.
West St. Paul has always been close to these trails, but barely a part of them. Thompson Park connects to Kaposia Park and eventually trails along the Mississippi River. But you have to get to Thompson Park. Last year a trail improvement project connected trails from Henry Sibley High School through the Dodge Nature Center to Garlough Elementary School. But the trail effectively ends at Marthaler Park.
Now we have the opportunity to complete the County’s River-to-River Greenway trail, routing it through the heart of West St. Paul and making our city part of a regional attraction.
Dakota County wants to complete the River-to-River Greenway trail and add a safer pedestrian/bike crossing at Robert Street. They are currently considering a few options with a tunnel at Crawford Drive (the old Blockbuster property).
Such a route would send bikers and pedestrians past the library, YMCA, the Dome, City Hall and Marthaler Park, as well as within stopping distance of a number of businesses and snack spots on Robert Street. Dakota County projects the trail will see 140,000 people visits each year.
Could you ask for a better way to highlight West St. Paul? Continue reading How to Make West St. Paul Awesome: The Greenway Trail
Before the election I wrote a blog post about women running for potential political firsts on my ballot. Only one of the three women I highlighted actually won, but it was still progress.
West St. Paul has its first ever female mayor in Jenny Halverson.
That’s pretty cool.
Yesterday a whole lot of women marched, making a powerful statement that they will not be ignored. It was pretty amazing. I’m inspired by all those bold women, and I want to see more women running for office.
For too long the political arena has been dominated by men, and I think when we’re so dominated by one, singular voice we can miss out on the contributions and perspectives of so many other voices.
Yesterday women marched. Today, I hope women run.
So who are the women who could run for office in upcoming elections? There are some offices up for election in 2017. A ton of positions will be on the ballot in 2018—school board, city council, mayor, representative, governor, etc. Continue reading Encourage Women to Run for Elected Office
I spoke at the West St. Paul city council meeting tonight. Not my favorite thing to do. I don’t like public speaking or confrontation.
Here’s the short version: Two new council members elected in November and sworn in last week tipped the balance, and City Manager Matt Fulton was forced to resign. The city council members behind this offered no rational for firing Fulton, other than wanting a “fresh start.”
Of course that “fresh start” will require an interim city manager, increased burden on the staff as they wrestle with all the changes, a search for a new city manager that’s likely to cost thousands of dollars, and—oh yeah—the severance package for Matt Fulton that will include an additional six months pay.
Why do we need this costly and time-consuming “fresh start”?
Continue reading West St. Paul Fires City Manager for No Reason