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Archive | August, 2013

Aug2013Monitor_DistrictTen

Como District 10 appeals to the City for additional funds

Posted on 08 August 2013 by robwas66

As a result of a boundary change, District 10’s population will increase fromabout 11,900 to 15,800. The boundaries will stretch from Snelling to Dale and Larpenteur to the southern-most BNSF Railway tracks.

As a result of a boundary change, District 10’s population will increase from
about 11,900 to 15,800. The boundaries will stretch from Snelling to Dale and Larpenteur to the southern-most BNSF Railway tracks.


By JAN WILLMS

How do you provide services for more people with less funding?

That, in a nutshell, is the quandary facing District 10 as the City enacts a boundary change between Districts 6 and 10. As a result of that change, District 10’s population will increase from about 11,900 to 15,800.

The boundaries will stretch from Snelling to Dale and Larpenteur to the southern-most BNSF Railway tracks (south of Energy Park/Front).

“The level of change and the number of people involved is unprecedented,” said Jon Knox, board chair of District 10.

The District Councils were established in 1975 to provide citizens a role in spending federal urban renewal dollars, debating community issues and getting the word out on issues such as crime and development. Up until now there has been only one important district boundary change. That was in 1982 when some West 7th Street residents opted to leave Highland for the West Seventh district.

The major change in boundaries between Districts 6 and 10 followed public meetings in which groups of South Como residents requested they be redistricted from 6 to 10. These residents claimed they fit better geographically in the Como district, where they could participate in local issues of concern to them.

Many cited a wish to have a voice closer to home about parking, traffic and other issues related to living next to Como Regional Park.

At an earlier meeting held to discuss the potential change, one District 6 resident seemed to sum it all up when she said, “My daily life is more impacted by Como Park than by Rice Street.

Ward 5 Councilmember Amy Brendmoen said she had heard the request for a boundary change from an overwhelming majority of South Como constituents.

The boundary change is scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2014.

It will not result in any more funding for District 10. And therein lies a major concern.

It has been reported that when the change takes place, District 6, which has a population of about 25,000 and an annual budget of $85,000, will lose 3,500 residents and $3,800 in funding. District 10, with a population of about 11,900 and an annual budget of $55,000, will gain residents but no funding because its population will not increase above the city’s minimum funding threshold.

In a letter addressed to Mayor Chris Coleman, Knox expressed his disappointment that the budget proposal for the districts does not reflect the challenges facing the Como Park neighborhood.

“This outcome leaves our neighborhood in a precarious position,” Knox wrote. “It reduces the funding per resident in District 10 by 25% from $4.35 to $3.29 in one fell swoop.”

Knox explained that District 10 is concerned that significant cuts will have to be made in planning work, environmental improvement programs, community engagement activities and crime prevention efforts.

In his letter, he notes that the Mayor’s budget proposal phases in funding cuts for district councils facing a population loss over a three-year period.

“I am asking that you consider placing us in a similar category and consider our proposal to adjust District 10’s funding over three years in order to maintain equity among district councils, allow time for us to adjust our work to the new reality and to seek alternative funding sources for our work,” Knox wrote.

“The City agencies recognize that this has not been a very smooth way to do this boundary change,” Knox said. The City has placed a moratorium on any further boundary changes until the issue can be more fully studied. However, that moratorium does not apply to the changes between Districts 6 and 10.

But the large numbers of District 6 residents requesting a boundary change had an impact, and that change will take place.

Knox said he was also disappointed “that the district was not provided with an opportunity to provide input on this proposal before it was finalized and publicly presented.”

“Our letter is almost a compromise,” he added. “We’re not going to win any argument, but just request a phasing process. I feel our proposal is legitimate and very reasonable.”

District 10 is requesting that it be funded by the city at a rate of $3.90 per resident in 2014, $3.70 per resident in 2015 and $3.55 per resident in 2016. The amount of $3.90 represents the average per resident funding rate of all district councils.

He said District 10 council members plan to meet with Nancy Homans from the Mayor’s office to further discuss the funding.

“There are a lot of things we have to do,” he explained. “We have to change the bylaws and do remapping and reconfiguring.”

Public meetings will be scheduled as these changes take place and additional board members and new volunteers are recruited.

 

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Aug2013Monitor_TroutBrook

Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary the product of years of dedicated community collaboration

Posted on 08 August 2013 by robwas66

Members of the Tri-Area Block Club had long eyed the area east of their homes to earmark for a natural space in the North End. Part of the Trout Brook park area was owned by the prominent Rice family, whose name is on Rice Street and downtown’s Rice Park. But the Rice estate later became part of a larger industrial area.

