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Governor’s Forum 026

Governor’s Candidate Forum on the New Environment held at Hamline University

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Minnesota Governor’s Candidate Forum on the New Environment was held Jan. 24, at Hamline University’s Anne Simley Theatre. The six leading Democratic candidates for governor took the stage on a Wednesday evening in a forum hosted by 25 of the state’s leading environmental and conservation groups.

Regarding the absence of GOP candidates, Sarah Wolff, advocacy director for Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said, “We were very disappointed. We invited the six GOP candidates who had shown the most traction in their candidacies; three declined outright, and three did not respond.”

“The forum was called ‘Our New Environment’ for several reasons,” Wolff said. “The seriousness of environmental and conservation issues is increasing in our state. We have two high impact projects being considered right now: the Line 3 Pipeline and the PolyMet Mine. And, of course, things have changed dramatically on the national front with the Trump administration’s actions.”

The public was asked to submit questions in five categories, or vote for their favorite question already posted online. The categories of questioning include air and climate, land, water, legacy and funding, and cross-cutting issues.

Here are the questions addressed at the forum:
—What should be the state’s role in acquiring land to protect habitat as well as hunting, fishing, and recreational opportunities?
—Do you think that the current draft permits for Polymet, including DNR’s Permit to Mine, adequately protect MN waters, downstream communities, and taxpayers? Do you support this project as proposed?
—Cropland runoff is the largest source of pollution to MN’s waters, and we’re not making progress. What will you do to accelerate the incorporation of water-friendly perennial crops and cover crops?
—Since 2001 the state commitment of General Fund dollars for environment and conservation has dropped from a consistent 2% of the budget to less than 1%. Would you work to reverse this trend? How?
—MN environmental problems fall disproportionally on people of color, tribal communities and people with low incomes. As Governor, what steps would you take to address these disparities?

Photo right: The forum was co-moderated by Elizabeth Dunbar, who covers the environment for Minnesota Public Radio, and Dave Orrick, who reports on state government and politics for the Pioneer Press. More than 200 people heard the forum live, and it was streamed online to eight public satellite locations throughout the state.

 

 

Photo left: Participating in the forum were (left to right): former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, State Representative Tina Liebling, State Representative Erin Murphy, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, State Representative Paul Thissen and U.S. Congressman Tim Walz.

 

 

Photo right: Erin Murphy is a registered nurse and six-term legislator who works at the intersection of healthcare and politics. She said, “I became a nurse because I care about people. I went into politics for the same reason.” Of the PolyMet Copper Nickel Mine proposed for Northern Minnesota, she said, ”When we’re pitting jobs against water—water should win.”

 

 

Photo left: Chris Coleman (on left), three-term mayor of St. Paul said, “During my tenure in City Hall, we made environmental issues and sustainability top priorities. We have an environmental quality here in Minnesota that most states envy. We will have to fight like mad to keep it that way.” Tina Liebling (on right) is a seven-term legislator from the Rochester area. She describes herself as a bold progressive, and the first DFL candidate ever elected from Olmstead County. She supports returning the percent of the state’s general fund dedicated to environmental issues to 2%, or more if that’s what it takes, to address the issues adequately. The dollar amount has slipped below 1% in recent years.

Photo right: Three-term State Auditor Rebecca Otto (left) exemplifies her commitment to the environment by having built her own energy efficient, solar-powered home, and driving an electric vehicle. Her Minnesota-Powered Plan proposes to create between 70,000 and 250,000 high-paying permanent clean energy jobs throughout Minnesota, revitalizing our economy without raising taxes. Legislator Paul Thissen (center), a former speaker of the Minnesota House, said, “From my perspective, the two greatest issues we face today are climate change and Minnesota’s standing as the state with the second worst racial disparities in the country. I believe these two things are closely related.” U.S. Congressman Tim Walz (right) has also been an award-winning social studies teacher and national guardsman—the most highly decorated soldier in the US Congress. He has served in Congress since 2006. Of the Enbridge Energy Line 3 Pipeline (proposed to carry 760,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil/day across Minnesota), he said,”I oppose this project because climate change is an emergency. The Line 3 technology is outdated, and delays the inevitable.”

 

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Park Names Jamie Tomlin

Park names whittled down to three after community vote

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Gordon Parks High School students play role in shaping and digging into park’s history by collecting votes

 

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Again and again, students at Gordon Parks High School (GPHS) have worked to make sure citizens are involved in the journey to transform a vacant lot next to their school into a five-acre park.

GPHS, along with the Skyline Tower apartment complex and Union Park District Council, expressed concern about the park name selection process being planned by the city earlier this year, pointed out Curriculum & Media Arts Coordinator Paul Creager.

“As a result, we helped organize a process that resulted in a huge increase in community participation, with numerous voting sites in the neighborhood adjacent to the future park,” said Creager. “We want to empower community.”

512 vote on top three names
The school served as a voting location for students and parents, as well as for nearby Midway residents.

Citizens were asked to give input on 15 possible park names. These 15 names originated from several community engagement activities in 2016-2017, where over 100 name ideas were gathered. Of those, 15 names met city of St. Paul criteria and were the most popular, including: All Nations/New Nations, Family (Lakota: Tiospaya or Tiwahe), Freedom, Gordon, Green, Harmony, International, Lexington-Hamline, Midway, Mosaic, Peace (Arabic: Salam), People (Somali: Bulsho), Union, Unity (Sanskrit: Samadhi) and University.

The voting process whittled the 15 options down to the most popular five in November: Peace Park, Midway Park, Mosaic Park, Tiwahe Park, and Unity Park.

