Archive | September, 2018

Mitra Jalali Nelson Photo

Newly elected council member to focus on renters and affordable housing

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Mitra Jalali Nelson (photo right provided) has been an organizer for grassroots issues most of her adult life. Now, as the newly elected member of St. Paul’s City Council, she says she wants to start organizing from within the power structure. Nelson plans on focusing her efforts toward transit sustainability, police accountability, and finding ways to advance economic equity in the local economy.

But, at the top of her list is affordable housing.

Her diverse ethnic background—her parents are both immigrants, one from Korea and the other from Iran—has given Nelson unique insight, she says. Her family, who ran a small business, moved all around the Twin Cities.

After attending Mounds View High School, she expanded her horizons, moving to Madison for a degree in political science and then to post-Katrina New Orleans, working at a high school for two years with Teach for America. From there she returned home to St. Paul, becoming an organizer with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers. She joined Rep. Keith Ellison’s local office as his public safety and immigration outreach director, where she spent the last three years.

During the 2012 election, she worked to pass a $39 million annual St. Paul Public School funding levy, which, she says, helped her sharpen her negotiation skills, something she now hopes will serve her as a council member.

Nelson, now 32, didn’t grow up dreaming of a seat on the city council. But, when St. Paul Council Member Russ Stark resigned his office to work with newly elected Mayor Melvin Carter, and a special election was called in her Ward 4 neighborhood, Nelson decided that she could serve the public better as an elected official. Ward 4 includes Hamline Midway, Saint Anthony Park, Merriam Park and parts of Mac-Groveland and Como.

She started to campaign last winter and by spring was winning endorsements from unions and progressive organizations. She gained support from Mayor Carter and in April got the thumb’s up from the DFL at their April convention.

Samantha Henningson, Stark’s legislative aide, took over the seat when he left, but as part of her agreement to take the interim job, she pledged she would not run for the office.

Instead, three candidates—Nelson, Shirley Erstate, and David Martinez—were on the ballot and on Aug. 14, Nelson was elected with 54 percent of the vote. Erstad received 41 percent and Martinez, whose campaign was mired in controversy, received only 5 percent.

When she took office on Sept. 5, Nelson became the only renter on the Council. She says she hopes to include other renters as an important part of her constituency, with housing affordability as one of her key issues.

Nelson says that her supporters reflect the changing younger face of her district in St. Paul. “Renters make up more than 50 percent of the city,” she said. St. Paul has a large younger population, with a median age of only 31.7 years.

“I think the idea is that housing stability is important to community stability,” Nelson says. “I want to work for housing affordability. The city can be an important part of that. Zoning can be used to create more value. Preservation and new housing don’t have to be at odds.”

While she supports the construction of new, affordable mixed-income housing, she says that the city should also work to preserve older housing, including landlord programs to fund repairs to existing properties, keeping the cost of rents down.

But, while Nelson hopes to support younger and single people who are not ready to buy, she thinks that there are ways the city can help those ready to transition to home ownership.

“For those trying to buy a home for the first time, the city runs programs to help people with down payment assistance, responsible lease to own programs, and homeowner classes,” she said.

Nelson says that for existing homeowners, rising property taxes can sometimes become a problem. “We have to be thoughtful on property tax increases and how we spend our money. On a macro level, there is a group who pay no property taxes,” she said, mentioning St. Paul’s many hospitals, clinics, and parking areas. “The idea is if we can engage smart development in industrial and commercial areas, people won’t feel that they are picking up the bill. In the past, we have not developed our community. We have lost opportunities.”

“I think we need to make the best possible use of our land everywhere and can, across our city, meet the needs of our community,” she said. “I would like to see a mix of industrial and residential across our ward to sustain our tax base and meet our growing housing needs.”

Since the election was to fill a vacated seat, Nelson will have to run again in the general election next year, along with the other seven members of the council. If she wins, she will represent her district for four more years.

For now, Nelson is ready to get to work. “The special election was a whirlwind. But, I want to get to work right away. It’s exciting to live in our city, and I am excited to do this job differently. I want to attend community events, have forums and meet people. People want to get involved locally and I want to engage with them.”


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Higher Ground Academy moving to Metro Deaf building

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

School shuffle means that 19-year-old charter school will open second campus in Como neighborhood next fall

Higher Ground Academy (HGA) will open a second campus in the Como neighborhood in fall 2019.

The K-12 charter school currently at 1381 Marshall Ave. will be moving into the facility at Brewster and Pascal that Metro Deaf School intends to vacate at the end of 2018. Metro Deaf School is moving to 1125 Energy Park Dr.

“This is really an opportunity for us to serve our students better,” said Principal Dr. Samuel Yigzaw.
Higher Ground will spend the spring and summer next year renovating the space, converting smaller, 1-on-1 spaces into about 18 larger classrooms suitable for grades seven and up, according to Yigzaw. There will also be smaller classrooms available for group work.

Photo right: Higher Ground Academy (HGA) will open a second campus in the Como neighborhood in fall 2019 at the facility at 1471 Brewster St. that Metro Deaf School is currently in. Metro Deaf intends to move at the end of 2018 to 1125 Energy Park Dr. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

‘Cramped’ at current building
HGA initially applied with its authorizer in 2013 to expand its academic program to a second location, with the intention to move the younger grades.

Driving the move for the charter school is the desire for more space, and greater flexibility for programming, pointed out Yigzaw. The new location will offer this and the ability to add students. High on the list of desires is more labs and open space. The new facility has a gym that is not available at 1381 Marshall Ave.

