Light Rail Talks Emphasize Importance of 'Cross-Pollination'

It’s easy for school districts and cities to stick to what they know best. We should applaud them when they reach out to one another.

Residents who sit through enough School Board and City Council meetings will eventually see the connections between the issues before each body. Yet school districts and cities have very different responsibilities. They don’t always have in-depth understanding of what the other is doing and an intuitive appreciation for the other body’s goals and challenges.

At a joint meeting Tuesday, for example, School Board directors queried City Council members about the number of housing units that would soon come on the market. Council members at least mention development projects like Marketplace & Main and the Park Nicollet site virtually every time they get together. Yet I hadn’t heard the School Board discuss those projects until Tuesday.

Similarly, school district staff presented a detailed look at declining enrollment numbers and the importance of open enrollment in making up for the decline. I haven’t heard the City Council mention those issues.

That’s to be expected: The School district is not in the redevelopment business, and the city is not in the education business.

But the Hopkins developments will create 216 apartments—potentially adding a significant number of students to the district. Meanwhile, school issues affect demand for housing and the redevelopment cities are so keen on encouraging.

That’s why joint meetings like these are so valuable.

They also emphasize the benefits of officials with experience in other local government bodies. School Board Director Steve Adams was on the Minnetonka Planning Commission, serving as vice chairman in the four years before he joined the School Board.

Councilwoman Cheryl Youakim was on the school district’s Legislative Action Coalition, Early Childhood Family Education parent board and the Alice Smith PTO. Her husband has been a math teacher at Hopkins High School for 17 years. She also works for state Sen. Ron Latz.

Officials like Adams and Youakim are able to be sort of liaisons between different local governments.

Of course, that type of experience isn’t the only kind these bodies need. The School Board also needs longtime educators like Irma McIntosh Coleman—who’s been a teacher, assistant principal, principal and director of learning under Arne Carlson. The City Council needs members who’ve come up through the Park Board and Zoning and Planning ranks and lifetime residents like the mayor. We also need business leaders and parents and who knows what else.

But in an era of increased specialization, it’s nice to see a little cross-pollination between our elected officials.


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