Villager Inbox

Spending in the face of a city deficit

I have the utmost respect for Villager reporter Jane McClure. Her contributions to our neighborhood through her writing are enormous. But I have to suggest one correction to a headline in the last edition of the Villager.

I read her article about the $630,000 to add bike lanes downtown, and the article on the restriping of bike lanes on Summit Avenue for $365,000, all in addition to the St. Paul City Council’s $7.5 million slap-in-the-face Ayd Mill Road vote. After reading these, I must correct the headline, “St. Paul officials brace for an estimated $19 million to $34 million deficit in 2021.” The headline should read, “St. Paul officials don’t care one bit about the projected deficit and will spend your money however they darn feel like it.”

Keep up the good work, Ms. McClure.

Gloria Zaiger
Highland Park

Ayd Mill trail is entirely proper

Reporter Jane McClure’s story on the St. Paul City Council’s Ayd Mill Road vote spread several pieces of misinformation (Villager, April 29).

Council member Rebecca Noecker’s motion to just repave the road would only have saved $2.2 million if the council had simultaneously voted to remove this same amount of money from the city’s Bicycle Fund, and no one was proposing to do that. Despite Noecker’s statement to the contrary, the trail is safe—as safe as similar trails on Phalen Boulevard, Mississippi River Boulevard or even parts of Shepard Road. All three have car traffic running next to a multi-use trail. Council member Noecker also claimed that the Grand Round and the Capital City Bikeway should take funding priority over an Ayd Mill trail, but the Grand Round is already completely funded (much of it with state and federal grants) and it will be nearly completed by the end of next year. The Capital City Bikeway isn’t completed because city leaders, including Noecker herself, have been unable to agree on a route for it. They only recently decided on 9th and 10th streets and still haven’t decided between Wabasha and St. Peter streets.

If City Council members Noecker, Chris Tolbert and Dai Thao are so keen to save money, they wouldn’t have supported a $116 million proposal to rebuild the River Center parking garage at a cost of $54,000 per parking space, or they would’ve just abandoned Ayd Mill Road and saved over $5.3 million. Certainly, they wouldn’t have required city staff to spend hundreds of hours to model traffic and do presentations on Ayd Mill Road when they had no intention of voting for the trail project, no matter the modeling results. This was a huge waste of taxpayer money.

The St. Paul Bicycle Plan and city policy both say that the Bicycle Plan has been and will be implemented on streets or roads whenever they come up for repaving or reconstruction. Ayd Mill Road was being repaved. It’s in the Bike Plan, so implementing the planned trail on it was entirely proper.

Andrew Singer, Co-Chair
St. Paul Bicycle Coalition

Invasive plants are taking over

The city of St. Paul and its agencies are derelict in their management of city-owned land. Everywhere you look we are suffering explosions of invasive and noxious plant species that will forever change our outdoor spaces. For a group that purports to be all about climate change, they are willfully negligent in managing our own Minnesota environment.

Look at our roadsides, highway dividers and wooded parks. All you see are rampant areas of invasive species like garlic mustard, burdock, buckthorn, purple loosestrife, nettles and thistles. These aren’t just a nuisance. Garlic mustard actually changes the chemistry of the soil and prevents anything else from growing near it, including trees. Vines of invasive bittersweet pull down trees. These plants take over and replace familiar native woodland plants. They are growing like mad, and will permanently eliminate the biodiversity of our woods and parks and roadsides.

The city and state say they have no money to address these problems, but they do have power. They could alert the public, enlist citizen gardeners and educate students. In short, they could do something. Instead, the city seems to waste money planting countless trees on medians that are dead or damaged by the end of each summer. Minnesotans deserve better stewards of our precious environment.

Jeanne Condon
Highland Park

 All talk from the HDC

The April 15 Villager Viewpoint page included an article by Highland District Council president Howard Miller encouraging the people of Highland to attend the HDC’s annual meeting by webinar at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23. I don’t see how watching a video can be considered attending an annual meeting, but I “attended” nonetheless. This webinar, which can still be seen on the HDC website, contains some committee reports, but no financial report as the state statute governing nonprofits mandates. How a one-sided webinar is an alternative to an annual meeting with neighbors, in person or virtually, to discuss all of the important issues in Highland is beyond me.

St. Paul’s district councils were created in the 1970s to foster citizen participation. They receive money from the city to accomplish this. How much money the HDC gets, I don’t know, because there was no financial report at the annual meeting.

Miller writes that the HDC board election will bring together those who want to represent their neighbors in discussions about traffic and development and to find better ways to bring us together. Yet, if you go to the HDC website, you can find out who represents your grid on the HDC board, but there is nothing that shows you how to contact that person—no e-mail address, no phone number, no mail box, nothing. When a group really wants our input, they make it easy to give it. The HDC’s statements about wanting to engage more of us seem to be all talk.

Georgia Dietz
Highland Park

Showing concern for customers

Business proprietors who pay attention to social media will be aware of the number of area residents who appreciate establishments that take proper precautions to protect their employees and customers by requiring that all who work or shop there comply with recommended safety precautions, including masks and social distancing. I ask that those who have not yet implemented such a policy do so now. It will be appreciated.

James M. Hamilton
Macalester-Groveland

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