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Little Africa Fest expands to two days

Little Africa Fest expands to two days

Posted on 27 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Parade, booths, artists, and more celebrate diverse culture of many nations

This year’s Little Africa Fest is going to be bigger than ever, expanding for the first time in six years to two days.
A parade starting at Sherburne Ave. and moving forward along Snelling to Hamline Park at 1564 Lafond Ave. will be held on Aug. 3 from 4:30 to 9 p.m. On Aug. 4 the festival will continue at the park, with booths of artwork, performing artists, cultural items and food available. African music will also be showcased.
“We’re trying to create visibility in the district and with businesses,” said Brook Dalu, a business development specialist who runs the Little Africa program. He was present when the festival first began in 2014. It is put on by the African Economic Development Solutions.
“We just kind of let people know that Africa is bigger than what they think; it’s not a country, it’s a continent. And within the countries, there is a lot of diversity.”
He said the importance of the African community around University and Snelling expanded following a study published in 2015 by Dr. Bruce Corrie, then an economics professor at Concordia University. The study reportedly found that Minnesota’s African immigrants have a collective income of at least $1.6 billion, half of which is concentrated in the metro. That includes roughly $200 million in St. Paul and $300 million in Minneapolis
The neighborhood around Snelling and University is rich with African businesses, and the festival celebrates the impact these businesses and their cultures have upon the Twin Cities.
Dalu said all of the cultural districts have more traction because of the Green Line. “Each wanted to create visibility, in spite of construction,” he said. “That’s how the fest came about.”
He said the first fest, held in 2014, “gave us hope.” There were sponsors and a couple of hundred people. This year the fest hopes to draw 10,000 visitors over the two days.

Action and movement
Many of the countries of Africa are represented by the artists participating in the festival, including Korma Aguh-Stuckmayer. She is a performing and visual artist. “I’m kind of in the wellness section and try to get people involved. I try to share my Nigerian culture through dance,” Aguh-Stuckmayer said.
“I try to get people on the dance floor and teach them a few steps. People in Africa have a lot of action and movement.”
Aguh-Stuckmayer admitted, though, that getting people up and dancing can be a challenge. “It might take a minute or two, and I only have a 20-minute program.”
Over 8o artists are expected to participate. A range of art from portraits to landscapes will be on view.
“There are a lot of dancers,” Dalu added. “One fellow performs while he is painting, and he does things upside down.”
A petting zoo is also planned. “The timing is good,” Dalu noted. “A lot of the festivals are over so there is not so much competition.”
He said they are still in the process of talking with MnDOT to work out the logistics of the parade.
“We are going to have some speakers at the fest,” Dalu said. “We have invited both mayors and the governor to attend. We are trying to get exposure.”
Aguh-Stuckmayer said she is part of an advisory group that meets to plan the event. “Having the advisory group is a great idea,” she said.

Family-friendly and free
Aguh-Stuckmayer said the fest is a very important part of the community now, and has so much to offer. “This year I am hoping I get a chance to go around and visit the booths myself,” she said. In the past, as a performing artist, she has not had that much of an opportunity to explore.
“People come and tell you where they are from and what they are doing,” Aguh-Stuckmayer said. “The festival is educational in that way. Singers tell stories through songs, and people just want to have a good time.”
“The festival is open to everyone, it is family-friendly, and it is free,” added Dalu.

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RRR: Flying Pig Thrift Store opening in Midway

Posted on 27 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Two benefits: 1) Shoppers use and re-use what is already here, and 2) Proceeds benefit local non-profits

