Liveblog of April 4th St Paul City Council Meeting on the Jefferson Bike Boulevard

[The dreaded Jefferson Avenue sharrow.]
[For background on this issue, see here or here.]

i arrive at a bit before 6:00. the city council meeting is in the basement because the council chambers are being remodeled. they schlepped the big comfy chairs down here just for the council members, who don't like sitting on regular chairs. i understand the impulse, but feel compelled to make fun of it regardless.
packed room, discussion going on some noise stuff happening on the central corridor, which gets resolved somehow and quickly.

next issue is a conditional use permit for a wind turbine at metro state university, etc.

testimony is given by a testifier, and an appellant.

CM Lantry makes sure to spend a lot of time discussing the role of timers during public hearings. states that “we have about 134 public hearings tonight.” seems pre-exasperated.

there is currently testimony by someone who doesn’t like the metro state wind turbine. he’s doing a good job, i guess. he’s particularly annoyed about the community engagement and public notice parts of the project. process! seems to be particularly annoyed about the decisions made by the planning commission. says “would you want to live next to a wind turbine that creates a low frequency noise at all hours of the day?” now he discusses the historic nature of the area, doesn’t like the “industrial look of the area”… etc. invokes reading and getting quoted in the “east side review newspaper.” says “bird strikes and bat deaths are certain to result." says “i’m not against alternative energy.”

i note that jane mcclure is calmly reading the some local newspaper through this whole situation.

another testimony, this time by someone who seems to be his wife? she holds petition up in her hand that she says has 60 names. says “wind turbines do not belong in residential neighborhoods because of safety, health concerns, etc.” this leads to a monologue about “wind turbine syndrome”. she invokes school nearby. “health and safety of children needs to come before alternative energy.”… says he likes being in a preservation area.

CM Tolbert clutches his chin and seems calm.

CM Carter III and CM Brendmoen chatting a bit during the testimony. CM Thune passes some sort of large document thing to CM Bostrom.

testifier demands investigation of Audubon society’s approval of the wind turbine.
says “potential safety problems for the general public.” asks the Council to please override the planning commission’s decision…

third testifier appears in support of the appeal, states that the planning commission erred in their decision. swede hollow is a “particularly remote and wild area.” complains about cellular towers.

a fourth testifier against the wind turbine, representing the dayton’s bluff community council.

fifth testifier, the block captain of the precinct, in favor of metro state and renewable resources, but against the wind turbine. concerned about the “overwhelming community opposition." says “metro state’s voice is heard the loudest b/c of their deep pockets.”

now the opposing point of view. metro state’s suit guy, some vice president (VP) testifies. he uses a lot of numbers, like “12-11 #1” and “20 kilowatt.” invokes many details. says “B2 community business district." says“monopole.” says wind turbine will add to the vibrancy of the east side, will be symbol of science, innovation, inspiration, etc. invokes macalester college’s similar turbine, lists long series of facts, etc. quite convincing etc. says “five quarts of oil.” says impact in the neighborhood is actually from “private automobiles in the neighborhood” not from the wind turbine.

jane mcclure has large yellow notepad, plays with her hair.

VP talks a lot about the city zoning of the area. talks about how they moved the university into “what was then an abandoned hospital.”

introduces science museum guy. two folks walk out of the room. science museum guy talks about “educational benefits”. talks about energy footprint of America.

i have to go to the bathroom.

i return.

talk is still going on. VP calls it a “pocket turbine.” talks about little Johnny, the 5th grader, who will be inspired etc.

looking at the meeting agenda, i realize that the Jefferson blvd was first approved on my birthday in 2010, almost 2 years ago.

testimony is over. CM Lantry starts talking. she talks about cell towers and the zoning code. moves to grant the appeal. says that a stationary object is not the same as one with moving parts. says that “this is a gateway”. says that planning commission missed the mark.

st paul police officer #1 next to me on one side is playing with his smart phone. on the other side, transit for liveable communities (TLC) head barb thoman writes smartly on her legal pad.

CM Lantry is pretty convincing. she’s really laying it on.

CM Thune asks about the height. gestures a lot,  bigly points to the wall. says that it’s a large blade. some discussion of what 16’ is. looks like the tower is going to get shot down.

some talk from CM Thune about whether it can be seen from summit avenue.

CM Brendmoen asks for clarification about the vote. asks about what process they should be taking, if the city doesn’t have a process for handling this.