“We are cramped here,” stated Yigzaw. “Now with a larger space, we should be able to bring in more opportunities to our students.”

He added, “Higher Ground is an environmentally friendly school, and we want students to grow in sustainability towards the environment. Proximity to Como Park will be a very good opportunity for us.”
In the fall of 2019, about 300-350 students will move to the second campus. The plan is to eventually grow to 500 students there.

Culturally responsive environment

Higher Ground Academy’s mission to “create a socially committed, morally responsible and ethnically diverse learning environment that values students individually and collectively.”

The school currently serves 760 black and East African students. The school has a low teacher-student ratio of 18-1, and 95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. HGA is authorized by Audubon Center of the North Woods.

This vision and purpose of Higher Ground Academy is to encourage student’s maximum intellectual and leadership development to meet 21st century educational standards of education. In order to graduate, all students must have evidence of acceptance for a college place.

The school bills itself as “a college prep school that strives to educate our students in a culturally responsive environment,” according to Yigzaw.

Photo left: “Higher Ground is an environmentally-friendly school, and we want students to grow in sustainability towards the environment. Proximity to Como Park will be a very good opportunity for us,” stated Principal Dr. Samuel Yigzaw. (Photo submitted)

HGA emerged from Executive Director Bill Wilson’s belief that charter schools offer greater flexibility to serve students struggling in the traditional public school system. The former St. Paul city council member and state Commissioner of Human Rights was joined early in the school’s development by Dr. Samuel Yigzaw, then a University of Minnesota graduate student. Their shared passion for serving black students falling behind in traditional public schools has been the school’s driving force throughout its history.

The school opened in the fall of 1999 for kindergarten to ninth grade students. An additional grade year was added each year until it became a K-12 school in the fall of 2002. The school has almost a 100 percent graduation rate.

While HGA has always catered to black students, as time went on the demographics changed from being predominantly African-American to predominantly East African students.

Some of the school’s students have recently immigrated, some are first-generation immigrants but have been in the United States for a period, and some were born in the United States but still share the culture of their immigrant family. In addition to English being new to many students, formal education itself is new.

HGA’s leadership is not hierarchical but is instead vertical. Under the guidance of the principal and executive director, leadership is distributed to grade-level team leaders who take the place of an assistant principal.

The tenets of Higher Ground Academy are that all children can learn; that children learn all of the time; that experience teaches immediately; and that expectations are built on experience.

More information on the school can be found at www.hgacademy.org.




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Glimpsing Resurrection Cancer Trauma and Ministry

Hamline professor writes book on cancer, trauma, and ministry

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Dr. Deanna Thompson, a professor of religion at Hamline University for 22 years, released her fifth book last month, entitled “Glimpsing Resurrection: Cancer, Trauma, and Ministry.” The launch party in August drew together colleagues, university administrators, cancer patients, religious leaders, chaplains, health care professionals, family, and friends.

Thompson said, “My new book explores what it’s like to be undone by cancer, and how the lens of trauma enables us to better understand the long-lasting emotional, psychological, and spiritual effects of illness.”

Photo right: Dr. Deanna Thompson of Hamline University said, “In the future, there’s hope that a Stage IV cancer diagnosis won’t be a death sentence. As a patient with incurable cancer, the question for me is ‘How do I live with cancer?” not ‘How do I beat it?’” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In 2008, Thompson was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, despite having up-to-date mammograms and lacking the gene for breast cancer. Stage IV, or metastatic breast cancer, are terms used to describe an advanced stage where cancer has spread from its original site in the breast to other tissues and organs in the body. Before receiving her diagnosis, Thompson’s breast cancer had metastasized to her spine—mysteriously breaking not one, but two, of her vertebrae. She has spent the last ten years thinking, writing, and talking about how cancer and faith might co-exist.

“Eighty percent of people with metastatic breast cancer live only five years after diagnosis, and I’m on year 10,” Thompson explained. “There’s hope that, in the future, this will be experienced more as a chronic condition, like diabetes. In the meantime, I’m passionate about helping those who are living with cancer and other serious illnesses expand the way they tell their stories.”

While researching her book, Thomson learned that the vast majority of cancer patients display two or more persistent symptoms of trauma. Yet, the most recent mental health diagnostic manual (called the DSM-5) refers to serious illnesses like Thompson’s as part of the “normal vicissitudes of life.”

To hear Thompson tell it, there was nothing “normal” about what she experienced in the last ten years. “At the age of 42, I had to resign from my full and beautiful life: I was the Religion Department Chair at Hamline University, actively engaged in school activities with my two young daughters, and suddenly I felt like a spectator in my own life. I couldn’t imagine myself in a year, let alone five years. Going through the worst parts of the treatment, I was just trying to survive,” she said.

Photo left: “Glimpsing Resurrection: Cancer, Trauma, and Ministry” can be purchased at the Hamline University Bookstore, and at Amazon.com. (Image from Amazon.com)

Thompson is a researcher, an author, an educator, and a theologian. “I still have a lot of questions,” she said, “many of which probably won’t be answered in this life. I’m learning to live with those spaces of irresolution. I have a daily practice of reading the psalms now, even if I feel I can’t talk to God sometimes. There are 150 psalms in the Bible, and 60 of them are laments. For people of faith who are turning to God in times of illness, there can be a sense of guilt for being angry at God. I believe that lament, argument, and protest are all faithful responses.”

