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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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”?
This election has been a little crazy-making. But no matter who wins, life goes on. Great things will continue to happen in our community, and we should support them. So let’s talk about West St. Paul nonprofits.
I’ve been especially vocal about some local races here in West St. Paul, so in the interest of supporting local community, I want to encourage people to support some West St. Paul nonprofits.
Nov. 17 is Give to the Max Day, where donations can be multiplied with all kinds of incentives and matching gifts. It’s a great opportunity to rally together to support nonprofits, and you don’t even have to wait until Nov. 17—every donation between now and then will count toward Give to the Max Day.
Part of my frustration goes back to the misleading statements and misinformation in the 2014 election. But alas, I’ve been complaining about how hard it is to find information about local races since 2003.
Seriously, the most we get are candidate sites and a few candidate forums and questionnaires. Those are helpful, but there’s no push back. A candidate can say whatever they want and it goes unchallenged. It’s no wonder turnout for local elections is horrendous.
So I’ve written about the West St. Paul mayor, ward 2 and ward 3 city council races, so I might as well explore the ward 1 race and cover all the bases. Incumbent Pat Armon is running for reelection in ward 1 and is facing challenger Bob Pace.
Pat Armon works for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Bob Pace is the owner of Pace’s Tire and Service Center on Robert Street in West St. Paul.
Like other races in the city, I think this one comes down to investment versus low taxes. Pat Armon sees the long-term benefits of investment, that investing in infrastructure will raise property values and bring more business and residents to the city. Bob Pace argues that those investments are costing too much and rising property taxes will drive people away.
But there’s also an added element of experience that Pat Armon brings to the table. Neither of these candidates are career politicians. For a town of 20,000 people, our council members are regular citizens who pitch in. I don’t think we should expect city council candidates to know everything, but being knowledgeable and engaged is a big plus. There are areas where Bob Pace admits he doesn’t have answers yet (which is certainly better than faking it or giving us political jargon), and that’s where I think Pat Armon’s experience and expertise shines through. Continue reading West St. Paul City Council Ward 1 Race: Pat Armon & Bob Pace→
West St. Paul ward 2 city council candidate John Justen is doing a meet and greet at Carbone’s Pizza on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 3-5 p.m. What a great opportunity to meet a local candidate face to face and get your questions answered.
John has been one of the truly interesting candidates in our local West St. Paul race. He’s a business owner impacted by Robert Street who doesn’t think it’s the worst thing ever. He also appeared on the Streets.mn podcast, totally nerding out with host Bill Lindeke for an hour about local development, business opportunity, city design, sidewalks and more. If you want to see an example of a knowledgeable and engaged candidate, take a listen.
“One lesson we can learn from the Robert Street reconstruction is that the delay of necessary spending increases results in higher costs in the long run. As a retail business owner, I make decisions about how and when to spend my money every day. As is true in business, our city’s success is based on frugal but forward looking investment. Fiscal responsibility does not mean doing nothing; it means recognizing needs and opportunities and responding to them in a timely and efficient manner.”
That, in a nutshell, is the Robert Street project. It had to be done. Delaying the inevitable just makes it cost more. So let’s seize the opportunity. I think mayoral candidate Jenny Halverson has the same investment-focused view.
I’m also appreciative of John Justen because he gave a comment for my Robert Street easement story that included an actual opinion. I understand the current council members and mayor were advised not to weigh in (rightfully so), but the other candidates were free to share their thoughts. Even if you disagree with John Justen, at least he weighed in.