Flying Pig Thrift Store owner Melody Luepke, said, “The memory of my sister Heather has guided the vision for this place, where donated treasures find new homes, and worthy non-profits benefit. We’re choosing to operate as a cooperative, with profits shared equally among participating non-profit partners that focus on social justice and reducing gun violence. Donations are welcome during business hours.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Melody Luepke had a long, satisfying career as a special education teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. Now at an age when most people are thinking about retirement, she has jumped into a second career instead: as sole proprietor and CEO of the Flying Pig Thrift Store at 722 Snelling Ave. N.
The organizational skills Luepke honed as a teacher and lifetime member of the National PTA have come in handy.
Along with family, friends, and volunteers, she is transforming the former Hamline University Bookstore into an attractive destination for people interested in reusing, recycling, and shopping local. With donations, in Luepke’s words, “pouring in,” a well-stocked, well-tended thrift store is starting to emerge.
The Flying Pig is a way for Luepke to honor the memory of her sister, Heather Valdez, a children’s librarian and thrifter extraordinaire. Valdez died of pancreatic cancer last year.
Luepke said, “Heather was a free-spirited woman with a generous heart. She loved to shop at thrift stores, and always knew how to find the perfect gift for someone. Her greatest gift may have been that she was able to accept people for who they were. Heather lived with cancer for two years, and enjoyed thrifting before her chemo treatments right up until the end.”
A grand opening celebration for the Flying Pig is planned for Saturday, July 20 from 3-7 p.m, with a short program at 5 p.m. Live music will include Melvin Carter Sr. and Friends, the band Zoe Says Go, and more.
Starting July 25, the store will be open from 11 a,m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Monday, staffed by volunteers. When asked to describe her ideal volunteer, Luepke said, “Someone who is willing to come on a regular basis, is reliable, fun, and dedicated to our mission of social justice. For more information on volunteering, email cerdocielo@gmail.com.
Luepke will use her own yardstick for measuring the success of her new business. She said, “After we meet the minimum needed to pay our lease and related expenses, we will donate all proceeds to four local charities. These organizations are Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration, St. Paul Almanac, and Black Truce Peace Organization. We’ll have information on-hand about these organizations, so people can learn while they shop. We’re especially interested in supporting non-profits that are underfunded, working on social justice issues, and serving the local community.”
The site at the northeast corner of Snelling and Minnehaha avenues was chosen because of its easy access to public transportation, and high level of incidental foot traffic. Luepke said, “It had also been on the market for more than a year, and that made the price ‘friendlier.’”
Luepke has contracted with Job Corps students to create both interior and exterior signage for the Flying Pig. At Job Corps, low-income youth aged 16-24 work toward their GED while learning a trade, such as making commercial signs for businesses.
The Flying Pig will feature the work of two local artists for the grand opening: Paul Johnson and Mark Nelson (and the artists will be on hand, too.) Johnson and Nelson both use found materials in the creation of their artwork, underscoring the basic message of thrifting – that it makes sense to use and re-use what is already here.
Did Luepke ever imagine she would be opening a thrift store at this point in her life? “I suppose anything’s possible,” she said, “when pigs can fly.”


Shop to benefit…
1) Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
2) Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration
3) St. Paul Almanac
4) Black Truce Peace Organization

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She couldn’t walk, run or bike –- but she could ride a carousel

She couldn’t walk, run or bike –- but she could ride a carousel

Posted on 27 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Karen Wyckoff’s parents and volunteers honor legacy by organizing Rein In Sarcoma each summer at Como Park

Karen Wyckoff

The usual way to raise funds for a worthy cause is to walk, run or ride a bike. But when Karen Wyckoff wanted to raise funds for education and research about sarcoma, a connective tissue cancer she had been diagnosed with, she had been too weakened by the disease to do those activities.
However, she could ride a merry-go-round, and she rode a horse to raise funds to fight sarcoma at Cafesjian’s Carousel in 2001. That first event had seven sarcoma patients and a total of about 250 people attending. In all, $10,000 was raised, which went toward sarcoma research at the University of Minnesota.
Karen died a month after that first fund-raising gathering, but the carousel rides continue in Como Park, where Cafesjian’s Carousel is now housed. The 19th annual Party in the Park will take place July 29 at Como, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Rein in Sarcoma (RIS), co-founded by Karen and her parents, Pete and Sue, has grown at a tremendous rate over the years, promoting education, support for patients and their families, research and a search for a cure for sarcoma.

Sarcoma often masquerades as sports injury
“You can get sarcoma anywhere in your body,” said Amy Hoban, co-chair with Allison Mulcahy for Party in the Park. “The joke is that there are more flavors of sarcoma than Baskin Robbins. It could be based in cells, muscle, tissue, bone. Mine was in my abdominal wall.”
She said that people of any age can get sarcoma, but it frequently hits young people in their teens and early 20s, when they are active and athletic.
“It often masquerades as a sports injury,” Hoban explained.
“Although a rare cancer, it comprises 17 percent of children’s cancer,” said Janelle Calhoun, the executive director of RIS. She added that symptoms may or may not be painful, and can include a lump or bruise that may grow at a rapid pace or grow slowly. Some tumors can grow from the size of a pea to the size of a grapefruit in around 40 days.
Calhoun said the organization has an education committee, comprised of doctors from Mayo, the University of Minnesota, Children’s Hospital, Regions and Children’s Masonic Hospital. Education has been a top priority for RIS. “Some surgeons are not familiar with sarcoma, and they do a small incision and take out the tumor in strips. Sarcoma reacts negatively to this,” Calhoun said.
“Tumors have to be taken out in their entirety with a lot of tissue.”

