Archive | October, 2016


Local author comes out with his 15th book in O’Connor series

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

Photos and story by JAN WILLMS
kent-kruegerReaders of award-winning local author William Kent Krueger (photo right) have had a chance this September to renew their acquaintance with Cork O’Connor, the Irish and Ojibwe lawman who is the main protagonist in a series of 15 novels by Krueger.

His new book, “Manitou Canyon,” follows O’Connor into the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness as he sets out on a search for a man who has vanished from the area. O’Connor’s family becomes entwined in the quest as the level of danger increases for them all.

The O’Connor mysteries have an established sense of place, Aurora, MN. Although there is a town by that name in the state, the fictional Aurora exists in a county called Tamarack. “You will not find a Tamarack County in Minnesota,” Krueger noted. “The fictional town just happens to share a name with a real town. But anyone who has read my books and has been to the real Aurora will find they are very different places.”

Although Krueger was born in Wyoming, he said he fell in love with Minnesota when he moved here. “I was a gypsy kid before that. I lived everywhere, and I never found a place that felt like home. I have a deep love for this adopted state of mine.”

Krueger added that unlike some who have grown up in Minnesota and lived here their whole lives, he sees the state with fresh eyes. “Its beauty is new to me, and it always amazes me.”

Krueger said that like many Twin Citians, he and his wife have been drawn to the North Country and it has become their favorite place to vacation. Krueger, who has enriched his O’Connor books with Ojibwe (Anishinabe) culture, said that his awareness, and everything he knows about the tribe, didn’t begin until he decided to include them as an element of his work.

“The first thing we did was discover the North Country. We began spending time at a YMCA camp, Camp Du Nord, north of Ely,” Krueger explained.

“It was literally across the road from the Boundary Waters, and I knew that was where I wanted to set my work. And you can’t tell true stories of the North Country without including the Ojibwe because their power up there is ubiquitous; it is everywhere.”

He said his decision to focus much of his work on the Ojibwe culture was influenced by his admiration for the work of Tony Hillerman, an iconic writer in the mystery genre who has his work set in the Four Corners area of the Southwest and dealt significantly with the Navajo.

“At that time there were not many besides Hillerman doing native mysteries; there are a lot more now. I knew nothing about the Ojibwe, but I was a cultural anthropology major in college and so the idea of learning about the culture was interesting,” Krueger continued. “I began by doing what every good academic does, and read everything I could get my hands on about the Ojibwe. In the course of that research, I met members of the native community and formed relationships that have been significant to me across the whole body of my work.” In 1998 he wrote “Iron Lake,” the first Cork O’Connor novel.

“As a writer, I try to give my readers interesting plots,” Krueger said. “But that’s not why they come back. They come back to visit the people that they have fallen in love with over the course of the series.”

He described two kinds of characters. “When you decide you are going to write a mystery series with a central protagonist at the heart of it, you really only have two choices. You can have a static protagonist, somebody who never changes and never ages. Sherlock Holmes is a classic example of that,” Krueger said.

“A dynamic protagonist like Cork is a character who changes. What happens in one story affects the way he behaves in the next. He ages, his experience changes and the growth of his children and how they change affects how he looks at the world.”

Krueger said that for him, writing the developing character, rather than being difficult, keeps it interesting. “When I sit down to write a new book in the Cork O’Connor series, I’m not writing about the same people. What happened in the past story has changed them deeply. So it’s always to me an interesting journey to find out where the O’Connor clan is.”

In one of his books, someone close to Cork is killed off, and Krueger said some of the readers were upset by that and continue to be.

“When I finished the first draft, that person was still alive because that is what I wanted,” Krueger stated. “I read it to make sure the arc of the story worked. It was the ending I wanted, but it was not the ending the story wanted. If I have learned one thing in my career as a storyteller, it is that at some point the story takes on a life of its own. You have to step away from it and let that story go where it wants to go. So I rewrote it with the ending it has now, knowing it would upset a lot of people. But it was the right ending for the story.”

Stepping away from one of his books when needed is something Krueger can do when he feels it is best. He has written 15 Cork O’Connor novels, a thriller called “The Devil’s Bed” and the book he considers his best, “Ordinary Grace,” a cross between a mystery and a coming of age novel. This garnered him the Edgar, Barry, Anthony and Macavity awards in 2014. He had already earned awards for his O’Connor series.

He started work on “This Tender Land,” a companion novel to “Ordinary Grace.” He completed the manuscript and set up a meeting in Chicago with his agent to go over any changes he might want to make. “Two days before we met I contacted her and told her I did not want to meet to discuss revisions, but I wanted to talk about how we could keep this from being published because I was not happy with it. I knew if I was disappointed, my readers certainly would be.”

Krueger said that at this point he did not want to work on revisions, and he said he is fortunate to have a wonderful agent and an understanding publisher. “We renegotiated things, and when I let go of the horrible burdens and expectations of that story, I felt freed. It was like the sky above me cleared, and I saw the story I should have been writing.”

He began working on the novel, still titled “This Tender Land,” about six to eight months ago. The book is due out in 2018.

In the meantime, he completed “Manitou Canyon” and has started work on “Sulfur Springs,” an O’Connor novel that will take place in Arizona. “It may be my favorite in the series. I am having such fun with this book,” he said. That book is due out next fall.

Krueger said he does see parts of himself in O’Connor. “Because I know him so well, it’s probably all subconscious now. I am well aware that so much of Cork comes out of who I am, but it also works the other way. I have learned a great deal about myself in writing Cork.”

Krueger has done most of his writing in coffee shops in his neighborhood. He started out writing his manuscripts in longhand at the St. Clair Broiler. He eventually switched to a laptop and moved to the Como Park Grill. He now writes at the Caribou on Lexington and Larpenteur if he starts before 6:30am. If he starts after 6:30, he writes at the Underground Music Café on Hamline.

“I am a morning person,” he admitted. “I got that from Hemingway. He believed the first light was the most creative part of the day, and I figured what was good enough for Papa was good enough for me.”

