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Take action with League of Women Voters

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Nonpartisan group informs and engages citizens for a healthy democracy

Members of the St. Paul League of Women Voters celebrate 100 years. (Photo submitted)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
The League of Women Voters St. Paul works to make voting less intimidating for people.
It is part of the larger national organization, the League of Women Voters, a civic organization in the United States that was formed in 1920 to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote.
For Como resident Amy Perna being involved in the League is a natural extension of the civic and community engagement that began in high school, when she organized students and faculty to support Diversity Day.
In 2016, she was hired as the LWVSP candidate forum coordinator. She worked seasonally for the next three years, and then joined the board in July 2017 as Voter Service Chair. Last year, she was elected as Co-President.
Perna believes that a healthy democracy requires informed and engaged citizens, open and responsive government and the opportunity to take action.
For more on the League, read the Q & A below.

Amy Perna

What is the value of LWVSP?
The value of our work lies in that we engage and educate people in a strictly nonpartisan manner. Folks know that when they show up to a candidate forum – a program like January’s Presidential Nominating Primary event with Secretary Simon or to volunteer with us in area high schools – that they will be walking into a nonpartisan, safe environment in which they can learn and ask questions. Additionally, we bring value to our community by engaging folks in the democratic process by registering them to vote, hosting candidate forums, engaging youth and holding relevant educational programs. Registering voters looks a little different this year, but we are out registering in person in select locations!
Who is LWVSP for?
The LWVSP is a welcoming organization and is for every one looking to engage in democracy at the local level in a nonpartisan way. We welcome folks who want to learn more about the people running for office, engage in relevant topics, those who might be interested in working with area high schools to encourage youth participation in elections or joining one of our book clubs. Many people join LWVSP because they want to help register voters, which is great! You can also join the League and become a member or make a donation to help support our work!

How does LWV further democracy?
A democracy requires that people vote. A lot of what we do at the local level is help make that process less intimidating for people by showing them what it will look and feel like at the polls.
Lifetime member Sig Johnson holds mock elections all over the city, our Youth Vote team teaches youth about how to vote and why it is important by employing Student Leaders in Saint Paul high schools, and we register voters wherever we are asked.
We believe it is essential for the public to understand the views, opinions and commitments of people running for elected office and to understand issues facing our nation, state and city and that is where our Voter Service Committee and Program Committee come in.
We organize candidate forums, produce a voter guide and hold free programs on issues people care about like election security and the Presidential Nominating Primary and voting during a pandemic. It is this understanding that better equips voters with information they need to make informed decisions.

How can people be involved in politics during this pandemic?
I would highly encourage people to check out Vote411.org to learn about candidates in their districts. Use this time to read or listen to trusted news sources and to really dig into a candidate’s history, work and volunteer experience; don’t just rely their campaign website and literature or social media feeds to make a decision about who to vote for.
If you notice a candidate hasn’t filled out their Vote411.org questionnaire, reach out to them and encourage them to do so!
I would also encourage everyone to talk to people in their circles about voting. Ask people what their voting plan is. Studies have shown that this is a highly effective way to encourage voter turnout.
I would like to encourage people to vote from home by absentee ballot. You can apply online right now for absentee ballots, so you get an easy, vote-from-home experience. Ballots need to be postmarked by Nov. 3, but we are asking folks to turn those ballots in by Oct. 20, a full two weeks before election day. The last day to pre-register in MN was Oct. 13. If a person isn’t registered by then, they can do so at their polling place on election day.

Meet other members

Joann Ellis & Helen Losleben with Dave Triplett and Bill Ekblad

What is the value of LWVSP?
Dr. Cheryl Bailey of Merriam Park, LWVSP Youth Vote Team: Nothing could be more clear to me that voting, educated voters and promoting access via legislation (instead of obstructing voting) are the most important issues of our times. If climate change, COVID 19, or partisanship concern people, then more citizens simply have to vote!
Claudia Dieter of Highland Park, LWVSP program chair: For me, the value of the League is its non-partisanship which gives it credibility. The League does take positions on some issues, but the position is on the issue, not the politics or the party.
Helen Losleben of Mendota Heights, LWVSP secretary: LWV helps me and many others know that getting involved with the election process is vitally important to the growth of our country. LWV works diligently to help make it easier for people to register to vote answering questions and providing information in a clear message on the importance of voting.

