General

I’ve been offline for a while, and need to catch up on some current issues of importance to Section 2.  For an excellent December overview, which covers the Budget and Utility Rates, please read Council Member Kolb's update here.  Take a look at that stack of reading material!  On to my update:

LRT Municipal Consent

We are in the Municipal Consent stage of the LRT project. The Blue Line Open House on Thursday, January 14th, 5:30-7pm, at the Crystal City Hall Community Room. The preliminary design plans of the project will be presented, and community input taken. The City Council will also hold a Public Hearing on February 2, 7:00pm, City Hall, Council Chambers.

Station Area Planning

Community members have been actively participating in the Station Area Planning phase of the project. One of the issues has been the use, and potential improvement, of Becker Park. Residents have singled out Becker Park as one of our most important public assets. The park is in need of updates, and there is significant excitement about the possibilities. Residents and the Council agree that Becker Parks should remain its current size; we now need careful planning and community input to bring out the best in this space.  Another issue is the pedestrian crossing over Hwy 81.  The current design and traffic conditions of the 81 and Bass Lake Road intersection make it nearly impossible for pedestrians to cross safely.  There are several options to improve this intersection and make it more user friendly, including building a pedestrian overpass. Click here to learn more about Municipal Consent and Station Area Planning.

Freight Rail Quiet Zones

City Staff are officially researching the establishment of Quiet Zones at the Canadian Pacific intersections at Douglas Drive and West Broadway. Staff is working directly with SRF (the city's quiet zone consultant), and representatives from Hennepin County, MnDOT-Rail, Federal Railroad Administration, and Canadian Pacific railroad. A meeting was recently held on the actual rail crossings to review the options. This issue will be discussed in more detail at a work session in approximately one to two months.

New Tenant at the Crystal Shopping Center

Robbinsdale School District plans to open an educational facility at the Crystal Shopping Center. This facility will be geared towards children with disabilities and adult learners. The leased space will be 42,000 square feet in the south two- thirds of the west building. Most of the space is currently vacant, with the Dollar Tree and Pro Nails Salon moving to another unit within the Shopping Center. Both the Council and Paster Properties feel that this is a positive step for the area- expanding the Shopping Center’s use by serving the community, and bringing in more consumers for established businesses. The proposed opening date for the school is July 2016.

City Code Review Task Force

City Code Review Task Force is making great progress! This Sun Post article gives a good overview of their work.

Looking for Commissioners

We are recruiting volunteers for our Commissions! Click here for more information.

Personal Update

I am due to have my third baby at the end of January, and will be on a semi-official maternity leave for approximately 6 weeks. In the meantime, I will be watching the council meetings and listening to the work sessions. My plan is to come back as soon as possible, with baby in tow.

A detailed summary of each Council Meeting is now available in this handy format:

Recap010516

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Community Events

Light of Crystal Half Way Happy Hour

Friday, January 15th, 5:30pm, Buffalo Wild Wings

Facebook Event Page

Quad Community Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Bowling Fundraiser

Fundraiser to benefit our local Service Members and Veterans.

Sunday, January 31

Sign up at Doyle's Bowling & Lounge begins at 10:30 a.m.
Bowling begins at 11:00 a.m.
$20/participant
(includes 3 games, shoes & lunch)

In September, we've had the Public Works Grand Opening, voting on the preliminary Levy, Run for Rocco, and Council members bagging groceries at Cub, among many other things.  I'll provide an update on the biggest issues currently at play.

2016 Budget

On September 1st, the council voted to set the preliminary Levy at a 3% increase. This means that the increase cannot exceed 3% when we vote on the final Levy in December.  Please see my last post for background. The EDA Levy was also increased by 3%. The EDA is a separate entity, and has its own budget and Levy.   As I’ve stated before, I would like to continue working with staff to find ways of lowering this number for the final December vote.  Council Member Kolb talks about the Budget process in his council recap here.

