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Mitra Jalali Nelson Photo

Newly elected council member to focus on renters and affordable housing

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Higher Ground Academy moving to Metro Deaf building

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Culturally responsive environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Glimpsing Resurrection Cancer Trauma and Ministry

Hamline professor writes book on cancer, trauma, and ministry

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Two parking lots at stadium site

Two small parking lots approved next to the soccer stadium

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Como Lake Clean-up slider

Neighborhood involvement sought for Como Lake clean-up

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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TGIS slider

TCGIS Board votes to tear down St. Andrew’s and build new

Posted on 07 August 2018 by Calvin

Save Historic Saint Andrew’s group intends to keep pushing for official historic designation to preserve the church

TCGIS parent Aaron Gjerde questioned whether growing larger fit with the school’s strategic mission. He supported operating a split campus at Central Lutheran to take more time on this issue. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

After considering another location, the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) Board has decided to raze the historic St. Andrew’s Church building and construct a new facility in its place to make room for additional students.

The decision was made at the July 30 school board meeting that was attended by over 100 people, some who expressed support for the school’s proposal and others who sought to save the local landmark.

“Our obligation as a board is to ensure our students receive a top rate education supported by our mission of ‘innovative education of the whole child through German immersion,’” said TCGIS Board

Chair Sam Walling. “To that end, our focus must be to do what is right for our students and staff. We empathize with the community and their longstanding ties to the former St Andrew’s church building. However, as a public school, we cannot forego our fiscal responsibility and fiduciary duty as stewards of the school.”

Photo right: This Byzantine-Romanesque structure built in 1927 was designed by well-known architect Charles Hausler. The church closed in 2010, and the TCGIS school moved there in 2013. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

In May, the board received a petition with 600 signatures asking that it wait on expansion until June 2020. While the board denied this request, it did decide to wait on a decision to investigate purchasing the Central Lutheran School (CLS)facility about a mile away at 775 Lexington Pkwy. N., and operating a split campus.

The school’s options of not doing anything, purchasing the CLS site, and replacing the former church building were discussed at the meeting before the 6-1 vote was taken to tear down the church and build new.

“Tonight’s decision was a vote to support the growing needs of our students and staff and to solidify our existing investment in our current campus on Como Ave.,” said TCGIS Facilities Committee Chair Nic Ludwig.

The proposed construction time line is June 2019 to January 2020.

SHSA disappointed but not done fighting
The neighborhood group fighting to save the 1927 church building wasn’t surprised by the board’s decision.

According to Bonnie Young­quist of Save Historic Saint Andrew’s (SHSA), TCGIS’s decision to demolish the former church was a disappointment, but not a complete surprise.

“SHSA supported the purchase of the Central Lutheran School,” stated Youngquist. “The idea of a split campus, even if temporary, was attractive to us because it preserves the former church, reduces impact at the Como site, and allows for the future growth of TCGIS. TCGIS voted to destroy something that remains in the hearts of many as something sacred, beautiful, imbued with deep history and shared meaning. We were profoundly disappointed that TCGIS was not willing to compromise to make the Central Lutheran School financially feasible.”

Photo right: Kevin Anderson spoke in favor of saving the historic St. Andrew’s Church during the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) board meeting on Mon., July 30. He is a member of the neighborhood group Save Historic Saint Andrew’s (SHSA). (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

SHSA is still focusing on preserving the church. “We worked hard to help TCGIS find alternative solutions. Now we will work harder to ensure the former St. Andrew’s is not demolished,” remarked Youngquist. “We are moving onto the next phase which includes among other things, local historic designation.”

SHSA has raised over $7,500 of its $10,000 goal through a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the first step in the preservation process.

Pros and cons of the CLS site
Built in the 1950s, the Central Lutheran School site sits on 3.4 acres and offers fields and playground space on the full city block. It has approximately 27,000 square feet of classroom space, with 16 available classrooms. TCGIS needs about 35 classrooms and approximately 75,000 square feet to house its projected 600 students.

