By City Councilmember Rebecca Noecker
I love this time of year. In this age of constant distraction, it’s very easy to stay busy — and a lot harder to reflect on what we’re busy doing. My staff and I take time during the last week of December to think about what we’ve achieved in the last 12 months and to set priorities for the year ahead.
It’s been a busy year indeed. In addition to providing prompt constituent service, my office has been focused on several policy priorities — ensuring neighborhood safety, spurring economic development, creating affordable housing, supporting working families and building a more inclusive city.
We’ve worked hard to make neighborhoods safer by reducing speed limits on Cesar Chavez and Wabasha and installing pedestrian safety infrastructure on West Seventh St. and Grand Ave. We restricted menthol tobacco sales and capped the number of tobacco licenses citywide to make our neighborhoods healthier for our kids. We worked alongside neighbors to close the El Alamo bar, which had become a threat to the safety of residents on the West Side.
It’s a tough time for small business, and my office spent a lot of time this year studying municipal policies to create a more vibrant business environment. Working with students from the Humphrey School of Government and in meetings with local business associations, we analyzed ways the City can better support small businesses — by making it easier to hang up a sign or put out a sandwich board, access working capital or get a permit. I’m looking forward to moving these policies forward in 2019.
With unsheltered homelessness at a record high, I’ve been working with my colleagues at the City, County and State to find solutions. Along with the Capitol River Council and Ramsey County, we hosted a conversation for more than 200 downtown residents to discuss why homelessness is on the rise and what we can do. Our Outside-In Street Outreach team has connected with more than 1,000 homeless individuals, and our reopened Winter Safe Space has more beds and longer daytime hours to allow caseworkers to better connect clients with longer-term housing. I pushed to allow Accessory Dwelling Units throughout the city to provide more options for affordable housing, and I co-authored the Council’s Affordable Housing Resolution, committing the City to create a housing trust fund to build and preserve affordable housing in our neighborhoods. Our 2019 budget makes record investments in affordable housing, and I’m eager to put these funds to good use in the year ahead.
We focused this year on working families and on making St. Paul a more welcoming city for all. We raised our minimum wage to $15 an hour and passed a 2019 budget that triples our investments in free recreational programming for our kids. I’m energized by the progress we’ve made with St. Paul Public Schools and City, County and nonprofit partners on Saint Paul 3K — an effort to ensure that all 3- and 4-year-olds in St. Paul have access to high-quality, affordable early learning and child care. I authored a resolution requiring that city buildings provide gender-neutral bathrooms and supported an ordinance change to make it easier for immigrants who are the victims of a crime to receive a U-VISA. I am also working with my City and County colleagues to update our Chamber murals with artwork that better reflects St. Paul today.
Finally, and most importantly, this has been a year of learning from you. At 17 Community Coffees and Happy Hours, monthly Virtual Lunch Chats on Facebook, 14 official engagements with community groups, and dozens of one-on-one meetings, the highlight of my year has been hearing from you and working together on immediate steps and long-term plans to improve our city.
Thank you for all that you do to make our community strong. Wishing you and all of us a very happy, healthy and productive year ahead.