At two meetings in December, one held at Skyline Towers and the other at the regular Union Park District Council Board meeting site, citizens agreed to forward three names to the city’s park and recreation commission.

The community voting process resulted in 512 votes being cast for Peace, Unity, and Midway.

St. Paul parks and recreation will recommend to the city council one name this month.

In the past, students have referred to the park as Three Ring Gardens after its long history of housing circuses, while the city labeled it Lexington Commons.

In 2016, with $1.5 million from the city’s 8-80 Vitality Fund, The Trust for Public Land put together the purchase of the three parcels that will become a 5-acre park as part of the group’s focus on more green space along the light rail line. The land was then conveyed to the city.

The park is still in the fundraising stage, and will hopefully be developed in late 2018.

Students and neighbors envision a playground, outdoor classroom/amphitheater, indoor gardening space and a community orchard at this property that sits 17 feet higher than University Ave. and offers a unique overlook of nearby treetops and rooftops.

It will be a park that champions open space, equity and access.

According to a green space assessment, just 2.3 percent of the area is dedicated to parkland, although parks make up an average of 15 percent of St. Paul. The new park will be within a 10-minute walk of more than 2,600 residents—including the residents of Skyline Tower, who are largely East African immigrants.

Student engagement
“Our work on the future park at Griggs is an example of civically engaged storytelling-approaches to curriculum,” remarked Creager. “Highly engaging, state-standard aligned curriculum is available in the community around a school and doesn’t need to be purchased from Pearson Inc. and Scholastic. For students, interaction with this park project boosted their sense of civic agency, and familiarity with the processes of championing community change.”

Photo right: Gordon Parks High School English teacher Jamie Tomlin collects ideas for park names during a student-led event on the future park property held in 2017. These names were then whittled down to 15, then five, and finally three that were forwarded to the parks and recreation department. The three finalists were Peace, Unity, and Midway. In all, 512 votes were cast on the names. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Creager added, “For the educators involved, the project gave us an opportunity to apply learning in a relevant, tangible way, and show that schools can play a vital role in the communities where they are located.”

GPHS remains dedicated to staying informed regarding ongoing park work through the Trust for Public Land and city of St. Paul.

Although 17-year-old LaDavia Allcorn will graduate this spring, she plans to come back and assist with the park. “I’m not done,” she said. “That park isn’t built yet.”

The park caught Allcorn’s attention the very first day she attended GPHS as a sophomore, and ever since she’s been working to make the park a reality. She’s so glad for the opportunity through GPHS to get credit for “doing something amazing like this.” Working through the process of getting a park created has been an eye-opener for her.

“I’m ready for that park to be built,” said Allcorn. She’s excited for the day when she can bring her kids to the park and let them know she helped make it happen.

It is a park that the school and nearby community need, according to Allcorn, who recently helped garner votes on the park name. Personally, she favored the name “Our Park,” because, as she explained, “It’s everyone’s park.”

Allcorn pointed out that parks are beneficial in many ways, and she’s looking forward to students being able to have a space to spread out a blanket, take a break from school, and enjoy the mental health benefits associated with green space.

“They deserve that,” stated Allcorn, who observed that this park might be something small for others, but it’s something big for them.

Soil analysis at park site
GPHS students have also begun collaborating with Kat Hayes, an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota, and her grad students.

“The future parkland has a unique history, and some of the soil is relatively undisturbed,” stated Creager.

Students have done archaeological mapping projects on the property.

The archaeology curriculum includes components such as biology modules using bone casts and teaching bones from the university’s anthropology department labs. A demonstration was given on LIDAR (light detection and ranging), a noninvasive way to record and assess the site, as well as a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) module, that gave students a chance to see how this technology is used in the field.

Students also learned how archaeologists set up sites and document everything in 3D space.

Under the direction of GPHS science teacher Joel Abdella, students have recently begun conducting a soil analysis project.

This project and the future park space has “helped begin years of science and social studies curricular inquiry,” said Creager. “These projects also create a shareable class experience that will help inspire more taxpayer support to leverage policymaker involvement with thoughtful school change, and inspire students and staff to keep pushing for the educational reform our schools need.”

Creager added, “Kat is also an incredible fit for us because she brings a deep background of exploring sensitive racial and economic histories into archaeological inquiry.”

Participants appreciate this project because it involves so many things—historical research, contemporary social relevance of urban planning, questions of environmental justice, applications of science and math to real-world problems, and thinking about how to commemorate the past.

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Firestation

West Midway fire station to get redeployed ambulance and fire engine

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
As more housing developed along University Ave., and vacant industrial buildings are repurposed, St. Paul city leaders have called for more public safety resources for the West Midway area. More than a decade later, that request is becoming a reality.

St. Paul Fire Station 20 (photo right), 2179 University Ave.—which serves parts of the West Midway, Merriam Park and St. Anthony Park—will get an ambulance to meet growing demand for medical services. A fire engine will be placed at the station, too. That’s a result of a fire and medical services redeployment plan announced Jan. 22 by Mayor Melvin Carter III.

The move triples the number of rigs at Station 20. Only a ladder truck is there now.

Station 20 is targeted for replacement in the next few years. It is in an area with substantial new housing development and redevelopment of older industrial buildings, spurred on in part by the 2014 opening of Green Line light rail. For several years city leaders have discussed the need for more fire and medical service in that area.

Last year a fire department labor-management committee proposed moving Engine 7 from Station 7 (1038 Ross Ave.) to Station 20. The committee also recommended retaining the three rescue squads that Coleman wanted to eliminate. Stations 7 and 20 are not equipped with ambulances, so the committee suggested moving a reserve ambulance to each location.

