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100 Years Young!

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66


Lois Knowles – guest of honor (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)


The “LOIS” banner where guests honored 100-year-old Lois Knowles. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Lois Knowles celebrated  her 100th birthday on Nov. 3 at the Midway YMCA on University Ave. The party room was full of balloons and flowers, four different types of cupcakes baked by YMCA executive director David Dominick, laughter and love. Lois has been going to the YMCA, “since forever,” she said. Apparently that has been long enough to make a lot of friends.

Muriel Hinich, now 82, was 57 when she became a YMCA member. She met Lois in the pool where, Hinich said, “she was swimming like a fish!” Hinich was afraid of the water but, surrounded by her new fit friends, quickly came to enjoy swimming and many other types of exercise.

Director of Healthy Living, Cathy Quinlivan, was scooping up reasonable portions of ice cream for the guests. “Community is less about brick and mortar, and more about relationships,” she commented. Quinlivan also heads up the Active Older Adults Program, to which nearly everyone in the room belongs. “Most of these folks have been coming here for decades, enjoying water fitness, stretch and Silver Sneakers classes together. That builds community.”

BJ Zander, a long-time friend of Lois’s and an artist, had made a 10’ long banner and taped it to the wall. On it she had drawn “LOIS” in gigantic letters. Guests wrote words that began with each letter to describe the guest of honor:

L— light hearted, lovely, luminous;
O — outgoing, oh so gentle, original;
I — inspirational, irresistible, incredible;
S — superb, swimming beauty, sababa (Arabic for awesome)


Lois is greeted by one of her many YMCA pals. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Another friend, Carol Sanders, said that Lois not only exemplifies the qualities people wrote down, but exemplifies them consistently. Consistency matters, in individuals and in organizations.

The Midway YMCA has been a consistent gathering place for members since it opened in 1952. In those early days, the space now dedicated for cardio exercise was a smoking lounge. And no one in St. Paul had even heard of yoga or tai chi. But, time rolls along. As La Donna Keljik, a YMCA member for fifty years said, “The YMCA is a big part of what our lives are all about.” The circle of friends gathered around Lois to help celebrate her 100th birthday was certainly proof of that…­

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Snelling construction project takes aim

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66

After years of headaches over University Ave., now get ready for Snelling construction


Warning and closed signs have been popping up recently near, and on, Snelling Ave. and the I-94 interchange. Get used to seeing them a lot in 2015 as Snelling Ave. will be under construction between Selby Ave. and Pierce Butler Route.

Getting around in area neighborhoods will be challenge next year, as the Snelling Ave. bridge replacement and street reconstruction projects will be underway. Work this fall has already snarled traffic on east-west detours and north-south streets, as motorists have been unable to use the Snelling off and on-ramps.

Snelling between Selby Ave.  and Peirce Butler Route will be under construction from May through November 2015. The project includes the Snelling Ave. bridge over Interstate 94, which will close for three months.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials hope to have the street and the bridge reopened before the start of the 2015 Minnesota State Fair. The project has an estimated $9.5 million cost.

The bridge is currently under lane and ramp restrictions for electrical line work, Kirsten Klein of MnDOT’s public affairs staff said that MnDOT is working to meet with community groups and get the word out about the project. An open house will be held before year’s end.

MnDOT recently sent the St. Paul Department of Public Works its requested detours, which are likely to be Cretin Ave. and Lexington Pkwy.  While there are other north-south routes over and under the freeway, including Fairview, Pascal and Hamline avenues, none of those have full freeway interchanges.

“We know this will have major impacts,” Klein said. MnDOT will work closely with city officials to make sure the impacts are addressed as much as possible.

While the bridge is still considered to be safe, it needs to be replaced, said Klein. It was built in the 1960s when the freeway was built.

Street reconstruction will bring a safer, smoother and longer-lasting Snelling Ave. The street is in a deteriorated condition in places. It will allow for improvements at crosswalks, including new curb cuts in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Drainage improvements will be made.

It will also allow the addition of wider sidewalks on the bridge itself. The bridge will also be more attractive as St. Paul typically adds lantern-style lighting and decorative railings whenever any bridges are rebuilt. This will tie into a current project to make Snelling more walkable.

But it will mean detours, not just for motorists but for those who use public transit. Several bus routes will have to be changed to accommodate the project.

The project will be done in cooperation with Metro Transit and Metropolitan Council as bus stops are rebuilt for the launch of the Snelling bus rapid transit line in late 2015. Bus stops will extend into the street for easier boarding. New, heated stations with ticket kiosks and other amenities will be built. This isn’t part of the $9.5 million street price tag.

Nor is the city’s request for street and bridge improvements included in the project totals. The city wants to add new street lighting, new sidewalks and median landscaping.

