Economic Development Update – 2017

Earlier this year I was elected President of Crystal’s Economic Development Authority (EDA).  I wanted to provide an update for you on what the EDA will be up to in 2017.

What’s the EDA?

Before we start, I want to explain what the EDA is.  The EDA has 7 members, and is made up of the city council, but is technically a different organization. Whereas the mayor presides over council meetings, the EDA elects officers (President, Vice President, Treasurer) from its membership.

State law allows cities to create EDAs for the purposes of supporting economic development in their cities, and Crystal has had an EDA for many years.

The EDA has it’s own budget, and taxing authority.  On your tax statement, there’s a line that says “other special taxing districts” – the EDA’s levy is in there.  The total levy amount is small (about $200,000) compared to the city’s levy (~$9 million).

Scattered Site Redevelopment

The EDA operates several ongoing programs- these are things that go on from year to year.

The most visible is the scattered site redevelopment program, in which the EDA acquires blighted properties, knocks down the houses, and then sells the lots for new homes.

The good news is that our lots are a hot commodity, and we think we’ll sell most of the remaining inventory this year.  The flip side, which isn’t really bad news, is that there aren’t really any lots to buy right now, because the real estate market is strong and private buyers are rehabbing properties.

You can see that during the bad years of the recession, the EDA bought a bunch of lots, and as things have improved, the lots have been selling.

2017.04.04 presentation 2016 Annual Report_Page_05

Home Improvement Projects

The other ongoing programs are different variations of home improvement incentives and programs.  These are the Housing Resource Center, Home Improvement Rebates, the Community Fix-Up Fund, and Deferred Home Improvement Loans.

I won’t go into details of all of these here.  If you want more info, check out this presentation.

Special Projects

In addition to the ongoing programs, the EDA also tackles a number of special projects.  These vary from year to year.

I’m very excited about the projects we have in store for 2017-2018.

Opportunity Areas

Early this year, the EDA met to talk about what we are calling “opportunity areas” within the city.  These are the commercial corridors that are in need of a bit of TLC.

The four areas identified were:

  • 42nd Avenue (From the Robbinsdale border to Douglas Drive
  • The 36th and Douglas corridor
  • Bass Lake Road, east of 81
  • West Broadway, south of Hansen Court

For each of the areas, we talked about what we liked, what we didn’t and discussed strategies for improving these areas.  At the end, we created a list of priorities, and will begin working on them a little bit in 2017, and more in 2018 and beyond.

The discussion really helped frame what the EDA’s strategy and focus will be over the next few years.

Bass Lake Road Streetscape Project

One major project the EDA will be tackling in 2017 is improvements to the streetscape along Bass Lake Road.

2017.04.04 presentation 2017 Work Program_Page_06

We’ll be adding on-street parking on the north side for sure, and the south side if the design allows.  The big (ugly) concrete planters will go, and the landscaping will be refreshed. We’ll be sprucing up the sidewalks and adding bike parking on the north side of the street.

On the south side, we’ll be relocating the walking path in Becker Park along the street to make the entire area more pedestrian friendly, and to tie the park better into the rest of the city.

Railroad Quiet Zones

A project that has been a long time coming, but will finally happen this year, is the establishment of a railroad quiet zone at the Canadian Pacific crossings at Douglas Drive and West Broadway.

2017.04.04 presentation 2017 Work Program_Page_10

2017.04.04 presentation 2017 Work Program_Page_11

What this means is that residents along the CP corridor (and everyone in Crystal) will hear fewer train horns as trains go through the city.

With the increased rail traffic in recent years, this will be a very welcome livability improvement for residents of the city.

Community Image Enhancement

While this doesn’t exactly count as a “major” project, it qualifies as an important one, and it’s one that I have been a personal champion of.

We will be piloting some changes in the way we sign our community, with the goal of refreshing our image and making things look more friendly and updated.  We’ll be looking at our street and neighborhood signs, and branding of our commercial areas to create a stronger identity for them.

Although signs and banners may be small changes, they can have an outsized impact in creating a positive first impression as you enter the city or a neighborhood.