The move provides a faster medical response to area calls. The closest ambulances are currently at Station 23 (1926 Como Ave.) or Station 14 (111 Snelling Ave. N.)

Station 7 will keep its current ladder truck and get an ambulance.

The changes reallocate about $1.7 million but don’t create additional budget needs. The shift of equipment and personnel wins praise for providing ambulances for two fire stations that don’t have them. Demand for medical calls in the city far outpaces fire calls.

But the loss of a fire engine is a disappointment to East Side leaders, who contend they are losing needed fire protection. Carter announced the move not long after Ward Seven Council Member Jane Prince held a press conference protesting the loss of Engine 7.

Though she agreed with the need for more medical resources citywide, Prince opposed moving Engine 7, saying it is needed in the lower-income neighborhood around Station 7 which has many older wood frame houses.

Both the firefighters’ and fire supervisors’ unions support the changes, as does interim Fire Chief Butch Inks. “I appreciate the thoughtful approach that the St. Paul Fire Department, Local 21 and Local 3939 have engaged in with the development of this plan,” Carter said in a statement. “I’m confident that this plan will help meet our residents’ needs, both on the East Side and throughout all of St. Paul.”

The plan is being implemented now and doesn’t require St. Paul City Council approval because it doesn’t change the city’s 2018 budget and the $62 million allocated to the fire department. The council and former Mayor Chris Coleman agreed to lay over any reorganization decision until after Carter took office.

St. Paul Firefighters Local 21 stated support of the plan. “The consensus of this [labor and management] committee is to increase emergency medical services assets in the City of St. Paul. Without adding financial resources or personnel, this plan accomplishes that goal.”

The shifts also mean the St. Paul Fire Department can keep all three of its rescue squads. Each of the rescue squads has a specialty, along with assisting at fire and accident scenes. One is an emergency response and a second is chemical assessments at the scene of a leak or spill. The third rescue squad is dedicated to complicated rescues such as a cave-in. Coleman wanted to cut a rescue squad to meet the high demand for emergency medical services and add two super medic units. Super medic units allocate staff so that a station can operate a fire truck and ambulance at the same time. That means fire rigs are not tied up on medical runs and are available to respond to fire calls.

Coleman’s recommendations were tied to a Fire Department study carried out by an outside consultant, TriData. The study, which was released last July, found that fires account for less than five percent of the department’s emergency calls. The study called for changes in how medical services are delivered, noting the time and costs of sending out larger rigs.

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Mizna 05

Three-month schedule of Arab films underway at local colleges

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The non-profit organization Mizna, located at 2644 University Ave. W., suite #115, is a forum for Arab-American film, literature, and art. Mizna will be screening films about Arab and Arab American culture in five different locations over the next three months. This film festival tour, as they’re calling it, is the first of its kind for the organization. Mizna has been sponsoring film festivals since 2003, but their films haven’t traveled to multiple venues before.

The following films will be shown: “Tramontane” at Concordia College on Feb. 8; “As I Open My Eyes” at Hamline University on Feb. 23; “Mariam” (and a selection of other short films) at the College of St. Catherine on Mar. 9; “The Preacher” at Metropolitan State University on Mar. 23. All shows begin at 7pm. On Apr. 14-15, a touring mini-fest will be held at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in out-state Minnesota.

Sponsors for the film series include the Knight Foundation, the Legacy Amendment, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Michelle Baroody is Mizna’s film festival director and curator, and a Ph.D. student in cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. “Ours is one of the longest-running Arab films festivals in the country,” she said. “Since 2003, our films have been a gateway through which community members enter to get involved in other programs at Mizna (writing activities, Arabic language classes, and drumming.)”

She continued, “We have a core of supporters for our film festival, but we look forward to bringing our films to more audiences in different venues this year. We’re calling this festival a tour because we’ll be traveling throughout St. Paul and beyond.

Students may attend films at all location for free, regardless of which school the student attends; there is a sliding scale for others including low income and seniors. Reservations are strongly suggested, even for free student tickets, and can be made online at www.mizna.org. People are encouraged to arrive half an hour early, as tickets in the past have sold out. For more information, email Jordan@mizna.org.

“So much of life feels political for Americans since the 2016 presidential election,” commented Baroody, whose father is Syrian American. “In truth, that’s how it’s always been for Arab-Americans—at least since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. There’s an undeniable stigma against Arabs, Arab-Americans, and Muslims in this country now, and fear and confusion get perpetuated in the media. You can’t ignore that something isn’t right in the world. At Mizna, we want the community to know that people of Arab origin are much more than bombers, belly dancers, and billionaires.”

Mizna is committed to presenting compelling Arab expression, creativity, and artistry. Their mission states that “For our community—so often written and spoken about—we are claiming a space to tell our stories and present our art. Mizna offers Arab and non-Arab audiences the chance to engage with cutting-edge Arab art in all its power, beauty, complexity, and humanity.”

Baroody concluded, “Art brings different perspectives and different audiences together. Of the various media that we work with, film may be the easiest to connect with. But film, narrative, and stories—these are all things we can have a cathartic connection to.”

The film festival is one of Mizna’s two anchor programs. The other is their semi-annual literary journal by the same name. Since 1999, Mizna has published the only journal of Arab-American literature in the country. Featuring celebrated and emerging voices, the award-winning journal contains a breadth of stories and ideas. Subscriptions can be purchased through the organization’s website. The most recent issue of Mizna can also be found at Moon Palace Books, Boneshaker Books, Subtext Books, Common Good Books, May Day Books, and the University of Minnesota Book Store.