She concluded, “Initially, I felt like I had experienced a resurrection. I thought I was going to die, and then I lived. Now, I’ve been living this way for quite a while. As the science of medicine evolves, we’re keeping people alive longer. If you’re one of the lucky ones who survive, then what? One of the scariest things for me was signing up for my life a second time because I know that I might have to resign again. Medical professionals and people working in pastoral care could benefit from this understanding of trauma and serious illness.

For information on upcoming, local speaking engagements visit www.deannaathompson.com.

“Glimpsing Resurrection: Cancer, Trauma, and Ministry” can be purchased at the Hamline University Bookstore, and at Amazon.com.



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Two parking lots at stadium site

Two small parking lots approved next to the soccer stadium

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

MN United wins again; City Council approves 5-year permit despite objection by both local community councils

Two interim parking lots, with fewer than 200 spaces in all, can be built for the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium. On Aug. 15 the St. Paul City Council granted an interim use permit to Minnesota United Soccer Club Holdings LLC for the lots. The lots east of Snelling Ave. can remain in place for up to five years.

Illustration right: Two small parking lots west of the stadium and east of Snelling Ave. can be built. (Illustration provided)

The creation of interim surface parking for the stadium, which opens in 2019, is a point of debate. Some stadium neighbors fear being overrun with soccer fan parking and question whether the spaces would be enough to even make a dent in the parking need. Others contend that more needs to be done to encourage transit use, walking and biking to games, and sharing of existing ramps and lots. They believe that building even small interim parking lots sends the wrong message.

Councils wanted more time
Approval was despite a request from Hamline Midway Coalition and United Park District Council seeking more time to discuss the issue. In a letter from both councils, Megan Conley stated, “While we appreciate the need for additional parking on the roughly 20 soccer event days, this space resides in a neighborhood of people who interact with the location 365 days per year. We believe it is possible to create a dual use for this space that can meet the needs of the team and the community.”

Representatives of the district councils met with Minnesota United lead owner Bill McGuire in March and July to discuss ideas to make the space aesthetically pleasing, potentially as space where neighbors could gather and connect with one another. McGuire rejected that suggestion and told the council representatives that the space would be developed in a short time. In the meantime, it will only be used for parking.

“The team’s request for permission to use the space for parking for five years indicates that imminent development is less likely than first anticipated, and that the suggestions made by the community representatives should receive serious consideration. Also, because these parking lots will be paid lots on game day we believe this revenue will offset the modest expenses incurred in creating a dual use,” Conley wrote. “With that in mind, we respectfully request that you delay approval of this interim permit … We believe it is reasonable to delay this decision because the team will not need parking until spring 2019, which leaves adequate time to create and implement a shared vision for the space.”

Recently the district councils formed a community benefits task force to work on stadium-related issues. What form any stadium-related community benefits would take hasn’t been determined.

Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson said she shares the district councils’ frustration as to how the interim use permit request was brought forward. But she also acknowledged that “there are a lot of moving parts” with stadium development. She planned to set up a meeting between Mayor Melvin Carter III’s office and the two district councils to discuss their concerns.

Ward One Council Member Dai Thao said he’ll continue to work with the team and community members on potential shared use.

No one appeared at the public hearing on the interim use. City staff recommended approval. Senior City Planner Kady Dadlez said that interim use permits are allowed under state law if they met a set of specific conditions. Interim uses under state law must conform with a city’s zoning regulations, must have a set end date, cannot impose additional public costs if the property is restored in the future, and must follow any conditions the city sets.

The city, in turn, can put limits on an interim use permit. The City Council approval Aug. 15 allows the stadium’s parking lots to be in place through Nov. 2023. The lots will need to be paved and striped, with rain gardens, curbs and gutter, and lighting. If the interim use period ends without redevelopment, the pavement must be removed and replaced with grass. Rain gardens must be maintained in good working condition. Handicapped parking must be placed close to the stadium. A city site plan on the file for the lots must be followed when the lots are built.

What the master plan says
A master plan for the superblock bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St. was approved by the City Council two years ago. The plan calls for office/retail uses in the area along Snelling where the parking lots are to be located, with structured or ramp parking.

The master plan outlines the possibility of short-term parking use. But because the interim parking isn’t part of the approved plan, an interim use permit is needed.

St. Paul doesn’t grant many interim uses. One controversial permit is for a parking lot near the University of St. Thomas. Its site was supposed to be developed several years ago, but has had its interim use permit extended twice.

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Como Lake Clean-up slider

Neighborhood involvement sought for Como Lake clean-up

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Shoreline buffers help to capture stormwater runoff from roofs, driveways, and parking lots in the fully built-out watershed that feeds Como Lake. The tall-growing native plants reduce shoreline erosion by holding the soil in place and discourage geese from congregating on the water’s edge. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) held the first of three community meetings regarding the future of Como Lake on Aug. 9 at the Como Pavilion.

Community members are encouraged to attend the two remaining meetings and become part of this public advisory group. CRWD staffer Bob Fossum said, “It’s crucial that we tap into the wealth of engaged neighbors, citizens, and users of Como Lake.”

“Como Lake is a shallow, urban lake with a fully developed watershed,” Fossum explained. “For the last 20 years, our organization has worked on installing projects to capture nutrient-laden runoff including rain gardens, stormwater ponds, and underground infiltration systems. Despite all this work, water quality improvement is still needed. Our emphasis has been on the watershed; now it’s time for us to start looking directly at the lake.”

