2020 State of the City
April Update from Mayor Dan Roe
In early April, Roseville Mayor Dan Roe recorded the following updated introduction to Roseville’s 2020 State of the City Address.
The 2020 State of the City video was written and recorded in January – before the full impact of Covid-19 on our community could be fully known.
As a result, it includes a level of optimism and enthusiasm for this year that may seem out of place, given the outbreak of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and all that has followed.
While there can be no doubt that we will have to change some of our priorities, and our timelines on many of the initiatives mentioned in this video, our resolve and community spirit will get us through these difficult times, and we can, and we will remain focused on doing whatever we can to make our future together better.
And now, the state of our city, as it was in late January 2020.
Hello, I am pleased to be speaking to you from one of Roseville’s newer community assets, the Cedarholm Community Building. I am Mayor Dan Roe and for the next few minutes I will be providing you with our annual update on the state of the City of Roseville.
I believe that once again we can say that Roseville is in a good state. We continue to head in a positive direction, while we work to address known issues.
We gauge our progress and challenges in light of our community’s long-established aspirations, so let’s begin that review:
Welcoming, Inclusive, and Respectful.
This aspiration has once again been an important focus for City efforts in many areas.
City staff continues to work to implement the outcomes of the GARE program (Government Alliance for Racial Equity). As a reminder, GARE is a partnership of the League of Minnesota Cities and two national organizations called Race Forward and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, and is part of a nationwide effort of folks in local government to do what we can to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all.
A Racial Equity Strategic Action Plan for the City was presented to the Council in mid-2019, outlining specific goals and actions to address inequities related to how the City does its business, including areas such as hiring and volunteer recruitment, among others. While racial equity is at the forefront of this work, the City and all involved understand that there are numerous impactful measures of equity, and that what we learn as we look at race can be applied in other areas as well.
An example of a City initiative toward increasing inclusiveness was last year’s “Creative Crossroads” theme for the summer “Live at the Rog” amphitheater performances. The goal was to feature a different world region each week, and the plan is to continue that theme going forward.
Along those lines, the Human Rights, Inclusion, and Engagement Commission initiated an event in conjunction with the City’s Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation in September and October, including ethnic music and food. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, but the effort was a learning experience and generated interest and enthusiasm for trying again. The commission looks to focus on two proclamations each year with events or enhanced programming that more actively engage the community about the subject matter.
Another example of working toward inclusiveness in the city is the police department’s ongoing recruitment efforts to hire officers and civilian staff that more closely reflect the makeup of Roseville. This includes recruitment of diverse Community Service Officers who are interested in becoming police officers, the ability to expand the sworn officer corps to hire diverse recruits that might otherwise go to other departments if no openings are available, and using state grant funding to help non-traditional candidates with tuition, training, and wages.
Safe and Law-Abiding
2019 and 2020 continue to be transition years toward a wholly full-time fire department in Roseville. The ultimate staffing objective is to be able to respond to three concurrent medical calls or a major fire with on-shift staff. Three new full-time firefighters are budgeted for 2020, and have already been brought on board.
Another focus of the full-time staffing effort has been to better manage the well-being of the firefighters themselves – allowing for adequate recovery time between calls, as well as improving mental and physical health. The department has recently installed a special sauna to help firefighters cleanse their bodies of chemicals they are exposed to during fire responses, and they have implemented a mental health program to educate and assist firefighters in that important area.
On the topic of mental health, the Roseville police department began a partnership with several other suburban departments and Northeast Youth and Family Services to provide for a Community Mental Health Case Worker last year. This position serves those in the area who will benefit from follow-through after mental health related calls for service The program provides resources, solutions, and follow-up to ultimately improve outcomes for persons in crisis. An additional goal of the program is to reduce the incidence of mental health related calls, which will allow the participating police departments to focus their resources on other enforcement and prevention efforts.
It is also worth noting, related to our aspiration to be safe and law-abiding, that as of 2019 all Roseville police officers have completed Crisis Intervention Training above the state mandated requirements. The department will continue to pursue this elevated training for all officers in the areas of de-escalation, implicit bias, and mental health.
Finally, with respect to public safety, the City is expanding police resources by 2 officers and 1 investigator in 2020. These resources will be targeted to areas of particular concern with respect to locations or types of crimes. One position is funded in partnership with Ramsey County, and will allow for greater investigative focus on sexual assaults, creating better outcomes for those cases and freeing up investigative resources for other types of cases with existing investigative staff.
If we thought 2018 was a big year for development in Roseville, 2019 has topped that!
The city continues to see development of our few remaining vacant properties, as well as healthy redevelopment activity. Admittedly, this fast pace of change has been startling to some, and for an example one need look no further than the new senior apartments going in on Lexington Avenue across from City Hall. While this change can take one aback, the positive outcomes of such developments include meeting the demand for housing in the community, and also creating a larger tax base across which to divide the City tax levy. That has a dampening effect on tax bills generally.