Rarity makes it difficult to get good information
She said Karen and her family had a vision to educate medical professionals, patients and their families. RIS has raised money for research to understand how these tumors work. “We are sometimes still using data and information that was effective in the 50s and 60s,” Calhoun said.
Because sarcoma is so rare, Hoban said not much research money is given to explore sarcoma. “So we sponsor research, some of it looking at things that have worked in other cancers, even dogs. We have a vet and genomic testing has been studied to see what could apply to sarcoma.”
And for the past 10 years, third year medical students have received training in sarcoma so that they can advocate for all the years they are in practice.
“So many committees have sprung up,” Calhoun continued. “We have development, research, finance and education committees and a marketing team and board that are made up of really caring and dedicated people.”
Although most of the volunteers are survivors or patients and their family members, or people who have had some connection with the disease, others volunteer to support what they consider a tremendous cause.
Patient and family support are important parts of the RIS mission. Tote bags are provided for nurses to distribute to current patients. And the patients can get a notebook with information about sarcoma that can be given out or mailed or downloaded online.
Hoban said the rarity of sarcoma makes it difficult to get vetted information about it. “And even if you did get something online, you wouldn’t get much information,” she said. “So we have a medical advisory board that makes sure the information in the notebook is correct… The first thing I did when I was diagnosed was download it.”

Mentors, coffee meet-ups, galas, speakers and more
Patients can also get matched up with a mentor who has had sarcoma. This can be a local match or one across the country. “Getting good information and being able to talk to other patients is very difficult,” Hoban said, “and this is a way to support patients.”
She said that support for patients is part of what Party in the Park is all about. “Whenever you go to an RIS event as a patient you are offered the opportunity to wear a sunflower corsage,” Hoban said. “You can see others who have the corsages, and go up to anyone and ask them about their story and their care.”
There is also a Winter Gathering and a Fall Gala. There is a coffee for survivors that meets every week. Another fall event is Rein in Sarcoma Remembers for those who have lost someone to the disease. Guest speakers are invited to talk about grief.
“With all of our events, we try to have something social and something educational,” Hoban said. There are golf fundraisers and bike fundraisers, with groups continually meeting throughout the year to plan and to educate and to support.

July 29 event starts at 6 p.m.
Things have come a long way since Karen Wyckoff started the first event with seven patients and about 250 people in attendance. Over $2 million has been raised for sarcoma research.
This year’s Party in the Park begins at 6 p.m. A tribute ride on the carousel will kick off the party, with all patients and survivors taking the first ride. For the rest of the evening, Como Park provides free rides on the carousel to everyone.
Although the public has always been invited, this year a special effort through social media is being extended to bring in even more attendees. There will be activities for children, including face painting and inflatables. Elpis, an organization that assists homeless youth, will offer participants the opportunity to build their own birdhouses and birdfeeders. There will be fire dancing and food.
“We would love for everyone in the neighborhood to feel welcome and have a fun night,” Calhoun said.
Party in the Park is free, but visitors are asked to register on the RIS website at www.reininsarcoma.org.
Other than Calhoun and a medical educational professional, RIS relies on volunteers. Over 110 will come together on the day of Party in the Park to help. RIS also has help from major sponsors: Walser/Subaru, Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.
“The hardest part,” said Calhoun, “is our friends passing.” She added that there are also many celebrations of survivors. “I am so proud everything I see every day. There is a lot of passion and a lot of hope.”


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Extend the Midtown Greenway into St. Paul?

Posted on 27 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Study re-opens conversation about rehabbing bridge for bikes and peds while still carrying trains

