Becoming a Community of Reporters

We encourage readers to become more involved on the creative side of things.
Some ways you can contribute are:
  • Become a Correspondent — for your neighborhood, or something special like theater, music, books, sports or a special hobby.
  • Become a reporter: Helping us to be present at various community meetings and events and taking notes and photographs can help to improve our range of coverage.
  • Write the Editor a letter.
  • Write a longer piece on a topic that concerns you: Neighbors Speak Out.
  • Ask questions: the West End Healthline, Dear Deb, Views from the Garden and our new columnists. They all welcome questions and responses.
  • Contribute story ideas: We cover a wide range of interesting areas in the neighborhood. Your story ideas are always welcome.
Discuss the possibilities at editor@communityreporter.org, or leave a message at 651-665-0068. I'll respond quickly.

NEWS | EDITORIAL


Fort Road Federation Annual Meeting
| 5.12
Metro-wide soccer fields or natural neighborhood park | 2.11
18 reasons why lighted, artificial soccer fields are bad idea | 2.12
Make it a Park for All | 2.12
What's Happening with Homeless Assistance in Ramsey County: Part II
| 12.11
Responsibility lies soley in local leaders
| 12.11
Reflections on the life of a dog | 12.11
Thoughts about the Community | 10.11
Letter to the Editor
| 8.11
Neighbors Speak Out: Dear Design Team & City Constituents
| 7.11
Neighbors Speak Out: Cossetta's Waiver Challenged
| 6.11


 
The Fort Road Federation Annual Meeting
was held on April 12. Information: 651-298-5599 or fortroadfederation.org.
The next meeting is on May 14 at 974 West Seventh.

2012-2013 Fort Road Federation Board of Directors

President: Tonya Johnson-Nicholie
1st Vice President: Patrick McGuiness
2nd Vice President: Will Wilson
Secretary: Erik Hare
Treasurer: David Bredemus
Area 1 Coordinators: Marit Brock, Walt Wietzke
Area 2 Coordinators: Joanna Craighead, Denise Wickiser
Area 3 Coordinators: Leonard Schwartz, David Wietecki

Resolution in Support of Development of Victoria Park as a Neighborhood Park

[Editor’s Note: Board member Patrick McGuiness brought this motion to the floor. There was discussion that resulted in several amendments that are incorporated here, addressing the range of park programming and accessibility for all.]

Whereas: Victoria Park presents a unique park development opportunity for the residents of St. Paul and the residents of the West End;

Whereas: The City of St. Paul has expressed support for the concept of tournament style soccer fields being developed at Victoria Park;

Whereas: Tournaments would bring hundreds of people and vehicles to the park all at once and there is insufficient parking to accommodate tournaments at Victoria Park;

Whereas: Synthetic turf soccer fields would restrict the general public and neighborhood residents’ use of Victoria Park and present environmental concerns;

Whereas: Victoria Park’s location near the Mississippi River makes environmental considerations extremely important when considering development opportunities;

Therefore, be it resolved: That the Fort Road Federation/District 9 Council supports development of Victoria Park as a traditional neighborhood park with access open to the public.

Be it further resolved: That the Fort Road Federation/District 9 Council urges the City of St. Paul to explore environmentally sound solutions for development of Victoria Park for use by the general public as a neighborhood park serving a range of activities for all ages and abilities.

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Letters to the Editor

Editor:
I'm not sure if this is the right forum, but I wanted to say “Hats off to Eureka Recycling.” I live in the Bay/James neighborhood, and today was a very windy day. Some of the folks put out their cans and paper in grocery bags instead of the blue box, and the result was recycling blowing all down the street. The young guy from Eureka took the time to chase down and pick up most of the stray cans and paper, something he didn't have to do. Way to go Eureka. Sometimes when you do something good, you get caught!

