2021 State of the City

2021 City of Roseville

State of the City Address Text


Introduction


Hello, and thank you for your interest in this update on the state of the City of Roseville. I’m Roseville Mayor Dan Roe, speaking to you from Roseville’s own Guidant John Rose Minnesota OVAL, an important regional recreational facility that will be receiving some important updates in the coming months. (I’ll have more to say about that later in this presentation.)

We begin our review of the state of our city as of the end of 2020 by acknowledging two events that had significant impacts on that year, and will continue to have significant impacts going forward. Doubtless none of us has to be reminded that those two events are the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, plus the protests and unrest that followed, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Those events and their impacts are indelibly etched on all of our lives in so many ways.

Our reflections on the state of our city at this time therefore rightfully should begin with an acknowledgement of the ongoing, important, and unfinished business of racial justice and achieving true racial equity in all that we do. We must also acknowledge the nearly 2700 individuals who have so far tested positive for COVID-19 in our community, and the nearly 70 people so far – friends, relatives, and neighbors – who have lost their lives as a result of this unrelenting pandemic, as well as those who mourn those losses and, sadly, the inevitable further losses we know are to come.

And so, while we gauge the state of our city, as we traditionally do, in light of our community’s long-held aspirations, we also view it through the twin lenses of those significant events of this past year and their ongoing impacts.

Welcoming, Inclusive, and Respectful


Our aspiration to be welcoming, inclusive, and respectful tragically once again came into sharper focus in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.

While we in city hall, and our community more broadly, have been engaged in numerous efforts to further this aspiration since it was expressed through our Imagine Roseville 2025 visioning process back in 2005, and many of those efforts have been noted in past State of the City remarks, 2020 brutally reminded us of how much is still left to be done, and the urgency of that work.

It was not only the killing of George Floyd that jarred us, but also in the aftermath the realization through local acts of vandalism and threats of violence against our own neighbors, that hate and bigotry are still present in our own community, and we must work diligently to heal that rift and hold people responsible for their unacceptable acts and behaviors.

To date, Roseville police have opened 19 cases and continue to press investigations into these incidents, a few of which have continued to be reported even within the last couple of months. To date, 2 persons have been charged in relation to 4 of the cases, and one of those persons faces three felony counts of threats of violence, with court appearances due in coming weeks.

The killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer rightfully led to renewed questions about what our own police department is doing right or wrong, and what we can be doing better. These questions have been part of our local conversation about race and law enforcement since even before the killing of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights a few years ago. As those conversations have continued, policies – especially on the use-of-force and impartial policing – have been updated, training related to bias and dealing with persons in crisis has also been updated and increased even beyond state minimum requirements, and policing data tracking and sharing has been increased as well.

As a community, we can, I hope, take some measure of pride that in 2020 the Roseville police department already had in place policies that meet or exceed the suggested standards in the national “8 Can’t Wait” recommendations on use-of-force policies. Nevertheless, the department completed a re-review and further update of its policies late in the year to ensure the latest best practices are reflected.

To build on past engagement efforts, the Roseville police department established its Multicultural Advisory Committee in 2020. The committee consists of diverse community representatives who meet monthly to have a meaningful dialogue with the department and its leadership about issues of race in policing, local crime trends and issues, and how to promote effective connections between police and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.

While policing is rightfully a huge focus of the City’s work toward our aspiration to be welcoming, inclusive, and respectful, much work is also ongoing across our City government as an organization. One significant manifestation of that in 2020 and going forward is the hiring of a Diversity, Equity, and Engagement consultant to work with the organization over the next several months on implementation and enhancement of our Racial Equity Action Plan. A second manifestation is the inclusion of a new permanent Equity and Inclusion Manager position in the Administration department to elevate the organization’s focus on those matters going forward.

The City continues to improve our efforts to remove bias from recruitment and hiring processes across the entire organization, building on the police department’s successful work in that area. Staff has worked to remove bias from job descriptions, employment applications, and interview processes. The City can report over 27% of job applicants were persons of color in 2020, as were 22% of hires and 25% of volunteers. We will continue to track these numbers in an effort to refine and improve the hiring of a City workforce that better reflects the diversity of our community.

A couple of additional indications of the work the City continues to do toward this aspiration are in the area of parks & recreation. First, as the result of a significant donation from the Friends of Roseville Parks organization, we are in the midst of planning for 2021 implementation of expanded inclusive play opportunities in Central Park. And second, the summer Sunday programming at the Frank Rog Amphitheater continues the theme begun in 2019 of featuring a variety of cultural performers from in and around our community.