He is currently making book tours with “Manitou Canyon.” “There are two things I love about what I do,” Krueger claimed. “One is writing, and the other is connecting with the audience. I love the touring. It gets tiring and is always rigorous, but I do it because I love connecting with my readers.”

Krueger said he has been asked if he is going to stop writing the Cork O’Connor novels. “If I were tired of them, I would. And as soon as I get tired of writing Cork, I will stop. But I so love the series; I want to continue that journey, and I have no plans at this point to stop.”

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Port Authority ready if needed for superblock redevelopment

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

If help is needed, the St. Paul Port Authority is poised to step in with redevelopment of Midway Center and a Major League Soccer stadium. On a 6-0 vote Sept, 27, the Port Authority Board designated the area as an industrial development district.

That designation allows the Port to buy or lease land at the Snelling-Midway property if negotiations don’t proceed between the Minnesota United FC soccer team and center owner RK Midway. Part of the stadium would be located on land currently owned by RK Midway. The rest would be on the former bus garage site owned by Metro Transit and Metropolitan Council.

The Port’s action affects the shopping center property but not the old bus barn site.

superblock-photoImage left: It has only been a little over six months since the first conceptual illustrations of the “superblock” were unveiled. Of course, this is just a conceptualization…what it will finally look like after many years of development is still speculation. (Photo supplied)

Port President Lee Krueger characterized the action as a preemptive move, as did Board President Harry Melander. They said it doesn’t mean that the Port will redevelop the site, but will be ready if need be. Kruger said the Port has developed almost 80 similar districts over the years but didn’t do site development in many of them. He said other decisions for the RK Midway property would be made in the future if need be.

The Port has established similar districts in the past in the North End, Frogtown, West Side, West End and East Side neighborhoods. Most of have been for light industrial and office uses. None have been for the same type of office-retail-hospitality mixed envisioned at the Midway Center site.

Board and City Council members Dan Bostrom and Dai Thao expressed the most reservations about the district designation. Bostrom said he doesn’t want the Port to move in a direction different than what was agreed to earlier this year. A pact approved then has the Port leading environmental cleanup efforts and the city working with the soccer team and property owners on infrastructure.

Council Member Dan Bostrom, who is on the Port Authority’s board, said he did not anticipate that level of involvement from the city or Port Authority, which is a public agency, in the private development. He questioned whether the city was involved in a “bait-and-switch” deal. Thao shared Bostrom’s concerns about the level of potential public financing commitment.

But Krueger and others said the action should only be seen as an initial step. Any further actions to implement a district or spend money would have to come back to the board.

The Port is continuing to work on environmental cleanup of the property, said Monte Hilleman, Port Authority vice president. About $3 million has been found to clean up the old bus barn site.

As for the redevelopment of the center and soccer stadium construction itself, there are still more questions than answers. Gov. Mark Dayton indicated last month that a special legislative session, which would have included a tax break for construction materials and for the site, won’t happen. That pushes any action off to the 2017 session.

Team owner Bill McGuire hasn’t been saying much, other than that it is “too involved” and a complex project to move ahead. He told a Midway Chamber audience last month that he doesn’t want to conduct business “in the newspaper.”

Teams officials had hoped to break ground in May or June. That has been pushed back to an unknown date. The team still hopes to play at a new stadium in 2018.

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HMC Executive Director battling anxiety and depression

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

As Michael Jon Olson works his way back to full-time hours, he opens up about his struggles

michael-jon-olsonIt wasn’t easy to admit to himself, but Michael Jon Olson (photo right, photo by Tesha M. Christensen) is anxious and depressed.

The Hamline Midway Coalition Director was out of the office for much of the summer due to his health condition but is working his way back to full-time.

He expects his recovery to be two steps forward, one step back with some days feeling like he’s gone only one step forward and fallen two steps back.

It all started when he bought a house
Olson has been active in community organizing since he bought a house in the challenging Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis in 1995. While there, he served on the Ventura Village Board of Directors. Next, he was employed as program coordinator by the Seward Neighborhood Group, and, in 2005, he was recruited to apply for the executive director position at the Hamline Midway Coalition.

“I enjoy the diversity of the work,” explained Olson. “I get to work on a lot of different kinds of issues.”

Plus, he finds it appealing to have a hand in the development and evolution of a city.

An indefinite medical leave
But in July of this year, Olson’s health had deteriorated such that he could no longer do the work he loved, and Hamline Midway Coalition went to a low-power state. He realized it was the pressure of the work that was causing his poor health.

“He was trying to fight through it, but a few months ago he came to the board and told us what was going on,” recalled HMC Board President Steve Samuelson, who called Olson “a tremendous asset for the neighborhood.”

Samuelson added, “It’s one of those things that people don’t like to talk about. But I think bringing it out into the open is good for everyone.”

Out in the open
In December 2015, Olson caught a serious viral infection that hung on for weeks and disrupted his sleep patterns.

While vacationing in Mexico in February, Olson began experiencing sensations in his ears. Initially, he thought it was simply water stuck there from swimming. A few days after he returned home, he caught the flu. The sensation in his ears continued, and, in April, he was diagnosed with tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Over the next several months, the diagnoses continued to add up: hearing loss in his left ear, Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (a misdiagnosis), Tensor Tympani Syndrome, and Misophonia.
Finally, a specialist suggested his physical symptoms were due to anxiety.

“They’re all indicators of an anxiety disorder,” explained Olson. He pieced things together slowly over time “to understand that the physical symptoms were manifestations of anxiety and depression.”

He doesn’t know what came first, the physical symptoms of his ears or the depression, anxiety, and insomnia. “It’s impossible to untangle,” Olson said, but that’s what he began trying to do.

Anxiety and depression are hard to treat
He didn’t want to accept his diagnosis. So he had a CAT scan and an MRI, and he was evaluated for brain cancer. “I was looking at everything for some explanation besides anxiety and depression,” Olson said. “There was a part of me that didn’t want this to be anxiety and depression.