The Como Lake Strategic Management Plan was created in 2002 and has been the blueprint for efforts to protect, manage and improve the lake ever since. The plan is being updated to reflect the latest science, innovations in stormwater management, and community goals for the lake. CRWD intends to use input from their citizen advisory group, as well as agency input, to help create a more balanced eco-system.

Como Lake has been a St. Paul destination spot since the mid-1800’s and has gone through many changes in that time. Its current size is 72 acres, some 50 acres smaller than it was before the Como Golf Course was built.

In 1925, a significant dredging project added more depth to the lake.

By 1998, Como Lake was suffering from shoreline erosion, water pollution, accumulated litter, and runoff from unfiltered stormwater. The District 10 Council petitioned the State of Minnesota to create the CRWD; its members knew that help was needed to restore the health of Como Lake.

All lakes contain a mixture of nutrients, but the water in this lake is out of balance. Como Lake contains three times as much phosphorous as it should for a lake of its size, which causes an overgrowth of algae to bloom throughout the season. There are three main reasons why this happens: stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, decomposing plants (especially the invasive species Curly Pond Weed), and the process of lake-bottom sediment breaking down.

Each of these events releases phosphorous into the lake, which results in spontaneous algae blooms.

In addition, Como Lake suffers from an unbalanced food web. It holds too many panfish because the larger predator species don’t thrive there. Panfish eat zooplankton which, in a healthy lake, can help to keep the growth of algae in check.

The goal of the updated Como Lake Strategic Management Plan is to identify a holistic, adaptive strategy for in-lake management, to complement the many improvements they’ve made in watershed management over the last two decades.

Consider becoming part of the public advisory group to make your voice heard. CRWD is partnering with the Fresh Water Society and LimnoTech, a nationally recognized expert on clean water and healthy ecosystems. This is an opportunity for people who care about Como Lake to help shape its future.

The next two public advisory group meetings will be held in November 2018 and February 2019. Contact CRWD’s Britta Belden at 651-644-8888 or britta@capitolregionwd.org with questions about upcoming meetings.

Learn more about the Como Lake management planning process at capitolregionwd.org/comolake.



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Peter Truitt

Why not a parade and celebration of our country’s diversity?

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Retired mechanical engineer Peter Truitt, a Hamline Midway resident, has been concerned about the recent immigration policy of this country.

“For the last two months, the issues in the news in respect to immigration and the issues of families at the border have troubled me,” Truitt said.

“I have mixed feelings about immigration,” he said. “I don’t think it should be open-ended as some people think, but the fact that people are being treated in the manner they are is something we don’t need to do. We can do better.”

“Most importantly,” he continued, “ I think once people come to our country, it is vital for those people to be welcomed and to integrate. That’s what has made our country really what it is.”

So instead of just feeling bad about the way immigration policy is developing, Truitt decided to take action. He found that Moveon.org had a place on its website for petitions.

Photo right: Hamline Midway resident Peter Truitt proposed a parade and celebration of our country’s diversity. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Truitt created a petition. “About 10 minutes after I was thinking about it, I put it online and hit the enter button, and there it went,” he explained.

His idea is to have a parade, an immigration parade and celebration. It would start at the State Capitol and go down to the new soccer stadium.

“What I mentioned in the petition was to do it powwow style, basically having a Native American powwow at the head,” he said. He admitted that he is not so sure he would write the petition in quite the same way if he were to do it again.

“I think it should have been a little less precise,” Truitt said, “and I should have left it more as a celebration of immigration. In addition to its being a celebration and parade, I stipulated where it started and ended, and I dictated it should be like a powwow.”

Truitt said he did not think those were bad ideas, but he thinks there are a lot of potential approaches that could be even better. “And it is wrong for me, not being a Native American, to stipulate that it’s going to be a powwow,” he noted.

“I could only hope that Native Americans would be first in line and direct the event,” Truitt said. “That would be my first wish. But I shouldn’t be making those assumptions; it’s not fair.”’

Truitt said he did receive over 60 names on his petition. “I advertised it on Facebook, and I sent email, but I’m not that well connected,” he said.

He said he had attended several powwows, and generally, he considers them welcoming events. “They have a grand entry, which is sort of a parade,” he noted. “The elders come in first, and people in the military, then other elders and members of their tribe, then other tribes are welcomed. All come successively, and then it is open to the general public.”

He said the primary reason for his idea is to welcome new immigrants but also to bring a real visual picture of what immigration has looked like over the years because he feels it has been very different for different groups. “Especially for American Blacks, coming as slaves,” he added. “So in a sense, this parade would be a combination of a re-enactment that demonstrates both joyousness and troubles.”

This attempt at creating a parade and celebration has been Truitt’s first real experience at activism. “I have helped some political parties, and I have done some door knocking to get out the vote and written letters to newspapers. My wife was a mentor to some Hmong women some time ago,” he said. “I thought it would be a great idea to get some Hmong to attend a powwow, but that never happened. Perhaps it has happened naturally by now.”

Truitt said he has not yet spoken directly to Native American leaders about his idea, and he is concerned whether they would think his idea a good thing.

“I did not get as much response as I thought I would, so I am letting the petition sit and waiting for some other ideas,” Truitt said. “I am a believer of getting an idea out, as crazy as it might be, because it often stimulates some other ideas. That comes from my training as a mechanical designer. We would get a lot of wild ideas, but if you don’t put them out there, you don’t get improvements. Maybe this will generate some better idea, whether it be a parade or something else.”

