Monthly Archives: April 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – APRIL 16, 2015

“Citizen Connection Initiative” – The First 100 Days

Significant Progress Made Toward Goals; Work to Continue

Crystal, MN – In January 2015, incoming Crystal City Councilmembers Olga Parsons (Section II), Elizabeth Dahl (Ward 1) and Jeff Kolb (Ward 2) announced the creation of the “Citizen Connection Initiative,” a program designed to guide their priorities and decision making throughout their term in office.

April 16 represents 100 days since the three new council members were sworn in, and there is much progress to report on the initiative.

“We are pleased to announce that the Citizen Connection Initiative was embraced by most of our colleagues on the council, and with their support we have accomplished several of the initial goals we identified,” said Parsons.

Key initiatives already accomplished include:

• Implementing new council rules to govern the council in a responsible manner

• Implementing a new tracking system to monitor feedback from residents

• Testing a new interview process for boards and commissions

• Sending thank you notes to citizens who speak at council meetings

• Began the Plain Language Initiative to streamline communications from the city to residents

• Restructuring work sessions to include dedicated time to discuss issues raised by residents

• Establishing an Ordinance Review Task Force to streamline outdated ordinances

• Kept residents informed about key issues, such as the proposed rail connection, through various channels

“While we have accomplished many of our initial goals, there is still much work to be done, and we intend to keep the focus on serving the residents of Crystal and maintaining a customer service focus in the city” said Dahl.

Ongoing and upcoming initiatives include:

• Reevaluating the structure and goals of city commissions and boards

• More neighborhood meetings throughout the summer

• A traffic symposium scheduled for this fall

• A long term branding and communications strategy

“Our goal was to make the Crystal City Government more transparent, open, and responsive to its citizens, and I think we are making good progress,” said Kolb. “I look forward to building on our success over the next few years.”

As a reminder Initial steps to the Citizen Connection Initiative included 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

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

Olga Parsons

612-217-2337

olga.parsons@crystalmn.gov

www.olgaparsons.com

Elizabeth Dahl

612-567-3353

elizabeth.dahl@crystalmn.gov

www.dahlward1.com

Jeff Kolb

612-314-5652

jeff.kolb@crystalmn.gov

www.jeff-kolb.com

First Work Session

Representatives from the Blue Line LRT provided an update on the LRT station design for the Bass Lake Road and Bottineau BLVD intersection.  We reviewed the results of a recent traffic study that showed traffic patterns for this intersection, and the impact of the proposed LRT station.  Each intersection in the Twin Cities is rated on a scale of A through F based on traffic levels during peak hours.  The current “Level of Service” at the Bass Lake Road area has a rating of C.  Ratings of A through D are considered acceptable in the metro area.  With the station built at grade level, the Level of Service rating is projected to decrease to D.  According to the Blue Line officials, this means that a driver will wait less than a minute at a traffic stop.  This is currently one of the most congested and frustrating intersections in Crystal, and it appears that adding a LRT station will complicate matters further.  Also, the study did not consider the possible second BNSF freight rail line.  The Council was reluctant to accept these conditions as favorable, and requested to consider grade separation to alleviate the anticipated traffic issues.  We understand that grade separation does not promise to solve these issues, but we would like to consider it as a viable option.

Regular Council Meeting

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the council convened as the Board of Appeal and Equalization.  For more information on this, you may read my previous council re-cap here.  No residents appeared before the board, and we heard a brief update on a couple of cases from Hennepin County Appraisers.  We moved to approve the 2015 Assessment Roll as presented by the county.  The board adjourned, and we reconvened the regular council meeting.  We continued to approve the agenda, the council meeting minutes, and the consent agenda.  During Open Forum, one resident spoke on behalf of the Human Rights Commission with a proclamation about the National Child Abuse Awareness month.

We continued to the Regular Agenda.  We were pleased to appoint John Slama and Denny Walsh as Crystal’s representatives to the Blue Line Extension Business Advisory Committee, and Justin Youngbluth and Gene Bakke as our representatives to the Community Advisory Committee.  We were able to collect a pool of excellent candidates to interview for these positions, and spent a considerable amount of time designing a rigorous and fair interview process.  Each interview was meaningful and thorough, and we were pleased with the results.  We are confident that our city has strong representation for this project!

Next, we appointed our new Public Works Director and City Engineer Mark Ray to the Basset Creek and Shingle Creek Watershed Management Organizations.  We’re excited to have Mark Ray on board, and are looking forward to our work together.

We considered a resolution supporting the Three Rivers Park District’s Bassett Creek Regional Trail.  This bike trail is planned to connect French Regional Park in Plymouth to Theodore Wirth Park in Golden Valley through New Hope and Crystal.  The path would follow 36th Avenue from Winnetka to Nevada Avenues, then south on Nevada to 32nd Avenue, then east of 32nd to the noise wall, the south to the bike/pedestrian bridge over Hwy 100.  According to the staff report, this project has been planned since 2007, and the park district needs our approval in order to apply for financing from Hennepin County.  According to the report, Crystal has no financial obligation, and little to no maintenance requirements.  I personally love our regional bike trails, and my family uses them extensively in the summers, but I do have a few concerns about this project.  The trail will go through residential areas, and its construction will eliminate existing sidewalks and replace them with a much wider path (12-13 feet wide).  This means that adjacent properties will be affected by the loss of space.  Also, bike commuters and recreational riders seeking a connection between two major regional parks create a change in traffic flow in a residential neighborhood.  Neighborhoods accustomed to having a pedestrian sidewalk may find it problematic for several reasons- more concerns for children using a path designed specifically for speedy bike traffic, residents wishing to walk their dogs, etc.  These issues must be taken into consideration, and residents need a chance to provide input.  The park district assured us that they will be working within their existing right of way, and will not be acquiring properties or land.  The council agreed that it is necessary to consult with the residents affected by this project.  Would you like to have a bike trail connection through your neighborhood?  Why or why not?  It’s our job as council member to represent your interests, and we need to research this before making a decision.  For more information on this project, take a look at the council packet posted online here.

Next, we approved the cleaning and repainting of the Becker Park building, along with expenditures to resurface and re-strip the tennis courts.  Becker Park is our star park, and we believe it’s a priority to maintain and improve this facility for the benefit of our community.

The last item on our agenda was to approve the purchase of a portable lift for the mechanics area for the new Public Works facility.

EDA

We approved the sale of two residential plots to developers. During my last recap, I mentioned that we have a new developer in Crystal- Tollberg Homes.  Tollberg Homes operates out of Anoka, and we are happy to have their business in our community.

Second Work Session

We received an update on the Phase 14 Street Reconstruction.  The next two steps for the council are to approve the Public Hearing on Assessments, and award the bid for Construction.  We also received an update from our city manager regarding the open constituent cases- everything from taking care of downed trees, property maintenance concerns, and improperly parked cars.  It is our commitment to resolve all issues brought forward by the residents in a timely and considerate manner.

That’s all for Tuesday, April 7th!  Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

You can listen to the Work Sessions here.

Watch the Regular Council Meeting here.