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Archive | April, 2019

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Midway Como Monitor, Messenger transition to new ownership May 1

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

After 44 years, current owners Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson sell newspapers to writer Tesha M. Christensen

The Midway Como Monitor and its sister publication, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, will be under new ownership beginning May 1, 2019.
Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson of deRuyter-Nelson Publications have sold their two well-established neighborhood newspapers to south Minneapolis resident Tesha M. Christensen, who has written for the two newspapers for almost eight years.

Christensen always knew she wanted to be a writer and was drawn to journalism at a young age when she wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Cambridge Star newspaper.

“From that point on I was hooked. I had gotten my first glimpse into the power of the printed word,” recalled Christensen. “I wanted more. I saw how newspapers could be used to generate change in their communities, and how they could inform and engage people.”

Photo right: New owner Tesha M. Christensen of TMC Publications CO and her two children, Axel (age 6) and Joselyn (age 10) are excited to become more involved in these two neighborhood newspapers. The kids, of course, are pushing for a new section for kids. Got ideas on what that should include? Email Tesha.christensen@gmail.com. (Photo courtesy of Tesha M. Christensen)

Lifelong learner
She earned a degree in English and writing in 1998 from Bethel College, where she wrote for the Clarion, and then entered the community newspaper industry.

Her first job was with the same newspaper that printed her letter to the editor, then renamed The Star newspaper. Christensen worked as the assistant editor and special sections editor of her hometown newspaper for ten years, serving two counties and a circulation of 21,000 with a twice-weekly newspaper.

Over the years, Christensen covered a range of topics in Isanti and Chisago counties, from school board levies to new county parks to crime news. “I wrote about what new businesses were coming to town, local musicians, and rodeo shows, and a story about one resident who saved the life of another,” Christensen recalled.

“I love the ever-changing nature of this business, and how I learn something new with each story I write.”

She left the full-time workforce in March 2009 when her first baby was born, but continued writing on a part-time basis for Northstar Media, the Isanti County News, ECM Publishers/Adams Publishing Group, Twin Cities Daily Planet, RedCurrent, and The Alley newspaper in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

From 2006 to 2012, she worked as an adjunct journalism instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College where she taught a variety of journalism classes and was an adviser for the Cambridge Campus newspaper, the Ink Spot. She also taught for one year at Planet Homeschool, a homeschool co-op in St. Anthony, and helped launch a school newspaper written by the middle and high school students.

“I love journalism, and I am passionate about sharing journalism with kids and young adults,” stated Christensen. “They are the future, and it’s so exciting to hear their ideas.”

Christensen has served on a variety of committees and boards over the years and is a co-founder of Team Yarn – Head Huggers (teamyarn.blogspot.com), a small non-profit dedicated to making and donating hats, shawls, and lapghans to those battling cancer and other serious illnesses.

Forum for community discussion
Christensen and longtime staff member Denis Woulfe, along with the writers and photographers who contribute to the paper, are looking forward to what the future holds for the Monitor and Messenger newspapers.

“I think what excites me about this next chapter is working to re-engage the newspapers with the communities that we serve,” observed Woulfe, who started as an intern at the Monitor while he attended Hamline University 40 years ago.

“The world has changed since each of the newspapers was founded, but the basic needs of our readers are largely the same. I think they value the work and the role of the Messenger and the Monitor, and our challenge now is to find out how to heighten that engagement and fulfill that special contract between our readers and the newspapers that enhances and enriches the communities that we serve.”

Photo left: The team of writers and sales staff will continue working under new owner Tesha M. Christensen. Left to right: (writers and photographers) Jan Wilms, Jill Boogren, Stephanie Fox, Margie Oloughlin, (sales) Lynn Santacaterina and Denis Woulfe. Not pictured writer Jane McClure and sports columnist Matthew Davis. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Over the years, Woulfe has served in many different roles at the neighborhood newspapers, including the editor, typesetter, managing editor, advertising manager, and more. For the past few years, he’s been busy selling ads, and is currently a board member at ALLY People Solutions in the Midway which just merged with Community Involvement Programs (CIP) of Minneapolis. He is also a member of the Alumni Annual Fund Board for Hamline University.

“We dealt with many challenges over the years, but one, in particular, was the discussion over the role of a neighborhood newspaper and the balance between reporting what some readers saw as ‘good’ news and what others saw as ‘bad’ news,” said Woulfe. There also was a constant dialogue about what role the neighborhood newspaper had, and how it differed from the daily newspapers.

“Despite the different neighborhoods we serve with the two newspapers, the value of bringing community stakeholders together and providing a forum for community discussion has remained the constant over the years,” stated Woulfe. “It remains as important now more than ever!”

Think print is dead?
Christensen agrees that it is more important now than ever, and will be recruiting various people from each neighborhood to serve on an advisory board that will share story ideas and tie each story closer into the fabric of the neighborhood.

“At the Monitor and Messenger, we are here to tell the stories of our neighborhoods,” she stated. “We want to be reader-centric and make our content—both ads and articles—engaging and applicable. Print is evolving, and we’re looking ahead in innovative and creative ways. More people are reading than ever before in the history of humankind, and we want to ensure that local residents are reading their community newspaper because it is ‘News for You.’

“Think print is dead? Think again.”

 

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1549-Minnehaha-2

Hamline University decides it will tear down 1549 Minnehaha

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
A Hamline University plan to demolish 1549 Minnehaha Ave. after five years’ discussions, and a proposal to make changes to the Hamline University Neighborhood Advisory Committee (HUNAC) are prompting objections and questions in the Hamline Midway neighborhood.

Some neighbors are asking if the demolition, approved by the HU Trustees and revealed at the March HUNAC meeting, signals a move toward the more aggressive university teardown policies that roiled Hamline-Midway neighborhood several years ago. Other questions raised are if the university is walking away from its role with HUNAC.

The next HUNAC meeting at 6pm, Mon., Apr. 15, is to be a working meeting of representatives from stakeholder groups to discuss the future of HUNAC and whether the group becomes part of Hamline Midway Coalition.

HU spokesperson Christine Weeks said outstanding questions would also be addressed at that meeting.

Weeks said a possible change in HUNAC structure is eyed because from the university’s perspective the district council is seen as having more direct access to neighborhood residents. She described a potential role for HMC as a “conduit.”

Photo right: The house at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. has been approved for demolition by the Hamline University Board of Trustees. The University said that they do not believe that the house is of significant historic value, and that it is in a state of disrepair that leaves no option but to be torn down. (Photo from the Monitor’s 2015 archives)

HUNAC was launched by the University, neighborhood and city leaders in response to the university’s teardown of houses it owns outside of its campus boundaries and the demolition of the White House on-campus (2014). It was modeled after the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee (WSNAC), which was set up more than a decade ago as a response to longtime tensions between the University of St. Thomas and its neighbors. WSNAC is funded by St. Thomas, which also provides web hosting and staffing.

