Peter Truitt

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

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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St. Paul Ballet Project Plie 2018 016

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

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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CHS Cougar Forum

News from Como Park High School Sept. 2018

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kudu at Como Zoo

Monitor In A Minute Sept. 2018

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Dist 10 – dockless_2055

Como Community Council Corner for Sept. 2018

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sept. 2018 Development Roundup

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin


Neighborhood parking funds repurposed for pedestrians
Four years after Green Line light rail began operations, dollars once eyed for commercial parking will be redirected to pay for pedestrian safety and public realm improvements. On Aug. 22 the St. Paul City council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, approved the transfer and use of tax increment financing (TIF) dollars needed for the new project.

About $200,000 in unspent TIF will be used along Snelling Ave. between University and Englewood avenues. The St. Paul Department of Public Works will use the funds in the public right-of-way along Snelling.

Longtime area residents and business owners might remember the outcry when it was learned that space needed for light rail would take out about 85 percent of the parking spaces along University. City officials responded in 2009 with the Neighborhood Commercial Parking Pilot Program. The $2.1 million program was meant to be split equally between businesses in Ward One and Ward Four along University. Twenty-six projects, ranging from shared parking agreements to the creation of new off-street spaces, were funded through the program.

Most of the funding came from the Snelling-University TIF district, with Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) funds and a scattered-site TIF district also chipping in.

The remaining $200,000 will be used for various pedestrian safety and public realm improvements along N. Snelling Ave. The top priority identified is at Snelling and Englewood avenues, where Hamline University and Hamline Elementary are across the street from each other. Another spot suggested is at Snelling and Sherburne avenues. Both intersections each have several businesses around them.

Other places along Snelling could also be considered for improvements. But that depends on costs for the priority areas and if there are funds left over.
Pedestrian safety improvements could include median extensions, enhanced signage, and/or a rapid rectangular flashing beacon. Public Works will look at the costs. The current estimate is $100,000.

Unspent funding could be allocated to improvements in the Little Africa business district along Snelling. Businesses and other community stakeholders would have input on proposed projects.

Grants support several projects
Metropolitan Council grants for several development projects, including some in the Midway area, were accepted by St. Paul city officials in August. The grants are sought by developers, but the city must apply on their behalf and then formally accept grants if they are approved.

More than a dozen projects across St. Paul have sought funding in the past year. Not all were funded. Contamination Cleanup and Investigation grants were awarded to two area projects, $389,136.00 for Legends at Berry Apartments and $306,800.00 for Metro Deaf School. The apartments are part of a larger complex planned on the former Weyerhaeuser Lumber property at the west city limits. Metro Deaf is moving its school to a new Energy Park Dr. location.

A pre-development grant of $28,924 was approved for University and Dale. Neighborhood Development Center is leading work on a mixed-use project at the northwest corner of that intersection.

In total, the city received more than $1.32 million in grants.

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Hamline Elementary Festival 111

All neighbors are invited to Fall Festival Oct. 6

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

Hello, neighbors, you are all invited to the 5th Annual Hamline Elementary Fall Festival on Sat., Oct. 6, from 12-4:30pm on the fields next to the school.

Photo right: Last year during the Fall Festival, horses from the St. Paul Mounted Police Unit greeted kids and parents. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

This free, family-friendly community event features live entertainment including performances by Siama Matuzungidi (www.siamamusic.com) and the Center for Irish Music Youth Ensemble, games and activities, community exhibitors and vendors, food for purchase, and a bake sale.

For more information about joining the event as a vendor or exhibitor, check out www.hamlinemidway.org/fallfestivalrules or contact the Hamline PTA at hamlineelementarypta@gmail.com.

In case of rain, the event will take place inside the Hamline Elementary/Hancock Recreation Center gym.

Big thanks to our community partners Hamline University, Hamline Midway Coalition, and Hancock Recreation Center for your continued support of this event—we couldn’t do it without you. We look forward to celebrating with our awesome neighbors again this year. Hope to see you there!