Members of the Tri-Area Block Club had long eyed the area east of their homes to earmark for a natural space in the North End. Part of the Trout Brook park area was owned by the prominent Rice family, whose name is on Rice Street and downtown’s Rice Park. But the Rice estate later became part of a larger industrial area.


By JANE MCCLURE

In the future, those who enjoy the Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary will see a day lighted stream, restored vegetation, open space and trails. And they will have a dedicated band of neighbors to thank.

The 42-acre park was dedicated in June by city, county and state officials. The dedication marked more than two decades of debate over how the once-industrial area should be redeveloped. The park area is near the Maryland-Jackson intersection and is bordered on the east by Interstate 35E.

The Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary and Regional Trail will open in spring 2015. It will connect the Gateway, Bruce Vento and Trout Brook regional trails and will be a place for biking, hiking and outdoor education. It will be the second-largest natural area in the city.

The firm of HR Green will design the nature sanctuary. The city has sought bids for about $3 million in improvements. Area residents should watch for changes as the old Jackson Auto business and other longtime land uses go away.

The nature preserve will have restrooms and other amenities for visitors but the focus will be on the outdoors. The area’s historic Trout Brook Creek will be day lighted after decades of flowing underground in a storm sewer.

The North End has parks and playgrounds, but neighbors wanted more natural spaces. They had long eyed the area east of their homes. Part of the Trout Brook park area was owned by the prominent Rice family, whose name is on Rice Street and downtown’s Rice Park. That prompted jokes among Tri-Area Block Club members that the name “Rice Park” was already taken. But the Rice estate later became part of a larger industrial area.

“We could write a book about all of the battles we had over how the site should be redeveloped,” said longtime North End resident Linda Jungwirth. She, her husband John and many others in the Tri-Area Block Club worked with elected officials and District 6 Planning Council to keep out less-than-desirable uses and have the area preserved as park land.

Ward Five Council Member Amy Brendmoen, who described the June event as a “reverse groundbreaking,” said that while she and other elected official have helped, the credit for making Trout Brook happen should go to the neighbors. “This is a result of their efforts.”

The block club worked with numerous elected and appointed officials, including three mayors and four Ward Five City Council members, to get the project done. County Commission Janice Rettman is the only local elected official to see the project from start to finish. She credits neighbors with its success, calling them the “Triumphant Trillium Troubadours.”

The property was long known as the Trillium site, named by a former land owner. Although the trillium is a flower, parts of the site needed extensive pollution cleanup so that flowers and native plants could grow there again. Much of it was a railroad yard.

Many developers eyed the site over the past 25 years. One proposal would have placed a bus barn there and sent hundreds of buses rumbling along neighborhood streets. Another idea was for a business that would stockpile and clean contaminated soil, raising fears about pollution. Time and again, the neighborhood organized and held to its vision for a nature preserve.

One argument against development was the peat soils on part of the site. Neighbors can tell visitors that one natural-looking sinkhole on the property is actually a spot where someone years ago tried to put up a large billboard post. The peat wouldn’t cooperate and only the hole remained.

Jungwirth and Rettman noted that it has been a group of about two dozen Tri-Area Block Club volunteers who worked to redevelop the site. One person missed at the groundbreaking was the late Verna Gilson, a longtime North End activist whose quiet determination served as a role model for others.

“I wish she were here to see it happen,” said Jungwirth. “She was my mentor.”

For years the club took its cause to the City Hall/Courthouse and the State Capitol. They worked with four St. Paul City Council members alone. Former Ward Five Council Member Lee Helgen kept maps of the area on his wall all during his years in office, as a reminder to keep the project going. He worked on the land negotiations and efforts to fund the park.

The Tri-Area Block Club wouldn’t let him and others forget. They showed up at Planning Commission meetings to oppose redevelopment and made their case for funding to other groups.

Now that the park is becoming a reality, all agree that the long effort was worth it. “This is the story of neighbors working together and how they can achieve success,” said District 6 Executive Director Kerry Antrim.

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Aug2013Monitor_HamlineDining

Great Minnesota Get-Together also about great local nonprofits

Posted on 08 August 2013 by robwas66

One Midway organization, Hamline Church United Methodist, has had a dining place at the State Fair for 116 years. Above, Elaine Christiansen, Ken Feulner, Monell Jakel, Marge Feulner, and Chef Erik Hendrickson, take a break from the rush of food service at the Fair.

