Archive | September, 2013


130 lb. baby born at Como Zoo

Posted on 11 September 2013 by robwas66

BabyGiraffeComo Zoo welcomed a new baby giraffe to its herd on Sept. 1 and was introduced to the public Sept. 8. Coming in to the world at 5 foot 8 inches and 130 pound, she is the fifth calf born to mom, Clover and the 17th giraffe birth at Como in the last 20 years. During the first two years of a giraffe’s life, it doubles its height and can be over 12-feet tall. Giraffe gestation lasts between 14 and 15 months, after which a single calf is born. Like human fingerprints, the markings or spots of a giraffe’s coat are unique to each individual.

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Exploring the new University Avenue with Open Streets

Posted on 11 September 2013 by robwas66


For the first time, Open Streets will be held in Saint Paul on Sept. 15. It is a day for everyone on bike or foot to come out and enjoy playing in the streets, with no motorized vehicles allowed.

On Sept. 15, from 11am until 6pm, pedestrians will be able to explore University Avenue in a way they never have before.

“It’s the one day this year that people actually will be able to walk up and down University Avenue and see the street in a way they never can,” said Sean McDonnell, a public relations specialist with McDonnell and Co. McDonnell has been working with the Green Line, the light rail scheduled to run along University Ave. from Lowertown in St. Paul to the West Bank of Minneapolis.

For the first time, Open Streets will be held in Saint Paul. It is a day for everyone on bike or foot to come out and enjoy playing in the streets, with no motorized vehicles allowed.

The event is modeled after the Ciclovia of Bogota, Columbia. The Ciclovia originated there nearly 40 years ago, and to this day every Sunday is designated as an Open Street day, where families and friends can gather and enjoy activities.

McDonnell has been working with Natalie Judd, a marketing coordinator for MOD & Co., on promoting businesses along University Avenue during the light rail construction.

“We have been working on advertising and a visitor’s guide and promotion of business owners,” Judd explained. She said they were approached by the City of Saint Paul to put together the first Open Streets. The event has been previously held in several locations in Minneapolis.

“We were awarded a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and we got the city and neighborhood organizations to assist,” Judd said.

“St. Paul Open Streets is one of 15 Open Streets events BCBS is funding throughout the state in 2013,” added McDonnell. He said it is part of the organization’s efforts to promote an active and healthier lifestyle.

As part of its Green Line project, Mod & Co. has divided University Avenue into sections of existing neighborhoods and business districts. The same is being done for Open Streets, which will feature an auto-free zone from Marion to Hamline along University Avenue. The 2.3 mile stretch will feature businesses and events along the Midway, Historic Rondo, Historic Frogtown and Little Mekong.

OpenStreets2“I think what is also unique to this Open Streets event is that three stages will be featuring performances,” said Judd. She said neighborhood organizations are highly involved.

There will be dance groups performing, Tae Kwon Do exhibitions and yoga classes in the streets. An Hour Car will be on site. The St. Paul Bike Coalition will feature a bike safety class and a bike rodeo. Lowertown Bike Shop will provide a bike “first aid” station.

Urban Boatbuilders will have one of its boats on display. Works by local Hmong artists will be shown, and several works of art by local artists for the Artify Hamline Station will be commissioned.

Open Streets visitors will be able to walk through a Metro Transit bus and also learn more about riding the Green Line safely.

“They’ll be able to see the Green Line up close,” McDonnell said. He added that the local talent being showcased on the stages really means local. “This will be a uniquely Saint Paul event.”

Judd said a Passport Program will also be part of the festivities. “People can pick up a passport, go to designated areas and get it stamped. They can then return it to one of the livable community booths and have the chance to win a free bike.” she noted.

More than 50 restaurants are participating in Open Streets. Judd said that with the expected crowds it might be difficult to prepare and serve full meals, but she has encouraged many restaurants to pick the foods that best represent them and serve those.

Judd said there will be three stages throughout the event (Hamline Ave, Victoria St and a Little Mekong stage at Galtier St). All programming was planned by neighborhood organizers from West Bank Business Association, Project for Pride in Living (PPL), Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) and Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). Performances range from spoken word artists, bands, DJs, dance groups and much more. Programming schedule will vary at each stage, but will be from 11am – 6pm during the event. For more information visit stpaulopenstreets.org or check the Information Booths at the event for a full line up.