“If you have a physical malady, that’s easy to see and treat. Anxiety and depression are so much harder to diagnose and treat.”

Olson started trying different medications and scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist—for three months in the future, the soonest opening available. He went to see chiropractors, a homeopath, a psychologist and various other specialists. He stopped drinking alcohol and caffeine and cut down on refined sugars.

At one point, he had lost 40 pounds and was on the verge of developing an eating disorder.
Then he hit rock bottom. On Aug. 30, his dark suicidal thoughts drove Olson into a psychiatric emergency room.

There he was finally was able to meet with a psychiatrist.

“One of the things I’ve learned from this is how poorly our medical system is set up for dealing with all of this,” observed Olson.

His general practitioner prescribed the first depression and anxiety medications, but no one had sat him down and said: “You know what you need? A psychiatrist.”

The emergency room psychiatrist began tweaking his medication, prescribing one for the long-term and another for short-term symptoms.

His current psychiatrist has adjusted his medication again. “Part of the process is figuring out what medications will work,” remarked Olson.

It’s not an easy task considering that his body does not metabolize antidepressants well, a result confirmed by the P-450 genetic test. The test explained some of his earlier reactions to the medication.

Anxiety and depression are widespread
All along, Olson’s struggle has included feelings of self-loathing “because I wasn’t able to work or be fully present in my home life,” he said. “When you’re in that kind of state, suffering from anxiety and depression disorder, you can’t help but think those things. It’s where your mind goes.”

He has often felt like he destroyed the wonderful organization he built, something his board of directors assures him isn’t true. They remind him: “You didn’t choose this. You are dealing with a medical condition. Nobody chooses to struggle with these kinds of issues.” Intellectually, he knows this is true, but he can’t always help himself from feeling otherwise.

Through his struggle, Olson has learned just how common anxiety and depression are. When he talks with friends and others he knows, he’s often told they’ve also suffered from anxiety and depression, or someone they love has.

“I think it is a bigger issue than we acknowledge in this culture,” remarked Olson. “I want people to know how widespread it is.”

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population.

Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44, and it affects more than 15 million American adults in a given year.

“The number of people struggling with depression has increased by 10 percent every decade since 1910,” pointed out Olson.

While the medical system is better than it used to be, it still isn’t well equipped for dealing with anxiety and depression, said Olson. “We don’t understand how the mind-body connection works.”
He thinks there is much to be learned from some of the alternative practices, such as yoga and mindfulness techniques.

One of the big issues right now is that the system is fragmented. “It’s not like you can walk into a center for anxiety and depression, and see specialists who will work together as a team. It’s up to you to put things together when you’re in a really bad state of mind.”

Mind-body connection lost
Olson hopes people start recognizing that the roots of the anxiety and depression affecting so many is due to our cultural practices. “We are a very individualist society and people don’t have strong bonds of community. We, as a species, came of age in very tight-knit tribal or clan communities.

There have been studies done that show where this still exists you don’t have the level of mental illness, of anxiety and depression, that you have in our society.”

Today, technology disguises itself as a community, but Facebook, Twitter and such are very different than face-to-face encounters, Olson observed.

“What we’re learning about mental health illnesses is the loss of mind-body connection,” he pointed out. “We spend so much time in front of screens we lose our connection to our body and other people.”

Regaining that connection is an important part of his healing process.

HMC in reflective period
As he returns to work, HMC is embarking on an effort to redefine itself.

hmc-staffOn Sept. 1, Melissa Cortes moved from volunteer to full-time employee, filling the community organizer role vacated by Kyle Mianulli in July. Christine Shyne has been contracted to lend a hand in the office as needed.

Photo left: Hamlin Midway Coalition is no longer on a low power state. Melissa Cortes (left) has filled the community organizer role vacated by Kyle Maniulli in July. Christine Shyne (right) has been contracted to lend a hand in the office as needed. Executive Director Michael Jon Olson (center) is working his way back to full-time. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“Regardless of my situation, the organization is in need of a good reflective period,” observed Olson. “We’ve really come through a very active, very involved period with a lot of balls in the air. Part of that is what contributed to my getting overwhelmed.”

Several projects, that the HMC served as fiscal agent for, need to be wrapped up and closed out, including the Friendly Streets, Better Bridges Initiative; St. Paul Healthy Transportation for All; and the Midway Mural Project.

HMC also recognizes that funding challenges lie ahead, and wants to prepare for them.

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Neighborhood celebrates Prior Bridge re-opening

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
In an ambitious summer of road repair, nine St. Paul bridges across I-94 experienced partial or full closure this summer. The budget for the project was $4.3 million and included bridge repair at Pelham, Cretin, Cleveland, Prior, Pascal, Hamline, Lexington, Victoria and Dale streets and avenues.

The longest closure was expected to be Prior Ave., and it was. For four months beginning Apr. 27, the Prior Ave. Bridge was closed for an overhaul that included a full deck replacement, new railings, and improved lighting.

The neighborhood celebrated the bridge’s re-opening at Merriam Terrace Park at with activities for all ages just before the bridge opened to traffic at 8pm Aug. 30.

Kevin Walker, MnDOT communication and engagement director, said, “This was a chance for us to say ‘thank you’ to the neighborhood residents and business owners, the Union Park District Council and the Merriam Park Recreation Center. Everyone has been supportive and very patient.”

“In advance of the project,” Walker explained, “we talked with every nearby business owner about the possible impact this closure might have. The original Prior Ave. Bridge was built in 1966. We expect this one to last another fifty years.”

Walker said that the “Prior Ave. Bridge reconstruction is part of the City of St. Paul’s Bike Plan. With its spacious bike lanes and buffers, it will provide a safe north-south route for bikers for years to come.”

prior-bridge-opening-01Photo left: Crews worked up until the last minute marking and taping lane dividers. The new bridge has 10’ wide sidewalks, 6’ wide bike lanes and 6’ wide buffers in both directions and 12’ wide lanes for automobiles.



