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Asking questions, talking about interests and events

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Jan Willms

Meet Our Staff
By Jan Willms
I have been a writer for the Monitor and Messenger since around 2003. From the time I edited my high school newspaper, I have loved to write. My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and I worked as a staffer for the Fargo Forum, where I met my husband.
We later started and operated a weekly in Montana. The newspaper was our life. When our first son was born, after my water broke, I went in and did a few things on the paper and then drove myself to the hospital. It was print day, and we had to get the paper out, so my husband met the deadline and then came in to meet our son. A few days later, we put Liberty in a blanket in a drawer at our office, and he observed firsthand how newspaper production works. When our second son was born six years later, he too nestled in a drawer in the office with a colorful mobile above his head.
Running a weekly, we did it all – wrote the features, news articles and commentary; sold the ads; did the layout; wrote the headlines; took the photos; covered sports and entertainment. We were never caught up on sleep, and our social life consisted of covering stories, but it was the happiest time in our lives. After my husband died prematurely, and I entered the human services profession I have still always tried to keep a link to newspaper writing.
Community newspapers like the Messenger and Monitor are perfect, because I can still work full-time and continue to do interviews after work or on weekends. Although I have written about everything from elections to neighborhood meetings to conversations with authors and filmmakers, I love doing feature articles. Exploring what spurs a person’s creativity, what challenges him or her, or what stirs up the passion within is what I like most to do.
What sets off the creative spark in an author’s quest to complete a novel? What drives someone to start a nonprofit and help others less fortunate? Who are the mentors a musician looks up to? These are all questions that I like to find the answers to and share them with our readership.
I also like to write about the events that have shaped a person’s life. A young man once wanted to talk to us about his brother’s murder, and how it affected the family. We agreed to meet on three different occasions, but he never showed up. But the fourth time he did, and we talked for hours, and his story about his brother got told.
Perhaps most of all, writing for these papers has given me the opportunity to meet so many different people from all walks of life.
It is said that writing can be a lonely profession, but not when you are sharing a part of someone else’s world.
Meeting different persons, talking with them about what interests them, and putting it down on paper is a challenging but fulfilling task. I find that just the physical act of writing is therapeutic, and if you can make a story interesting enough to catch a reader’s eye, it makes journalism a very rewarding profession.

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Touring University Avenue

Touring University Avenue

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Building a Stronger Midway
By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
Recently, the Midway Chamber’s Economic Development meeting took a bus tour of University Ave. to see all the progress being made with new buildings and redevelopments. If you have not looked at all the projects happening, our neighborhood has already changed and continues to do so with more investment. Here’s a sampling of what we saw on our tour.
We started our tour at Hmongtown Marketplace, 217 Como. Owner Toua Xiong has an amazing back story, from refugee to keeping his business afloat. Located at the old Shaw lumber site, Hmongtown Marketplace has well over 100 vendors who can sell you anything from authentic Hmong cuisine to clothes, insurance and many more items.
Once on University Ave., we headed west and saw the former Old Home site, now the mixed-use housing and retail Western-U Plaza. At 769 University, a new bright, colorful building is about to open – the Mini Oski Ain Dah Yung Center. The site will be home to 42 units of affordable housing development serving American Indian youth experiencing homelessness. Our first stop was at 1000 University, a building that re-opened in 2015 and is managed by Suntide Commercial Realty. Suntide has been a strong supporter of the Midway, also managing locations farther west like the Case Building and the Court Building.
Another example of mixed-use is at the northeast corner of Hamline and University – Hamline Station. The development has over 100 units of workforce housing and 13,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor. The Magic Noodle, one of the most hyped new restaurants in our neighborhood, opened earlier this year to rave reviews.
Our second stop was next to Allianz Field. We did our tour days after the first playoff game and the Tommie-Johnnie game both played there. Now that the team (and stadium) have wrapped up its first season, we’ll see what other events will be hosted there. The space is available for corporate events and nonprofits, as well. The site next to the field is in the process of being redeveloped; much like Allianz Field itself, Mortenson is working on the site. With Allianz Field has come new bars. The Black Hart of Saint Paul and the Midway Saloon have both opened in the past year across University from Allianz. Mixed-use will also go west of Allianz, as Bremer Bank’s old location will be redeveloped with housing above it and the old Furniture Barn site will also be mixed-use.
Our final stop was a tour within a tour – this time of the new murals from the Chroma Zone festival. Twelve murals are in the Creative Enterprise Zone, created by artists from all over the world. Many of the murals can be seen on a walking tour, and they brighten up the neighborhood. For more information on the murals, go to https://creativeenterprisezone.org/chroma-zone.
Our tour ended back where we began, at Hmongtown Marketplace where we ate at the food court. If you have not had a meal at the food court, you’re missing out on a great place to enjoy Hmong food. Most vendors leave around 6 p.m. and the food court offers several options. Hmongtown Marketplace may be expanding in the future, making it an even larger cultural destination.
University Avenue is continually changing, with billions of dollars spent on investment along the corridor since Green Line construction began. That investment has included several housing projects, a new Senate building, new restaurants, homes for nonprofits and businesses alike and the home of the Minnesota United FC.
If you take the same route as we did, you will also see a new mural at the northwest intersection of Dale and University, which reads “Development without Displacement.” As someone who lived in Frogtown for close to 10 years, this message resonates with me and I do hope developers will think about the community beyond their project. At the Midway Chamber, we strive to “build a stronger Midway.” My hope is developers will embrace both messages.