Photo right: Mizna Executive Director Lana Barkawi said, “We live in a society that paints Arabs, Arab Americans, and Muslims in broad, stereotypic strokes. Mizna exists so that people can see us expressed on the screen and on the page in our full humanity.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Mizna Executive Director Lana Barkawi explained, “The Arab and Arab American population isn’t large in Minnesota when compared to Michigan, New York, or Texas. But we’re here, perhaps 60,000 of us, though the census data aren’t exacting. The subscriber base for our journal is upwards of 600, and more than 1,500 people attended our fall Arab Film Series held at St. Anthony Main Theater. We’re reaching people.”

When asked to translate the meaning of the word mizna to English, Barkawi said, “It is a poetic term that refers to a desert cloud, one that holds the promise of rain and relief.”

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Stadium noise variance raises ire of residents on social media

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
A blanket sound level exemption for the new Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium was set to return to the St. Paul City Council for a vote Feb. 7 at City Hall. If the exemption is adopted, home games, league events, exhibition games and city-sponsored events at the new stadium will not need sound level variances. Because the variance is in a use agreement approved previously between Minnesota United FC and city officials, it may be all over but the shouting.

Joe Spencer, who works on special projects for the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED), said the exemption to noise regulations is in the use agreement approved last year by the city and Minnesota United FC.

Allianz Field construction is underway at the northeast corner of Snelling and St. Anthony avenues, the former Metro Transit bus barn site and part of the former Midway Center property. It is expected to open to games early next year. Minnesota United typically plays 17 regular season games at home, if a look at recent schedules is any indication. Soccer games are on Saturday evenings, starting at 6:30 or 7pm and usually last two hours.

The first home game this year is Sat., Mar. 17. The last is Sun., Oct. 21.

Spencer called the exemption “simple and straightforward” and said it would “streamline” the event process for Allianz Field.

“It’s not expected to be needed or used a lot,” he said. Environmental studies conducted as part of stadium planning indicated that soccer games and other events wouldn’t be in violation of daytime sound level regulations. Nighttime noise limits kick in at 10pm. With soccer games typically starting at 7pm, it’s not expected that games would go later than 10pm. Later play would only happen due to inclement weather, a television schedule-related delay or overtime periods.

If a concert or fireworks display is planned, those would need variances and would have to go to the City Council for approval.
Despite many concerns raised about the exemption on social media and in calls to council members Dai Thao and Russ Stark, only one person attended a Jan. 17 council hearing to speak in opposition.

Hamline-Midway resident Stephanie Digby, who lives north of the stadium, was the only person to speak in opposition. “I’m going to be suffering from noise pollution,” she said. Digby said the variance feels discriminatory and that it is bringing further changes to what has been a quiet neighborhood.

“I feel there are many of us who have been completely ignored,” Digby said.

A layover was approved Jan. 17 to give Union Park District Council (UPDC) a chance to weigh in. The Jan. 22 snowstorm forced the council to cancel a neighborhood meeting to discuss noise concerns.
Stadium noise has been an issue in neighborhoods around Concordia University’s Seafoam Stadium. The sound from football games has carried as far north as Minnehaha Ave. in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood and south to Summit Ave. But those games end before 10pm.

“The assumption is that you essentially cannot quiet fans down,” Stark said of the soccer variance. Council members and Spencer noted that Allianz Field is designed in a way to mitigate sound. That is true of the stadium design as well as how the sound will be handled. Instead of large speakers at one end, as is the case at TCF Stadium at the University of Minnesota, Allianz Field is designed to have smaller-scale speakers that will be spread throughout the stadium.

Spencer said that the plan is to have Allianz Field be a “good neighbor” and mitigate sound as much as possible.

Questions had been raised as to whether or not the exemption would also apply to CHS Field in Lowertown, which is used by baseball teams including the St. Paul Saints. Spencer said that isn’t the case.

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Hamline Elementary Joe Kieser age 18

Two campuses, one community—one Midway family’s story

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Hamline Elementary School Column By JESSICA KOPP
Hamline Midway residents Wendy and Byron Kieser have had kids enrolled at Hamline Elementary (formerly Hancock) for seventeen years, and though the school’s name has changed, some teachers remain as does the same strong sense of community.

Like many people choosing a school for the first time, they asked their friends for guidance. When someone suggested Hancock, they weren’t sure but decided to go to the open house. They were impressed with the classrooms and programs the school offered and decided to try it.

When asked why they stayed, Wendy says, “We stayed because the teachers and staff quickly became an important part of the community that our entire family belonged to, not just the kids.” She was also excited about the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration, “It’s an amazing asset to Hamline students; it provided so many extra experiences from being on the Hamline University campus for swimming, mock trial, performing in Sundin Music Hall, to the tutors, and other university students that work in the classrooms.”

Photo right: Joe Kieser, age 5, spent his entire elementary education under the cooperation between Hamline Elementary and Hamline University. (Photo provided)

The Kiesers sent all six of their children to Hamline for kindergarten and Carol Schjei, still a kindergarten teacher there, taught them all. Four of the Kieser children spent all their elementary years at Hamline and at the end of this year, the family will attend their final Hamline Elementary “graduation,” but that doesn’t mean the family is leaving Hamline. Their son, Joe, has come full circle in this community—first as an elementary student and now as a Hamline University freshman, majoring in mathematics.

Photo right: Joe Kieser, age 18, is now a student at Hamline University. (Photo provided)

It’s easy for Wendy to see the arc. “Joe started at Hancock in 2004 and had creative and experienced teachers throughout; they kept him motivated and challenged. He made friends there that he still has today and because they all lived in the neighborhood, they were able to do things together in and out of school.”