Linda S., West End


Editor:
I would like to comment on the Fort Road Community garden space. How does one acquire the space? Are there any guidelines for use of the space? It seems to me it is an extremely unlovely corner now. It really is. I cannot think of another neighborhood that this would not be considered an eyesore except for some parts of the east side. At the very least the plots should be behind fencing that either matches and/or hides all the “fun” items like rusty bed parts. I would also appreciate some hard local news to be covered in the Community Reporter such as the recent robbery of the West 7th Pharmacy. Our local paper should be a place that gives the community a heads up on crime or other problems. It would also benefit us if the Fort Road Federation gave updates to the Highland Villager newspaper like all the other district councils in the area do. Why do they not? One more thought: I would also vote “no” on more than one soccer field in Victoria Park or there will be many problems similar to the ones at Como, i.e. excessive crowds/parking etc. Anyone else have an opinion?

Deb O'Neill, West End

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Metro-wide soccer fields or natural neighborhood park? Why should we care?


by Will Wilson
Board Member of the Fort Road Federation

The formerly polluted petroleum storage site on the bluff between West Seventh and Otto is on the verge of becoming our very own Victoria Park. Once a toxic eyesore, we are on the cusp of rehabilitating this beautiful river-bluff property into a park that can reconnect our neighborhood to the Mississippi River, and to our history.

However, as the deadline draws near for finalizing plans for Victoria Park, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has turned a tin ear to the West Seventh neighborhood. Despite numerous objections by neighbors, despite numerous resolutions by the Fort Road Federation, the design consultants are adamant that a new park must include no fewer than four fenced-in, locked, paved, Astroturf soccer fields, right along the bluff. The Federation even passed a resolution against these proposed soccer fields at our annual meeting, with dozens of neighbors voting in unison.

The reason for the Park’s Department’s position is plain — they see soccer as a revenue source. Tournament soccer draws in buses from all over the metro, and every time a tournament is played, the city gets its fee. But if neighborhood kids would want to play soccer on these fields, they would either have to pay the city fee, or scale the fences.

The neighborhood’s alternative vision for the park would create a natural, community space where neighbors — and visitors — can connect with the Mississippi River via the broad vistas from the bluff, or via multiple pathways from the bluff to the river itself.
If you would like to voice your opinion about the future of Victoria Park, please contact the Fort Road Federation, at 974 West Seventh St., call 651-298-5599, or e-mail fortroadfed@fortroadfederation.org.

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Eighteen reasons why lighted, artificial soccer fields are a bad idea for Victoria Park
  • They do not make a “community park.”
  • They are not the best use of prime bluff top.
  • They are not “more natural.”
  • They will increase traffic.
  • Residents need a “commons” area in which to relax.
  • Soccer is meant to be played on grass. In fact, it’s a rule in most leagues.
  • Artificial turf is made from petroleum products.
  • Artificial turf is not maintenance-free.
  • Artificial turf holds dirt, bacteria, germs, and other nasties.
  • Artificial turf disrupts watersheds.
  • Artificial turf ages and degrades due to UV exposure and thermal cycling.
  • Artificial turf gets hot. On a 94° day, the turf temperature can be 165°.
  • Artificial turf is believed to increase the likelihood of injury.
  • The people should decide how to use public land.
  • Lights are likely to disrupt the patterns of migratory birds on the Upper Mississippi Flyway.
  • Lights will be a nuisance to neighbors.
  • There are other places in town for fields (Port Authority land, Ford plant, 3M site, e.g.)
  • A single, unlit, natural grass field is all the neighborhood needs.
Andrew M. Hine, West End

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Make it a Park for All

A few words to you re: Victoria Park. “Make it a park for the families, elderly and ALL to find a little Green Space with real grass (no artificial grass) where kids can romp, have picnics and do all the things we did as kids. Life is going too fast. We all need a place to de-stress and SLOW DOWN.

Joanna Craighead, West End

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What’s Happening with Homeless Assistance in Ramsey County: Part II

by Deborah M. Padgett

This being a month appropriate to tidings of great joy I’m pleased to report the response to need for emergency shelter for our homeless population has been very, very good. When I last wrote we were anticipating a County Board Workshop on issues related to homelessness, housing assistance and homeless prevention. At that workshop, on November 1, participants were shown two video presentations highlighting the faces of homelessness, the existing continuum of response and care, issues of shelter and prevention and the high need for increased resources and attention to these issues.

As a result of that workshop and tours offered by the Homeless Advisory Board as well as fund raising events such as “Give to the Max” day through GiveMN.org, it appears that Ramsey County will be able to meet the need for increased emergency shelter this winter.