Motorists will have to watch for street and land closings next year. Pedestrians will have to be mindful that sidewalks will be closed from time to time. Motorists who use I-94 will have to watch for the weekend when the freeway itself is closed, to allow the bridge deck to be removed. The changes will also affect transit schedules and transit stops, so riders need to watch for updates and changes.

It’s not clear yet how much of the street will be under construction at a time. More will be known as plans are developed and after bids are let.

In September some detours and ramp closures began near the bridge. Xcel Energy has critical sections of its electrical transmission system beneath the bridge. MnDOT recently asked Xcel to relocate the system, which will be moved to a point just east of the bridge. This work involves boring beneath the freeway. According to John Marshall, manager of community relations and economic development for Xcel, the relocation work will be completed by Dec. 23, 2014.

Motorists need to watch for frontage road, ramp and lane closures, Marshall said. He added that Xcel will try to get the work done as quickly as possible.

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“Work is love made visible”

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66


Beverly Frarck working the switchboard, as she has done for 41 years. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Beverly Frarck is living proof of the quote by Kahlil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.” She has worked as a switchboard operator for 41 years, answering the phones and putting people’s minds at ease at the former Midway Hospital site (1700 University Ave. W.) – now part of Health East. Frarck, a spunky blonde with deep brown eyes, is 83 years old and has absolutely no plans to retire from her full time job.

If her boss, switchboard supervisor Kathleen Farrell, could use only one word to describe Frarck, it would be dependable. What else would you call someone who starts their shift every morning at 4:30am, rarely misses a day of work and gives most of her PTO (paid time off) to co-workers in need?

“I love my job because of the people here,” Frarck says.

Considering herself from “the old-fashioned school of switchboard operators,” Frarck applied for the job she has today in 1973. She had raised her five children and was eager to begin work at St. Joseph’s, wearing a crisp, white hospital-issue uniform. Things have changed quite a bit since then! The Health East merger in 1986 combined four very different hospitals: Lutheran St. John’s, Catholic St. Joe’s (Minnesota’s first hospital), Swedish Lutheran Bethesda and Woodwinds Medical Center. Health East aims to respect all religions and traditions. People call the central switchboard, where Frarck works, with questions about all four hospitals, 14 clinics, medical transportation, outpatient/ambulatory services and emergencies.

Switchboard operators do much more than just forward calls. They are really communication coordinators, getting calls to the right places, but also in the right format, so they can be acted on immediately. Speed is of the essence; Frarck estimates she has more than 300 work-related telephone numbers and extensions committed to memory. A two inch thick red manual on her desk contains protocols and codes in every color of the rainbow: Code Blue for heart attack, Code Green for security, Code Pink for baby in distress, etc.

In addition to being fast, Frarck believes it is important to be kind. The switchboard operator is the first point of contact for someone calling Health East. People are often surprised to hear a human voice answer the phone. “Are you for real?” she’s often asked. Frarck’s compassionate style of communication is something she has learned by doing over the years. She especially tries to reach out to sons and daughters calling to inquire about their parents in hospice care. Frarck cared for her own mother during the last month of her struggle with cancer. “Do you have someone there with you?” she always asks them. Frarck understands how it feels to watch a parent die.

St. Joe’s is the only hospital in the Health East system that still broadcasts live prayer, and Frarck is the voice of the 7am prayer, reading it out loud in segments because the public address system can only broadcast in short bits. She’s been reading the same prayers (a different one for each day of the week) for the past 15 years since her predecessor, Sister Florence, died. The sound of her voice is familiar and comforting, as is the sight of her reading wearing her pearl lanyard and angel brooch.

Frarck suffered a heart attack herself 1.5 years ago and was expertly cared for by a team of doctors, all of whom she knew. Her only frustration was that they made her take a whole week off from work. Her health challenges, and those of her husband, make flexibility and patience essential in their marriage of 39 years. Between the two of them, they share 7 children, 15 grand children and 10 great grand children. Frarck goes to cardiac rehab twice a week and can be seen working out vigorously on the tread mill. Greg Urtel, a security officer for Health East, said, “She runs circles around every single one of us. What is her secret?”

To hear Frarck talk, it seems that the secret to her long, happy life is creating a sense of family where ever she goes. She has a large, loving family with her husband Stan, a close-knit group of co-workers, and a real camaraderie with the other patients and their relatives in the dialysis clinic where Stan goes for treatment three days a week. She is a genuine “people-person,” and has been fortunate to find work that supports and rewards that. Recently a man called the switchboard inquiring about his brother. Frarck looked him up in the patient register, and commented that the patient’s birthday and her own were only days apart. The caller was incredulous. “You,” he said, “were born in 1931 and you’re still answering the telephones?”