METRO Blue Line Extension

LRT 1The plans for the Blue Line Light Rail are progressing. On Monday, September 28th, community members met to identify strengths and weaknesses of the area immediately surrounding the proposed LRT station. The meeting was very well attended, and residents provided thoughtful and insightful input. For many years, The LRT LRT 2project has been planned and managed by groups outside of our community, but the people who really matter are Crystal residents. We know and love Crystal, and our opinions are essential to any plans that these groups may have. The Federal Transit Administration, Hennepin County, Met Council, the Counties Transit Improvement LRT 3Board, and MNDot are all very powerful entities, and our own community may seem lost in the shuffle. It’s essential that we are present to advocate on behalf of our city. There is also a myriad of committees- Mayor Adams and I are members of the Corridor Management Committee and the Steering Committee. We also have the Crystal Community and Business Advisory Committees, and the Community Working Group. The CWG is focused on managing the plans for the area immediately surrounding the proposed station, and is made up of residents, council members (Julie Deshler and myself), and city staff. All these committees are active for the purpose of bringing the community's interests to the table. Here is a link to all the committees involved, and the dates on which they meet: METRO Blue Line Committees.

One specific LRT issue that the Council recently resolved is the West Broadway “S Curve” intersection at 48th Avenue. This intersection will not be functional as is if Light Rail is built, and we had to negotiate with the County to find an appropriate solution.  We did not want the burden of remediation alone, as the County suggested, but we did arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. You can see the proposed layout here. Hennepin County is responsible for construction, and will continue to maintain West Broadway as a County road.

Future Meetings and Opportunities to participate:

Please give your feedback on the LRT station by filling out this survey. In the Seach window at the top left corner type "Crystal", and you will be directed to the appropriate section.

The next community Open House will be on Monday, October 19, 5:00–7:30 p.m. at the Crystal Community Center. This meeting will provide information on the results of the Environmental Analysis. Click here for more details.

Train Horns

Many residents in Section 2 have expressed a desire for creating Quiet Zones at train intersections, specifically at Douglas Drive. City Staff are currently researching the details of this project. The Federal Government regulates all laws pertaining to freight rail, but the financial burden of establishing Quiet Zones falls directly on local communities.  Here is some basic information on what is involved in this process.  This is a lengthy and expensive project, and often times, cities may receive County or State funds to make it possible. You can contact our County Commissioner Mike Opat, and State Representatives Lyndon Carlson and Ann Rest, and let them know that this is important for your quality of life as a Crystal resident.

Click Here to contact Commissioner Opat

Click Here to contact Representative Carlson

Click Here to contact Representative Rest

Twin Oaks Reconstruction

Sidewalk Door KnockingOn October 1st, the City held an informational meeting for those in the Twin Oaks Neighborhood. Earlier, Julie Deshler and I door knocked on Wilshire Ave to inform residents that a sidewalk was proposed for their street. During the open house, residents were polled on their preference regarding the sidewalk. The jury on it is still out, so there is plenty of time for residents to weigh in. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your opinion on this issue.

A Public Hearing will take place on Tuesday, October 6th, 7:00pm, at City Hall.  This is another opportunity for residents to give their input on this project.

Commissions

The Council recently came to a consensus on how to improve the function of our Commissions. This conversation spanned the entire summer, and I am confident that we have reached a good conclusion. Here are the changes that we hope to implement:

  1. Move to annual recruitment and interview process for commissions.
  2. The whole Council interviews candidates.
  3. We will be working with the City Code Review Task Force to move Commissions from the Code to Resolutions.
  4. Implement annual orientation for Commissioners.
  5. Formalize expectations of Commissions, with a work plan and annual reporting- There will be a whole work session on this soon.
  6. Require biennial review of Commissions.
  7. Increase City Staff presence during Commission meetings.

I feel that these changes will put Commissions on the forefront of Council priorities, improve communication and our ability to work more cohesively.

City Code Review Task Force

I recently attended a City Code Review Task Force meeting. The caliber of work was impressive, and I am looking forward to discussing their ideas with the whole Council!  I am pleased to see diversity of background and opinion in this group, and feel confident that their proposals are made with careful deliberation. Simplifying the City Code is one of our top priorities, and we cannot do this without the work of our volunteers. Thank you to all who have stepped up to this challenging task!

Traffic Symposium

Council Member Kolb wrote a recap of this event.  You can read it here.