Joe sees the value of a shared community, too. “The connection to Hancock helped me to get my first job at Hancock Rec Center,” Joe said. “It was a comfortable environment, I was familiar with the building, and it was close to home. It made working at Hancock Rec a great first job. I have been back to Hamline Elementary this year doing service learning projects, and it is great to still see some of my former teachers at the school.”

I asked Joe to tell me more about his journey from one side of Snelling Ave. to the other.

Favorite memory?
“My favorite memory of Hamline University as a Hancock student is getting to eat in Sorin Hall. As an elementary student, an endless buffet was very appealing. I also remember working on special projects with Mrs. Grostephen and going to the university campus for mock trial and swimming.”

Favorite teacher?
“My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Nguyen. She taught me many things about integrity and working hard. She was a good teacher because she knew when it was time to learn and when it was time to let kids be kids.”

Why Hamline University?
“I chose Hamline University because it’s close home, has a small but close community, and of course going to Hancock allowed me to spend quite a bit of time on campus which made important connections to me as an adolescent. So far, my experience at Hamline has been wonderful. Both the staff and my fellow students are very open and inviting which just builds such a great community. “

As a former Hamline (Hancock) Elementary student, Joe applied for and received the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration Scholarship. Only students who have attended the school and are planning to attend Hamline University are eligible. You can learn more about this scholarship and the partnership between Hamline University and Hamline Elementary at www.hamline.edu/offices/wesley/hamline-to-hamline-collaboration.

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Como Area Crime Grid for 2017

Como Community Council Corner

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

How much state fair history do you remember?
The ongoing history of the Minnesota State Fair kicks off District 10’s 2018 Sunday Series on Feb. 25. State Fair director Jerry Hammer picks up where he left off last year: He’ll share forgotten photos, facts, and stories about the Fair from the last 100 years or so—from 1920 until today.

The free presentation is Feb. 25, 1-2:30pm, in the Newman-Benson Chapel at Lyngblomsten, 1415 Almond Ave.

You can also put these upcoming Sunday Series presentations on your calendar:
• The Next Step: Pedestrian Safety in St. Paul. Drivers continue to run into pedestrians in higher and higher numbers. What will it take to stop that? Fay Simer, the city’s new pedestrian safety advocate, and Sgt. Jeremy Ellison, who leads enforcement efforts in the citywide Stop for Me campaign, lead the discussion. The free presentation is Sun., Mar. 18 from 1-2:30pm.
• Crime Prevention through Landscape Design. Patty Lammers, crime prevention coordinator for the St. Paul Police, gives great advice about where to plant, where not to plant, and what to plant to make yourself, your family and your home safer. The free presentation is Sun., Apr. 15, 1-2:30pm.

O’Reilly negotiates to run Lakeside Pavilion
A team led by veteran Twin Cities restaurateur Matty O’Reilly is in line to take over management of the Como Lakeside Pavilion. O’Reilly proposes to open “Spring Café” in the space previously occupied by Como Dockside and Black Bear Crossings. He is now negotiating lease and management details. City officials continue to project an April start date.

O’Reilly is familiar with the Como neighborhood: he opened Delicata, 1341 Pascal St., in summer 2017. He also is familiar with running a restaurant on park property: he operates the seasonal Red River Kitchen at City House, creatively using a food truck to revitalize a converted barge terminal on St. Paul’s Upper Landing. O’Reilly and his team also operate Republic in Minneapolis’ Dinkytown, and Bar Brigade in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood.

Crime in Como dropped in 2017
Overall crime decreased 4.7 percent in Como in 2017, according to preliminary police data analyzed by District 10. Vandalism, burglaries, and thefts all were down, and there was no increase in assaults. Most notably, the neighborhood saw a sharp drop in auto thefts.

Illustration right: Reported crimes for 2015-2016-2017 in the 12 area grids that make up Como Dist 10. Combined, the area showed a 4.7% decrease in crime.

However, robberies and rapes increased. And, as was the case citywide, reports of gunshots also continued to increase, though not nearly as rapidly as in 2016.

You can find charts and more details on the District 10 website: www.district10comopark.org. The site includes breakdowns on how much crime there was in the individual police “grids” in different parts of the neighborhood.

Looking for relief from State Fair crowds
The Como Community Council is launching a wide-ranging review of possible changes to parking, traffic, and city enforcement activities during the Minnesota State Fair.

The District 10 board approved six areas of action at its Jan. 16 meeting. The district council’s Land Use committee developed the proposals, which are intended to study and limit the impact that State Fair traffic and activities have on the neighborhood.

Exploring the changes would include public meetings and surveys. The review also will require talking with and partnering with neighborhood residents, city staff and elected officials, State Fair management, and a variety of businesses, schools, and other institutions. The proposals would:
• Work with institutions and businesses in and near the neighborhood to make their unused parking lots available as shuttle lots or off-street parking, especially on weekends during the Fair. A survey taken during the 2017 Fair indicates there could be more than 3,000 unused parking spaces available.
• Explore expanding the number of neighborhood streets in which parking is restricted to one side during the Fair. Streets to be considered are those west of Victoria between Larpenteur and Nebraska, and those between Lexington and E. Como Blvd., south of the lake and north of the railroad tracks. Currently, parking is restricted to one side of streets during the Fair in a many other parts of the neighborhood, primarily from Hoyt south and from Chelsea west.
• Explore expanding the existing Parking Overlay District to add all blocks between Hamline, Lexington, Arlington, and Larpenteur. This would allow homeowners to use their lawns for parking during the 12 days of the Fair. The current Overlay District extends roughly from Hoyt on the north, Chelsea on the east, Wynne on the south, and Winston on the west.
• Explore a wide range of traffic-calming tactics on residential streets during the Fair, including temporary speed reductions, speed bumps, barrels, stop signs, and other measures.
• Work with the City of St. Paul to implement universal and reliable enforcement of violations during the Fair, including vending, peddling, and parking.
• Clarify what types of signs and advertising residents, businesses, and institutions can use to promote off-street parking during the Fair.

