The following document is based on CRC records, and on excerpts from the City of Saint Paul’s District Council history web page: https://www.stpaul.gov/residents/live-saint-paul/neighborhoods/district-councils/district-council-history
A Saint Paul City Council resolution in August of 1975 established the boundaries of the 17 district councils, and it asked the Office of the Mayor to “prepare a plan in each of the 17 districts ... for communication with the residents of these districts to provide early notification and involvement by residents of the districts in planning for land use, physical and social services, zoning changes, public improvements and parks, playgrounds and open space ....” In October of 1975, a resolution established the “Citizen Participation Process,” which stated in part, “Each district shall determine the structure for the process of citizen participation. This may involve the creation of a new organization, recognition of an existing group, or a cooperative arrangement among existing groups. However, this structure shall be one that will ensure that the process is broadly based, democratic, and nonexclusionary.”
The recognition process required each district to demonstrate to the City Council's satisfaction that it had developed an organizational structure complete with legally binding bylaws that met three critically important criteria:
1. That the organization is broadly representative of the area that it covers and involves a majority of all the groups and all major interests in the community (business, non-profit, religious, etc.). That the board and its executive body is representative of the "age, ethnic, business, social, and economic characteristics of the community.”
2. That accountability is assured in the form of a mechanism such as recall, together with term limits for members of the Executive Committee, to make sure that the organization is controlled by the entire community that it represents.
3. That all activities are totally accessible including open, widely publicized meetings, where the greatest possible degree of community participation is encouraged and maintained.
Early Notification System
The Early Notification System (ENS) is the only part of the Citizen Participation Process that was established by City Ordinance. It requires city agencies to inform neighborhood organizations and concerned citizens of “all considered, proposed, planned or implemented developments, legislative and policy changes, and enforcement actions (city actions) which may potentially impact the neighborhood and/or area residents. Notification through the ENS shall be in addition to, and not as a substitute for, notices required by federal, state, county and city rules, laws and ordinances."
NOTE: The system still exists, and you can subscribe for ENS notifications for your neighborhood at http://www.stpaul.gov/connect.
First 15 years: Downtown Community Development Council 1981-1996
The Articles of Incorporation for the Downtown Community Development Council (District 17) was recorded by the Minnesota Secretary of State on March 11, 1981. The document states that the purpose of the DCDC is “to unite, in common cause, residents, business persons and organizations ... in a continuing effort to promote
harmonious environmental conditions and favorable community relationships and to undertake such charitable and educational actions and services as may, by its membership, be determined to be desirable to serve these purposes.” The document also states that examples of these purposes include “to preserve and maintain good residential housing, live in a healthful environment, provide recreational facilities, and protect the neighborhood from crime.”
Unfortunately, we do not have any meeting minutes from 1981-1982, so we don’t know what the main activities of the organization were for those first two years. The minutes from August 17, 1983, included a discussion of a Game Room License requested by a business at 389 Wabasha. The board voted to “oppose the granting of the game room license” on a 20-2 vote. Other projects that were discussed by the DCDC included a Light Rail Transit Study (concerns were expressed that LRT or other transit improvements could be built without connecting to Downtown Saint Paul), expansion of Holman Field Airport, a proposal to designate Lowertown as a historic district (to enable property owners to take advantage of tax laws that reward preservation and enhancement of significant buildings), construction of the Ordway Theatre, and construction of Galtier Plaza.
The DCDC changed the organization’s name to the CapitolRiver Council in 1996, which was intended to avoid confusion with another organization named the Downtown Council, and to clarify that the organization’s geographic area is from the Capitol to the Mississippi River, and not just Downtown.
The organization’s other activities in the 1980s and 1990s included making recommendations about expansions of the skyway system, creating a plan for the north quadrant (Wacouta Commons) neighborhood, coordinating an adopt-a-block cleanup program, and forming a child’s play space task force.
The earliest roster we have for the board of directors is from 1984, which lists 26 members, including 3 residents (two from Central Towers and one from Mears Park Place), 7 property owners / managers, 6 small business owners, and 10 employees who live outside of District 17. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the majority of board members were people who worked in District 17 (including building owners) and lived outside of District 17.
