2016 State of the City

Good morning.  Thank you to everyone who has come out so early on this winter morning to hear the 2016 State of the City address for Roseville.  It is great to see you all here.

This year, I can again report that the state of our city is quite strong, and well-positioned for the future.  I can say that both because of the underlying strength of our local and state economy, as well as the legacy of forward-thinking decision-making that has been a hallmark of Roseville City government over the past several years.
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I should point out that the city council and staff and many volunteers, including advisory commission members, share in credit for that decision-making.  It is not the result of just me, or just any one person.

However, I must, as usual, pause at the start to acknowledge that more about the state of our city has to do with the everyday efforts of local residents, volunteers, and businesspeople than it does with what we as the City government do.  Our city’s success depends on the engagement and success of all of these folks much more than it does on what we at City Hall might do.

In that context, we as the City government do have the responsibility that is given to us by the people of Roseville to do our part to make sure we continue to make progress toward our community’s aspirations.

Ever since the city council adopted our mission statement in support of stated community aspirations four years ago, I use those aspirations to organize and frame my remarks about the state of the city each year.  This stems from our community’s vision, and is rightfully the basis for how we measure our achievements.

To remind everyone of those aspirations:

We in Roseville aspire to be a community that is:
  • Welcoming, inclusive, and respectful
  • Safe and law-abiding
  • Economically prosperous, with a stable and broad tax base
  • Secure in our diverse and quality housing and neighborhoods
  • Environmentally responsible, with well-maintained natural assets
  • Physically and mentally active and healthy
  • Well connected through transportation and technology infrastructure and 
  • Engaged in our community’s success as citizens, neighbors, volunteers, leaders, and businesspeople.

Welcoming, Inclusive, and Respectful

All of us at the City take this aspiration seriously in all that we do.  Just some highlights of those efforts include several things:  

One key is the ongoing outreach of our police and fire departments and others to new immigrant populations in Roseville.  Again in 2015, the City partnered with the Karen Organization of Minnesota, the International Institute, and the Roseville Area School District to host a “New Americans Forum” at
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the Fairview Community Center.  These events continue to be an excellent means to connect those in need of assistance with those who can provide beneficial services, and to make connections between our City government and our people who might not otherwise have such connections.  

Along those lines, the City Council is currently considering a proposal to buy a small parcel of land among the Marion Street and Brittany apartment buildings to create a playground that can also serve as a point of contact for service providers to the large numbers of new immigrants who happen to live in those buildings.  This is an excellent example of partnership with many of the same organizations I mentioned before, as well as seeking grant funding in order to multiply the impact of City funds.  Stay tuned for more on that process as this year goes along.

Another effort toward this aspiration was the Human Rights Commission’s Civility Training event in the fall of 2015.  Representatives of the Institute for Civility in Government engaged the participants in activities and discussions that centered on developing common understanding and finding ways to work together in spite of differences that may exist.  This event may be a model for future training of participants on City advisory commissions and other groups.

I mentioned efforts of our police department toward reaching out to our under-represented groups in Roseville, and I should note specific proactive efforts to recruit police officers that look like the community they serve.  To that end, Roseville is working to hire Community Service Officers from these groups, and I want to offer special recognition to Ku Tee, who has been an integral part of our outreach efforts, but who also celebrated a significant personal milestone recently by becoming a United States citizen.  

Congratulations to Ku, and we are very proud of his service!
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Safe and Law-Abiding

While Roseville continues to be a very safe community, we also know that we continue to face challenges – both in the police and fire areas.  Our large commercial base in Roseville is a great amenity, but it also does attract folks who would like to victimize the patrons of these stores, restaurants, and hotels.  

Our police department responded to more than 33,000 calls for service and investigated over 1200 cases in 2015.  That requires a significant expenditure of resources.  That work was supported by nearly 2,800 hours of volunteer work by reserves, park patrols, and interns.
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In 2016, the Roseville PD is working with the University of Northwestern to survey those who have interactions with the police in our city to track performance and look for opportunities to improve.  

Last year, Roseville’s fire department continued its transition to full-time firefighters in order to meet the staffing challenges of a 24-hour staffed department.  

Roseville Fire responded to more than 3,900 calls for service in 2015, with the vast majority – all but about 100 – being medical calls.  As our population continues to age, we can expect this demand on services to be constant, if not rise from year to year.  The full-time staffing model has been determined to much better meet that need than the more traditional paid-on-call model of years past.