“I could keep pushing this along, but I need to meet face-to-face with some people,” he said. “Right now I am busy, but after November I think time will be more available. It’s not the sort of thing I have done in the past, so I need a lot of help.”

“The event will have a lot of potential for action.’

Truitt questioned why this had not been done before. “We certainly have individual celebrations, one at a time, but that does not necessarily bring us all together.”

Truitt said he had done some traveling, to Mexico and the Philippines and a couple of other places in Asia. “I am quite convinced we are all the same species. I run into the same sort of human interactions with people everywhere I go, good people and people who I find myself angry with. One group is not better than the next.”

“There are some cultural differences,” Truitt stated, “but in the end, we are all the same species. I think we have to work harder; it could be that our survival depends on it.”

“I wonder what was being preached from the pulpits in the 1930s in Germany,” Truitt mused. “And I wonder what they wished they had preached.”
Truitt is not giving up on his idea. He said that as well as talking to individuals, he hopes to contact some organizations.

“We are always talking about being a nation of immigrants,” he said. “So why not celebrate that?”



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St. Paul Ballet Project Plie 2018 016

St. Paul Ballet’s Project Plie at work to reduce barriers to dance

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

For the second year in a row, Hamline Midway’s St. Paul Ballet offered a community master class in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America.

The annual summer class, called Project Plie, is part of a national initiative to increase participation in ballet to promising students of color. Project Plie was launched in New York City by its own American Ballet Theatre in 2013, and master classes like the one held at Mt. Airy Boys and Girls Club in St. Paul happened in 27 cities across the country this summer.

Laura Greenwell is an instructor with the St. Paul Ballet (SPB) and the school director. She is also the only Primary – Level Seven Certified Teacher of the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum  in the state of Minnesota, and the only teacher who has been invited to offer the Project Plie class here.

Photo right: Project Plie instructor Laura Greenwell (seated left, facing camera) is the school director at St. Paul Ballet and an accomplished teacher. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Greenwell said, “This project means so much to me because there have historically been barriers to participating in classical ballet: financial barriers, racial barriers, and barriers around body type. Project Plie is perfectly aligned with the mission of SPB, which aims to reduce barriers and improve access to participation.”

In mid-August, more than 20 children ages 7-12 took a 45-minute introductory ballet class from Greenwell in the Mt. Airy gym. Project Plie is named for a foundational movement in the ballet vocabulary. The plie is a movement in which a dancer bends his/her knees and straightens them again, usually with the feet turned out and heels placed firmly on the ground.

The students weren’t told in advance, but there was a chance that one of them would be selected for an SPB scholarship in their pre-professional division (four hours of training per week). As it turned out, one student demonstrated what Greenwell was looking for: innate musicality, natural coordination, and a strong sense of focus.

“We can’t disclose who the student is until we have a commitment from the family,” Greenwell said. “We hope that the student will accept our scholarship, which includes funding from American Ballet Theatre for dancewear and supplies. Depending on how the student develops, financial assistance on our end will be reviewed on a yearly basis. There is the potential for this scholarship to be ongoing.”

Project Plie was inspired by Misty Copeland, the one and only female African American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre in its 75-year history. Copeland is quick to credit her success to the Boys and Girls Club of San Pedro, CA, where she took her first ballet class. She was sitting in the bleachers of the gym where the class was offered, but was too shy to participate. The volunteer dance teacher took her by the hand and encouraged her to try. She was 13 at the time and living in a motel room with her mother and five siblings.

Copeland quickly made up for lost time. Displaying remarkable athleticism and musicality, as well as a tremendous work ethic, she was performing professionally in just over a year. In 2000, she was invited to join American Ballet Theatre’s studio company, and in 2015, she became a principal dancer.

Through Project Plie and other outreach activities, St. Paul Ballet hopes to keep opening doors for dancers who face barriers to participation in the world of classical ballet.



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CHS Cougar Forum

News from Como Park High School Sept. 2018

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• Como Academy of Finance (AOF) students were busy over the summer. 60 AOF students had professional internships, an accomplishment made possible by students’ initiative, and the AOF program’s relationships with a variety of businesses and organizations. Seven students were placed with Brand Lab for marketing positions. Seventeen students worked 120 hours with Optum using business information technology skills to gather data, address challenges, and present possible solutions to meet Optum’s needs as a health service company.

Four students completed training with Genesys Works and will continue to work at Genesys Works placement sites throughout the school year. 20 students were placed at job sites around the Twin Cities for the summer through Right Track. Seven others were gainfully employed through the Ramsey County Workforce. Two students were paid by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis to collaborate and develop a professional student manual. Three AOF students held positions at the Hiway Credit Union.

• Como Park High School’s “Link Crew” is composed of 60 juniors and seniors that volunteer to be positive leaders and mentors for freshmen. The Link Crew welcomed Como’s incoming class of 2022 by hosting an orientation session on the morning of Thur., Aug. 30. The Link Crew Leaders prepared for the event with training that focused on community and fellowship, leading up to the implementation of fun, inclusion activities. The event provided the new students with a chance to get comfortable and make connections before classes began on Sept. 4. The faculty advisors for Como’s Link Crew are Ms. Alisson Hartzell and Ms. Shelly Storelee.