Although she is certain the day will be 75 degrees and sunny, McDonnell said the event will go on rain or shine.

Bus routes will be re-routed for the day, and Lexington, Dale, Victoria and Western will be open to auto traffic.

Judd said the event has drawn many sponsors, including the Asian Economic Development Association, the Arts Academy, Frogtown Neighborhood Association, ASANDC, the West Bank Business Association, the Project for Pride in Living and the City of Saint Paul.

“St. Paul Smart Trips will carry on next year with Open Streets, since MOD & Co. will have ended its contract,” she said.

She said that for a group of people who had never before organized such a massive event that shuts down streets, things have gone very smoothly. The Mayor’s office and Police Department have also been fully involved.

“I just wish there were more time to find more good things to promote,” she added.

McDonnell agreed that so many individuals and groups have been invaluably supportive. “Everyone stepped up and came together, and that bodes well for future events,” he said.

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Metro Transit Police Department ready to ride

Posted on 11 September 2013 by robwas66


An advocate of community policing, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington plans to add 15 beat cops to patrol the Green Line train stations. According to Harrington, ridership studies have shown that people feel the most at risk when they are on a platform waiting for a train or bus transfer. (Photo by Stefanie Berres)

When the light rail line on University Ave. opens next year, there will be 15 Metro Transit Police Officers patrolling it.

The officers will do more than ride the trains and check fares. They will also actively patrol the stations and work to build relationships with riders.

According to Metro Transit Police Department Chief John Harrington, ridership studies have shown that people feel the most at risk when they are on a platform waiting for a train or bus transfer.

Since assuming leadership of Metro Transit’s police officers a year ago, Harrington has worked to change the philosophy of the department, and with that address 85 recommendations for change made by the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute before his tenure. He doesn’t want to see officers merely react to crime when it happens. He wants them to help prevent it by operating as neighborhood beat cops.


To accomplish that goal, he has been adding more staff.

“I fundamentally believe that when I got here, the department was understaffed,” said Harrington, whose background is in community policing.

In the last year, Metro Transit has added administrators, supervisors and officers. There were 22 new part-time officers added in April 2013, and 19 full-time in August. Another 26 part-time officers will join the ranks this fall.

In the hires, Harrington has sought to create a department that reflects the communities it serves. When he was chief of the St. Paul Police Department, he sought to ensure that 20% of officers were people of color and/or women. He hopes to reach that goal again while at Metro Transit. Of those hired in August, half were people of color, and several were multi-lingual, Harrington observed. He pointed out that 100 foreign languages are spoken within the Metro Transit area.

“We have a lot of work to do until the department is truly reflective,” Harrington said. “This is just the beginning.”

The cost of each officer is $93,000 per year (salary, benefits and supplies). Metro Transit Police Department’s total budget in 2013 is roughly $12.41 million.

There are currently 12 officers dedicated to the Hiawatha Blue Line, a number that isn’t enough staff for a beat cop system. Harrington hopes to bump that up and has asked for an increase in his 2014 budget to do so.

The two most common crimes on light rail are disorderly conduct and the theft of electronics and backpacks, both on and off the train, said Harrington.

Each day, 260,000 people hop on a Metro Transit bus and train. When there’s a problem, officers average a 2 minutes or less response time.


The 83 full-time Metro Transit police officers cover the second biggest jurisdiction in the state, one that stretches over 8 counties, 90 cities, 3,246 square miles and 3 million people.

The size comes with its set of challenges, one Harrington believes only a department dedicated to transit can handle. He pointed out that the crimes Metro Transit deals with don’t fit easily in one geographic space, which makes it tough for city police departments to handle. For instance, a bus might start out from St. Paul and end in Minneapolis. The victim might live in Brooklyn Center and the witnesses spread throughout several other cities. So, whose job is it to handle, who does the follow-up and who pays for it?

Metro Transit’s Police Department was created 20 years ago in acknowledgement of those problems, pointed out Harrington. “We are unique,” he said.