How does LWV further
democracy?
Bailey: In order to get smart and able politicians, they have to know that the populace is going to be watching them and will hold them accountable. That needs to be much more pronounced now, especially in the face of a pandemic, to keep bad policies and naughty elected officials from taking advantage of a tragedy. Attention is turned elsewhere…
Dieter: The LWV furthers democracy by providing information to the voters, information that is presented without spin. And, as a member of the Program Committee, I/we take this very seriously when we plan and execute a program. For example, we were working on a program for April that was going to be a debate on the National Popular Vote Compact. The League of Women Voters at the national level has a position on the NPV. Regardless, arguments both for and against Minnesota joining this compact, were to be presented.
The goal, or mission, of the League is to provide information so that the community members can make an informed decision, be that a candidate, a school referendum, etc.

What tips do you offer to those who want get involved in politics?
Losleben: Join a local group, know your community and what they stand for, volunteer, be informed. LWV has sponsored great informational events, giving folks information in a unbiased manner to help promote healthy elections and transform voter turnout to an even higher point than every before.
Bailey: Be patient. I continue to be hugely bothered by the snail’s pace of political activism, but I think it’s the only way. Be direct – say what you think, while being respectful of the opinion of others. I hope Monitor readers will join the League of Women Voters! We need young people, people of color, people in the disability community, etc to join us and fight for an educated citizenry! The more we can diversify our membership, the more our message will remain relevant for the next hundred years.
Dieter: If there is something that has impacted your life, either positively or negatively, and you want to understand it better – dig in! Reach out to people you know who are involved or impacted by it as well. Find out who the decision makers are. Ask questions!
The LWVSP is one of many organizations, including our neighborhood newspapers, in our community that are interested in making our city and neighborhoods better. The more that we can collaborate and support one another, the better our chances to succeed and make a difference.

 

100 YEARS
1920 – The League was officially founded in Chicago in 1920, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the vote. Formed by the suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the League began as a “mighty political experiment” designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters.

1944-45 – After World War II, the League carried out a nationwide public support campaign, at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. participation. One of the first organizations officially recognized by the UN as a non-governmental organization (NGO), the League still maintains official observer status today.

1972 – Shortly after congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), LWV voted officially to support “equal rights for all regardless of sex.” The League followed this vote with a nationwide pressure campaign that continued through the 1970s. That national campaign ended in 1982, but LWV continues to push for ERA ratification today.

1980s – The League sponsored televised general election Presidential debates in 1980 and 1984, as well as presidential primary forums in 1980, 1984, and 1988. The debates focused on nonpartisan issues with a main goal of informing voters. As candidates demanded increasingly partisan conditions, however, the League withdrew its sponsorship of general election debates in 1988.

2002 – When the 2000 election exposed the many problems facing the election system, the League began to work on election reform. Working closely with a civil rights coalition, LWV helped draft and pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which established provisional balloting, requirements for updating voting systems, and the Election Assistance Commission.

2006 – The League provided a dedicated website for voter information as early as the 1990s. In 2006, the League launched the next generation of online voter education with VOTE411.org, a “one-stop-shop” for election-related information. Today, VOTE411 provides both general and state-specific nonpartisan resources to the voting public, including a nationwide polling place locator, a ballot look-up tool, candidate positions on issues, and more.

2019 – In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering cannot be solved by the federal courts. In response, the League initiated People Powered Fair Maps, a coordinated effort across all 50 states and D.C. to create fair and transparent, people-powered redistricting processes to eliminate partisan and racial gerrymandering nationwide.