In 2019, the City provided financial assistance to long-time Roseville contractor McGough to redevelop a new showcase corporate headquarters at Fairview and Twin Lakes Parkway. That project consolidated jobs from other sites into Roseville, along with keeping that important local business in town. The building will be a landmark for years to come, and allows for the redevelopment of the previous McGough headquarters as the longtime community vision for the Twin Lakes area begins at last to more fully take shape.
Along those lines, another corporate headquarters project in Twin Lakes is the Colder Products site on Cleveland Avenue and County Road C2. Once again, with City assistance, a long-blighted trucking terminal site is being transformed into the home for hundreds of jobs that will remain in the Twin Cities, in a facility that allows for future expansion.
Another major project that is coming together in 2020 is at Rosedale Center. On the heels of their recently completed remodel and addition of the Von Maur anchor store, management at Rosedale is envisioning a substantial project on the south side of their property, replacing the Herberger’s store with several hundred units of general occupancy and senior apartments, as well as offices, hotels, and additional retail and pedestrian amenities. The project is entering environmental review at this time, and is likely to proceed to implementation as 2020 progresses, so stay tuned for more on that.
Many other smaller projects continue as well, as Roseville remains an appealing location for both retail and other commercial activity.
To put some numbers to the economic activity, the City issued more than 4200 permits for new and remodel construction, both commercial and residential, in 2019 – just 3% more than in 2018. However, those permits reflect permit revenue in excess of $2.6 million – a 2/3’s increase compared to 2018, with an overall project valuation of more than $210 million – nearly a 90% increase over 2018. And, just as a reminder, 2018 was one of the best years ever in these areas.
Secure in our Diverse Housing and Neighborhoods
As I alluded to in talking about our economic activity, much housing is being built in Roseville, reflecting known gaps in our marketplace as well as the overall effort by developers to meet the increasing demand for senior housing.
One need that the marketplace is not necessarily adequately addressing is affordable senior housing. As a result, the City in 2019 approved support of a project by CommonBond to develop 60 units of that type at the corner of Rice Street and South Owasso Boulevard. That project is continuing to receive its other funding sources, with hopes to begin construction in 2020.
In order to help local efforts to provide temporary short-term shelter for homeless people, the City permitted two such shelters at North Como Presbyterian and Roseville Lutheran Church in 2019. As part of that process, the City identified the lack of a convenient and affordable means to support those who want to provide such shelters, so we added such a process into our city code, and ultimately refunded much of the fees that had been collected under the old process from those churches.
An ongoing area of concern to the quality of our neighborhoods has been the collateral impact in some neighborhoods resulting from State Fair parking in late August each year. After discussion and input from affected neighbors, the City implemented further parking restrictions around the park and ride lots. Primarily, parking was restricted on the side of the street with mailboxes within about a quarter mile of each lot (with variations depending on local factors). Generally, the changes were positively received by the neighbors, and the plan is to continue the parking restrictions, with additional tweaking, in 2020.
Importantly, with respect to secure housing in Roseville, is enforcement of our rental licensing and inspection program. In late 2019, the City, for the first time under the program, took the step to revoke a license. The license for the 12 different buildings owned by G and G Properties around Larpenteur and Galtier in southeast Roseville was revoked by the Council in November. The revocation prevents any new tenants from filling vacancies in the buildings, but allows all existing residents to stay in their homes and renew their leases, so that displacement of vulnerable tenants is not a byproduct of the revocation. While the license is revoked, City staff and G and G have the opportunity to focus on resolving the many safety and livability code violations in those buildings, with the incentive to remove the revocation as soon as reasonably possible. The City takes its obligation to all residents – especially the most vulnerable – to assure safe and livable housing very seriously.
Also to that end, I can briefly report that the ongoing Neighborhood Enhancement Program of periodic education and inspection of all properties in the city led to some adjustments in 2019. The program will now see all properties within 2 years rather than 3, and the nuisance code requirements in some areas such as vehicle storage have been adjusted to work better for all.
Environmentally Responsible, with Well-Maintained Natural Assets
A significant focus over the next several years, as outlined by the Parks and Recreation Commission, will be the necessary response of the City to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation in our City tree canopy. Trees are critical to many important environmental functions, from storm water management to reducing particulates and CO2 in the air. The City will endeavor to remove and replace every City ash tree over the next 5 years or so in order to eliminate the impact of the infestation and diversify the tree population as a hedge against other pests. It is important to note that this only impacts City trees. A key part of our efforts is to also educate the public about what they can and likely must do about EAB on their own properties.