Community Events

Here is what's coming up in Crystal!

Crystal Shopping Center’s Halloween Event

ShoppingCenterHalloween2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click Here for the Facebook Event Page

Fourth Annual Herzing from the Heart- Healthy Halloween Fun

HerzingHealthyHalloweenFun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light of Crystal Half Way Happy Hour

Thursday October 15th at El Loro, 5:00pm.

Are you interested in getting to know your Crystal neighbors?   You are invited to this casual and fun social gathering!

Click Here for the Facebook Event Page.

That's all for now!  As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns!

Crystal Cove Pool is closing this week, and school supplies are out in stores!  This summer has gone by quickly, and it's been a busy time in Crystal.  Here are the issues that we have been working on:

  • 2016 Budget Season

As a newly elected council member, this is my first experience with this task, and it is proving to be a unique challenge.  We will be voting on the preliminary tax levy on September 1st.  The final levy will be voted on in November.  The original proposal from city staff was to increase the levy by 6%.  We were not comfortable with this number, and requested a revision.  The current agreement is to set the preliminary levy at no more than 3%, which is the final cap for how high 2016 taxes can go.  Once the preliminary levy is set, that number can only go down, which is something I'm sure our residents would like to see.  The key objective for me is to be mindful and respectful of the resources our residents provide, and realistically acknowledge the financial needs of the city.  The city is faced with rising wage and health insurance costs, but Crystal residents have similar challenges.  The difference is that the city can tax people, but residents can't tap into some source to make up for their new budget demands.  The solution for the city's financial needs and wants is not to tax without limit.  What else can we do?  This is the challenging reality, and we don't approach this task lightly.  To get the detailed budget conversation, listen to our work sessions here.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to weigh in on this issue!

  •    Traffic Symposium

TrafficSymposiumThe most reoccurring issue in Crystal is traffic and transportation.  Drivers speeding through residential streets, missing stop signs, questions about proposed future light rail, pedestrian crossings, over-night parking, etc.  Council members from each ward and section are contacted regularly with these concerns.  The past approach has been to try to resolve each problem individually, but we sensed a need for a better method.  The Traffic Symposium was designed to address Crystal's transportation needs holistically- to gain a better understanding of what we must do to improve safety and quality of life in our neighborhoods.  I hope you can attend and give your input!  Without your participation we cannot easily accomplish this task.  For more on traffic, particularly our conversation about over-night parking, read council member Dahl's update here.

  • Repeal of Point of Sale Inspections

Point of Sale inspections have been viewed as an unnecessary and redundant burden for everyone going through the home sale process in Crystal.  Only a handful of cities in Minnesota require such a procedure.  Take a look at this list.  Currently, sellers must already comply with state mandated disclosure statements, private home inspections are widely used and are much more thorough, and lenders even conduct their own inspections prior to issuing a mortgage.  Residents experienced with Point of Sale know that the inspection check list is arbitrary and limited, and the city is not liable for any problems it may miss.  This gives buyers a false sense of security- if the city conducted an inspection the house must be safe, correct?  That is not the case, and it's a disservice to our community.  Instead of meddling with the private sale process, the city can proactively educate residents on how they can better maintain their homes, encourage buyers and sellers to engage certified inspectors, and enforce visible code violations in problem properties.  I am happy to say that the Point of Sale ordinance has been repealed.  The repeal will go into effect on September 26th.  If you are selling your home and closing before 9/26/15, then you must still comply with the inspection.  If your closing date is after 9/26/15, you are in the clear.

  • 2015 Citizen Feedback Survey

Here's your chance to give feedback on living in Crystal through an online survey!  This is part of the State Performance Measurement Program.  Click here to fill out this short and anonymous questionnaire.

  • Upcoming Community Events

Battle of the Badge Blood Drive, Wednesday, August 26th.  Walk ins Welcome!