Safe and Law-Abiding


I could not begin a discussion of the City’s work toward this aspiration without taking a moment to thank the leaders and front line responders in our police and fire departments for their incredible work in response to both the unrest that resulted after the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition to responding to the previously mentioned hate incidents, the police department also mobilized its full force to respond to both actual and potential incidents of vandalism and property damage as opportunistic criminals sought to profit from unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul by targeting Roseville businesses in the days following the George Floyd killing. Thankfully, while there were around 30 instances of property damage and/or associated theft in Roseville during that couple of days, most losses were relatively minor, and there were no serious injuries or losses of life in Roseville. It should be noted that Roseville police were not involved in law any enforcement efforts in Minneapolis or St. Paul in response to the protests and unrest in those cities.

Roseville’s Fire Department also was fully mobilized during the time of the unrest, and, while maintaining an ability to respond in our city, played a significant role in fire suppression efforts in St. Paul as part of auto aid and mutual aid arrangements between us and our neighbor to the south.

Along with these thanks to public safety personnel related to the time of unrest last summer, I must also thank Roseville residents who not only stepped forward and participated in peaceful protests as well as clean up and response efforts, but also did so largely while being respectful of local overnight curfews that were put in place during that time. We are grateful also for all of the instances, large and small, where we looked out for each other as neighbors, and as a community, during that time.

Of course, the other major impact on public safety in 2020, and continuing forward, has been COVID-19. To-date, both Roseville police and fire have been able to maintain their services to the community largely without significant personnel outages due to Covid. That is a testament to their planning and implementation around their response to the pandemic. On top of that, the entire City organization has benefitted from the leadership of our emergency management team, led by Assistant Fire Chief David Brosnahan, with respect to planning, implementation, securing PPE and other needed items, in order to continue City operations as close to normal as possible.

For 2021, the City is continuing implementation of increased police and fire staffing to better serve and address the needs of the community. 

Through a staffing grant from FEMA, the Fire Department is in the process of training 6 new firefighters that will complete the department’s transition to full shift staffing in order to effectively respond to 3 simultaneous incidents rather than just 2. The grant funding front-loads paying for those positions, allowing the City to immediately implement the staffing, while transitioning over several years to eventual full support of those positions through the property tax levy.

The police department will hire 3 – and up to 4 – new officers in 2021, which will facilitate implementation of a Community Action Team in the department. The CAT will be able to target greater resources toward both crime prevention, through education and other outreach, and also toward enhanced response to reported criminal activity, through support of investigative work and improved communication with impacted residents and businesses.

The fourth potential hire noted in the police department is specific to the goal of diversity on the force. The Commitment to Diversity hiring program allows the department to temporarily exceed the limit on the number of sworn officers and hire as a Roseville police officer a currently-serving Community Service Officer of color, who might otherwise be hired by another department on completion of their studies and qualifications.

Both the police and fire departments continued to be able to update vehicles and equipment in 2020 through the City’s longtime practice of taxpayer funding that is annually set aside to be saved up for those purposes. That included most notably over $1 million in new fire apparatus that was put into service last year in the form of a replacement fire engine and ladder truck.

Economically Prosperous, with a Stable and Broad Tax Base


It is impossible to talk about our aspiration to be economically prosperous without doing so in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the span of 2 months in early 2020, the nation, our state, and Roseville all saw the loss of between 10% and 20% of our jobs as economic activity was significantly dialed back in response to COVID-19. Since that time, less than half of those job numbers have been recovered. Roughly ¼ of jobs in Roseville are in the retail and food & accommodation industries, and those sectors have seen the greatest lob losses in the past year, although retail has been able to recover more quickly than food & accommodation once restrictions were eased in the fall. Of concern is the trend that those receiving unemployment are doing so for longer periods of time, and job numbers are not recovering as quickly as might be desired. 

With all of that going on in the economy, Roseville residents and businesses have been in need of help. Thankfully, we have been able to take measures to help address some of that need. Part of that was through administrative changes such as reducing liquor license fees, delaying utility delinquency penalties, allowing temporary increases in outdoor dining, and other regulatory changes. In addition, both the City and Ramsey County provided Federal CARES Act funding to support small businesses and renters & mortgage payers. Specifically, Roseville’s City-funded CARES Act assistance helped 31 small businesses to the tune of nearly $300,000 and 54 renters & homeowners, totaling about $100,000 of assistance.