That’s not to say Metro Transit works alone. Rather, the department partners with many other organizations. Harrington is currently working to establish formal memorandums of understanding with the many cities and other entities (such as the University of Minnesota) in their jurisdiction to clearly outline who handles what. His goal is that each group “share information so that investigations can be seamless and the perpetrator brought to justice,” Harrington said.


To accomplish this task, Harrington is relying on the relationships and colleagues from his 30 years with the St. Paul Police Department, six of which he spent as chief there. He believes that the trust he has built over up his career is a boon to him in his position with Metro Transit.

From his time as senator, Harrington has brought a broad view of problem solving.

“The legislature prompted me to look at things from a regional perspective,” Harrington said.

The mission of Metro Transit is to be a safe, cost-effective and efficient provider of transit throughout the metro area.

Since he came on board in September 2012, the role of metro transit has shifted and changed a lot, Harrington pointed out. “We’ve pretty much reinvented ourselves,” he noted.

“This year we’ll go through another reinvention.”


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Knox Presbyterian to merge with North Como Presbyterian this fall

Posted on 11 September 2013 by robwas66


One of the Midway’s oldest and once-active churches will be going through a merger this fall and shutting its doors. Knox Presbyterian Church, 1536 W. Minnehaha Ave., is going through the final steps of a merger with North Como Presbyterian Church. (Photo by Stefanie Berres)

One of the Midway’s oldest and once-active churches will be going through a merger this fall and shutting its doors. Knox Presbyterian Church, 1536 W. Minnehaha Ave., is going through the final steps of a merger with North Como Presbyterian Church.

The merger will be a change for members of both churches and for members of two other congregations Knox hosts. It also means that Knox’s distinctive Prairie-style church building will be put up for sale. The last service at Knox will be Nov. 17 and will include a restaging of a longtime church tradition, a roast beef dinner. Members and friends will share memories and enjoy looking at pictures and displays before leaving the building one last time.

Knox was founded in September of 1890. Its current building dates from 1914. While the building is cited in architectural histories of St. Paul and the neighborhood, it doesn’t have any designated historic status.

While members of the two congregations have enjoy getting to know one another over the past several months, and are working to make the transition a smooth one, the change is nonetheless a sad one for Knox’s members who are remembering longtime friends and past days. The congregation had about 900 members at its peak in post-World War II years; it now is down to about 70 people.

“Our congregation has become too small to support our building,” said Laurie Reis. She is one of the Knox members who has worked on the merger. The process of determining Knox’s future has taken about two years.

Knox members had initially hoped to find another church that wanted to merge with them, but the governing body of the Twin Cities Presbyterian churches didn’t see that as an option. Instead, Knox will sell its building after the merger. Reis and others hope it will be sold to another house of worship. “We hope someone cares as much about the building as we have.” Knox not only has distinctive architecture, it also has much of its original woodwork and ornate stained glass windows.

Lois Nyman, who grew up in the Midway and lived here for many years, joined the church as a child in 1930. She isn’t the longest-tenured member. There is another person who claims 1929 as a membership date.

While Nyman is sad to see Knox leave its longtime home, she said that the loss of longtime members was a factor in the merger. She has served on a Knox-North Como committee that has worked on the merger for several months. Part of that process has included attending each other’s church services and learning about each other.

“No two churches worship in exactly the same way so there has been a learning curve,” she said. Nyman’s history with the church goes back to the days of peak attendance, when there had to be two services to meet demand.

Nyman said what she will miss most about Knox is its longtime tradition of music. The church is too small to have its own choir. She led choirs for 42 years as the church’s director of music. At one time Knox had adult, preschool, children and youth choirs.

She also remembers when the church had active younger and older member “couples’ clubs” and of course, the famous roast beef dinners. “The men would prepare and serve the dinner, and the women would sell baked goods and items they had sewn and made,” Nyman said.

Reis joined the church in 1981, “which makes me a relative newcomer.” She notes that many of the current members live outside of the Midway area, with many in Roseville. She is one of the few who still lives in the neighborhood; Nyman is now in Roseville.

