Archive | February, 2016

Jim Seemann

“Caring Hearts” reception Feb. 17

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

Jim SeemannThe community is invited to meet Dr. Jim Seemann, Ph.D. (photo right), and share some food during the “Caring Hearts” reception, Wed., Feb 17, 5:30-6:30pm at the fellowship hall of Jehovah Lutheran Church (JLC), 1566 Thomas Ave.

The reception features the ingathering of toiletries and hygiene items to be distributed metro wide, including to persons re-entering society after incarceration.

Seemann, a professor of Theater Arts at Concordia University-St. Paul (CSP) until last year when he retired, has devoted much of his time and energy to teaching, mentoring and walking alongside prisoners both inside and outside prison walls—his passion for the past 40 years. He regularly teaches a free course on the CSP campus for anyone interested in prison ministry, and he has helped establish two homes for prisoners returning to free society—Martin’s House in north Minneapolis and “J” House in St. Paul. He is director of the Lutheran Freedom Initiative and volunteer coordinator of prison ministry for the MN South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. A co-worker, John Henderson, will also be available at the reception for questions.

Over 5,000 persons leave prison each year in Minnesota. In a recent article Seemann noted that they have “…no friends, no job, no credit, no money, no place to live, no spiritual support … our goal is to help them make a safe transition to a better life.” He concludes: “… remember those in prison as if you were together with them.”

This “Caring Heart” ingathering is one way to help.

All are invited to bring the much-needed toiletries to the reception. JLC Care Ministry will sort and deliver the gathered items to Amicus for distribution to prisoners returning to society and to HealthEast for distribution to homeless persons in St. Paul. All items should be new; most needed items include soap, toothbrush/toothpaste, deodorant, lotions, shampoo, wash cloths, socks, warm hats and gloves. A full listing is available at www.jehovahlutheran.org.

For anyone who wishes to donate but cannot come to the “Caring Hearts” reception, please call Jeanne at 651-645-2867 or the church office at 651-644-1421 to arrange for drop off. For the Feb 17 reception please enter at the Thomas St. door; parking is available in the lot east of the church and on the street.

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Peter Mulvey

Series of concerts scheduled at Ginkgo

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

Silver Linings and Footfall, will be playing for your donations at Ginkgo Coffeehouse (721 N. Snelling), Sat., Feb. 20, 8-10pm.

The show will be filmed live by Water Street Sessions, a local filmmaking team based in St. Paul. Silver Lining starts things off (8-9pm). Silver Lining is Joe Fishbein on mandolin and Dawn Tanner on vocals and guitar. Their music is a mix of folk originals/covers and fiddle tunes. Covers are from folk artists: Lucy Kaplansky, Lindsay Mac, Peter Mulvey, Drew Nelson, and Sam Baker. Their first album is soon to be available with friend and guest star, Adam Granger.

Footfall plays from 9-10pm. They bring up the energy with their alt country sound rocking the coffeehouse. Footfall is Debbie Cushman on guitar and vocals and Jim Christiansen on guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, and vocals. Their first CD, Running Toward the Moon, is just over a year old. They are busy working on their second release…coming soon.

Christopher BecknellGuitarist Christopher Becknell (photo right) will be performing Fri., Feb. 26, 8pm. Cost of the concert is $10 (plus sales tax). Becknell tells stories without using words. Choosing the style and techniques to weave the tale, the depth of his abilities is immediately apparent. Though he often performs with other musicians, and in bands, this concert will showcase his abilities as a solo performer.

Peter MulveyPeter Mulvey (photo left) is scheduled to appear at Ginkgo on Fri., Mar. 18, 8pm. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 after 6pm day of the show. Mulvey is a walking secret handshake. He has been the street-singing kid in Dublin, the man fronting the storming electric band, the conspiratorial spoken-word craftsman, the Tin Pan Alley delver, and an instigator in the occasional Redbird collective. Through it he has remained the traveler out on the road, bringing his music to audiences from Fairbanks to Bilbao, Santa Monica to Montreal, in clubs, theaters, coffeeshops, the Kennedy Center, and old barns. Honing his musicianship, his phrasing, his ability to inhabit a song, he has come into his own, with a sound full of grit and warmth, at the same time startling and familiar.

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Como High School Iowa Caucus

Debate Club, Iowa Caucus, Winterfest, FUNraiser, all in the picture

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• Sophomore Stephen Boler and freshman Peter Schik shined on the Como Park Debate Team this season, finishing their season as Como’s top duo and qualifying for the MSHSL State Tournament, held in January at the University of Minnesota. They competed in the Public Policy category, placing 15th overall in the state. With two and three years of high school debate in front of Boler and Schik respectively, the future appears quite promising for these skillful Como debaters.