“That’s right,” Frarck answered calmly. “I’m still here.”

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Local author receives literary awards for children’s book

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66

Conversations with his daughter led to 13-year project to create a children’s book, “When God Was a Little Girl”


What began as conversations between a father and his daughter has resulted in an award-winning book written by Hamline Midway resident David Weiss, who teaches a religion class at Hamline University. The book was recently awarded a nationally recognized 2014 Nautilus Award in the category “Children’s Picture Books (grades 2-6). It has also won a Gold 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Religion and Spirituality.

“When God Was a Little Girl” did not derive from one specific conversation he had with his young daughter, according to Weiss. But, when she was small he told her stories about himself when he was a little boy, and stories about her brother and herself.


Joan Hernandez Lindeman (left) who illustrated the book “When God Was a Little Girl” and author David Weiss (right).

“Eventually, we began to tell more fanciful tales that we made up together, and these were often ‘creation’-themed,” Weiss said. And so a story, depicting God as little girls of different ethnicities, was born.

“The book was first written with my daughter in mind,” he said. “I wanted to offer her an image of God as a five, six or seven-year-old girl.”

“The story is one that I first created back in 2001,” Weiss explained. “The final edited version is 90 per cent of that.”
Weiss said that although he wrote it as a story for his daughter, as he shared it with friends many of them said they thought it would make a great picture book.

“I talked with Joan Hernandez Lindeman, who had been one of my students,” Weiss explained. “She connected with the story immediately, being a strong feminist herself.”

But at the same time she was working as an elementary school teacher, and what she had thought would be a three-year painting of illustrations for the book ended up taking eight years.

“Then we spent close to three years researching and sending the manuscript off,” Weiss said. “When we couldn’t find a publisher, we decided it was an important enough project to us that we would self-publish.”

The two created a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $9,000. “Most of the money came from classmates, former students, family and friends,” Weiss noted. “But at least $1,000 came from friends of friends or people who had just found our Kickstarter page.”

Raising enough to cover all editorial expenses, the book went to press in November 2013.

“With a Kickstarter campaign, you have to offer something to funders, and so by Dec. 6 we had the first 371 copies going out to donors in over 30 different states,” Weiss said.

They have just finished selling out the first printing, and the book is now on its second printing.

Weiss said he described God as female both for his little girl and for feminist reasons. Trained as a theologian, he said he had the opportunity to study feminist theology in school. “My personal beginning place was feminine theology for grown-up women, but when I became the father of a little girl, my question was how do I take this feminine theology with all the big words and theories and explain what that theology would mean for her,” Weiss said. And the book describing God as a little girl who loved to sing and create art projects and use her imagination was the result.

Although written as a children’s book, “When God Was a Little Girl” also appeals to adults.

“I have heard so much from women who wished they had this book as a child,” Weiss said. “Especially women who are 70 or 80 years old and have spent their whole lives swimming against the current. They told me they shed tears of joy and release on reading it.”

Weiss’ role as a theologian expresses his strong belief in diversity and a welcoming God.

“Most of the time the image of God that is brought into politics or public discourse is that of a fist-pounding God who says ‘This is what God has said, and the conversation is over,’” Weiss stated. He said that what he really has tried to capture in his book as well as his classes, and the Adult Ed forums he presides over, is a different way of thinking about God.

He emphasized that the book is a creation story, not literal fact. “It does what myths do best; tell us the truth about the world we live in.”

In the book, Weiss depicts God as creating “humus beings out of humus.” He describes people being created from what is under their feet, showing a kinship with the earth and the need to take care of it.


The artwork for “When God Was a Little Girl” was created by Joan Hernandez Lindeman, a former student of author David Weiss.

The book also shows bunches of human beings, in all shapes and skin colors.

“Diversity has been with us from the very beginning,” Weiss said, “and it is what God considered very good about creation.“

His desire to see religion as a welcoming experience was impressed upon him as a child. “I think as a kid, I was aware that I grew up in a family that had hospitality as a family motto,” he explained. “And as a college senior, I became keenly aware who wasn’t receiving this hospitality, the LGBT population.”

In his work as a “free-lance” theologian, as he calls himself, Weiss has reached out to the LGBT community both in this country and abroad, during recent travels to Uganda.

He said in his Hamline class on intro to religion, he doesn’t teach names, dates and history. But he focuses on religious diversity in the world, and he hopes his students leave the class more religiously literate and knowledgeable.

Weiss said his life is sometimes like a mad dash from one paying project to another, but he could imagine doing other writings, similar to his first children’s book. “I do have another biblically-based picture book in mind,” he said. He also is considering drawing on his family’s history for a book. He writes hymns and blogs, as well.