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Manufacturing in the Midway

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Manufacturing in the Midway

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Building a Stronger Midway

By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
Oct. 1-7 was Minnesota Manufacturing week, and events were planned and celebrations occurred throughout the state in an effort to honor and raise awareness of the many products created in Minnesota. Historically, the Midway community has been one of the top homes for manufacturing in Saint Paul as well as the state. With a perfect space in the middle of the Twin Cities, the Midway was a natural spot for manufacturing. Having easy access to several rail lines helped get things started over 100 years ago, and many of the old buildings remain today (though many have been repurposed).
Today, the Griggs-Midway Building at the corner of Fairview and University is home to several organizations, nonprofit and for-profit alike. But when I worked there almost 20 years ago I was fascinated to realize it had once been a candy and cracker factory.
Last year, the Midway Chamber held an event at the newly renamed Prior Works Building. Originally built in the 1880s, the building has created agricultural equipment and was home for many years to Silgan Container and the American Can Company. Today it’s home to Flannel Jax’s, an axe-throwing event company; Blackstack Brewing and TrueStone Coffee; the part mini-golf course/part art exhibit Can Can Wonderland; and many more tenants who want to have their office in a creative space.
The Minnesota Chemical Building will be repurposed after spending over a century manufacturing soap products.
Vandalia Tower opened in the old King Koil Mattress site in 2015, with more space for creative offices, an event space, and yes, another taproom (Lake Monster Brewing).
But don’t think manufacturing is only a thing of the past in the Midway. In fact, parts of the Midway still contribute more to the city’s commercial and industrial tax base than anywhere. Salsa Lisa, a company started when its founder started selling her salsa at farmer’s markets, is now a national brand and located on Pelham. Deneen Pottery has been creating hand-thrown clay products since the 1970s and today employs over 80 workers on Endicott (in the same building as yet another taproom, Urban Growler). Two recent moves from other cities to the Midway’s Energy Park Drive are going to help increase our commercial/industrial numbers. MISCO, a company offering audio solutions, recently moved from Minneapolis; Alula, a company offering smart security solutions, moved from Hudson, Wis.
These companies are just a few examples of the innovative products still being manufactured in the Midway today. Manufacturing not only helps create jobs in our community, it also helps the city’s bottom line. A study conducted by the Saint Paul Port Authority states that industrial activity consumes only $0.60 to $0.70 in city services for every $1 in revenue it generates.
As you drive around our neighborhood, take note of the companies here creating jobs and products, and consider supporting local businesses. They do a lot for our economy and help make our neighborhood flourish.