Some neighbors want to see if there is still a chance to save the house. But university officials’ minds are made up. A press release sent out by the university stated that the school’s board of trustees approved an administration recommendation that the house be demolished. “The Hamline University Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to demolish a university-owned property at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. in St. Paul,” the press release stated. “The property was purchased by the school in 2014. The structure is in significant disrepair and not of a historic nature.”

“It’s common for universities to seek to own properties next to campus to allow for evolution and change,” said Jeff Papas, Hamline director of communications, in the press release. “Hamline hosted and participated in community discussions on the property for a number of years and helped to facilitate a historic survey of the neighborhood.”

The press release went on to state “Since 2015, Hamline has invited and received suggestions for the use of the property, but no proposal included a viable and sustainable source of funding.” It also went on to state that the university is in a strategic planning process and that potential uses for the site are being explored.

“Hamline is a vibrant campus that’s been part of the wonderful Hamline Midway community for well over 150 years,” said Papas. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with our neighbors.”

Leaders from the group Historic Hamline Village (HHV) couldn’t attend the March meeting, so members of that group felt blindsided by the demolition decision. Some question whether HU’s actions are a “demolition by neglect” by letting the house sit for so long without attention.

The dispute over the house is likely to draw in other groups, including Save Our St. Paul Neighborhoods and the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission. The HPC staff is already looking into the matter. Recently a study was done to take first steps toward at a potential historic district in the neighborhood.

HHV leader Roy Neal said the decision to demolish feels sudden in light of more than five years’ work. One option that had previously won HU support was that of a “rehab lab” where classes on home improvements could be offered. HU approved the rehabilitation lab option in fall 2018. It was designed in partnership with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Neal said the lab was purposely created to address university concerns and is still on the table pending further discussions with the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections. The lab idea also had support from former Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark.

But Weeks said the university has been transparent during its years of discussions about the house. Ideas were solicited, but none came to fruition.

 

 

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Front Ave Pottery 6448

Front Avenue Pottery fires it up during St. Paul Art Crawl

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

Ian and his daughter complete the finishing touches on their garden lantern at last year’s hand building workshop. Front Avenue Pottery owner Mary Jo Schmith details another patrons lantern! (Photo provided)

Front Avenue Pottery, 895 Front Ave., is Firing It Up once again during the St. Paul Art Crawl, Apr. 26-28. The Como clay studio and its artist neighbors invite you to this exhibit, sale, and community art event.

Hours of the sale are Fri., Apr. 26, 5-10pm; Sat., Apr. 27, 10am-8pm; and Sun., Apr. 28, 11am-5pm.

Photo left: Art crawl patrons receive clay hand building tips from Laura Thyne (center), Front Avenue Pottery’s studio assistant. Hands-on activities have always been a part of Front Avenue Pottery’s tour activity. (Photo provided)

Once again this year there are lots of times to try your hands at the potter’s wheel, Fri. from 6-9pm, Sun. from 12-5pm, and Sun. from 12-4pm. There will be a clay hand building workshop between 12-5pm on Sat., and 12-4pm on Sun. Aprons provided! All events are free, and donations accepted to cover material and firing cost.

The studio will also display the works of multiple area artists:
Mary Jo Schmith of Front Avenue Pottery, hosting. Schmith has been creating dinner and serving ware and clay tile commissions in her South Como Studio for 25 years. Her playfully decorative pots are functional, with drawings celebrating the cycles of nature that surround us in our daily lives.
Brett Monahan of Brett Monahan Pottery is a functional potter working in NE Minneapolis making lively porcelain and stoneware pottery with luscious, smooth buttery glaze surfaces. His coffee pour over cones is amazing. It’s rumored he may make some planters for this spring show! Photo right: Trying her hands at the potter’s wheel, Iris Mirski is assisted by Brett Monahan of Brett Monahan Pottery. (Photo provided)
Jenny Levernier of JMML Designs creates sterling silver and stone jewelry. Lever­nier loves the history found in the pattern of every stone and the story it tells. Her work focuses on color and pattern, with the quality of workmanship as the real star. She is a highly skilled metalsmith.
Marit Lee Kucera for M’Art Designs is a fiber artist not only creating wearable art but also designing and dyeing her own yardage for herself and other fiber artists. Her garments and fabrics are found on six continents! What fabric creations will she bring to this year’s art crawl? Her screen-printed designs, totes or her beautiful scarves?
Ryan Ball of Ryan Ball Pottery is a functional potter living and working in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. You may remember Ball’s work for it’s beautiful, vibrant, shiny, fluid glazes adorning his functional cups, bowls, vases. Anyone would love one of his Olive Oil Jars or stunning cups.
Steve and Linden Wicklund of Wicklund Ceramics are two successful and skilled clay artists now working as a team. Both typically functional potter’s, they excel in their skill with porcelain, altered functional serving ware, fluid slip or fun and funky glaze decoration.
Marc Johnson-Pencook of Illustrator Marc is a pen and ink illustration artist. Marc’s intricate drawings will keep you occupied for hours, each inch of the drawing full of information. He shares his drawings in limited edition prints, originals, and as wearable t-shirt art.
Kristi Casey of Kristi Casey Design creates small architectural home vignettes, bursting out with history, age, and wisdom. Using your images and found objects, she creates for you a downsized architectural version of your home and memories.
Anna Clare Tiller of Anna Clare Pottery is a clay artist. Her functional soda-fired stoneware pottery is alive with surface decorations and altered shapes and rims. She specializes in mugs, bowls, and serving ware.
Alana Hawley of Alana Hawley Art is an amazing portrait artist who will draw your portrait on site during the show. Her illustrations are full of life. Earning her undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Minnesota in studio art and art education, she is currently feeding her wanderlust by learning to speak Finnish as quickly as possible. Bring a Finnish word or two to the crawl to test her new language skills.

Photo left: Nine artists will exhibit and sell artwork at Front Avenue Pottery during the Spring St. Paul Art Crawl, including pottery, jewelry, wearable fiber art, drawings, and portrait sketches. (Photo provided)

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Midway Como Monitor changing ownership after 44 years

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
When 22-year-old Calvin deRuyter bought the Monitor in 1975 for $1 from a man who thought it had no future, he had no idea what he was getting himself into.

Forty-four years later he’s perfected the art of dealing with challenges in the job he’s loved.