• 47 AP Government and Politics students took a road trip to Iowa and back on Feb. 1 to be political observers of the Iowa Caucus. With all the media attention on Iowa’s first in the nation caucus, and with previous studies of presidential politics and campaigns, students were eager to be a part of the action and see how democracy works at a grass roots level.

Como High School Iowa CaucusPhoto left: Como Park AP Government and Politics students took a road trip to Mason City, Iowa after school on February 1 to witness the nation’s first caucus in the 2016 Presidential Election.

The students boarded a coach bus after school for the 140 mile trip to Mason City in rural, northern Iowa. After a stop for dinner at the Mason City Pizza Ranch, students spent an hour at the Republican Caucus as participants arrived. Students informally polled caucus goers to get a sense of which candidates were preferred, and why voters chose them. The bus then shuttled the students to the Democrat Caucus where they observed the process of voters standing for a candidate, which was an even split among Clinton and Sanders supporters.

The group headed back to St. Paul following the caucuses, arriving back at Como by 10:45pm. The whirlwind political adventure was described by Senior Jacob Barnard as “a really interesting and fun experience. It was cool to speak with the people in Iowa and to be there with so much national attention on the caucus.”

• Winterfest Spirit Week is taking place at Como from Feb. 8-12. Theme days include Cozy Monday (wearing pajamas), Red, White and Blues Day, Sports Day, Thorwback Thursday and Heritage Day. A coronation of the Winterfest King and Queen is a tradition accompanied by a Pep Fest to recognize the winter sports teams and student athletes. Spirit week concludes with the Winterfest Snowball Dance at the Midpointe Event Center, located on Pascal St. in the Midway, on Sat. night, Feb. 13.

• Two freshmen Intermediate Band students, Bridget Proper and Adina DeGaetano, were selected to participate in the Augsburg College 9th & 10th Grade Honor Band Festival on Jan. 23. The event was an all day affair culminating with an evening performance in Augsburg’s Hoversten Chapel. The concert was an impressive display of musical talents after a day of intensive training.

• Como counselors and representatives from College Possible and Upward Bound will be available to help students and families complete the FAFSA forms to apply for college financial aid on Feb. 11 and Thur., Mar. 10. Hands-on assistance and guidance will be available in Library Computer Lab from 5-7pm on the “FAFSA Nights.”

• Senior volleyball player Delilah Wolf has accepted a full scholarship to study and play volleyball at Division I Loyola University Chicago. Senior football player Kemari Davis was selected to represent the U.S. U18 Football Team in the International Bowl versus the Ontario U18 team in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5. The game was played in AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, and broadcast on ESPN3. Davis has not yet made his college choice.

• The Como Park High School Booster Club is sponsoring a family friendly ‘FUN’raiser at the Urban Growler Brewing Company on Sun., Mar. 6, from 4-8pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children. The price includes one meal and one beverage, plus a chance to win some high-quality prizes. Funds raised go to support extracurricular activities offered to Como Park High School students. Tickets can be obtained by calling at 651-744-3997, contact the booster club at comoparkboosterclub@gmail.com, or by visiting comosr.spps.org/booster_club for more details.

• Como’s Showcase Night was held Feb. 4. Prospective students who are interested in experiencing a day of Como Park High School were invited to shadow a current student. Opportunities for shadowing are on Tues., Wed., and Thur. through February. Interested prospective students who would like to shadow may register online at comosr.spps.org by clicking “Prospective Students and Parents” under Popular Links. Tours are also available upon request through Parent Coordinator Sandy Kestner. She may be reached at 651-744-3997.

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Planting trees is an effective tool to fight the “heat island” of the city

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin


There is an old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” In this period of rapid climate change, the proverb is certainly true. We need trees today more than ever.

Why? It is getting hotter in St. Paul.

R&RTreePlantZachPhoto left: Members of the Hamline Midway Progressive Women’s Network look on as City of St. Paul Urban Forester Zach Jorgensen plants one of the trees they donated to Hamline Park.

Climate change means that St. Paul is experiencing the urban “heat island” effect. Built-up areas (areas with more buildings and pavements) are hotter than forested areas. Pavement and roofs absorb more sunlight and then radiate the heat back into the neighborhood. We can expect St. Paul daytime temperatures to be higher than local rural areas, and our summer nighttime temperatures may be much higher. Trees can moderate this effect. Trees better reflect the sun’s rays than do pavement, provide shade and the evapotranspiration process cools as it releases moisture into the air. Well-shaded neighborhoods can be significantly cooler in the summer.