CM Lantry talks about the Macalester one… says its not visible, you can’t see it, which is its beauty, etc. suggests that the Metro State proposal is “not in any way camouflaged”

CM Brendmoen says we should have more wind turbines in st paul. suggests need to have a process, etc. says she is hopeful the planning commission will think about this.

CM Stark says it’s a “real tough one”. says he is weighing promoting energy independence v. “legitimate concerns” & “the spirit of the zoning code”.

appeal passes unanimously. lots of people leave.

[Sausage being made.]
Jefferson is next.

CM Tolbert moves to amend the boulevard with his amendment. said amendment, which nobody has ever seen before, involves changing “linear pavement markings to zebra striping,” changing the LED sign to a pedestrian activated flasher, and remove the proposed by public works (PW) traffic circles. then he lists all the things that stay. says it’s a “reasonable solution to 5+ years of discussion”

CM Thune offers an amendment to the amendment. wants to add a one of the circles that have been taken away to his area, plus wants to add some lights under the 35E bridge. seems to be an attempt to take some of the money that CM Tolbert is giving up. says “purely a safety issue”

CM Stark talks. he is not a big fan of the removal of the two traffic circles, because “as a project they help kind of complete it because of the overall experience of the street,” otherwise says he supports the amendments.

PW guy starts talking, engineer guy, “quick comment on the amendment”, OK w/ the additional one, lighting, says they’d have to find another source of $$ for the extra CM Thune lighting. seems like he is not a fan of that.

PW guy explains that there are two 35E bridges over Victoria. CM Thune talks about interpretation of the amendment to the amendment. changes his mind about the lighting.

everyone laughs at something that PW guy says.

CM Lantry says that we have a “huge pile of people” that want to be heard.
i note that its kinda funny that they are trading traffic circles, from west to east.

CM Lantry says, to a staffer, that twenty people have signed up, thus it will be 45 seconds per person.

CM Stark asks for a staff report. PW sustainable transportation Emily Erickson (PW EE) gives a quasi-epic history of project. talks fast: Jefferson went from a collector street to residential street back in the 80s. she mentions citywide goals for transportation”. mentions “policy 3.8”, the “project known as Jefferson avenue.” talks about 2008, the origin of the project when they applied for the money in the first place. she goes over the project even more. says “unmatched east-west corridor in this section of the city.” she goes over public hearing history, talks about the “test refuge” being “inconclusive.” says a “notification error occurred”. talks about the “restarted process”, all the meetings. she talks about the outcome: sharrows, wayfinding, “advanced dynamic speed display signs”, “advance crosswalk sign” “rapid flash beacon”, “”treatments“, ”unwarranted 4 way stop.” gives another explanation of the term “warranted”. talks about circles proposed, including one at finn, etc. gives explanation of neighborhood traffic circles. says they “have been implementing them for 25 years.

PW guys whisper to each other.

PW EE talks about the presentations of the plan. talks about transportation committee & planning commission plan, which approved everything. talks about media from across the city, says majority are in favor. suggests that there were more than one side. 18 ppl and 10 ppl. commented on each side, about the two main problems with the proposal.

i notice the smallness of the numbers of people involved, suggesting possible flaw in the process here.
[A really long line at the Seattle airport.]

PW EE says “given the extensive outreach.” mentions 7000 pieces of mail in the last nine months, 4 yr process. says “intensive commitment” of “staff time & cost to the city”. says “values engagement... will make choosing to walk or bike more convenient along entire project length.” mentions the problem with the funding, etc.,  says she will answer questions.

CM Thune says she is concise.

CM Lantry announces that the 6 people against the blvd should approach the mic. they will get 2.5 minutes each.

1st testimonier, a big guy in a green shirt. says “everybody in our neighborhood”. mentions tax statements, property values down, taxes up. talks about lack of money. is giving a classic tax rant. gets angry about “city planners.” asks “who the hell you think the federal gov’t is?" says “not free money”, “future generation’s money”. classic anti tax rant. just about as good as they get.

CM Lantry a bit concerned about making sure that he signs in.

2nd testimonier, lady in pink shawl, says how much project has changed. says is “all for bicycles”, just don’t think they need to alter street. says “cost of maintaining the roundabouts.” says some more about having to watch one’s money. says they need to be maintained far after the “magic money is gone”.

