As 2011 came to a close, we took a look at the . But 2012 is now here, so it's time to look ahead. Below, we've put together a list of five local issues that should be worth watching this year. Perhaps a few of them will even wind up as part of our 2012 top-story countdown about 12 months from now:
Will New Council, Board Members Mesh?
This one won't require you to look too far ahead: City Council will be swearing in two new members ( and ) on Tuesday, while school board newcomer will be sworn in next week. Any time group dynamics change it's worth taking note, and it will be interesting to see how the new members mesh with the old, though we expect it to be a fairly .
Can Podein and the Orioles Keep it Up?
Many expected new St. Louis Park boys hockey coach to bring plenty of energy to the program, but it's doubtful many saw a 6-0 start coming, considering the Orioles won only twice all of last year. Though Park has picked up two losses and a tie since the 6-0 start, things are certainly looking up for the program—but can they be serious contenders later in the year?
How Will Light Rail Plans Unfold?
St. Louis Park officials have been at the around the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line, as the city has received two grants to study station designs at Beltline and Louisiana avenues. A third grant to study a Wooddale Avenue stop is expected, and the city is forming resident advisory committees as well. While many aspects of planning for the line—which is slated to open in 2018—are out of the city's hands, the discussions around the St. Louis Park stops will go a long way toward shaping the project.
What Will be the Fate of Freight?
Of course, the light rail issue is directly tied to the question of whether freight trains will be rerouted through St. Louis Park to make room for the new LRT line. In September, the Federal Transit Administration said any costs of a reroute must be included in the cost and scope of the overall light rail project. The FTA has also indicated that a reroute appears to be necessary to keep the light rail project alive, so it could be more a matter of when freight trains get rerouted, not if. Either way, more clarity should come in 2012.
Changes in Store for Junior High?
When St. Louis Park schools , sixth graders experienced arguably the greatest change, as they ended up moving into the for the first time. Two years later, there are still some loose ends, namely how to deal with students transitioning from the K-5 , where class instruction is in Spanish. With some parents saying these students receive unfair advantages—like smaller class sizes—when they enter the junior high and the newly created "Extended Spanish Program," and others pushing to keep immersion education strong, the district is looking at a number of potential tweaks to the program. An ESP task force was expected to formally present findings to the school board in December, but that is now expected to happen later this month. Changes to how the program and the junior high as a whole operate could follow.