Engineering feasibility studies usually don’t have people sitting on the edge of their chairs but last month, supporters of the Midtown Greenway Coalition did just that.
More than 60 bike enthusiasts gathered on June 6, 2019, at the Hamline Midway Library to hear the results of the Extend the Greenway feasibility study, and to discuss the possibility of extending the Minneapolis bike trail into St. Paul.
The study involved in-depth structural analysis of the 100-year-old Short Line Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River (east of 27th St. in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis).
Midtown Greenway Coalition executive director Soren Jensen explained, “With the support of our 35+ Extend the Greenway partners, and donations from hundreds of people on both sides of the river, we hired engineering firm Kimley-Horn and Associates to determine if the bridge could be rehabbed to safely support bikes and pedestrians. We are pleased to announce that the results are in –and it can!”
This isn’t the first time that the Short Line Bridge has been studied. Jensen said, “Hennepin County conducted an engineering study in 2006, and concluded that the bridge was just too old to be used as a connector. At that point, the conversation kind of died. For our study, we re-framed the question to be, ‘What would it take to strengthen the bridge to make it structurally sound?’ Kimley-Horn’s report outlined several options for rehabbing the bridge to make it safe for bikers and pedestrians. No matter which one is chosen, structural redundancies will have to be built into the bridge to make its usable.”
Jensen continued, “The idea isn’t to have all the answers right now, but to spark interest in re-examining the idea. The easiest thing would be if the train didn’t run, but ADM says they’re still investing in its use while the Atkinson Mill on Hiawatha Ave. operates. Almost all of our options involve sharing the bridge with the train, and could include building a replica bridge or adding a second story above the tracks.”
The existing 5.5-mile-long Greenway Bike Trail was built in three phases and, if everything works out, the expansion across the Mississippi River would be Phase Four.
Jensen said, “It’s important to remember that transit projects take time. This one would have a complicated funding structure pooling federal dollars, support from both Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, business and non-profit sponsors, and individual donors. What we hope to do is get the conversation started.”
Looking ahead, if the Greenway were extended as far as Cleveland Ave. in St. Paul, there would be safer bike and pedestrian access to Alliance Field, the State Fair Grounds, the Green Line LRT and more. Another advantage would be connecting the Somali communities at Skyline Towers in St. Paul with Cedar Riverside in Minneapolis via bicycle.
The Extend the Greenway Partnership also supports the proposed Min Hi Line in South Minneapolis, which would connect the Midtown Greenway to Minnehaha Falls Park.
Jensen said, “All organizations that share our vision of extending the Midtown Greenway are welcome to join us. The Extend the Greenway Partnership includes neighborhood groups, non-profit organizations and businesses from both Minneapolis and St. Paul. For more information, contact Soren Jensen at soren@midtowngreenway.org.

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On the Right Track with jobs for youth

Posted on 27 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Right Track interns Madison Price (left) and KaDeane Smith (right) in a budgeting class at St. Paul College. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Madison Price is an ambitious 17-year-old who attends Nova Classical Academy during the school year. This summer, the Midway resident has a paid internship with the city of St. Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections.
Price said, “I’m learning about zoning requirements and regulations, which will help me down the road when I open my own child care business. I see myself being an entrepreneur once I graduate from college. I plan to attend a Historical Black College or University, maybe Spellman or Howard.”
Price is part of a city of St. Paul Parks and Recreation program called Right Track.
According to program supervisor Shaina Abraham, “There are more than 700 students ages 14-24 participating in our program currently, and there will be 100-150 on board during the school year. The city of St. Paul is working toward broader inclusivity across its workforce – and this is one way to get there faster. Youth in our program are getting life exposure to real jobs in several city of St. Paul departments, non-profit organizations, and businesses.”
Right Track’s mission is to enhance St. Paul’s workforce by providing career readiness opportunities and work experience for under-resourced youth.
In St. Paul, 24% of youth are unemployed, including disproportionately high numbers of youth of color. It’s no secret that Minnesota ranks high when it comes to racial disparities. Right Track exists to connect youth from low-income families (or youth facing other barriers to employment) with meaningful work, so they will be better prepared to thrive in the workplace.

On a computer track
In his second summer with Right Track, 19-year-old Midway resident KaDeane Smith has begun an internship with St. Paul Public Schools Facilities Department.
Smith is also a student in St. Paul College’s Gateway to College, where he can finish high school while beginning college. He hopes to continue his education at Full Sail University in Florida in a year or two, focusing on designing and developing computer games.
At SPPS this summer, his internship will introduce him to Management Information Systems (MIS), computer assisted design (CAD), accounting, and administrative skills.

Be a Right Track supervisor
Right Track participants attend two launch dates before their internships begin. They meet their job coaches right away, and are introduced to topics that will be revisited throughout the summer including professional email and telephone etiquette, Microsoft Excel, networking skills, budgeting, personal finance, and public speaking.
Supervisor Shaina Abrahamson said, “I’ve worked with youth, families, and communities for more than 20 years. What’s exciting to me about working with Right Track is, of course, working with kids – but also helping supervisors to grow along with the changing workforce. The next generation of workers is going to look very different when the Baby Boomers retire.”
Just like the Right Track youth, supervisors attend training before summer internships start. They learn about cultural competency and diversity, and how to give their interns a voice and a sense of empowerment in their workplace.
It’s not too early to start thinking about hiring a Right Track intern for next summer. Benefits to employers include access to a talented pool of diverse youth interns at a reasonable cost (approximately $1,500 per intern). Right Track staff provides youth recruitment, screening, and placement; two days of work-readiness training before the internship and ongoing training while employed; orientation and training for workplace supervisors; and on-site job coaching and mentorship for interns as needed.
These organizations provided Right Track internships last year: https://www.stpaul.gov/sites/default/files/Media Root/Parks %26 Recreation/YJ02_employer_logos_1_websiteImage.PNG
For information on becoming an intern in 2020, contact Right Track at 651-266-6363 or RightTrack@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

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International Institute of Minnesota celebrates 100th birthday