At our November 17 Homeless Advisory Board meeting, Carol Zierman of Heading Home Ramsey (and true point person, spokesperson and basic communicator extraordinaire) spoke with enthusiasm about the responses that improved the availability of emergency shelter for this winter. She emphasized, though, the primary importance of focusing on housing assistance and homeless prevention over and above emergency shelter. The real key to reducing the need for emergency shelter, she made clear, is to make it possible for people to sustain residency thus avoiding the need for shelter in the first place.

While it is important to provide for those in need, there’s also a concern about the concept of “if we build it, they will come” resulting in lots of people being sheltered but “what then?” How does a sheltered individual or family move beyond the emergency situation into a renewed sense of independence and sustainable residency?

As I mentioned in my last update, Ramsey County, its suburbs and St. Paul bring to bear numerous resources and offer positive assistance through one hundred or more agencies and organizations. The collaborative efforts of faith based, community based, charitable, nonprofit and government entities have created a response and care system appropriate to all levels of need. The greatest need right now is to provide easy and clear access for individuals and families to the appropriate level of assistance. What is lacking and what we are working hard to make happen is a comprehensive intake and tracking system. Over the next months (and it will probably take years to get this solidly in place and in full effect) a major focus of the agencies will be to create a first line of response system to accommodate people who call for help. Too often with the current system, no one knows whom to call or when to call or where to go as a first step to getting help.

An ideal situation would be a fully functioning, 24/7 call center with trained staff knowing how to direct each caller based on their expressed need. Right now we do have the United Way’s First Call for Help (211 from any land line) and this can be helpful to some. Family, single and youth phone contact numbers are provided below. While the current system is far less than perfect and while we seek to make it better, we encourage those in need to use the resources currently available and not to stop until they find someone to help them.

Our efforts to create a successful model for housing assistance are ongoing. Funding, resources and volunteers are always needed.
To gain a graphic understanding of what it means to be without a home, and how great the current need is for housing assistance, view the video “Without A Home: Where I Stay” created by Heading Home Ramsey and the Homeless Advisory Board of St. Paul and Ramsey County, at youtube.com/watch?v=tSDvX_OYK6k&feature=share. To make a contribution visit the following link: givemn.razoo.com/giving_catalog?st=mn.

For assistance: Families call: 651-215-2262. Youth call: 651-224-9644. Single Adults call: 651-647-2555.

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Responsibility lies soley in local leaders

Dear Editor,

The city council elections are over. I came in second place as I did four years ago. This year, as I did in 2007, I sent a letter of congratulations to the winner and offered my assistance and insight to help make Ward Two a better place. I have not received a reply to either note.

I care about this city, my hometown. For eighteen years I have maintained my downtown gallery. Most of my illustrations and paintings are of St. Paul. I am thankful to wake up each morning and do what I love to do, promote St. Paul.

During my three-month campaign I visited every street and corner of this big, beautiful ward — from downtown to Ayd Mill Road and West Seventh and 35E all the way over to Concord and Annapolis. I visited 50 residential buildings, over 750 stories, twice. All that work for 2,064 votes.

While campaigning, the great majority of people I met expressed dissatisfaction with current leadership and thought St. Paul is not where it could be. However, more than 80% of the eligible population stayed home on Election Day. A recent e-mail to me from a well known resident and businessman here remarked, “There is massive disinterest in the direction of this city.” One might say there is mass disinterest in voting. For me, voting is an obligation I have to this city, state and nation. The countless rights we have today were given to us by past courageous leaders in the region and nation.

Responsibility for raising the public’s interest in St. Paul’s future lies solely with local leaders. It is leadership’s responsibility for gaining the trust back from the majority that their opinions matter and that through their votes, for or against them, are so important to keeping our society strong.

I believe St. Paul’s leadership and a core group of people behind them like things as they are, at least outwardly. It would be so helpful to this city and everyone’s quality of life here if the smoke and mirrors, exaggerations and even misinformation could be just put away. This also entails putting away egos and surrounding themselves with “no” people as well as “yes” people. We need more passion here!