Winning the Nautilus award for “When God Was a Little Girl” has meant a great deal to Weiss and Lindeman. The award is given to “books that inspire and connect our lives, offering spiritual growth, green values and positive social change.”

Weiss said he hopes the readers of his book can derive a sense of a God they can feel close to and joyfully celebrate. “The book doesn’t pretend to be fact, but the message is one you can really feel good about sharing with a child,” he said.

The book is available online at www.whengodwasalittlegirl.com, HWY North (the new local arts shop at 719 Hamline Ave. N. at the corner of Hamline and Minnehaha) and at Ten Thousand Villages at Grand and Victoria.

NOTE: Weiss will have a book reading on Sat., Dec. 6, at 1pm at the Hamline Church United Methodist, 1514 Englewood Ave. during Hamline Church’s Last Chance Christmas Sale. The book will also be available during the sale: Dec. 6 (9am-3pm) and Dec. 7 (10:30am-2:30pm).

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Public meeting scheduled on Dickerman Park Dec. 4

Public meeting scheduled on Dickerman Park Dec. 4

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66

Public feedback on Dickerman park exceeded 350 comments


Dickereman Park is a 2.4 acre stretch of land along University Ave. which runs for 2 blocks. Hundreds of comments have poured into the committee looking at developing the park, and it is proposed that $3 to $4.4 million be spent to develop the parcel.

One of St. Paul’s most obscure parks may finally get the makeover area residents and business owners have clamored for. But redoing Dickerman Park isn’t likely to have the $12 million price tag envisioned several years ago. Instead, Mayor Chris Coleman is proposing park improvements in the range of $3 to $4.4 million, as one of his 8 to 80 Vitality Projects.

If all goes as planned, park design will take place into 2015, with construction in 2016 and completion in 2017. A community task force began its work on park plans this fall and St. Paul City Council members reviewed the proposal in October.

The park has drawn a lot of public attention and hundreds of online comments and ideas. Design advisory committee members and folks who commented on Open St. Paul have already brought forward 357 comments and ideas, including public art, event and gathering space, play space and potential for year-round use.

It will be the topic of an open house, 6-8pm on Thur., Dec. 4. A location has had not been determined as of press deadline. Check the project website at http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=5517 for details and place. The public can attend and weigh in on ideas for the park and priorities for its redesign.

The city’s 8-80 initiative is inspired by a community development movement that calls for streets, public spaces and amenities to be useful for users ranging from ages 8 to 80. Restructuring of RiverCentre bonds is providing $42.5 million to jump-start major projects. Coleman said that redoing Dickerman Park will provide needed green space along the Green Line light rail route.

“It’s rather invisible at this point,” said Ellen Stewart, Department of Parks and Recreation project manager for the Dickerman Park redesign.

The 2.4 acre park starts at the northeast corner of University and Fairview avenues and extends to Aldine St. A parking lot is on part of the property. Parts of the park appear to be part of the front lawns of Midway businesses.

The park was given to the city in 1909 by the Dickerman Land Company. But it was never developed and for many years wasn’t even included in inventories of park property. In the 1990s members of the Dickerman family asked that the land be properly developed. Several years ago a coalition of groups led by University UNITED and Friends of the Parks and Trails also called for developing the park.

“I was at the last Dickerman Park design meetings,” said Jun-Li Wang, a Hamline-Midway resident who works for Springboard for the Arts and is on the current design advisory committee. “We saw a beautiful award-winning design that would have cost $12 million. And then discussion pretty much ended.”

Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark is a strong proponent of developing the park. He has heard requests to do something with the park since he took office. Stark cites the strong interest in seeing something done with the park as impetus to move ahead.

Design advisory committee members said the space presents many opportunities. Steve Johnson represents Midway Chamber of Commerce on the committee. “It’s a very unique opportunity to build a beautiful and unique park in St. Paul, that could serve businesses as well as residents,” he said.

Adjoining property owners and managers also see potential. Park land has been used by the adjacent Midway YMCA and by charter schools as play space. They spoke for improvements that all can share.

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Art with a capital “A”

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66


Mary Larson, education coordinator, rubbing shoulders with her sculpture, Max Rabitat. Max was made with the help of children (they created the medallions) participating in summer art classes at the Western Sculpture Park in 2009. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Public Art Saint Paul (PASP), a non-profit celebrating its 28th year, partners with the City of St. Paul to produce art for everyone. The organization has prospered through five different mayors, dozens of city council members and some pretty tough economic times.

Christine Podas-Larson is the executive director and one of the original co-founders of PASP. “Our staff are ‘boots on the ground’ people who support whatever our artists need to complete their work. We don’t just hand an artist a check and say good luck!” she said.

