Archive | December, 2012


Fall 2012 Como Curb Cleanup results show record turnout in Como Park

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

October 13th through October 21st Como residents turned out in record numbers to take part in the Como Curb Cleanup. The results for Fall 2012’s effort: 1,290 bags! This is nearly double the record from Fall 2011 of 671 bags. Thank you, Como neighbors!

The Como Curb Cleanup is an annual, community-wide effort to clean up leaves and other organic debris from curbs and street gutters. In doing this, residents prevent phosphorus from leaching out of the leaves, as stormwater flows through them, and into storm sewers that drain to Como Lake and the Mississippi River. Como Lake is already degraded due to excessive phosphorus concentrations.

This year we determined, on average, a ‘bag’ contained 9 pounds of dry leaf litter. Multiply this by 1,290 and we come up with 11, 610 pounds of leaves removed from our street gutters.

The Como Lake Neighbor Network is now working with the University of Minnesota, Capitol Region Watershed District, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to come up with a close approximation of how many pounds of phosphorus our one-week effort prevented from entering our local waters. We plan to share this number at CLNN.org sometime in early December.

These results are remarkable. They demonstrate how much Como neighbors value Como Lake. And they demonstrate the pollution prevention impact we can have as a community when we work collaboratively towards a shared goal. These results also demonstrate the willingness of Como citizens to work in partnership with local government in restoring Como Lake to a healthy, stable condition.

We are now gathering feedback about this year’s cleanup and ideas to make next year’s effort even better. If you are a Como resident who participated in the effort, please go to CLNN.org to complete an online survey. Or you can send an email to janna@watercircles.org or call 651-261-7416.

We also want to thank our many partners who provided critical collaboration and support for this project. We especially want to thank Capitol Region Watershed District for providing generous grant funding. Our list of partners grows every year.

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Hamline hosts six week baseball camp

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

Hamline University is hosting a six week baseball camp starting January 12. Hamline head coach Jim Weyandt will direct the program in conjunction with U.S. Baseball Academy. Classes are available for players in grades 1-12 and are limited to six players per coach. Sessions are offered in advanced hitting, pitching, catching, fielding and base running at a cost as low as $99 for six weeks. Proceeds from the program will benefit amateur baseball in the St. Paul area. Space is limited. Registration is now under way. For more information, visit www.USBaseballAcademy.com, or call toll-free 866-622-4487.

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Kids and families are invited to Jehovah

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

Low-income families can buy donated gifts for children at $5 or less at Central Baptist Church, 420 Roy St., from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, kids and families are invited to fun and festivities at two free Advent events — Wednesday, Dec. 12, and Sunday, Dec. 16 — at Jehovah Lutheran Church, 1566 Thomas.

From 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, kids age kindergarten to grade five are invited to an Advent-activities evening.

Then from 3:30-5 p.m. on Sunday at Jehovah Lutheran, December 16, Family Advent Night will feature special Advent crafts and activities. Families are welcome to stay and participate or to shop at the nearby Central Baptist event and then pick up kids.

All are welcome to stay for The Alley’s regular supper at 5 p.m. and worship at 5:45 p.m., both at Jehovah Lutheran.

The events are hosted by Central Baptist and also by The Alley and Jehovah Lutheran, partners in ministry at 1566 Thomas.

To shop, please register by e-mailing doug@thealley.org or calling Michele at Central Child Care, 651-646-2846.

Donations of toys or electronics for children up to age 18 are welcome through Dec. 10.

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Diabetes prevention program starts soon

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

Change today for a healthier future, register for the Diabetes Prevention Program offered by the Midway Midway YMCA. A new program starts Wednesday, December 12, 6:30 p.m.

People who are at greatest risk for diabetes are overweight with a body mass index greater than 25 and have two or more of the following risk factors: high cholesterol, blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, physical activity less than two times per week, parent or sibling with diabetes, and/or 45 years of age or older. The good news is that you can prevent diabetes with a few changes to your lifestyle and this program can help.