Term Limits for politicians are our best option for ensuring that passion and trust become optimal in this ward and fair city. Term Limits of two four-year terms, means the mindset of future leaders will be different. Arrive with a plan for improvement and get it in place in eight years otherwise you’re outta here.

I enjoyed visiting with many, many people this past election season. Will I give it another go in 2015? Perhaps, but for 2013 I do promise St. Paul will be voting on Term Limits for our elected officials. Perhaps that issue will increase Election Day turnout.

Bill Hosko, Ward Two candidate

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Reflections on the Life of a Dog

by Jo Heinz

My dog Duchess, an Australian Cattle Dog, died just recently. She had been a part of our family for more than ten years. Duchess was eleven months old and had delivered her first litter at the time when my daughter, Holly rescued her from a shelter twelve years ago. She was a difficult dog to place because of her boundless energy and separation anxiety. We could not leave her alone—without her venting her displeasure on whatever she was standing on at the time.

She supposedly was used as “pit bull bait” where other dogs were put with her for a fight, and she fought to survive. The fact that she was excellent with small children attracted her to Holly, despite her shortcomings. My husband and I enjoyed her keen intelligence and her need for up to three long walks every day.

This past spring she began having “attacks” which lasted several minutes but became greater in strength and frequency toward the end. This fall, a neighbor was concerned about her suffering and suggested that maybe “it was her time.” She had been seen by many vets over the years, but now with modern diagnostic technology and lawsuits pet medicine has metastasized into “people medicine” with its emphasis on saving lives rather than cost or practicality. Even just making our dog comfortable in her old age was impossible.

Who hasn’t heard stories about pets that “let you know that it’s their time to depart this life”? And what about Duchess? She didn’t say a word. After all she was used to fighting. And winning all the time. She would survive a spell. And afterwards, get up and walk as if nothing had happened. She was actively running after a squirrel that crossed her path the morning before she died. I felt so guilty because I didn’t see the final fight she just couldn’t endure. And she could not see that pain and suffering were not a normal way of life for her. She just embraced all of life the way she experienced it. And did it her way.

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Thoughts about the Community | 10.11

Talking Trash with Your Neighbors

Are you fed up with a parade of garbage trucks rumbling up and down your alley? Did you know that St. Paulites have organized over 100 alleys all across our fair city? They have consolidated the number of trash haulers per alley--sometimes to just one truck per alley. It makes perfect sense: less pollution, less noise, less wear and tear on your alley, and a safer pedestrian environment. And if you switch to a mom and pop hauler, you’ll keep more of your money in our local community. Contact me and I’ll mail you an organizing packet and help you get started.


Help change the world, one block at a time, by talking trash to your neighbors.
Todd Kolod, Summit Hill, toddkolod@gmail.com or 651-230-9589

Dave Thune

With the election just around the corner, I just want to be sure that everyone knows how important Dave Thune has been to the West End.

    
The Little Bohemia neighborhood has come a long way in the last few years because neighbors came together and organized. Dave has been there the whole time to encourage us and support us when we needed help.


From help with code enforcement to tremendous hours put into getting Invest St Paul to help buy properties before they got into the hands of slumlords, Dave has always been just a phone call away.

Without his prompt attention to little things and dogged determination to see us through the bureaucracy Dave has been critical to the great success we have had turning the neighborhood around.

Dave Thune is my #1 choice for city council because he has been there when we needed him the most. Thanks, Dave!
Marit Brock
 
This letter is to support Dave Thune’s reelection to the St. Paul City Council. I moved into the West 7th Neighborhood in 1975 and have lived here since then. I met Dave in the late 1970s when he was heavily involved with the Neighborhood Federation, eventually serving as President. Among other issues, he was deeply engaged in the fight to keep Monroe as a school in the West Seventh Area. Dave was and continues to be an activist involved in city, ward and neighborhood issues.

As a city councilman, Dave has constantly applied his knowledge of government and community activism to tough issues. He has critical problem solving and analytical skills that are vital to determining which issues can be solved quickly without involving the bureaucracy. A recent illustration of this was his action in assisting Thurston Street residents. They needed relief from the construction dirt and debris being deposited on their houses from trucks hauling fill down their street. Upon learning of the situation, Dave took quick action by paying a visit to the contractor and obtaining an agreement to route the trucks around the neighborhood instead of through it; a change of two blocks in the route that brought immediate relief to the homeowners. The problem was identified and solved the same day.