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{ Monitor in a Minute }

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

Neighborhood STAR fund
allocated for area projects
Twenty-one small businesses, housing providers and community organizations are recipients of 2020 Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) grants and loans, awarded September 2 by the St. Paul City Council. The top-ranked project citywide is Elsa’s House of Sleep at 1441 University Ave.
The Neighborhood STAR Board this summer recommended a total of $1,352,777 divided among 16 projects, with $983,700 in grants and $369,077 in loans. Mayor Melvin Carter added five projects, bringing the total to 21.
Carter reallocated $249,866 in unspent project fund balances, to bring the total awarded to $1,602,643. That results in $1,194,633 in grants and $408,101 in loans.
The neighborhood STAR Program is set up to allocate half-cent sales tax proceeds to brick-and-mortar projects. The COVID-19 pandemic forced meetings online. Sixty projects were submitted by the April deadline, with two later withdrawn.
The Elsa’s House of Sleep furniture store was awarded a $49,800 grant to repair stucco, install a new storefront, make ceiling and floor repairs, install a new handicapped-accessible door and install new security cameras.
Second was Neighborhood Development Center, which received a $123,450 grant and $41,150 loan to build a new business incubator at the northwest corner of University Avenue and Dale Street. The Frogtown Crossroads project will include a small business incubator for up to six businesses. The match is $13.3 million. The project is part of a mixed-used development with Wellington Management, which will include affordable housing.
Third is NeighborWorks Home Partners, with a citywide project to help 20 low to moderate-income St. Paul homeowners with lead-based painted windows. To be eligible, owners of single to four-unit dwellings must already be involved in a county window replacement program. The $12,000 grant, which has a $110,000 match, should help each property owner replace about a dozen windows per dwelling.
Ranked 12th is Sun Foods in Uni-Dale Mall, 554 University Ave. Sun Foods received a $75,000 grant and $75,000 loan to install up to 10 new signs, replace windows, do tuckpointing and make parking lot repairs. The match is $150,000.
The Creative Enterprise Zone’s loans and grants for several small businesses in the West Midway ranked 16th. The nonprofit’s request for a $100,000 grant and $100,000 loan was trimmed by almost $40,000 by the Neighborhood STAR Board and then restored by Carter.
Carter used unspent fund balances to partially fund five projects that had been shut out. One is Springboard for the Arts’ work to redevelopment a former auto dealership at 262 University Ave. into an arts center with public park space. Springboard sought a $100,000 grant with $190,000 match for the park project. A $50,000 grant was approved.
The Asian Economic Development Center sought a $205,000 grant with $205,000 match for improvements including murals, one small business façade improvement, two parklets, benches and other amenities. The project was awarded a $75,000 grant.
African Economic Development Solutions sought a $200,000 grant with $200,000 match for loans for business improvements citywide.
Carter also added a Frogtown project at 625 Charles Ave., with a $22,000 grant and $22,000 loan for a parking lot for a business and apartment building. A $44,000 match is proposed.
An area project that wasn’t approved was the Central Baptist office renovation at 420 Roy St. The Central Baptist project, for which Union Park District Council is a partner, called for renovating the 1913 church building into office and retail space.

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SY20-21_Cadet Staff

CONNECTING WHILE DISTANT

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como Park Senior High School

By Eric
Erickson
Social studies teacher

The Como Marine Corps JROTC held a socially-distanced outdoor ceremony to celebrate recent awards and the changing of the guard to the class of 2021’s senior leadership.

Distance learning for high school students in the St. Paul Public Schools has entered its second month of the 2020-2021 school year. While the scope and sequence of class content is the same as previous years, delivery certainly is not.
Despite challenges, there have been success stories. Many students are gaining familiarity with the mixture of synchronous classes and time built into their day for independent study.
Extracurricular activities have also enriched student experiences. Following safety protocols and state regulations, Como teams, clubs, organizations and individuals are participating in events that keep and build connection.

MCJROTC ranks 4th nationally
The Marine Corps JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) at Como has been recognized as a National Honor School Program for 2020. The award is reserved for the top 20% of all MCJROTC programs across the nation.
In 2019, Como was ranked eighth nationally. This year they rose to fourth place. The ranking is based on several factors including volunteer campaigns, leadership camps, competition performances, grade point averages, MCJROTC academies, and camaraderie.
“We never really understood just how well we were actually doing because for our team this is normal,” said Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Ever Bless. “It’s normal for the cadets to be working, pushing, competing, serving, traveling, and just doing what we do, so to see our vision come true again was shocking to all of us even under these turbulent times.”
Sergeant Major James C. Kirkland is currently serving his 8th year as the Senior Marine Instructor at Como. He has consistently been impressed with the growth of the cadets and the impact of leaders and their resiliency.
“There’s a level of maturity built in, and the ‘take charge’ attitude of the cadets with high motivation is just kind of refreshing during these overwhelming and tumultuous times,” Kirkland said.

Outstanding Refugee Award
Ku Mo, from Como’s class of 2020, was selected as a recipient of the state’s Outstanding Refugee Award. The Minnesota Department of Human Services honored 10 recipients for their actions.
Ku Mo worked on a project to fix computers and give them to families in need, volunteered on additional community service projects, and tutored younger students. Ku Mo is a Karenni refugee who is now a freshman at the University of Minnesota.

Como junior Saylor Landrum competed in the North American Biathlon Summer Nationals and earned first place in the under-17 age group. The event was timed in different regions with race results posted from approved course routes across the continent. Landrum’s intense training commitment led her to the winning result.
Beyond the summer biathlon (which combines roller-skiing and target shooting), Landrum is an avid cross-country skier for Como and a member of the Cougars track team.

Sports this season
Como athletic teams in action this fall include girls and boys soccer, girls and boys cross country running, girls tennis and girls swimming. Recently approved seasons for football and girls volleyball began on Sept. 28.

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North Parking Lot

Learn about justice system and racial equity

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

District 10 Como Community Council

By Michael Kuchta,
Executive Director
district10@district10comopark.org

Series emphasises equity

Richard Lemore II will speak about “Our Justice System and Racial Equity” during the Sunday Series on Oct. 25, 1-2:30 p.m. via video conference or telephone. Events are free and open to the public.