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TOO MUCH COFFEE: Let’s start believing women and children

TOO MUCH COFFEE: Let’s start believing women and children

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN, Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com

Tesha M. Christensen

It’s time to believe women and children.
This month, we launch a new series aimed at putting a face on domestic violence and intimate partner terrorism that we’re calling “Voices of Violence.”
The majority of people in this series will be anonymous for their safety, and to avoid causing trouble with their custody cases. Unfortunately, we can’t get the full story unless they can be assured that it won’t blow-back negatively on their drive to protect their kids – the foremost concern of the women I’ve interviewed.
However, I have carefully vetted their stories, and know that each woman is speaking for many who can tell the same sorts of stories with the same cycles of abuse. They all fell in love with a man who was good to them, and who later switched to angry, manipulative and controlling actions that left them baffled and confused. Things started out with behaviors that didn’t seem so bad, and then got worse with a fair amount of gaslighting thrown in so they would question what was really happening.
And then they got the questions from friends and family: Why did you stay? The answer is complicated, as you’ll see from these stories. And women are often pressured to stay and patch things up for the “sake of the kids” while they’re also told by others that if it were them, they would have left a long time ago. They would never have stood for this. In many way, these women can’t win. And, sometimes, a victimized person may not be able to get away from their abuser because the abuser will not let them do so.
Take a look around you. One in every three women you see and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (including slapping, shoving, pushing), and in some cases might not be considered “domestic violence.” That’s a pretty high number. This kind of thing is happening all around us and we probably don’t know it.
The sad thing is, being smart and educated, kind and empathetic, a good mom and a good wife – none of that prevents you from being abused. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and there is no safeguard from it, even though we wish there was.
But what is even sadder is the stories women tell about how they and their children haven’t been believed. How someone has questioned if what they said really happened. How a family member sided with the abuser. How Child Protection Services came out and said that the bruises and pain he left weren’t bad enough to launch an investigation that might impinge upon his career. How family courts ignored the signs and put children into unsafe situations because they think that any dad is better than no dad.
It’s true that fathers are important, but what’s even more true is that kids need to be protected. It’s up to us adults to keep them safe.
The children affected by this is staggering, and can be considered the greatest health crisis of our time. More and more research is backing up that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – such as witnessing abuse, being abused and experiencing your parents divorce – can be traced to a myriad of health and mental health issues that cost the world millions of dollars to treat.
Our series will look more closely at the women affected by intimate partner violence because they comprise the majority of those being abused and they are hurt more severely more often, but we recognize that men also find themselves in abusive relationships, as do those in same-sex relationships.
As I’ve chatted with people involved in domestic violence advocacy and the family court system here in Minnesota and around the country, one thing that is clear is our family court system hasn’t made enough progress in the area of intimate partner violence. It recognizes bruises and may hand out orders for protections for women, but it hasn’t stopped to consider the effect of that continued and ongoing abuse on children. It’s also stuck thinking that “It takes two to tango” when it can just take one disordered and mean individual determined to keep fighting and using the family court system to engage in domestic abuse via proxy. It is sad and hard to believe that some people will use their kids to keep hurting their exes for years – with no regard to the damage inflicted on their children.
Mothers know – and they’re pushing for change even while they are painted as vindictive, crazy and hysterical liars.
It’s past time that we listen when children tell us through their actions that they are in unsafe home environments. Next time you get frustrated by a kid with rebellious or aggressive behavior, consider the message they may be trying to tell you behind that “bad behavior.”
External signs of child abuse include:
• learning difficulties
• problems with relationships and socializing
• rebellious behavior
• aggressive and violent behavior
• anti-social behavior and criminality
• self-isolating behavior (making people dislike you)
• negative impulsive behavior (not caring what happens to yourself).
Signs of a child being emotional abused or in an emotional abusive home include:
• Appear continually withdrawn, anxious or depressed
• Display excessive fear of parents or caretakers
• Avoid doing things with other children
• Behave much younger than his or her age
• Behave older than their age e.g. ‘a little mother’
• Lag in physical, emotional or cognitive development
• Wet the bed
• Blame themselves for problems or believe they are ‘bad’
• Overreact when they make mistakes
• Have inappropriate reaction to pain, e.g. ‘I deserve this’
• Demonstrate neurotic behaviours such as hair twisting or rocking
• Self-harm or attempt suicide

If you are a victim experiencing abuse, contact Day One at 866-223-1111 to connect with services.