Dave’s ability to juggle multiple short and long range demands for scarce resources is invaluable. His long list of accomplishments as an unpaid community activist and as an elected official demonstrates the reasons we need to keep Dave in the City Council. Please vote for him as your first choice.
Pat Tupper, 1076 Pleasant Avenue

The apple cart in the U.S. has been upset (e.g., politics, industry, corporations, schools, unions, financials). The one constant for Ward 2, District 9 is our council person, Dave Thune, has continued to bring dollars and projects to us. In a time of uncertainty and stagnation, Ward 2 is a better place today than it was 4 years ago. While I’m not a terribly political person, I can appreciate results. The results are the reason why I am voting for Dave Thune.
Sincerely, Dave Wickiser

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Focus Beyond Transition Services Comes to West Seventh

by Lisa Carrigan, Team Lead

Focus Beyond Transition Services recently became one program and moved into the Four Seasons Elementary building at 340 Colborne. Prior to the move, Focus Beyond was provided in various locations throughout the city of St. Paul. The new program now includes former Bridge View School’s students ages 18-21, Transition to Independence, Transition Plus and STEPS.

Community Based Program for Social Development is also part of Focus Beyond and is newly housed at 1780 West Seventh.

Focus Beyond Transition Services is a special education program that works with young adults ages 18-21 who have unmet special education needs. The program offers both on-site seminars and opportunities in the community, where students learn skills in the area of employment, post-secondary training and independent living. The goal of the program is to increase independence at an individual level, so that the young adults we work with are active members of their community. Focus Beyond has an enrollment of about 235 students, with licensed special education teachers and related services staff, paraprofessionals, and work experience coordinators. The program also has strong partnerships with community employers and service agencies.

The new program is off to a fantastic start! Staff and students are all very excited about the new location, program and ability to share resources while working together more closely. We look forward to being good neighbors in the West Seventh community.

We encourage readers to become more involved on the creative side of things. Discuss the possibilities at editor@communityreporter.org, or leave a message at 651-665-0068. I’ll respond quickly.

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Letter to the Editor

Ten years ago, Governor Ventura pushed for a tax cut because Minnesota had a budget surplus. I received a refund of $400 and bought a new lawnmower. That was the last we heard about state surpluses and we have been cutting school budgets, health care and our infrastructure ever since. While I liked my new lawnmower I now regret the tax cuts and plan to return the lawnmower to the State Legislature. Maybe they could sell it at a garage sale to help with the budget deficit.

If the Legislature can’t use the lawnmower, I’m asking them to rescind the tax cuts I’ve received over the years.
Rob Ramer, St. Paul

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Neighbors Speak Out: Dear Design Team & City Constituents

Editor’s Note: Members of the West End Advisory Committee have made major contributions to the Great River Park design process. As the Master Plan was made public in June, the group provided a summary of its central ideas about the process and the plan.

photo: Kent Petterson speaks with NPR’s Rupa Shenoy at the GRP Master Plan meeting. credit: Lou “The Photo Guy” Michaels

Dear Design Team and interested city constituents:

We would like to commend the Wenk Associates led design team, and all those who have participated, for their work in the Great River Park Master Plan effort unveiled on June 16. We are heartened by the great plan that we have observed developing over these past months. There is so much that is good for the City and for the West Seventh neighborhood. Much that is good has happened in our neighborhood over recent years, and the GRP Master Plan should be a plan that extends that trend to the river’s edge for many years to come. We think it can do this but it has one glaring negative exception that could be a deal breaker in our neighborhood.

Our local Advisory Committee members have repeatedly expressed opposition to a plan endorsing a suggested soccer complex of four fields and high standard sports lighting and all the implied traffic for the park and neighborhood disruption. The concept remains in the plan unchanged, even though the District 9 Fort Road Federation neighborhood has officially taken a position in opposition to a sports complex soccer field use at Victoria Community Park.