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Jane Graupman, executive director of the International Institute of Minnesota, said, “We’re really excited to raise our profile in the neighborhood with our building renovation and expansion. We’re grateful to be part of a community that supports immigrants and refugees, and wants Minnesota to be a welcoming place.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

When the International Institute of Minnesota started serving the local immigrant population in 1919, World War I had just ended – and immigration patterns looked very different than they do today.
The Institute’s executive director Jane Graupman said, “Where people come from has changed over the years, but their desire for opportunity, education, jobs, freedom, and safety have not changed. We remain committed to our original mission of helping immigrants and refugees achieve full membership in American life.”
The Institute has partnered with Ramsey County Historical Society to present an exhibition called Unity without Uniformity: Celebrating 100 Years of the International Institute of Minnesota. On view at Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul until Dec. 20, 2019, the exhibit celebrates the communities of new Americans who have shaped Minnesota into a strong multicultural state. The panels are a reflection of the immigration story in Minnesota, and show who has come here since 1919. The exhibit is free and open to the public during Landmark Center hours.
Graupman explained, “While we have much to celebrate, there are also reasons for concern. The federal refugee resettlement program is at an all-time low right now. Every year, the American president makes a declaration of how many refugees can enter the US during the federal fiscal year. We believe that the low ceiling for incoming refugees in the current administration is very short sighted, and will impact our future economy in America.”
Although the refugee count is down, the number of immigrants arriving in Minnesota is up – resulting in increased demand for the Institute’s services, especially in the area of workforce development. Graupman said, “Immigrants create a lot of jobs here: they can be everything from entrepreneurs to engineers to laborers. Our graduates make excellent employees. There are currently 100+ employers in the health care industry that hire our graduates. Immigrants today speak better English than those who came in previous decades. They have more education, and are able to integrate more easily into American culture.”
The Festival of Nations has been the Institute’s most visible event in the Twin Cities for 87 years. The annual event is held the first weekend of May, and just concluded for this year. It draws tens of thousands of visitors to the RiverCentre to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Minnesota.
Graupman said, “We welcome new immigrant groups to participate every year to reflect our changing community. We’ve kept it going for so long because we include everyone. This year there were nearly 100 ethnic groups represented.”
As the Institute’s programming and events keep expanding, it’s also time for their building to grow; they’ve had the same address for nearly 50 years. The Institute has raised $4,000,000 in private donations toward their capital campaign goal of $11,000,000. They plan to renovate their existing building and add a 17,000-square-foot addition. Half an acre was recently purchased from the Minnesota State Fair, making the westward expansion possible.
Graupman said, “Early on in the visioning process, we started asking our clients, ‘Should we move?’ They resoundingly said, ‘No!’ We love this neighborhood. Everyone feels safe here, and even though we’re not on the LRT, we’re on a great bus line and it feels very accessible.”
Graupman explained, “Our $5.5 million capital request is part of this session’s House omnibus bill, where a lot of funding requests are bundled together. If our request for state funding isn’t met this year, we’re hopeful that it will be in 2020. During a recent capital investment hearing, one of the representatives did some quick math and said, ‘You’ll pay back the state in three years with all of the new tax-paying employees you’ll create.’”
The Institute is located at 1694 Como Ave., just west of Snelling Ave.. Hours are Monday to Friday from 8:45 a.m.-5 p.m., some evenings when classes are in session, and Saturdays by appointment.

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Thank you, Mary Mackbee

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Central High School principal retires after 26 years of service

Mary Mackbee has retired as the principal of Central High School at age 75. She said, “I always thought I would be a teacher, but over the years — I realized I could be even more effective as an administrator.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The sixth period bell rang at Central High School on Friday, May 24, 2019, and the auditorium doors opened for an afternoon program. The guest of honor, retiring principal Mary Mackbee, was ushered in.
Past and present students took to the stage singing songs, sharing stories, and saying thank you to the woman who had worked tirelessly on their behalf since 1993.

As a child growing up in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, Mackbee attended segregated public schools. She said, “Neither of my parents had more than a sixth grade education. I was the first of my siblings to go to college; that just wasn’t something you took for granted back then. My brothers joined the military, and eventually went to college on the GI Bill.
“It was a typical story of black kids in the South. Our teachers really pushed us to succeed against the odds.”
The desire to push herself (and her students ) toward excellence defined Mackbee’s long career as an educator. It could be said that the secret to her success was convincing students they could be successful, too.
Principal Mackbee’s connection with St. Paul Public Schools started when she graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1966, a historically black college in New Orleans. With her teaching degree in hand, she was quickly recruited by SPPS in an effort to bring more African American teachers to the district. Her first job was at the now closed Mounds Park Junior High School on St. Paul’s East Side, where she taught for 11 years.
The next 20 years brought teaching jobs at the junior high and high school levels in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, a brief stint as a stay-at-home mom with her first two children, and an appointment as director of secondary education with SPPS.