One Midway organization, Hamline Church United Methodist, has had a dining place at the State Fair for 116 years. Above, Elaine Christiansen, Ken Feulner, Monell Jakel, Marge Feulner, and Chef Erik Hendrickson, take a break from the rush of food service at the Fair.


By DEBORAH BROTZ

While people are already buzzing about the 47 new foods offered at this month’s 2013 Minnesota State Fair, most people don’t realize some State Fair vendors are not in it for themselves, but all about raising funds for our neighborhood’s best charities.

One of these groups is the Midway Men’s Club, which gave a $16,000 donation to the City of St. Paul to be used for youth activities around the city. The group raised the money at its concession stand at the State Fair on 1354 Underwood St., where they sell sweet rolls, donuts, hot dogs, hamburgers, Polish sausages, bratwurst, hot dago sandwiches, beer, pop, coffee, milk, and orange juice.

The Midway Men’s Club has had a food stand at the fair since 1960.

“Before that, it was the St. Columba Men’s Club that had that stand,” said Matt Stark, Midway Men’s Club membership secretary. “The parish on Hamline Avenue got a new priest in 1959. The new priest didn’t like the idea of them selling beer at the State Fair. So, they broke off a secular men’s club. We spun off the St. Columba Men’s Club.”

The menu at the club’s stand has not changed very much over the years.Aug2013Monitor_HamlineDiningOld3

“We’ve always done burgers, hot dogs, and brats,” said Stark. “The major change is we started selling Summit Beer. Summit is local. A lot of patrons at the fair kept asking for it. We wanted to keep our customers happy.”

The bulk of the money raised by the Men’s Club goes to youth activities in the neighborhood. The club has given tens of thousands of dollars for children’s activities.

“We support Little League teams and other sports like hockey and basketball,” said Stark. “We also support Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Midway YMCA, and do some after school reading programs. We support a number of programs at local rec centers, Hancock and Griggs.”

The city parks department will use the $16,000 Men’s Club donation for athletic equipment, field trips, special events and classes at seven neighborhood rec centers and two city-wide programs. The group also donates fair proceeds to other city park and rec programs that support sports, as well as the Hamline Branch Library.

Stark says they give to local recreation centers to help neighborhood children.

“It’s just a way for us to make sure our kids have stuff to do outside of school,” he said. “We encourage kids to go outside and play. This makes a big difference to the health of the neighborhood. It’s a way to keep the community and neighborhood strong.”

Being at the State Fair is important to the Men’s Club because it’s their main fund-raiser for the year.

Aug2013Monitor_HamlineDiningOld1While the club is always looking for new members, Stark’s hopes for the club at the State Fair are the same every year.

“We hope for good weather, plenty of big crowds, and plenty of customers,” he said.

Another Midway organization, Hamline Church United Methodist, has had a dining place at the State Fair for 116 years. Their dining hall is at 1667 Dan Patch Ave.

“It’s been in operation since 1897,” said Jan Bajuniemi, a member of the church’s dining hall committee. “We’re the longest continuously operating vendor. There have been a number of different locations. We moved on to the property where we are now in 1944.”

That historical vendor experience was different from now.

“In the very beginning, sandwiches were made at church and taken over to the State Fair in a horse cart to sell,” said Bajuniemi. “The State Fair was such an agricultural event. Most farm people brought their own lunches.”

The church serves much the same thing every year at the fair.

“We have sit-down, hot dinners, hamburgers, wrapped sandwiches, salads, desserts, and a full range of beverages,” said Bajuniemi. “Last year, we added Izzy’s Ice Cream.”

The highest priced menu item, the $9.95 dinners, include an entree of Swedish meatballs, baked chicken, or ham loaf; two sides; and a bread choice. The lowest priced item is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“Families like it, because they can come in and sit down together,” said Bajuniemi. “The thing that’s been there the longest is ham loaf. People come in and look for that every year.”

Bajuniemi says their dining hall has survived when others have failed because they’ve got the support of church members.Aug2013Monitor_HamlineDining

“They understand the value of doing the project,” she said. “It does bring income to the church budget, but it also provides interactive multi-age groups that you can’t create anywhere in church.”

The money made at the dining hall goes back to the church budget.

