Tag Archives: Light Rail

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Happy Holidays everyone! It's a great time of the year, especially now that the election season is over. We are eager to get to work with the newly elected council members. Click here to see the local results. While the post election transition can be a challenge, we are committed to keeping a sharp focus on keeping Crystal strong, vibrant, and inclusive. Here are some of the issues we've been working on:

2017 Proposed Budget

Click here for the 2017 Budget Presentation, and here for a more detailed layout.  A comprehensive presentation will take place during the December 6th Truth in Taxation meeting.  The meeting will be at 7:00 pm at City Hall.

Due to the complicated tax distribution formula, your property taxes may or may not go up this year. In many cases, your bill could actually be less! Generally, if your property value has increased, the amount of taxes you pay also increases, although that is not always the case. The residents in Section 2 will most likely see an increase due to the rapidly rising property values. During the housing market crash, this area devalued the most, and in recent years has recovered the most value. This is very good news, but it causes the homeowners to shoulder more of the tax burden. Despite the proposed increase in the levy, Crystal has the lowest per capita tax load among the surrounding cities. We have also cut taxes in other areas by working to reduce Crystal's debt, ending special assessments, and avoiding franchise fees. I am, however, aware of the fact that we must curb the upward trajectory of the tax levy itself. This is a priority, and we must plan now.  The council will meet to discuss long-term cost-containment before the end of the year.

The Truth in Taxation hearing is on Tuesday, December 6th, 7:00 pm, at City Hall.  Please contact me in advance with any concerns, questions, or suggestions.  I will post the presentation here once it is up on the city's website.

Parks Planning

Our parks are the backbone of what makes our community safe and strong.  We need to have a plan in order to provide a thriving, exciting, and pleasant parks environment, while keeping costs down. The Council has decided to create a master plan for all our parks, and a separate plan for Becker Park. Becker Park is unique due to the proximity of the planned LRT station, and needs an update to make it more usable and safe.  Community engagement is essential for this to succeed, and we will invite public input and participation during this process. The final master plan will empower us with a strategic method to approach all future park needs.  We will have a repair and replacement schedule for infrastructure, be able to pinpoint areas for improvement, expansion, or replacement, and identify grant opportunities for new amenities. Having this plan will also enable our parks staff and commission volunteers to focus on providing quality service and creative recreation opportunities for our community! For more detailed information click here, (pages 45-104).

Phase 15 and 16 Street Reconstruction

Phase 15 reconstruction of the Twin Oaks neighborhood is finished, with only minor details left to complete.  Rain gardens will be installed in the Spring of 2017, along with tree replacement, paving of the final layer of blacktop, and other final adjustments. See this newsletter for more information.

Phase 16 is in the early planning stages. The Council approved a resolution directing city staff to advertise for construction bids in the beginning of 2017. See this memo with the latest information. The next neighborhood meeting will take place mid-January, and will gather input on the proposed construction plans.

Freight Rail Quiet Zones

If all goes according to plan, the Quiet Zones on Douglas Drive and Broadway Ave will be in effect Fall of 2017!  Residents overwhelmingly support this project, and I'm incredibly pleased to see it come together. Visit this page for more details.

Light Rail

We recently had a public open house to discuss station design.  LRT staff presented us with a potential design for the station, and explained its various elements.   All LRT stations are formulaic, but certain variations are allowed to reflect the surrounding community.  The proposed composition for Bass Lake Road takes into account Becker Park and the Crystal Airport, with the roof of the station appearing to be a green airplane wing.  At this point, these design elements are only ideas, and require input from the residents and city council.  In addition, we are discussing the location of the Traction Power Sub-Station (TPSS). The TPSS is basically a very large box that makes the train run.  Visual screening for residents on Elmhurst and Hampshire Aves is also under consideration. For more detailed information see this council packet (page 124), and this work session packet (page 36-100).  You can listen to our discussion here (starts appx. 43 minutes in), and here (starts appx. 110 minutes in).