Photo right: Calvin deRuyter in 2018. (Photo submitted)

“You face it, yell and scream at yourself and the world, then buck up and try to come up with a solution or solutions that will address the challenge,” stated deRuyter. “Isn’t that how we all face the challenges in life?”

Paper shares community identity
deRuyter had been the editor of his student newspaper, The Oracle, at Hamline University, and started working for the Highland Villager while he took a year off between his undergraduate and graduate work in art. He volunteered to edit the first issue of the “Midway ?”—which was given the name Midway Monitor following a neighborhood naming contest.

Some local business owners and leaders co-signed deRuyter’s first loan to get the paper started, and the Monitor joined the other community newspapers being birthed along with the neighborhood councils. Residents were seeking new ways to develop their community identity in the Cities. The first boundaries were established by the district council boundary, so the Midway Monitor followed the borders of the District 11 Hamline Midway Coalition.

“People were excited about being involved in their neighborhood and finally having, they believed, a way to have a voice in the shaping of city policy that was so prevalent in their lives,” recalled deRuyter. “The whole citizen participation movement was what shaped the paper for years. It was the same in Como when we expanded the paper to be the Midway Como Monitor.”

Nelson joins paper
Calvin deRuyter was one of the first people that Tim Nelson met when he enrolled at Hamline University. deRuyter was a junior and working as arts editor at the Oracle. They lived in the same dorm, and then worked together at the student newspaper. Nelson had been editor of his high school newspaper, and set his sights on a career in politics and government. He had been accepted as a graduate student in Public Affairs at Willamette University in Oregon when deRuyter asked if Nelson was interested in working for him.

Photo left: Tim Nelson, 2019 (Photo submitted)

“I was intrigued, but torn as to what to do,” stated Nelson. “I called my advisor at Willamette and asked for his thoughts. His response surprised me. He said, ‘Tim, Willamette has been around since 1842, and I don’t think it is going anywhere. The chance to go into business for yourself may only come around once in a lifetime. Try the business, and if it doesn’t work out, you are welcome here. I look forward to hearing what you learn.’”

“I have never decided whether that was the best advice I ever got or the worst,” Nelson commented. “It varied day to day for the last 44 years.”
Nelson began as 50 percent partner in July 1977, and deRuyter-Nelson Publications Inc. was born. The expansion into the Como neighborhood occurred in 1979. The newspaper also expanded into the Frogtown area for a brief period but didn’t have the local ad revenue to support the growth.

The business was growing rapidly, and it was an exciting time.

“We started the typesetting business at that point, and it was an extremely fast-paced and technology-driven industry in those years,” stated Nelson.

The newspaper did the typesetting for several college newspapers, including the Hamline Oracle and Bethel Clarion, as well as the Park Bugle, Equal Time, West 7th Community Reporter, Longfellow Messenger, and Grand Gazette.

Photo right: Calvin deRuyter (left) and Timothy Nelson enter their new office space at 600 N. Fairview Ave., circa 1978. (Photo from the Monitor archives)

People excited about paper
“The community was very excited about the paper in those days, and we had a constant flow of involved citizens coming to the office to share things of interest or to suggest story ideas,” said Nelson. “Along with those people who believed in the paper, we also had groups we were less than popular with.”

A few bricks were thrown through the office windows at 600 N. Fairview in response to endorsements of political candidates.

During that same time, Nelson remembers when a columnist wrote an opinion piece that was critical of the organized church. “We had a religious group that went to our advertisers and told them that if they ran an ad, they would not support their business. We had many heated meetings with this group, and it was not a pleasant time,” he said. “It was a rather contentious year! When the Job Corps moved into the Bethel campus, we were also threatened by the community group who opposed that happening. They didn’t like how we were covering the events and again, threatened to go to advertisers with a boycott.”

Ironically, it is those same events that were not pleasant, such as vandalism and threats to their income base, that have also been the highlights.

“Any time a community is passionate about a topic, it’s an exciting time,” said Nelson. “Our goal is not to be loved by everyone. I have always considered the greatest compliment to be when we get complaints from both sides of a controversial issue saying that we are biased against them. That means we are providing a balanced story.”

Various issues have sparked discussion within the neighborhoods and the pages of the newspaper.

“The expansion of the Twin Cities German Immersion School is a recent issue that has stirred a lot of interest. The arrival of the Job Corps and light rail were big changes in Midway/Como, along with the new soccer stadium,” remarked Nelson. “When Hamline was going to remove some of the houses near campus, that certainly got some folks upset. Again, it tends to be pockets within the neighborhood that are most impacted by the changes that feel the most strongly.”

According to deRuyter, “The main challenge has been the changing nature of the commercial zones that run through it and around it… Snelling, Lexington, and University avenues, and Pierce Butler Route. These have changed the nature of the neighborhood dramatically.”

Reach across the river
In 1986, deRuyter Nelson purchased the Longfellow Messenger, and expanded its reach across the river into Minneapolis. Soon after the purchase, they expanded into the Nokomis neighborhood.

The Messenger was formed in March 1983 by community activists Maureen and Bill Milbrath as a project for their retirement years. deRuyter-Nelson Publications had performed their typesetting for years, and they were the logical ones to purchase the paper. Plus, there was a family connection that they were not initially aware of. Bill had been a college fraternity mate of Nelson’s dad and was the soloist at his parents’ wedding.

Today, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger has a circulation of 21,000 in the Longfellow and Nokomis areas of Minneapolis. It offers comprehensive home delivery to 17,000 homes and an additional circulation of 4,000 at high-traffic business, church, and school drop-off points.

The Messenger has an estimated reach of over 50,000 readers.

The Monitor also has an estimated reach of over 50,000 residents in St. Paul’s Midway, Como, and Merriam Park neighborhoods. With a circulation of 21,000, the Monitor offers comprehensive delivery to 16,000 homes and businesses and an additional circulation of 5,000 at high-traffic business, church, and school drop-off points.

Over the years, deRuyter-Nelson also operated a successful graphic design business, providing design and production services to large and small corporations and government agencies.

Out of personal tragedy, they created A Place to Remember, a business that published and distributed resources worldwide for families experiencing a difficult pregnancy, premature birth, or death of an infant. A Place to Remember is now in the process of closing after 25 years as deRuyter and Nelson retire.

The Monitor and Messenger gave up the longtime Iris Park Place office (1885 University Avenue W., Suite 110) four years ago, and have operated with a virtual office since then. Other shifts at the time involved Nelson handling the newspaper production and deRuyter the editor responsibilities once again, while long-time editor and sales representative Denis Woulfe began focusing only on sales.

Evolving industry
The industry is changing, but deRuyter and Nelson still believe newspapers are part of the fabric of neighborhoods.