The Como Community Council’s Sunday Series returns this month with topics being explored by the district council’s Anti-Racism Work Group. The next presentation, on Sunday Oct. 25, is “Our Justice System and Race Equity.”
The presenter is Richard McLemore II, who is a Circle Keeper with Saint Paul’s “ETHOS” diversion program, was director of Ujamaa Place (a culturally-specific organization focused on young black men involved with the criminal justice system), and is a board member for We Are All Criminals and the Dispute Resolution Center. Among other restorative justice activities, he leads workshops on mental and emotional healing for practitioners at state and federal prisons, juvenile facilities, and county jails across the nation.
Details: Sunday, Oct. 25, 1-2:30 p.m., via video conference or telephone. Sunday Series presentations are free and open to all; to join in, register in advance at www.district10comopark.org/sunday.html. We’ll send you access information shortly before the presentation.

Benjamin Kowalsky-Grahekwon the special election in September to fill a vacancy on the Como Community Council board. He will represent Sub-District 4, which is South Como and Energy Park.

Seeking neighborhood fun in a frightening time
Covid (boo!) makes it risky to gather as a community and enjoy traditional Halloween. But it doesn’t outlaw Halloween fun. So, as a respite in these scary times, the Como Community Council is encouraging friendly neighborhood competition. We are challenging neighbors to get together (from a distance, of course), get as creative and spooky as they dare, and decorate their street! Here’s how it works:
• Now: Sign up at www.district10comopark.org/spooky.html. This can be one house or the entire block.
• Beginning Oct. 19: Check District 10’s website and Facebook page for a map of all participating houses and streets! Take a stroll or ride, and enjoy our community’s creativity.
• From Oct. 19-Oct. 28: Vote for the Neighbor’s Choice Award.
• Friday Oct. 30: We’ll announce winners, reward them with appropriately themed cookies, and celebrate them on the D10 website, Facebook page, and in our newsletter.

Review parking lot plans
Saint Paul Parks and Recreation is looking for more feedback on its design ideas for rebuilding the parking lots outside the Como Golf Course and the Lakeside Pavilion. It now has an interactive map that community members can use to enter comments and suggestions. You can access the map through the project’s web page: www.stpaul.gov/comoparkinglots.
The proposals go beyond repaving and restriping the three lots. They include better stormwater management, better routing of pedestrians and cyclists near the Pavilion, and even a boat launch into Como Lake. Parking lot reconstruction is scheduled for late summer 2021. You can get more background on the project on District 10’s website: www.district10comopark.org

Downtown decisions
• Ramsey County is contracting with the Best Western hotel in Bandana Square for up to 80 rooms to provide emergency shelter to homeless people who had been living on the street. The county is using this site exclusively for couples and women under age 55 who are referred specifically by case managers. The contract with the hotel runs through the end of 2020, and is part of a county initiative to use hundreds of vacant hotel rooms to provide socially distanced shelter. This is different from the county’s ongoing efforts to explore opening a family shelter in the Cameroon Community Center space, also in Bandana Square. (County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo will discuss the county’s efforts at the monthly meeting of the Como Community Council board at 7 p.m. Oct. 20.)
• City council has approved a concessions contract for Como Park Pool with Be Graceful Bakery and Catering for the 2021 season.
• Saint Paul approved two sets of conduit bonds, totaling $42 million, for Hmong College Prep Academy’s proposed middle school addition on its Brewster St. campus. One set of bonds is through the Port Authority, the other is through the Housing and Redevelopment Authority. About $26 million is for new construction; the rest refinances previous bonds issued on behalf of the charter school. Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-November.

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D10_theft_chart

Election Sept. 15 for board vacancy in District 4

Posted on 18 September 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Michael Kuchta,
Executive Director
district10@district10comopark.org

Special elections
Community members in South Como or Energy Park can vote online until 5 p.m. on Tuesday Sept. 15 in a special election to fill a vacancy on the District 10 board.
To request a ballot: Fill out the form at www.district10comopark.org/ballot.html.
Who can vote: All residents age 16 or older who live in Sub‐District 4 are eligible to vote. So are authorized representatives from a business or nonprofit organization with a physical location in Sub-‐District 4. The Sub-­District 4 boundaries are Dale on the east, Snelling on the west, and the two sets of BNSF railroad tracks on the north and south.
The winning candidate will serve until April 2021, filling the remainder of the term left vacant by Bob Jacobson, who is moving out of District 10.

Coffee shop to get STAR Loan
The proposed Sacred Grounds Community Coffee Shop, on Front and Milton, is one of 20 projects that was expected to receive Neighborhood STAR funding when the City Council voted Sept. 2 (after the Monitor deadline). The funding – a $37,500 grant and a $37,500 loan – would help the 28-seat coffee shop finish construction of the retail space and adjacent patio at 883 Front.
The refurbished building most recently housed a Buddhist temple; it started as Fireside Corner (which evolved into Fireside Hearth & Home). Neighborhood STAR money finances capital improvements for economic development in city neighborhoods. Money comes from the city’s half-cent sales tax.

