What’s making news in St. Paul, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to richard.meryhew@startribune.com.

Posts about Politics and government

Bumpy streets in St. Paul to get repaved in time for winter

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: July 24, 2014 - 11:50 AM

Just in time for winter, St. Paul city officials have agreed on a plan to strip and repave 11 of Mayor Chris Coleman’s “Terrible 20” arterial streets in critical need of repair.

On Wednesday, the City Council approved Coleman’s proposal to spend $2.5 million this summer to improve the roads, which include some of the city’s most highly-traveled – Cretin, Fairview, Grand and Hamline avenues, among others.

The work should be done by November.

Coleman thanked the council. “We do not want to repeat the winter and spring we had this past year,” he said, in a statement released Wednesday. “No one wants another polar vortex and everyone wants the roads to be better in St. Paul.”

The plan will use $1 million transferred from closed-out projects and areas such as street sweeping, along with $1.5 million already authorized for the work.

It wasn’t the council’s first choice on how to address growing problems with the washboard-like streets, which many people have been blaming for flat tires and out-of-whack suspensions.

Last month, six council members united around a plan to spend $22 million in bonding proceeds to start rebuilding the streets, rather than simply repairing them. The streets required more than just a short-term fix, they said.

But Coleman maintains that reconstructing all arterial streets will cost about $20 million a year for the next 10 years. His plan to spend $2.5 million now on repairs will buy the city some time until a long-term solution can be found – something he plans to offer in next month’s budget address.

That sounds good to Council President Kathy Lantry. “We believe there needs to be a large infusion of money into rebuilding our roads in the future and we look forward to working with the mayor to identify a plan we can all get behind,” she said.

The streets chosen for repairs this year, based on condition and traffic volume:

  • Cretin Avenue (from Interstate 94 to Marshall Avenue, and Summit Avenue to Ford Parkway)
  • Eustis Street (from the Hwy. 280 off-ramp to the I-94 on-ramp)
  • 11th Street (from St. Peter to Jackson streets)
  • Fairview Avenue (from Shields to Summit avenues)
  • Grand Avenue (from Interstate 35E to W. 7th Street)
  • Hamline Avenue (from University to Selby avenues, Portland to Grand avenues, and St. Clair to Randolph avenues)
  • Johnson Parkway (from Minnehaha Street to I-94)
  • Lafayette Road (from E. 7th to Grove streets)
  • Rice/W. 12th Street (from University Avenue to Wabasha/St. Peter streets)
  • Wabasha Street (from 6th to 7th streets)
  • Wheelock Parkway (from Edgerton to Arcade streets)

C-SPAN looks around St. Paul

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: July 23, 2014 - 4:54 PM

C-SPAN has St. Paul in its camera lens this week.

The national cable public affairs network, perhaps best known for its unblinking (and sans commentary) coverage of congressional debates and hearings, is in the capital city this week for a series on St. Paul’s history and literary life that it plans to air in September.

C-SPAN executive producer Mark Farkas popped in on Wednesday’s City Council meeting to talk about what his crew was doing and to thank the city for its hospitality. The crew will return to Washington, D.C., next week to produce 16 to 18 pieces on St. Paul, he said.

Sure to be included: the Hmong culture, the State Capitol, the Minnesota History Center, poet laureate Carol Connolly, a gangster tour with author Paul Maccabee, and F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Summit Avenue district. Visits also were made to Fort Snelling, the Alexander Ramsey house, and Garrison Keillor’s Common Good bookstore.

St. Paul is one of several cities across the country on which C-SPAN is training its spotlight this year. Last weekend, Des Moines was the featured city on C-SPAN’s 2014 Cities Tour. St. Paul’s turn will come the weekend of Sept. 20-21.

Coleman: St. Paul faces $9.6 million budget gap

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: July 9, 2014 - 3:07 PM

St. Paul faces a budget deficit of $9,6 million in 2015, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman says -- and next month he'll deliver his recommendations on how best to close that gap.

In a statement released Wednesday, the mayor said that he will host four public meetings in the next few weeks to get feedback on residents' funding priorities. People also will be able to share their thoughts online.

"It is critically important that we make it as easy as possible for St. Paul residents to participate in discussions about our investment priorities," Coleman said.

The mayor announced that he will deliver his annual budget address on August 13 at the Schmidt Artist Lofts, the recently-finished West 7th Street project that transformed an old brewery with the help of public money into housing for artists with low to moderate incomes.

It won't be clear until next month whether Coleman will seek a property tax hike to erase the deficit. In the meantime, he has asked each city department to look for ways to cut costs while preserving essential services. It's an instruction that many St. Paul mayors, including the incumbent, have issued at this time of year.

Last August, the mayor proposed no increase in the tax levy, saying that additional state aid had made it possible for St. Paul to close an $11.5 million gap without additional tax revenues. It was only the second time in eight years that Coleman did not seek a higher tax levy; for most of his time in office, he and the City Council have raised the levy to cover budget shortfalls caused by a tight economy and declining government aid.

After Coleman offers his budget recommendations, the City Council has until the end of the year to agree on a final budget.

Residents wanting to submit their ideas are welcome to visit the city website -- www.stpaul.gov -- or go to Twitter, using the hashtag #stpaulbudget.

Here's a list of the public meetings scheduled for community budget talks:

July 16: Wellstone Center, Neighborhood House, 179 E. Robie St., 5:30-6:30 p.m.

July 23: Golden Thyme Coffee and Cafe, 921 Selby Av., 9-10 a.m.

July 26: J & S Bean Factory, 1518 Randolph Av., 3-4 p.m.

August 1: Hmong Village, 1001 Johnson Pkwy., 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Right Track students get to meet the President

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: June 26, 2014 - 1:33 PM

St. Paul's summer jobs program for teens, Right Track, gives valuable work experience to hundreds of the city's youth. On Thursday, they got another, entirely different kind of experience.

They got to meet the President of the United States.

Right Track students were set to join St. Paul Mayor Chris Coileman at a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama at Minnehaha Falls Thursday afternoon.

Here is our recent story about Right Track: http://tinyurl.com/pbxa6s2

St. Paul Port Authority strikes deal to redevelop Midway Stadium site

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: June 24, 2014 - 3:17 PM

Midway Stadium is not going to remain a lonely, empty ballpark for long.

The St. Paul Port Authority has struck a redevelopment deal with United Properties, owned by the Pohlads, to turn the longtime home of the St. Paul Saints into a mixed use industrial property once the Saints have moved to their new home in Lowertown.

The deal means that the Port Authority and United Properties will co-own and operate the site, splitting the risk and, eventually, the rent that comes once the 12.8-acre site is redeveloped.

About 190,000 square feet of building is projected for the site. Spokesman Tom Collins said the Port Authority's contribution to the deal is the land and infrastructure costs, including tearing down the stadium and getting the site ready for development. United Properties will pay the cost of new construction at the site.

Construction at the site is expected to begin in the spring of 2016 and should be ready for occupancy by that fall, according to the agreement. The project's proposed budget, including a $9 million contruction loan, is $15 million.

The agreement anticipates a future workforce at the site of more than 200 employees.

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