3rd testimonier, lady in white shirt. says has “no problem with bikes.” says she resents her “neighborhood being used as a social experiment” and the “physical alteration of the roadways.” says it is a “wholesale giving away the grid system without a plan…”  she is getting mad. says that complete streets resolution is unwritten, says there’s no plan. invokes the “basket weave”. offers apocalyptic vision of when “there are no streets left”. invokes unknown “liability of traffic calming devices.” says “untested territory.” implies a lack of a plan for the transportation committee. says “irresponsible and not fiduciarily sane” to allow traffic circles. not sure that is a word, but understand the meaning anyway.

4th testifier, older guy in white polo shirt, objects to “expenditure of additional funds.” says they are not needed. says stop signs west of Snelling are adequate. says more is “just going to add to maintenance expenses.” invokes snow removal, says nobody bikes in winter. talks about pedestrian crosswalk lights. says “exercise bikers” don’t stop anyway. objects to additional use of public funds to make changes for “a few bikers in the city.” says they don’t have to change the road at all.

5th testifier, old guy in fleece. places picture of a traffic circle on the overhead document camera thing. says is in favor of the project except for “traffic calming devices”… photo is in CM Stark’s neighborhood. says it doesn’t look good [looks good to me!] says “architecture integrity of neighborhood violated by concrete crop circles.” says it’s not safe to bike through them. talks about biking with his grandchildren in back of a burley trailer. calls them “crop circles” again. says that four way stop signs are simple. invokes information from “center for cycling education.” says we need “enforcement of basket weave stop signs.” says “biking is here to stay not just recreational biking… its not going to go away if gas prices drop.”

[A hampster in a hampster wheel.]
Jessica Treat, head of St Paul Smart Trips. says she is in favor of the Planning Commission design. says “well commented and vibrant urban communities… with community assets” like the bikeway design. talks a lot about young people and young families. says “in my business we’re concerned about going beyond good enough… make biking and walking the safe and easy choice, especially for women and women with children”. says “interested but concerned…” says we need need a connected network to help feel “safe and comfortable” to bike and walk. invokes the four year public process. commends public works staff. says all parties have common desire for calm and safe streets. says traffic circles are proven to work, which is why the transportation professionals recommended them. talks about additional traffic circle. says CM Tolbert’s resolution “subverts public process by public and professional staff.” says we need to move forward with a project that “ is more than just good enough.” asks council to hold over any vote until…

gets cut off by CM Lantry, for going a minute over. CM Lantry seems confused. there is discussion about whether or not the ‘for’ or the ‘against’ sides make any sense at all given the last minute amendment. some talking about how the council is going to give everyone who wants to talk, one either “side”, two minutes …

everyone gets in a line. place is crazy now. nobody knows what is going on.

there is some shouting or loud talking back and forth between the council and the audience. it’s not out of control, but its not in control either. 

aforementioned green shirt anti-tax guy says “neighborhood doesn’t know about this except for the twenty people that are here.” walks out.

CM Lantry says “let’s go!”

younger lady w/ baby in a baby Bjorn. says she wants original design. says people in the community need to feel safe. says we need need “calming traffic, better safe movement, encourage people to choose to walk and bike.” baby keeps grabbing the microphone. talks about her and her husband and their choice to live in a bikeable/walkable area. says is a one car family that leaves car in garage most of the time. talks about son liking the microphone. talks about her daycare choice. says that perception of safety is a different story. invokes using trailer on the bike. wants them to lay over. gets cut off.

older lady in sweatshirt, against resolution. member of CIB committee of st paul. says “classic example of squeaky wheel gets the grease.” invokes people who “support cars and parking.” says council has “bowed to pressure of opponents”, vs. professional arguments in favor of calming and biking. talks about the 20 children. talks about 800 cars / day. not being residential. invokes biking on sidewalk, because “cars rule.” refers to earlier discussion and spins her hand in a twirly manner because she can’t think of the word for “wind turbine”…. asks for tabling the resolution, for “sustainable safe Jefferson.”

middle aged tall guy. has been highly engaged. big believer in the bikeway. disappointed in the process. has gone to over 14 meetings. says during this process, minneapolis has doubled bikeways in their city during this one process. invokes Minneapolis vs. st. paul rivalry. invokes the 11th hour amendment vs. “long engaged process that strips further facilities along bikeway.” says only “bike striping” is not what city has recommended. says “not going to the purpose of engaging and encouraging people to cycle.”

lady in paisley shirt. thanks all involve for diligence. says public works staffer Emily Erickson has been an asset. wants to see all kinds of bikers on street. excited to see proposal. “extremely disappointed to see nothing done to section between Fairview and Cleveland.” invokes PW’s testimony. asks why is traffic calming good for all parts of the street except for Highland Park?