In Conclusion…

I’ve covered a few of the highlights of the EDA’s 2017 plan here. If you want all the details, please see the full presentations here:

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say that there’s no way we could tackle as much as we are doing without the support of our awesome community development staff, led by Community Development Director John Sutter.

If you have any questions about the EDA, or anything else in the city, please let me know!

Let’s Talk About Speeding

One of the most common complaints we get as council-members is about speeding in residential neighborhoods.

I had a meeting with a resident this morning to talk about one of these complaints, and I thought this was a good opportunity to discuss the city’s process for dealing with speeding complaints.

At a high level it works like this:

  • Citizen Makes Complaint
  • Traffic Study Conducted
  • Targeted Enforcement if Necessary
  • Corrective Action/Adjustments Made

Citizen Makes Complaint

These complaints originate from many places such as calls to the police department or city hall, or conversations with residents at events or meetings.  I would encourage people to start the complaint process with their council member.  This allows us to monitor the process and make sure we know where problem areas are. We really like to know what goes on in our neighborhoods.

Traffic Study Conducted

After the complaint is made, the city will deploy the traffic count device to the area.  You’ve seen it- it’s the thing with the two rubber tubes that go across the street.  This device will count all of the cars that go down the street and also track the speeds.  At the end we get reports like this one:

file1

This allows us to see what the average speeds are, and if speeding is happening- when.

In the image above, we can see that 738 cars went down Louisiana Ave on the Tuesday in question. The speed limit is 30. 90% were going less than 35mph. 9% were between 35 and 40 and a few jerks exceeded 40.

Targeted Enforcement if Necessary

If there is a speed issue identified, and if the speeding fits into a pattern, the police department will institute targeted patrols to the area to help identify who is causing the speeding.

Most of the time when we get speed complaints the residents think it’s people cutting through the neighborhood that are doing the speeding.  Unfortunately, the real speeders are usually people who live in the neighborhood.

Corrective Action/Adjustments Made

After the data is in the city will also look at making traffic control adjustments such as adding or removing signs, adding or removing pavement markings, or temporarily deploying the radar speed trailer (that sign that flashes when you go too fast).

How Long Does This Process Take?

Longer than you want it to but as quickly as possible.

The traffic counter is used for more things than responding to speeding complaints, and there are other things to consider when counting traffic (weather, time of year, school break, etc.) to make sure you get good numbers.

That’s great, but can’t I just get a stop sign?  

Well, no.

I’ll admit that before I was on the council I didn’t understand this one. But after quite a bit of explaining and convincing and watching quite a bit of time-lapse traffic video, I begrudgingly understand… Stop signs don’t actually impact speed or improve safety the way you (or I) think they do.

When drivers perceive stop signs as “unnecessary” they either roll through them, or speed up after going through the intersection to “make up” the time that they “lost” by stopping.  (Yes, you know and I know that’s irrational. But we also drive around town to save a penny on gas even though we burn up more in gas by doing so.)

Stop signs can also create a false sense of security because people, especially kids, figure that if there’s a stop sign that cars will stop.  And that’s a bad assumption.

So, it’s not personal, and we’re not being cheap or mean by saying no to a stop sign request.  What we’re doing is trying to make the roads as safe as possible for everyone.

In Conclusion, the Necessary Disclaimer

This is obviously a high level overview and every situation is unique.

Again, if you have concerns with traffic or speeding, I encourage you to contact your councilmember (or if you don’t know who that is, contact me and I’ll get you to them).

Thanks for reading, and drive safely out there.

UPDATE: 10/11/2016

One thing I forgot to mention- the traffic tubes don’t work well in temperatures that are less than freezing.  So if requests are being made now, they may not get fulfilled until next spring, as there is already a queue of requests from this year.

The Crystal Airport Isn’t Going Anywhere

Last week the Crystal City Council had a meeting with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) about the future of the Crystal Airport.  MAC owns and operates the airport.

In 2015, there were 41,838 landings and takeoffs. There are 185 based aircraft at Crystal Airport.

MAC is currently working on the comprehensive plan for the Crystal Airport for 2035.

As a part of formulating that plan MAC is seeking public input.  The public meeting is scheduled for Sept. 27 from 5 – 7 p.m. at the Crystal Community Center. There’s a second meeting the 29th in Brooklyn Park.