Photo right: Terry Barnes (left) and Lili Zoltai (right) explore the new bridge. The Prior Ave. Bridge was one of nine bridges undergoing repair across I-94 between Pelham Blvd. and Dale St. this summer.





prior-bridge-opening-17Photo left: One of two bands performing was Eli’s Sons, local “public figures” as they like to call themselves, and solid musicians playing around town.





prior-bridge-opening-20Photo right: At the Prior Ave. Bridge Community Social, bikers of all ages decorated their bikes. Free bike tune-ups were offered by the Express Bike Shop. A social enterprise of Keystone Community, they reinvest 100% of their proceeds into their urban apprenticeship program – developing the work, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills of neighborhood youth.




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Republican, DFL candidates vie off in State Representative races

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

When you head out to the polls on Tue., Nov. 8, you’ll get the opportunity to select your top picks for national and state offices.

Local state representative races include Districts 64A, 65A, and 66B.


erinmurphy64aErin Murphy (I) – DFL
Murphy graduated from high school in Janesville, Wis., and later attended the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, receiving her B.S. in nursing in 1984. She earned her M.A. in organizational leadership in health care from St. Catherine University in 2005, and also attended the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota from 2005 to 2006.
Murphy has set four priorities:
1) Universal Access to Preschool and Early Learning Opportunities;
2) An Economy that Benefits All;
3) Student Loan Debt; and
4) Economic Security for Women.

She believes the issue of high-quality, cost-free universal access to preschool and early learning opportunities is crucial for Minnesota’s future for many different reasons, including the need to equitably educate our children and close the achievement gap. She also sees it as an economic issue about providing flexibility and opportunities for families of all incomes.

For Murphy, ensuring access to paid family leave and earned sick leave will mean working Minnesotans can meet family obligations without the fear of jeopardizing their livelihood.

She supports policies to relieve the burden of student loan debt, including legislation that would dramatically reduce the cost of college for current and future students, while significantly reducing the existing debt that many Minnesotans are saddled with.

Murphy supports keeping contraception accessible and affordable, promotes health and economic security for women and their families, and that’s why she will seek to pass the CHEER Act.

Murphy also supports legislation requiring all of Minnesota’s two- and four-year colleges to develop, in concert with their students, student policies requiring affirmative consent before engaging in sexual activity.

rileyhoranimg_5770Riley Horan – R
Horan, a 20-year old college student at the University of St. Thomas, is presently a business law major. During his freshman year, he joined the College Republican’s Club. Horan is presently employed as an intern at a dynamic law firm in downtown St. Paul and plans to attend law school after completing his undergraduate degree.

Horan was born and raised in Northern California and is the eldest of five children. He is a practicing Catholic and was educated in the parochial school system.

Horan bills himself as a young conservative with bold ideas.

He will support any legislation that cuts income taxes for individuals and families, and would like to see the corporate income tax rate cut to loosen the grip that regulations place on small businesses in Minnesota. Horan supports support Right to Work laws.

Rather than offering universal, free, Pre-K to all, Horan proposes that scholarships be offered to qualifying low-income households. He supports school choice, and legislation allowing school districts to hire and fire based on performance, rather than tenure.

Horan believes that colleges must cut needless spending, forgo the daycare-like atmosphere, and operate more like true businesses to reduce student debt.

On the social side, Horan is for completely defunding Planned Parenthood of all taxpayer money, and believes Republicans should end the fight against limiting the freedoms of men and women in the LGBT community.

He would increase funding for the police, eliminate the MNsure program, and use the budget surplus to address evolving road and bridge infrastructure needs. Horan is pro-gun and pro-second amendment. Rather than limit the rights of law-abiding gun owners, he supports additional funding to combat mental health.


moniquegiordana_headshot_300_dpiMonique Giordana, R
Giordana’s mother taught her you can learn something from every single person you meet. Giordana’s Portuguese father immigrated to the United States to live the American dream where he ran a small business garden center. These lessons drive Monique’s passion to see every person achieve their dreams and live their lives to the fullest.

Raised in Minnesota, Giordana now works at Regions Hospital as a cancer center clinical pharmacist.

She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Doctor of Pharmacy and went on to complete additional education and training by completing a general pharmacy residency at the VA North Texas Healthcare Center, a Hematology/Oncology specialty pharmacy residency at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, and board certification in oncology pharmacy.

Giordana believes every family deserves affordable healthcare and the freedom to choose their healthcare team.

She would end big bonuses for executives at MNsure and save individuals and families money on health insurance over the next three years. She supports reforms that lower health insurance costs and provide more health care options.

Giordana advocates for greater local control of how education money is spent and believes teachers should be fairly compensated and rewarded based on effectiveness not just years of service.
She supports tax relief and would get rid of unnecessary business laws, taxes and regulations.

She decries the gridlock and partisan politics that are hurting St. Paul and all the residents of 65A.
Giordana promises to lead the difficult and complicated conversations necessary to bring all police officers, early education, public schools, families, and neighbors together to find solutions. It’s not about us versus them.

renamoran65aRena Moran (I) – DFL
Moran is the mother of seven children. Twelve years ago, she moved to the Twin Cities in search of a better life for her kids. Homeless, she and her children stayed in a Minneapolis shelter for several months. It wasn’t long before she and her family went from homeless to homeowners. She found her first job in Minnesota earning minimum wage at Camp Snoopy, then at the YMCA on University Ave. before moving on to work at a commodities trading firm in downtown Minneapolis for five years. During this time, she began to get involved in social change work. After five years, she left the comforts of her corporate job to become a Wellstone Organizing Fellow and embark on her new vocation of community organizing. Moran was sworn into office on Jan. 4, 2011 as the First African American to represent St. Paul at the Capitol.

She is a member of the following committees: Education Innovation Policy, Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Policy and Health and Human Services Reform. Also, Governor Mark Dayton appointed Moran to serve on the Minnesota Task Force on Prematurity, the Council of Black Minnesotans and with the Visible Child Work Group.