Bob, from the planning commission & the chair of the transportation committee. says did a lot of work. talks about transportation committee being founded in 2010. talks about transportation committee and its role. invokes comprehensive plan, transportation chapter. says original project gets to the “very core of the plan… complete bikeway system.” says we need details for “balance appropriate to context of Jefferson ave.” CM Tolbert is sitting back and chewing on his finger. talks about all the transportation committee’s work. says they went over six core issues. invokes planning commission meeting’s half hour deliberation, with the added traffic circle on mount curve “for consistency of application of standards.”

[An 8-track player.]
older guy with red jacket. says “I know what Charlie brown feels like.” says that 23 meetings have been done away with by 1 amendment. invokes 13 years of work on the mac-groveland transportation committee. says it is whittled down to one traffic circle because of the amendment, not appropriate because of all the work and trust put into this project. says “this is not trust… would rather have been talking about merits of project.” says “this isn’t trust… ruptured trust between citizens because of people who aren’t here… nobody knows about this, not going to have ability to talk because, forget it Lucy jerked the football away from us. invokes the 23 meetings to arrive at consensus. says “well tough rocks, I came through with an amendment at the last minute.” guy is pissed, esp about the “last minute” thing. invokes an amendment that appeared in the “afternoon of the day this is supposed to be held.” just noticed man has arm in a sling. dude is pissed.

middle age guy in beige shirt. echoes sentiments. supports the bikeway strongly. disappointed to see the circles removed. needs to have one at wheeler because Jefferson looks like a racetrack. says the trees have been removed because of disease and repaving. says it looks like a race track on which to drive real fast between Fairview and Snelling. says that if you put a circle there, there will be an obstacle in the road, and it won’t be a thruway. tells a story about coming home with his kids from school and hearing motorcycles racing on Jefferson. says his daughter saw it and said, “dad that bike is only on one wheel!” this guy is really good! thanks engineers and planners. walks away.

Jeff, co-chair of the st paul bicycle coalition comes up. forgets to introduce self. is reminded. says amendment “undermines community process… undermines recommendation of planning and transportation commission.” short and sweet. leaves.

older guy in white jacket. very supportive of Jefferson Avenue bike/walk project. not supportive of the amendment. says that basic treatments in design of blvd is good. invokes first public meetings, people who didn’t’ understand why they were doing this. says that nobody understands why they are doing this. tries to explain why we need the boulevard, to “restore public function of public right of way.” says that all the roads that have been built, like 35 and 94, and all those that connect to the freeway do not accommodate the bike. says we are only asking for a a few streets, to “recover something that benefits all of us, not just for bicyclists... part and parcel of what in Oregon they call it a neighborhood greenway”. gets cut off.  looks nervous.

CM Tolbert looks a bit chipper.

short woman in purple jacket. says she is a professional engieer, has invested life in “leading inclusive decision making processes in transportation projects.” is also “resident of Jefferson” says “its an outstanding process led by staff.”

now both st paul police officers to my left are playing with their smart phones.

short woman in purple jacket says “wants to encourage city to focus on innovation in transportation.” says that transportation is one of largest consumers of energy in society. wants to see us leading in terms of transportation. wants to see projected implemented with traffic circles. wants to see city lead as the “capital city.”
older lady in beige jacket. supports original proposal. says “tremendous time and effort.” ends short and sweet.

guy in blue shirt and tie. says he hoped to support bikeway, but sad to speak against it. was a process “well considered… broad consensus.” emphasizes the traffic calming measure, as a biker, commuter, etc. says he chose to live there because of biking to work. invokes the physics of biking. says you can tell the difference between a circle and stop sign. says its very important that calming measure be put in there. says will probably use it twice every day. says boulevard is in best interest of the city and community.

CM Tolbert looks a bit comatose. maybe smug? not sure. stares at pen, yellow pad.

CM Lantry tries to figure out who is left, whether there are any supporters of the plan.

PW head honcho, large and imposing, is grinning widely.