Hamline Elementary is located at 1599 Englewood Ave., in the heart of the Midway, and is a proud Saint Paul Public School. Learn more about us at www.spps.org/hamline.

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Celebrate at the library with activities for the whole family

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

The months of September and October offer plenty of reasons to stop by the Hamline Midway Library at 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave. You can find great programs, Internet access, portable WiFi hotspots, books, CDs, DVDs, and more at our neighborhood gathering place, all free with your library card.

Programs for Families and Kids
Preschool Storytimes in English happen Fridays, 10:30-11am, with upcoming events on Sept. 14, 21, and 28 and Oct. 5 and 12. Storytimes feature stories, songs, puppets, and more. They’re a great way for caregivers to bond with children and build social skills, listening comprehension, and letter and number recognition while creating a solid foundation for lifelong learning. Children of all activity levels are welcome!

Evening Storytimes happen Tuesdays from 6-6:30pm on Sept. 18 and 25 and Oct. 2, 9, and 16.

The Show and Tell Book Club for grades 1-4 meets on Sat., Sept. 22, 1:30-2:15pm, to share books and do fun literacy activities together.

Sat., Oct. 13 from 11:30am-5pm is Math and Science Day at the library. School-age children and their families are invited to explore math and science with fun crafts and hands-on activities. As part of the fun that day, the Science Saturday series of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities will feature the theme “Spooky Shadows” from 1:30-3pm. How spooky can you make a shadow? What kinds of shadows can you make? Participants can also paint a glow-in-the-dark mask.

For Adults
On Wed., Sept. 26, 1-3pm, Jody’s Documentary Film Series will show the film “Nowhere to Hide” by Zaradasht Ahmed. The film follows Iraqi nurse Nori Sharif and his family as they are forced to leave their home to outrun conflicts between government militias and ISIS. The filmmaker does a frighteningly good job of making viewers feel as if they’re right there in the family car, barely able to stay one step ahead of violence. Watch the film, enjoy snacks, and stay for the discussion afterward facilitated by Jody. The film series is a collaboration of the award-winning PBS POV series, the Hamline Midway Library, the Hamline Midway Coalition, and the Hamline Midway Elders.

The Novels at Night Book Club meets on Thur., Sept. 27, 6:30-7:30pm. This book club aimed at adult fiction enthusiasts will discuss M.L. Stedman’s

“The Light Between Oceans,” the story of a couple who move to an isolated Australian light-house and claim a baby washed up on shore—with devastating consequences.

On Wed., Oct. 3, 7-8pm, Park Square Theater presents “Behind the Curtain,” a look at their production of The Agitators, a play about the 45-year friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at the play with cast members Mikell Sapp and Emily Gunyou Halaas.

The Saints and Sinners Mystery Book Club meets on Sat., Oct. 6, 1-2pm, to discuss good mystery novels. Contact volunteer G. Balter for book list or more information at gerribalter@gmail.com or 651-224-5570.

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Different parts of the city see different property tax trends

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

As area neighborhoods’ residential home values continue to bounce back from the 2008 recession, St. Paul neighborhoods are seeing mixed results as the 2019 property tax picture takes shape. The highest projected increases in residential market values will be seen in neighborhoods where recovery from the 2008 recession continues—namely Frogtown, Dayton’s Bluff, Payne-Phalen and the West Side. Hamline Midway, Como, St. Anthony Park, and Merriam Park saw more modest gains.

In the Midway, Hamline Midway homeowners can expect the highest median home value increases, followed by Como and Merriam Park homeowners.

On Aug. 15 City Council members discussed the property tax trends with Ramsey County Auditor/Treasurer Chris Samuel. Samuel presented a neighborhood by neighborhood look at market rate trends, as well as a first look at where property taxes are headed.

“We continue to see good market value growth in the city of St. Paul,” Samuel said. “The values in St. Paul are higher than they’ve ever been.” Properties in St. Paul increased slightly more in value than the suburbs.

Overall in St. Paul, estimated market values are up 7.6% from the prior year. Values are now above the 2008 peak when the nation plunged into a recession.