Christina Anderson (Class of 2009), at left, stopped in to say goodbye. Mackbee said, “If I had to guess, I’d say that I’ve probably interacted with more than 10,000 students during my time here.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

When Mackbee took the job of principal of Central High School, she said, “The school didn’t have the best reputation. The International Baccalaureate and Quest Programs were just getting started and, while those enriched programs were excellent, they were offered on a separate floor of the school. We reorganized the building so that teachers were grouped by departments – not programs. Contracts were also restructured so that every teacher taught a range of classes, and interacted with students across all ability levels.”
Central has a dedicated fan base, and its own foundation established almost two decades ago by a group of alumni. The goal of the St. Paul Central High School Foundation is to give back and to give forward. The Foundation established an annual scholarship of $3,000 in Mackbee’s name: the Mary Mackbee Legacy Scholarship is awarded each year to a student exhibiting strong qualities of leadership, academic excellence, and service.
Altogether, the St. Paul Central High School Foundation awarded $96,500 in various scholarships to 21 students this year.

When asked about her proudest accomplishments, Mackbee said, “I’m proud that our community is so invested in our school. I’m proud that nearly all of the teachers currently working here were hired by me, and that together we’ve created a strong academic culture for our students. Over the years, there have been groups of parents who have been tremendously helpful maintaining landscaping, helping with school events, and spearheading major projects like the stormwater capture system we finished two years ago.
“We’ve found a lot of ways to work together.”
As Mackbee reflected on Central High School, she said, “Our graduation rate this year is 87%, and we’ve been able to hire some outstanding teachers. But when the district-wide attendance boundaries were redrawn four years ago, we effectively re-segregated our schools. Central used to have an open enrollment policy. Students could come here from anywhere in the city, and busing was provided. This is no longer the case, and we need to remember that one of the core values of everyone involved at Central High School is diversity.”

Regarding her plans for retirement, Mackbee said, “It’s hard to know how I’ll feel when I don’t have this place to come to every day. It’s been my life for more than a quarter of a century, and I’ve loved it. I bought a book the other day called, ‘The Art of Doing Nothing.’ It’s going to take some practice for me, but I think there could be a sweetness to doing nothing – at least for a little while.”
The hiring process to find a new principal for Central High School is still underway.

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Rebuild Repair Recycle: Capitol Region Watershed District moves

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Capitol Region Watershed District is now located at 595 Aldine Street. Its neighborhood assets will soon include a pocket park for public use, and a watershed learning center. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) has moved into the Midway neighborhood at 595 Aldine St.
Administrator Mark Doneux said, “CRWD followed the City of St. Paul’s Sustainable Building Policy, and the result is a stunningly renovated building that meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).”
Their office building was formerly occupied by MacQueen Equipment, which serviced and repaired municipal machinery.

CRWD is one of 45 watershed districts in the state of Minnesota. It is a special purpose unit of government whose staff members have agreed not to seal themselves off from the community they serve.
The new location is in the heart of a residential neighborhood, and CRWD is making their space accessible to the community in a number of ways.
One of the community highlights is a pocket park still under construction in the NE corner of the property, which will combine natural and built environments with interactive elements for neighbors, visitors, and staff to enjoy.
CRWD is also creating a community watershed learning center and will offer on-site educational opportunities to showcase its work protecting, managing, and improving water resources in the watershed (which includes Como Lake, Crosby Lake, Loeb Lake, Lake McCarrons, and the Mississippi River.)
A gathering room at CRWD is available for public meetings between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The room has a maximum capacity of 94, and can be reserved by community members and partner organizations. Use of the space includes access to a kitchenette, tables and chairs, a projector, and lectern with microphone. Call the main desk at 651-644-8888 to inquire.

Stewardship Grants help homeowners, businesses, schools, and community organizations build projects that prevent stormwater pollution. Awards range from $300-$40,000 and applications are accepted year-round. Visit www.capitolregionwd.org to learn more. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