“I think community newspapers are vital to the neighborhoods,” observed deRuyter. “We have watched so many community newspapers die so that the community journalism movement in the Cities is just a tiny fraction of what it used to be. I don’t think there is a single community that is better off because their community newspaper could not survive.”

“But I also think that the residents and the businesses don’t truly grasp the importance of the cohesiveness that the neighborhood press provides,” deRuyter added. “If it is used properly, the community newspaper can be the place where things ‘come together’ in one place; where you can get an overview of the things going on; where you can learn about the unique businesses that are housed there; where you can learn about the neighbor who has faced a challenge, or who has overcome one.”

deRuyter asked, “Where is that place if your community newspaper dies? You certainly won’t get it from the city-wide or regional press.”
Nelson has also mulled over the changing face of journalism over the past four decades that he’s been involved in it.

“I think that over the years, the papers lost some of the fire that made them more interesting in the early days. The stories became more routine, and obviously there is no way the timeliness of a monthly publication can compete with the immediacy of news spreading on social media chat groups or blogs. The need for a community newspaper in a neighborhood was diluted.”

But, Nelson quickly added, “That is not to say that I don’t think that there is a need for a community newspaper or that the concept is dead. As a matter of fact, it may be more important now than ever given the fact that the daily papers are struggling to find their niche and are cutting budgets in order to compete in the electronic age. Social media does not even attempt to be objective, and although the media is constantly being accused of bias, I assure you we always attempt to bring the community both sides of an issue. It’s a matter of finding out what readers want to learn more about from their neighbors, and working to help reshape that delivery.”

What’s next?
Nelson and deRuyter will officially retire on May 1, 2019 when they pass ownership of the Messenger and Monitor to Tesha M. Christensen, who has been a deRuyter-Nelson freelance writer for the past eight years and has worked in journalism for over 20 years. (See article on page 1)
What’s next for these longtime news hounds?

After balancing his newspaper business with the artwork that he picked back up 11 years ago, deRuyter plans to focus on his art business (www.calsportfolio.net). In addition to painting, he offers various classes and workshops. He and his husband, Jim, are also renovating an old schoolhouse outside of Evansville, MN. He’s not leaving the Monitor or Messenger completely, either, as he’ll be providing bookkeeping services to the new owner.

Nelson will continue selling a support book he wrote for fathers who have experienced the death of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. The book, “A Guide For Fathers–When A Baby Dies,” is in its seventh printing.

Also, Nelson and his wife, Monica, have four children living around the world. “It’s not always ideal having your children spread out, but at least they have chosen interesting places to visit—London, El Nido (Philippines), Phoenix and Los Angeles,” remarked Nelson. They are also fortunate to have six grandchildren living in Arizona and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of triplet girls in California.

“Let’s just say, I’m not worried about being bored,” said Nelson. “At least while I am still able to get on a plane.”

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Past Chamber Exec Photo 2019

Midway Chamber celebrates 100 years of service to the community

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

The longtime tradition of luncheon with an informative guest speaker began in 1923 and continue today. Here is a group gathered in 1939. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

Members reflect on what the chamber has accomplished over the last century

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
One community group has been the face of the Midway area for a century. Formed in October of 1919, the Midway Chamber is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

First called the Midway Club and then the Midway Civic Club, the Midway Chamber of Commerce reflects the history of the Midway as a whole, observed local historian Jane McClure, who is working on a book to celebrate the chamber’s 100th anniversary. It will be available later this year.

“The Midway Chamber really shaped the growth and development of the entire area, in ways we don’t think about today,” added McClure. “Needs and issues including paved streets, the extension of streetcar lines, improved police and fire service, taxation, street lights, and jobs were among the issues the Midway Club championed. The organization brought back the Winter Carnival years before it became a citywide event again. Members worked to retain Saints baseball here and were part of the effort to attract the Minnesota Twins years ago.”

“When what was then the Midway Club began a century ago, getting things accomplished meant being organized,” McClure said. “We didn’t elect our City Council members by ward. Neighborhoods organized betterment or improvement associations to promote their interests to elected officials in those days. Every neighborhood had a small group to promote and advocate for an area’s interests. Midway Chamber was an umbrella group for many smaller neighborhood associations, which organized around small business nodes or city parks or schools.”

“It’s charming to think of ‘boosterism,’ but it’s how things got done in those days. There was a strong and intense loyalty to where you lived and where you did business,” McClure noted.

“Also, think of organizing around an issue or a community need when phones weren’t all that common, let alone when there was no Internet,” Jane said. “You had newspapers and radio to some extent, but to get things done, you had to get people physically together. That’s where having a club, later chamber, and a group to gather with, was so important.”

“We can look back at the early days of Midway Chamber, and it’s pretty remarkable to see how much got done,” Jane concluded.

Critical leadership
The Midway was already an important regional hub for transportation, industry, commerce, and education by 1919, and the 1910 census shows it was the fastest growing part of St. Paul.

“The Midway was long a center for commerce (the predecessor to Delta Airlines was headquartered in the Midway many years ago),” observed Ellen Watters, who headed up the Midway Chamber as its paid president from 1996-2002. “As the primary district connecting the two downtowns, the Midway has been a critical transportation and commerce link for the region.”

Photo right: Those who have led as executive directors of the Midway Chamber gather during the 100th anniversary gala in February 2019. Left to right: Kari Canfield, Ellen Watters, Chad Kulas, and Lori Fritts. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

The Minnesota Transfer Railway Company had organized in 1883 and filled about 200 acres with tracks, switches, and buildings along the University-Prior Ave. area. Every train going into the Cities rolled through that yard. Early Midway industries provided a vast array of goods for the northwestern United States, including mattresses, beds, chairs, tables, pianos, furnaces, stoves, radiators, brooms, linseed oil products, and farm equipment.

In December 1890, the Interurban Street Car Line had connected the two downtown areas, following a similar route as today’s Green Line along University Ave. in St. Paul and Washington Ave. in Minneapolis. The streetcar’s Midway shop—later known as the barns—sat at the northwest corner of the University and Snelling intersection for decades. The line ran until 1953 when it was replaced by buses.

The new Midway Club helped boost businesses and provided critical leadership on countless neighborhood and regional issues. Early club committees focused on attracting new industry and also beautifying industrial sites. Others dealt with streets, health and safety, education and recreation. One daunting task was getting dirt streets scraped and improved by city crews. In the early years, the club helped establish the Hamline Community Playground, supported the Midway Transfer YMCA, and pledged money to build a new Midway Hospital.

The club had 454 members in December 1919 and grew to 702 members by the next year. Women were allowed as members in 1924. After a brief decline during the Great Depression, membership topped 1,000 in the mid-1930s.