Moran has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, MAPE, Service Employees International Union, Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund, International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Moran earned her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Southern Illinois University.

She also works in the non-profit sector as the Director of Parent Leadership with Minnesota Communities Caring for Children.


johnlesch66bJohn Lesch (I) – DFL
John Lesch was first elected in November of 2002. His focus in the legislature is on consumer protection, corporate accountability, liveable neighborhoods, economic opportunity, and data privacy.

Legislative committees on which he has served include: Taxes, Local and Property Tax Division; Regulated Industries, Gaming Division; Civil Law and Elections; Judiciary Policy and Finance; Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Policy; and Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs. Lesch currently serves as ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Civil Law.

Lesch has rallied to increase access to justice through the courts, for corporate accountability and other efforts that augment the people’s right to seek justice. He sat for two terms on the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, charged with developing statewide procedures to investigate identity theft and other financial crimes.

For 15 years, in addition to his role as a legislator, Lesch prosecuted domestic assault crimes as an Assistant City Attorney for St. Paul. Lesch currently works at Lesch & Duren, a St. Paul firm specializing in criminal defense. In 2009, Lesch enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard where he currently serves as a staff officer in the 2-135 Light Infantry Battalion.

Lesch has been a Sunday School teacher and a member of his church finance council. Lesch was a founding member of South Como Block clubs and an active participant with the District 6 Community Council, North End Area Revitalization, and the Great Northern Corridor redevelopment.

Lesch earned his B.A. from Saint Louis University in 1995 with a double major in Philosophy and Psychology, and a J.D. from Hamline University School of Law in 1998 with a concentration in Government and Regulatory Affairs. He lives with his wife, Melissa, and daughter in St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood.

William Brownell – R
Email: Brownell4house@gmail.com
No campaign website
William Brownell is a 2016 Republican candidate for District 66B of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Brownell was a 2014 Democratic candidate who sought election to the U.S. House to represent the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota. Brownell failed to file with the Secretary of State to run in the primary election.


jonheyerJon Heyer – R    
Jon Heyer is a Minnesota native who grew up in the Roseville area. He and his wife Teri have lived in St. Paul for 30 years and together have two daughters, two son-in-laws, and two grandchildren. Heyer’s son-in-laws are both in the service–one in the United States Air Force and the other with the Minnesota Army National Guard.

A semi-retired church educator with over 35 years experience, Heyer has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. in Theology from Saint Catherine University. Heyer currently serves as a board member of St. Paul District 10 Council.

He believes “we need to create more living wage jobs, improve our schools, and make public safety a top priority.”

On education, Heyer would restore local control to communities and parents. He believes that competition will improve school performance, pointing to examples of dozens of private and charter schools with much better test scores than the public system at significantly less cost per student.
Heyer points to the state’s recent budget surpluses as evidence of over-taxation and would hold the line and not raise taxes any further. He believes in spending money only on things we need, not loading up bonding bills with non-essential things.

Heyer supports reforming the Affordable Care Act and MNSure as he doesn’t think they are helping those they are meant to. Too many people are getting “insurance” that is far too expensive for them to use due to high deductibles and co-pays, and he would be creative in finding better ways.

A life member of Trout Unlimited, Heyer supports following existing regulatory guidance and stop obstructing well-regulated mining and logging, as well as reducing the amount of trash that ends up in landfills by promoting recycling, compostable, and organic waste collection, and programs to reuse items.

He points out that roads, bridges, and public buildings are crumbling due to neglect and urges the state to take care of what is there instead of embarking on expensive new projects.

Heyer believes that the best way to solve the challenges of the economy is to support small and mid-size business creation.

alicehausman66aAlice Hausman, (I) – DFL
Hausman has been in office since a special election in 1989 and has served 14 terms.
She earned a B.S. in education and an M.A. in education from Concordia University and is a retired educator. She is married and has two children.

After a 10-year effort to construct a new facility to house the state’s natural history museum, Rep. Hausman was successful in getting legislation enacted that authorizes funding for a new Bell Museum and Planetarium.

She was named the 2016 Legislator of the Year Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota.

She earned the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) 2014 Legislator of the Year award as chief author of the Bonds for Affordable Housing bill authorizing $20 million in state general obligation bonds for rehabilitation and preservation of public housing. The bill also provides $80 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds to finance the preservation of affordable housing and to address foreclosure.

The Sierra Club North Star Chapter presented Hausman with its 2012 Legislative Leadership Award because she is a staunch opponent of sulfide mining. She also has been a longtime champion of efforts to restore wetlands, improve transit options, invest in parks and trails, and protect clean water.

Recognizing a perfect record on key conservation, energy, and clean water votes, Conservation Minnesota has presented Hausman with its 100% Minnesotan award.

The League of Minnesota Cities named Hausman a 2008 Legislator of Distinction.

For her work on housing issues, Lutheran Social Services presented Hausman with its Vision Award.
Hausman has received the Legislative Champion Award from the University of Minnesota Alumni Association.

She has been endorsed by AFSCME Council 5, Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, Education Minnesota, Minnesota AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE), NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Sierra Club, TakeAction Minnesota and the United Transportation Union.

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Theater classes set at North Dale Rec

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

theater-stockHomeward Bound Theatre Company will offer theater classes at the North Dale Recreation Center, 1414 St Albans St. N.:

“Mother Goose Tales,” Sat., Nov. 5, 9:30-10:15am, three through five-year-olds will act out their favorite tales from a time long ago in this fun, whimsical class. We will take turns acting out these treasured tales of a time gone by like “Three Little Pigs” or “Simple Simon.”

Also on Nov. 5, 10:30am-noon, “Where the Wild Things Are” will have six through eight-year-olds learning creative dramatics and movement with fun and focus. Students will develop individual imagination and group cooperation acting out of children’s literature

“Adventures with Raggedy Ann and Andy,” Sat., Nov. 12, 9:30-10:15am, finds three through five-year-olds acting out the mischievous antics and adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy, the dolls and their delightful band of stuffed animal friends that come to life when no humans are present.