Despite the economic impacts of COVID-19, there were some positive trends that continued in 2020, including low interest rates, high home sale prices, and ongoing development and redevelopment activity in the city.

The single biggest development plan that continues to move forward, albeit somewhat more slowly, is the significant investment planned at Rosedale to add multi-family housing and a mix of business uses in place of the vacant Herbergers store. Next in size to that is the Twin Lakes Station development on the old Boaters’ Outlet site behind Lunds & Byerlys, west of Snelling on County Road C. Both projects received their City environmental review approvals in 2020, and the Twin Lakes Station’s housing portion broke ground last fall.

All in all, over 4100 permits of various types were issued in 2020, totaling a contribution of over $159 million to the local tax base. This is just under the 4200 permits issued in 2019, for a valuation of $210 million. Permits for multi-family units doubled in 2020, from 197 units in 2019 to 415 units in 2020.

After completing the City’s Comprehensive Plan update in 2019, we received final authorization from the Met Council to use the plan starting in 2020, and now the City turns to updating our zoning code in 2021 to be consistent with the updated Comprehensive Plan. These important documents provide the guidance for future development and redevelopment in the city, and are written with an eye toward flexibility for developers, while still maintaining important standards that protect and sustain neighborhoods and promote innovation, all with the intent to keep our commercial and residential tax base healthy and adaptive to external market changes.

An example of the benefits of growth in the tax base is that the 2021 budget was able to accommodate a modest though important increase in the tax levy while having minimal impact on most property tax bills, because the burden of that levy increase was able to be spread across a greater total of taxable value thanks to the ongoing private sector re-investment in our tax base.

Secure in our Diverse and Quality Housing and Neighborhoods


In partnership with private developers, Roseville took notable steps in 2020 to address identified gaps in our housing marketplace. The City continues to support CommonBond in its development of Owasso Gardens, providing 60 units of affordable senior housing on Rice Street and South Owasso Boulevard. 

The Twin Lakes Station development that, as mentioned, broke ground this past fall includes an addition of between 200 and 300 units of affordable senior housing in one building and a comparable number of affordable family housing units in their second building. The location of that housing is important in support of local retail and food & accommodation workers, who would be able to live close to their jobs, despite transit accessibility issues in that area.

New townhome development has increased in 2020 with 2 significant projects approved, to serve that segment of the marketplace, which has lagged behind multi-family and single-family residential development in recent years.

To follow up on a highlighted issue from the 2020 State of the City, Roseville staff has continued to work with the owners of the Marion Street/The Brittanys apartments off Rice and Larpenteur to update those buildings in order to bring them to a condition that could permit the City to reinstate their revoked rental licenses. Through the owners engaging an industry-respected property management company and significant investments into the buildings, it appears that several of the buildings are in line to have their licenses reinstated early in 2021. This will preserve important naturally-occurring affordable housing in that neighborhood, while assuring safer and decent housing for the residents. The process has been undertaken with special attention to preventing the displacement of current renters who in many cases are financially vulnerable to loss of their housing.

A new area of discussion in 2020 that has carried over into 2021 and impacts the quality of our neighborhoods is the regulation of short-term rentals of residential properties, as exemplified by AirBNB and other similar offerings. The City is working toward implementing a licensing program and minimum stay requirements for non-owner-occupied units that will help to provide the City with tools to hold these absentee owners responsible for their renters’ disruptive behavior. Owner occupied units will continue to not be subject to that regulation under the plan being developed.

Environmentally Responsible, with Well-Maintained Natural Assets


In addition to the City’s role in environmental review of the Rosedale and Twin Lakes Station projects, the City continues to undertake efforts to address environmental impacts and maintain our natural assets.

The City, through its Park & Recreation Commission and Department, continues to evaluate ways to respond to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation and its impact to the tree canopy on City property. Work on a multi-year plan to remove and replace City-owned ash trees was paused in 2020 but is back to active consideration in 2021. All the while, the City continues to provide education about EAB to residents and businesses.

As part of the commitment to the restoration of our tree canopy, volunteers were able to plant over 100 trees throughout City parks in 2020. The City’s volunteer natural resources restoration programs in parks also continue to be well-attended and appreciated – even during the pandemic.