Climate change also results in more “bad air days” when those with respiratory problems find it difficult to breathe outdoors. Health warnings will encourage you to stay inside and keep your windows closed. The higher temperatures, more stagnant air, and higher humidity result in higher ozone levels and air pollution. Trees help to filter the pollutants and absorb carbon dioxide, making the air cleaner and healthier for you to be outside in your yard, walking or jogging.

The City is already at work adding to our urban tree canopy. Zach Jorgensen, Urban Forester for the City of St. Paul, says “The Hamline Midway neighborhood is on this year’s planting list,” so expect to see new boulevard trees. They will replace trees lost to heat stress, the emerald ash borer, and other causes.

What can we do as residents to support the urban tree canopy in our neighborhood? Ready and Resilient recommends several actions:

1) Keep the trees we have healthy by watering the trees in your yard and along the boulevard when rain is scarce. One of the side effects of climate change is severe weather: periods of heavy rains interspersed with long periods of no rain. Trees become stressed without adequate water. When you notice that your lawn or garden needs watering, don’t forget to consider your trees. Newly planted trees are especially susceptible and require frequent watering if there is no rain. Established trees prefer less frequent but longer soakings, enough to moisten the soil all along the tree drip line to a depth of 10-12 inches. Check the St. Paul Forestry website (https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-recreation/natural-resources/forestry/tree-maintenance) for recommendations.

2) Donate a tree to the St. Paul Parks. Your support for parks can speed up the City’s timeline for tree planting. The easiest way to do this is through the Friends of the Parks and Trails (http://friendsoftheparks.org/) annual spring tree sale. Check that you want to donate the tree to a local park. Write in the park to which you want to donate (don’t list Newell or Como: they don’t need additional trees), or just say “a park in the XYZ neighborhood” (whatever neighborhood you choose). The order deadline is Apr. 22. The City plants the tree for you. Can’t afford to donate a tree? Talk to your neighbors. Last year members of the Hamline Midway Progressive Women’s Network pooled their resources and together were able to purchase three trees for Hamline Park.

3) Plant a tree in your yard. If you own your home or your landlord okays adding a tree to the yard, consider whether your yard can support a tree. You will need a large open space away from buildings or other structures, open to the sky, with no power lines above you or buried utilities below you. (Note: It is state law that you contact Gopher State One Call, 651-454-8388, before you dig!) The space needed will vary with the tree you choose. Consider the tree’s canopy or drip line: the diameter of the tree plus the length of its branches in each direction at maturity. For a mature shade tree, this can be 20 to 40 feet, and its roots will be at least that wide. A healthy tree requires this much space to grow. Check with experts to decide what to plant: our average temperatures will be 4-5° F higher by mid-century, and trees that currently flourish 200-400 miles south may be your best options. If you need help deciding whether your lawn can support a tree or what type of tree to plant, contact the Ramsey County Master Gardeners (call 651-704-2071 and leave a message; a MG will return your call). The Friends of the Parks and Trails (http://friendsoftheparks.org/) tree sale offers trees in a variety of sizes appropriate to our area.

4) Plant a tree on a public boulevard. After 2016, the next time the City is scheduled to plant trees on Hamline Midway boulevards is 2021. “Residents are welcome to plant trees on public boulevards,” Jorgensen said, “though we do require an approved no-fee permit available through the St. Paul Forestry office to do so. We will review the site and the proposed tree type to make sure the site is suitable for tree planting and the tree type is appropriate for the location.” You are responsible for planting the tree. Check the details at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-recreation/natural-resources/forestry/tree-permit-terms-and-conditions.
Support our neighborhood tree canopy. Water your trees. If you can, donate or plant a tree this year to keep our neighborhood cool and healthy!

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

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HMC monitor photo

Hamline Midway neighbors recognized for community contributions

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

Every year we nominate several volunteers who continually go above and beyond in service to the Hamline Midway community. This year’s nominees were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the neighborhood alongside other volunteers from across the city at a special awards celebration in their honor on Jan. 29.

Mayor Chris Coleman congratulated the nominees on their achievements, and City Council President Russ Stark presented the awards. Their names will be added to a plaque hung in city hall alongside Honor Roll awardees from years past. Please join us in congratulating and thanking this year’s nominees for all they do to benefit the Hamline Midway neighborhood.

HMC monitor photoPhoto above: (L to R) Jessica Kopp, Sasha Mackin, and Steve Mitrione, all received Neighborhood Honor Roll status for their extraordinary service and contributions to the Hamline Midway community.