MAC’s current proposed plan for the airport is to close down two of the runways.  This will “right size” the airport for the volume of operations that are projected through 2035, and also provide some safety enhancements.  One benefit of this plan is that it would open up some additional land on the airport for commercial aviation or potentially non-aviation uses.

The other plan MAC is considering, but is not their “preferred alternative” is to lengthen the runways a bit, which would potentially allow slightly larger aircraft to use the airport.  No jumbo jets, but we could see some corporate type aircraft with this plan. During our meeting several council members including me expressed their interest in exploring this plan in more detail. We’d need to see more info before formally supporting it, but I think we should keep that option open.

What MAC is not considering is closing the airport.  Their plan assumes the airport will keep operating indefinitely- at least through 2035.  So if you’ve heard any rumors about the airport closing- they are not true.

I asked MAC about the process of closing an airport – what we could expect to see if someone somewhere decided they wanted to close it. Bottom line- like many things in government it’s a complicated and convoluted process that requires interaction from many layers of government.  It won’t sneak up on us.

If you are interested in the future of the Crystal Airport I encourage you to either attend the open house Sept. 27 from 5 – 7 p.m. at the Crystal Community Center or send feedback directly to MAC. Info for that and much more on their website.

(Image courtesy of SEH Inc)

Mid-Summer 2016 Update

I’ve kind of given up on how to appropriately name these posts.  So you get what you get.  Anyway, here’s what we’ve been up to since the last update.

LRT Pedestrian Bridge

Unceremoniously killed by the Met Council and Hennepin County. Read more about it here.  We did meet with Congressman Keith Ellison who pledged his support to try to resolve this favorably for us. The project will be built with about a billion dollars in Federal cash, so hoping we have some leverage here. He already sent a letter on our behalf. More to come.

Temporary Health Care Dwellings

We opted out, as I described here. Now on to developing a replacement ordinance.

Quiet Zones

Installing the necessary road upgrades so we could get quiet zones so trains would not routinely sound their horns when crossing Douglas or West Broadway.  This is still on the radar and progressing through the labyrinth of bureaucracies that have to approve of such a thing.

Crystal Frolics!

Was great this year.  I hear the fireworks were great. I was probably in bed. 10:00pm is way past this guy’s bedtime. I was in the dunk tank along with Mayor Adams, Councilmember Parsons, and a few city commissioners. We raised about $400 for local food shelves.

Who Likes Big Trucks? Everyone. 

Well this is fun. A local resident (that I happen to be married to) and mother of a truck-obsessed toddler contacted the public works department to see if they had ever considered renting out one of the rooms at the public works garage for kids’ birthday parties- including a tour of the building as part of the party. That proved too difficult to work out from a logistical and risk management standpoint, but the public works staff did come up with a neat concept where a truck could stop by and visit the kid’s house during the party, and public works would supply some fun props for photos. The resident would pay a fee to cover the staff time, etc. Community outreach + happy kids = win/win. We were the guinea pigs for the process, and worked out a few kinks, but based on the overall success I’d expect to see a public works party package available to Crystal residents soon. I offered that we could rent out council members for parties too, but was politely told that “council member in a late model Jeep Cherokee” didn’t have the same draw as “real life construction guy in a big truck”.

Budgets

The city budget process is underway, and things look ugly this year.  We’re looking at sizable increases or drastic cuts. I’d like to sugarcoat it, but I can’t.  Stay tuned.  The preliminary levy gets passed in September. After that we can lower it but can’t raise it.

Links and Info

You can watch the video of council meetings here and find the agendas and meeting notes here.  Audio recording of work sessions can be found here. Check the city calendar for updated meeting dates, locations and times.

As always, if I can be of assistance, let me know.

Crystal Pedestrian Bridge Update

Last week, the Blue Line Corridor Management Committee (CMC), which is the committee that oversees the Blue Line Light Rail Project, voted to remove the pedestrian bridge over Highway 81 from the scope of the Blue Line project.  The Sun Post’s write-up of the decision is here.

What this means is that, barring a sudden turn of events or reversal of the decision, there will not be a pedestrian bridge built to facilitate safe crossing of highway 81.

This is a disappointing, unacceptable and egregious decision, but one that was not entirely unpredictable.

