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, or leave a message at 651-665-0068. I'll respond quickly.


Light Rail Arts & Culture | 6.14
Creating a healthy future for all children while closing the achievement gap | 5.14
Letter to the Editor - Immigration Reform | 4.14
Letter to the Editor | 2.14
Recipe for Winter Well Being | 12.13
Women of Influence | 11.13
Senators Must Pressure Nuclear Regulatory Commission | 8.13
Watch Out! | 6.13
The Serenity Prayer and You | 5.13
Neighbors Speak Out: What are Specifics of this Park | 3.13
Neighbors Speak Out: Our Park at the River Part 1 | 2.13
Pleasant Place Sign Design, Construction | 12.12
Great River Passage Master Plan Presented | 7.12
Neighborhood Visitors' Impression June 16 | 6.12
Fort Road Federation Annual Meeting
| 5.12
Metro-wide soccer fields or natural neighborhood park | 2.12
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

Light Rail Arts & Culture[IMAGE]

by Nicole DeGuzman

Starting June 14th, residents and tourists alike will enjoy increased access to travel between Minneapolis and St. Paul on the newly constructed light rail Green Line. Every segment of society — individuals, families, communities, and businesses — benefits from these innovations.

The Green Line will enhance personal opportunities by providing mobility and access to different regions and extending job locale opportunities. On average, every ten people using the bus or light rail means there are about nine fewer cars on our roads. That equals less traffic congestion, fewer carbon emissions, and safer communities. With gasoline prices holding steady at $3+ per gallon, the Green Line offers West End households the chance to save dollars and emissions. That’s change you can use to purchase art supplies and try outdoor art installation!

Another clean air booster is renting, owning, or borrowing a bicycle for your light rail commute. All Green Line trains are equipped with bicycle racks so you can bring your bike onboard. This makes for an easier trip getting to the light rail station. Also, consider taking a bus to the station by using the Metro Transit interactive trip planner (, or call 612-373-333) to find current bus schedules and routes. Stations closest to the West End include those in Downtown and Lowertown St. Paul: Robert Street, Tenth Street, Central and Union Depot Stations. Maps of station locations can be found at

During the initial years of construction, organizations such as Springboard for the Arts, Local Initiatives Support Cooperation Twin Cities, Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, have worked collaboratively through the Irrigate program to support the creation of art along the Green Line. To date, more than 600 artists have attended art-making workshops aimed at bringing communities together. Art opportunities continue today through Art on the Green Line, staging events every other weekend at stations along the line. Other organizations such as the Knight Foundation offer generous support funds for art programming in Central Corridor neighborhoods. Ramsey County Historical Society, located in the Landmark Center, will hold a juried exhibition entitled Green Line Revisited, where local artists use various media to commemorate the historic opening of our new light rail system.

According to Metropolitan Council Outreach Coordinator Dana Happel, the Green Line opening festivities offer a plethora of art activities unique to each station. Visitors will see examples of communities coming together to self-identify and creatively promote themselves. In addition to permanent station-specific art, there will be a variety of live events occurring all day during opening ceremonies on June 14, 2014.

Union Depot will be the St. Paul seat of celebration kick-offs for the 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. An outdoor performance stage will present events until 4 p.m. including the live broadcast of radio station The Current and additional programming such as Empowered Percussion drum circles, Ballet Minnesota, Studio Sendero Flamenco dancing, and the Indian Dance Center. From 4-6 p.m. live bands will perform on stage for closing ceremonies. Inside the depot, the Metro Transit commemorative poster contest winner will be unveiled. Lowertown offers six permanent arts organizations open all year and within close proximity to the light rail station. Visit the Metropolitan Council website for current programming at

Activities featured at other nearby stations — Western Avenue station, known as Little Mekong; Victoria Station, offering live music, dance, history and art exhibits, youth performances and the Rondo Days Grill King 2nd Annual BBQ; Raymond Avenue Station creative enterprise will host a live performance stage with programming from 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Nicole DeGuzman is an arts and culture reporter who has worked for more than 15 years in art, history, and science museums.

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Creating a healthy future for all children while closing the achievement gap

by State Senator Alice Johnson (District 37)

Recent academic studies confirm what most parents and educators have long known: healthy, happy and well-nourished children are more likely to attend school, stay attentive while there and do better academically. Now it’s time for Minnesota to set common-sense standards to support children’s health and set the stage for academic success.

It is well-documented that children who arrive at school each day hungry don’t do well, no matter how bright they may be. Recent media attention has spurred the Governor and the legislature to end a troubling practice of denying food to school kids who don’t have lunch money.

But even more can be done to improve nutrition in schools, and there are other health-related barriers putting many students at a disadvantage.

For example, one in five school-aged children has some sort of vision problem that impairs their classroom participation and academic growth. Failure to treat vision problems often leads these children into costly special education programs that are not designed to deal with vision problems that can affect reading.