According to a section of the school’s website designated specifically to the building project, TCGIS considered operating a split campus until the Como Ave. location sold and then having a single K-8 campus. However, school officials reported that operating a split campus was financially unaffordable without increasing class sizes, and could only be sustained for 2-3 years due to the projected maintenance costs associated with owning multiple old buildings.

Benefits of the site included its size, which would provide a buffer the school currently lacks between its playground and adjacent homes, along with enough green space for a regulation athletic field.

TCGIS would have space to build on the site, as well.

Operating a split campus was projected to increase TCGIS’s operating expenses by approximately $175,000 annually.

The school has a goal of keeping class sizes at 24 students. Temporarily increasing class sizes from 24 to 25/26 kids until the school was back together on one location was presented as one way to make this option work.

However, school officials expressed concern that the Como Ave. site might not sell and then the school would need to pay for both locations. Additionally, if the school moved, TCGIS would be required to pay an early bond payoff penalty.

Building a brand new facility at the CLS site would cost an estimated $15-17 million, while selling the current Como Ave. site would bring in an estimated $8.5 million, according to school officials. The school’s bond capacity is estimated at $15.2 million.

During the Monday night meeting, board member Julie Alkatout shared information from the 300 people who responded to an online survey.

“Como is the preferred option for TCGIS staff and parents,” she stated.

According to Alkatout, the majority of the 28 staff who responded supported rebuilding at the Como site. Of parents who responded, 64% supported the Como option.

The results from the seven students who responded were split, with slightly more than half favoring the CLS site and the option of athletic fields.

The opinion of neighborhood residents depended on whether they were also affiliated with TCGIS. Those who are residents and also send their kids to TCGIS favored the Como option, while neighbors without kids strongly favored the CLS option.

Alkatout observed that many neighbors seemed motivated to respond because they had additional concerns beyond just preserving the church building, including concerns about traffic, noise, and parking.

Should the school be growing?
Some at the meeting discussed whether the school should be growing at this time, including board member Kristen Helling. She told fellow board members she thinks they should focus on how to retain teachers before adding additional students.

TCGIS parent Aaron Gjerde also questioned whether growing larger fit with the school’s strategic mission. He supported operating a split campus at Central Lutheran to take more time on this issue.
“We don’t make good long-term decisions when we are trapped by time,” he pointed out.
School board member Dianne Bell disagreed. “I think the space need is something we have to address,” she said. “We don’t have the luxury of waiting.”

“Doing nothing perpetuates spaces and situations that prevent teachers from doing fabulous work,” stated board member Stephanie Forslund.

School officials contend that the gym in the former church sanctuary is dangerous with its marble pillars and lower-wall coverings. Several children were injured at the end of the last school year, included one who required stitches after running into a protruding corner.

The school also has trouble finding space for special education needs.

TCGIS intends to tear down the former church building and replace it with a slightly larger, three-level structure with six additional classrooms, a gym large enough for two sections to operate at one time, additional office/special education spaces and a cafeteria.

Alkatout agreed that the St. Andrew’s Church structure was unique in part because it was designed by well-known Twin Cities’ architect Charles Hausler. But she said people could find his work elsewhere in the area.

“The TCGIS board member contention that Hausler’s legacy will live on in other structures in the Twin Cities represents a lack of empathy and understanding of its value to the community and historically,” remarked Youngquist. “This mindset is how historic buildings are torn down without any consideration for the long-term impact.

She added, “Preserving irreplaceable historic resources is the right thing to do, especially when other options were viable. Through our outreach efforts over the past few months, we have found that the vast majority of the public agree that history matters and should be respected. The District 10 Community Plan and Saint Paul’s Comprehensive Plan reflect this public value.”

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HM Director Kate Mudge

Hamline Midway Coalition to welcome new executive director

Posted on 07 August 2018 by Calvin

Photo and article by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Longtime neighborhood resident Kate Mudge (photo right) has been chosen as the Hamline Midway Coalition’s new executive director. She said, “I’ll be moving into the position full time on Sept. 1, but will begin meeting with the outgoing executive director, Michael Jon Olson, in early August.”