Participating artists are encouraged to think big, to bring forward new ideas made from and within the life-sustaining systems of the city. Partnering with PASP, Wing Young Huie’s University Ave. Project exhibited hundreds of large-scale photographs along six miles of this urban thoroughfare in 2010, right smack in the middle of the Midway neighborhood. More than 75 businesses and organizations offered up their store front windows to be part of the gallery. Young Huie’s images revealed the everyday lives of neighborhood residents, and celebrated the faces of this ever-changing community.


Christine Podas-Larson, executive director and co-founder, in front of Public Art Saint Paul at 351 Kellogg Blvd. E. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In 2004, the organization brought their first City Artists in Residence (CAIR) on board. In the beginning, they thought the CAIRs would change every 18 months but the positions quickly became permanent. Although PASP pays the artists’ salaries, their physical offices aren’t located in the artsy Lowertown District. Marcus Young and Amanda Lovelee report to their desks in the Department of Public Works every day, housed in the City Hall Annex. The CAIRs partner across City departments including Parks and Recreation, Planning and Economic Development, Public Works and Libraries.

Artists see and say things differently, and that’s what makes their partnership with the City so vital. For instance, each year St. Paul repairs or replaces about 10 of its more than 1,000 miles of sidewalks. When CAIR Marcus Young was invited in 2008 to go on sidewalk inspection with his public works co-workers, he didn’t see cracks and uneven walking surfaces. He saw a publishing opportunity!

Young envisioned the replacement sidewalks as blank pages of a book waiting to be written. He organized a poetry contest in conjunction with the libraries, and more than 2,000 poems poured in from St. Paul residents. Twenty poems were selected for sidewalk publication that first year. Poetry contests have been held every year since, and more than 750 poem installations have followed the path of sidewalks in need of repair. There are dozens of poems in the Midway and Como neighborhoods. Go out on a literary scavenger hunt to see how many you can find.

While you’re in an adventuring mood, consider hopping on the Light Rail to visit the Western Sculpture Park – a St. Paul treasure many people don’t even know exists. Located on busy Marion St., right across from Sears, it occupies a street that was vacated in the creation of Interstate 94. “Over time, the park became known for drug-dealing and prostitution, and received more calls for police intervention than any other address in Ramsey County,” according to Podas-Larson.

Dan Fix lived in one of the adjoining apartment buildings with his young daughter, and was worried about the crime taking place outside their front door. He finally got the attention of the city when he attended a Mayor’s Design Forum in 1995 and met John Hock – curator of the Franconia Sculpture Park near Taylor’s Falls.

The two put their heads together and, with the help of the City, PASP and generous funders, the idea for an urban sculpture park took shape. Now it’s home to 15 large-scale sculptures so familiar to kids in the neighborhood that many can name them, and most keep a watchful eye. In the 16 years since the park was created, crime has dropped to nearly zero. As Fix predicted years ago, “Give people a positive reason to be in the park, and things will change for the better.”


A sculpture of the famous German writer Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (sentinel of the Lexington Avenue entrance to Como Park) was recently restored by the Stewardship Corps of Public Art Saint Paul. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Every Tuesday afternoon in June, July and August, the park is extra full. Mary Johnson, sculptor and education coordinator, heads up Public Art Saint Paul’s Mobile Art Lab. Disguised as a giant spider, it serves more than 500 kids each summer through its drop-in art making workshops. The Mobile Art Lab rolls into the park at 1pm sharp, and unfolds its giant wings. The workshops are free and open to the public – children of all ages (and addresses) are welcome and no reservations are required.

But, it isn’t enough to acquire works of art, they must be watched over and cared for as well. Johnson also coordinates the Stewardship Corps, a group of dedicated volunteers who do just that for St. Paul’s 30+ works of outdoor sculpture. The sculptures are treated with an anti-graffiti coating, which makes it easier to keep them clean. Twice a year, the stewards give each one a good scrubbing, thanks to hot water transported on-site by the Parks Department.

For more than a hundred years, a sculpture of German writer Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller has presided over the Lexington Ave. entrance to Como Zoo. It was commissioned by St. Paul’s German American community and gifted to the City in 1907. Having braved over a century of Minnesota winters, this cultural treasure has been completely restored by Public Art Saint Paul. Another sculpture graces Como Park, a bronze bust of the famous Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. This sculpture by Jacob Fjelde had deteriorated and in a harrowing tale of intrigue, was stolen from the park.  It was recovered, restored, and reinstalled by Public Art Saint Paul in 1999. For information on either the Mobile Art Lab or joining the Stewardship Corps, contact mary@publicartstpaul.org.

Public Art Saint Paul is helping link the many diverse neighborhoods of the city together with a common aesthetic. They are one of the driving forces behind making art available and present in everyday life for people in the core city. Podas-Larson concludes, “We’re interested in the ripple-effect of public art, not just something pretty or interesting to look at for a few minutes. We want to know, how do art experiences affect people’s lives?”