You can find more details on the District 10 website: www.district10comopark.org.

Board supports 4 of 5 projects
The District 10 Como Community Council voted Jan. 16 to support four of the five infrastructure projects that St. Paul is proposing for the intersection of Como, Front, and Dale. The projects are part of a $350,000 Commercial Vitality Zone initiative that the City Council authorized in 2015.

The District 10 board voted to support:
• Painting higher-visibility crosswalks in all current locations, and painting stop bars ahead of the crosswalks, in hopes of discouraging drivers from encroaching on the crosswalks
• Painting green lane extensions across the intersection for the Como Ave. bike lanes
• Installing landscaping
• Moving the bus stop on northbound Dale from in front of the strip mall to the south side of the intersection (in front of John’s Pizza Café)

The board did not support a proposal to eliminate the dedicated right-turn lane from southbound Como to westbound Front. That proposal would replace the lane by expanding the existing pedestrian island and shortening the crosswalk on Como.

The board’s actions came after it conducted an online survey that received more than 525 responses. Details of the survey results and the proposed infrastructure projects can be found on the District 10 website: www.district10comopark.org.

Upcoming District 10 meetings
• Como Community Council Monthly Meeting: Tues., Feb. 20
• Environment Committee: Wed., Feb. 28
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety Committee: Tues., March 6
• Land Use Committee: Wed., March 7

All meetings begin at 7pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton. Community members are always welcome to attend and participate. Whenever possible, agendas are posted in advance in the “Board News” section of District 10’s website.

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Snowstorm left parents worried as their children got stranded

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Ten buses were in minor accidents; 20 buses got stuck—some students ended up being ferried home in police vehicles

By JANE MCCLURE
St. Paul’s biggest snowstorm in several years has St. Paul Public Schools families fuming and school and city officials apologizing. Many students were affected by the Jan. 22 snowstorm, waiting at schools for late buses or stuck in buses on snow-clogged streets. More than 300 pre-K through eighth-grade students didn’t make their trip home until 10pm to midnight. The last children got home after midnight, with some students ferried in St. Paul Police Department vehicles.

Between 50 to 75 special needs students, whom the district transports, were also impacted. The last of those students were home by 10pm. In some cases, bus drivers stopped to get food and water to bring onto the buses.

At Galtier Elementary (1317 Charles Ave.), the last students didn’t leave until about 8:20pm. Teachers Laura Priebe and Darya Fidelman stayed late with the students, who watched a movie until the bus arrived. Principal Sharon Hendrix stayed and answered the phone.
Neighborhood Galtier parent Jacqueline Robinson pulled a sled of treats over for the students. Clayton and Kristin Howatt also assisted and helped push motor vehicles out of the snow.

“It was pretty awesome,” Clayton Howatt said of the neighbors’ efforts to help the stranded children.

But while parents and school faculty and staff stepped up to help in many cases, many parents were left waiting and wondering where their children were. Some parents said that had they known buses would be an hour or more late, they would have headed to schools to pick up their children. But doing so could have meant getting stuck on the way to schools, and then having no one at home when children arrived.

Frantic and angry parents, unable to reach schools and trying to use an inaccurate bus schedule app, have bombarded school officials with calls and emails. Many are praising bus drivers, and school faculty and staff who stayed into the night at schools with their children. They lay blame on district administrators and the School Board and are demanding changes in communication and in snow day policies.

St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard and Mayor Melvin Carter III apologized at a Jan. 23 press conference. Gothard said that when the decision had to be made at 5am Monday whether to close schools, the forecast called for six to eight inches of snow in St. Paul. Instead, more than a foot of snow fell as the storm tracked north. The heaviest snow was falling when schools were being dismissed. By midnight Jan. 22, the snowfall total at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was 12.4 inches.

Gothard said that knowing what he knows now, he would have “definitely” made a different decision as to whether to close schools. “It breaks my heart that this happened.”

By 10am January 22, St. Paul announced that schools would close early. That wasn’t time for school buses, which typically pick up children at 2, 3 and 4pm. While the first buses were on time, about 400 of the 3 and 4pm buses were running late. Ten buses were in accidents, and another 20 got stuck.

Thomas Berg, transportation director for St. Paul Public Schools, said Jan. 22 was the most challenging day of his career. “We were somewhat overwhelmed by the situation.”

As problems worsened during the evening, school district officials reached out to the city for help, with snowplows and police deployed where needed. Carter himself visited Farnsworth Elementary in Payne-Phalen neighborhood and Wellstone Elementary in the North End. At Farnsworth, the mayor helped shovel out a bus.

Michelle Lyn Peterson’s two children were more than two hours’ late getting home from Capitol Hill Elementary. Their bus ride is usually 45 minutes. She lives in Como neighborhood, and the children’s father lives on the East Side. While she typically doesn’t approve of her son having his cell phone at school, Peterson said she was glad he could call her, and help other students contact their parents.

Peterson said she’s proud of the way Capitol Hill students responded, with older students looking out for younger students on the bus. “While it was a really unfortunate event for many, we sometimes forget that our kids are amazing, caring and resilient individuals.”

But if the snow storm was a time of stress and struggle, it was also one where many people looked for each other, something Carter cited at the press conference.