Steve Mitrione
Steve’s impact as a longtime neighborhood volunteer, transportation committee member and environmental advocate has been profound. He helped lead the Charles Ave. Bikeway project as an original volunteer with the Friendly Streets Initiative, and saw his many years of involvement in improving Snelling Ave. culminate this year with a major project that included vital pedestrian improvements. He was also one of the first St. Paul residents to install a residential boulevard rain garden. Steve’s passion for his community has improved both the physical and cultural environment of the neighborhood in many lasting ways.

Sasha Mackin
As a member of the Hamline Midway Coalition Board of Directors from 2009–2014, Sasha served ably as both Vice President and President. Sasha cared about and attended to organizational culture, board and staff development, and all the important little things that make an organization thrive. Sasha was also committed to building a strong, connected neighborhood, and served on the HMC Community Building Committee and the planning team for the annual Hamline Midway Spring Festival.

Jessica Kopp
The web of a community can often be traced to a few perpetually involved “connectors.” Over the last year, Jessica has devoted herself to rejuvenating the vital connection between the neighborhood and its two community schools, Hamline Elementary and Galtier Community School. In doing so, she has forged valuable new relationships, ensuring the schools remain involved in neighborhood events, and otherwise reestablishing them as centerpieces of the community.

Neighborhood Investment Cooperative officially incorporates, seeks volunteers
The newly forming Hamline Midway Investment Cooperative is hitting the ground running in 2016 as they look to move this exciting project into the next phase, continuing to move towards collectively investing in a neighborhood property.

Now officially incorporated, the HMIC has a stated mission to “seek community pledges to buy a commercial property, that will underpin a sustainable business that serves the community, and will provide a return to the investors. HMIC empowers the community through development—property, business, and all the less material elements of community growth and strength.”

As a volunteer-led effort, the remarkable energy and dedication of a core group of neighbors has been vital in getting the project to this point. The group is looking to expand its size and have identified a particular need for volunteers with expertise and background in legal, finances, or commercial realty, as well as anyone with experience in running or managing co-ops. Of course, any and all volunteer support is enthusiastically welcomed!

To move the process forward, several working groups will be focusing on specific aspects of the project, including research, communications, and finance/governance. If you’re interested in joining this effort, email hminvestmentcoop@gmail.com to get involved. More information and background on this project can be found at www.hamlinemidway.org/Investmentcooperative

Neighborhood Garage Sale
Mark your calendars and start planning for the annual Hamline Midway Neighborhood Garage Sale on Sat., June 4, from 8am to 3pm. Garage sales are a great way to meet new neighbors, reduce waste, and support the community economy. With more than 50 participating sales across the neighborhood in 2015, we’re looking to have an even bigger impact this year.

There will be a $10 fee for participating sales to help with the expense of printing flyers, sale maps, and signs, as well as advertising in the Monitor, Pioneer Press and Craigslist. If you live within the Hamline Midway boundaries, start clearing out your closets and collecting your unwanted items for this year’s sale. If you have questions or would like to learn more, please email garagesale@hamlinemidway.org. We’ll post registration forms and start collecting fees closer to the date.

Public Art Group seeks input
The Hamline Midway Public Art Working Group wants to hear your feedback on a slate of possible projects the group could pursue and seek funding for in 2016. Following the success of the Midway Murals project in 2015, which brought four beautiful murals to Snelling Ave, we’re looking to continue the evolution of Hamline Midway as a hub for public and community-oriented art in 2016. The group has developed a slate of possible projects to pursue this year, and is now seeking input from the community. Visit www.hamlinemidway.org/publicart to see the list of possible projects, vote on your favorites, and offer your ideas.

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Bees in the Garden

Sunday Series answers the questions you didn’t even know you had

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

Interested in learning how come, how to, what if, or what’s next? Delivering these kinds of answers is one reason behind District 10’s 2016 Sunday Series. The free presentations and discussions tackle different topics— some fun, some serious, some a little of both. Here’s a peek at the lineup; for up-to-the-minute details, see our website: www.district10comopark.org.

Public Works 101: Kathy Lantry, head of Saint Paul’s Department of Public Works, and Cy Kosel, natural resources manager for St. Paul Parks, lead a discussion (and answer questions) about our streets and alleys, as well as most of the things on them, under them, above them, and next to them. We’ll cover plowing to potholes, boulevards to lighting, sewers to trees, short-term and long-term maintenance, and whatever else is on your mind. Details: “Public Works 101,” Sun., Feb. 21, 1pm, Historic Streetcar Station, 1224 Lexington Pkwy. N.