Mudge will be bringing a varied skill set to her new position. “When I moved to Hamline Midway twelve years ago,” she said, “I was working as a professional baker. One of the things that got me excited about the neighborhood was that it clearly supported small businesses, and I had some ideas about opening my own bakery. I ended up going in a different direction entirely, taking a job at Second Harvest, and eventually becoming the executive director of an animal rescue organization called Pet Haven.”

Throughout those years, Mudge had regular contact with the Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC). She experienced first-hand how a strong district council can make life better for its residents. She said, “Michael Jon was always responsive to my ideas and suggestions. Even if he didn’t have a ready solution for me, he could always point me in the right direction.”

As one of the founding members of the Tatum Park Community Garden (1893 Taylor Ave. W.), Mudge applied to HMC for help six years ago. “They helped us with start-up marketing to get our garden going and to bring a water line in from the street. We were able to turn a vacant urban lot into a productive community garden,” she said.

Mudge and her wife are the proud owners of three dogs and, she claims, “every day, we walk for miles through the neighborhood. I keep looking around and thinking, ‘There’s something I’ve never seen before!’ I’m curious to learn, what do other people see when they look around? Who or what is being under-celebrated? Who or what can we lift up? There’s a sense of pride in Hamline Midway that’s well-earned. To be part of the on-going evolution of this neighborhood, as a resident and with this new job—it doesn’t get any better than that.”

HMC engages the voice and power of the community to advance neighborhood identity, embrace community diversity, enhance neighborhood vitality, and develop neighborhood leadership. They represent the interests of the neighborhood on a broad range of public policy and city governance issues. Recommendations to public agencies are the result of active deliberation on the part of their committees and their board of directors.

While the neighborhood is largely residential, it also includes light industry, retail and wholesale businesses concentrated along the major routes of University, Snelling, and Pierce Butler/Transfer Rd. The Hamline Midway neighborhood is bounded by University Ave. on the south, Pierce Butler Route on the north, Lexington Ave. on the east, and Transfer Rd. on the west.

Mudge concluded, “I’m excited to step into my new role. Along with Melissa Cortes, our marketing and communications manager, and our board of directors, I think we can bring HMC to the next level of being a very productive hub for the neighborhood.”

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Book launch

Why everyone should have a ‘personal board of directors’

Posted on 07 August 2018 by Calvin

In 1998 Jim Zugschwert was laid off from his job. “I didn’t have anybody to talk to about the layoff. I had a young family and ­didn’t know who to talk to. My wife just wanted me to do something,” Zugschwert recalled. He eventually found another job, but it was a struggle.

Fast forward to 2012. Zugschwert found himself caught up in another company layoff. But this time, he found a better-paying and more suitable position within a short time.

The difference? Zugschwert attributes it to his personal board of directors, a few mentors he had in place to assist him in moving forward.

Como resident Zugschwert’s success with this personal board led him to recently publish a book,

“Peak Perspective: Develop Your Personal Board of Directors and Become the Leader You Were Meant to Be.”

Photo right: Jim Zugschwert (Photo by Jan Willms)

Around 2007 Zugschwert was invited to join a group of men for some training. A man named Robert Lewis, author of the Men’s Fraternity series, advised in that training that everyone should have his own personal board.

“At that time in my life I was working with a company that had a traditional board of directors that set policy and governance and had oversight. I wanted the idea but not the structure,” Zugschwert explained.

“So I set out to line up one or two key people, and I came to the realization that having one mentor can almost be considered having another opinion.” Zugschwert wanted more, so he started looking around in his life for men of influence, men he looked up to.

“One by one I started inviting people to coffee, to talk. If it made sense for me, I would take the next step and ask them to be on my personal board of directors.”

Zugschwert noted that he has some very good friends who are not a part of his personal board. “The reason is, they are great people, and I love them, but sometimes people can be prescribers. You tell them what is going on, and they will say ‘Oh, just do this.’ They never listen. They never ask questions. They never give feedback. I wanted to make sure I was looking for people who can understand me, help me clarify my thinking, expand my perspective and make quality decisions for my life.”