For most parents, the issue is communication, which is being looked at closely. Berg said that while the buses have GPS systems, those aren’t always accurate. Bus drivers are supposed to call their dispatchers, who then call the school personnel to update the bus app. That wasn’t possible in the weather conditions as driver struggled through heavy snow.

The school district works with nine bus companies.

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Como High Blades Team

Como Park HIgh School: Debate to State, Cadets in Service, fundraisers and Winter activities

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• For the second consecutive season, Como debate partners Stephen Boler and Jackson Kerr qualified for the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) State Debate Tournament. After placing second in the Section 4 meet during the first weekend of January, Boler and Kerr advanced to state competition at the University of Minnesota on Jan. 12 and 13.

The policy issue for debate this season was a resolution about public education and potentially increasing funding and regulation. Students were required to develop affirmative and negative arguments in preparation for 90-minute debates. Which side a team defends is based on a coin flip just before the debate. Presentations are made, cross-examinations occur, and rebuttals are offered. Judges evaluate the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the constructs, and a winner is determined.

Boler and Kerr, both seniors, appreciate the intensity and rigor of the state meet. They finished 18th in the state overall after pulling out a win against a Roseville team. More than their section medals and trophy, the debaters value the critical thinking skills and opportunity to examine public policy from multiple perspectives.

Juniors Henry Hansen and Peter Schik finished 7th in the Section 4 meet, earning honorable mention. They qualified for state as sophomores and are excited for another opportunity in 2018-19, along with five other returners. The Como debate team is coached by teacher Deb Hansmeier and assisted by Como alum Ian Johnson.

• Cadets from the Marine JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) at Como continued their community service projects over winter break and into January. Over the holiday, the cadets coordinated a Toys for Tots campaign that brought joy to hundreds of kids and families in the area.

50 cadets volunteered to help run activities and lend support to students and families at Crossroads Elementary at their school carnival on Jan. 12 (Photo right submitted). The carnival raises a significant amount of funding to support the Crossroads’ 4th-grade summer camping trip. Sergeant Major James Kirkland says that the spirit and service of giving back to the community is a critical element of the JROTC program at Como.

• All community members that enjoy an occasional meal at Chipotle are invited and encouraged to dine-in or take-out from the Rosedale Chipotle on Tues., Feb. 13 between 4 and 8pm. If customers tell the cashier they are supporting the Como Park Close Up Trip, 50% of the order price will go to support Como’s annual field trip to Washington D.C. and help students participate in the national Close Up program!

• Winterfest Spirit Week at Como is scheduled for the week of Feb. 12-16. Thematic dress-up days will be held all week and the coronation of the Winterfest Royalty will take place on Friday at the end of the school day in conjunction with a Pep Fest. Spirit Week concludes with the Winterfest Dance on Saturday evening, Feb. 17.

• Como’s next monthly parent seminar will be “Parenting in the Digital Age” on Tues., Feb. 27 from 5:30-8pm at the school. Parents will have an opportunity to discuss challenges of teens and technology while utilizing resources and developing strategies to help navigate the complexities of modern-day communications.

• Believe it or not, planning for the Class of 2018 graduation party is already underway! On Wed., June 6 after the graduation ceremony downtown at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Como seniors will be invited to attend the annual all-night party to celebrate their accomplishments together as a class in a memorable, fun and safe environment.

If parents or community members are interested in helping, please join the next planning meeting on Feb. 21 at 6:30pm. The Como Park Booster Club that sponsors the event welcomes creative ideas, construction skills, raffle prizes and any help or support that you’re able to provide. Any questions or interest can be directed via email to comoparkboosterclub@gmail.com, or by attending the Grad Party Committee meeting on the 21st.

• With a committed and continual effort to raise money in support of Como student activities, the Como Park Booster Club is once again proud to announce that the annual Urban Growler Fundraiser is set for Sun., Mar. 11 from 4-8pm. The event is an annual, festive get-together for all those that want to help Como and enjoy some time in a renowned St. Paul taproom with good food. For more information, tickets, or volunteering, contact Ann Commers at acommers@msn.com.

• Andrayah Adams, a sophomore studying and playing on a basketball scholarship at St. John’s University in New York, returned to the Como Park Gymnasium on Feb. 5 to have her #15 jersey retired at halftime of the Cougars’ game. Adams scored over 3,000 points in her career at Como while leading the Cougars to their first two city titles. In her senior year, she led the girls’ team to the 2016 state basketball tournament.

Adams is currently a top scorer for the Red Storm, averaging 11 points a game. She is working towards her degree in Sports Management. The jersey retirement was set to include tributes from her coaches, family, and former teammates. Look for photos and a story in the next edition of the Monitor.

• The St. Paul Blades girls’ hockey team (photo left provided), which is the cooperative team for the St. Paul Public Schools, played the evening finale of a four-game series on Jan. 13 outside at the North Dale Rec Center. Teams from across the state descended upon the Como neighborhood for a fun, well-organized, uniquely Minnesotan event hosted by the Friends of Como Area (FOCA) boosters.

The Blades are an extremely young team this season. The girls from different schools have come together to improve and develop their skills while promoting the game of hockey to young girls throughout St. Paul. The Blades volunteer and coach at local rinks with youth teams throughout the season.

The Blades’ new home rink is the Oscar Johnson Arena off Snelling Ave. They are grateful for the space and their own locker room on site. Four of the Blades attend Como including junior captain Gianna Gabrielli, junior Isabelle Hoppe, sophomore Anisa Smith and freshman Emilie Hanson.