CRWD held four Community Watershed Conversations across St. Paul in May and early June. Anna Eleria is division manager with CRWD’s department of planning, projects and grants.
At a meeting held at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, she said, “Our watershed district is the most urban in the state, and that provides some unique challenges. We cover 41 square miles, five lakes, and over 500 miles of storm sewers – every one of which drains into the Mississippi River. One twentieth of the population of the state lives within our boundaries.”
The Watershed Community Conversations were a chance for community members to help CRWD draw their road map for the next 10 years. For readers who weren’t able to attend but would still like to share their thoughts, visit bit.lyCRWDsurvey. Public comments will be taken until June 30, 2019.
Eleria said, “Our organization is 20 years old, and we’ve had many successes over the last two decades. CRWD often works on infrastructure projects that can’t be seen (like the rainwater capture and re-use system at Allianz Field), but we’re also helping to beautify the neighborhood in ways that are very visible.”
Their Stewardship Grant Program, which started in 2005, is one such example. Watershed residents, schools, and businesses are eligible to apply. Grantees receive a free site visit, as well as technical and financial support for installing a rain garden on their property.
In the Hamline-Midway neighborhood alone, 147 raingardens have been designed and installed since the program began.
A grand opening for CRWD is planned for later this summer.

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Faster transit coming to Marshall

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Christina Morrison with four-year-old twins Jack and Keira, learn about the proposed B Line along Lake/Marshall. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Travel down Marshall Ave./Lake St. by bus is slow with stops on the Route 21 every two blocks.
During rush hour, buses slow to average speeds of only eight miles per hour, and it’s considered one of the slowest transit corridors in the metro.
Red lights mean that buses are moving less than half the time.
And over 10,000 rides are taken on this route per day.
For those people, things are about to get faster.
Metro Transit plans to construct the region’s third bus rapid transit line on Lake St./Marshall Ave. in 2022.
With things in the planning stage now for the B Line, a series of open houses was held in May, including one at South High School on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 and another at the Oxford Community Center on Saturday, May 4.
“There’s a lot of congestion and a lot of delay,” observed Metro Transit Senior Planner Adam Smith.
“Anything that could improve our transit service is something I’m interested in,” stated Brian Kimnes who lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul and works off Lake St. in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. If the bus line was faster, it would make it much more likely that he’d take the bus to work instead of his car, he said.
If he goes to the Lyn-Lake area now, he drives because the bus is “excruciatingly slow,” he stated. “It stops every block and it’s a painful experience. I can drive there in 20 minutes or take the bus for 50.”
The B Line would make the trip about 20% faster. The savings would come by stopping less often, allowing customers to board faster, and stopping at fewer red lights.
With bus rapid transit, buses make limited stops at stations spaced farther apart, such as every 1/3 to 1/2 mile between stations instead of very other block.
Fares are collected at stations, just like light rail, instead of on the bus. B line buses run in general traffic and stations are built on curb bump-outs to avoid delays caused by merging back into traffic.
BRT lines also use transit signal priority, where buses “ask” traffic signals for early or extended green lights.
There are several options Metro Transit is looking at and gathering input on, such as queue jumps and a dedicated lane for buses, according to project manager Cody Olson. The dedicated lane would be more challenging along Lake St. but easier to do on Marshall, he observed. It could be ‘Buses Only’ during certain times of the day and multi-use at other times.
Bus approach lanes at intersections could speed things up for buses, as well.
Elizabeth Ellis lives at Fairview and Taylor. She said that she is “vehemently opposed” to the B Line. When she’s on a bus route along the A Line, she is dismayed to see BRT buses pass her by rather than pick her up as regular buses do. “This designated only thing in the winter is awful,” Ellis said.
“I love the bus. Need the bus. Depend on the bus,” Ellis remarked.
Highland Park resident Christina Morrison and her two four-year-old children, Jack and Keira, are looking forward to the B Line and regularly ride the A Line. Morrison is a Metro Transit employee. “We ride the bus everywhere,” she said. “I like the freedom. You can go wherever you need to go.”
She appreciates that she doesn’t need to lug around car seats for the kids when they ride the bus. “Kids ride for free so that’s a big incentive for us to ride as a family,” Morrison added. “They can wiggle and look out the window.”
She believes that this area of St. Paul will benefit from the more frequent service offered by the B Line.
The B line could potentially fully replace the Route 21 bus and offer high frequency service all day and on nights and weekends.
Some of the biggest questions, in addition to where to locate stations, are what route the line should take in St. Paul. There are several options planners are looking at, including using University or Selby and going all the way to downtown St. Paul.
At the open houses, attendees were asked to rate which the following in terms of priority: overall travel time, bus arriving at planned time, bus arrives as steady frequency, smooth ride – less starting and stopping, less delay in traffic or stoplights, walking distance to bus stop, and amenities at stop.
Send comments to bline@metrotransit.org.