If you’d like the details on what happened, read on. If you just want to know what you can do about it, skip to the end.

The History

In late 2015 and early 2016 Hennepin County sponsored a few “Station Area Planning” meetings at the Rockford Road Library. Those meetings were well attended by residents of Crystal.  The feedback from those meetings was nearly unanimous that residents felt that a bridge would be necessary for crossing 81 if a new train station would be added to the area.  The existing intersection is not viewed as safe by local residents, and the addition of the train station was expected to increase pedestrian crossings by a significant amount.

On February 11, 2016 I attended a CMC meeting because our representative (Mayor Jim Adams) and our alternate (council member Olga Parsons) were unavailable.  We were readying for the vote on “municipal consent” and the bridge had not been formally added into the scope of the project.  I was seeking, on behalf of Crystal, assurance that the bridge would be included in the scope at a later date.

It was explained that to “officially” add the bridge to the scope of the project would not be feasible, because it would require a delay in the project, but that the resolution passed by CMC was more of a technicality/formality.  We were assured that the bridge would be “formally” added later- in June.

There was unease among Crystal Council Members about taking the CMC/Met Council at their word.  At the February 11 meeting we negotiated language that I felt the city council would accept.  You can see that reflected in the minutes here.

At the February 29 Crystal City Council meeting, the council debated granting municipal consent to the Blue Line project.

Much of the discussion about municipal consent centered around our unease with the items that were not “formally” in scope- the pedestrian bridge, and visual and sound screening along the route.

We ultimately chose not to affirm or deny municipal consent, but rather allow the plans to be “deemed approved” as allowed for in MN law.  You can read a recap of that decision here.  The bottom line is that nobody felt comfortable affirmatively approving plans that were, in our eyes, incomplete.

The resolution we passed was unambiguous about our position on the bridge being a required part of the project, and that Crystal would not be assuming costs for maintenance of the bridge, as it is a part of the project. If LRT were not being built, the bridge would not be necessary.

Over the next few months the Crystal City Council continued working with Metro Transit on options for the pedestrian bridge. We had many design meetings, and even recently took a tour of other pedestrian bridges in the area.

The city council was split, but generally in favor of a bridge design that featured elevators, because of the challenging topography of the area, and the tight fit of the bridge in the area. The Met Council preferred a design with no elevators, which would cost more but be less functional.

A few hours before the July 7 2016 CMC meeting, the Blue Line Project Office (Met Council) made a surprise recommendation that the maintenance and ownership of the bridge would fall on the city, in what appeared to be a negotiation tactic to get Crystal to drop the requirement for elevators.  It worked.

Negotiations continued for a few days, and on July 19, the Blue Line Project Office, representing Metro Transit, and Crystal agreed that the bridge would not include elevators, Metro Transit would own and operate the bridge, and Crystal would be responsible for snow removal.

We had a deal.

Two days later the CMC voted to remove the pedestrian bridge from the scope of the project entirely, and the bridge was killed. Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, who represents the citizens who initially requested the bridge, spoke against it.  The vote was a simple voice vote. There was no roll call.  There will be no record of who voted to kill the bridge. There will be no accountability.

I don’t know any other way to put it- we were played. And we were played by people who are better at this game than we are. So we lost.

The Crystal City Council, and the Crystal City Staff did, in my opinion, everything we could possibly do to fight to represent our residents, but at the end of the day someone else decided we didn’t need a bridge so now we don’t get one.

As I said above, this action was disappointing, unacceptable and egregious, but not unpredictable.

I was always uneasy with being told to just trust that the Met Council, Hennepin County, and the rest of the CMC would keep their word. I always knew this was a likely outcome.  I would have liked to been proven wrong. There’s zero satisfaction in being right.

I hope there is never an instance where someone is hurt or killed while trying to cross 8 lanes of busy traffic as they rush to catch a train. But the CMC and your County Commissioner decided that $7.5 million out of a total project cost of $1.5 billion (roughly 0.5%) was too much, and they would rather risk it.

What Can You Do?

I won’t sugarcoat it. Likely nothing. The City Council and Staff are exploring all potential options, but it’s unlikely that when the full Met Council votes on the scope they will do anything but take the CMC’s recommendation.