The City installed our 4th iron-enhanced storm water basin in 2020, along Brenner Avenue on the west side of Lake Owasso. These basins help to address localized stormwater flooding issues by temporarily storing stormwater flows, but also remove phosphorus from that stormwater runoff before it enters water bodies such as Lake Owasso, helping to improve water quality. The basin along Brenner is expected to remove 12 pounds of phosphorus annually.

In July 2020, the City of Roseville was accepted into Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy Program. Partners in Energy helps communities to develop and implement energy plans. By participating in Partners in Energy, the City can meet its energy goals and also help local residents and businesses to reduce their energy bills and carbon footprints. The program is a two-year commitment. It will start with development of a strategic energy action plan, and then continue into implementation of the plan. Throughout the process, Roseville will work closely with Xcel Energy to provide guidance, education, and resources for the City and its businesses and residents.

And of course it would not be a State of the City presentation these last few years without a mention of the City’s solar efforts. After having installed solar panels on city hall, the public works building, and the fire station in 2019, the City’s solar garden subscriptions went on line in 2020, supporting 560 kWh of green energy production. As the City considers plans for the OVAL and the rest of the City campus, solar and geothermal energy continue to be an integral part of those discussions.

Physically & Mentally Active and Healthy


I began this presentation at the OVAL, and alluded to it just now. The Guidant John Rose Minnesota OVAL is, as was mentioned, a key regional recreation asset, and it has been in need of important rehabilitation work in recent years. The OVAL was originally built with significant financial support from the State of Minnesota, and that support extended to a series of updates and upgrades over the facility’s life. Through the sustained efforts of City staff, council members, park & recreation commissioners, and user groups, and with the critical assistance of our whole legislative team, the City obtained $3.9 million in State bonding funds at seemingly the 11th hour in 2020 to fund most of the currently-needed rehabilitation work. As a result, projects will be undertaken in 2021 to repair or replace piping systems and mechanical components, the apron around the track, and other infrastructure at the OVAL, so that it may serve its users for years into the future. 

Despite the 2020 State bonding funds, some needed projects at the OVAL remain unfunded, such as roof replacements and upgrading restrooms to be ADA compliant, but the City will work to receive State bonding funding for those projects in 2021 or 2022.

Maintaining the health of the community was an important activity for the City in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the work that was undertaken reflected all of the different partnerships the City is able to leverage for our residents and businesses. 

Roseville Fire worked closely with our senior residential care facilities to understand their needs and concerns, and provide PPE and other resources. In addition, cloth masks that have been donated by members of the community have been distributed to senior facilities and other users, and have been available for pick-up at the fire station.

Another partnership was with Roseville’s own Every Meal (formerly The Sheridan Story), who provided free packaged meals and food, no questions asked, for pick-up by anyone at the fire station. They provided similar food offerings at other events such as the Rice & Larpenteur Alliance’s LarpenTOUR event last fall. The whole community continues to benefit from all of our non-profits that work to help those in need, and we thank all of them for going above and beyond during the time of the pandemic. That work does take funding, and we encourage our residents and businesses to respond by being even more supportive of those non-profits in your giving.

While Roseville’s parks and recreation programs had to pause, regroup, and re-start after the onset of the pandemic last spring, the leadership, staff, and volunteers have done incredible work to provide facilities and recreation programs within the changing parameters of health guidance from the CDC and the State. Those offerings have included a 20% increase in golf rounds at the Cedarholm golf course over 2019, virtual and socially-distanced wellness and creative programs, outdoor entertainment offerings, and greater opportunities for outdoor recreation equipment rentals.

Well-Connected Through Transportation and Technology Infrastructure


In 2020, Roseville continued to make strategic pathway connections in order to make the system work better for everyone. Some connections were short, filling small gaps. Others were significant, like in western Roseville the pathway connections on County Road C and Walnut Street, in conjunction with the County’s reconstruction work on that corridor. That project finally linked County Road C to the Northeast Diagonal Regional Trail that originates in Northeast Minneapolis and is a notable bike commuter connection.

Roseville continues to work with our county and state partners to improve connections, including partnering on planned signal light improvements at Snelling and Roselawn and other locations, to both enhance traffic flow but also to improve pedestrian safety.

Of interest to many in this area, 2021 should mark the “start of the end” of the 35W MNPass reconstruction project, allowing that roadway to function better and allowing the crossing roads and access points to get back to an improved normal for commuters and commercial traffic alike.