The Program is a full year long, 16 weekly sessions followed by 8 monthly sessions, using a group-based lifestyle intervention designed especially for people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is based on the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which showed that with lifestyle changes and modest weight reduction, a person with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by 58 percent. For information on fees and registration call 612-465-0489 or check the website, www.ydpp.org .

The Y promotes youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

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Como Planetarium transforming visitors one ‘galaxy’ at a time

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

John Iverson has been director of the Como Planetarium for a little over a year. The traditional star ball from 1975 is still in place, but there are also new computer programs that have made the planetarium experience much richer than in the past. The planetarium is located at 780 Wheelock as an addition to Como Park Elementary School. (Photo by Jan Willms)


It may be a gray, hazy and cloudy winter day outside, but step into the Como Planetarium at 780 Wheelock and your world can be transformed into a star-filled December night or a visit through the galaxy or even a program of Mayan Prophecies.

Many Como residents may not realize that since 1975, a planetarium has graced their neighborhood. Built as an addition to the Como Park Elementary School, the planetarium offers presentations to the public as well as students, with enhanced technology providing an ever-greater selection of cosmic choices.

John Iverson has been director of the planetarium for a little over a year. The traditional star ball from 1975 is still in place, but he said new computer programs have made the planetarium experience much richer than in the past.

“Several years ago we began moving toward immersive video and an immersive learning environment,” Iverson explained. “Images from the computer program in the back of the planetarium allow us to visit the planets and fly around the galaxy.”

As he speaks, Iverson dims the lights and the dome of the planetarium, which seats about 60 people, comes to life. Iverson points out constellations and stars, describing the images in detail. He is able to visualize a winter night’s sky in St. Paul. The projector connects to a computer, which reflects the visuals on a 30-foot diameter dome.

He slips in another program, and the planetarium is transformed into the galaxy. Iverson is able to pinpoint specific highpoints of the galaxy, such as the Milky Way. He can zero in on various planets, viewing them from a distance or focusing on the surface of Jupiter or Mars.

“We serve basically three populations,” Iverson said. These are St. Paul Public School (SPPS) District students, kids outside the district and the public. He said a large number of SPPS students come through the planetarium, observing and participating in programs regarding space.

“We show animations above their heads,” he noted. The children are given clickers and they can click on choices of A, B or C to select which animation makes the most sense.

“We do a pre-assessment, class time and post-assessment part,” he said. “The kids love the assessment piece.” As an example, the class might learn about the sun in winter. The program is geared to 3rd graders.

Fifth grade science classes come down to the planetarium to prepare for their science MCA tests. “Ideally, all fifth graders in the district are coming in,” Iverson said. “The planetarium is open to all grades in St. Paul K-12, but 1st, 3rd and 5th grades are targeted,”

Many students from outside the district come in for programs, as well, with the cost of the programs and their transportation covered by their particular school district.

“A lot of our public programs are on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m., with a $5 charge,” Iverson detailed. He said that he, David Hahn and Andre Phillips present the programs to the students and public.

“David is passionate about astronomy, and Andre also has a background in astronomy,” Iverson said. “Both have worked with the Bell Museum.” Iverson has a background in film production, which provides a perfect fit for the computerized video immersions that are offered.

He said the staff has also worked with Parke Kunkle, who teaches astronomy at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Kunkle brought a former student of his, Maude Hixon, who is a jazz singer, into the picture. She and musician Dean McGraw play songs from the 40s, such as “Fly Me to the Moon,” as background to some of the public productions. “The images on the ceiling relate to the songs they perform,” Iverson said.

He said the public programs are offered at both introductory levels and at a more advanced level for astronomy enthusiasts. One of the programs offered to younger viewers is “Dinosaur Passage to Pangaea,” which shows the concepts of continental drift. “We have stop motion animation,” he said. “Elementary kids and their families can learn about the concepts of earth science.”

Iverson emphasized that the planetarium wants to take programming beyond astronomy. As well as the scheduled Tuesday and Thursday presentations, groups can select an hour-long program for their enjoyment.

“For example, one group is having a 12-12-12 party here on Dec. 12, to learn about the 12 signs of the Zodiac,” he said.