“Dr. Seuss and Me,” Sat., Nov. 19, from 9:30-10:15am, where three through five-year-olds will act out their favorite Dr. Seuss stories like “The Cat in the Hat” or “Green Eggs and Ham,” recreated for family and friends! Participants experience will include warm-up games, theater exercises, and movement.

Homeward Bound Theatre also offers several 3-week theater classes on Thursdays, Oct. 27, Nov. 3 and Nov. 10. They are:

“Storytelling & Acting,” 3-4:30pm, where 15 through 18-year-olds will learn how to mesmerize their family and friends with a way of telling stories that will bring the characters and happenings to life. Imagination games and acting exercises will help everyone discover parts of their personality they rarely explore. No previous acting experience is required.

“You’re On Stage,” 5:30-7pn, will find 13 through 16-year-olds focusing using their body movements, facial expressions and voice to build character development and portrayal. Budding actors will play with and explore their imaginations to learn how to reach their hidden talents with these scene staging and acting techniques.

“Acting is Fun,” 1:15-2:45pm, will have adults through seniors re-experiencing the exhilarating freedom they may not have felt since they were children! Imagination games and exercises will help students discover parts of their personality rarely explored. No acting experience necessary!
For more information and cost of registration call St. Paul Parks and Recreation at 651-558-2329 or register online at www.stpaul.gov/activityregistration.

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Hamline Ave. bike lanes project, part two, will peddle into 2017

Hamline Ave. bike lanes project, part two, will peddle into 2017

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

IOC01_15BikeSignBike lanes will be striped on Hamline Ave. between Minnehaha Ave. and Pierce Butler Rte., but not until 2017. That would complete a project started last month. A St. Paul Department of Public Works mill and overlay project included bike lanes on both sides of the street and the removal of parking on the street’s west side.

The City Council in August laid over a decision on the northern part of the project, pending discussions with neighbors and city staff. The big sticking point was parking. Neighbors already affected by Hamline Hi-Rise spillover parking and parking from area schools said they would have even more difficulty parking their vehicles.

The southern stretch of Hamline is wide enough to allow parking on one side of the street. But north of Minnehaha, the street is only 36 feet wide, and there are already parking bans in place. A few houses lack driveways or alley access to their homes. Businesses at the northeast corner of Minnehaha and Hamline are also affected by parking changes. But Hamline Midway Coalition, cycling advocates, and some neighbors, supported the bike lanes and asked for the extension.

Council President Russ Stark said before the North Hamline vote Sept. 14 that city staff had talked to neighbors and looked at options over the last months. Some neighbors asked that bikes be diverted to Griggs or Albert streets. Griggs already is a marked bike route. Share the road arrows or sharrows could have been considered.

Stark said he believes the best option is to extend the bike lanes north to Pierce Butler, while taking measures to provide some parking. Part of the proposal calls for a two-foot widening along parts of the east side of Hamline Ave. between Englewood and Hubbard avenues. Between Hubbard and Seminary avenues, this would add about six-and-a-half spaces. Between Seminary and Englewood it would add four spaces.

Another proposal is to relocate the existing westbound bus stop to the northwest corner of Hamline and Minnehaha to create more parking capacity, of three to four spaces along Minnehaha for businesses.

Stark said his office would continue to work with neighbors on parking issues, as will the district council transportation committee. One of the biggest issues to be addressed is how to accommodate staff parking for the high-rise, which has many elderly and disabled residents. Many are served by personal care attendants who arrive at different times during the day.

A handful of residential neighbors and business owners attended the Sept. 14 discussion, which wasn’t a public hearing. Some said afterward that they would have liked a chance to speak before the council vote.

Hamline Ave. has been eyed as a bike route for several years. A previous plan was rejected because of parking and traffic concerns. The citywide bicycle plan calls for Hamline Ave. to be a bicycle lane from the north city limits at Larpenteur Ave. to Montreal Ave. and Edgcumbe Rd. Having the Hamline-Midway section striped could be the first step toward a larger project, according to bike advocates.

The City Council adopted the bike plan in 2015.

The Hamline-Midway section of the Hamline Ave. route was the subject of community meetings, a spring open house, surveys and other outreach. Public Works traffic counts indicated that there is ample parking for residents and business, but that didn’t alleviate all of the concerns about lost parking.

The plan recently implemented created two five-foot bike lanes, an eight-foot parking lane on one side of the street, an 11-foot travel lane in each direction and parking bans at all four corners of Charles Ave. To accommodate the installation of bike lanes, parking was removed on the east side of Hamline between Sherburne and Minnehaha avenues, except for the northern half of the block between Van Buren and Minnehaha avenues.

Parking removal is also proposed for the west side of Hamline Ave. between Van Buren and Minnehaha avenues. New time-limited parking capacity, with a one-hour limit, is proposed on the south side of Thomas Ave. east of Hamline. That was done to accommodate businesses.

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News from Como Park High School

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

• Senior Noah Hamilton has been designated a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist. This achievement recognizes students that are in the top 1% of students nationwide. Noah will be pursuing the distinction of becoming a National Merit Finalist through the submission and evaluation of all his academic achievements. Finalists will be announced in February 2017.

• Senior Sumaya Mohamed was selected to be the media representative for the state-wide Youth in Government program this year. Sumaya is an accomplished video producer and editor who has gained much experience through her own documentaries and her time at the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN).

• Freshman Amelia Schucker will be participating in a String Day Festival on Mon., Oct. 31 at the University of St. Thomas. Selected students from across Minnesota will be on campus intensely practicing and rehearsing with conductor Dr. Matthew George. Amelia plays violin and viola in the Como Orchestra led by Dr. Philip Fried.