You could try contacting Mike Opat, Hennepin County Commissioner at 612-348-7881 or mike.opat@hennepin.us

and let him know that you are unhappy with his support of removing the bridge from the scope. If he were to change his mind and represent the wishes of his constituents, that would likely help.

You could also try contacting your Met Council representative Gail Dorfman at 612.998.5214 or gail.dorfman@metc.state.mn.us

I should note that Ms. Dorfman is not a CMC member and she didn’t vote on the removal of the bridge. She will get a vote when the full Met Council votes later this year.

Temporary Health Care Dwellings

Earlier this year the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that would allow for the placement of temporary health care dwellings on private property.

The idea is that if you have a relative who needs some living assistance you could put a temporary structure (think trailer home) in your yard and have them live near you while they recover.

The League of MN Cities has a good recap of the law here.

Unfortunately, though the law was well-intentioned, the implementation of the law as written would be problematic in a fully developed and dense suburban city like Crystal. For example, the setback requirements in the law would exclude the majority of lots in Crystal from ever hosting a temporary dwelling.

The way the law is structured, cities have the option to “opt-out” of the law entirely, or to accept the law in its entirety. There isn’t an option to partially adopt or modify the law.  We do, however, retain the right to regulate land use through our regular zoning and planning authority.

After discussion at the council work session this week, it is very likely Crystal will vote to opt-out of the law at our next meeting. Many of our neighboring cities will likely do the same.

The City’s Code Review Task Force, which was created by the council last year and is reviewing our City Code chapter by chapter, recently discussed the topic of land use for similar types of structures.

The recommendation from the task force was that the council should have a more in-depth conversation about how temporary or permanent small dwellings could or should work in Crystal.

As our population continues to age there has been a national trend related to “tiny houses”, “granny pods“, temporary health care “drop homes” and other types of smaller dwellings.

Although we will be opting-out of the state law on temporary health care dwellings, the Council is committed to discussing this topic in a comprehensive manner and coming up with policies that make sense for Crystal.

An important part of that process will be seeking feedback from you. If you have any thoughts about the topic, please let me know.

City Meetings Update – May (and Early June) 2016

As always, a lot going on in our city.  Here are the highlights of the meetings that happened in May and early June 2016.

Recognizing Officer Gabe Storz – Officer Storz was recognized for saving the life of a 2-week-old baby.  The baby was choking and stopped breathing.  Storz responded to the call and was able to get the baby breathing again.  Baby Eleanor was about 7 weeks old at the meeting.  Listening to the 911 call of the panicked mother was chilling.  I’m not ashamed to admit some sawdust flew into my eye and I needed a few moments to get myself back together.  Mama and baby and the hero pictured above.

Recognizing Officer Caleb Selin – Officer Selin was recognized for being the MADD Rookie Officer of the Year, and for his lifesaving actions at a house fire.  Selin ran toward the flames to save a life. These guys are amazing.

Annual Audit/Financial Report – Each year the city’s financials are audited by an outside auditing firm. Crystal once again received an “unmodified opinion” on our annual financial audit, which is a name only an accountant could dream up, but is the best opinion you can get.

Welcome to Beacon Academy – Beacon Academy is a public charter school that will be relocating from Maple Grove to Crystal.  The school will be taking over the building currently occupied by a church and school at 34th and Nevada.  The council approved a conditional use permit and site plan for the school’s plans to expand the building. They have a lot of work to do before school starts.

Long Grass – The council approved an amendment to the wording of our code pertaining to long grass.  Somebody read it and interpreted it to mean they only had to mow a majority (51%) of their lawn.  So, we clarified you actually have to mow the whole thing.  Sorry, Mr. Clever Guy.

Open Book (Property Valuation Appeals) – There are two options for cities on how to handle appeals to property valuations- they can either have a Local Board of Appeal and Equalization (how Crystal currently does it) or they can use the Open Book process (how Crystal will do it going forward).  Many residents find the formality of going before the board intimidating.  The Open Book process allows residents who wish to appeal their valuation to work directly with the county assessors, on a more flexible timeline that meets their needs.  The residents do not give up any opportunity to appeal by using this process.  Many of our neighboring cities have adopted the Open Book process and it has worked well for them.