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Stadium construction signage

Development Roundup

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE

Sign variance at the stadium?
Minnesota United FC’s sign variance request for Allianz Field has been sidelined. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) sent the matter back to the drawing board Jan. 29. The BZA was poised to act on more than 4,000 sq ft of temporary and permanent signage above and beyond what city regulations allow. That’s a huge variance over what is typically allowed.

But on the advice of Assistant City Attorney Peter Warner, the BZA laid over the variance request, most likely until mid to late February. The board is asking that Minnesota United and Mortenson Construction sort out how much signage is temporary and how much is permanent, with the goal of separating those variance requests. The application before the BZA was sent back for more work.

Two different issues are being considered. The zoning code allows for up to 1,987.5 sq ft of permanent signage on the stadium property. The request is for 3,187.5 sq ft, for a variance of 1,200 sq ft. The team representatives contend a large amount of signage is needed for a building with multiple entrances.

Another issue to be considered is how much signage two future buildings along Snelling Ave. will need. If the soccer stadium is allowed to get a sign variance, Warner said future buildings will be limited in how much sign space they can have, or the stadium would have to lose signage that is already installed.

“When those buildings are developed, they’ll need signs,” he said. “It sounds like we’ve got a moving target here.”

Photo right: Just one of the signs that designate the stadum construction zone. There are 250 sq ft of signage allowed, but at one point, there was 3,237 sq ft on site—almost 13 times more than permitted by zoning. (Photo by James Burger)

Then there is the temporary signage, which went up last year without a variance. It is the subject of the second variance request. Jerome Benner II of the BZA staff said the variance would legalize the temporary signs.

Up to 250 sq ft of temporary signage is allowed in St. Paul, to typically identify a real estate agent and contractor. But 3,237 sq ft of signage went up at Allianz Field, requiring a variance of 2,987 sq ft. These signs are to come down once the stadium is completed.

BZA members said they need more information before they can act.

Under state law, a zoning request has to be acted on within 60 days. Otherwise, it is automatically approved. In this case, the deadline for action is Mar. 8. Only an agreement between the applicants and the city can extend the deadline beyond that.

Capital maintenance spending
Spending almost $3 million for St. Paul’s capital maintenance needs in 2018-2019 may sound impressive—until the $6.3 million in requests not met is looked at. St. Paul’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) Committee voted Jan. 8 to recommend 46 projects to the City Council for approval. More than 80 projects missed the cut.

How to better fund capital maintenance and keep up with needs to repair city buildings and facilities is an issue in the ongoing redesign of St. Paul’s biennial capital project review and approval process. One frustration raised in recent years by the CIB Committee is what committee members see as a lack of maintenance for some city facilities.
“Capital maintenance is obviously a very important part of what we do,” said CIB Committee Chairman Noel Nix.

The committee is recommending $1.5 million in projects in 2018 and $1.498 million in 2019.

After the capital maintenance list wins approval from the City Council, most of the improvements won’t be visible or prominent to the public. A task force of CIB Committee members met with city staff to review the 2018-2019 requests. The group had several meetings to review the proposals, said CIB Committee Chairman Noel Nix. Proposals this time around were limited to a maximum request of $200,000 per request. A few requests had to be trimmed to meet that threshold.

The Departments of Safety and Inspections (DSI), Parks and Recreation Police, Fire and Public Works submitted proposals. For Public Works, the requests are limited to facilities and don’t include streets or bridges.

The parks department used a recent asset study, by the Ameresco consulting firm, to help develop its list. Studies of other city department capital needs and assets were completed after the 2018-2019 maintenance project requests were due, but will be used in future capital maintenance reviews.

Requests ranged from one proposal from DSI (new doors for the animal control building $21,598) to more than 80 proposals from Parks and Recreation. Each department had to rank its own proposals. Como Golf Course had one of the largest requests recommended, at $150,000 for new heating, ventilating and air conditioning. Smaller sums go toward zoo facilities for polar bears and large cats, and a sprinkler system for the carousel. Alas, the hooved animals or “hoof stock” and the frogs in the Como pond didn’t have maintenance requests met.

Grants awarded for projects
More than $10 million in Livable Communities grants were awarded by the Metropolitan Council in January. The grants are for Twin Cities communities for brownfield clean up and mixed-use and innovative development that connects Minnesotans with jobs, school, transit, and other services and destinations.

“For more than two decades, the Livable Communities Grant Program has turned polluted land across the Twin Cities into fertile ground for economic growth and opportunity and invested in our local communities,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement. “These 2018 grants will create more than 2,100 jobs and support the development of more than 1,500 new units of housing.”

Grants are awarded competitively. Applicants are local units of government that participate in the Livable Communities program. One area project, near University and Victoria, is the Ain Dah Yung housing project for Native American youth. The project was awarded $350,000.
The St. Paul City Council in January accepted additional Metropolitan Council funding of $1.45 million for the Neighborhood Development Center’s mixed-use project at the northwest corner of Dale St. and University Ave. The project involves the demolition of building sites and use a vacant lot that was occupied for years by a church.

Mixed-use development eyed in West Midway
A mixed-use commercial-residential development is on the drawing boards for the West Midway, at 2103 Wabash St. Superior LLC has filed a conditional use permit with the city that is needed to change the mix of commercial/residential. The first-floor mix is supposed to be 80 percent commercial and 20 percent residential. Superior wants 10 percent commercial and 90 percent residential on the first floor. Commercial space would be located on the Montgomery St. side.

The property is zoned industrial and occupies the entire block face of Wabash from Montgomery to Myrtle Ave. The developers wish to covert the building from industrial to mixed use. It is zoned for industrial use and is in an area where other industrial buildings have undergone conversions for new uses.

The tentative public hearing before the Planning Commission Zoning Committee is Feb. 15 at City Hall.

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