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New Small Business Association puts community first

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66


Greg Anderson, owner of Greg’s PC Repair and Premium Inks, is one of the members of the newly formed Hamline Midway Small Business Association.

“Local businesses are your neighbors,” says Greg Anderson who owns Greg’s PC Repair and Premium Inks at the corner of Edmund and Snelling avenues in the Hamline Midway neighborhood.

Anderson is one of a growing number of small and home-based business owners banding together around the idea that a mutually supportive small business association focused on improving the surrounding community can help create a more vibrant, sustainable place to live and work for all.

With about a dozen current members, the Hamline Midway Small Business Association represents a growing community of small and locally owned businesses that rely on neighborhood patronage to thrive in the shadow of big box retailers on University Ave.

For Anderson, shopping local means investing in your community. “If neighborhood people support their small local businesses, more of that money will end up being returned into the neighborhood,” he says.

Fostering insular economic activity where money is invested and reinvested within a community can be a powerful tool to build vibrancy and prosperity from within, according to Anderson. Small businesses play an integral role in creating the kind of community people are drawn to, live in, and invest in.

More cars drive down Snelling Ave. than just about any street in St. Paul on a daily basis. Despite the high traffic, businesses along Snelling have struggled in recent years.

“If we don’t support them and local businesses leave, then the neighborhood is just declining,” Anderson says, referencing the recent closure of Hardware Hank at Snelling and Jefferson.

Having a thriving local business scene can help the community in other ways, as well. It can help deter crime, for example, by showing people care about the area. It can help create a vibrant streetscape where more people walk between shops and enjoy public spaces together, which in turn, show those passing by that this is not just an area to travel through.

“We’re all in this together and we all have a vested interest in keeping this community safe and helping it thrive,” says HMSBA member Cheryl Gferer. “It’s about making decisions that aren’t just about what affects me personally or what affects my business individually, but how do my choices affect the people next to me.”

Starting your own business is no simple endeavor, Gferer says. She recently started her own dog training business that specializes in rescue animals and rehabilitation.

“I don’t think there’s anything that can prepare somebody for starting a small business,” she says. “For me, it was really building a small business from the ground up with no business background.”

With questions about things like accounting, legal frameworks, marketing, and payroll, starting your own business can be daunting. Having a supportive community of other small businesses to offer guidance and experience can make a real difference, according to Gferer. The group hopes to be a resource for new small businesses in the area—“a think tank,” of sorts, Anderson calls it.

The Midway Chamber of Commerce is a valuable resource for many businesses in the area, but Anderson says he doesn’t feel it caters to small and independent businesses like his. On top of the dues being a bit high for some small businesses, it can also be hard to make the meetings, which are often held in the middle of the day, when you are the only one running the shop, he says.

“I think [the Midway Chamber of Commerce] is doing an amazing job reaching out to businesses and connecting with businesses, but I think this feels much more grassroots than that, and I definitely see energy building,” Gferer says.

The Small Business Association is off to a rolling start, with plenty of ideas about group marketing, beautification projects on Snelling like Christmas decorations and lights and a regular community event organized by the small businesses.

At this point, the first priority is bringing more businesses into the mix, Anderson says. The group is currently meeting the first Thursday of every month. If you’re interested in joining the Hamline Midway Small Business Association, contact Greg Anderson at gregs_pc_repair@yahoo.com or 651-967-1181.

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66

Community table stretched for half a mile on Victoria St.


The table stretched for six blocks along Victoria St., from University to Minnehaha Ave. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