6 Projects Seek CIB Funding
Six projects in District 10 remain in the running for 2020-21 funding from Saint Paul’s Capital Improvements Budget. Roughly three dozen proposals overall are competing for a share of the $1 million that is available. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 14; final recommendations are scheduled to go to the mayor by Sept. 30. Proposed projects in District 10:
• A marked crosswalk outside Como By the Lake apartments, 901 East Como Blvd.
• Informational kiosks and trail improvements in Como Regional Park
• Security cameras and other safety features along the lake’s bicycle and pedestrian paths
• A dog park in Como Regional Park
• Exterior signs for Northwest Como Recreation Center
• Snow-making equipment for a 5K loop of Nordic skiing on the Como golf course

Crime in Como rises
Crime in Como is up in almost every category in the first six months of 2020, compared with 2019, according to city statistics. Nonetheless, Como remains one of Saint Paul’s safest neighborhoods.
Residents, visitors, and businesses reported 463 crimes in District 10 from January to June, a 17.2 percent increase from crimes compared with the same six-month period of 2019. That is in line with crime in Saint Paul as a whole, which increased by 16.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to preliminary reports compiled by police in the city’s Crime Incident Report Dataset.
Among categories of crime that increased in Como were confirmed reports of gunshots; robbery; burglary; domestic assault; and theft, driven by a 40.5 percent increase in stolen vehicles.
The only major category where reported crimes decreased was narcotics arrests.
Como, however, remains one of the city’s safest neighborhoods. That is true in actual numbers of crimes and in crime rates, based on population. The neighborhood continues to have the third-lowest crime rate in Saint Paul, a ranking that has not changed. Only Highland and Macalester-Groveland have lower crime rates.
More details and charts are available on the District 10 website: Search for “Crime is Up in Como”.

Call or link into D10 meetings
Join board meetings either by video conference or by phone.
To obtain links, phone numbers, or other access information, send a request by email to district10@district10comopark.org. Or, call 651-644-3889. Upcoming meetings:
• Board meeting: Tuesday Sept. 15
• Neighborhood Relations: Tuesday Oct. 6
• Land Use: Wednesday Oct. 7
• Environment: Wednesday Oct. 14
All meetings begin at 7 p.m. Whenever possible, agendas and other relevant documents are posted in advance in the “Board News” section of District 10’s website: www.district10comopark.org

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Como Front Entrance

Distance learning for all

Posted on 18 September 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como Park Senior High School

New signs are ready to welcome Como students back – whenever in-person classes are deemed safe by state metrics and SPPS. (Photo by Eric Erickson)

By Eric Erickson
Social studies teacher

St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) started the school year with staff training on Monday, Aug. 31. On Sept. 8, instead of Como students walking through the school’s new front entrance and into classrooms, they logged in for distance learning from home.
It’s a challenging way to start an academic year, but with COVID-19, public health has been prioritized.
Science teacher Robyn Asher felt relief with the SPPS decision. “Starting the year in distance learning relieved so much of my anxiety around safety fears for our community. We don’t know enough about COVID-19 long-term effects and the health of students, staff and families is most important,” Asher said.
Jill Wielgos, an English Language Learner teacher, is optimistic that distance learning can be effective for as long as it’s needed.
“Understandably, the district, teachers, families, and students rushed to adapt last spring, and did a pretty solid job,” Wielgos said. “But I’m hopeful that we’ll have more structure in place this fall with the time to prepare. We can control some aspects of this otherwise tumultuous experience, which should bring structure to our students’ lives.”
The desire for structure is strong. Missing our regular routines has challenged all of us, in society and in our schools.
As a junior last spring, Justine Wulff missed daily instruction and interactions. She hoped to start her senior year with at least some in-person learning.
“The decision to go all online for the beginning of the year was much to my disappointment, but I understand that the school year will have to be different than past years due to the pandemic,” Wulff said.
Delaney Register-Brown was initially disappointed to get the news about distance learning. She has come around to appreciate the safety aspect, but her experience with distance learning at the end of her junior year was challenging.
“I found it very hard to feel motivated. I struggled to keep social contact with my peers, which made me feel really sad and alone,” said Register-Brown. “I’m hopeful that we will be back in school at some point this year, so I will at least get to have some fun senior year experiences as opposed to being stuck at home.”
Senior Mabur Bility shared that she supports distance learning for this fall, even though she longs for school routines. “I was very happy with the district decision. I have not been affected by COVID-19 personally, and I would like to keep it that way,” Bility said.
As for extracurricular activities, a modified athletics schedule was approved by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) with fall sports commencing on Aug. 17.
Soccer, cross country running, girls tennis and girls swimming are under way at Como and across the state with new safety protocols in place.
Football and volleyball were moved back to spring with a plan to play from mid-March through mid-May. Like everything else these days, the situation is fluid.