Photo left: The official book launch event for Zugschwert’s new book was held in mid-July in Roseville at the brand-new Cedarholm Golf Course Community Building. (Photo provided)

Most people write books about what it means to be a good mentor, according to Zugschwert. “I wanted to come at it from another perspective,” he continued. “If you are at a crossroads in your life or you’re an entrepreneur that wants to make a difference in the next ten years, how do you go about it? How do I put together a good team of mentors?”

Zugschwert said he thinks back to that initial layoff in 1998 and how he did not know where to turn or who to ask for help. After that experience, he set out to put together a plan. “Mentorship became an important part of my life,” he said. He said the criteria he used to choose his board of directors came down to four things. “Number one, they had to listen. Number two, they had to ask questions. Number three, they had to give me honest feedback. And finally, they could give me some suggestions.”

Taking a long time to build up relationships with his mentors was essential to Zugschwert. “I didn’t want people who would tell me what I wanted to hear,” he said. “I wanted them to know here is what I’m thinking, here are the opportunities before me, here’s what I know so far. Then they can talk to me, ask me questions, and give me some ideas for another way to think about it.”

Zugschwert said he would then take some of that feedback from one meeting and meet with another member of his board and do some confirming or some fine tuning.

“By the time I was done talking to three or four mentors, I had a well-rounded point of view and thinking, so I could make a quality decision. I had great input from the people who would listen to me. Honest feedback is a key criterion,” Zugschwert said.

Zugschwert emphasized the importance of working with a personal board of directors whether facing a challenge or an opportunity.

When he was going through his layoff in 2012, Zugschwert said that he had two pages of notes he had taken on his idea to form a personal board of directors, and how he went about it. At that time he was meeting with a publisher about the possibility of writing a book, and he also mentioned his interest in writing a book about mentoring.

He said the publishers thought his other book idea was great, but they were really interested in the book about mentoring.

“So I set the other book aside and pursued the book on mentoring, with my two pages of notes,” Zugschwert said. “I turned it into ten chapters and 32,000 words.”

He started writing “Peak Perspective” in May 2017 and completed it in November 2017. His book was published this summer.

Zugschwert said that when he started to build his personal board of directors, he did not have anyone turn him down. Two of his mentors live out of state; three live in Minnesota. “By the time I asked, we had already been talking for some time,” he said. “I had already invested in them. Some of them took time, and they did not all happen overnight.”

All of his mentors are in different industries.

Today, Zugschwert mentors also come to him for advice.

It has been a rewarding journey for Zugschwert, all about building relationships with people he trusts who encourage him to have faith in himself and make good decisions. “My mentors know they can’t tell me what to do—that would not work,” he said. But listening and reflecting and asking questions is what helps, and by sharing his ideas in a book, Zugschwert hopes others will benefit as well.

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Lyngblomsten Fest 41 slider

2018 Lyngblomsten Mid-Summer Festival was celebration of life

Posted on 07 August 2018 by Calvin

Once again, the Mid-Summer Festival at Lyngblomsten (1415 Almond Ave.) was a day to celebrate artistic exploration, life-long learning, and interconnectedness between people of all ages. This year’s event was held on July 20, continuing an annual tradition that began in 1913.

Volunteer coordinator Shelli Beck said, “There is just no way we could put on a festival of this size without the help of our volunteers. This year we had 130 volunteers, and I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Photo right: Pianist/vocalist Paula Lammers provided one of the many indoor opportunities to view and hear artistic expression. 




Photo left: Volunteer Judy Mueller (left) is part of the pet visitor program. Community members can bring their healthy pets to Lyngblomsten to visit with older residents, a connection which is believed to foster better health through joy, touch, and comfort.




Photo right: Hermes Floral has been in business since 1906, the same year Lyngblomsten came into existence. They donated flowers to the Mid-Summer Festival, as they do each year. 








Photo left: Photo right: Wet Paint is a St. Paul-based art materials store. In addition to providing this inter-generational art activity at the festival, Wet Paint sponsors monthly artist talks at Lyngblomsten where community artists explain and demonstrate their art practices. 







