In the face of continued opposition to the Central Corridor Light Rail by the University of Minnesota and community groups, the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis held a community meeting Sunday to talk about the landmark project and form a new committee to address the concerns of project stakeholders.
More than 100 residents, elected officials, and project officials packed a standing room only Central Corridor Resource Center on University Avenue in Saint Paul to discuss a wide range of topics including business mitigation and affordable housing along the proposed line, as well as workforce hiring with contracting goals for minorities and women.
Also discussed were site plans for the three newly added stations at Western Avenue, Victoria Street and Hamline Avenue that were not included in the original plan. In January, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced that additional funds had been secured to build the stations that community leaders considered vital to the success of the project.
Rob Hahn, an Independence Party candidate for Governor, said meetings like this were important to ensure that businesses stay open during construction, and to push state and local government to address property taxes, which may or may not increase after construction. Hahn said that rising property taxes as a result of construction was a legitimate concern.
“There needs to be a way to work with those individuals and cap any property tax increase they may have for a 10 or 15 year period,” said Hahn
Attendees then voted for 20 representatives to a newly formed Community Agreement Coordinating Committee. The committee’s role will be to facilitate agreements between the project’s many stakeholders as it moves forward. Those 20 representatives, 14 from Saint Paul and 6 from Minneapolis, join 10 appointed representatives representing the Saint Paul Mayor’s Office, Saint Paul City Council, Ramsey County, Minneapolis Mayor’s Office, Minneapolis City Council, Hennepin County, Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota.
Vic Rosenthal of Jewish Community Action, who sat on the nominating committee, said, “We wanted to make sure a wide range of views were brought forward so that the people who serve on the committee would represent the diverse perspectives of the people affected [by the Central Corridor project].”
Agreements and proposals by the committee will be forwarded on to the various councils for further action. While organizers admit their recommendations are not the final say, they hope that elected officials on the committee will help see that they are adopted.
“This is about the community and making sure we have a representation and a voice in the process,” said Metric Giles with the Community Stabilization Project. “We wanted one collective statement so when someone says what does the community want, we can say it with one voice. We wanted residents, people who were going to be impacted, to participate.”
Margot Imdieke Cross, a resident of the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood in Minneapolis said she was excited to be on the committee. “Light rail transit is wonderfully accessible,” said Imdieke Cross who also serves on Minnesota State Council on Disability. “I want to ensure that the Central Corridor Light Rail is accessible to everyone and inclusive so we can all take part.”
While the meeting was a step in the right direction for most, Veronica Burt with the Preserve and Benefit Historic Rondo Committee – a coalition of Rondo neighborhood groups and residents who filed a federal lawsuit in January to block construction of the proposed line – said it was too early to tell if the committee’s work would affect the lawsuit.
“We’ll just have to take a wait and see posture,” said Burt.
Construction of the Central Corridor Light Rail is slated to begin in August 2010 in downtown Saint Paul by the State Capitol.