For the holiday season, the planetarium is presenting the Season of Light. Half of the program is an animated movie, and half of it is looking at night constellations at this time of year.

“With our newer technology, we can show what a night sky would look like six months from now,” Iverson explained. “Many of our images are formed from space missions and NASA data gathering, also.”

He said the University of Minnesota is working on a program that offers an interactive tour of the heart.

“Planetariums are not just for astronomy anymore,” Iverson said.

Although more than 20,000 passed through the doors of the planetarium last year, Iverson hopes this gem in the Como neighborhood becomes even better known.

“We had a full house at one of our recent programs, but when we asked the audience, only 4 out of 60 knew we were here,” Iverson said.

To learn more about what Como Planetarium has to offer, its hours and programs, visit planetarium.spps.org.

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South Como residents discuss possibility to secede from District 6

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

Which district council should represent the South Como neighborhood is the topic of a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, January 9 at the Como Lakeside Pavilion. As the Monitor went to press the Como Community Council (District 10) and District 6 (North End-South Como) Planning Council were discussing ground rules for the meeting.


Texas isn’t the only place wanting to secede. Which district council should represent the South Como neighborhood is the topic of a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, January 9 at the Como Lakeside Pavilion. As the Monitor went to press the Como Community Council (District 10) and District 6 (North End-South Como) Planning Council were discussing ground rules for the meeting.

One sticking point may be how residents weigh in and what percentage needs to seek a change. A number of District 6 leaders want people to vote in-person, not electronically, noting that not everyone has computer access. Any change would have to be voted on by the district councils and approved by the City Council.

The issue is not a new one. Some South Como residents contend their interests would be better served by District 10. Others have claimed that being in District 6 negatively affects their property values, although that is in dispute. Both District 6 and District 10 board members oppose making changes and have conveyed those sentiments to city officials, including Ward 5 Council Member Amy Brendmoen. But Brendmoen has asked that the councils meet with South Como residents. Brendmoen also asked St. Paul Planning and Economic Development (PED) staff to research the issue of boundaries for the two districts.

Brendmoen said the boundary issue is something that came up when she was campaigning and that she is responding to constituents’ requests. Residents have said they feel their interests are more geographically tied to Como than to the North End.

But a change could have financial implications for District 6, which could lose 10 to 15 percent of its city funding. Funding is based on population, ethnic diversity, employment and poverty levels. The city is currently using 2010 Census data to make recommendations for 2013.

District 10, because of its small size and low poverty rate, wouldn’t get additional funding if South Como became part of its district.

What frustrates District 6 volunteers is that they haven’t heard directly from any residents who claim to want to secede from District 6. Although District 6 has many good volunteers, board and committee members from South Como, board members said there is always room for more. Board and Land Use Task Force Members said they have worked hard to be responsive to South Como issues, but when people don’t bring concerns forward, it’s hard for the council to know what the issues are.

“We would like to get more South Como people to be involved,” said District 6 Land Use Task Force Member Ronna Woolery. “We don’t hear anything and then this comes out of the blue.”

District 10, for its part, would like the boundaries to remain as they are. One reason for that is because the current configuration gives Como Park itself two councils and not one to advocate on park needs and issues.

Yet another concern, raised by District 6 Board President Ray Andreason, is that changing boundaries could set a precedent for the entire city. “I think we have to be mindful that this could set a precedent, that if people are unhappy with their council, they can ask to opt out.”

When the district council system was established in 1975, city officials and neighborhood residents used different factors to set boundaries – including areas covered by existing neighborhood associations, and physical barriers such as the river, bluffs and freeways. In St. Paul’s history, only two neighborhoods have successfully moved from one district council to another. In 1982, a neighborhood near West Seventh Street asked to opt out of District 15 Highland Park and into District 9 West Seventh Fort Road Federation. Residents were surveyed, both councils agreed to the change and it was adopted by City Council resolution.

In the late 1970s what was Southwest Area District Council (SWAD) split and became what are now Highland District Council and Macalester-Groveland Community Council. The size of SWAD and the number of issues that such a large council had to address were among concerns at that time.