2020 saw work begun to study the Highway 36 corridor, especially in light of transit needs, with public input processes provided. The City will follow those efforts with interest as plans or recommendations come forward.

An important incremental success was achieved in 2020 for transit serving Roseville when the Rice Street/Robert Street corridor was included as one of 10 out of 19 corridors identified for the next generation of arterial bus rapid transit lines in the Metro area. (Roseville has one arterial BRT route in existence, the A Line, which serves Rosedale and points south along Snelling Avenue.) After making that first cut, the Rice/Robert corridor then made the list of the final four corridors which would be the next projects in Metro Transit’s arterial BRT system. A community input process has just concluded to inform Metro Transit’s next decision: which of the four finalists will be the first project to move ahead? That decision should be announced early in 2021, and we remain hopeful about Rice/Robert. An important word of thanks is needed here for the lobbying efforts of the Rice & Larpenteur Alliance and our Alliance partners in the neighboring cities of St. Paul and Maplewood, as well as Ramsey County, who all have supported the choice of the Rice/Robert corridor through each stage of the Metro Transit decision-making process.

Engaged in our Community’s Success as Citizens, Neighbors, Volunteers, Leaders, & Businesspeople 
Mention of the Rice & Lapenteur Alliance is a great segue to our efforts at community engagement as a City. The Alliance has been several years in the making, but took an important and long-awaited step in 2020 as it transitioned from a largely government-driven entity into a truly community-driven entity. The various boards and committees of the Alliance have been populated with local resident, business, and organization representatives from all 3 cities, and exciting activity is underway. That activity includes establishing recurring community celebration events, planning wayfinding and signage for the area, supporting and encouraging redevelopment and development, including plans for property near the Rice Street Gardens that are moving forward in Maplewood, and supporting local art installations.

Important work of the City’s Human Rights, Inclusion, & Engagement Commission was completed in 2020 in the form of an engagement toolkit for organization-wide use in planning and implementing engagement efforts around various City decision-making.

It should also be mentioned that the HRIEC was an active partner with the city council and City staff in their role as community voices in recommending and pursuing the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant as well as establishing the City’s Equity and Inclusion Manager position.

A sign that strong engagement continues on the part of our residents despite the limitations of living through a pandemic is the ongoing strong turnout for volunteer efforts such as tree and flower planting, and invasive species mitigation, as well as participation by numerous residents in City council and commission meetings where decisions are made that impact neighborhoods and the community as a whole. While there is concern that virtual meetings exclude people without technological capabilities, I can say that we have had no shortage of participation from unexpected voices, including some residents in their 80s and 90s, and, perhaps more than ever, those in their teens, which is an encouraging sign.

That being said, I think everyone would acknowledge how much better it will be when we can once again safely come together in person in large groups as we work for the betterment of our community in every one of these ways. It seems likely that some form of virtual participation will continue even then.

Closing Thoughts


I have already thanked a number of people for their extraordinary work in 2020. However, I want to be sure and take a moment to extend those thanks to every single person on the City staff, every City volunteer and advisory commission member, and my fellow council members, past and present.  Their thoughtfulness, flexibility, extra effort, and sacrifice over this last year has kept the business of the City going, and has served our community in the best possible way we can through the circumstances and challenges we have faced in that work. On behalf of the whole community, I can’t thank you all enough for your contributions, and for what they have meant in making a difference for everyone.

As I said, 2020 is a year that will be a part of all of us for years to come. We have lived through, and are living through, incredible challenges, some of which nobody could have anticipated as we discussed the State of our City a year ago, and others of which we may just not have been willing or able to acknowledge have been there for some time. Those challenges remain – including surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, healing the wounds of racial injustice while finding a better and more equitable way forward together, making real progress to combat climate change and enhance sustainability, and fixing a broken politics that threatens our very democracy.

The work ahead will not be easy. We know that sadly there will be more losses to mourn before the end. Every effort may not be met with success. There will be, as it has been said, more darkness before we reach the light of justice, equity, and understanding.

Looking around me at our community – at its people, its leaders, and our fundamental shared strengths, I believe it is right to have optimism – or at least hope – in our outlooks as we work together to get through this current darkness and into that light. 

May the State of our City be in a much better place a year from now, and may we always remember the struggles, lessons, and losses that it will have taken to get there from here.

Thank you very much.