In Other News

Council Member Jeff Kolb keeps a regular blog, and has recently covered issues such as what residents can do regarding cars speeding on neighborhood streets, and the future of Crystal airport.  Read his entires here.

Community Events

Check out our Parks and Rec brochure!  Their website, Facebook, and Twitter pages are all active, and provide regular information on what's happening.

Winterfest is coming up on Saturday, December 3rd.

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The Light of Crystal recently adorned the Community Center trees with Holiday lights! Thanks to them, residents can take joy in a beautiful display of blue sparkling lights on Douglas Drive.  We are so grateful!  Take a look at this cool video.  The Light of Crystal hosts Half Way Happy Hour every month, please join their Facebook page to learn when and where.

That's all for now!  Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.  I am always happy to hear from you.

LRT Municipal Consent

Here is a great article by Council Member Kolb on Municipal Consent.  He details the timeline and general process, and our options.  We are currently working on securing the Bass Lake Road pedestrian crossing over Hwy 81, with the pedestrian bridge as a favored option.  Joe Bowen of the Sun Post wrote this article summarizing the general feeling on this issue.  New designs of the pedestrian bridge were presented to the Council during the January 25th work session.  Residents also participated in the LRT Station Design workshop that evening.  From the input I have received, I understand that the pedestrian bridge would be a welcome solution to the already snarled intersection.  Having the bridge as a viable option is an essential sticking point for me- our residents must have a full range of choices.  The next step in the Municipal Consent process is the Open House and Public Hearing on February 2nd.  The Open House will be held from 5:30-7:00pm in the Community Room at City Hall.  The Public Hearing takes places in the Council Chambers during the 7pm meeting.  It is very important for us to hear your opinion on the LRT project, and I hope many of you can make it.  I am currently on maternity leave, so I will be watching the meeting from home.  Your phone calls and emails are welcome, however!  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions and concerns.

Recap of January 19th Council Meeting

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Personal Update

My baby boy, Emanuel David, was born on January 17th.  We are both healthy and recovering well.  I can't wait for everyone to meet him!  For now, we are staying put at home, but I anticipate returning to full time Council work in the next two or three weeks.  Here he is just two days old. Emanuel2

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:

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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

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Click Here for the Facebook Event Page

Fourth Annual Herzing from the Heart- Healthy Halloween Fun

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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!

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.

The Blue Line (Bottineau) Light Rail Project is currently looking for Crystal residents to serve on the Community Advisory Committee, and members from our business community for the Business Advisory Committee. The application process ends February 27, 2015. The application, along with detailed information about the positions, can be found here.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions!

Read more about the Blue Line LRT Project in my recent Council Meeting Recap.

It appears that the current theme of our council is trains.  Our evening started off at 6:15pm with a special Bottineau Light Rail Transit presentation by the Corridor Management Committee. The Corridor Management Committee exists to advise the Met Council on all issues pertaining to the project, including design and construction.  The committee is made up of local elected officials, with Mayor Adams representing Crystal.  The members presenting were Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, project manager Dan Soler, and Public Involvement representative Robin Caufman.  The main objective of their presentation was to illustrate the overall scope and status of the project, as well as plans for community outreach and education.

Some interesting points: The Federal Transportation Administration New Starts program is partially funding this $1 billion project.  The price tag is only an estimation at this point.  The FTA is involved in 12 other such projects throughout the U.S.  The rest of the financing burden falls on the State of Minnesota (10%), Hennepin County (10%), and Counties Transit Improvement Board (31%).  The Counties Transit Board consists of five counties- Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington.  Their vision is to fund transit projects using money derived from the quarter cent sales tax, and the $20 per motor vehicle sales tax.  The individual breakdown of the involved entities is interesting to see- Hennepin County, State of Minnesota, Metropolitan Council, the CTIB, and the Federal Government.  Our challenge as a community is to make sure our voices are heard and respected throughout this process.  It’s easy to get lost underneath all this bureaucracy and big money.