How levies translate into amounts on property tax statements hinge on several issues, including state actions to set property tax policies and class rates, and various state aids. The county assessor determines market values and assigns property classes. Improvements to properties and sale of comparable properties play roles. Shifts and changes in the tax system also affect what is paid. People won’t know what they’re paying in 2019 until they get property tax notices in November, said Samuel.

The median value home in St. Paul has an estimated market value of $186,200 for 2019. That’s a value increase of 7.1%. That homeowner paid $2,156 in property taxes for 2018, based on an estimated market value of $173,900.

A $24 decrease would be seen due to shifts and changes in the property tax system, including a gain of 22.7% or $5.7 million from the metro area’s fiscal disparities pool, changes to the homestead exclusion benefit, and other tax shifts.

The median value home’s owner would see a $153 increase due to the hikes in city, county and regional rail levies. Thus far the levy increase is at $129 or 5.1%, for a total levy of $2,645 for 2019. That doesn’t include the St. Paul Public Schools and any levy increase planned. The school district must set its maximum levy by Sept. 30.

Neighborhoods that have seen the slowest post-recession recovery will see the highest increases in market value in 2019, said Samuel. Frogtown leads the pack with a 16.3% increase in median estimated residential market value, with values climbing from $111,700 in 2018 to $129,900 in 2019. This homeowner paid $1,416 in 2018 and would pay $1,682 in 2019. That’s a $266 or 18.8% tax increase.

Tax estimates for 2019 don’t include St. Paul Public Schools.

The neighborhood with the lowest median value increase is St. Anthony Park, at 3.4%. That reflects a market value change that went from $285,600 in 2018 to $295,350 for 2019, and tax changes that would go from $4,491 in 2018 to $4,514 in 2019. That’s a $23 or .5% increase.

In Hamline Midway, the median value home’s market value went up 6.6%, from $167,700 in 2018 to $178,800 in 2019. Taxes would increase from $2,407 in 2018 to $2,519 in 2019 for a jump of $112 or 4.7%.

Como’s median value home went up 6.4%, from $204,700 in 2018 to $217,700 in 2019. Taxes were $3,061 for 2018 and would be $3,185 in 2019, for an increase of $124 or 4.1%.

The neighborhoods of Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline, and Lexington-Hamline saw a median home value increase of 4.7%, from $287,600 to $301,200. Property taxes would increase from $4,525 in 2018 to $4,615 in 2019, up $90 or 2%.

But remember, these are median values. Individual property owners’ values and taxes hinge on a case-by-case basis of home values.

One issue council members noted is confusion over an increase in what local governments levy, and how that translates to property tax bills. People sometimes assume that a levy increase translates automatically into the level of property tax increase.

The city has proposed an 11.5% property tax increase for 2019. Ramsey County has proposed a 4.3% increase for general operations and a 7.8% hike for regional rail. St. Paul Public Schools hasn’t set its 2019 levy rates but plans a referendum this fall to raise $18.6 million. The school district must also wait for information from the state Department of Education every fall to set its levy.

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Rondo Plaza sign

Plaza memorializes destruction of Rondo community 60 years ago

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

Looking at panels of Rondo history in a memorial park at 822 Rondo Ave. (Photo by Jan Willms)

The community known as Rondo may have been physically destroyed in 1959 to make way for Interstate 94, but its spirit continues to thrive. This was reflected most recently as Rondo Plaza, a neighborhood memorial, was officially opened to the public.

The site, once the location of one of the last buildings to survive destruction, at 822 Rondo Ave., was formally commemorated in July. It will serve as a small community park where people can see tablets that tell the history of Rondo

The opening of Rondo Plaza is the culmination of 35 years of dedication by Marvin Anderson to keeping Rondo’s memory alive.

Photo right: The Rondo sign will light up at night to be seen from Interstate 94. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Anderson was just graduating from high school when word came that the Rondo community, an area that covered about three and a half miles, was going to be torn down for the building of a freeway.