Residents and Metro Transit staff chat during an open house on May 4, 2019 at the Oxford Community Center, giving input on things such as overall travel time, bus frequency, bus stop amenities, and more. Send comments to bline@metrotransit.com. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)


>> The B Line is planned to be the fourth of several planned BRT lines that will bring faster, frequent service to the region’s busiest transit corridors.
>> The region’s first arterial BRT line, the A Line, opened in 2016 and has boosted corridor ridership by about one third.
>> Construction on the C Line, serving Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, is underway. Service is scheduled to begin in 2019.
>> The D Line, serving the Route 5 corridor from Bloomington to Brooklyn Center, is currently in design, targeted for construction to begin in 2020.
>>The E Line, serving the Route 6 corridor on Hennepin Avenue is in the corridor study phase through 2019, with construction targeted for 2023.
>> The West Lake Street Station will be the western terminus of the B Line and will be built in coordination with the Southwest LRT project. The B Line station will be built on the West Lake Street bridge and will have access to the LRT station via stairs and elevator.
>> The I35W and Lake Street Station will provide a connection to the METRO Orange Line and the broader 35W@94:Downtown to Crosstown project includes a redesign of the freeway between I-94 and 42nd Street.
>> An eastbound enhanced bus stop at Lake and Hiawatha was built in conjunction with the construction of the South Minneapolis Regional Service Center in 2017, and will be used by the future B Line. The westbound station location will be implemented in coordination with this project.
>> A completed BRT network would cover 100 miles and include 400 enhanced stations, directly serving about 20 percent of the region’s residents and more than 230,000 jobs.
>>BRT lines have the potential to see an estimated 160,000 average weekday boardings by 2030, representing about a third of total bus ridership.
Learn more at metrotransit.org/abrt.
~ Information from Metro Transit

Will Route 21 Remain?

Metro Transit is weighing the pros and cons of keeping the underlying Route 21 when the B Line opens.
When the A Line opened in 2016, Metro Transit continued to operate Route 64 in the same corridor as a less frequent local travel option. A similar approach was taken Route 16, which provides local service alongside the Green Line Lightrail along University Ave. With the B Line and E Line (Hennepin Avenue corridor), Metro Transit is considering fully replacing the underlying local bus service.
Why? Well, as the A Line and the Green Line have been successful in attracting riders, the local service on Routes 84 and 16 have declined, leading to service reductions.

About Route 21
>> More than 10,000 average weekday rides, second-highest Metro transit route
>> Third most productive local bus route in terms of number of passengers per hour of service
>> One of the routes on which customers most frequently experience crowded buses
>> Carries up to 20% of people in vehicles in some palces while making up less than 2% of vehicles
>> Highest ridership between Hennepin Ave. and Hiawatha Ave.
>> Weekend and midday ridership also make up an important part of Route 21 ridership
>> Ridership has been declining.
~ Information from Metro Transit

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St. Andrew’s teardown okayed by Council

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

In six weeks, the wrecking ball may hit Historic Saint Andrew’s Church, destroying the 92-year-old facility designed by St. Paul’s first city architect, Charles A. Hausler.
Last year, property owner Twin Cities German Immersion School announced its intention to tear down the decommissioned church building to construct a three-story, 25,000-square-foot addition with two gyms.
On Wednesday, June 5, 2019, the St. Paul City Council voted against designating Saint Andrew’s Church as an Historic Preservation site, as recommended by its own Historic Preservation Commission, on a 5-0 vote with one recusal (Jane Prince, East Side) and one absence (Kassim Busuri, East Side).
The council then approved both the site plan and the three variances requested by the school with conditions that seek to address impacts the school’s enrollment growth has on parking, traffic, pedestrian safety, and playground noise.
According to the District 10 Como Community Council, in normal circumstances, it takes about six weeks to receive all the permits and approvals needed to start demolition and construction.
The city council had originally been slated to vote on the issue on May 22, but then delayed it so that representatives from the school and neighborhood group, Save Historic Saint Andrews (SHSA), could meet with a mediator as encouraged by City Council President Amy Brendmoen, who lives a few blocks from the school.
City-hired mediator Aimee Gourlay did not think there was enough time for the process and concluded in her report: “There is little likelihood of a useful mediation at this point. A failed conflict intervention could make things worse and could reduce the potential for successful conflict resolution in the future. At some point there will be another opportunity to resolve differences.”
A City Pages article on May 15 detailed behind-the-scenes, sabotage and a plan for partial demolition being done by TCGIS “to destroy any hope that the building lives on,” according to internal school emails.

SHSA filed a suit in Ramsey County on June 3 under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to ensure that the 92-year-old structure will not be torn down.
MERA protects cultural and historic resources from destruction, and requires owners and developers to demonstrate that there are no feasible alternatives to demolition. The State Historic Preservation Office has said the church qualifies for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We absolutely believe there are alternatives other than demolition here, and we need more time to explore them,” said SHSA President Teri Alberico, who lives next door to the school.
“We owe this to our future. Once this structure is gone, it’s gone forever.”

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