Please note the following that may not have been considered:
  • We do not believe that the sports complex and all the other plans for Victoria Park fit in the space available.
  • It is too early to highlight, we think impose, such a specific use for Victoria Park.
  • A sports-lighted complex on the edge of the river valley does not respect the stated goal for the plan of “more natural.” Light pollution, noise pollution, visual blight, and choice between soccer balls in the valley or a tall screen fence to prevent it come to mind.
  • Proposed housing adjacent to the site and the existing Sholom Home elderly and hospice residents are not respected with this use.
  • The promised overlook at Victoria Park is not currently in the plan. Why?
  • The fact that “promised” money is available is not a good reason to include a controversial park use in the plan.
  • The District 9 Fort Road Federation has sent a letter to the City Council requesting the question of specific uses of Victoria Park be studied in a comprehensive way.
  • We believe that approval of the GRP Master Plan is not a given. It is our opinion that the City Council will not approve the plan with these soccer fields described as they are for Victoria Park.
  • We believe that a strongly supported plan at the city level will have a much better chance of approval by the Metropolitan Council. Key parts of the plan, such as the change of character for Shepard Road to a parkway, will likely have opposition that must be strongly resisted, as the plan is supported by all in St. Paul and all that love the river and what this plan represents.
We request removal of all illustrations and specific references to four lighted soccer fields at Victoria Park in the GRP Master Plan. Please do not include this controversial proposal at this stage of the plan.

Thanks, West End GRP Advisory Committee Members: Kent Petterson, John Ulven, Andrew Hine, John Yust, Betty Moran, Tonya Nicholie-Johnson. Additional Signatories: City Council Member Dave Thune, Board of Directors, District 9 Fort Road Federation, Nadja Berneche, Edie Meissner, Deb Padgett, Jo Craighead, Jerry Rothstein and Diane Gerth.

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Cossetta's Waiver Challenged
| 6.11

Four years ago a coalition of faith, community, and labor organizations of this great city won a campaign to pass the Living Wage Ordinance of St. Paul. This ordinance says that any company receiving a large amount of public money should pay their workers a “living wage,” defined very simply, as paying a worker enough to meet basic needs. It was a concept made popular in the early 1900s by Father John A Ryan, alumnus of The University of St. Thomas and world-renowned scholar of economic justice. Today in our city, a living wage would be $11.82 per hour with decent health care benefits, or $13.98 per hour without.

Some of us depend on an hourly wage job to support our families, and all of us depend on hourly wage workers to help us get through our day. We don’t always see the people who are washing our dishes, cooking our food, stocking the shelves, and cleaning the bathrooms, but we certainly reap the benefits of their hard work.

Unfortunately, these same people have recently been sent a very clear message from six of our seven City Council members. “You are not all that important. We waive your right to a living wage.” All members but Ward 4’s Russ Stark voted to give Cossetta’s restaurant a $1.7 million forgivable loan while also exempting the business from the Living Wage Ordinance.

There are many reasons why this decision does not make sense, not the least of which is that citizens of our city value each other as human beings and want dignified wages for our neighbors. Of course, if you need financial motivation, then how about the fact that it actually harms St. Paul’s economy to give a business free money and then to have to support its workers with public assistance when they can’t provide basic needs to their families?

This is not a sustainable business model for our city’s subsidy monies. We should be strategic about the money that we are investing. Giving subsidies to businesses that pay a living wage means that the local economy is boosted by both the success of the business and by the lifting-up of the St. Paul residents who work there.

I am deeply disappointed in the decision of the City Council. St. Paul is currently suffering school and recreation center closings, record foreclosures, and rising debt. It is time that our City Council members commit to attaching standards to the public resources we give to for-profit businesses so that we are all working together to solve the critical problems of our city.

The living wage was the right idea in the early 1900s when Father Ryan campaigned to make it national law, it was the right thing to do in 2007 when St. Paul passed the Living Wage Ordinance, and it is the right thing to do today. We cannot just waive economic justice aside because of our selfish love of great mostaccioli and artisan breads.