• Cadets from Como’s Marine Corps JROTC hauled a whole lot of garbage at the State Fair! Crews of between 40-50 cadets a day worked garbage duty from 9am to 9pm. for seven days at the Fair to raise funds for their program. The money earned goes to support participation in the drill competitions, equipment, retreats, and a big upcoming summer adventure to the Grand Canyon. The positive spirit of the cadets and the knowledge of exciting events ahead in the 2018-2019 school year helped them navigate the long days of labor. (Photo right provided)

• An innovative collaboration is occurring this year between Ms. Gbolo’s culinary arts classes at Como and Mr. Chase’s science classes at Murray Middle School. Murray students planted vegetables last spring and have continued to be harvesting the gardens. Students at Como will be using the produce in the culinary labs as they prepare healthy meals.

• Construction of Como’s new academic wing was still being completed during Labor Day weekend before the first day of school on Sept. 4. The Wenck Engineering and Construction Company worked feverishly to put the final touches on the new classrooms and get it ready for learning. Construction on other parts of the building, which are closed off and secured from teachers and students, will continue throughout the academic year.

Photo left: The Cougar Forum will serve as a multi-purpose classroom and event space in the newly constructed academic wing. (Photo provided)

The new addition is stunning with its airy design, natural light, high-tech science labs and unique features such as the Cougar Forum. “Both the new spaces and the renovated spaces are absolutely beautiful. It is what our students deserve,” said Como Principal Stacy Theien-Collins.

• The freshmen class is scheduled to spend the school day of Sept. 26 outside on the Como turf field in team-building activities. The purpose is to develop strong relationships and build community through restorative practices as the 9th graders begin their high school journey. Como alumni, parents, and community members are invited to join for all or part of the day. Adult role models and mentors provide the support and encouragement that students need to be successful in and beyond the school walls. Those interested in helping may contact Andrew Ryan at drc.schools@gmail.com.

• The 2013 Como boys’ soccer team (photo right provided) that went undefeated and won the city, section and state championships had a 5-year reunion on August 28. The current Cougars team took on Hill-Murray in the first-ever night game on the new turf, which ended in a 1-1 tie. At halftime, the 2013 team took the field and was recognized for their accomplishments from five years ago. They were also celebrated for their positive contributions to society in the five years since. Seventeen of the team’s 20 members were able to attend and be reunited around the game that they played so well together while forming enduring friendships.

• A talented trio of Como girls who played varsity basketball for the Cougars last year as Murray Middle School 8th graders took advantage of an awesome opportunity over the summer. Kaylnn Asbury, Jada Jones and Ronnie Porter, who are now all Como freshmen, were selected for the Fresh Faces All-American Camp in California. They each had an impressive showing and positive experience competing with some of the best talent from across the country.

• Homecoming at Como is set for Sat., Sept. 29. For the first time, the Como Cougars homecoming football game will be played—at HOME! The new turf field will be the site for the 1pm game versus Minneapolis South. Food trucks will provide fans with a variety of options to enjoy as they cheer on the Cougars. The annual parade will start from school at 10:15am and proceed north on Grotto and southeast on Wheelock Pkwy. back to the lake and school. A picnic and activities will follow beginning at 11am.

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Kudu at Como Zoo

Monitor In A Minute Sept. 2018

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin


Pawn America can return
Pawn American can return to its former location, the St. Paul City Council decided Aug. 1. That’s despite objections from several neighbors who think the business is a blighting influence on University Ave.

Pawn America had operated at 1636 University Ave. since a conditional use permit was approved in 1997. The business closed less than a year ago. Pawn America had contacted city officials in Sept. 2017 about canceling their pawn shop license. Because the pawn shop use was discontinued less than one year ago, a new conditional use permit doesn’t have to be sought, according to city staff.

Rixmann Companies, which owns Pawn America, told city officials at a July licensing hearing that the store was closed during bankruptcy and reorganization of Pawn America. The store will have 15-18 workers when it reopens.

Although city officials got several letters and emails objecting to the pawn shop, no one appeared at a July legislative hearing to speak to the license request. Union Park District Council took no position.

License approval is with two conditions. One is that temporary window signs placed between the height of four to seven above grade shall not cover more than 30 percent of this window space area, and cannot block views into the clerk or cashier station. Also, Pawn America must comply with all federal, state and local laws.

Big Top Liquors can move
Another change is coming to the evolving Midway Center property. The St. Paul City Council Aug. 1 approved a distance variance for the off-sale liquor store distance requirements for the Applebaum Company, doing business as Big top Liquors. The approval allows the longtime Midway Center business to move its liquor store from a spot near Spruce Tree Dr. and N. Snelling Ave. to the former Midway Perkins building at 1544 University Ave.

The council also waived the 45-day waiting period for the liquor license change. The vote also approved the move of Big Top’s tobacco sales license.

Earlier this year the City Council amended its longtime separation requirements for off-sale liquor stores. The city requires a one-half mile space between stores. Big Top and other area stores are grandfathered in, but a needed move for Big Top put it out of compliance. Its current building is being torn down to make way for an interim parking lot and ultimately redevelopment that will be north of the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium.

The move puts the new store with 300 feet of a protected use, so that distance requirement also had to be amended. Schools, places of worship, child care centers and residentially zoned properties are among protected uses in St. Paul. City staff agreed to waive that condition after no objections were raised by immediate neighbors.

Union Park District Council supported the Big Top requests. Business owners were able to obtain seven of nine possible signatures from nearby residential properties for seventy-eight percent support.

Town House sold
August 22 was Holly Monnett Day in St. Paul. The longtime owner of the Town House bar and restaurant was honored at the St. Paul City Council meeting Aug. 15. Monnett recently sold the business. A large group attended the meeting to wish Monnett well.