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Economically Prosperous

As I noted earlier, Roseville continues to benefit from a strong local and state economy.  We also continue to reap the benefits of our location and strong commercial base.

New permit value in Roseville increased from $56.5 million in 2014 to $70.2 million in last year, and that trend looks to continue.

We are excited to have Rosedale re-investing millions of dollars into remodeling the mall beginning this year, and also adding a fourth anchor store and another parking deck in the near future.
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In order to make the smoothest transition between the two models, Roseville hired six full-time firefighters in 2015, and also transitioned shift supervision from paid-on-call supervisors to all full-time supervisors.  Paid-on-call firefighters will continue to serve and be replaced over time by attrition.

Roseville Fire also took delivery of a new engine, and ordered a new medical response unit in 2015, in order to provide the most cost-effective fleet to serve our community.
The city council in 2015 finalized the Community Mixed Use zoning for the Twin Lakes area, to reflect the variable needs for buffering and height limits, as well as controls of intensity of use, across that large redevelopment area.  

Already, Twin Lakes development activity is picking up, with the latest example being Calyxt, a company that is seeing promising growth in the area of non-GMO food production, moving into a site on what is known as the “PIK terminal” property southwest of Langton Lake.  Calyxt employs technical experts and others at the good wages and salaries that Roseville is seeking.

Toward improving and stabilizing our tax base, the City participated in workshops in late 2015 put on by the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and East Metro Strong.  Folks from Smart Growth America led discussions on revitalizing areas in suburban Ramsey County, and specifically along the Larpenteur Avenue corridor with sustainable density and multi-modal transportation, including bike and pedestrian-friendly options.  

The City is looking to build on those discussions specific to the Rice and Larpenteur area, including our neighbors in Maplewood and St. Paul.  That effort will engage local residents and businesses in identifying the challenges and opportunities in that area, as well as hopefully creating an achievable vision to guide redevelopment over the next 20 or more years.

This is one of the City’s key efforts going forward, and was identified as a priority by the city council in our priority planning, within the broader focus area of economic development.

Secure in our Diverse Housing and Neighborhoods

A much smaller scale effort to what is envisioned for Rice and Larpenteur, but a very good model, was the effort in 2014 and 2015 to plan for the redevelopment of the Dale Street fire station and surrounding properties.  

Through sustained engagement of the neighborhood, and through the efforts of our former Housing and Redevelopment Authority members, that process is coming to fruition in the Garden Station townhome project that is under construction now at Dale Street and Cope Avenue, and looks to begin occupancy this year.
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That is just one example of efforts to provide the diversity of housing we need in Roseville, and to make sure that the housing we have is a good place to live – or secure for our residents.

Other projects underway include a new Applewood Pointe senior co-op on the old Owasso School property, and a new Cherrywood Pointe assisted living facility on Lexington Avenue across from our new fire station.

Last year, the city council denied approval of a mixed market and workforce housing project in the Twin Lakes area due to financing challenges, but we continue to seek that type of much-needed development in Roseville, and will work to take advantage of other opportunities as they arise.

Toward achieving the security of our housing, 2015 marked the implementation of the new Multi-Family Rental Licensing program in Roseville.  Initially, 36 buildings out of about 160 in the city received either the lowest or second-lowest rating at the start of the program, but through working with owners and property managers, those numbers have been reduced to one building that still has the lowest rating and none with the second-lowest rating.  Especially good news in all of this is that the vast majority of buildings received higher ratings, and continue to generally be good, well managed places to live in Roseville.

Environmentally Responsible, with Well-Maintained Natural Assets

This aspiration continues to see a high level of interest from the community, and a strong commitment from the City.

Through the City’s agreement with the St. Paul Port Authority to back solar projects, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church on Hamline and Highway 36 installed solar panels on their roof last summer.  

With the City on board in this way, more projects like that can be done in Roseville through that same funding mechanism.
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Additionally, the City is in the planning process to install a 300 kW solar panel system on the roof of the Skating Center this year.  That project is expected to provide substantially toward the electricity needs of the Skating Center going forward.

The City just recently finished updating City Hall and other city campus buildings to LED lighting, and will be updating the city council chambers shortly.  This project helps the environment and also helps give new meaning to “shedding light on government.”