• Parent Academy Seminars are coming soon with events scheduled for Mon., Oct. 24 and Mon., Nov. 7 at Como from 5:30-6:45 each night. The seminar in October will focus on Exploring College Options. The November seminar will cover College Entrance Exams including the SAT, ACT, and Accuplacer. A light supper will be provided, and childcare is also available. All Como parents are welcome and encouraged to attend.

There will also be a FAFSA Night at Como on Tues., Oct. 18 from 5-7pm. Como counselors will be available to help students and families with the process of applying for financial aid and navigating the forms online to successfully complete the application.

• Como’s Theatre and Music Department will present the annual fall musical in the Como Auditorium on Thur. and Fri., Nov. 10 and 11 at 7pm both nights. The show is entitled “Yearbook Reflections,” an upbeat musical about the willpower, compassion, and humor found in every high school. Tickets are $2 for adults, $1 for students and can be purchased at the door.

como-park-high-school-img_8074• Senior cross country star Innocent Murwanashyaka won the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 24 at the University of Minnesota. (Photo left) With 490 high school runners in the Maroon Division race, Innocent took the lead early on and never let it go, cruising to his second consecutive Griak title. He also qualified for the State Meet as a junior last season, finishing in 8th place, and has set a goal of getting back to state and competing for the title.

Murwanshyaka is also an exceptional student in Como’s Academy of Finance and was highly regarded for his work this past summer with a BrandLab marketing internship. He is being recruited by several Division I schools including the University of South Dakota and the U of M.

• The Como Robotics Team is already back in action after their groundbreaking work last season that culminated with a state tournament appearance in April. The Como “BEASTBOT” will participate in the Minnesota Robotics Invitational on Oct. 15 at Roseville Area High School. The team is ranked in the state’s Top 20 and are excited about kicking off the year in this select tournament of high caliber teams.

como-park-high-school-img_4039• Members of the Como Cougars Varsity Football Team spent the afternoon of Oct. 1 at the Minnesota Vikings training facility participating in a skills clinic and meeting NFL players and coaches with inspiring messages. (Photo right) The Cougars worked with E.J. Henderson, Chuck Foreman and Super Bowl winning coach John Gruden who was in town with the Monday Night Football broadcasting crew covering the Vikings.

Dick’s Sporting Goods also teamed up with the Vikings to host the event. They presented the Cougars with a $2,000 check to purchase much-needed equipment including tackling dummies, hand shields, and practice balls.

• Homecoming week events at Como were festive and fun with dress up days in school, a pep fest, coronation, and “Battle of the Classes.” Homecoming culminated with a parade, picnic, football game, and dance at the school. Special recognition and thanks go out to the Como Park Booster Club for their support, and all of their behind the scenes work.

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St. Paul Police Department to open substation at Midway Center

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

sppd_patchMidway Center will become the home of a new St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) substation. The St. Paul City Council Sept. 21 unanimously approved an agreement with center owner RK Midway to occupy a vacant storefront there. The lease starts October 1 and extends through Sept. 2017.

The substation opens at a time when there have been growing concerns about crime in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood north of the shopping center and in the neighborhoods to the west.

Police Chief Todd Axtell and City Council President Russ Stark, said that the substation is opening in response to crime issues. Stark said the area had seen an increase in drug dealing, more calls about shots fired and more reports of assaults.

“People have been asking for more police presence in the area,” said Stark. The Midway Center area has a beat cop and has had increased patrols recently. “There are concerns about the uptick in some types of crime, and we hope having the substation there is a deterrent.”

Axtell said the storefront gives police more visibility in the area. “We’ve been pretty active in the Midway Center area, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to have space there at little cost to the department.” The city won’t pay any rent for the space but will cover other costs such as furnishings.
The storefront has the support of area district councils and the Midway Chamber of Commerce.

Midway Center and its adjacent neighborhoods are in the Western Police District. SPPD statistics indicate that overall, crime in the district has decreased just under 1 percent in the first eight months of 2016 when compared to 2015. However, some types of crime are on the upswing. Crimes against persons, which covers assaults, are up 9 percent from the same period last year. There have been frequent complaints in the area about large groups of young people who are disruptive.

Stark and Axtell said the intent is for the substation to be short-term. Midway Center is slated for a dramatic redevelopment. The Rainbow grocery store, adjacent stores, and Big Top Liquor, are to make way for a Major League Soccer stadium in the future. Shopping center owner RK Midway plans to work with the soccer team owners and other partners to redevelop the 1950s shopping center into a high-density, mixed-use development with retail, green space, offices, hotels and apartments. That development is expected to roll out over a longer period, in part as existing center leases expire.

For more than 20 years, the  SPPD and the city’s 17 district councils embarked on a high-profile campaign to add substations throughout the city. The stations were in district council offices, private businesses and in institutions. There were almost 20 small spaces at various times. Police used the spaces to sit and do paperwork, meet with citizens and in some cases, have limited office hours.

Few active substations remain, although Highland District Council and the Police Department worked together a few years ago to have a substation at Sibley Plaza.

Axtell and Stark said they don’t see the city returning to a trend of establishing multiple substations. Stark said he saw the Midway Center agreement as meeting a specific need and is a unique opportunity to use a space without having to pay rent.

“We’d be open to hearing from neighborhoods if they believe there is a need,” Axtell said.

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Como Community Council Corner

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin


A great idea blossoms into 50 volunteers, 1400 plants, and two gardens
The neighborhood is a little more beautiful, and Como Lake will be a little cleaner, thanks to more than 50 neighborhood volunteers who took the concept of a community garden to a new level on Oct. 1.

dist-10-triangle_0395The volunteers, including more than 15 students from Murray Middle School, planted nearly 1,400 shrubs, flowers and grasses in two triangle gardens at the intersections of Horton, Churchill and Van Slyke avenues.

The triangles–the result of recent street reconstruction–were built as filtration gardens that will capture and clean stormwater runoff before it reaches the lake. The gardens carry on, and expand, the tradition of the old “Churchill Garden,” which Warrendale neighbors built and maintained for more than 15 years.

