Bulletin / Roseville: A year in review

file photo • Hundreds of people showed up to a July 7 event in Falcon Heights to celebrate the life of Philando Castile, a year and a day after he was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop. Pastor Danny Gibbons, a friend and supporter of the Castile family, stood with family members and others, “Shining light into the world,” he said.

file photo • The Bartz brothers’ 2017 creation — they’ve made five other gigantic sea creatures — is a 22-foot-tall fish they sculpted out of snow in their New Brighton front yard.

file photos • Scenes from the June 14 Veterans Memorial Park dedication in Little Canada, with memorial organizer Rocky Waite speaking.

file photos • Scenes from the June 14 Veterans Memorial Park dedication in Little Canada, with memorial organizer Rocky Waite speaking.

file photos • Scenes from the June 14 Veterans Memorial Park dedication in Little Canada, with memorial organizer Rocky Waite speaking.

file photos • Arden Hills resident Hasini Julai showed off the photo she shot of the show in the sky — she said that someday she’d like to work for NASA.

file photos • Hundreds of people headed to the Roseville Library Aug. 21 to catch a glimpse of the highly anticipated solar eclipse.

file photo • The Roseville Area High School girls tennis team had an undefeated regular season this year, going 17-0. The girls racked up three more wins in the Section 4AA tournament this fall, before falling to tennis powerhouse Mahtomedi in the section final on Oct. 11.

file photo • The 2016 sale of the Lowry Grove trailer park property — all but some wildlife had vacated the site come summer 2017 — has been a tale with twists and turns. It’s raised concerns about affordable housing in St. Anthony and the story will continue into 2018, as the property developer continues to seek approval from the city for housing plans at the 15-acre site.

National headlines, local issues and the eclipse.

In 2017, the Roseville Review and Bulletin areas were the subject of national headlines.

The nation watched the trial of former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who, this past summer, was acquitted of all criminal wrongdoing for killing Philando Castile in 2016 during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

Other charged national issues played out on the local level. Roseville grappled with how the city should deal with questions of policing and immigration status. The closure of the Lowry Grove manufactured home park in St. Anthony raised questions of access to affordable housing in area communities.

Of course, more uplifting things happened this year — a new community space in Shoreview opened its doors and people paused in wonder at a historic solar eclipse. 

Local elections held their share of surprises, and voters overwhelmingly supported school bonds. Here’s the year in review.


Fish made out of water

The Bartz brothers of New Brighton continued their tradition of building a giant sea creature out of snow, this past January unveiling a 22-foot-tall fish, reminiscent of a bluegill.

The brothers, Connor, Trevor and Austin, now young men in their late teens and early 20s, began their snow-sculpting ways in 2012, when they piled snow and shaped it into a hulking puffer fish in the front yard of their home in the 2700 block of 16th Street NW.

With 2017 being their sixth year of recreating sea life from snow, the Bartz have enjoyed some national renown for their work, appearing on the “Today Show” and elsewhere in recent years to tout it.

Back in January, Austin was cagey about the brothers’ plans for this winter, though it seemed set that they had at least one more sculpture to create. Beyond that, though?

“Life’s gonna get a lot busier as we get older, so we’ll see what it brings,” Austin said. “But we’re gonna try our best to keep doing this as long as we can.”


New Shoreview Library opens its doors

The new Ramsey County Library-Shoreview opened to the public Jan. 28, within throwing distance of the old library location, near the Shoreview Community Center at Victoria Street and Highway 96.

The $15.8 million library was a huge upgrade over its predecessor — 60 percent larger coming in at 38,000 square feet — and is better in tune with modern library users’ needs.

The former library, built in the 1990s, remains, taken over by the Mounds View Public School District as administrative offices.

The library has received high praise — see the story in this edition about it’s award-winning architecture.

Changes in the area of the community center are far from over. On Oct. 23 Shoreview city officials and others broke ground on a $15.6 million expansion of the Shoreview Community Center, which is slated to be complete in August 2018.


Veterans dedication in Little Canada

On June 14 — Flag Day — some 150 people turned out for the Phase II dedication of Veterans Memorial Park in Little Canada.

The need for the more than $200,000 memorial, funded by donations and built in part by donated work, was brought to the attention of the Little Canada City Council by Vietnam veteran Rocky Waite in 2012.

Construction of the memorial began in June 2014 and it was first dedicated later that year on a cold and windy Veterans Day.