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LarvelBunker

How are seniors adjusting to COVID-19 pandemic?

Posted on 18 September 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Local organizations offer various resources

AGING WELL

By CHLOE PETER

Laurel Collins of Hamline Midway Elders

A senior who regularly attends luncheons and games group at Hamline Midway Elders, 1514 Englewood Ave., reflected to one of the staff about how her time during the pandemic was going. She mentioned that she was used to living alone, but that COVID-19 had brought on new challenges. Talking on the phone just wasn’t the same for her. She used to have a group or class that she went to each day, but now, once a week was normally all she had.
Hamline Midway Elders (HME) is a non-profit organization that aims to provide volunteer sand professional service to seniors in their own homes. HME was founded in 2001 in order to focus on its own local seniors. Hamline Midway Elders is also a part of The Living at Home Network, a Minnesota program that supports community-owned and non-profit organizations that help the state’s seniors live at home.
The adjustment to most events now happening online was also a difficult switch for some. Many seniors needed to order groceries online for the very first time. Or, use telehealth for medical appointments instead of going in. Laurel Collins, the program director for Hamline Midway Elders, mentioned that with libraries, community centers and the YMCA closed, it became even more difficult for seniors to find ways to connect without needing to figure out Zoom or Skype.
“Some seniors are not comfortable using computers and smartphones, so this can be difficult,” Collins said. “Pre-COVID-19, our program had offered in-person classes like exercise, yoga, knitting, and we held monthly luncheon events that were well-attended. These opportunities to be together are greatly missed.”
But even with the challenges presented to them, Collins believes that the seniors in the community are resilient. Many have reached out to family, friends or neighbors for help. Groups like the tai chi instructors, who are seniors themselves, adapted their class to be held online and have continued since April. Many have ordered books through the contactless program offered at the St. Paul library or are getting more time outside.
Even though none of the in-person classes are being held at this time, HME continues to help seniors with rides to essential medical appointments, grocery and other deliveries to their homes, and assistance with yard chores. Their staff and volunteers follow Minnesota Department of Health guidelines related to wearing masks at all times, washing hands and wiping down the office or car, limiting interaction with people we are helping.
“Now, with COVID-19 precautions, we still visit by phone or Zoom, or from outside their front door!” Collins said.
HME still encourages the community to still take part in helping seniors. Cards can be sent in to HME’s address and will be distributed to the seniors that they visit. They also organize groups to help the seniors with their yard work or look for volunteers to be drivers. To be a part of these groups, contact HME at 651-209-6542.
“Reach out to your older neighbors, ask them how you can help. Maybe it’s picking up library books for them or helping with outdoor housework or yard chores,” Collins said.
In planning ahead, Collins fears for how many difficulties there still are to come.
“Winter in Minnesota can isolate people with the struggles of getting around, and I fear that this winter may be a tough one if we still have pandemic precautions in place,” Collins said.
Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, transportation was very challenging for the seniors. Minnesota winters will most likely make it even more difficult for seniors to get to the places they need whether it be for groceries, medical visits, or for activities. Collins encourages people to reach out to offer help to anyone in the community, not just the seniors.
“All humans need contact and care, but some are more isolated than others. A community that is aware of its members and reaches out to all is a happier and healthier community,” Collins said, “The pandemic has shown how important it is for all of us to come together to get through this!”

 

LONELINESS AND ISOLATION

Larvel Bunker

Larvel Bunker, the co-owner of Comfort Keepers Twin Cities, (275 4th St. E., Suite 345 in St. Paul), believes that loneliness is a big struggle for many seniors during the pandemic. Socially isolated seniors have a greater risk of mental and physical decline while socially engaged seniors have higher levels of physical, mental and cognitive functioning according to a study done by Forbes. Social interaction may even slow Alzheimer and Dementia patients’ decline, according to the National Institute of Health.

Comfort Keepers Twin Cities provides in-home, non-medical care for seniors and other adults in need of assistance with daily activities. They have more than 700 offices nationwide, and serve the local communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Along with daily assistance, Comfort Keepers Twin Cities provides 24-hour home care, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease care and end-of-life care.

“Feelings of isolation are universal and far reaching, especially during the statewide Stay at Home order. Some seniors found themselves walled-off even from residents within their own buildings, which although necessary for safety, could not have been easy on seniors and may have lasting effects on some,” Bunker said.

