The West Metro has changed drastically in the last 20 years and will change further in the next 20. Forest's vision for Crystal prioritizes preparing for a more competitive landscape for businesses and residents. Crystal in 2040 is known for its excellent community services, diversity, and entrepreneurial spirit, having invested to improve transportation, safety, and business climate, while maintaining affordable housing and a robust parks and trail system.
In the last 20 years Crystal has also grown to become one of the most diverse cities in the county. However, there is work to be done in showing a meaningful commitment to creating a welcoming environment in Crystal for all. Recently we saw divisive discussions over the Pride Month resolution and citizen-led equity and inclusion commission (starts at ~1hr25m) that shows a view on equality I do not believe represents Section II. I am the only council candidate not supported by those working against creating a more inclusive Crystal (Ref.1) in the links above. While my top issues are listed below a strong commitment to all Crystal residents is core to why I'm running this year. We can do better listening our diverse population in Crystal and I commit to working with our underserved communities.
Our streets are critical to Crystal. Visiting any neighborhood on a warm evening you will see Crystal alive; people walking their dogs, children learning to ride a bike, and couples going on a walk. Our streets are where we connect with the community and raise our families. That is why we must ensure they are safe and serve all residents.
To keep our streets safe I will work on the following priorities:
Crystal's property tax base is overwhelmingly comprised of resident-owned single-family homes. This means residents feel the pain of increased costs the most. We need to diversify our revenue sources by increasing the development of commercial and light industrial areas. Crystal is full of underdeveloped and vacant parcels waiting for their full potential to be realized.
The West Metro has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. Cities like Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, and New Hope have had large-scale efforts to increase their competitiveness in attracting and retaining residents, businesses, and events. For Crystal to compete with our neighbors we need a strong and clear vision and plan for development.
Unlike other cities Crystal does not have a robust and specific comprehensive plan or vision. I commit to overhauling our comprehensive plan to revitalize our commercial areas and create places that visitors and residents want to go and spend their time and dollars. Without these plans and visions development happens on a site-by-site basis with little thought to how new spaces integrate with existing businesses, housing, or parks. Through planning and engagement with residents and businesses we can help shape a more diversified tax base and attractive city.
In the last few years we've seen how much power cities can exercise when pressured. Some politicians are universally lowering speed limits without addressing the real problem of unsafe streets and forcing all residents to pay for composting, even if they compost in their backyard -- I would never deal in such fad ideas or absolutes.
Many issues are complex and require nuanced solutions, not blanket restrictions. Any new regulation should be enacted only if it has a clear benefit for residents and passes logical and scientific tests.
Crystal will have a light rail stop at the Bass Lake and Co. Hwy 81 interchange in the next six to eight years. If done right this single light rail stop can revitalize the northern half of Crystal. As seen in other suburban communities along the Green Line Extension a single light rail station can bring millions of dollars in new development. If Crystal does not drive the station design and development plans, we could end up with a light rail that does not serve our existing businesses and development that does not integrate into our city.
We must start the process of creating planning priorities for development surrounding the station, that way when large development companies come to town we can drive the process and ensure Crystal's needs are met - not just the developers.
While there are challenges with light rail and the Met Council, we can overcome them so that the long lasting benefits to our residents, visitors and business can be realized. Walking away from the table is not a real option. We have the time to find solutions to these challenges but we must start the work now of community engagement, planning, and visioning.
Crystal is lucky to have low rates of violent and major crime, especially compared to other area communities. Chief Revering and Crystal PD have done a good job not just responding to crime in Crystal but also working with the community to develop trust that is lacking in other cities.
With a well-staffed department and new police building Crystal is on a strong footing to maintain our public safety. However, I do see opportunity for improvement in Crystal. I support the addition of a dedicated imbedded social worker in the police department. Currently Crystal shares a social worker with Robbinsdale, however we have the need for a dedicated one. Adding a social worker would free up officer hours and give us the right solution for service calls that uniformed officers are not best equipped for.
While Crystal is strong community, we can make it even better. Neighborhoods where people know and trust each other are safer and better prepared for natural disasters. With many new people moving to Crystal, it can be difficult to get to know your neighbors. Which is why I want to support neighbors getting to know neighbors by recognizing and supporting people who are leaders in their neighborhood. An example is that the city would collect the names of volunteers who would want to meet new neighbors and host neighborhood events outside of just national night out. These people would get recognition for their work and support organizing community events.
Crystal's trees improve property values, provide animal habitat, add to beautification, protect water quality, and sequester carbon. Unfortunately, Crystal has seen a decrease in the tree canopy the last couple years, last year the city alone removed 225 trees, with many less replanted. Crystal also is one of the only cities in the metro that has the policy to remove all boulevard trees through attrition.
I believe that a strong urban forest is critical to a strong city. Trees have been proven to improve the health of individuals and communities. With no dedicated forestry staff, growing responsibility has been placed the public works department which is facing more and more pressure from emerald ash borer, aging trees, and tree diseases. I propose a strategy that empowers local landowners to partner with the city to plant trees and improve Forestry, a strategy that has been successful for other area cities.