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Letters to the Editor October 2019

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Personal response to fall of St. Andrew’s Church

Dear Editor:
I have been grateful for your coverage of the controversy about the historic Saint Andrew’s church building and the neighborhood’s reaction about the decision to demolish it.
Here is a poem I wrote about my response to the fall of the structure. I know it reflects the feelings of others, perhaps even on both sides of the issue.

at the end of my street the tower still stands
piece by piece the body of the building falls
crumbling, like a body in hospice fails

after all prayers for survival, that all will be well
after all valiant efforts have failed
begins violent destruction

the tower still stands

removal of the cross
excruciating,
not without cries

the tower still stands

disfigurement and scarring
monotonous sounds of collapse
grinding away dusty debris
of brick and tile, glass and plaster,
pipes and organ gone

under moonlit sky the tower still stands

pain grows each day, day by day
neighbors and friends
bid farewell
during this long vigil
not faring well

the tower still stands

soon with a final swing of the crane
and a crashing rattle she will be gone
negative space where once beauty stood
the soul of a neighborhood diminished

yet in my mind
she will stand at the end of my street
in my heart

Marsha Foss

Vote Jessica Kopp onto Saint Paul School Board

Dear Editor:
Jessica Kopp, a longtime Hamline-Midway resident and current School Board candidate, deserves your vote in November for 1 of 4 open seats in the race.
I have worked closely with Jessica the past several years on a range of projects, and at every step along the way, her passion, smarts, and commitment to this city, our neighborhood, and especially our kids shines through.
Our neighborhood is home to many great local schools, and among them is Hamline Elementary, where Jessica led the PTO for many years and helped take the school to new heights. In her role as a leader and parent there, Jessica worked tirelessly on collaborations with the district, neighbors, and Hamline University to make the school more accessible, more innovative, and more responsive to students’ and their families’ needs.
Along the way, she has earned the respect of current School Board members and several important endorsements – among them Mitra Jalali Nelson and Jon Schumacher, Women Winning, Out Front, and the teacher’s union – because she’s proven her leadership, thoughtfulness, and drive over and over again. She has shown that her campaign priorities are not mere slogans, but are priorities she has been a successful advocate for in recent years at the grassroots and district levels.
I encourage my neighbors to join me in supporting Jessica Kopp for School Board on Nov. 5.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
Hamline-Midway Resident

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Letters to the Editor September 2019

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Jessica Kopp for Saint Paul’s School Board

Dear Editor:
In November, I will enthusiastically vote for Jessica Kopp to serve on our Saint Paul School Board. I write today to encourage you to connect with and learn more about her and her campaign (at http://www.jessica4stpaulschools.com); I am confident her record and her key commitments will earn your vote, too. Here are some of the reasons why.
I first met Jessica in a local forum where she represented the Hamline Elementary PTA. I took some time afterwards to ask questions about how she saw the school fitting into the broader Midway neighborhood. She gave me a quick yet thorough snapshot: students she knew, community organizations they had partnered with, programs she celebrated (and often had helped to set up), other parents and teachers who were doing phenomenal work, connections to key city agencies which made a meaningful change happen in the Rec Center or that engineered a community-wide arts project on the fences adjoining Snelling Ave. (She also gave me a delicious cookie.) I was struck by the depth of her network and her knowledge. Jessica doesn’t just know that schools are in, and dependent on, the surrounding community – one of her superpowers is the ability to facilitate and shape meaningful relationships between diverse community partners and stakeholders in order to get things done.
A core goal for her candidacy is to help Saint Paul Public Schools better understand and draw on these assets. She has repeatedly helped me see the intersections between various organizations and activists in our community, to see how we could – how we must – define powerful new collaborations between schools and community leadership to serve our students and families.
To do so, she knows the school board must also deepen its understanding of – and responsiveness to– the needs of parents and teachers. Jessica’s strengths as a community organizer are tied to her strengths as a listener. As a board member she will be intentionally and fully present in our schools, re-shaping how the district attends to the voices and needs of each community. Further, she recognizes that, all too often, too many voices are marginalized, neglected, or mistreated. As a teacher, she grappled with the inequities that traumatize students and families; her community activism in the years since has tackled systemic inequality, for instance helping to build a collaboration between Hamline Elementary and Hamline University which improves all students’ experiences in classrooms while also comprehensively rethinking teaching and teacher training.
Jessica Kopp is herself an incredible asset for Saint Paul Schools – she knows how to empower stakeholders, to understand and work with what they tell her, and to help make sustainable change throughout a big, complicated system. I urge you to consider giving her one of your votes for School Board.

