Monthly Archives: January 2015

Council Member Kolb (Ward 2) provides detailed information on the CP and BNSF freight rail connector project.  Read his article here.  City staff, along with the council, are currently working to schedule an informational Q and A session. Senator Ann Rest, Representative Carlson and Freiberg, and representatives from MnDOT have extended their expertise and resources to assist our community with this issue.

The image below shows the location of the project area:

Time for a recap of the recent council meeting!  Tuesday evening kicked off at 6:00pm with Citizen Input time.  Citizen Input time is a half hour session designed for residents to come and speak to the council, mayor, and city staff about issues most important to them.  Unfortunately, this time has been under utilized in the past.  I hope that now more residents will take advantage of this opportunity to bring their concerns and ideas forward.  I would like to create a welcoming, relaxed, and conversational atmosphere, so residents can feel confident and at ease.  Please don’t hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity!  The next Citizen Input time will be on Tuesday, February 17th at 6:00pm.  Take a look at my calendar for more event dates and details.

Immediately after Citizen Input time we held the first work session.  The agenda consisted of just one item- to discuss the apparent plans of Canadian Pacific railroad for a new freight connector track leading to the BNSF line.  It appears that the railroad companies have been planning this project for several months, and have kept our community and city staff mostly in the dark.  The new track addition will run from the CP line near the Broadway Ave intersection, and lead to the BNSF line along Broadway Ave.  The objective of this is to relieve the high traffic CP line, and allow more trains to pass through the BNSF track, which is generally less utilized.  It appears that this project will directly affect several businesses located in the proposed new track area, forcing them to either relocate, or discontinue their operation entirely.  Also, there is a potential for longer and more frequent trains, greater traffic congestion and subsequent public safety issues, and more noise.  Overall, it appears that this does not bring any benefit to our community, and only creates more stress on an already train weary area.

So, how can the train companies plan such a project without appealing to the local community for input and approval?  How can they entirely exclude our city council and staff?  The Federal Surface Transportation Board and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration regulate the railroad industry.  Railroad companies are afforded many liberties, which include the ability to unilaterally carry out projects without any meaningful input from the local community.  At this point, the Federal Surface Transportation Board is conducting an Environmental Impact study, and will invite our “input” shortly after its completion.  Will our concerns be heard, and taken into serious consideration?  Will they amend their plans, and work with us to meet our public safety goals?  It's hard to tell.  It appears that Canadian Pacific and BNSF are entirely confident in their plans, and aim to complete the project in 2015.  The council agrees that we must advocate for our community, and we will take every opportunity to do so.  This story is unfolding, so stay tuned for further updates!

Now onto the Regular Council meeting, which convened at 7:00pm in the Council Chambers.  The highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the Outstanding Agency Award to the Crystal Police Department by the MN Office of Traffic Safety.  This award recognizes the department’s efforts to increase traffic safety in our city.  Crystal PD participates in the Towards Zero Deaths program that strives to eliminate traffic related fatalities in Minnesota.  Our community has achieved a zero death rate since 2011, and has one of the lowest crash rates in the state.  The installation of “blue lights” in our most dangerous intersections has helped achieve this goal.

The regular agenda also included the approval to purchase several new utility trucks- a truck and necessary equipment; trucks with plows; and a televising truck and trailer.  The expenditures were necessary, were well within the budget, and even left a sizeable surplus in the designated fund.

Following the Regular Council Meeting, we went on to the Economic Development Authority work session.  The outgoing community development director Patrick Peters talked us through the various functions of the EDA.  We received a map of the properties owned by the city of Crystal, talked through the timeline of selling these properties, and the possibilities of attracting new businesses to utilize some of the commercially zoned areas.

Our evening concluded with another work session.  We discussed the Citizen Connection Initiative- adding more ideas and goals to the list, and agreeing to prioritize our goals during February’s work session.  Speaking of which, take a look at this article recently published in the Sun Post!

This was my second full council meeting, and I feel like I am beginning to grasp the full scope of this job.  I love the feeling of anticipation for what’s to come, and the satisfaction of being able to help my fellow Crystal residents.  I am happy and honored to be in this position!

Click here to watch the council meeting.

Click here to listen to the work sessions.

Noodles3Off the topic of council meetings- my kids and I stopped for lunch at the new Noodles and Company this week.  Great food and ambiance, and the place was packed too!  It’s also cool to see the progress that’s being made on “de-malling” of the Broadway strip mall.  I am hopeful that our business district will continue to make improvements and Noodles2meet the needs of our community.  

Things I am looking forward to:  Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Bowling Fundraiser.  This event will be held at Doyle’s on Broadway, sign up starts at 10:30am, and all proceeds go to benefit the Veterans in our community.  Three games of bowling and lunch at the VFW are included.  Take a look at my calendar for details!

I am also going to the League of Minnesota Cities training seminar for newly elected council representatives the last week of January.

That’s all for this week.  As usual, I welcome your emails and phone calls with any ideas, questions, or concerns!

Now that the first week of council work is under my belt, here is a summary recap of my experience.  Going forward, I plan on writing a summary for each council meeting.  This is a simple way to look back on council proceedings, discuss the reasoning behing a major vote, and invite citizen participation.

swear-inTuesday, January 6th: I was sworn in as the Section 2 council representative, for a four-year term ending in 2018.  I was also appointed to be the Vice President of the Economic Development Authority, and the council liaison to the Environmental Quality Commission.

The regular council meeting came to order at 7pm.  All were present, excluding council member Libby due to illness.  Following the Pledge of Allegiance, newly elected council members took their Oath of Office. Immediately after, the council agenda was approved, and we went on to normal business. West Metro Fire Auxiliary President Liz Adams presented awards to the winners of the Crystal Sparkle contest, and Shawn Smith, of the group Light of Crystal, addressed the council on the work his group is doing.  We are lucky to have residents who are actively building a close-knit and socially vibrant community in Crystal!

