The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday will sign off on the city’s legislative wish list for 2015, a series of funding requests, projects and statutory changes that council members and Mayor Chris Coleman are making a priority in the New Year.
At the top of the list: restoration of local government aid to 2003 levels, more state funding for transportation infrastructure and transit, and five top capital projects for which the city will seek state bonding (although 2015 isn’t necessarily a bonding year at the State Capitol).
Those projects and the amount requested, in order of priority, are reconstruction of the Kellogg Boulevard-3rd Street bridge ($40 million); an environmental learning center at Crosby Farm Regional Park ($19.5 million); renovation of the Como Zoo’s seals and sea lions exhibit ($14.5 million); a regional public safety facility and indoor firing range ($6.5 million); and a cultural center at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary ($3 million).
Coleman said Wednesday that the city also hopes to get authorization for multiple tax-increment financing districts to aid development at the Ford site in Highland Park.
The legislative agenda includes a number of issues on which the city wishes to express its views. For instance, St. Paul opposes state-sanctioned tax levy limits, wants construction materials exempted from sales taxes, and supports more funding to help communities slow the progress of the emerald ash borer.
The city’s lobbying efforts are led by J.D. Burton, who has been St. Paul’s government relations director for a couple years.
“It’s a fairly wide-ranging package of things that we’ll be presenting to the Legislature,” Coleman said. “It’s consistent with what most cities and communities across the state are going to be asking.”
Officials from Ramsey County and Arden Hills will host an open house Tuesday, Dec. 9, to discuss the future of the Rice Creek Commons development -- the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant. Officials will provide updates on the site's cleanup, continued demolition and other improvements.
Ramsey County is planning for mixed-use development, including commercial, light manufacturing, retail and housing. The site will also include parks and trails.
The open house is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ramsey County Public Works Marsden Room, 1425 Kirkwold Drive, Arden Hills. Blake Huffman, who represents the area on the Ramsey County Board, will host the open house.
Gary Bettman, commissioner of the National Hockey League, will be at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning to announce that the Minnesota Wild’s home arena, along with the rest of the RiverCentre complex, is high on sustainability.
The downtown St. Paul entertainment complex, which includes the convention center and Roy Wilkins Auditorium, this year won three of the biggest prizes in the green world: certification from LEED, Green Globes and APEX/ASTM, all organizations that make independent judgments on environmentally-sound construction and operations.
Kathy Ross of the Wild, which manages RiverCentre for the city, said that getting all three certifications is a first for a complex of this sort. And most such honors of this sort go to newly-built structures, not buildings that went up years ago.
Officials say that RiverCentre and Xcel Center recycle 60 percent of its waste, use solar energy and wind power to reduce carbon by more than half, save thousands of gallons of water with faucet aerators, and buy office products and cleaning materials that are environmentally preferable.
Joining Bettman at an 11 a.m. news conference at Xcel will be Mayor Chris Coleman, Wild owner Craig Leopold and RiverCentre general manager Jim Ibister.
Como Park Zoo is celebrating the birth early Wednesday of a baby boy gorilla to Alice -- the first gorilla birth in the 55 years that Como has housed the large primates.
According to a news release, the baby weighs about four pounds and "appears healthy, strong and bonding with Alice."
Because bonding between gorilla mothers and their babies is so important, zoo officials plan to keep Alice and her son off exhibit for several weeks.
It's the first of two expected gorilla births at Como. Alice's housemate, Dara, is expecting and likely to give birth later next month or in January.
In both cases, the father is Schroeder, 29, who has lived at Como since he was a lad of five. Alice is 12, and Dara is 11.
Alice and Dara were among six gorillas moved to Como last year to live in the zoo's new $11 million Gorilla Forest exhibit, the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America.
Como's gorillas, while born in the United States, are descended from gorillas that inhabit the forests of central and west Africa. The gorillas, called Western lowland, are critically endangered.
Gorilla gestation takes about eight months. About 4 in 10 baby gorillas die in the first several months, which is one reason why zookeepers will be keeping a close eye on the new mother and baby. But zoo staffers won't intervene unless the baby's health is in jeopardy or the mother isn't doing her job.
Photo: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
In the debate over whether to install special glass for the billion-dollar Minnesota Vikings’ stadium in downtown Minneapolis to protect migratory birds, St. Paul wants to make one thing clear: it’s for the birds.
Three City Council members next week will introduce a resolution calling on the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority “to build a bird-proof stadium” with glass walls that are visible to birds rather than completely transparent. To do otherwise, the resolution says, could result in the deaths of thousands of birds.
Why should this matter to St. Paul? For one thing, the city shares with Minneapolis the Mississippi River, a corridor used every spring and fall by 40 percent of the migratory birds in North America. The more birds colliding with the stadium in Minneapolis, the fewer will find their way through the capital city.
And the city wants to stand in solidarity with the Minneapolis City Council, which passed a similar resolution nearly three months ago.
Both St. Paul and Minneapolis signed a federal urban conservation treaty for migratory birds in 2011. Minneapolis’ stadium implementation committee, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Audubon Society all think bird-safe glass is the way to go.
But the St. Paul resolution is unlikely to change the minds of the Vikings or the stadium commission. They’ve already pointed out that specially fritted glass, containing tiny ceramic beads to make it less reflective, would add $1.1 million to the stadium budget.
And they say it could reduce the glass’ transparency for human eyes. If you’re going to design a downtown pyramid wrapped in 200,000 square feet of glass, you ought to be able to see in or out as well as possible, so the argument goes.