What does this mean for Crystal?  Crystal is planned for one LRT station on Bass Lake Road and Cty 81, with the train passing through the BNSF tracks along Broadway.  Our involvement in this project is addressed in the Municipal Consent Process, outlined by Minnesota Statute 473.3994.  Crystal will have an opportunity to review and approve the design of the preliminary plans, including the location of LRT track and station, pedestrian trails, and other features.  Several months ago, our city staff compiled a list of safety and noise concerns, and asked the project managers to address these issues.  We need to make sure that these issues are not swept under the rug, are approached with respect and sincerity, and properly addressed before any plans are solidified.  Mayor Adams is currently representing Crystal as a member of the CMC, and I have been appointed as an alternate during Tuesday’s meeting.

What is the timeline?  The project is currently in the development stage, with the Municipal Consent Process taking place in 2016.  The Corridor Management Committee foresees construction in 2018-20, with projected passenger operations in 2021.

What can you do?  The Corridor Management Committee is currently recruiting Crystal residents to serve on the Community Advisory Committee, and members of the Crystal business community to serve on the Business Advisory Committee.  The committees will work in tandem with Corridor Management to advise the Met Council on the project.  Please contact me if you are interested, and I will provide the details!

These are some of the details as presented by the Corridor Management Committee.  I welcome your input on this issue.  This project has the potential to dramatically change the atmosphere of our town, and it is essential that your voice is heard and taken seriously during this time.

Now on to more trains- Canadian Pacific and BNSF freight connector track update: 

Our city staff is working hard to approach this problem from as many angles as possible to ensure that the negative impact of this project is lessened, if not entirely eliminated.  We also want to use this opportunity to push for establishment of official Quiet Zones.  Train horns are on top of the list of Crystal resident frustration.  Council member Kolb has written another thorough update on this project, you can read it here.

 Approval of Phase 14 North Lions Park Street Reconstruction Project:

The council passed a resolution approving plans and specifications, and ordering the advertisement for bids for Phase 14 North Lions Park Street Reconstruction Project.  I’ve attended the neighborhood meetings for this phase, and was able to see that the reception of this project is positive throughout the neighborhood.  Initially, residents were displeased about the proposed sidewalks.  They were, however, able to voice their concerns and have the project amended to exclude any unnecessary sidewalk plans.  The financing of this project will be through special assessments, and I have stated in the past that I do not favor this method.  Crystal is in the last stages of finishing a 20-year street reconstruction process, and it appears that the last three phases will go ahead as initially projected.  My plan is to reevaluate the financing of future street maintenance and reconstruction, and make sure that we have provisions in our budget to cover these expenses without the use of special assessments.  Special assessments are indeed a tax, and to tax our residents on top of the property taxes already paid is an excessive burden.

City Hall Safety Precautions:

Following the regular council meeting, we held a second work session addressing the recent attack in New Hope, and discussed our current security provisions in City Hall. With the input of our Police Chief, we thoroughly reviewed our current policy, and agreed on several new safety measures.  Per the advice of our city attorney, this conversation took place during a closed meeting, and the recording will not be published.  Due to previous situations that have occurred during our council meetings, city staff and council members understand the difficulty of dealing with a potentially violent and disruptive situation.  We are happy to make improvements that help keep everyone safe, while protecting the rights of individuals to freely participate in city government.

Citizen Connection Initiative:

The council is currently going through a period of prioritizing and goal setting.  We have identified a number of goals we would like to accomplish, focused mainly on increasing citizen participation, building community and preventing crime, reviewing the budget process, and increasing transparency and accountability.  We hope to have a concrete timeline and specific projects outlined in the next month or two, so we can continue to work on improving our city and engaging our residents in a meaningful and rewarding way.

That is all for now!  As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, or concerns.  I’d love to hear from you!

Click here to watch the council meeting.

Click here to listen to the work sessions.