Nyman and Reis note that one of the biggest changes for Knox was when people became more mobile. Many of the longtime church members moved to the suburbs. When Knox began as a church, its members could walk or take a streetcar to church, but the lack of a church parking lot has been an obstacle over the years. The church opted not to buy land for parking in the 1970s.

Knox currently houses two other congregations in its building, a West African group and the Mosaic congregation. There are also community groups that rent meeting space there. Reis said the intent is for them to stay during the transition and to encourage any group that buys the building to allow them to stay.

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Little Free Libraries popping up in the neighborhood

Posted on 11 September 2013 by robwas66

Four library stewards share their stories


Linda Leegard buys children's books at garage sales to make sure there are always some on hand in her Little Free Library.

Meg Thomas stands next to the library in front of her house at 821 Iglehart Ave. Her partner built her a library as a 50th birthday present. Thomas said she knew she wanted one of the libraries the first time she read about them.


Todd Bol believes that everyone does better if kids can read. Because of that, the former Minnesota resident co-founded the Little Free Library movement in 2010.

Since that first Little Free Library (LFL) was erected in Hudson, Wis. on May 8, 2010, the idea has taken off.

The Little Free Library World Map lists 9 LFLs in the Como and Midway neighborhoods.

The idea of a Little Free Library is simple. A small structure is erected in an accessible yard and filled with books. The “Take a book, return a book” system means anyone can add to the collection or take from it. Readers include those over age 50, as well as preschool children.

A child with 20 books in his or her home will read up to two grade levels higher than children without, according to Bol.

In September 2011, there were 5 Little Free Libraries in Minnesota. Now there are 900. There is a LFL in all 50 states, and in 50 countries.

Learn more at http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/.

962 Como Ave.
Heather Lewis


Girl Scout Troop 54001 helped construct Heather Lewis’ Little Free Library at 962 Como Ave. After earning her master’s in library and information science, Lewis decided it was the perfect opportunity to share her love of libraries with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

After earning her master’s in library and information science in 2010, Lewis decided it was the perfect opportunity to share her love of libraries with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

The troop used the LFL as a vehicle to discuss several different ideas. “We talked about the value of reading and how important it is to have access to books,” said Lewis.

“We looked at the Little Free Library International Google Map and talked about how reading is as important in St. Paul as it is in Sao Paulo. Our Little Free Library connects us to a community beyond our neighborhood.

“We also used as an opportunity for self-expression.”

The library was seeded with donations from the Girl Scout troop, and there has been a steady stream of mystery books, cook books, self-help books, and, of course, kids books.

After building a chicken coop in her backyard, Lewis (who has no carpentry experience) found the confidence to construct the LFL.

The Girl Scouts contributed some of the materials for constructing the library, painted the outside of the library and proudly signed the back. Once installed the girls had a grand opening, serving cookies and lemonade to neighbors who stopped by.

Located right across the street from Como Park (and near a bus stop), their LFL sees a lot of dog walkers, as well as bus riders and kids on their way to the bus stop.

“Our LFL has definitely brightened our front yard,” said Lewis. “We love it!”

786 W. Lakeview Ave.
Linda Leegard

“Sharing a love of books is a wonderful thing,” said Leegard. “I think it makes people happy. I know my grandchildren think of it as kind of magical to just be able to take a book.”

The library provides an additional way to meet and talk to neighbors. “I’ve now joined our neighborhood book club and knitting club, both of which I never knew existed,” said Leegard. “The library provides another link to join us together.”

The library sustains itself, although Leegard does visit garage sales to be sure there are always children’s book on hand.

People of all ages stop at the library — some just to browse, some to find a book to read, and some to add books. Leegard feels especially gratified to see parents with their children exchanging a book they’ve read for a new one.

Leegard’s husband designed and built their LFL, and she chose the colors and painted it.

“I love my library,” said Leegard. “I couldn’t imagine our house without it!”

821 Iglehart Ave.
Meg Thomas


Linda Leegard buys children’s books at garage sales to make sure there are always some on hand in her Little Free Library.