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City Hall modifies Love Doctor’s sign request

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

Troy DeCorsey, owner of The Love Doctor, has indicated that the modified sign variance approved by the City of St. Paul might be too small to meet the store’s need to be more visible. He sought a projecting sign of 25 square feet; the BZA approved a variance for a sign of 20.5 square feet. (Photo by Stefanie Berres)


Despite modifications to and approval of a sign variance request, The Love Doctor isn’t feeling the love at City Hall. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) will vote December 10 on a modified sign variance for the adult novelty business at 1607 University Av. The BZA gave preliminary approval November 26 to a projecting sign, on a 4-1 vote.

Troy DeCorsey, owner of The Love Doctor, said the modified sign variance might be too small to meet the store’s need to be more visible. He sought a projecting sign of 25 square feet; the BZA approved a variance for a sign of 20.5 square feet.

“I appreciate the effort but I probably will have to file an appeal with the City Council,” he said after the BZA vote. DeCorsey will check with his sign contractor to see what the sign as approved would look like.

The Love Doctor has lost 58 percent of its business during construction of the Central Corridor light rail line, DeCorsey said. The store has lost on-street parking as a result of rail construction. Eastbound University Avenue motorists can only see the business thanks to a rooftop sign. Otherwise, the Snelling station blocks the storefront from view.

“Light rail has definitely done damage to our business,” he said.

The sign request is also part of an effort to change the store’s image and reflect how the business has evolved since it opened eight years ago, said DeCorsey. The original sign over the door, which describes The Love Doctor as an adult superstore, would be removed. “We’re not an adult bookstore. We’ve become more of a boutique for women,” he said. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to improve and change the store. “I’m just trying to clean it up and make it look nice.”

The proposed sign would state: “The Love Doctor your Prescription for passion.”

On University between Snelling Avenue and Fry Street, about half a dozen businesses already have projecting signs. Those signs, all of which are now nonconforming uses, block the view of The Love Doctor. DeCorsey said the sign he would be allowed to have is too small.

No one appeared at the BZA hearing to speak against the variance. The Hamline-Midway Coalition sent a letter in opposition. Coalition Executive Director Michael Jon Olson said that in the district council’s view, The Love Doctor hasn’t demonstrated any particular hardship or other circumstances that would necessitate a sign larger than sign regulations allow.

“The hardship claims made by the applicant all pertain to the LRT line and related street construction,” said Olson. “If this variance request were to be approved, it would establish a problematic precedence for the entire (Central Corridor.) Any future requests for larger signs, projecting further over the public sidewalk than permitted by code could not reasonably be denied by the city.”

“The Hamline-Midway Coalition has a problem with anything we do with the store,” DeCorsey said.

City zoning staff recommended denial of the variances, saying the variances requested aren’t consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, and that there are no unusual or mitigating circumstances that warrant variances. City sign regulations limit the size of projecting signs to 16 square feet in a traditional neighborhoods zoning district, which is where the Love Doctor is located. Signs can project no more than three feet over the sidewalk. The request is for a 25 square foot sign, which projects four feet over the sidewalk. That’s a sign variance of nine square feet and a projection variance of one foot.

The business is allowed to have 75 square feet of signage, said Zoning Specialist Yaya Diatta. The property currently has 162 square feet of signage, of which 87 square feet is legally nonconforming. The existing 67 square foot sign above the store’s front door would be removed and replaced with the smaller projecting sign.

One issue BZA members raised is that the windows of The Love Doctor are covered with advertising posters. That is no longer allowed by the city, because of concerns about sign clutter and visibility inside a store from the street. But city staff said that isn’t germane to the issue of the projecting sign. DeCorsey noted that the store windows are already blocked by shelving. The current window signs went up before the ordinance was changed and are considered legally nonconforming.

BZA Member Vincent Courtney said it isn’t fair that The Love Doctor lost its right to have a projecting sign due to the zoning change, when adjacent businesses have them. He also noted that neighboring business owners signed a petition in support of DeCorsey’s request.

Having the sign taken down over the door and replaced with a smaller projecting sign will result in a net reduction in signage, Courtney added.

