Guest blog from Ramsey County Commissioners Victoria Reinhardt and Rafael E. Ortega
Building a stronger, more equitable and resilient economy – as we continue to mitigate the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic – will require a transportation system that safely and smartly connects people to jobs and vital services. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that effective public transportation is a critical part of keeping regions running.
By serving essential workers in emergency services, health care, food services, social services and other sectors, public transportation helps not just some people, but everyone who relies on and benefits from the work of these heroes in our community.
Workers classified as essential during this public health and economic emergency make up 36% of total transit commuters in the United States, according to U.S. Census data. Nationwide, more than 600,000 regular transit commuters work at hospitals, in doctor’s offices, or as home health providers; 165,000 people take transit to jobs in grocery stores or pharmacies; and 150,000 workers in social services commute on transit. These millions and millions of weekly trips serving all work shifts don’t include the essential trips taken by people using transit to get to their medical appointments, buy groceries or pick up a prescription at a pharmacy.
To strengthen transportation in the East Metro, Ramsey County and project partners are leading three major transit projects: Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), with construction starting in 2022 and service expected to begin in 2024; Rush Line BRT, on track to start operating in 2026; and the Riverview Corridor, now beginning its environmental and pre-engineering phase, with construction beginning as soon as 2028.
These three East Metro lines are key links in our region’s transit system that will connect communities, jobs, retail, education, and recreation destinations. With all-day service in both directions, every ten minutes during rush hours and every fifteen minutes throughout the day, these three projects are poised to help our region recover and thrive.
The last six months have been interesting, to say the least. The silver lining of 2020 has been the surprise opportunity to pause, think about what we're doing and how we're doing it, and embrace change and innovation, in ways that make sense.
I've heard from many of you that with the uncertain future, planning for what's next is hard. It's hard for us as well. But the one constant in all this change is that time marches on. So we'll keep marching too.
Fall at SPACC is about finishing out this year's work and planning for next, so that's just what we're doing. We're already incorporating more flexibility and embracing the unknowns, so whatever change 2021 brings (dare we wonder?) it should be less jarring than this year was. We are also going to double down on public affairs communications and getting members more informed and more involved, because the more power you have, the better.
YOU have an integral part in our planning work for 2021, so don't be surprised if I reach out to ask for your opinion or feedback. Members continue to be the lifeblood and backbone of this organization, and the public policies that matter to you, matter to us.
If you already have thoughts to share, please, don't hesitate to let me know. Working together, even from afar, is the only way we're really going to move forward.
Director of Public Affairs
Follow me on Twitter @Shannon_SPACC
I’ve been looking at the weather forecast, and it looks like we’ve got some fall weather ahead. I’m looking forward to more open windows.
I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I did this week was enter the lottery for the next State Fair Food Parade - it’s coming back! Enter the lottery for the Fall Food Parade. The encore event is October 1-4 and 8-11. Be sure to enter to get your chance to eat your way through the fair this year!
How pleased I am to be able to end this week dwelling on the words of former Senator Norm Coleman. He was the keynote at our annual Leaders in Local Government Awards event today. I forget how inspiring he is, how much I want to live in his city, in his town. He embodies so much of what I appreciate – a deep love for St. Paul, a clear understanding of the role of government alongside business, optimism that our best days are still ahead of us.
Truly, today was all about celebrating public servants, and only a few get recognized, even at our events. I’d like to say Thank You, to those of you who serve in some capacity. From career public servants, to elected officials, to chamber teams, to volunteers. Senator Coleman reminded us – and it’s worth saying again – that we will get through this, recovery is in our future, and together we can have our “best days yet.”
Enjoy the fresh breeze this weekend!
Today we were thrilled to present the annual Leaders in Local Government Awards!
The Leaders in Local Government Awards honor leading individuals and organizations that exemplify and demonstrate innovation, excellence, and success in local government. Finalists are selected based on their contributions to innovative initiatives or policies that advance the public good while demonstrating a commitment to efficient and responsive government.
Business Retention and Expansion
City of Rosemount WINNER!
Saint Paul Port Authority
The City of Rosemount Economic Development department has really been an asset to the city, with efforts such as hiring an additional staff member, and sharing creative posts on social media regarding the city and promoting local businesses. Their Rosemount Business Bulletins have included important information for the businesses in Rosemount during COVID. The Rosemount Cares initiative encouraged all of us to stand together as a community and participate in cohesive action to keep our residents, employees, and customers safe. The city created the Rosemount CARES grant program and allocated $500,000 towards it, which provided $10,000 grants for small businesses affected by COVID. They also developed branded marketing materials and templates, which were a big help to the business community.
Communications and Marketing
Ramsey County WINNER!
Saint Paul Port Authority
Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health’s COVID-19 Hmong and Karen Community Outreach and Public Information and Communications teams
In late 2019, Ramsey County launched www.RamseyCountyMeansBusiness.com, to attract and retain businesses to the region. The site offered the first incentives dashboard layering development programs and incentives across city-county-state jurisdictions and identified key redevelopment properties across the county, linking them to various redevelopment incentives available. Just a few months later, the world came to a halt due to Covid-19. RamseyCountyMeansBusiness.com became the landing spot for real time information. The premise around the incentives dashboard was replicated for a recovery dashboard allowing the business community to quickly identify business relief resources and technical assistance through the myriad of government programs available.
Dakota County & Dakota County Community Development Agency
Metro Transit Police Department Homeless Action Team WINNER!