“There are significant costs in operating the dining hall,” said Bajuniemi. “We turn over $40,000 to $45,000 to the church budget. It goes into the operating budget of the church. It becomes part of the programs and events the church can do.”

Bajuniemi hopes more people and new people find them at this year’s fair, Aug. 22-Labor Day, Sept. 2.

 

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Aug2013Monitor_Nerdy3

Helping the needy get nerdy

Posted on 08 August 2013 by robwas66

Students at North End’s Community School of Excellence recycle computers and donate them to families without one

Computers from the Asian Penguins go to Community School of Excellence families that are getting free or reduced lunches and don’t currently have a computer at home. Last year, 7 computers were given away. About 30% of the families at CSE don’t have a computer or internet access.

Computers from the Asian Penguins go to Community School of Excellence families that are getting free or reduced lunches and don’t currently have a computer at home. Last year, 7 computers were given away. About 30% of the families at CSE don’t have a computer or internet access.

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Helping the needy get nerdy.

That’s the motto of the Asian Penguin club at the Community School of Excellence, a charter school at 170 Rose Ave. W. in St. Paul.

When school ended in June, the Asian Penguins had given away seven computers to families that didn’t have one.

About 30% of the families that send children to school at the Community School of Excellence don’t have a computer or internet access at home, noted Asian Penguin faculty adviser Stuart Keroff.

He oversees the program, along with fellow teacher Jeff Carter.

“The club was created to give kids the opportunity to do something fun and different with computers.” said Keroff. “Right now, Linux is used on only 2% of desktop PCs, so none of the kids in the club had ever used it before.”

Aug2013Monitor_Nerdy2KIDS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Students feel like they’re making a difference in their community. “It’s real nice that I’m helping the community and the world and changing it little by little,” one student told Carter. Another commented, “It is fun to help people.”

Another sees it as a larger mission: “We’re trying to change the world.”

“The kids use words like ‘fun’ and ‘awesome’ to describe what we do,” said Keroff.

The motto he shares with the students to describe their community service effort is a quote from Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

The first family to receive a computer had only been out of the refugee camp in Thailand a couple of months.

Computers go to families with children at the School of Excellence who receive free or reduced lunch. The school’s Hmong and Karenni community liaisons help the Asian Penguins find eligible families.

STUDENTS RECYCLE COMPUTERS

The program began in the spring of 2012 with a small group of technology-oriented students that wanted to learn more about the desktop computers Keroff uses in his classroom.

Keroff needed some desktop PCs for paperless quizzes for history, and was given some through a grant from Free Geek Twin Cities (www.freegeektwincities.org). They recycle computers and use Ubuntu Linux as the operating system.

“Once the machines were there, some of the students got very interested in something that was different from Microsoft Windows, so I started to teach them how to use and install the software,” said Keroff, who was already a Linux user.Aug2013Monitor_Nerdy3

When the 2012-2013 school year began, Keroff and students started a case study experiment to determine if Ubuntu Linux was a suitable replacement for Microsoft Windows on student laptop computers.

“From there, we decided to go beyond just using Linux ourselves, but using Linux and open source software to help people in our community,” said Keroff. “We obtained computers to recycle, and then the students installed all of the software and got the computers ready to give away.”

He added, “We’ve been lucky in that the computers we’ve worked with so far have all had working components, just no software.”

When the school year ended, there were about 30 members in the Asian Penguins, spanning grades six to eight.

Teams of two to three students follow a multi-step checklist to get a computer ready.

“We start by checking for proper operation of all parts of the computer, we then do a thorough clean-up of the computer both inside and out. We then install the Unbuntu operating system and selected applications (Office Suite, Web Browser, Typing and Math tutor programs, Karenni and Hmong to English dictionaries), test all aspects of system for proper operation, assign a local serial number and finally set up user accounts on the computer,” said Carter.

The last touch is when the kids put the “Asian Penguins” sticker on the outside, certifying that the computer was prepared by the Penguins. The whole process can 90 minutes or more and takes one to two days. Students work before, during and after school.

During Asian Club meetings, which are student-run, members discuss “upcoming ‘missions’ (what the kids call taking a computer to a family) and have a debriefing about past missions,” noted Carter. They also learn something new about the software, if time permits.

BIG PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

Next year, the Asian Penguins intend to donate at least 15 computers.

They plan to partner with the Linux Professional Institute to start offering students a Linux Essentials certification, an entry-level professional certification.