Had the business retained its previous commercial zoning, the sign as requested would be allowed. But the zoning was changed in 2011 from commercial to traditional neighborhoods use as part of a Central Corridor zoning study that affected the entire length of university Avenue. Traditional neighborhoods zoning is more restrictive of signage than commercial zoning is.

“He (DeCorsey) lost his right to have a bigger sign,” Courtney said.

The BZA vote was Courtney, Daniel Ward, Gladys Morton and Buzz Wilson in support, and Gloria Bogen in opposition. Bogen asked if DeCorsey would consider taking down his rooftop sign. But DeCorsey said he wouldn’t as the decision to do that belongs to the property owner.

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Technology Empowerment at Rice St. Library takes aim at digital divide

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

Joe Crowe is one of 30 Community Technology Empowerment Program (CTEP) members who provide computer literacy training to members of the community at a number of profits. Above, Crowe teaches a class at the Rice Street Library at 1011 Rice Street. (Photo by Jan Willms)


Need some help filling out an online application? Want to learn how to attach your resume to an email and send it off to an employer? Want to brush up on your typing skills?

You can learn all of these skills and many more computer programs at the Rice Street Library at 1011 Rice St. The Community Technology Empowerment Program (CTEP), which was started in 2006, is designed to assist in these areas.

“CTEP is an AmeriCorps program that focuses on providing computer literacy training to members of the community at a number of nonprofits,” said Joe Crowe, one of 30 CTEP members in the Twin Cities metro. It is also under the auspices of the St. Paul Neighborhood Network. He said CTEP’s mission is to work towards closing the digital divide.

Other library sites for the program are Rondo, Central and Dayton’s Bluff. Crowe runs a computer lab as well as teaches various computer classes, free to the public, at Rice Street Library.

Crowe said the North Star Digital Literacy (NSDL) Consortium has developed a list of competencies a person would need to master to be considered computer literate.

“Over the last couple of years, a curriculum has been created based on those competencies,” Crowe explained. “The curriculum covers beginning computer, beginning Internet, beginning Email and intro to Word.”

When people complete the classes, they are invited to take a proctored assessment, based on NSDL standards.

“If they get 85 per cent or better correct, they earn a certificate of mastery,” Crowe said. “The NSDL Consortium is working on educating employers about the certificate and its value to them when they are hiring people.”

He also teaches intro to Excel, intro to PowerPoint and is in the process of developing some other classes to teach individuals how to use technology in job search.

“One of the things I am asked to do a lot is to teach people how to upload a resume to a job search site or to attach a resume to an email,” Crowe related.

Crowe, who recently retired as the director of Quality Career Services, a nonprofit agency that works with dislocated workers, uses the website iseek.org to help participants with their job search. The site offers a skills assessment, resume template, occupational descriptions and a chance to find out about wages and the outlook for current jobs.

The computer lab is open 1-3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. People can walk in without an appointment and can get help with resumes, applying online, learning about Word or Excel, or how to set up an email account.

The library provides computers and scheduled classes, although individuals can bring in their own laptops if they wish. For a scheduled class, just call the library reference desk at 651-558-2223 to register.

Crowe said each class is four sessions in different sequences, repeated throughout the year.

“A variety of ages come in for the lab and classes,” he said, “ranging from people in their 20s to people in their 70s. There are a lot of beginners, and we welcome them. We want to help people use the computer, because it is such a part of everyday life.”

He said that about 75 per cent of the people coming in to the lab are jobseekers.

He said CTEP emphasizes direct services to the public. Those providing the services are called members, although the library also identifies Crowe as a technology skills coordinator.

He is self-taught on computers, but used many of the programs he teaches when he was director of a nonprofit.

He said social networking is a possible class that is also being considered.

Participants in the computer lab seemed happy for the services offered through CTEP.

“I really enjoy the lab,” said Vonda Kocisko. “Joe is very good at teaching.”

“He saved my life today,” added Quincy Wright. “He helped me so much with a job application.”


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Chocolat Céleste

Chocolat Céleste

Posted on 05 December 2012 by robwas66

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