Bees in the GardenGardening for the Birds and the Bees: Twin Cities authors Heather Holm and Clay Christensen give us the dirt on how our yards can attract and nourish birds, bees, butterflies, and other beneficial beasts. They’ll share specific advice about which trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, and other plantings work best. They’ll also make sure we understand which gardening and yard practices are beneficial–and which are not. Details: “Gardening for the Birds and the Bees,” Sun., Feb. 28, 1pm, Historic Streetcar Station.

The Como Park You Never Knew: What do H.W.S. Cleveland, a prison workhouse, Cozy Lake, Warrendale, Frederick Nussbaumer, the St. Paul City Railway, a buffalo park, Fritz von Schiller, the Sons of Norway, hotel fires, dogsled races, the Longfellow Zoo, a gravel pit, a poem as lovely as a tree, the Oliver Crosby Stonebridge mansion, Hamm’s beer, and Henrik Ibsen have in common? They’re all part of the history of Como Park. Author Timothy Gadban tells you the stories long forgotten and the stories behind the park’s most beloved landmarks. Details: “The Como Park You Never Knew,” Sun., Mar. 6, 1pm, Como Dockside, 1360 Lexington Pkwy. N.

What the Birds are Telling Us: The trumpeter swan. The American white pelican. The common loon. The mallard duck. The bald eagle. The Baltimore oriole. These are just 6 of the 166 bird species in Minnesota whose survival is threatened by climate change. Photographer and birder Monica Bryand of St. Paul shares photos and stories of these birds–part of the special project she is working on through the National and Minnesota Audubon Societies. Details: “What the Birds are Telling Us,” Sun., March 13, 1pm, Auditorium at the Como Zoo and Conservatory Visitors Center.

Later in the Sunday Series:
• “Building a Rain Garden,” Sun., Mar. 20, 1pm, Newman-Benson Chapel at Lyngblomsten, 1415 Almond Ave.
• “The Truth About Saint Paul’s Bike Plan,” Sun., Apr. 10, 1pm, Historic Streetcar Station.
• “Garbage 101,” Sun., Apr. 17, 1pm, Como Park Lutheran Church, 1376 W. Hoyt.

D10 Safety Fair rolls out Apr. 1
Keeping yourself, your family, and your home safe is a nonstop project. We’ll share the best tips available during the District 10 Family Safety Fair, a free event co-sponsored with St. Paul Parks and Recreation on Fri., Apr. 1, 5:30pm. The event is scheduled at North Dale Recreation Center, 1414 N. St. Albans. Representatives from Saint Paul police, fire, and parks; the Postal Service; the Block Nurse Program; and other local organizations will be on hand. They’ll share advice, precautions, and resources on increasing safety at home, for your kids, for elderly relatives, for pets, and more. We’ll cap off the evening with the family friendly movie “Shaun the Sheep” (from the creators of “Chicken Run”).

The movie begins at 7pm.

Join the council?
Nine seats on the Como Community Council Board of Directors will be up for election at District 10’s Annual Meeting on Apr. 19. Elections will be held this year for: Vice Chair; Treasurer; one director from each of the neighborhood’s four sub-districts; and three at-large directors. Any resident of District 10 who is age 18 or older is eligible to run for the board. So are authorized representatives from a business or nonprofit organization located in District 10. (Boundaries are the parts of St. Paul roughly bounded by Snelling on the west, Larpenteur on the north, Dale on the east, and the rail lines between Energy Park Dr. and Pierce Butler Rte. on the south.)

Board members elected this year will serve from Apr. 26, until April 24, 2018. They are required to attend the monthly Community Council meeting, to serve on at least one committee, and to share other duties.

Candidates interested in running for a board position must submit their name and a brief biography by Tue., Apr. 5. If you’re interested, submit your information or send your questions to: district10@district10comopark.org.

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Area Under Construction sign

Area construction projects fast approaching

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin


Area Under Construction signAs winter enters its final weeks, area residents and business owners need to think about Minnesota’s second season: construction. The memories of Snelling Ave., Interstate 94 Bridge and Green Line construction may be receding. But this construction season will bring other projects, including the long-awaited completion of the Como-Chatsworth street reconstruction work in Como neighborhood.

Area residents will also be watching for completion of Cleveland Ave. bicycle improvements, which will extend from University Ave. down to Highland Village.
Some projects are thanks to last-minute St. Paul City Council budget changes.

Council President Russ Stark said he was pleased with how smoothly the 2016 budget review process went and the fact that the council was able to find money for some smaller, but important, projects.

“We weren’t able to add in everything we would like to have added, but we were able to include some council priorities,” Stark said. The budget included $1.6 million in last-minute changes.

One is the bike lane project, at a cost of about $200,000. It will add a needed north-south route. Residents and business owners in Merriam Park should watch for upcoming city meetings about the project there.