Club members turned their attention to vehicle traffic and street improvements, working to make things safer as the area became known as Auto Row and its trucking industry began to thrive. By the mid-1940s, the Midway was home to over 40 trucking firms, and it dealt with parking shortages as early as the 1950s. Members raised funds to save the Como Zoo in 1955.

“The chamber continues to be a unique voice for the Midway area. Organizations that make up the Chamber care about the vitality and improvement of the area. While I was there we worked hard to get Metro Transit to vacate the bus barn site which now, 17 years later, is home to the new Allianz Field,” stated Watters.

She added, “When I was president we advocated for the new Light Rail Transit which eventually was built. Today the Green Line is a major success that has helped transform University Ave., bringing new housing, and new investment, to the area.”

Face of the Midway
Jeffrey Fenske of Fenske Law Office (239 Cleveland Ave. N.) has been a member of the chamber since the 1980s. He sees the Chamber as “the face of the Midway business community with City and civic leaders.”

Highlights of his time on the Chamber Board include the Green Line, helping businesses stay and grow in the area, and expanding the opportunities for interaction among members with more programming, events and networking opportunities.

“The personal and business connections developed with fellow chamber members is invaluable,” said Fenske.

Photo left: Past Midway Chamber Board Chairs who have served between 1994 and 2019 gather during the 100th anniversary gala in February 2019. Left to right: Mike Zipko of Goff Public, Rick Beeson, Colleen Hartmon Bollom of Piper Jaffray, Julie Esch of Mortenson Construction, Jeff Fenske of Fenske Law Office, Alden Drew, Chris Ferguson of Bywater Business Solutions, Steve Johnson of BankCherokee, Ted Davis of Davis Communications, Tom Whaley of Saint Paul Saints, Terri Dooher Fleming of Park Midway Bank, Ferdinand Peters of Peters Law Firm, and Dan Leggett of Avant-Garde Marketing Solutions.. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

Membership has grown significantly since Dan Leggett of Avant-Garde Marketing Solutions joined the chamber in 2005, and he has watched programming explode. Leggett served as board chair from July 2014 to 2015. The Midway Chamber has added three annual Summits (Economic Development in 2014, Legislative in 2015, and Leadership in 2015), small business workshops, Will Power (Women in Local Leadership), Chamber Connect, and Lunch on the Line (which began as Lunch on the Avenue during the building of the Green Line). The longtime tradition of luncheon with an informative guest speaker began in 1923 and continue today.

Plus, the chamber has established a foundation with an emphasis on education and literacy.

Building a network and having fun
Belonging to the Chamber helps members develop their networks and get to know other business owners, employers, colleges and more. “It helps expand your reach,” pointed out Midway Chamber Executive Director Chad Kulas, who was hired in June 2015.

The chamber has strong relationships with the city, and that benefits its members when they’re working individually with the city on building and street projects. “We can help them in that process and advocate for them,” stated Kulas. The chamber is also involved in larger policy and development issues that affect the whole Midway area.

“The chamber is an advocacy voice for members and the community on important issues that affect the business community with the city and other governmental agencies that decide policy affecting our members,” observed Fenske. “It also provides a base for support and education for bigger picture issues that affect the collective group and area.”

Joining the Midway Chamber has provided increased exposure for his merchant processing business and has enhanced market penetration, pointed out Leggett. “I have also had the privilege of meeting and working with some phenomenal individuals who are tirelessly committed to promoting and growing business relationships in the Midway. Oh, it’s been great fun as well!”

Identity of its own
While many chambers are identified by the cities they are in, the Midway Chamber is different. “We are right in between two very large chambers,” remarked Kulas. “That can be both a strength and a challenge.”

The membership of the Midway Chamber is diverse, and so then is its funding supply, so no single business leaving or closing will mean that the Chamber is out of funds.

Over the years, people have discussed whether the Midway Chamber is needed considering the larger chambers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“But it has always been the will of the board and membership that we have a place, too,” said Kulas.

“For different reasons, we’ve kept that identity, and people still feel very strongly about keeping that identity,” said Kulas.

“In addition to providing networking, education, and community volunteering opportunities, our chamber is a solid advocate for this community,” stated Leggett. “I believe this advocacy became more apparent with the construction of the Green Line, and even more notable with the soccer stadium and related development in the area. No doubt this will continue well into the future with the anticipated robust growth in the Midway over the next 5-10 years and beyond!”

“The Midway area is booming,” agreed Kulas.

Editor’s Note: Some of the historical information in this article is based off a piece written by Jane McClure for the Ramsey County Historical Society magazine in the fall of 1994.

 

 

 

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Traffic and Ped safety Jeremy Ellison

Initiatives promote traffic and pedestrian safety in St. Paul

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Starting Apr. 1, the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) implemented their new 12-person Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit. According to Commander Jeremy Ellison, the SPPD is making pedestrian and bike safety one of its priorities in 2019—under the direction of Police Chief Todd Axtell. Three full-time employees added to this unit will focus exclusively on the problem of distracted drivers across the city.

Ellison explained that those officers will travel in unmarked, high clearance SUVs so they can better see into cars they are monitoring. “We want people to know that our officers will be out there watching for distracted drivers,” he said. “Our goal is no longer to catch people unaware. We want drivers to be informed, to make smart decisions, and to be part of improving public safety. A good day will be a day when we don’t write any tickets.”

Minnesota law states it is illegal to use a wireless communication device to write, read, or send an electronic message while driving or stopped in traffic. While that law has been on the books for a while, it has been difficult to enforce; creating the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit should help.

The cost of a first violation will be $136; the cost of a second violation for the same offense will be $366. According to Ellison, “Law enforcement supports Minnesota becoming a ‘hands-free’ state for cell phone use.” A bill toward that end moved through legislative committee in January and is expected to pass with bipartisan support.

Photo right: Commander Jeremy Ellison is behind the wheel of one of the St. Paul Police Department’s new Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit enforcement vehicles. Ellison said, “Every other day in the City of St. Paul there’s a crash involving a pedestrian. Last month there were two pedestrian fatalities, and that’s two too many.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Right now, nobody really knows how much of a problem distracted

driving is. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is funding research projects in several major cities, and St. Paul was chosen to participate. The goal of these projects is to gather data to determine what percentage of crashes are caused by drivers distracted by electronic devices.