Photo right: Zoe Bird, creator of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, partnered with Northern Clay Center this year. She helped visitors write poems, which were then stamped into clay tiles to be fired and picked up later in the week.




Photo right: Photo left: Volunteer Isabella Hall (left) said, “My friends and I, our moms all work here. We’ve been brought up volunteering, and we think it’s a great idea.”











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inside the soccer stadium

As stadium opening comes closer, traffic concerns gain attention

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

The new soccer stadium will seat 19,400 fans. With its opening predicted less than a year away, questions on how all those fans will get to and from the stadium take center stage. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota United)

As construction continues on and around the Allianz Field Major Leaguer Soccer stadium, how to get fans to and from the facility on game days continues to be scrutinized.

One step is that of allowing two interim parking lots along Snelling Ave. The St. Paul City Council will hold a public hearing at 5:30pm Wed., Aug. 15 on an interim use permit request by MUSC Holdings, LLC. That entity is developing the stadium for the Minnesota United Football Club.

The request is the latest in a series of actions tied to ongoing work at the stadium. In the past few weeks, new streets and parking spaces have taken shape. Space where Midway, and later American Bank, stood for many years was paved. The long-vacant lot at the northwest corner of St. Anthony Ave. and Pascal St. has been paved for a permanent lot.

The Spruce Tree Dr./Snelling Ave. traffic light was being removed as of the Monitor deadline. The traffic signal will move south to Shields Ave.

The St. Paul Planning Commission Transportation Committee in July began its review of what’s ahead for game day transportation planning. The planning has a lot of moving pieces, for people who take transit, ride shuttle buses, bike, walk or drive to soccer games. Work also needs to be done before any plans would go out for community comment, which could take place as early as September.

By then planners should have a good idea of the projected “mode split” for games. That is, they could have estimates on how many people would take transit to the games versus walking, driving or biking.

Part of the committee’s July discussion centered on the interim lots. Some Transportation Committee members worry that the lots, which are eventually to be replaced with office/retail buildings and structured parking, might be difficult to get rid of once they go into place.

But there are also worries about soccer fans parking in the surrounding neighborhood, and how to encourage ways to get to the games that don’t involve driving. Ways to promote transit and shuttle bus use were discussed by the committee. Those are steps the soccer team would likely take the lead on, in conjunction with ticket sales.

An alternative urban areawide review (AUAR) study of potential environmental impacts of the stadium was completed about two years ago. It outlines potential transit and transportation impacts and raised concerns about the possibilities for traffic congestion. A site plan has also won city approval.

Minnesota United FC and city officials have continued to look at the transportation issues since then, working on a more detailed plan that is to be completed by the end of 2018. One assumption is that many people will take transit to the games and not drive, using the Green Line light rail, A Line rapid bus and other area routes. Another is that others will arrive by bus, either from park and ride lots or from bars and restaurants that offer such shuttle services.

The stadium will have a capacity of 19,400 fans.

Senior City Planner Josh Williams said the intent is to have a plan in place that at a minimum would be reviewed annually.

Developing the plan needs involvement not just from the city and team, but also from Metro Transit, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and other affected parties.

But the planning itself raises questions. One is the level of Planning Commission Transportation Committee involvement. Committee members said they want to see something they can review, but likely at a higher level.

“We should be looking at how people are moving to the stadium and through the area,” said Planning Commissioner Christopher Ochs. “We don’t need to see every curb cut.”

One challenge the committee will have a role in is looking at parking demand, especially as stadium operations start next year. “We know there is going to be a desire to find parking,” said Williams. “There’s not going to be enough parking for everyone who wants to drive.”

Short-term plans for the area call for interim parking lots off of Snelling on sites eyed over the long term for redevelopment. The future developments could be built with structured parking that could be shared with soccer fans. But it’s not known when buildout of the property around the stadium would take place, raising the concerns that there could be protests when the lots go away.

One issue those involved in transportation planning will have to look at is how game days could affect the surrounding neighborhoods and demand for on-street parking there. Williams said that’s something planners want to discourage.

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