Sincerely,
Mike Reynolds

Look through lens of Climate Crisis

Dear Editor:
Early on in Mayor Carter’s 2020 Budget address he said the following about the Climate Crisis: “We must act to protect our environment and adapt to the impacts of climate crisis on our city.” Following that during the speech he noted several ways in which the city is attempting to address the climate crisis such as; increase in non-carbon transit options, cooperation with Minneapolis to install 70 electric vehicle charging stations, expanded bike lanes, etc. I for one support those ideas and give the Mayor credit for his leadership in those areas. That being said, I will admit some frustration with how the Mayor and/or the city are approaching this issue of the Climate Crisis. Similar to what our state, nation, world community and many individual people are doing, the issue is looked at as yet another priority to address. It is looked at as yet another issue to get in line for the funding stream. When the reality is that it is THE issue of our time, present and future.
If we looked at climate change as priority number one, I think the reality of its daunting nature and its solutions would be easier to see. We would see that our concerns about education, poverty, violence, immigration are all tied into this issue. We would also see that any and all decisions made about those other issues need to be made looking through the lens of the Climate Crisis. In looking through that new lens we would see that must stop looking at what can we afford to do but rather what we need to do. To compare this to other issues, let’s pretend we have a sick child. None of us would ask the doctor what can we afford to do, what is the most pragmatic, etc. We would ask what do we need to do regardless of cost.
So with that in mind, I want to thank the city of St. Paul for their leadership but also throw some specific challenges and/or questions their way. It has been estimated that Saint Paul has the solar capacity for 800 MW of energy, yet we are planning to develop only 300MW of that by 2050. Why? When we look at new building/new developments (ie the Ford site) we are still seeing the use of natural gas. Why? As the new green economy develops, our city, the nation and the world will need the workers to fill those green jobs. How are we as a city being a leader in giving our residents ( adult and youths) the skills to become those green workers? I will end with a quote shared by the Climate Justice Now movement. “We need everyone, everywhere doing everything all the time as quickly as possible.” Saint Paul nice job so far but you are on the clock and it’s time to keep moving.

Thomas Lucy

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Building a Stronger Midway: A tourist in your own town

Building a Stronger Midway: A tourist in your own town

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

I’m writing while my family visits my mother-in-law in Wyoming. It’s a wonderful place to visit, and very different to our lives in the Midway. We are interested in places and things the locals take for granted, like mountains, horses and wide open spaces.
But we should take a step back and be wowed and fascinated by the sights we see at home. Whether entertaining an out-of-town guest or just being a tourist in your own town, what are the places we take for granted?
Prior Works at 755 Prior Avenue is a wonderful place to take visitors or just yourself. Can Can Wonderland is not just an ordinary mini golf course as it’s also a fun, funky art exhibit with an old school arcade. In the same building you can throw some axes and play other lumberjack-style games at FlannelJax’s. If you haven’t thrown an axe at a large, wooden dart board, put in on your list of things to do soon. Even those who are unsure of trying have a great time. You can also start and end your day at the same spot at Prior Works- at the BlackStack Brewing space, which is now partnering with True Stone Coffee so it can be a coffee shop by day, and taproom by night.
Another new hot spot is on the cultural side- the new Bell Museum. Now on the Saint Paul campus, the museum offers a planetarium as well as natural history. You’ll learn more about Minnesota and about the far reaches of our galaxy.
If you want to show an out-of-town guest around, you can start your day at Groundswell where they can see some fun Minnesota-themed artwork, buy gifts about (or in the shape of) Minnesota and get the famous Minnesota cookie. Groundswell also partners with HWY North, and sells local artists ranging from jewelers, potters, authors, wood carvers and more.
Visitors will also be impressed with the local cuisine and all the cultures represented on or near the Green Line. We have taken guests to Bole so they can try Ethiopian food, and others to Vietnamese restaurants so they can try some of the best pho in the world.
The Minnesota State Fair may have just ended but the Fair has events throughout the year. Upcoming events in September include an antique show, a children’s consignment sale, a dog show, an Arabian horse show and many more – just in September alone.
Another jewel we take for granted is the State Capitol building. Considered by many as one of the most beautiful capitol buildings in the country (have you seen the North Dakota State Capitol?) tours are available to learn more about the history a self-guided tour wouldn’t tell you.
Next time you’re looking for something different to do, look around the neighborhood. Not only would you save travel time, you can help support your local businesses.