On another front, the Stop for Me Campaign is an ongoing initiative to improve public safety in St. Paul. Organized by St. Paul’s 17 district councils, St. Paul Smart Trips, and the SPPD, Stop for Me teaches that stopping for pedestrians and bicyclists isn’t just common courtesy—it’s the law. “Last year, there were 108 Stop for Me events in St. Paul,” Ellison said. “We looked at crash data for marked crosswalks (where there wasn’t a traffic signal) to decide where to hold these events. We met with community members at dangerous intersections to practice safe crossing techniques for all ages.” To learn more about scheduling a Stop for Me event in your neighborhood this spring or summer, email jeremy.ellison@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

According to Commander Ellison, the following safety information is worth knowing:
• Along with Metro Transit, the SPPD believes in the saying, “See tracks, think train.” Every time you cross the LRT track, be mentally prepared that a train may be coming.
• Minnesota law states that when a traffic light has turned yellow, a motorist should be stopping—not accelerating through the intersection.
• If a pedestrian puts one foot into the street, an oncoming motorist should be stopping. Do not hope or assume, but make sure it is safe to cross. A pedestrian is ten times more likely to die in a collision with a car than the occupants of two vehicles that collide.
• If you’re riding or walking your bike in a marked pedestrian crossing, you’re considered a pedestrian and cars are required to yield.

 

 

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Hero Search 17

Donate Good Stuff where it can make a difference

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
When Como resident Jennifer Victor-Larsen was working on her MBA at the University of St. Thomas a few years ago, she got an idea. “I knew I wanted to do a project in the realm of a social venture, but there was already so much great work being done in the Twin Cities. I started looking for gaps in services, and it turned out I didn’t have to look very far.”

Victor-Larsen had lost her grandmother and two aunts within a short period. Her mom ended up with many of their things: a whole attic full of high-quality stuff with sentimental value that was gathering dust.

Victor-Larsen said, “I started to think about where those things could go in the non-profit community; how could they be put to good use and not just add to the endless waste stream?”

“At the same time,” Victor-Larson said, “I was volunteering with two organizations that help victims of human trafficking—Brittany’s Place and Breaking Free. I started asking the staff of both organizations, ‘What things do you really need to help your clients regain their independence?’ It turned out that plenty of those things were in my mother’s attic and in my own home.”

Photo right: Como resident Jennifer Victor-Larsen is changing the name of the non-profit organization she started to www.donategoodstuff.org. For the time being, go to www.herosearch.org to learn where to donate household items in good condition to local non-profits that can use them. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Victor-Larsen found the service gap she had been looking for, and in 2014 created a non-profit she called “Hero Search.” “It took a year for me to build the database, which works in the same way as a volunteer-match database,” she said. “Someone with stuff to donate can search by non-profit type or by proximity to their home. I wanted HeroSearch.org to show how donated items would be used, so donors would know the impact they were making. I wanted it to be easy to search for nearby organizations so that drop-offs would be convenient for donors. The vision was to contribute to a less wasteful, more connected, and more generous world.”

Victor-Larsen is leaving her long career in the insurance industry on May 1 to dedicate herself fulltime to this work. She’s in the process of rebranding HeroSearch.org, and has changed the name to DonateGoodStuff.org. She’s redesigning her logo and has set the bar high for her growing non-profit organization: to become the #1 resource for people who have items to donate to charities nation-wide.

DonateGoodStuff.org is holding a 5K fundraiser at Como Lake on Sat., May 11. Day-of registration opens at the Como Lake Pavilion at 7:30am, and the run kicks off at 8:30am.

“The family-friendly event is open to everyone,” Victor-Larsen said, “and will be held rain or shine. We’re hoping that because it’s Mother’s Day weekend, families will walk or run the twice around the lake loop together.“ There’s no charge for children in strollers or wagons. Preregister online, and get a guaranteed t-shirt at www.hero.search.org. Two of the more than 100 non-profits that Hero Search partners with locally will be on-site that day—Minnesota Youth Link and Minnesota Pocket Pet Rescue.

 

 

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Midway Marketplace

Development Roundup, April 2019

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE

Midway Marketplace sold to Minneapolis firm for $31 million
New ownership could eventually bring changes to Midway Marketplace. The shopping center at 1400 University Ave. was recently sold to Minneapolis-based Kraus-Anderson Realty. The company announced its purchase of the center from RVI, a company from Ohio. The selling price was $31 million.

Illustration right: Midway Marketplace is the extensive complex of buildings and parking seen in this illustration. Hamline Ave. is on the east, Pascal St. to the west, with University Ave. on the north and St. Anthony Ave. on the south. It does not include the buildings on the southeast corner of the superblock, one of which is the St. Paul Police Western District Office. (Illustration provided)

The center occupies the block bounded by University, Hamline and St. Anthony avenues and Pascal St. It was built after the 1996 implosion demolition of Midway’s longtime Montgomery Ward store and catalog shipping center. Ward’s, K-Mart, Mervyn’s California and Cub Foods were anchor tenants, with only Cub remaining.

Ward’s was replaced with Herberger’s, which closed last year. Its building was designed with a tower to mimic the original iconic Ward’s tower. Mervyn’s is now LA Fitness, and WalMart is in the former Kmart building. TJ Maxx, Discount Tire and several smaller businesses are also in the shopping center.

Planning for Midway Center began in the late 1980s. The master plan won St. Paul City Council approval in 1990. The project was initially led by Ward’s and the development firm of Trammel Crowe. Site pollution, changes in developers and other complications pushed the initial work to 1995.

The original Ward’s building was imploded and demolished in 1996.

Midway Marketplace is the largest modern-era ground-up retail development along University. During planning for Green Line light rail, it was rezoned for traditional neighborhoods use 4, which would allow for high-density, mixed-use redevelopment in the future.

Jeff Hildahl, senior vice president of properties and leasing for KA Realty, issued a statement indicating that existing leases will be honored, and the tenant mix won’t change. But the new owners are looking at ways they can partner with the Allianz Field soccer stadium, possibly on parking and other issues.

Grant requests roll in
Businesses and institutions are among those seeking 2019 St. Paul Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) grant and loans. The application period closed in March. The requests are under review by city staff, the Planning Commission and the Neighborhood STAR Board. The St. Paul City Council is expected to approve the funded projects this summer. The STAR Board will conduct its reviews and rankings in May.

The city received 53 proposals requesting more than $67.5 million in assistance, with more than $7.5 million in matching funds identified. All requests require a match. That compares to 41 proposals and plus-$5.4 million in assistance that came in 2018.

Thirty-five proposals are for commercial projects, with two for mixed-use projects and four for housing. Others are a mix of playgrounds and other outdoor amenities.

Monitor area commercial projects include a $150,000 grant request from Community Involvement Program and ALLY People Solutions to renovate 1515 Energy Park Dr. into the new headquarters for the merged disability service agencies. It will bring 130 jobs to St. Paul, as well 40 central office and program staff.

Element Boxing & Fitness, 555 N. Fairview Ave., is seeking a $40,00 grant and $40,000 loan to develop the CO-MOTION Center for Movement.
New Vision Foundation is seeking a $105,424 grant to relocate to 860 Vandalia St. It would share space with Tech Dump, an electronics recycling and jobs program.