An ongoing effort to maintain our natural resources is an outgrowth of the Park Renewal Program, which itself is winding down this year.  The City is holding monthly volunteer natural resource activities in various parks throughout the year, and going forward.  That is a great opportunity to connect the people in the community to these important efforts.

Physically & Mentally Active and Healthy

As the Park Renewal Program projects wind down this year as I said, a few projects to note from 2015 were community playground builds, including one in the fall that brought an accessible playground to Central Park at Victoria.

It was rewarding to hear from a volunteer on that project how meaningful it would be for his own daughter.

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The City completed a key pathway link in 2015, connecting along Victoria Street from Larpenteur up to County Road B2.  For 2016, a key link along Larpenteur west of Rice Street will be completed, providing a pathway or sidewalk along that route across the entire southern edge of the city.

Besides physical infrastructure improvements related to the health of our community, the City has fostered the ongoing Alzheimers & Dementia group in Roseville, which continues to bring folks together to learn about these issues and talk about solutions.  

Additionally, in 2015, the City supported an effort to revisit the Block Nurse Program, and whether to re-start it here.  Ultimately, the decision was made not to restart that program due to existing programs already available, but the study group has already evolved into a group promoting awareness of and solutions for community health issues in Roseville going forward.  

It is worth noting that both of these efforts were largely driven by individuals in the community, and not by City Hall, and I want to specifically recognize the dogged determination and continuing energy and effort of Sara Barsel to start and keep both of these efforts going.  

Sara has had many partners in that process, but she deserves special recognition for her dedication and hard work.


Probably the biggest news about connections in Roseville in 2016 has to be the planned June start-up of the A Line bus rapid transit service along Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway between Rosedale and southeast Minneapolis. This service is the first of several planned BRT lines in the metro area, and our community and our commuters get to be the first to experience its advantages in terms of shorter travel times and greater convenience.  Roseville and our neighbors continue to lobby for the eventual extension of the A Line up to the new Rice Creek Commons development on the old ammunition plant site in Arden Hills.
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More locally, for 2016 we anticipate a couple of key connections to be completed in the Twin Lakes area, with construction of the last leg of Twin Lakes Parkway between Prior Avenue and Fairview, and a potential project to improve the function of the Lincoln Drive, Terrace Drive, and the County Road C2 area west of Snelling.

A major challenge to connections in Roseville this year will be the closure of Lexington Avenue at Highway 36 in order to reconstruct the bridge and interchange at that location.  Highway 36 is to remain open at full capacity through the project, but Lexington in that area will be completely closed during that time.  Ultimately, the new bridge will be designed to accommodate planned future lane capacity along Highway 36, which is targeted several years from now for a managed lane project similar to the recent addition on 35E between downtown St. Paul and Little Canada Road.

Engaged in our Community’s Success

2016 will be a key year in community engagement efforts as we begin to prepare for our next Comprehensive Plan update, due in 2018.  The State requires cities to have comprehensive plans in place to guide planning and development for the next 10 years and beyond, so this is a very important guiding document for the City.

The last Comprehensive Plan update was largely based on the community vision that came out of the Imagine Roseville 2025 process in 2005.

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It seems only fitting that we begin our Comprehensive Plan update with an update to our community vision, and crucial to that will be extensive engagement of our residents, businesses, and other key stakeholders over the coming months and years.  Roseville has continued to build on and improve our engagement efforts over the last several years, and this will be an opportunity to take what we have learned and apply it to this significant planning process.

Along those same lines, as I mentioned before, engagement of stakeholders will be very important to the success of our efforts to develop a plan for the community around Rice and Larpenteur.

The city council and Community Engagement Commission will be working hard to establish and undertake these engagement efforts this year, and I expect it to be an exciting process.

Closing Thoughts

As hopefully can be seen from this abbreviated list of significant accomplishments and ongoing efforts, we have much to be proud of in Roseville when it comes to the work we are all doing to get closer to achieving our aspirations.

I said it before, but it bears repeating:  This success, and any success we have going forward, requires the efforts of everyone – not just a mayor or a city council, or city staff.  Those of us folks certainly play our role, but it is everyone working together that makes it happen.

Seeing that unfold is one of the true pleasures of serving in this office, and I look forward to continuing to experience that in 2016 and for the years to come.

Thank you very much.