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Como Golf Course clean water project begins

Posted on 18 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) and the city of Saint Paul began construction on a clean water project at Como Golf Course on July 6 that is expected to capture and clean 11 million gallons of runoff before it reaches Como Lake.
This is the third project the two entities have collaborated on in 2020.
An herbicide treatment was completed in March to reduce invasive curly-leaf pondweed and an alum treatment in April to reduce phosphorous cycling inside of the lake to improve water clarity and reduce algae blooms.
The biggest challenge facing Como Lake is too much phosphorus, a pollutant carried to the lake through runoff in storm drains. Phosphorus comes from decaying organic matter like leaves, grass clippings, pet waste, and soil. Over time, high levels of phosphorus in the lake – three times higher than Minnesota standards – have led to algae blooms that choke the oxygen from the lake, leading to fish kills and strong odors mid-summer.
CRWD and the city of Saint Paul examined Como Regional Park to identify sites to strategically manage stormwater runoff. Sites were prioritized based on the availability of suitable land and water quality treatment provided. Two locations were selected at Como Golf Course as part of this process, the fairway of Hole 7 and the stormwater pond between Holes 3 and 11.
“The analysis done at Como Regional Park ensures that CRWD, the city of Saint Paul and its residents are getting the most water quality benefits for their money. It also helps to safeguard the recent investment in an alum treatment by reducing new phosphorous flowing into the lake,” said  Forrest Kelley, Capitol Region Watershed District Regulatory Division Manager.
Hole 7 Fairway: An existing storm sewer pipe near the fairway of Hole 7 captures runoff from 63-acres of land including the zoo and surrounding neighborhood. Water from the pipe will be diverted to an infiltration basin, similar to a large rain garden, and an underground infiltration system. Polluted rainwater will fill the basin and any excess water will flow into a series of underground pipes with thousands of holes in them to allow the water to soak into the ground. Native plants will help soak up water, provide pollinator habitat, and enhance the beauty of the area. The water is cleaned as it moves through the soil, removing pollutants that would have otherwise ended up in Como Lake.
Northwest Pond: Water from 150-acres of land within the cities of Saint Paul, Roseville, and Falcon Heights drains to a stormwater pond between Holes 3 and 11. An iron-enhanced sand filter will be added along the eastern edge of the pond to remove dissolved phosphorus, a pollutant in the water that fuels algae growth. Iron filings mixed into sand create a bond with phosphorus, removing it from the water before it enters Como Lake.
A smart control system added at the pond’s overflow outlet will help control the level of the pond to optimize the effects of the iron-enhanced sand filter and reduce flooding on the course.
The green at Hole 7 was closed on July 6, 2020, and will reopen for play in the spring of 2021. A temporary green at Hole 7 has been established.
CRWD appreciates the patience of golfers during the work to improve water quality in Como Lake. The improvements will prevent approximately 55 pounds of phosphorus from entering Como Lake each year.
CRWD received a $1.76 million grant award from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, with funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, to improve water quality in Como Lake and Lake McCarrons. A portion of the grant, along with funding from CRWD, will be used to cover project costs, estimated at $1.4 million.
Learn more at capitolregionwd.org.

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Trail map

D 10: Five new board members, four re-elected

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

With record participation, District 10 residents elected five new members to the Como Community Council board, and re-elected four members in voting that ended June 16. All voting this year was absentee, either through mail ballots or online voting.
In all, 275 community members voted; that’s more than double the highest number who voted in recent years, when elections were restricted to in-person voting at the district council’s annual meeting. Because of state restrictions on public gatherings during the pandemic, the district council changed its bylaws to expand voting options in 2020. Elected to two-year terms:
Vice-chair: Olivia Morawiecki (Olivia previously was an At-Large board member)
Treasurer: Mike Ireland (re-elected)
At-Large: Melissa Brannon* (newly elected) and Jill Henricksen (re-elected)
Sub-District 1: Rebecca Calvo (re-elected)
Sub-District 2: Dan Edgerton (newly elected)
Sub-District 3: Jenne Nelson (newly elected)
Sub-District 4: Rachel Bowers (newly elected)
Also, Bob Jacobson was newly elected to fill the remaining 10 months of a vacant seat in Sub-District 4.
See our annual report: Because District 10’s annual meeting took place remotely this year, board members recorded their annual report. Go to the Board News section of the Community Council’s website to find the link. It’s a roughly 20-minute video summarizing the past year’s accomplishments and challenges, and the next year’s goals.