Andy Singer, co-chair of the st paul bicycle coalition. says he agrees about “long public process… likes traffic circles.”  invokes “data” vs. “hyperbole”, “aesthetically enhance a neighborhood.” says “if choice is this or nothing,” core of project is crossing aides at Cretin and Cleveland. lists the things that are good about it. says that people who spoke against the project because of cost aren’t thinking about all the money being spent on cars. talks about the % of bike commuters. says we are not spending anything like 5% of budgets bikeways. says city spends more on golf for one year than on bikes. says is in favor of project, would love to see it. if this is all there is would love to see it pass.

old man, hunched with glasses. talks about traffic calming. invokes a conversation about traffic calming he had on porch once with CM Tolbert. says they talked for 20 minutes without any cars going past his house. says there is very little traffic on that part of the road. says amendment does good things for mobility limited people. talks about having walked to cretin and waited there forever because of the impossibility of crossing the street. heartbreaking story actually. says is in favor of the ped activated lights.

younger pregnant lady in striped shirt. has participated in public comments. happy that concerns heard about flashing LED signs. says they would have been intrusive. in favor of Jefferson bikeway. chokes up b/c she is nervous.

CM Tolbert almost finishes his diet coke.

younger guy in short sleeve button up shirt. says is a Minneapolis resident who commutes to st paul, goes to the east side by bike to visit his mom. describes his bike route. would like a south route with a more “neighborhood feel” to it. in favor of proposal without the amendment, would love to see a bikeway.

end of testimony. discussion begins.

[A ball made out of rubber bands.]
CM Tolbert thanks everyone for coming down. invokes “long long public process, long process.” goes over all the phases. says “whatnot”. talks about great community involvement. says “active and involved… shows how much people care about mac-groveland neighborhood.” talks about people emailing and calling him.” invokes a judge who had testified earlier. wants to let people know that “he has heard the people.” says there are 5 viewpoints. lists them: 1) people want a total bikeway, 2) people who want less traffic & calming measures, and a bikeway is one way to get there 3) people who want no change because “of collateral effects on their streets”, collector v. residential 4) people who don’t like roundabouts, and want it to stay a “traditional neighborhood” that it has always been in a hot real estate market 5) the “large portion” of people who aren’t opposed, but question the use of public funds… or or are concerned about the hiccups in terms of public notice. says that neighborhood has had opportunity to be heard. says that PW has done a nice job about bringing people together, especially on Tuesday and Monday nights. says “some people have gotten frustrated.”

CM Stark looks annoyed, leaning back.

CM Tolbert continues. says when the city comes into neighborhood, it needs the support of the council member of that neighborhood, or else it leads to an “eruption.” says this is true particularly for things that “change neighborhoods.” says that person who is representing that neighborrhood needs to be consulted from the start. talks about money. says amendment “will comply” with the federal grant. hopes that the budget people will let them know right away if the money might fall through. says its not just federal money, that st paul also spent money on this project, more than originally proposed. he is basically talking right to the TLC staff right now. invokes tax statements, and property taxes going up. says “as a city we need to be very conscious of that because we are stewards of people’s money.” says overall there are unhappy people. says he is proposing a “reasonable solution, to allow us to move on.” invokes the monday and tuesday nights. says “tee ball and soccer games.” says best to have council vote, and move on.

CM Stark talks. says he is not a fan of loss of traffic circles. other parts are positive. likes that CM Thune wants to steal the circle.

CM Thune makes scavenger joke. council laughs. CM Tolbert makes a joke too, but nobody laughs for some reason.

CM Stark continues. says project is by no means perfect. says it’s a big improvement for almost everyone, despite everything. says is going to support it. says “can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” says is “going to change perception of these kinds of projects around the city.” invokes Griggs bikeway, the projects on Prior. says that st paul is making progress vs. Minneapolis.
no other discussion.

passes unanimously.

the three PW guys shake hands and smile. pats on back.

all people leave. i look for jane mcclure but cannot find her.

[The St Paul City Council chamber, where the meeting did NOT take place.]


KM said...


Many thanks for doing this. After reading the transcript, it felt like more were in favor of the complete plan than against but it still failed. Am I missing something or was the deal killed behind closed doors?

Kevin MacAfee

Bill Lindeke said...

yeah, the public testimony at the meeting was almost unanimaously in favor of the 'stronger' version of the plan. but the council was already set on the compromise deal.

Julie said...

1. Go middle aged tall guy! I hereby declare him to have been my voice at the hearing, retroactively.

2. I can tell you some amazing stories about the freaky liberal hippie contingent on Dayton's Bluff. They make up a majority of the community involvement but are definitely a splinter minority, and they have no sense of irony, else they would recognize themselves as archetypical parodies of liberal hippie types.

Unknown said...

Aww. I think bill has a crush on Jane McClure!

shannon said...

wow, thanks for posting this. Seems like there's a lot of support, but also a lot of crotchety NIMBYers. Figures.

Adriane said...

A ball of rubber bands is almost as good as a giant ball of twine.