Ramsey County Workforce Solutions and Saint Paul Public Library
The Homeless Action Team (HAT) assists folks who are utilizing Metro Transit buses and trains as shelter. The object was to meet people where they are at and offer tools and resources from shelter to clothing and food. They have also helped in finding them employment. Last year over 100 individuals and families were housed. Relationships and trust have been built, and this team continues to check in on past clients while they continue moving forward with new clients. Once you are able to change the trajectory for one person in a family, others start to see that change is possible.
Planning, Land Use and Public Works finalists
City of Shoreview
City of Vadnais Heights WINNER!
Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy
After establishing a street reinvestment plan as a top priority, the Vadnais Heights City Council authorized a city-wide assessment of pavement conditions. The “PCI” uses a nationally recognized ranking to characterize the condition of pavement at a moment in time. The citywide average was similar to a letter grade of C or C minus. The City Council authorized nearly $2 million dollars of construction for residential streets for 2020. With a long-term plan in place, the City Council has also worked to implement a long-term funding strategy. This includes fees that are dedicated and helps build a sustainable funding source for the future.
South Saint Paul Police Department, West Saint Paul Police Department and Dakota County Sheriff Department
Maplewood Fire Department
Maplewood Police Department WINNER!
Since 2017, the Maplewood Police Department had been emphasizing community outreach, racial equity, and diversity in hiring. This coincides with the City of Maplewood’s overall strategic priority of “Community Inclusiveness,” which has led to systematically changing hiring, training and promotion of all staff, with an emphasis on Public Safety. Among other metrics, the department has achieved a125% increase in hiring non-traditional police officers (women, people of color) and has increased police-community outreach from a few dozen hours annually to more than 2000. This emphasis has built accountability, trust and transparency and benefits the department and the entire Maplewood community.
Elected Official of Note
Dakota County Commissioner Thomas Egan
Senator Norm Coleman did us the honor of providing our keynote address, reminding us about the power of positivity. Thank you for joining us, Senator!
A big thank you to our East Metro Chamber Partners who joined us in the production of this event:
Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce
Midway Chamber of Commerce
Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce
Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce
Oakdale Area Chamber of Commerce
River Heights Chamber of Commerce
White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce
And of course, our sponsors,
Presenting Sponsor Bremer Bank
Corporate Sponsors Comcast, Securian Financial, Shaw-Lundquist, and WSB
Contributing Sponsors 5 Eyewitness News, CliftonLarsonAllen and Platinum Bank
See you in 2021 for the next Leaders in Local Government Awards!
Greetings and Happy Monday. I hope you had a weekend that recharged and reenergized you. This past weekwend I went camping with my sister; there’s something about a campfire and great conversation that sets things right, you know? My wish is that you are finding moments like this as well…
As another virtual week begins, I’m sending thoughts of encouragement to you, the business community, looking into the Fall with no indications that the restrictions governing commerce will ease anytime soon. We all need moments to be recharged and reenergized because thing are really hard right now. For all of us.
October 5-6 can be such a moment. On those two days, the Saint Paul Area and Minneapolis Regional Chambers are hosting our annual InterCity Leadership Visit (ICLV). For 18 years, the chambers have taken an invitation-only delegation of elected officials, Fortune 500 executives, small business owners, chamber board members, and nonprofit leaders to another community to study best practices. We launched this initiative by traveling to Denver in 2002 and have since traveled to Seattle, Boston, Dallas, San Diego, Toronto, Atlanta, Charlotte, Austin, Portland, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Nashville, to learn about city and regional best practices.
This year – we are visiting…Minneapolis and Saint Paul. And we’re opening up the gates of invitation. If we all are locked in to this virtual world of communication, then we’re going to do so together – and we’ll virtually bring in people from across the country to talk about this region, and what we need to do to move forward. We can’t pack a suitcase; but we still can come together – to recharge, to reenergize, together. REGISTER TODAY
Welcome back after what I hope was a rejuvenating weekend. I had some quality time with two toddlers, and – though now full of pronto pups and waffles – I actually feel energized as we start this new week.
I continue searching for official notice of an anticipated one-day Special Session this week. Nothing yet, though informal sources are anticipating something for this Friday. I’ll keep you posted.
Had a great conversation with DEED Commissioner Grove this morning. I continue to be impressed by his thoughtful approach to this work. He knows this is a challenging season for business – that, for some, it’s a challenge of “how” to get through, for others it’s a challenge of “IF” we get through. DEED is looking to begin new conversations about what recovery looks like, around re-skilling, social safety nets, and supporting new business starts (though seemingly counterintuitive, economic upheaval often is the springboard for many new business ventures to begin).
Among their many priorities, DEED also continues to look specifically at how to support large venues and restaurants. Restaurants are desperate, particularly as the weather turns. And DEED is considering the proposals suggested around increasing inside capacity. That said, I’m not hearing any indications of immediate change, “dialing back” or moving forward.
Which brings me to Saint Paul’s Ready Together pledge: no matter the changes the Governor calls for, ultimately the decisions about where to spend our money and our time are made by individuals. We determine how safe we feel in different environments. Businesses can help assuage concerns by committing to the Ready Together pledge. Over 100 businesses have signed up already.
Ready Together is showcased during this 8-minute radio interview broadcast nationally in 25 major markets starting with St. Louis and Chicago. Terry Mattson shares how Saint Paul is ‘ready when you are’ with hosts, Kevin and Sue McCarthy.
The Ready Together toolkit includes a link for participants to upload photos, which get added to the pledge’s homepage (scroll to the bottom).
Sign the pledge!