BattleoftheBadges

 

 

 

West Metro Fire Station 3

4251 Xylon Ave. N

New Hope, MN 55428

Wednesday, August 26th 2015          9:00 AM-12:00 PM

West Metro Fire Station 2

4141 Douglas Drive

Crystal, MN 55422

Wednesday, August 26th 2015          2:30 PM- 6:00 PM

More information can be found here.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Glow Golf

Glow Golf

That's all for now!  To watch recent council meetings, click here.  To listen to work sessions, click here.  You can also read updates from council members Jeff Kolb and Elizabeth Dahl!

I’m trying out a new format for my council meeting recaps.  Due to the number and variety of council meetings, it may not suit to provide a detailed recap of each event.  Instead, I’m going to highlight current council issues and community news.  Each update will have up to four categories- Regular Council Meetings, Work Sessions, Other News, and Information and Announcements.  I hope this format will provide a more straightforward snapshot of what’s happening in the city!

May 5th Regular Council Meeting:

Phase 14 North Lions Park Street Reconstruction

The council authorized the sale of general obligation improvement bonds in the approximate amount of $2,620,000.  The council will consider award of the bonds at the June 16th meeting.

Welcome Park 2015 Alley Reconstruction

The council authorized a resolution approving plans and specifications and ordering the advertisement for bids.  The council will consider this project one more time before giving the final green light.

Repair of the 42nd Avenue Joint Water Commission Water Main

I covered our discussion of this topic in my previous recap.  This issue is of utmost importance to the council.  We have an aging water infrastructure, with most of the city’s water pipes installed in the 60’s when the city was being established.  The recent water main disaster shows that we must maintain our infrastructure to prevent this from happening again.  After considering several options, the council concluded that the most responsible and transparent financing option was to raise the water rate by $1.00 per 1,000 gallons.  The council voted to approve this increase, with the intention to maintain this rate until at least January 2018.  Even with the increase, Crystal provides clean and great tasting water at the rate of less than one cent per gallon.  We can now ensure that this essential service is protected for the future.

Work Sessions:

The Council continues to discuss the ways to improve our Commissions.  Read this Sun Post article for a little background.  The article now contains outdated information, however, since we have made more progress in our conversation. Our ideas are still in a rough draft format, and I welcome your input if you have any ideas to add to this discussion.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me!

We have recently interviewed candidates for the City Code Review Task Force.  This group is charged with reviewing the entire code, and recommend changes to the Council.  We have more Task Force projects planned for the future. For instance, the “Crystal Ball” Task Force will focus on organizing a new community celebration event with music and dancing. Another suggestion is to create an Urban Agriculture Task Force.

Download the Council packets here

Watch the Regular Council meetings here

Listen to the Work Sessions here.

Read Council Member Kolb's update here.

In other news:

Recently, I've been able to go on two bus tours of the city- one organized by the Parks and Rec board focusing on our parks, and the other a general tour of the city.  We were able to see the various projects in process, and get a broad understanding of the needs for improvement.  It's exciting to see the progress of the new Bassett Creek Playground, with the zipline going up first!

newPlaygroundWe have neighborhood parks with a lot of potential and in need of TLC, and this is definitely something we would like to focus on as a Council.

Another great event was the Arbor Day Celebration and Park Clean up at Forest Park.  A fun time of cleaning up, food with neighbors, and the kids planted a tree with the help of our City Forester!

arborday2

 

Memorialday

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day service at Glen Haven Gardens with Julie Deshler speaking on behalf of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.

 

Information and Announcements:

Basset Creek Park Cleanup is tomorrow morning, Saturday, May 30th, at 9am.

Lion’s Soo Line Neighborhood Community Garden:

SooLineCommGarden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frolics Buttons and Button Registration for Prize Drawings

Crystal Airport Open House

Get ready for Night to Unite!

Our meeting kicked off at 6:30 with a short work session to discuss contributions to food shelves from charitable donations, and the distribution of charitable gambling funds.  Ten percent of charitable gambling profits must be contributed to local charities, and we decided to continue to award this money to NEAR and Prism food shelves.