On a lighter note, literally, the City made great strides in 2019 to offset our electricity usage through investments in solar energy. The City installed solar panels on City Hall, the Fire Station, and the Public Works building through a program by which energy savings pay for the installation over time. Additionally, the City subscribed to offsite solar garden funding (including one project coming online in early 2020). These efforts combined move us toward offsetting almost half of the City’s electricity usage, and earned us Gold recognition by the SolSmart program.
Toward more sustainable handling of waste, the City partnered with Ramsey County to provide a drop-off location for organics recycling at the leaf compost site on Dale Street just south of County Road C. Bags are available at the site and at City Hall.
The City continues to work toward GreenStep levels 4 and 5 after having achieved level 3. Efforts credited toward our step status include authorization of implementation of an environmentally responsible purchasing policy, among others.
Additional information about our sustainability efforts, including the solar and GreenStep work can be found at the City’s website.
Physically and Mentally Active and Healthy
One significant effort related to activity and health in 2019 and 2020 is the City’s work to get $5 million in funding for rehabilitation work at the John Rose Minnesota OVAL included in the State’s bonding program. City staff and leaders learned in January that the project has been included in the Governor’s 2020 Capital Budget Bonding Recommendations. We will continue our efforts during the legislative session, in partnership with the City’s lobbyist, to see that the project is included in the final 2020 bonding bill.
That work won’t diminish ongoing consideration of new pathway and sidewalk links in the City, or enhancements of existing park infrastructure, nor constant improvements to the recreation offerings in the City.
A unique partnership toward a healthy community in 2019 was the offering of more than 100 free lunches per week by the St. Paul Public Schools at our new Unity Park in southeast Roseville during the summer. Undoubtedly, that program improved the nutrition and health of many of our neighbors in that area.
In addition to park and recreation and public works efforts to expand activities and facilities, we can be proud of our Fire Department’s success in achieving recognition of Roseville as a Heart Safe Community. That involves the promotion of AEDs in public and other facilities, ongoing CPR instruction for the public, and other educational offerings and programs.
Major transportation projects were undertaken in 2019, including the City’s work to improve intersections at Snelling and Lydia and Snelling and C2, the County’s work on County Road C in western Roseville, and of course, the State’s commencing of the 3-year MnPass project on I-35W between Roseville and Lino Lakes.
In late 2019, the City Council approved contracting with a consultant to develop a master plan for the City Hall campus. This plan is to provide a vision for expansion of public works storage, provision for a long-term license center, and providing for all city staffing and storage needs, along with potential other programming needs, anticipated into the future. While not necessarily obvious as to how that connects us, it will be key to provide City services in the most effective and efficient way possible, with infrastructure maintenance capabilities at the top of the list.
As we are in the midst of the winter season, an important initiative in 2019, and carrying into 2020, is improved communication with the public about our snow and ice responses. The City depends on all of us to make sure that roads are plowed as quickly as possible after storms in order to get to work or school or medical appointments, as well as for commerce to happen. The City continues to work to make sure everyone possible can be aware of snow and ice treatment and removal before and as they happen, and to deal with concentrated areas of street parking to improve the outcome each time.
Engaged in our Community’s Success
In 2019, the City completed some major engagement work, made ongoing progress on other work and began or planned for upcoming engagement work in 2020.
While not finally accepted at the Met Council, the City’s Comprehensive Plan was approved for submission by the City Council in 2019 after many months of outreach and feedback.
Going into 2020, plans will have to be undertaken to engage the community in an update to the City’s zoning code to conform with the Comprehensive Plan, once it is finally adopted.
The Rice and Lapenteur Vision implementation is ongoing, with a spring clean-up event, a summer block party, and a fall festival all happening in 2019. Behind the scenes, plans are being put together for the shape of the Rice and Larpenteur Alliance organization going forward, as well as funding plans to support the Alliance. Continued involvement of neighbors and businesses will be integral to the long-term sustainability and success of the Alliance, building on the slow but steady implementation progress to date.
The Human Rights, Inclusion, and Engagement Commission is working on engagement resources for the City to use, and is expected to report on those early in 2020.
I am pleased to note that volunteering and volunteerism in Roseville continues to be strong, as reported by our Volunteer Coordinator. Of course, the message here is not that no more volunteers are needed, but rather we continue to find new ways for interested people to donate their time and expertise to City endeavors, and don’t hesitate to connect with the Volunteer Coordinator to offer your services and join in the fun.
Each year, there is much going on in the City government and in the City of Roseville more broadly, toward the achievement of our aspirations than can possibly be fit into this kind of presentation.
We can be very proud of that as a community. People and businesses in Roseville are taking the initiative to make a difference through their places of worship, their schools, their community organizations, their neighborhoods, and all by themselves. The results show in how much people want to come here and stay here to live and do business.
We will always face new challenges, but we have a great foundation of community spirit and resources to meet those challenges and keep our city on a path toward a healthy and sustainable future.
That’s a pretty good state to be in, I’d say.
Thank you very much.