Described as a “persistent person” by Mayor John Keis, an understatement as acknowledged by the crowd, Waite spearheaded the fundraising for Veterans Memorial Park, which was supported by the city, local businesses and numerous residents.

Waite said the memorial recognizes soldiers who were killed in action, mentioning 22-year-old Bryan T. McDonough, who was killed in late 2006 in Fallujah, Iraq.

At around 5:15 p.m. while Waite spoke, two planes flew over the memorial.


Solar eclipse unites as a summer distraction

The “Great American Eclipse,” the celestial phenomena that cast a belt-like shadow through the country’s midsection Aug. 21, though not as intense in Minnesota, still brought people together.

Some 200 folks showed up to the Roseville Library hoping to use the library’s eclipse glasses to view, at Roseville’s latitude, what was to be a partial solar eclipse.

Right as the show in the sky began, clouds got in the way. Then it rained.

Still, science-loving kids and curious adults alike chattered in amazement at the glimpses they got.

Hasini Julai, a 10-year-old from Arden Hills, managed to grab a photo of the eclipse while it lasted. She said she wanted to work for NASA when she grows up.

Colleen Dishneau, a Roseville resident, said she watched her first solar eclipse from south Minneapolis in 1945, underscoring how memorable it can be when the moon blocks out the sun.

“I was little but I remember it,” she said. “I was 6.”


Roseville passes resolution on police immigration status inquiries

The Roseville City Council passed a resolution at its Aug. 28 meeting stating that city police officers shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status unless it’s directly related to a criminal investigation.

It was already Roseville Police Department policy that officers do not ask about immigration status, in order to foster trust between the community and police, but now the policy can only be changed by a council vote.

The move came despite a lengthy public comment period at the meeting in which residents and others urged the council to pass a “separation ordinance.”

Such an ordinance would essentially state the same stance of not inquiring about immigration status, laying out other policies related to the city’s role in immigration enforcement, making all the policies a part of city code. Minneapolis and St. Paul recently passed similar ordinances.

Those who spoke argued the ordinance would send a clear message from the city in support of people who are immigrants or racial minorities, who, many said, are living in tense times since last year’s presidential election and because of the Trump administration’s stepped-up immigration enforcement.

Though members of the public had spoken at previous council meetings against a separation ordinance or the idea of Roseville becoming a “sanctuary city,” as well as in private communications with council members, the more-than 20 people who spoke Aug. 28 were all in favor of an ordinance.

Despite this, the four council members present that night — council member Bob Willmus wasn’t there — split a vote asking city staff to put together a draft separation ordinance to be reviewed at a special meeting. 

Council member Tammy McGehee and Mayor Dan Roe were in favor of drafting an ordinance. Council members Jason Etten and Lisa Laliberte were not.

Instead, Etten made a motion to pass the city resolution, putting in place the policy of police officers not inquiring about immigration status, and included language requiring any future city councils to vote on changing the policy.

The resolution passed 3-0, with McGehee abstaining from the vote.


Falcon Heights breaks with St. Anthony PD: Will be patrolled by Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office in 2018

At its Oct. 25 meeting, the Falcon Heights City Council approved a policing contract with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s deputies will take over patrols of the city Jan. 1, as the St. Anthony Police Department’s 22 years of contracted police work in Falcon Heights come to an end Dec. 31.

The switch was set in motion by the police killing of Castile.

In March of this year, the St. Anthony City Council passed a resolution seeking to make Falcon Heights liable for any police actions within its city limits, effectively signaling the end of the police contract, which St. Anthony officially terminated July 11.

As explained by Falcon Heights City Administrator Sack Thongvanh at the Oct. 25 meeting, he sent out 10 letters of interest to area law enforcement agencies, following St. Anthony’s resolution. Ramsey County was the only agency to respond affirmatively.

A $300,000 increase in the cost of policing for 2018 will be felt in the Falcon Heights property tax levy and elsewhere, while Thongvanh has said residents should expect no difference in the level of police service.

The city held two open house events in late November where residents could meet Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier and speak to sheriff’s deputies. 

Thongvanh said the events were well attended with more than 100 people showing up in total, and that Serier did a good job presenting his plans for policing Falcon Heights.

Falcon Heights will join a group of six other communities that contract for police service with the sheriff’s office: Arden Hills, Little Canada, North Oaks, Shoreview, White Bear Township and Vadnais Heights.


Off-year elections offer mixed results for incumbents

Well-contested city council elections were held in Falcon Heights, New Brighton and St. Anthony this fall.