The council convened the regular council meeting at 7:00pm.  Immediately following the roll call, we approved the agenda, meeting minutes from the previous sessions, and the consent agenda.  This is a fairly quick process, and we moved on to the Open Forum. One resident approached to speak about the proposed rail connection project, with comments and suggestions on rail safety issues.  Brief note about the Open Forum: The council welcomes residents during this time to speak about any issues important to them.  A person has three minutes to speak, and no topic may be addressed for more than ten minutes.  We hope that more residents take this opportunity to bring their opinions and concerns to the council.  For a more informal time with the council, consider attending our Citizen Input Time.

On to the Regular Agenda:

Mayor Adams read through disbursements over $25,000.  These payments are on file, and are available to the public for review.  Previously, all disbursements were part of the consent agenda, and for the sake of financial transparency and responsibility the council moved larger expenditures to the regular agenda.   We are able to discuss these items in depth, and move to approve, deny, or table them for further conversation.

At this time the council considered the second reading of a zoning ordinance amendment allowing impound lots with a conditional use permit, and a zoning ordinance amendment regarding businesses dealing with secondhand goods.   For more information on these you may read Council Member Kolb’s previous recap here.

The council approved a financing plan for the new Public Works facility (finally)!  This has been under consideration for over a year, with much discussion and debate.  The council had three financing options: Bonding, part bonding and part cash, and all cash.  Recently, our Financial Director provided the council with numbers detailing all three options.  The numbers were clear- if the city bonds any portion of the Public Works expense there will be a tax increase for our residents.  Any conversation about bonding was a conversation about how much of a tax increase is acceptable.  My answer was No Tax Increase, especially after seeing that cash was actually a smart and reasonable financing option.  Avoiding bonding was the original plan when this project was proposed, and I was pleased to see the numbers demonstrating why.  The estimated cost is $13,500,000, with the Major Building Replacement Fund contributing the majority of the funds.  We were left with a deficiency of a little over one million, and were able to cover that with an Internal Fund Loan, which is basically a "pencilled-in" transfer of money within the city's general account.  A city's budget is much like a family budget- one bank account, but several smaller funds, so transfering from one to another is a simple book-keeping task. The Economic Development Authority also contributed $650,000.  The city will build back its funds through the current tax levy, and I anticipate that this can be done in under three years.  Past discussions revolved around the fear that the city cannot sustain this expense, however, the information provided by our Financial Director shows that our budget is entirely capable of handling this project.  Cash financing keeps Crystal fiscally secure, avoids finance charges and increased taxes.  I am happy to say that the council voted 6-1 in favor of cash, with Council Member Libby voting nay in favor of bonding.

The last item on the Regular Agenda was adopting new council rules.  Council members Jeff Kolb and Casey Peak worked together with our city attorney and staff to create a revised version of the rules, and proposed it to the council for approval.  Some of the goals they maintained are: to clarify processes and expectations, and decrease conflict; to protect the rights of both the minority and majority; to put in place good government practices that will last beyond the existing council; and to balance formality with flexibility.  The council rules were unanimously approved, and will be publicly available at every council meeting.  It is important to have a clearly defined set of expectations, and I am grateful to Council Members Kolb and Peak for completing this important project.

An EDA session immediately followed the Regular Council meeting, and we voted to authorize the sale of a lot to a developer for a construction of a new house.  Fairly quick and easy!

During the following Work Session we discussed the process of appointing residents volunteering for advisory commissions.  We are beginning the interview process for the Blue Line LRT Committees, and need to decide on a process that is fair and easy to implement.  This process will also be used when we are interviewing residents for our city commissions.  After a lengthy discussion it was decided that each applicant will be interviewed individually, with the entire council present; ranked by each council member; and a decision will be made based on the overall score.  This conversation is part of a bigger discussion on Crystal’s citizen commissions- What commissions function well, and why?  What goals do we set for our commissions?  Do we have the right ones in place?  We are making progress by deciding on the interview process right now, and will continue to discuss how to improve our commissions in the future.

That’s all for Tuesday, March 3rd!  You can watch the council meeting here, and listen to the work session here.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns!

Reminder: Please consider attending Crystal's Freight Rail Open House tomorrow, Saturday, March 7th.  Click here for details!

Congressman Keith Ellison is having his own Rail Safety Open House on Wednesday, March 11th, from 6:30-8:00pm at the Crystal Community Center.

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:

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.