Trail work at Como
Cancellation of the State Fair has at least one benefit: It opens a window for Saint Paul to rebuild all of Como Ave. this summer, between Hamline Ave. and the Raymond/Cleveland intersection. Originally, work was going to be split between 2020 and 2021. Now, construction is scheduled to begin in July and finish by the end of October, says project manager Don Pflaum. Trees will be planted in spring 2021.
The reconstruction includes building the Como Ave. Trail along the entire 2.5-mile stretch on the north side of Como. The off-street trail for bicycles and pedestrians is part of the Saint Paul Grand Round. Federal funds are paying for much of the work. Reconstruction also includes sewer work and reconfiguring much of the road itself:
• Hamline to Snelling: On-street bike lanes will be eliminated, and the road will narrow. Otherwise, things remain functionally as they are now: parking on both sides of the street, and one vehicle lane in each direction.
• Snelling to the Transitway: The road will narrow and be reconfigured to handle one vehicle lane in each direction, a center turn lane, and an on-street bike lane in each direction. During the two weeks of the State Fair, this stretch will be restriped to handle two vehicle lanes in each direction, similar to what occurs now.
• Transitway to Raymond/Cleveland: The street will remain pretty much as it is now: one lane of vehicle traffic in each direction, parking on each side of Como, and an on-street bike lane in each direction.

Beyond repaving parking lots
Better routing of pedestrians and bicycles near the Como Lakeside Pavilion is among initial ideas on the table when Parks and Recreation rebuilds parking lots near the pavilion and golf course next year.
Project manager Anne Gardner and her Parks and Recreation colleague, Cheeneng Yang, unveiled initial concepts for parking lot reconstruction during District 10’s Land Use Committee meeting July 1. While rebuilding the three lots, Yang and Gardner say, they hope to do more than bring lot design, stormwater management, and traffic flow up to modern standards.
One idea does a better job of separating cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists near the pavilion. The separation would occur in the stretch from where paths now converge south of the pavilion (near Schiffman Fountain) to where paths converge north of the Pavilion (near Como Lake Drive and Lexington Parkway).
Existing paths closest to the lake would be for pedestrians only. Cyclists passing through would ride on the newly repaved, two-way path along Lexington. Cyclists visiting the pavilion would take a new, two-way path that would be built along the west side of the pavilion’s south parking lot and the south side of the pavilion’s north parking lot.
Another idea builds a boat launch south of the pavilion. Yang stressed that these initial proposals are “very high-level concepts” that will be refined. Learn more – including how to add your comments and suggestions – at District 10’s website: www.district10comopark.org

 

Think you know neighborhood?
Como Community Council has created a Como Scavenger Hunt. This family friendly activity helps you discover our neighborhood (past and present); get some fresh air; and exercise your body and mind along the way. There are two hunts: one east of Lexington, one west of Lexington. Download the lists: www.district10comopark.org/you_think_you_know_your_neighborhood.html
* Editor’s note: At press time, a photo of Melissa Brannon wasn’t available.

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Mr. Morris

Como High: Former principal says goodbye

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Mr. Morris

A leadership change has occurred at Como Park High School. Stacy Theien-Collins resigned from her position as Como’s principal and accepted the principal’s job at Richfield High School.
Kirk Morris has been selected as the new principal for Como Park High School. Morris has served St. Paul students as a classroom teacher, coach, assistant principal, and has been the principal of Benjamin E. Mayes IB World School since 2014. He is transitioning into his new role and is looking forward to working with the Como community.
For Ms. Theien-Collins, departing St. Paul is difficult. She spent seven years as a principal within the school district’s “Area E” neighborhood secondary schools (five years as principal of Murray Middle School and two years leading Como).
To share more perspective about the change, Ms. Theien-Collins responded to the following questions.
Why are you taking the Richfield High School principal position?
It is important for the community to know that this was absolutely not a push out of Como. I expected to finish my career staying a part of this strong school community. A community with supportive families, professional staff and top-notch students. I have very personal reasons that I have accepted the next challenge in my career and will grieve the loss of my Area E family. I do truly believe we created a community, both at Murray and at Como that feels like a family and the next principal will continue the important work for our students.

What have you enjoyed about your time as principal of Como?
There is much in my career that I am proud to have been a part of and I can honestly say that being a small part of Como has been a highlight of my career so far. It is a school community that focuses on students, goes above and beyond to support students with programming inside and outside the classroom at the highest quality levels – a student wants to try something new and there is an adult in our community that will support it – every single time. I have been in education for 30 years, and I can honestly say, that the students and staff at Como are among the best. They will change the world. I cannot wait to hear about the continued success.

What does the Como and Murray community mean to you and what are its strengths?
The strengths are many. What rises to the top is students are welcomed for who they are and where they are. There is definitely work to do, but I really believe that the opportunities for students are within the walls of Como and Murray because of the caring staff and the supportive community. I want to express my gratitude to the community for supporting me for seven years and more importantly sharing your children with us. It truly has been an honor.

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