On Sun., Sept. 14, places were set for 2,000 guests along Victoria St. in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. The community table, and the joy that surrounded it, stretched for half a mile from end to end.
Artist Seitu Jones, in collaboration with Public Art St. Paul, local foundations and countless volunteers, worked  together to create this very special meal. In Jones’s words, “We gather together as beloved community in a work of art. We tell our food stories. We celebrate the bounty of the earth, and the labor of those who bring food from farm to table. We share a meal prepared with love by gifted chefs. We gather in an act of love to intervene in our food system so that all may have access to healthy food and healthy life.”
Over two years ago, Public Art Saint Paul commissioned Jones to do a living work of art that would make a real impact on the community. “CREATE: The Community Meal”  aimed to encourage making healthy food choices and lowering barriers to buying and preparing healthy food. Arising from the Central Corridor Public Art Plan, CREATE illuminated how artists and their collaborators could help transform the urban food system – which is no small undertaking.
CREATE drew its inspiration from Jones’s on-going collection of food stories and spoke of food traditions and rituals of the world’s cultures. This multi-media experience engaged a host of artistic partners:
—Mobile Art Kitchens by Emily Stover
—Handmade paper placemats by Mary Hark & Community
—Spoken Word by TouSaiko Lee, Deeq Abdi, Laurine Chang, Nimo Farah, & Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria with youth of the community
—Poetic grace by G. E. Patterson —Choreography by Ananya Dance Theatre
Jones worked with new immigrant farmers from the Minnesota Food Association, who planned their summer season to grow crops for the community meal. Guided by Melvin Giles, veteran peace and diversity educator, Victoria St. neighbors prepared to host guests for this free event in their neighborhood.
Cooks of Crocus Hill co-owners Marie Dwyer and Karl Benson, along with their staff, were invaluable. Dwyer said, “It felt great to be involved in CREATE from both a food and a community perspective. It was a beautiful day in every way.”
Chef James Baker and his team of 15 cooks made it possible for 2,000 people to sit down at a very large table and enjoy a delicious meal together. He and his wife Alice own the Sunnyside Café and Elite Catering in North Minneapolis. “We’ve had to deal with 500 chickens, 60 cases of collard greens, six cases of cabbage, 40-50 pounds of black beans and 100 pounds of rice,” said chef Baker. Preparing a meal on that scale took a lot of thought and coordination.
Food justice. Transforming the urban food system. Food infrastructure and better access to it. What does all this new language mean? It’s about communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers and animals. Practicing food justice leads to a stronger local food system, a more self-reliant community and a healthier environment. This isn’t something that only the wealthy deserve.
Jones is well-poised to deliver this message. “I’m a visual artist using ceramics, metal, glass and wood.  On a core level, my practice is about social  engagement and creative place-making,” he said.
“I have been exhibiting and creating works of public art for 40 years. I have partnered with Public Art Saint Paul for more than 20 years on projects in Frogtown and the Central Corridor, and am excited about our collaboration to make the food system more visible and accessible,” added Jones.
The sun was shining in Frogtown as the guests streamed in from all directions for the community meal. People seemed to greet strangers and old friends with equal ease.  
“At its heart,” Jones concluded, CREATE was really about love. And as Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us,  the “beloved community” is the basis for a healthy society.”

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Neighbors express frustration over Hamline U. demolitions

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66


Andy Dawkins, current Green Party candidate for Minnesota attorney general, spoke briefly towards the end of the meeting in support of Historic Hamline Village. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

A one-year moratorium on demolition of almost two dozen structures near the Hamline University campus will give university officials, neighborhood residents and city officials more time to review university expansion plans. And, although the fate of 1549 Minnehaha was originally in doubt, it has been learned that Hamline has agreed to add that address to the moratorium list after the meeting.
Lack of information about campus expansion plans, recent building demolitions and notice to neighborhood residents are hot-button issues in Hamline-Midway, drawing about 140 people to Hamline Church United Methodist for a meeting Sept. 17. The ad hoc group, Historic Hamline Village, which is working to put the brakes on the campus plans, invited university officials to outline their next steps.
As the Monitor went to press, Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark was working with neighbors and university officials. Historic Hamline Village hopes to schedule a follow-up meeting.


Russ Stark, 4th Ward Council Member, said the university, which is planning a change in administration, shouldn’t move forward with its plans until new leadership is in place and a new relationship can be forged with the neighbors. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

Stark noted that administrative changes, including a new president, are coming to Hamline University. He said the university shouldn’t move forward with its plans until new leadership is in place and a new relationship can be forged.
“Obviously Hamline University has been an asset to the neighborhood for a very long time,” said Stark. “But we also need to recognize that the neighborhood is also an asset to Hamline University.” He expressed support for the moratorium and said that 1549 Minnehaha should be part of those plans.

Hamline officials made it clear they still wish to expand south to Minnehaha Ave. and west to Pascal St. Some neighbors question why that is needed and why the university is continuing to pursue a 2008 plan. They threw out a number of ideas, ranging from online learning to car sharing to reduce parking needs, to reuse of houses as “honor” houses or language houses.
Doug Anderson, who has since stepped down as Hamline University’s senior vice present and chief financial officer, apologized to those who felt the recent home teardowns were a surprise. But while saying the university is open to a one-year moratorium on 22 other structures, “1549 Minnehaha is a separate topic.” Anderson said the house is in a “significant state of disrepair.” Some neighbors countered that Hamline University neglects properties and then uses that as a reason to tear them down.
Anderson said the 2008 expansion plan was set aside during the recession. He said the campus needs to grow to support its students. Generally, the plans call for added parking in a ramp and new lot, more academic space including fine arts space, and more housing. Plans for the southeast area called for underground parking and a commons at the southwest corner.
One priority need that has been built since 2008 is the new Anderson Student Center at Snelling and Englewood avenues. Plans to “green up” Snelling are also in the works. Anderson said the university does need new housing, as its enrollment is stable.