Another addition was city funding to help purchase the Victoria Theatre. The council tentatively allocated $150,000 toward the group working to redevelop the Victoria Theater in Frogtown, on University Ave. just east of Victoria St.

As for street work, there should be less disruption in 2016 with the start of A Line bus service on University. The area also has no Ramsey County Public Works projects. The county has been able to step up its street work thanks to its recently enacted wheelage tax.

So what else is on the horizon for 2016? Como residents will see the last summer of Como-Chatsworth street reconstruction. The large size of the project and high assessments have added to the stress of torn-up streets and sidewalks. The St. Paul Department of Public Works recently updated the Planning Commission Transportation Committee about that project with Barb Mundahl, who is project manager for the city. The $4.5 million project will add new streets, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, street light and street trees.

Work is planned for June to November. The project has drawn criticism not only for its high assessments but also for long periods with torn-up streets, and street work that for some coincided with the start of school. City officials are trying to mitigate those concerns.

Follow the project at https://www.stpaul.gov/residents/street-design-and-construction/street-construction-projects/comochatsworth-spsvp.
Other projects are smaller in scale. Crews will work on the Lexington Pkwy. to Pierce Butler Rte. bicycle connection. Watch for new street lighting on part of Como Ave. as well.

New playground equipment will appear at Hamline-Midway neighborhood’s May Park on Clayland Ave. and at Frogtown Farm playground equipment on Minnehaha Ave. Work will also continue on Dickerman and Iris parks.

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New University Ave. parking seems to be sailing through

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin


If parking is added along University in several locations, who will park there? Could the parking be a draw to amenities such as Iris and Dickerman parks? Will businesses use it? Those are questions the St. Paul City Council must weigh as it considers reinstating evening and late-night parking along University Ave.

The plan will go to the council for a final public hearing and vote in late February or early March. The Planning Commission voted to approve Feb. 5. Its Transportation Committee unanimously recommended approval of the plan on Jan. 25.

A decision on restoring parking to parts of University will be voted on by the St. Paul City Council, which will hold a public hearing on the issue. A date hasn’t been announced. The changes also need approval from the Ramsey County Board, Hennepin County Board and Minneapolis City Council. The county boards must weigh in because University is classified as a county road.

When Green Line light rail was planned and built on University and Washington avenues, business owners were upset to find that much of the on-street parking would be lost to make way for light rail. The plan under consideration would bring back about 451 spots, in nine areas. Adding parking back in evening and late-night hours reduces University and Washington from four vehicular lanes to two.

Thus far the plan has drawn few public comments. The biggest debate was at Transportation Committee, with a 5-4 split on restoring parking between Prior Ave. and Aldine St. The committee rejected a Union Park District Council (UPDC) request that parking not be allowed there between 6pm and 2am.

Transportation Committee and UPDC Board Member Anne White said that businesses in the area between Aldine and Prior don’t want to see the street reduced to two lanes. “We just couldn’t see the point of bringing parking back,” White said. “The businesses don’t need or want it.” She also said that leaving four lanes of traffic in that area keeps open the option for a future bike lane on University.

Another concern White raised is that reducing University to two lanes could have the effect of pushing more traffic to other streets, including St. Anthony Ave Merriam Park residents have complained about increasing traffic volumes and vehicular speeds on that street.

But other committee members said they don’t want to see the parking proposal changed. Committee Member and Planning Commissioner Jun-Li Wang said pedestrians feel safer when there is a buffer of parked vehicles between them and moving vehicles. Wang, a Hamline-Midway resident, has been involved in planning efforts to improve Dickerman Park. The linear “park” extends from the northeast corner of University and Fairview avenues to Aldine.

“There are concerns about safety at Dickerman Park, and parking could serve as an additional buffer there,” Wang said. On-street parking could also be used by people wanting to visit Dickerman and Iris Park to the west.

Committee Member Jim Barton joined Wang and other committee members in urging that the addition of parking be considered as a test. “I’m not terribly convinced that it (adding parking) is going to work and that it is going to be actively used in some places,” Barton said. “I’d like to see this be considered an experiment and that it be evaluated at some point.”

John Maczko, city engineer for the St. Paul Department of Public Works, said that if there is a request to evaluate the parking, Public Works could do it. But he cautioned that there is no formal process in place to evaluate the added parking. “We’d pretty much take feedback from the community,” he said. City officials would also look at traffic data, including crash data.

The areas where on-street parking would be restored are scattered between Park St. and 23rd Ave. on University Ave. along the Green Line.