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Stop the presses! Make your neighborhood your brand

Stop the presses! Make your neighborhood your brand

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By DENIS WOULFE, Denis@MonitorSaintPaul.com or 651-917-4183

We were vacationing up along the North Shore last month and it was a great time of the year to see those iconic spots that make Minnesota the great state it is: the views at Gooseberry Falls, the crafts of Grand Marais, ships pulling into the Duluth harbor, the sea gulls serenading the tourists along Lake Superior, and the list goes on. The North Shore is like a picture postcard at every turn.
As we stopped in at various merchants in and around the North Shore, I was struck at how often the North Shore, a vacation destination that draws visitors from around the state and the country, still proudly promotes its own “Buy Local” campaign. Businesses religiously remind local residents that they need their support to be successful.
But that Buy Local state of mind is not unique to the North Shore. I think it goes without saying that many residents and business owners believe that their own neighborhood is the best place to live and work. I know that’s true of the Midway and Como neighborhoods. I think it’s also true that when given the opportunity, many residents want to do whatever they can to support their local merchants. They know the stability of their neighborhood and their city depends on the vitality of their business community.
That’s why when advertisers ask me what they should promote in their advertising, I usually tell them that in addition to their products and services, they also should promote the fact that they are longtime Midway and Como businesses that are devoted to the community and devoted to making their community the best place to live and the best place to do business. And I believe those businesses that partner with local schools and charities to “give back” through special promotions where a portion of the proceeds goes to the charity make a strong statement that they are committed to the community in which their business is located.
Now when Midway and Como business owners ask me about what the best options are for them to advertise in the Monitor, the answer can get a bit complicated. In addition to a run of press ad in the paper, we also offer clients inserts and online advertising. Sometimes a marketing plan might call for a mix of options that might include print, radio, TV, social media, and so forth.
And while there’s no doubt that a full page ad with color is bound to attract the attention of our readers, the story of advertising is much the story of the tortoise and the hare. While there is always that temptation of wanting to get to the finish line faster than anyone else, the magic of advertising is really about the long game. It’s about having a presence in your local media on a regular basis for the long haul. And when Monitor readers finally have the need to buy their next home or that pepperoni pizza for tonight’s dinner, and maybe can’t remember your name or your contact information, they will pick up a copy of the Monitor and see your ad.
But in addition to those fine products and services that businesses are offering, I hope businesses also know to convey their local ties and community investment when they advertise their wares. Certainly mammoth companies like McDonald’s, Apple, WalMart, or Heinz Ketchup will always be companies that capture market share in their respective industries, but there are times when being the local guy, the merchant down the street, can be an important selling point in the equation.
Make your neighborhood your business. And be sure to share that message in your advertising in the Monitor and in other media. It’s a message that your customers will appreciate and respond to. And to our loyal Monitor readers, don’t forget to support local businesses, and particularly, those businesses that make a statement by advertising in the Midway Como Monitor. They are asking for your business, reinforcing the fact that they are a community minded business, and need your support to thrive in our community. And we need those same advertisers to hear that from you.
As always, thanks to our loyal advertisers to making advertising in the Monitor a priority in their marketing plans. And thanks to our loyal readers who take the time to keep up on important community news in the Monitor and also take the time to support our advertisers with their pocketbook.

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Writing about environmental issues