Martha Skold
West End Resident, St. Paul

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Reflections on the Housing, Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Vote on Cossetta's Expansion
| 6.11

Editor’s Note: Thune is the Ward 2 City Council member and Chair of the HRA. The original St. Paul Living Wage Ordinance can be found at stpaul.gov/DocumentView.aspx?DID=5191.

by Dave Thune

Cossetta’s, a restaurant operating at Upper Landing and West Seventh Street for 100 years, will more than double in size with the help of city financing. This project is valuable for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that currently over 70% of Cossetta’s employees live in St. Paul and West St. Paul and are part of our community. Cossetta’s exceeds most common industry standards in its rate of pay and benefits (providing health care benefits, vacation and 401(k) contributions). The HRA vote did not exempt them from the Living Wage Ordinance (LWO). It provided a waiver based on Dave Cossetta’s testimony and commitment to pay the mandated wages to 75% of his full-time workforce.

At the Council hearing, Cossetta committed to continue all benefits and increase all his workers’ salaries by 3%. Now, 81% of full-time jobs will earn a living wage. Once construction is completed, 75-100 new employees will be hired — 75% of them at LWO wages.

Some have contended that the waivers are a loophole that “one could drive a truck through.” However, there have only been three waivers granted in 14 years. We have successfully avoided funding mini-malls and fast food restaurants that pay minimum wage. As the author of the Living Wage Ordinance, I am quite familiar with its provisions. We always anticipated that the hospitality industry might need waivers, so this option was included from the very beginning. Even without waivers, not every compliant business pays 100% of its employees a living wage. That is because the ordinance says that all recipients of city financing must pay their employees a living wage OR be unionized. There are part-time employees in both union groceries and union restaurants who do not earn living wages, but their employers would meet the requirements of the living wage law simply by virtue of being unionized.

The City’s financing for Cossetta’s is $2 million of a total $10.5 million project, so the City’s investment will be more than quadrupled by a private investment of $8.5 million:

• $1.17 million is a grant that is called a forgivable loan made possible by the state legislature consolidating money left over from other Tax Incentive Fund (TIF) districts around the city.
• $437,000 is a market rate loan that must be repaid, at whatever our standard lending rate is, but with a three-year delay. The three-year delay is very common to allow for completion of construction and time to get a new venture running at full tilt.
• $388,000 will be issued as a new TIF district, which must be paid back through real estate taxes.

This project develops Cossetta’s into a regional destination, which will be a benefit to the city by attracting “new” money. Visit St. Paul, our convention and visitors bureau, cites Cossetta’s as a regional draw with the expansion already touted as an enticement for convention planners. From an economic viewpoint, “new” money is always better than a project that simply circulates existing money through the economy.

We also considered our funding source. The 2010 State Legislature passed an economic stimulus package intended to invest in shovel-ready projects to create construction jobs by July 2011. During construction, 200-250 union construction workers will be employed. McGough, the union construction contractor hired for this job, estimates the contract will require 50,000 worker hours of labor (25 full-time equivalent jobs) at more than living wage.

I feel strongly that in addition to highly paid employees in high tech industries, St. Paul residents need well-paid blue collar job opportunities. When the Living Wage Ordinance was first adopted, we had numerous competing real estate deals. Now we are recovering from a deep recession and high unemployment.

I am a strong union supporter. I would support a union in any St. Paul restaurant. However, I also know that Cossetta’s current wages compare very favorably to union shop wages. The pay and benefit structure rivals that of any restaurant in the Twin Cities. It would be difficult to find a restaurant that has more good will among its neighbors.

Cossetta’s expansion will be a regional draw bringing precious new dollars into St. Paul, will be a beautiful amenity for West 7th Street residents, will leverage four times its value in private investment, and will provide 75 new jobs to West Enders who have been unemployed for far too long in our jobless recovery. It’s all good for Ward 2.

Minimum vs Living Wage
Minnesota’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This is the same as the Federal minimum wage. Small employers (enterprise with annual receipts of less than $625,000) can pay a minimum wage of only $5.25. The idea of a living wage refers to the minimum hourly wage necessary for an individual to meet basic needs, including housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation. St. Paul’s Living Wage Ordinance, originally passed in 1997 and revised in 2007, defines a living wage as 130 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four ($13.97 for 2011) or 110 percent ($11.82 for 2011) if the employer provides basic health insurance.



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