Blue Line Update – The Blue Line Project Office began discussions with the neighborhood north of Bass Lake Road that will be impacted by the removal of trees and relocation of the tracks as part of the Blue Line project.  The goal is to secure visual screening that will help mitigate the impact of the new project.  The council doesn’t really have a say in this process, but we are advocating for our residents on this piece, to make sure the final solution is workable for everyone.  Negotiations continue on the pedestrian bridge at Bass Lake and West Broadway.  We are going on a tour of bridges in a few weeks so that we can get some ideas for what will be workable for our bridge.  The county wants to rush some improvements to the at-grade crossings at that intersection. The council (generally) would prefer to put the brakes on and make sure we have a good solution rather than a fast solution. There is also concern about someone using the new at-grade improvements as an excuse for not needing a bridge, so I’m keeping my eye on that closely.

Open Meeting Laws – The council received our annual training on Open Meeting Laws.  There’s a lot of detail and nuance to this issue, but the bottom line is that the public’s business should be conducted in public, and that attempts to get “creative” with workarounds (as happens in other cities- not Crystal) are not a good thing.

Railroad Quiet Zones – The city is in the early stages of working through the red tape required to pursue Railroad “Quiet Zones” at the Douglas and West Broadway crossings of the CP rail line.  The feds think our plans are OK, but the county objected to them.  I would have figured the other way around, but you really can’t predict or control a bureaucracy that’s this convoluted, I guess.  Work continues to get the county to get their act together.  I’d like trains to blow their horns less.  How about you?

We’re about to head into the summer months, which means we theoretically meet a little bit less.  Only one formal council meeting currently scheduled for July and August.  That is, as always, subject to change.

Links and Info

You can watch the video of council meetings here and find the agendas and meeting notes here.  Audio recording of work sessions can be found here. Check the city calendar for updated meeting dates, locations and times.

As always, if I can be of assistance, let me know.

Curbside Cleanup Recap

On Tuesday the council met with our representative from the Hennepin Recycling Group to discuss the recent Curbside Cleanup event.

There was some chatter about the event over on Nextdoor and I promised a few answers to questions that residents posted.

Here are a few items we learned:

  1. Who Pays for Curbside Cleanup?

    You Do.

    The funds to pay for Curbside Cleanup come out of the recycling fee that you pay with your utility (water) bill.  It works out to about 90 cents a month.

  2. Do Other Cities Offer this Service?

    Yes, but not many.

    The only cities we are aware of that offer this type of service are Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Crystal and New Hope.

    Bloomington does it annually, Brooklyn Park does 1/3 of the city each year, and Crystal/New Hope typically do it every other year.

  3. I like a fall pickup date, rather than spring. Can we move it back to fall?

    Unfortunately, no.

    The contract specified that we would prefer a fall pickup, but no vendors could do it then.

    Years ago there were many more haulers that could offer the service.  But haulers are replacing their old rear loaded trucks with automatic side-loaded trucks.  This saves on fuel and labor costs.  As more trucks are replaced, we could end up having no vendors who can provide the service.

    The vendors who had done the pickup in Crystal and New Hope in the past contacted us this year and said they could no longer do it.  There were only two bids, and the one we didn’t choose wanted to start in March instead of April.

    The vendors can only offer the service at all by hiring their yard waste seasonal workers a few weeks early.  It’s not possible for them to keep them in the fall.

  4. Can’t we just find new vendors or offer them more money? Isn’t it that simple?

    Nope.

    The number of vendors is dwindling due to industry consolidation.

    And the contract isn’t a fixed bid. The vendors set the price.

    Even under those terms there were only two bidders.

  5. Can we do a Curbside Cleanup annually instead of every other year?

    Maybe.

    Unfortunately we may come to a point (soon) where we can’t offer the service at all because there aren’t any vendors who can do it.  But plans are to keep offering the service for as long as we can, and the HRG board will talk about the feasibility of an annual event.  It would obviously cost more, so we need to consider a variety of things before making a decision.

  6. OK, who is HRG?

    HRG stands for Hennepin Recycling Group.

