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Mayoral Minute: Jacobs Wants Crowd 'Under Control' for Freight Talks

St. Louis Park Mayor Jeff Jacobs also said he would be in favor of trapping coyotes if possible.

St. Louis Park Patch sat down with St. Louis Park Mayor Jeff Jacobs last week for a monthly chat.

St. Louis Park Patch: What are your expectations for the this week (on Wednesday and Thursday)?

Mayor Jeff Jacobs: Well, we’ll see. We’re trying to keep people’s behavior under control. What I’m hoping for is what I’ll call a “St. Louis Park-level discussion.” We (often) conduct hearings like this, and I’ve been particularly proud with the way people have conducted themselves. This is probably the most important decision (City Council) will make, frankly, in my time as a mayor. I want to send a signal to the people who are really going to make the decision. And frankly, that’s not going to be the City Council. It’s going to be the county, the state, the feds or some consortium of all of the above … We’re not a group of hand-waving lunatics around here. We’re not a group of yahoos who stands around with bullhorns and yells and chants. That’s not how you get things done anyway. Frankly, people have been pretty good about that, and we’re trying to avoid that (at the listening sessions) … The other thing I’m hoping is that people can treat each other with a level of respect that does not intimidate people. Because when you get a hundred people screaming and shouting, cheering and clapping, if you have anything in your mind that you think is slightly different then that, you’re thinking, “God, I’m not going to go up there and have those people booing and jeering at me” … I don’t want anyone leaving those meetings thinking, “I would have liked to have said something here tonight, but I felt intimidated.”

St. Louis Park Patch: What impact can citizens honestly, truly have in this process?

Jacobs: Good question. I wish the city had a lot more control over that, because I think citizens have a lot of impact with us. They do with me … But the question you’re asking is, “What difference does the City Council make?” And the answer, unfortunately, is very little. We don’t have much to do with (the reroute decision). I think people should be talking to us, they should be talking to their legislators, they should be talking to the county … Where I think people really are going to have a big impact is on the mitigation piece. That is what I’m going to be pushing for really hard. That’s where I think almost everybody would be in lock-step. If it comes to pass, for example, that the powers that be say, “Look, co-location is not going to happen, freight rail is going to have to come to the MN&S (St. Louis Park) line.” People would be disappointed by that, and I get that. But if that’s the case, then by golly, we better be looking at some major league money to mitigate that, by upgrading the tracks … and upgrading the intersections.

St. Louis Park Patch: A has now been on the books in St. Louis Park for a few months. What kind of feedback, if any, have you gotten in that time? And what are your overall thoughts on the ordinance?

Jacobs: I’m glad we did it, I remain glad we did it. We should have done it earlier, to tell you the truth. The only feedback I have gotten has been positive. I’ve heard from some of the people who spoke in favor of it who have (since) gone and registered … As far as I know, it’s going well.

St. Louis Park Patch: Do you think the school district handled the at Aquila Elementary properly?

Jacobs: I saw the , and that’s one of the things I’m concerned about (for our listening sessions)—I don’t want it to degenerate like that. That’s always hard, when you have a principal who obviously generated some controversy. I don’t know all the facts, I haven’t talked to any school board members about it. I know Freida Bailey, I’ve been over to Aquila. In fact, I was just over there a week-and-a-half ago (to meet with) kindergartners … Walking through the halls, talked to the kids, everything was going great over there. The kids looked like they were happy and healthy, and they were engaged in the conversation and they were learning. I talked to a couple of teachers I knew, and everything seemed to be going OK. And I was at their community read-a-thon a few months ago, and Freida was there and she was out talking to the parents. She seemed liked she was doing what a principal should do on a night like that … People get passionate about stuff like this, and that’s good. I just hope that our meetings (on Wednesday and Thursday) don’t turn out like that. Because I thought that there were people who were a little over the top, frankly … In terms of how they’re handling it, I kind of leave that for the school board. That’s an internal, personnel decision that I shouldn’t get involved with … As far as how the public hearing went, you can always go back with 20/20 hindsight and say, “I would have handled it differently.” But it’s a different operation when you’re sitting there. I’m sure a week from now, I’ll be thinking, “How could I have done something differently at those two listening sessions?”

St. Louis Park Patch: Coyotes have been a talking point in St. Louis Park—and elsewhere in the metro—due to some . Is there anything you think the city could or should do to address the problem? Where are your thoughts on this issue?

Jacobs: I tell you, it is amazing—the animals were here a long time before us, and I suspect they’ll be here a long time after we are gone … They’re wild animals … What concerns me is that they’re losing their fear of human beings—they’re very adaptive … We haven’t had any comprehensive discussion about it. But obviously we’re glad that people are aware that (coyotes) are out there.

St. Louis Park Patch: Would you be in favor of setting traps or hunting them?

Jacobs: If that’s what it takes to control them, yeah. I know the PETA people would be all upset about that, but we’ve been doing controlled hunts of deer at for almost 20 years now. And very successfully. Other communities have as well. I don’t know what it would take to trap a coyote … they’re very different than deer … It might depend on what you have to do … (But) if we can control them in some fashion, I would. 

Want to put a question to the mayor? E-mail St. Louis Park Patch local editor Michael Rose at michael.rose@patch.com. Your question may be used in an upcoming interview.

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