Playwrights Center is seeking a $75,000 grant and a $75,000 loan to make building renovations at 710 Raymond Ave., to relocate from Minneapolis.

Junior Achievement, which recently moved to 1745 University Ave., is seeking a $100,000 grant to tuck-point and repair the east wall of its building. A mural there would be replaced.

Midway-based African Economic Development Solutions seeks a $360,000 grant for its small business revolving loan fund. That is a citywide fund, although plans call for a focus on North Snelling’s Little Africa area.

The Ain Dah Yung Center for homeless Native American young people at 771-785 University Ave., is seeking a $100,000 loan to add a cultural facility to its housing project. The housing is under construction.

Other requests include a $35,000 grant for Twin Cities German Immersion School, 1031 Como Ave., for a 430-foot long, seven foot tall, gabion stone fence along its eastern border.

Another non-commercial request is from Zion Lutheran Church, 1697 Lafond Ave., which is working with Hamline Midway Elders to add an accessible entrance and lift and install an accessible bathroom. The church houses many food and wellness programs.

 

 

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2019_MNUFC_BikeRouteMap_Final

Prepare for opening day soccer game traffic and parking

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
Take the bus or train, bike, walk or use a taxi or ride-share. Unless you have a reserved parking spot, don’t drive to Minnesota United FC soccer games at Allianz Field.

That’s the message from team and city officials as they make plans to move almost 20,000 people to and from the stadium on game days, starting with the opener Apr. 13. Basic travel, transit, and parking plans were released in March and presented to Union Park District Council and Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC).

Team and city staff and traffic study consultants say that the stadium traffic and parking plans are a work in progress, with changes possible as needed. But both district councils’ members and staff said they’d like to have had more neighborhood input and inclusion on stadium planning in general, saying they were left out of major decisions.

“This has come up quickly,” said HMC Community Organizer Melissa Cortez. She and others at the HMC meeting criticized the city and soccer team’s lack of communication and collaboration on planning. That has forced neighbors to be in reacting mode, and not working together. “I think there’s been a lot of missed opportunities … it feels like this is just happening to us.”

Board members said that while they appreciated hearing the plans, they’d have liked more notice and more time to share ideas.

City and team officials said they’d like more of a partnership with the neighborhoods and would do better.

The St. Paul Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee also reviewed the plans Mar. 25, the day after a stadium preseason event drew enthusiastic crowds and some neighborhood complaints about traffic and spillover parking.

Concerns were raised about spillover parking in adjacent neighborhoods, motorists using neighborhood streets to bypass University and Snelling, and the small size of the study area, which is centered on the stadium site. Some questioned why scrutiny of traffic and travel impacts weren’t looked at to the north and south. City staff comments that changes can be made didn’t mollify some HMC Board members.

Other issues raised by the Planning Commission committee include a need to expand on the 400 bike rack spaces on-site, and to work with adjacent property owners on parking. On Mar. 24, some stadium visitors parked at nearby Midway Marketplace. That will require the property and business owners there to police their parking.

The game day experience
The key message is plan ahead. “We don’t want you to drive by yourself, and it’s going to be a miserable experience if you do,” said St. Paul Police Commander Kurtis Hallstrom. “If you don’t have a parking space assigned, don’t drive to the stadium.”

Minnesota United is communicating directly to ticket holders about pre-purchasing parking spots or using other ways to get to games. The stadium site has 400 parking spaces. Maureen Smith, senior vice present for finance for Minnesota United, said that the team is preselling parking.

Photo right: There are approximately 400 bike racks located around the stadium—designated here in yellow. (Illustration provided)

Parking in the Midway Center block is for team staff and VIPs. Parking is also being presold at Spruce Tree Center ($40 per game) and HealthEast facilities (season-long parking packages at $20 per game) near the stadium, with about 1,200 spaces there.

Metro Transit will also operate buses to and from the Minnesota State Fair, where there will be about 2,500 parking spaces available. (Reportedly 15-game packages for this location will be available for $180.) The fairgrounds parking is the only place where pregame tailgating is allowed. Buses will travel on other routes, not yet finalized, to get to and from the stadium.

Downtown parking ramps will also be promoted as an option.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the 2,500 State Fair parking spaces will not be available for MNUFC home games on Apr. 28, Aug. 14 or Aug. 17.

Luis Pereira, planning director for the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED), said the 2016 Snelling Midway Master Plan and an Alternative Urban Areawide Analysis (AUAR) study were used to plan for transportation needs. Those provided a starting point for further work with experts including staff from several city departments, the consulting firm Strgar Roscoe Fausch, the Ramsey County Department of Public Works, Metro Transit, Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Photo left: Allianz Field has designated pick-up and drop-off points (identified in yellow) for fans planning on taking Lyft, Uber or a taxi to games. Get dropped off curbside on your way into the stadium on gameday, with easy access to your gate no matter where you’re seated. (Illustration provided)

Experience with game days at Xcel Energy Center, TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota and US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis were also drawn on to make plans.

City officials are now seeking feedback to make further changes, with the public able to weigh in at www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/allianz-field/allianz-field-transportation-feedback.

“Having that ongoing public input is really important to us,” Pereira said. Plans are being made not just for soccer game attendees but for residents, business owners and institutional groups concerned about access to their properties. Another focus is business licensing, including vendors and people wishing to lease out their parking lots. The city is already hearing concerns that some neighbors will want to sell their yard space for parking, which isn’t allowed in the neighborhoods by the stadium.

One huge focus is education. “Fans from outside of our area may not know our street system. That’s going to be a critical thing for us,” said Pereira. Education includes information to soccer game attendees about how to get there.

Red flags raised
The 2016 AUAR raised several red flags about stadium parking demand, and transit and travel congestion. Metropolitan Council questioned the assumptions used to determine “mode split” for travel to the site, or how it was determined the number of people who would drive, take transit or shuttle buses, walk or bike. “Those assumptions appear to be tilted heavily to make the case that few if any roadway improvements are needed from this massive traffic generator,” the 2016 council letter stated.

Red flags were raised about the estimated high percentage of shuttle bus and transit service usage, as Metropolitan Council stated, “Additional potential capacity on the Green Line does not automatically translate to usage.”

City officials responded in 2016 that they made conservative assumptions, given the lack of off-street parking on and near the site, and indicated they believe traffic, transit use, and parking can be “effectively managed.” City officials did more planning as the AUAR recommended, which is where the current recommendations stem from.