“I knew I wanted a little library the moment I read about them,” recalled Thomas. She was a very fast reader as a child, and her local library restricted children to three books at a time. “That wasn’t really enough to last the two-mile walk home! I was always a bit book deprived.”

For her 50th birthday, her partner built one.

They are new in the neighborhood and the little library is (slowly) helping them meet the neighbors.

One of the things she loves is how other people take charge of putting books in. One night people took a copy of the U.S. constitution and left about 12 books, “including a copy of a children’s book on racism written by a close friend – so sweet!”

Lots of people stop by for books, too — little kids, tough looking teens, moms, people on their way home from work.

“One mom told me her child was now potty trained – thanks in part to a copy of ‘Everyone Poops’ she found in there,” said Lewis.

1162 W. Lafond Ave.
Rita Dalbec


Rita Delbec

Drivers, walkers and non-walkers (toddlers and wheelchairs) visit Dalbec’s LFL. “Some just look, for others it is a jackpot,” she said.

She believes the benefit of a LFL is that books are available outside of regular local library hours and no cards are required.

Dalbec’s library has all types of books. “The inappropriate books (porn) were removed by a caring/attentive neighbor,” she said.

Her 86-year-old, nearly completely blind father, Norbert Nilsson, a retired St. Paul Police officer, built this library. “Dad came up with his own design and used mostly donated materials from my sister, a retired St Paul school teacher, Susan Davis, and a neighbor, Doug Montzka,” said Dalbec. “The paint and license plate decor were my idea and all the license plates are donated from neighbors and others far and wide.”

She added, “A little free library ‘takes a village’ to work.”


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13th Annual Oktoberfest moves to September

Posted on 11 September 2013 by robwas66

Now in September—the 13th Annual Saint Paul Oktoberfest will begin its family-friendly festivities on Fri., Sept. 20, from 6-11pm, and continues on Sat., Sept. 21, from noon-11pm.

Now in September—the 13th Annual Saint Paul Oktoberfest will begin its family-friendly festivities on Fri., Sept. 20, from 6-11pm, and continues on Sat., Sept. 21, from noon-11pm.

Now in September—the 13th Annual Saint Paul Oktoberfest will begin its family-friendly festivities on Fri., Sept. 20, from 6-11pm, and continues on Sat., Sept. 21, from noon-11pm. This two-day event celebrates Germanic heritage and everyone is welcome!

The events will take place at The Klub Haus, 1079 Rice St., in the North End of Saint Paul, near the intersection of Rice St. and West Magnolia Ave. There will be a $5 admission for all attendees 21 and older; younger participants may attend for free. The wristband is good for both days. For more information, please visit www.saintpauloktoberfest.org.

The Glockenspiel Restaurant will provide the authentic German food and desserts, with assistance from Deutschland Meats. Beverages will include German, domestic and non-alcoholic beer, wine, pop and water.

The Friday evening entertainment will be in the big tent, with The Alpensterne Band and an appearance from S.G. Edelweiss. Saturday’s entertainment will be both in the tent and up in the ballroom. Music groups include The Bavarian Musikmeisters Band, The Alpensterne Band, Dolina Polish Folkdancers, the Wendinger Band and Dale Grove the Accordionist. There will also be a special appearance from the Paulaner Girls. Children’s Games will be available in the ballroom until the late afternoon. A band will be performing in the ballroom in the evening for dancing. Check the website for details.

Also on Saturday will be the ever popular Dachshund Races and the Bed Races:

–Dachshund Races at 3pm – A event common at Oktoberfests around the world. The races will be held in a side parking lot on Magnolia St. Advance registration of your dachshund is required, so please contact Deb Sand at 651-253-5261;

–Bed Races immediately following the Dachshund Races – Our version of the original Oktoberfest horse races. Win a cash prize for your favorite non-profit. Registration will begin at 2:30pm. To

sign up a four to six-person team, please contact Gina Stokes at gina.stokes@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

The Saint Paul Oktoberfest is supported by a collaboration of the German American Heritage Foundation, North End and Saint Paul community organizations, and German heritage and cultural groups throughout Minnesota. If you would like to volunteer for the event, please contact Deb Sand at debgrosskopf@hotmail.com or 651-253-5261.

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