Doug Anderson spoke to the group as a senior vice president and chief financial officer for Hamline University. He said Hamline needs to expand now that the recession has ended and that their long-term wish and plan is to expand down to Minnehaha Ave. The meeting was one of the last for Anderson, who had planned to step down from his position at HU before the current neighborhood controversy occurred. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

The university also intends to keep two converted houses it owns west of Snelling, said Anderson.
The Sept. 17 meeting grew heated at times. Several neighbors, alumni, students and current and former faculty are angry about the demolition of the White House, the historic president’s house on campus.  When a picture was shown, some in the crowd booed its demolition.
“We have a right to talk about what the impacts on the neighborhood are,” said Tom Goldstein, one of the Historic Hamline Village members. He urged the university to work with neighbors and save, and possibly repurpose, buildings through a series of meetings.
Several neighbors said they cannot trust the university and that they are tired of seeing houses snatched up. Others said it’s concerning to see properties not owned by Hamline identified as future teardowns.
“It’s really insulting to us to hear you need green space when we all know your agenda,” said Diane Novotny. She lives on Pascal and expressed frustration about lack of clarity about plans.


“We have a right to talk about what the impacts on the neighborhood are,” said Tom Goldstein, one of the Historic Hamline Village members. He urged the university to work with neighbors and save, and possibly re-purpose, buildings through a series of meetings. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

“I’m a fan of Hamline University,” said neighbor Alan Ickler. His parents met there. But he is disappointed in how the campus plan is unfolding. “I think this has implications for the economic vitality of the community.”
City Planner Josh Williams explained the city’s role. All of the city’s colleges and universities have conditional use permits that set boundaries, building heights and setbacks, parking requirements and other limitations. While schools can buy property outside of those boundaries and demolish those houses (as Hamline has), uses are limited if properties aren’t within the boundaries.
Williams also noted that in 1997, Hamline University requested a greater expansion than the city would allow.

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Blight hitting apple trees hard

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66


Varieties resistant to apple scab are still holding their fruits and leaves.

Have you been wondering what’s wrong with the apple and crab apple trees around town lately?
Our cool, wet spring contributed mightily to a disease called apple scab. The symptoms of apple scab are as dismal as the name sounds. Susceptible tree crowns thin, with withering leaves dropping rapidly to the ground.
Unlike the fungi involved in most other leaf spot diseases, the apply scab fungus remains active throughout  the season. As long as there is sufficient moisture, new infections multiply quickly, creating an epidemic among susceptible hosts. Susceptible tree species include apple, crabapple, hawthorn and mountain ash.
The apple scab fungus over-winters in leaves that have fallen to the ground. So, to stop the spread of apple scab, it’s important to rake up fallen leaves. Don’t postpone – the time is now! Spores develop during the winter and mature in the spring. Spores are released into the air when it rains, with peak spore release occurring during bloom time. Winds carry the spores to new buds, where a film of water is necessary for successful spore germination. Infection occurs most rapidly when fruits and leaves remain wet for a minimum of 9 hours, and temperatures are between 55° and 75°F.
If spring weather is dry, apple scab will not likely be a problem. During years with especially wet springs, such as the one we’ve just had, entire trees can be defoliated by the end of June.
For home owners, it’s important to note that apple scab doesn’t usually affect the long-term health of trees. So don’t cut the trees down! The disease can cause severe defoliation and a loss of fruit crop. It also can lead to reduced growth, susceptibility to secondary pest problems and sensitivity to winter injury. However, the trees are not likely to die and will recover during years with less rain. Karen Zumach, community forester with the organization Tree Trust says, “With luck and a dryer season next year, the affected trees will come around.”
How to avoid apple scab in future plantings? Apple and crab apple trees are available in a wide range of sizes and colors, so gardeners can choose those that work best for their yard. Be sure to check for susceptibility to fire blight and Japanese beetle, as well as resistance to apple scab, before making a choice. Reputable nursery staff can tell you which varieties are going to best meet these criteria.
If you have a susceptible or infected tree, the best strategy is good, thorough raking. It’s important to rake fallen leaves before they have a chance to dry and break up into bits too small to gather.
Prune or thin your trees during the winter months to maintain open canopies. This will improve air circulation and shorten the time necessary to dry leaf surfaces. Use watering practices that saturate the roots, not the leaves, to promote optimum tree health.
What to do with all those infected leaves you’ll be raking up? According to Audrey Matson, co-owner of Egg Plant Urban Farm Supply (1771 Selby Ave.), home compost piles are the best solution. “Just make sure your compost pile is good and hot, so the spores won’t survive the winter and contaminate your compost,” she says.

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