Town House, 1415 University Ave., originally opened as the fine dining restaurant Tip Top Tap in 1941, became the Town House in 1949, and was rebranded in 1969 by then-owner Emmett Jewell as the city’s first gay bar. It evolved into an LGBTQ-friendly establishment, hosting a wide variety of events and clientele.

The City Council resolution stated that “WHEREAS, in the early 1970s, the drinking age being 18, a softball player with the well-known slow-pitch team, Avantis, named Hollis (Holly) Monnett began frequenting the Town House; and WHEREAS, on August 1, 1974, after being laid off from her day-job at a factory, Holly began working at the Town House; starting as a dishwasher and quickly being promoted to bar back and then bartender, requiring her to give up her softball career.”

Monnett became Town House manager and then seven years later bought the business in Aug. 1987. In 1990 Monnett and her friend Steve Anderson successfully rebranded the Town House as a gay country western bar named Town House Country, complete with line dancing and two-step lessons, DJs, and a piano lounge in the back room. That changed in 2000 when Town House merged staff and clientele with popular gay bar Over the Rainbow/Foxy’s on West 7th when the Over the Rainbow lease was not renewed. The Town House was reborn as a “dive” bar focused on entertainment including karaoke and drag shows.

The Town House was known for supporting a wide range of causes over the years through fundraisers and special events. It has stayed open 365 days a year. The business hung on through Green Line light rail construction thanks to savings Monett set aside for the construction period.

The council congratulated Monnett on her many years of business and wished her success in the future.

Monnett earlier this year sold the business to Wes Burdine, a Midway resident and co-owner of the Minnesota soccer website FiftyFive.One. Now named Black Hart, it is being rebranded with a soccer focus, sitting in the shadow of the new soccer stadium across the street. The Black Hart is “a neighborhood, LGBTQ+, and soccer bar in the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul.” It is marketing itself as “the new spiritual home for soccer in the Twin Cities, a place to catch matches from around the world of soccer.”

Hooved animals go green
Hooved animals at the Como Zoo will enjoy energy savings. On Aug. 8 the St. Paul City council earmarked funds to make improvements to the 35-year-old heating system in the animals’ building, through a city energy conservation loan.

Photo right: ‘Of course, we want to go green!’ African Kudos at the Como Zoo would certainly approve the St. Paul City Council earmarking funds, through a city energy conservation loan, to make improvements to the 35-year-old heating system in the animals’ building. (Photo courtesy of the Como Zoo website)

The project is anticipated to result in energy efficiencies and utility cost savings. It had been identified as an eligible project for funding through the City’s Energy Conservation Loan Program. The Department of Parks and Recreation Department will use the funds to install two high-efficiency hot water boilers and associated pumps, piping, and valves to improve the heat distribution. This will save money and make the hooved animals more comfortable.

The city has had the program in place since 2007. It helps city departments retrofit city-owned facilities to reduce energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions. Some loans are paid back to the program in five years; the loan for what is dubbed the ‘hoofstock’ building was granted a waiver.

The $425,000 renovation project is to be completed yet this year. The city’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget Committee recommended approval of the project.

Landlords get a new task
St. Paul landlords are now required to give tenants voter registration information. With a 5-1 vote, on Aug. 8, the St. Paul City Council adopted an ordinance requiring that all landlords provide new tenants with voter registration information. The ordinance, which goes into effect 30 days after publication, is hailed by voting advocates as reaching renters and helping them to vote.

But is it potentially setting up situations where landlords tell tenants whom to vote for? About a dozen landlords have weighed in against the ordinance, saying it’s just another city mandate. Several have said they’d rather post voting information, instead of being told they must provide information on a tenant-by-tenant basis.

Council members Amy Brendmoen, Samantha Henningson, Rebecca Noecker, Dai Thao, and Chris Tolbert voted for the regulation. Jane Prince voted against, and Dan Bostrom was absent.

While she fully supports efforts to encourage renters to vote, Prince said she sees the requirement as potentially affecting the balance of power between landlords and tenants. She said there are other ways to reach renters to encourage them to vote.

“There are other things we should be asking landlords to do,” Prince said. She also questioned the enforceability of the ordinance.

Other council members said the measure is needed and will give tenants an incentive to register and vote. Anyone who moves needs to register or change their registration to vote at their current address. Noecker said the additional burden on landlords is “minimal.” Brendmoen called it a “small request.”

The regulations will affect about 15,000 landlords. Landlords will be notified via mail about the regulation.

Failure to comply with the regulation is a petty misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $300.

Minneapolis has had a similar regulation on its books since 2015. Since March 2016, all Minneapolis landlords must provide voter registration information to their tenants.

The St. Paul measure has the support of Ramsey County officials, who run elections in St. Paul. Joe Mansky, who manages county elections, told the City Council at an Aug. 1 public hearing that “certain parts of the community are chronically underrepresented’ in voting. Younger people and renters tend to not vote as often as older people and homeowners.

While Minnesotans can register to vote at the polls, Mansky said that preregistration would be helpful. Preregistration for the Nov. 6 general election ends Oct. 16.

Prince asked Mansky if there are other ways to reach voters. He described how the county uses posters in public places as well as social media to encourage voter registration.

Mansky said registration information had been sent with water bills, but that water is often paid by landlords and not tenants.
Others who spoke and wrote the council in support said the new requirement will add to voter participation. But landlords, more than a dozen of whom have contacted the City Council, said such a program should be voluntary.