    HRG is a joint powers agreement between the cities of Brooklyn Center, Crystal and New Hope.  HRG manages the recycling programs for these cities.

    Each city has one board member on the HRG board.  There is a part time paid staffer who runs HRG and reports to the board. That employee is currently a staff member for the city of Brooklyn Park.  HRG pays for 15% of his time through a contract with Brooklyn Park.

  7. Why isn’t Brooklyn Park part of HRG then?

    We really don’t know.  They just never have been.

  8. Speaking of recycling, can we change that to a weekly pickup?

    Maybe.

    We’re looking into it.  The same vendor services Brooklyn Park and the HRG cities.  We’re looking at a new contract that would use the economies of scale of both Brooklyn Park and HRG and would also allow weekly pickup. Stay tuned.

    In the meantime, you can get a second recycling cart or a larger cart for free by calling 763-493-8006.

  9. How much junk did we throw away during curbside cleanup this year?

    Here are some stats: 67% of households participated.  In 2016, about 900 tons of trash were collected, as well as 1034 appliances. In 2014, there were 670 tons of trash and 224 appliances collected. In 2011, 800 tons of trash and 740 appliances.

Here’s a link to a memo that we received from HRG about Curbside Cleanup.  I hit most of the highlights above, but I’m posting it in case you want to take a look.

As always, if you have any questions, let me know.

City Meetings Update – April 2016

For this month’s update, I’m going to send you over to my colleague Olga Parson’s Spring Update.  Councilmember Parsons did a great job recapping the council’s recent discussion on long term planning, and I don’t really have anything to add to it.

Check it out and let me know if you have any thoughts about the direction we’re heading.

Links and Info

You can watch the video of council meetings here and find the agendas and meeting notes here.  Audio recording of work sessions can be found here. Check the city calendar for updated meeting dates, locations and times.

As always, if I can be of assistance, let me know.

Met Council Reform Principles

Last week five members of the Crystal City Council signed a joint letter expressing our support for a statement of principles for reform of the Metropolitan Council.  In doing so, we joined a coalition of local elected officials from 35 cities and 4 counties who have adopted these same principles.

The Met Council was established in 1967 to provide regional planning services for the twin cities area- originally focused on transit and wastewater treatment.  As years went on, the Council’s scope has grown, but it’s accountability has not.

The Twin Cites is not unique in having a regional planning authority. We are, however, unique in the way our regional planning authority is organized and funded.

The Met Council has an annual budget of over $900,000,000 – larger than the regional planning authorities of Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and 13 other larger metro areas – combined!  $80 million of the Met Council’s budget comes from an annual tax levy. That figure makes the Met Council’s tax levy the third largest levy in Minnesota- and more than 8 times Crystal’s levy.

The Met Council has the largest budget of any regional planning authority (by far) and is the only regional planning authority in the United States that has direct taxing authority.

Despite these facts, the Met Council is also the only regional planning authority that contains no elected officials- instead all members of the Met Council are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Governor.

The principles of reform being supported by the coalition of local governments are not seeking to eliminate the Council, but rather seek some common sense reforms to make the Met Council more accountable, responsive and credible to its primary constituents- the cities and counties it serves.

Among the changes being sought are staggered terms for Council Members, changing the makeup of the Council to include a majority of elected officials, ensuring that representation is population based, and incorporating a system of checks and balances on the Council’s activities.

The principles of reform supported in the letter are:

  1. A majority of the members of the Metropolitan Council shall be elected officials, appointed from cities and counties within the region.
  2. Metropolitan cities shall directly control the appointment process for city representatives to the Metropolitan Council.
  3.  Metropolitan counties shall directly appoint their own representatives to the Metropolitan Council.
  4. The terms of office for any Metropolitan Council members appointed by the Governor shall be staggered and not coterminous with the Governor.
  5. Membership on the Metropolitan Council shall include representation from every metropolitan county government.
  6. The Metropolitan Council shall represent the entire region, therefore voting shall be structured based on population and incorporate a system of checks and balances.

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The Crystal City Council originally debated passing a statement of support for these principles as a council resolution. However, the rules adopted by the council prohibit resolutions of this type, and ultimately it was decided not to pursue a formal resolution. All council members were given the opportunity to sign the letter.