Following the award ceremony, we moved on to the Consent Agenda.  Consent Agenda is approved by one vote, but it contains many items, which are considered routine and non-controversial.  Council members may remove items from this agenda in order to have a more detailed discussion on any unclear points.   Resolution to purchase new Police patrol vehicles was moved off the Consent Agenda, and the council further discussed this issue. The police vehicles are costly, and we needed to understand how they were being funded, reasons for the purchase, etc.  The conversation allowed us to understand the details, and the council moved to unanimously approve the purchase.

On to the Regular Agenda: One of the main issues was a resolution shifting a property line for a resident in Section 2.  This resolution has been discussed for several weeks, and the council needed to move on a decision.  Neighbors addressed the council both to support and oppose the property line shift.  Prior to making my decision, I personally viewed the property, and spoke to residents on both sides of the question.  I came to support the property line shift for the following reasons:

1.  There is no legal impediment to the property line shift- the shift meets all pertinent city code requirements.  The resident owns both properties, and wants to move a certain number of feet from one to the other.  This is a property and individual rights issue, and I have a commitment to protect both.

2. Conditions were set in place, and the resident is obligated to resolve various issues with their financial institution prior to the property line shift coming into effect.

The council meeting adjourned following appointments to various commissions.  I was appointed a liaison to the Environmental Quality Commission; Jeff Kolb to the Planning Commission; and Elizabeth Dahl to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

You can watch the council meeting here.

Thursday, January 8th: The council met for a Work Session to address Issuance of Bonds for the Public Works Facility; Discuss implementing council rules; Receive an update on the new City Engineer hiring process; Discuss goal setting and long term strategic planning.

No major decisions are made during work sessions, and the council uses this time for an in-depth discussion of current issues.  The work sessions are open to the public, and are also recorded.  I am working on keeping an updated calendar, and encourage residents to attend the meetings.  If, however, you can't attend, you can listen to the audio recording here.

Thus concludes my Week One recap!  Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.  Send me a note by filling out the form below:

Announcing the Citizen Connection Initiative!  I am actively taking steps to fulfil my campaign promises- to work towards a more open, accessible, and respectful city government. The Citizen Connection Initiative was created by Elizabeth Dahl, Crystal City Council, Ward 1; Jeff Kolb-Crystal City Council, Ward 2; and myself, in which we outline our course of action as council representatives. We plan to work with the rest of the council on this project, starting at the January 8 work session.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Incoming Crystal Councilmembers to Launch “Citizen Connection Initiative”

Initiative Will Help Fulfill Key Campaign Commitments

Crystal, MN, January 7, 2015 – Incoming Crystal City Councilmembers Olga Parsons (Section II), Elizabeth Dahl (Ward 1) and Jeff Kolb (Ward 2) are today announcing the creation of the “Citizen Connection Initiative,” an program which will guide their priorities and decision making throughout their term in office.

“During the campaign, one common theme we all heard from the citizens we spoke to was that they didn’t feel as if they had a voice in their city government,” said Parsons.  “After the election the three of us sat down to discuss how we could tackle this problem once we were sworn in, and ‘The Citizen Connection Initiative’ is the result of those discussions.”

The Citizen Connection Initiative is a program that will incorporate several steps to make the Crystal City Government more transparent, open, and responsive to its citizens.

“This initiative will really serve as a guide to our work on the council over the next few years,” said Dahl.  “Oftentimes politicians make promises during their campaigns and then abandon those promises as soon as they are elected. We wanted to approach this job differently.”

The steps of the program are a mix between things that elected officials can choose do as individuals, and initiatives that the new councilmembers will propose to the full council once they are sworn in.

Initial steps to The Citizen Connection Initiative include a pledge by all three incoming councilmembers to do the following:

  • Maintain a personal website where they will post information about key votes made by the council
  • Maintain a Facebook presence where residents can interact with their representative
  • Post occasional updates to Nextdoor.com about relevant community meetings
  • Strive for a 72 hour or less response time to citizen inquiries

In addition, residents can expect to see their new council representatives at community meetings and out knocking on doors having one-on-one conversations during non-election years.

Other steps of The Citizen Connection Initiative will include the proposal of key reforms to the way council meetings are structured, how city business is conducted, and how the city interacts with its residents.  Discussion and implementation of these new initiatives will require the support of the full council and city staff. Residents can expect to hear more about these proposals at upcoming council meetings and work sessions.

“As newly elected council members, we have identified some short, medium, and long term goals we want to accomplish to make Crystal’s government more responsive,” said Kolb. “We look forward to having some great conversations with the rest of the council and gaining the perspective of their experience.  The majority of the existing members of the council share our interest in building a more responsive city government, and I expect we’ll be able to make quite a bit of progress with their partnership and leadership.”

For more information on The Citizen Connection Initiative contact the individual councilmembers using the contact information below:

 

Jeff Kolb                                  Olga Parsons                                   Elizabeth Dahl
612-314-5652                         612-217-2337                                  612-567-3353
jeff.kolb@crystalmn.gov        olga.parsons@crystalmn.gov        elizabeth.dahl@crystalmn.gov

www.jeff-kolb.com                  www.olgaparsons.com                  www.dahlward1.com

Headshot2Hello, and Welcome! My name is Olga Parsons, and I am the Council Member representing Section 2 (Wards 3 and 4) of Crystal, Minnesota. This website is used to stay connected with the residents in Section 2.  I will post information and updates on pertinent issues, and invite citizen feedback and participation.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns!  I can be reached by phone, email, or filling out the form below.