The modal split for game days is estimated to be 38.5 percent of fans using transit, with 23 percent walking, biking or taking taxis and rideshares. Off-site shuttles will bring in another 22.5 percent, with 11 percent of game attendees using private parking and another 5 percent using on-site parking.

Some streets around the stadium and Midway Center superblock of Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues will have limited access on game days. Pascal between University and St. Anthony will be local traffic only, for access to businesses and homes. One-lane restrictions will be in place on St. Anthony between Pascal and Hamline avenues and on University from Fry St. to Pascal Ave. Spruce Tree Dr., which is an anticipated transit rider route to and from the westbound Green Line platform, will have restricted access. Pickup and drop-off space for shuttles, taxis, and rideshare vehicles will be on St. Anthony west of Pascal.

St. Paul and Metro Transit police will be stationed at intersections around the stadium to manage traffic control, safety, and the flow of transit riders.

David Hanson, Metro Transit’s assistant field director for operations, said the Green Line light rail and A Line rapid buses will be the workhouses for stadium arrivals. Metro Transit will have staff out on and near rail and bus platforms to provide directions. Extra trains and buses will run to get people to and from the stadium, with a goal of having everyone cleared out one hour after a game ends.

A three-car train can hold 600 people, and an articulated bus can carry 100. The train platforms can hold three times the train capacity, for waiting passengers.

“We haul masses efficiently,” said Hanson. “No one can do it better than us.”

 

 

 

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Como High School Senator Smith

News from Como Park High School, April 2019

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

By ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• Twenty-two seniors currently studying AP Government and AP Macroeconomics spent a week of March in Washington D.C. The participating students were part of the national Close Up program, which promotes civics education and participation in our democracy with the capital city as a living classroom. Como student highlights included visiting the national monuments, memorials, museums of the Smithsonian, the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, U.S. Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, and unique Washington neighborhoods.

Students met with Senator Tina Smith in her office and met Senator Amy Klobuchar in the capitol outside the Democratic Leadership Office near the Senate Chamber. Senator Klobuchar also took the time to show the students the ornately decorated President’s Room in the capitol.

Photo right: Como students participating in the national Close Up Washington D.C. program met with their U.S. Senators during an intense week of study. The Como group is pictured here with Senator Tina Smith in the Hart Senate Office Building. (Photo provided)

While observing the House of Representatives in session from the House Gallery, Como students witnessed discussion and debate of legislative bill H.R. 1, which supports strengthening voter access and reducing the influence of big money in politics. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke for 15 minutes which was captivating for the students who have studied her role in government.

Throughout the week, Como students were engaged in policy discussions and simulations with peers from across the nation in workshop groups.

The Close Up closing banquet of 160 students featured six student speakers. Como’s Jamie Cohen was selected to represent her workshop group. She delivered an excellent, reflective and motivating speech received with much applause.

The annual adventure to Washington D.C. for Como AP Government students is made possible through student and school-sponsored fundraising activities, with generous scholarship support from a few individuals of the St. Anthony Park neighborhood and Como area booster organizations.

• Como seniors Theo Lucy, Lexie Harris, and Pa Nhia Vang were selected to receive fellowships from the League of Women Voters. The students were chosen based on their competitive applications which exhibited a strong interest in promoting political participation, working to register voters, and issue advocacy.

The fellows are developing an advocacy project to be implemented this spring with the goal of bringing attention to an issue in their community and meeting with elected officials to address concerns and encourage action. The fellows will also coordinate this year’s voter registration efforts at Como.

The League of Women Voters is non-partisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or parties, but always working on vital public issues.

• For eight 11th grade U.S. History students, their award-winning research projects from 1st semester will extend into the spring and the Minnesota State History Day Competition! The following students advanced from their respective categories at the St. Paul Regional History Day and will present their work at the University of Minnesota on May 4:

In the Group Website Category — Maisee Her, Rose Say, and Ly Xiong for the Immigration Act of 1924. Noelia Marin Leal and MaiChue Xiong for Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand. Way Htoo and Shar Too for WAVES (the women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve)

In the Individual Documentary Category, Lisa Saechao qualified for state with her short film on The Hmong Genocide.

Two other Como students earned honorable mention for their entries in the Individual Website category—Eethan Lee for the My Lai Massacre, and Jorge Pliego for Warren Robinett’s “Easter Egg” video game insertion.

• Two teams of students from Como’s AP Economics classes participated in the Urban Regional Econ Challenge at the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis on Mar. 13. The event is administered by the Minnesota Council of Economic Education (MCEE) and sponsored by “The Fed.”

The Como team of Aiyana Aeikens, Naddi Jillo, Khyri Lueben, and Antero Sivula took 2nd place in the overall competition, narrowly falling to Richfield in the Quiz Bowl Final. In addition to the competition, the students enjoyed breakfast and lunch at the Fed and toured the facility, including the cash vault, with Federal Reserve staff.

• Academy of Finance (AOF) sophomore Kalid Ali was selected to participate in the University of Wisconsin Business School’s Business Emerging Leaders (BEL) Program. The summer program at the Madison campus is designed for promising students with strong academic credentials and demonstrated leadership skills.

BEL Program students who are admitted to UW-Madison and complete a business major are granted a full-tuition four-year scholarship. Kalid is excited for his opportunity that will begin this July.

• Como’s Apps Club has been meeting weekly after school to develop a digital application which will serve the deaf and hard of hearing. The goal of the app is to help deaf teenagers effectively communicate with their peers without feeling uncomfortable. The Apps Club will present its app, including business and marketing plans, at the Minneapolis Convention Center on May 11.

• Como Choir students participated in the Minnesota State High School League Vocal Solo and Ensemble Contest at North St. Paul High School last month. Soloists earning Excellent ratings included Maisee Her, Mai Lao Lee, and Michael Yang.

The Chamber Singers received a Superior rating. Several Como vocalists were also evaluated as Superior, including James Baker, Chloe Hollister-Lapointe, Willow Hollister-Lapointe, Areya Khue, Koob Lee, Chandani Lor, Gemma Pham, Htakee Saw, Rose Say, Aspen Schucker, Lila Seeba, Lee Tuggle and Kevin Yang. The highest honor given at the contest is Best in Site, which was bestowed upon senior Marco Tabacman.

• A talented cast and crew performed “The Unusual Suspects” in the Como Auditorium in March. The play, written by Samara Siskind, is a comedy set in a high school revolving around a caper that unites some unlikely students. Como’s adaptation was directed by English teacher Allison Hartzell.

The cast included Amira Boler, Lila Seeba, Lily Rogers, Toby Sax, Wyatt Hanson, Roan Buck, Ava Vitali, JoAnn Lane, Alicia Banks, Emilie Pagel, Cece Godfrey, and John Dugan.

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Discovery Club