The neighborhood, made up of African American families, ran from Rice St. to Lexington and from Marshall over to Fuller. “Over 700 homes were taken on Rondo and St. Anthony, and over 100 businesses were taken,” Anderson recalled in a recent interview. “It was very sad to lose your community like that.”

Anderson said there were protests and meetings, everybody wanting to know why Rondo was being destroyed when an alternative route could have been used. “That route was Pierce Butler Road.”

But by clearing out Rondo, the city could get urban renewal and build the interstate at the same time. “This was a fairly common practice,” Anderson explained. “Twenty-five hundred communities across the country in 993 cities were affected. And of those 2500, 1600 were communities of color.”

Anderson’s memories of Rondo are as fresh as if the destruction happened yesterday. He said the African American community was a unique area at the time. “We really didn’t have the freedom to move wherever we wanted because of restrictions,” he said. Limited to living in the Rondo area by their race, the residents flourished and built businesses, organizations, and clubs. “Gone are the days when a waiter or a porter or a street sweeper could live next door to a lawyer or a physician or a poet.”

But that was the case in Rondo. Anderson said his father was a railroad man, but his family lived next door to a doctor. “It was one of those rare opportunities. It made for a unique opportunity, and wonderful exchanges of ideas.”

When Anderson headed to college, the plan had been that he would return home after graduation and join his father and godfather in business. He said they had developed some land in the community and were going to acquire more, looking at opening a bowling alley, small hotel, and restaurant. “They wanted me to study business administration and come back, and that’s what I really wanted to do in life. But that dream they were living through me was taken away. My dad was very sad about that.”

The dreams of many went up in smoke after the homes and businesses of Rondo were eliminated.

“But Eisenhower wanted the interstate system built; he thought it would make the country safer. And how can you argue with a man who had just won the Second World War?” Anderson said. “We appealed to the power of fairness,” Anderson remembered. He said the neighborhood leaders asked those in charge how they would feel losing their homes.

“But it did not work. Twenty-five hundred communities found out it didn’t work that way,” Anderson said.

When Anderson did eventually move back to the Twin Cities in the late 1960s, he said everyone talked about remembering Rondo. He said a friend of his, Floyd Smaller, and some others tried to bring people together for a couple of picnics.

Anderson said he told them, “Let’s do something, really go big if we are going to do this.” So he and Smaller, who have now been friends for almost 65 years, put together a plan for Rondo Days in 1982. It took a year for them to get everything in place, and the first Rondo Days celebration was in 1983. They established an organization, Rondo Ave. Inc. dedicated to keeping the memory of Rondo alive.

Anderson said most of his attention in the past four years has been devoted to creating the Rondo Plaza. With a grant, the organization purchased the space and began raising funds. “Word came back we could build a museum, but that would be a three-story building running into millions of dollars, and it would take at least five people to run it. That was very difficult, so we looked at creating this little pocket park, an oasis within the city,” Anderson said. “I said maybe we could create something that had some legacy to it, but also would be a place where people could come and exchange ideas, and that’s how the plaza got started.”

He said the Plaza features the history of Rondo, as well as the present conditions and the future.

“Each year we want to use five or six panels to tell another aspect of the Rondo story,” Anderson said. “After each year, we will package the previous exhibit into a booklet form and make that available for kids at the school, so we never lose those exhibits. The teachers may be able to do lesson plans around them.” Next year’s exhibit is already planned: the women of Rondo. A Rondo children’s book series is being published in September.

The devastation that took the physical existence of Rondo away was apologized for in 2015 by then-mayor Chris Coleman. “We got the city and state to make a formal apology, which was pretty unique at the time,” Anderson said. “The Commissioner of Transportation said that in no way would they put a road through the community today like it was done. The apology did help heal some of the pain, but it didn’t wipe it out,” Anderson said. “It’s still there for a lot of people from my generation.”

But he keeps looking forward. He said the Rondo community was built on eight core values: spirituality, education, respect for oneself, respect for others, home ownership, economic independence, work with dignity, and hope. “You always have to have hope,” Anderson said, “hope that one day people will wake up and no longer discriminate….”

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