The results of the races in Falcon Heights and St. Anthony were set to be referendums on how each council responded to the Castile killing — each city had two council seats up.

In Falcon Heights, Tony Fischer was the lone incumbent in the seven-person race. Council member Pamela Harris, who joined the council more than a decade ago, opted not to run.

Come Nov. 7’s Election Day, Fischer came in a distant fourth place, with newcomers Melanie Leehy and Mark Miazga winning the two seats, with 27.9 percent and 27.2 percent of the vote, respectively.

St. Anthony saw its first competitive council race in years, fielding six candidates, but in the end voters stuck with incumbent council members Randy Stille and Jan Jenson.

It was close, though. Following a recount, Jenson retained his win by 18 votes over challenger Nancy Robinett.

Combative council relations in recent years led to a lively race for two seats and the mayor’s office in New Brighton, with a shocking finish for longtime council member Gina Bauman.

Winning just 19 percent of the vote, Bauman’s more than a decade-long run on the council comes to an end with the new year. New council members Emily Dunsworth and Graeme Allen, who each won 25 percent of the vote, will be seated in January.

Incumbent Mayor Val Johnson, who often clashed with Bauman, enjoyed a tidy victory over former council member Sharon Doffing in the mayor’s race, winning 53.8 percent of the vote.

Beyond council votes, residents on Nov. 7 gave the go-ahead to two, big-money building bonds for districts 623 and 621. Voters approved Roseville Area Schools’ $144 million bond, and Mounds View Public Schools got its $165 million bond approved, as well.


The saga continues into 2018 for the Lowry Grove property

When the Lowry Grove manufactured housing community was sold to developer The Village, LLC, for $6 million in the summer of 2016, it would have been hard to predict then how fraught the sale has turned out to be.

Though Lowry Grove residents vigorously contested the sale in court, their losses piled up and counter suits ensued. 

Ultimately, residents and The Village reached a settlement. Residents were still forced out of their homes — they were off the property by the end of the 2016-2017 school year — but a large affordable housing component was to be included in The Village’s high-density, 700-unit housing plans for the site.

However, St. Anthony residents balked at the density planned for the 15-acre site at Lowry Avenue and Stinson Parkway. At its Oct. 10 meeting this year, the St. Anthony City Council rejected The Village’s revised plans for the site, which had been reduced to having 600 units.

Blustery statements from the developer followed. Brad Hoyt, president of The Village, charged the St. Anthony council with malfeasance and declared Lowry Grove would reopen again as a trailer park.

Subsequent statements from The Village walked back Hoyt’s initial proclamations, and come Nov. 27, the developer held an open house at St. Anthony Village High School to show off its latest plans for the site.

The number of units is down to 466, and the affordable housing component has been cut in half from the number of units in the plans presented Oct. 10 — the plan now includes about 50 affordable housing units.

Residents at the meeting, despite grousing over the loss of affordable housing units, seemed OK with the newest plans.

The Village is likely to resubmit its redevelopment plans for the Lowry Grove site in early 2018.

Yanez found not guilty


Editor’s note: The following is a reprint of the story that ran in the June 20 edition of the Roseville Review and the June 21 editions of the Bulletin newspapers. The Yanez verdict was announced as both papers were being sent to print. 

The City of St. Anthony later reached a $3 million settlement agreement with Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, and St. Anthony, along with Roseville for a smaller sum, went on to reach a settlement with Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend.


St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez has been found not guilty of all counts for killing Philando Castile. 

Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter for shooting Castile to death while he sat in his car during a July 6, 2016, traffic stop in Falcon Heights. 

Yanez was also charged with two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm because Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were in the car.

Following 29 hours of deliberations, the jury delivered its verdict June 16.

Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was a popular cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori school in St. Paul. 

During the traffic stop Castile told Yanez he was carrying a gun.

At trial, Yanez claimed he saw Castile’s gun, and, fearing for his life, he then shot Castile. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed live video of Castile’s dying moments onto Facebook.

Speaking after the verdict, Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said her son was “murdered.”

“My son would never jeopardize any one else’s life by trying to pull a gun on an officer,” she said, decrying the judicial system and the state of Minnesota.

“The system continues to fail black people,” she said.

Not even an hour after the verdict was read, St. Anthony released a statement saying Yanez had been offered a “voluntary separation agreement.”

“The City of St. Anthony has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city,” the statement said.


– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

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