The final product is the result of collaboration among neighbors, St. Paul’s Public Works and Forestry departments, the Ramsey Conservation District, the Capitol Region Watershed District, and the District 10 Como Community Council.

Here’s your chance to do more than talk about it
District 10 is seeking candidates to fill board vacancies from Sub-District 2 and Sub-District 4. If you live in the north part of the district, or the south part of the district, think about it!

For Sub-District 2, you must live in the area between Hamline on the west, Larpenteur on the north, Victoria on the east, and the BNSF tracks on the south.

For Sub-District 4, you must live between Dale on the east, Snelling on the west, and between the BNSF right-of-way north of Front and Energy Park Drive, and the BNSF right-of-way north of Pierce Butler Route.

Representatives from businesses or institutions in those areas also are eligible. Candidates must be at least 18 years old.
The elected candidates will:
• Serve the remainder of the vacant terms, which expire in April 2018
• Get to be directly involved in issues affecting our neighborhood’s quality of life
• Even get a table card with their name on it

A special election to fill the vacancy is Tues, Oct. 18 at 7pm, before the monthly board meeting. To submit your name or to find out more, contact the District 10 office at 651-644-3889, or by email at district10@district10comopark.org.

Another gathering of the seeds
It’s harvest time in our gardens, which makes it a perfect time to reconvene the Como Community Seed Library. The volunteer group is holding a free harvest open house on Sun., Oct. 16, 1-3pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station. At this “skill share and harvest exchange, “ you can:
• Join an exchange of seeds, recipes, and canned and fresh harvest
• Swap stories
• Learn the perfect crops and tools to extend your growing season
• Get answers from a Master Gardener
• Find out how and why to add biodiversity to your garden
• Create seed-inspired art
• Make connections with neighborhood gardeners and gardening groups

Special guests include Judi Petkau of Wild Ones and Koby Jeschkeit-Hagen of Seed Sages. For more information, follow Como Community Seed Library on Facebook.

Pancake breakfast Oct. 29
District 10’s annual Community Pancake Breakfast is Sat., Oct. 29, in the cafeteria of the Humphrey Job Corps Center. The breakfast–which features pancakes, eggs, bacon, and juices–runs from 8:30-11:30am. In honor of Halloween, the morning also features a children’s costume parade.
Tickets are $7 for teens and adults, $4 for children ages 3-12.

Backyard fire ban a hot topic in survey
Respondents to a District 10 survey overwhelmingly oppose banning recreational fires in St. Paul. But many survey participants say there should be more courtesy and education about the use and impact of “backyard fires.”

District 10’s Land Use Committee conducted the survey after a neighborhood resident contacted the committee about the impact that recreational fires have on her health. More than 500 people filled out the online survey. Here are some results of the survey:
• 16 percent of survey participants say they support a ban on recreational fires; 81 percent oppose a ban.
• 20 percent of survey participants say they support limiting the number of recreational fires individuals can have in one year; 70 percent oppose such limits.
• Nearly two-thirds of survey participants say they have recreational fires in their yard; slightly more than one-third do not. Among those who have fires, more than 99 percent oppose a ban. Among participants who do not have fires, 41 percent support a ban.
• Nearly one-quarter of survey participants say smoke from recreational fires bothers them, and nearly as many say smoke affects their health.

Recreational fires are legal in the City of St. Paul, if they meet certain conditions. The challenge is that smoke from the fires does travel into surrounding homes and can affect neighbors in the general area. Many survey participants pointed out that, to be good neighbors, residents should burn only clean, dry wood, or install a fire ring that uses natural gas. Other comments highlight other themes and contradictions surrounding backyard fires:
• The same fire that allows some neighbors to enjoy themselves prevents other neighbors from enjoying their property, or from enjoying nice weather. Instead, smoky fires force them indoors behind closed windows.
• Fires can enhance community and friendship for some people, but cause health problems for others.
• Current laws already outlaw burning trash, construction materials, or yard waste. But these laws are poorly enforced.

Many survey participants (including many who support fires) urged neighbors to be more respectful of how fires impact others. They suggested that conflicts could and should be worked out courteously, face to face. Among their ideas:
• Notify neighbors before you start a fire
• Have fires only during colder times of the year
• Do not have fires late at night
• Pay attention to weather conditions, including wind, air inversions, air quality alerts, and dry conditions, before deciding to have a fire
• If fires bother you, let neighbors who have fires know that fact

Organics recycling made easier
You asked for it; you got it. We’ve now made replacement bags for organics recycling available free of charge at our 24/7 drop-off site in Como Park. The bags are in a mailbox attached inside the gate. Please, limit yourself to two bags each visit.

Also, a reminder: Because of construction in the McMurray Field area, the only way to access the drop-off site is from the west. From the T-intersection at Hamline and Jessamine, head east on Jessamine, then turn left at Beulah. The drop-off site is on your left, just north of the Humane Society.

Finally, if you are new to organics recycling, stop at our office and pick up your free starter kit, which includes a bag, refrigerator magnets, and other information and supplies to help you succeed in reducing your waste footprint.

You’re Invited to Sit In
The District 10 board and standing committees meet monthly. Community members are always welcome to attend, participate, and speak or raise concerns. The schedule:
• Land Use: Typically meets on the Monday before the first Wednesday, 7pm (however, because of the holiday, the committee will meet on Tue., Nov. 1.)
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety: First Tuesday, 7pm
• Board: Third Tuesday, 7pm
• Environment: Last Wednesday, 7pm

All meetings are at the Como Park Streetcar Station, at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton.

Get recycling gear here
The Como Park Streetcar Station is open from noon-4pm on the first Sunday of every month through the fall and winter. We’ll have a District 10 board member on hand to distribute blue recycling bins, organics composting bags, or just take your comments and suggestions. The Streetcar Station is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton.

Put It on Your Calendar
• Thur., Nov. 10: Community Forum–Dealing with Problem Properties. Details to follow on District 10’s website.

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