Writing about environmental issues

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Margie O’Loughlin

Margie O’Loughlin

I’ve worked as a reporter for the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger and Midway Como Monitor since 2015. I came into the job with a fledgling interest in community activism, a 20+ year career as a photographer, and a life-long love affair with newspapers.
As the years have passed, one topic has grown in importance for me as a reporter. I’m grateful that our new owner/publisher, Tesha Christensen, has let me take ownership of a few pages in each issue of both papers – and dedicate them to environmental stories happening close to home. We’ve dubbed these pages RRR, which stands for Rebuild, Repair, and Recycle, and we hope they’ll keep you informed about ways your neighbors are taking action.
Minnesota is one of the more aggressive states nation-wide in its efforts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, and many other initiatives. In this time of growing concern over the climate crisis, we want our newspapers to be an intelligent, clear-thinking, and practical resource. Are you trying out a new idea or product in your home that you think our readers might want to hear about? Let us know!
I’ve gone on two public tours recently that have strengthened my commitment to writing about environmental issues: at Eureka Recycling in Northeast Minneapolis, and the Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center in Downtown Minneapolis. Seeing mountains of recyclable materials and waste in these facilities was convicting, to say the least. I stopped thinking in a theoretical way about the amount of waste my own small household produces, and vowed to make better choices for the environment. Both tours are open to the public, with a little advance planning, and are offered free of charge. Check out these websites to learn more or to sign up:
• www.eurekarecycling.org/tours
• www.hennepin.us/your-government/facilities/herc-tour-request-form
I just completed the Climate Reality Leadership Training held at the Minneapolis Convention Center Aug. 2-4, hosted by founder and former vice president Al Gore. There were 1,400 people in attendance from 32 countries around the world. Participants ranged in age from 13-86, and we’ve now joined the ranks of more than 20,000 trained Climate Reality leaders worldwide.
Within one year of completing the training, graduates are required to perform 10 acts of climate leadership. These acts can be anything from giving a formal presentation, to writing a blog post, to submitting a letter to the editor, to organizing a climate action campaign, to meeting with local community leaders.
My main act of leadership in 2019 will be working as an artist –in-residence at Eureka Recycling this fall. I’m offering a quilting workshop there on Nov. 2, and will create three wall hangings for Eureka’s education space – with the help of 15 community participants. The cost of admission to the workshop is one cotton garment that would otherwise be destined for the trash. We’ll talk about the growing problem of textiles in the waste stream, due to fast fashion (on the production side) and overconsumption (on the consumer side.)
This summer, my husband and I are trying to live plastic free, which has been eye-opening and, in some ways, kind of fun. I’ve discovered the best milk I’ve ever tasted, produced by Autumn Wood Farms of Forest Lake. It’s available in half gallon glass bottles at Oxendale’s Market in East Nokomis, and the Mississippi Market Co-op in St. Paul. My husband came home from PetCo in Highland Park last week, proudly carrying a re-fillable 30-pound plastic pail of cat litter. We’re learning about all kinds of new products, including tooth powder from the bulk bin at Tare Market (to avoid tooth paste packaged in non-recyclable tubes.) Who knew?
If there’s one thing I came away from the Climate Reality training with, it’s this. Dr. Jonathan Doyle, founder and CEO of the non-profit Project Drawdown, said, “We have to solve the climate crisis with our heads and with our hearts. But, especially, we have to solve it with our hands.” I believe there’s a way for every one of us to make a positive contribution to this movement, according to our circumstances.
I look forward to sharing what I learn along the way.

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Go ‘Around the World’ in the Midway

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Chad Kulas, Midway Chamber of Commerce

Before the Green Line opened in 2014, supporters of the transit line said it could take you “around the world in 11 miles”– a reference to the distance of the Green Line, spanning downtown Saint Paul to downtown Minneapolis by way of University Ave., and to the many different types of cuisine found along the way.
Have you ever noticed how many great restaurants we have in or close to the Midway? And how many different cultures are represented in the dishes at those restaurants? At the Midway Chamber, we hold an annual event where 15-20 restaurants give samples of a popular dish – a great way to try something new without much commitment.
Cuisine from different parts of the globe along University Ave. include Greek (The Best Steak House, The Naughty Greek), Ethiopian (Bole, Demera, Fasika), Mexican (Homi, Los Ocampo) and Italian (Caffe Biaggio). But the most common cuisines are represented by several Asian cultures – Cambodian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese are all represented. If you’re looking for a fun food-related contest, sample the pho from different Vietnamese restaurants and see which you like best. Or wontons. Or spring rolls.
A lot of the success of University Ave. (both restaurants and other companies) can be attributed to immigrants.
New American Economy, a bipartisan research and immigration advocacy organization, creates Map the Impact, an interactive map which helps explain data about immigrants from a federal level down to Congressional districts. In 2017, about 3.2 million immigrants owned a business, totaling about 20 percent of all business in the United States. According to a 2016 National Restaurant Association study, 29 percent of restaurant and hospitality businesses were owned by an immigrant compared to 14 percent of all businesses in the United States.
Map the Impact states 20,413 immigrant entrepreneurs reside in the metro area (2017 statistic). No doubt immigrants help the economy in our country, and the Midway is a shining example.
A few years ago I was living in Frogtown and made a New Year’s resolution to try a new restaurant in or near my neighborhood every month (this is the kind of food-related resolution more people should attempt!). Making this resolution means you are supporting the local economy and exposing yourself to new restaurants – and possibly new cultures and cuisines.
We are lucky to live in a neighborhood with so many unique food options – make a point soon to try at least one restaurant you haven’t been to yet!

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