“What’s going to be next?” asked 27-year landlord Richard Grogan. He and other landlords said that despite their best efforts to give tenants as much information as possible, some tenants don’t even read their leases.

Soccer stadium gets another ordinance change
The Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium reached its goal, but the downtown Treasure Island Center Tria Rink complex is on the sidelines. On Aug. 22 the St. Paul City Council approved a package of sign ordinance amendments, including some that allow entrance and pylon signs at the soccer stadium under construction at Snelling and University avenues.

Before the 5-0 vote, Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson removed ordinance language specific to Treasure Island-Tria. “There are concerns with the regulations proposed for downtown, and some questions about whether those have broader implications,” she said. “So, they need to wait.”

Henningson, who ended her tenure as interim council member Aug. 22, said the rest of the changes could move ahead in the future. Other council members agreed that they need more time to review the issue before voting on it.

The Midway and downtown facilities’ sign needs were wrapped into an ordinance with several other technical sign regulation changes. The curve thrown into the current debate is how St. Paul regulates advertising signs at sports facilities, ranging from Dunning Field to Xcel Energy Center. St. Paul allows advertising signs at specific sports facilities, in the form of features including outfield fences, dasher boards or golf hole sponsor signs.

The Aug. 22 vote allows the technical changes to go ahead, along with provisions that allow pylon signs and entrance signs at Allianz Field.

Most of the controversy centered on the downtown facility, which is in the former Macy’s/Dayton’s department store building. Part of the proposal for that facility is to allow dynamic signage, which can change messages or pictures. It also can be used to show video clips.

The St. Paul Port Authority, which developed Treasure Island-Tria, sought the changes for its facility. But before the council’s Aug. 1 public hearing, a move to drop the minimum 300-foot distance between dynamic signs and residences, places of worship and schools was shut down. Port officials have said they may rent space at Treasure Island to a school and need the distance requirement eliminated. But council members pushed back and dropped the amendment on a 4-2 vote, at the behest of Scenic St. Paul and others concerned about excessive signage.


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Dist 10 – dockless_2055

Como Community Council Corner for Sept. 2018

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

Auto break-ins drive increase in Como area crime rate
A soaring number of car thefts and car break-ins drove up crime in District 10 by 25 percent in the first six months of 2018, according to preliminary data from the Saint Paul Police Department.

More than five times as many vehicles were stolen in the first six months of 2018 than in the same period 2017: 67 vs. 12 in raw numbers. Theft from vehicles also soared: 98 between January and the end of June 2018, compared with 61 during the same period of 2017.

As too many social media posts remind us, a lot of this theft occurs when people leave their car running, leave their car unlocked, or leave valuables in plain sight inside their vehicle.

Another trend of note: Home burglaries declined 25 percent. However, home burglaries where there was no forced entry rose. They now account for more than half of all home burglaries in the district. Police say these burglaries typically are the easiest to prevent. Instead, residents who leave doors, windows, or garages open, create crimes waiting to happen.

Get more details, and charts of year-to-year comparisons, on District 10’s website, www.district10comopark.org.

What’s with those scooters and bikes?
Dockless bicycles and electric scooters are showing up and zipping around all over Como. They are part of new contracts the City Council approved in August.

Photo right: Dockless bicycles and electric scooters are showing up and zipping around all over Como. (Photo provided)

A primary advantage of the dockless vehicles is that you can find them—and leave them—just about anywhere. But riders are not supposed to park them on sidewalks, at bus stops, or other places where they are in the way. That isn’t always happening. Nor are scooter riders always sticking to streets and bike lanes, as they are supposed to. Specifically, scooters are not supposed to ride on trails in Saint Paul parks, which includes Como Park and Wheelock Pkwy. That isn’t always happening either.

Find out more about this new era of getting around (including where to send your comments—good, bad, or mixed) in a detailed story on District 10’s website, www.district10comopark.org.

Trash pick-up changes
Six different haulers will handle trash pickup in Como once Saint Paul’s coordinated collection system begins in October. Trash day for most of District 10 will be Friday (beginning Oct. 5), the same day as recycling. For District 10 residents west of Hamline, however, trash day will be Monday (starting Oct. 1) but recycling day will remain Friday.

Some basics:
• The new trash carts are scheduled to be delivered in Como in mid- to late September, which means we should see them any day now. (Don’t use the carts, however, until new service starts Oct. 1.)
• Our new haulers are supposed to send us our bill this month for service between October-December.
• If you don’t like your cart size, you’ll have to live with it until January. Then you can switch it out for a larger or smaller option.
• Get full information on the city’s website: www.stpaul.gov/garbage.

Resource Fair is Oct. 13
Como Connect—a free resource fair connecting residents with local organizations that provide a range of services and opportunities—is Sat., Oct. 13. The fair runs 10am-2pm at Bethel Church, 670 Wheelock Pkwy. W. Watch for more details next month.

Upcoming District 10 Meetings
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety Committee: Tues., Sept. 11
• Como Community Council Monthly Meeting: Tues., Sept. 18
• Environment Committee: Wed., Sept. 26
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety Committee: Tues., Oct. 2
• Land Use Committee: Wed., Oct. 3

All meetings begin at 7pm, typically at the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton. Renters, homeowners, and other community members are always welcome to attend and participate. Whenever possible, agendas are posted in advance in the “Board News” section of District 10’s website.

Office closed: District 10’s office in the Como Park Streetcar Station will be closed Sept. 17-29. However, board members will hold office hours as usual on Sundays from noon-4pm on Sept. 16, 23, and 30.

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