Community Engagement and Planning Activities
DCDC / CRC has worked with the City Planning Commission, City staff, and District 17 residents and workers to create and / or update several planning documents, including:
· North Quadrant Precinct Plan (1997 – this is the plan for the Wacouta Commons Park neighborhood)
· Downtown Development Strategy (this work was done primarily from 2003-2005)
· Fitzgerald Park Precinct Plan (2006 – this is the neighborhood that is currently known as Pedro Park)
· Greater Lowertown Master Plan (2012 – this focuses on Lowertown and connections to the river and to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and to the East Side via recreational trails)
· Great River Passage Master Plan (2013)
· Central Station Block Design Guidelines (2017 – this focuses on design elements that a building should meet when it is proposed for the block that contains the Central Station)
Each of those planning documents were created with input from District 17 stakeholders. CRC continues to engage people with different interests and perspectives, so that when these important planning documents
are updated, or when new plans are created, they are influenced by the full range of stakeholders in our neighborhood.
Financial Management Priorities / Embezzlement Incident
In 2003, the CRC board learned that an employee had been embezzling money. The employee also embezzled money from unincorporated organizations that have a fiscal agent agreement with CRC (these agreements require CRC board approval). Financial management policies and procedures were updated, and have periodically been reviewed and updated since then. CRC has worked with several different people or firms to perform accounting duties since that time, and currently has hired the accounting firm Harrington Langer and Associates (HLA).
Committees and Task Forces
Throughout the history of CRC, committees and task forces have been an essential way that community leaders are engaged in activities that align with their interests. Some committees are focused on the organization, such as task forces to work on strategic planning or bylaws, whereas others are focused on a particular project or topic.
The language that was used in the 1975 resolution that established the district council boundaries is a good indication of why CRC has some of its current committees. The duties of the CRC Development Review Committee include “planning for land use ... and zoning changes,” and the duties of the CRC Public Realm Committee include planning for “public improvements and parks, playgrounds and open space.” The committee was once named “Environment, Public Realm and Movement,” to clarify that the committee’s scope included environmental issues and transportation / transit issues, in addition to parks and open spaces. Public Realm is also the committee that has addressed physical and social services, including issues related to public safety and services for people who are homeless.
The City of Saint Paul established a Skyway Governance Committee in 1988 that functioned like many of its boards and commissions. In 1997, the ordinance that created the committee was repealed. CRC representatives expressed interest in taking on that committee’s duties by making it a CRC committee. A City Council resolution (06-977) in 2006 “accepts the CapitolRiver Council’s invitation to establish a Skyway Governance Advisory Committee to advise the City Council and City staff in issues relating to the skyway system.” Some of the committee’s duties are referenced in City Code Chapter 140. For example, contains some of the committee’s duties. For example, Section 140.05 requires the Skyway Governance Advisory Committee to be notified when someone applies for a skyway use permit (for example, to have an event or exhibition), so that the committee can review the application and make a recommendation.
Membership of most of CRC’s committees is established by attending the meetings. Anyone who lives and / or works in District 17 can attend a committee meeting, and then they become a voting member by attending a second meeting. That policy was established to avoid having a relatively large group of people that is concerned about one issue could attend a meeting and establish a position for CRC.
The Skyway Governance Advisory Committee members are appointed by the CRC officers (up to 12 people may be appointed to the committee).
Examples of current and past committees include:
· 4th Street Market District Task Force
· Child’s Play Space Task Force
· Development Review Committee
· Downtown Life Committee
· Finance Committee
· Grocery Store Task Force
· Long-Range Planning Task Force (now part of Development Review)
· Lowertown Ballpark
· Marketing and Fundraising Committee
· Officers Committee (formerly known as the Executive Committee)
· Parking Committee
· Public Realm Committee (formerly known as Environment, Public Realm, and Movement)
· Recruiting Committee
· Residents’ Needs Committee
· Sidewalk Cafe Task Force
· Skyway Governance Advisory Committee
· Small Business Committee
· Strategic Planning Committee
New committees or task forces may be created by the CRC board, and ideas are always welcome. The CRC website contains a link to a form that people can use to submit ideas. Go to www.capitolrivercouncil.org and click the “Our Work” tab for more information.