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Bank of America logo

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

Bank obtains sign variance
Bank of America logoA new Midway Center business has obtained a variance for its signs. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted unanimously Jan. 20 to approve a variance request from Bank of America.

The bank will open a small branch in the shopping center area facing University Ave., just west of Pascal St. But a major variance was needed to the city’s sign code before the new bank could put up its sign.

The Midway Shopping Center currently has 2,180 square feet of signage. The property was rezoned in 2011 to traditional neighborhood, and as such, the amount of signage allowable was reduced to 1,398 square feet.

The applicant is requesting a variance for a net signage increase of 18 square feet.
The request drew no letters in support and none in opposition. Mike Lawrence of Lawrence Sign explained that the sign request isn’t large, but that the bank does need its own signage.

City staff recommended approval of the variance.

Settlement approved
People with disabilities will have an easier time crossing St. Paul streets as a result of a settlement agreement announced Jan. 25 by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Minnesota Disability Law Center. The city has agreed to upgrade curb ramps on some of its busiest streets. Curb ramps are short ramps that connect the sidewalk to the street and provide individuals with disabilities access to the sidewalk.
The settlement affects curb ramps on streets that were rebuilt in 2014. It also affects all future street reconstruction and mill and overlay projects.

The St. Paul City Council, which signed off on the settlement Jan. 13, voted that same day to approve changes to the St. Paul Department of Public Works Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan. The city is now required to comply with the accessibility requirements of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act when it completes alterations of city streets.

The change means that curb ramps will be replaced with legally compliance ramps, or installed where none exist, during mill and overlay as well as street reconstruction projects. The policy change calls for the city to identify all intersections lacking ramps, or older noncompliant ramps that don’t comply with the accessibility standards in place at the time of the alteration. New ramps will then be installed and older noncompliant ramps replaced.

In the past, Public Works hasn’t considered mill and overlay projects to be the same as street reconstruction. In a mill and overlay project, the top few inches of the street are milled off and then replaced with new pavement. Ramps weren’t replaced as they are when streets are rebuilt with new curbs and gutters, unless the ramps were in poor condition. Public Works spokesman Joe Ellickson said that had changed with the new ADA policy’s adoption.

Disability Law Center attorney Steve Schmidt said that while getting legally compliant ramps retrofitted on the streets done in 2014 is important, the more significant win is that compliant ramps will be part of all future projects. The three plaintiffs initially wrote a letter to the city, then submitted a draft legal complaint when that didn’t get the desired response.

Schmidt said the case had triggered interest from other communities. He said the hope is that other communities will bring their ADA policies in line with the law.

Flavored tobacco banned
Chocolatey cigarillos, bubble gum flavored chewing tobacco and other flavored tobacco products will be gone from most St. Paul retail outlets in April. The St. Paul City Council voted unanimously January 6 to ban flavored products from all but tobacco stores.

City Council members and ban advocates hailed the measure as a way to keep youth away from flavored tobacco products, which range from fruit punch-flavored cigarillos to chocolate-flavor e-cigarette juice. But retailers and the trade groups contend that the ban will mean a loss of retail sales of $50,000 on average for each retailer, as shoppers go elsewhere to buy tobacco products and other items such as food and beverages. That figure goes higher if gasoline sales are factored in.

Convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores and other retailers must now make plans to remove the products from their shelves in 90 days. A similar ban in Minneapolis took effect Jan. 1.

The ban doesn’t cover menthol, mint or wintergreen flavors.

Sale of flavored products will be restricted to tobacco shops, which are only open to patrons ages 18 and older. Tobacco stores are defined as stores that do 90 percent or more of their business in sale of tobacco products. Those include cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes or e-cigs, and the liquid used in those cigarettes.

The council also set a minimum price for cigars, for the second time in two years. Stores must charge at least $2.60 per cigar for packages containing three or more cigars, or $10.40 for a package of four cigars. Cheap cigars and cigarillos are seen as a temptation for youth wanting tobacco.

At least one area business will likely have to relocate or close as a result of the ban. Vape Pros, an electronic cigarette or e-cig shop housed in the Love Doctor adult novelty products store at 1607 University Ave. The two businesses share a tobacco license.

Cap O’Rourke, lobbyist for the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota, noted that 95 percent of e-cigarette juices have some flavoring. “This business will have to remove all of its products, and it will have to close,” he said.

O’Rourke argued that minors aren’t allowed in the business. But because the Love Doctor and Vape Pros are within 500 feet of another tobacco shop, staying open as a separate entity will likely mean moving. Council President Russ Stark and other council members said the city is willing to look at the situation and see what can be done.

The ordinance change has been championed by Ramsey Tobacco Coalition and some medical and youth groups.