“As demand for Linux in industry grows, it feels good to know our students will leave 8th grade with a certificate that can open employment doors for them,” remarked Keroff.

They will also be starting tech support clinics for community members who are having computer problems.

 

REWARDING WORK

“In all of my years of teaching, this is the most rewarding thing I have ever done,” said Keroff.

Carter agreed. “This is one of the more satisfying things I have participated in as a teacher. The students are so engaged in helping their community and learning new things.”

 

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Aug2013Monitor_Firefighter2

North End resident and St. Paul firefighter honored by American Red Cross

Posted on 08 August 2013 by robwas66

Aug2013Monitor_Firefighter

In 1987, after registering with the National Bone Marrow Registry, St. Paul Fire Department Captain Bob Kippels became a match for a young girl with leukemia who needed a bone marrow transplant. The procedure was successful, and she remains cancer-free to this day. Kippels continues to serve and volunteer for a number of organizations.

You might say that volunteering and helping others is in his blood. And it is through his blood donations that Robert Kippels, fire and paramedic captain with the St. Paul Fire Department, has been recognized with the 2013 American Red Cross Firefighter Award.

The award is presented to a recipient who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Kippels, who is a graduate of St. Bernard’s High School and a long-time North End resident, started donating blood even before he joined the Fire Department 21 years ago.

He has donated blood to the Red Cross through a process called apheresis, a method of giving platelets rather than whole blood.

“It’s a more personal way to give,” Kippels said.

According to the Red Cross, during a platelet donation, a small portion of the donor’s blood is drawn and passed through a sophisticated cell-separating machine. The machine collects the platelets and safely returns the remaining blood components, along with some saline, back to the donor.

“You lie in a chair and use both arms,” Kippels explained. “The blood is drawn through one arm and recycles back into the other arm. With this process, you can donate more often than through a regular blood donation—every seven days.”

And it is through his blood donations that Robert Kippels, fire and paramedic captain with the St. Paul Fire Department, has been recognized with the 2013 American Red Cross Firefighter Award. The award is presented to a recipient who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

And it is through his blood donations that Robert Kippels, fire and paramedic captain with the St. Paul Fire Department, has been recognized with the 2013 American Red Cross Firefighter Award. The award is presented to a recipient who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

In 1987, after registering with the National Bone Marrow Registry, Kippels became a match for a young girl with leukemia who needed a bone marrow transplant. The procedure was successful, and she remains cancer-free to this day, according to Kippels.

“I had to stop donating two years ago,” he said. “For some unknown reason I developed blood clots on my lungs, and the Red Cross won’t take blood from anyone who is on blood thinners. I was very disappointed.”

The disappointment was evident in his voice, as he recalled that he had been contacted for another match during this time and could not donate his blood.

However, Kippels continues to serve and volunteer in other ways. He organizes the Bell Ringers from the Fire Department for the Salvation Army every year. Since he took over that task in 2000, the firefighters have raised $180,000 in donations.

He said the Salvation Army provides food and drink for the firefighters when they are fighting a fire, and the two agencies have a great partnership.

This year the St. Paul Fire Foundation had a net profit from calendar sales of $35,000. The calendar, which features St. Paul’s finest firefighter hunks, is a huge seller. Kippels said that money goes to fund grade schools, rec centers, ambulance devices and heart and cancer screenings.

“Most people don’t know of the many volunteer efforts the Fire Department is involved in,” Kippels said. “There are national disasters, search and rescue.”

Kippels has received several Certificates of Recognition for various volunteer efforts, including the 1997 Grand Forks flood clean-up, and in 2008 the successful search and rescue effort for an autistic young man.

Going to grade schools and talking about fire prevention is also a task Kippels enjoys.

Since he was promoted to captain in 2000, Kippels has spoken to every recruit class about the importance of being a blood donor. He has held several bone marrow drives, with over 130 names being added to the Bone Marrow Registry as a result.

“I think that once I started donating blood, it became ingrained in me how easy it is to help out someone,” he said.

Kippels followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps by joining the fire department. “He was a firefighter for 38 years,” Kippels said. “I had been working for Montgomery Wards for 12 years and had gotten laid off. I decided to take the test and was lucky enough to pass.”

He said that as a firefighter, one never knows what to expect.

“You go out on medical runs and fires in places with lightweight construction, and you could fall through a floor. There is always an inherent danger to the job, but that’s what you sign up for,” Kippels said.

“And it’s the best job anybody could ever have.”

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Discovery Club