“Monitor In A Minute” is compiled and written by Jane McClure

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Literary clubs, film, poetry and music featured at library

Literary clubs, film, poetry and music featured at library

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

IOC_LibraryFebruary and March at the Hamline Midway Library will offer a wide array of programs for all ages, with an especially rich assortment of literary and film events. Programs include a unique fusion of poetry and music called Sonoglyph on the evening of Feb. 27 and the last two readings in this year’s always-popular Fireside Readings Series.

On Tuesday evenings in February, kids can put on a comfy pair of pajamas, grab a favorite stuffed animal, and join friends and family for Evening/Pajama Storytime. Storytimes will happen from 6:30-7pm on Feb. 16 and 23.

The library also offers a regular daytime Preschool Storytime from 10:30-11am on Fri., Feb. 12, 19, and 26 and Mar. 4, 11, 18, and 25. All library storytimes are a great opportunity for families to enjoy great, age-appropriate books, songs, puppets, and fingerplays.

On Thursdays, 10:30-11:30am, the Hamline Midway Elders and the library are co-sponsoring Chair Yoga. This free event gives participants a chance to improve range of movement and alignment and practice stretching, body awareness, and relaxation—all while seated or using a chair for balance. The class is taught by Nancy Giguere. Upcoming classes are Feb. 11, 18, and 25. For more information, contact Tom at tom@hmelders.org or 651-209-6542.

The Saturday Science Club will meet on Sat., Feb. 13, 1:30-3pm, and the theme in February is Magnetism. Peter Hoh and Jackie Lannin will guide children ages 6 and up and their families through hands-on activities and art experiences to explore magnetic attraction. Mark your calendars for Sat., Mar. 12 Science Club, also 1:30-3pm, when the theme will be “In the Wind.” Call the library at 651-642-0293 for more information; walk-ins are welcome.

The Teens Reading Bravely group will also meet on Sat., Feb. 13, 4-5pm, in the library’s teen area. The group reads and discusses books from the “Read Brave” genre, as part of the St. Paul Library’s annual, citywide “Read Brave” program encouraging youth and adults to read and connect around a young adult novel. This group is recommended for ages 14+, grades 9+.

All St. Paul libraries will be closed on Mon., Feb. 15 in honor of Presidents Day.

The Fireside Readings Series presented by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library continues Wed., Feb. 17, 7-8pm, with author Anton Treuer. Treuer will present his latest work, “Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe.” On Wed., Feb. 24, 7-8pm Catherine Madison closes this year’s series with “The War Came Home with Him,” a memoir of two survivors of one man’s war: a father who weathered a prison camp and the daughter who endured the cruelty that he brought back with him. Each event features a cozy fire in the library fireplace and cookies and coffee, as well as a chance to have books signed by the authors.

Jody’s Documentary Film Series continues Wed., Feb. 24, 1-3pm, with the documentary “Ping Pong,” directed by Hugh and Anson Hartford. The documentary tells the story of competitors going for the gold in the International Table Tennis Championships—and they’re all over 80 years old. The event will include a discussion with Jody after the film.

On Sat., Feb. 27 from 7-8:30pm, the library will host Sonoglyph, a special musical and literary event featuring several current and former Midway residents. Poets Hawona Sullivan-Janzen, Kathryn Kysar, and Lynette Reini-Grandell will read (and maybe even sing a little) from their work accompanied by the improvisations of musicians Sean Egan on clarinet, Aaron Kerr on cello, Bobb Fantauzzo on world flutes, and Jonathan Townsend on percussion. This not-to-be-missed melding of poetry and music will also feature refreshments.

Sat., Mar. 5 is a big book club day at the library. The Saints and Sinners Mystery Book Club meets that day from 1-3pm. The title for March is “Blessed are the Dead” by Kristi Belcamino. For more information, contact Geraldine Balter at gerribalter@gmail.com or call 651-224-5570.

The Kids Book Clubs: I Read! I Vote! also meet on Sat., Mar. 5. Kids can learn more about this year’s Maud Hart Lovelace Award nominees through games and activities and vote for their favorites. Division I (grades 3-5) meets 1:30-2:15pm. Division II (grades 6-8) meets 2:30-3:15pm.

On Wed., Mar. 9, 6:30-8:30pm, the Women’s Human Rights Film Series presents the documentary “A Path Appears: Sex Trafficking in the USA.” According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked into sexual slavery in the United States. Acclaimed author Nicholas Kristof teams up with actor/advocates Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, and Malin Ackerman to interview the survivors of sex trafficking and shine a light on this shockingly widespread crime. This event is sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

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