This underscores a detrimental ripple effect of failing to recognize the link between health and learning: no matter how many tests we administer, how brilliant our teachers are, how many inventive accountability measures legislators pass, or how much funding we invest in education, school children will not be able to learn if they are impeded by factors such as poor nutrition and physical health.

With this in mind, I am joining forces this legislative session with educators, health care providers and parents to support the larger effort to close the achievement gap by combating nonacademic barriers to learning. Specifically, we will evaluate ways in which schools can provide more nutritious food, greater opportunities for physical activity, improved vision screening and new lessons that support lifelong healthy habits.

Our goals include launching a vision therapy pilot project to test the eyesight of second and third grade students to determine if they are one of 20 percent of all school children with vision problems significant enough to impair academic performance. Treating a student’s underlying medical condition, rather than misdiagnosing reading failures as a learning disability, will save scarce special education resources and — more importantly — immediately enhance the student’s ability to learn at school.

We are also aiming to overhaul school breakfast programs to encourage breakfast as part of the educational schedule for all students. This vitally important meal lifts so many barriers to learning and is proven to improve discipline, academic performance and attendance. By providing the relatively small amount of funding needed to guarantee that all schools can offer free breakfast to students, we will get so much more out of our other investments in education.

Additionally, implementation of the anti-bullying legislation currently under consideration by the legislature, will help ensure the safety and well-being of all students. Kids who are bullied in school face immeasurable roadblocks to thriving at school, as feelings of insecurity and alienation lead to poor attendance and diminished academic achievement. Students don’t learn when they don’t feel safe.
A coordinated, aggressive effort to remove these and other nonacademic barriers to learning should go beyond the measures mentioned above. Taking these steps and working with policy makers, teachers and school leaders to develop more ideas and new approaches to address educationally relevant health disparities is essential to closing Minnesota’s achievement gap.

If we believe in giving all children an equal opportunity to succeed in school, we have an obligation to ensure their nourishment, health and safety.

Sen. Johnson can be reached at 651-296-2556.

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Letters to Editor

Re: Immigration Reform: Hope for ALL Minnesotans

Immigration reform was nearly a reality last year. After the Senate passed a historic bill, advocates for change on both sides of the aisle predicted similar action in the House. Unfortunately, the government shutdown last fall damaged the momentum for this important issue. With the start of a new session, we can only hope our lawmakers will step up and show the type of true leadership the residents of Minnesota expect and finally address this critical and pressing issue.

Minnesota will benefit from immigration reform. Across the state, our illegal foreign-born population lives in the shadow, yet they contribute significantly to our economy year after year while being held back from fully participation and prosperity because of their residential status. In fact, in 2009, eight percent of the total economic output in the Twin Cities area alone was generated by undocumented immigrants.

Small business owners and our communities would benefit greatly from true immigration reform because as it would allow them to build a better workforce from this pool of talented and hardworking individuals. Providing an opportunity for undocumented workers to earn legal status will raise the wage floor of all workers and it will increase our state income tax revenue. Moreover, it will increase the contribution to Social Security, which will go a long way toward protecting ALL of Minnesota’s future retirees.

Immigration reform is not just about a positive economic impact for the state, it is about families. It’s about proud, hard-working, church-going people who want what all want, to achieve the American Dream so they too can provide a better life and future for their family and generations to come.

Long overdue, it is time for Congress to once and for all lead the way toward true and lasting immigration reform. Though a national issue, immigration reform has real implications for all Minnesotans and addressing this important reform benefits each and every one of us.

Cynthia Schanno, Spring Street

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Letter to the Editor:

I am wondering why the Community Reporter does not have a section for crime. The Highland paper does report on it and it seems to be going up in this area. Of real concern are the violent crimes such as rape and assault. I would think the folks in this area would want and need to be informed, especially if there is a pattern and it is on the rise. I believe there have been some shootings and or knife related crimes. I wonder what others are thinking and hope you publish this. When neighbors are informed and keep the police in the loop it really helps keep things more peaceful.

Deb O'Neill
West End
[Editor’s Note: District Council 2 Police Reports are available at from St. Paul Police. See]

Recipe for Winter Well Being [IMAGE]

by Paula Coyne, MA
Psychologist at United Family Medicine

As these words are typed, the first snowflakes of the season are falling. Our daylight hours are shorter, and the dark nights grow longer. The holidays will be rolling around soon, and winter weather will most likely be with us until April.

Now is the time to boost self-care for stress reduction, health and happiness.

Feeling well doesn’t just happen to us. A sense of well-being can be cooked up however, just as you would follow a recipe. It begins with setting intentions to care for the self in particular ways.

Many of us are more active physically in the summer and fall, and this diminishes as cold weather sets in. Make a plan that will work for you to keep the body moving and active in the wintertime. Make a plan with a friend or relative to exercise together. Find your own preferred ways to stay active, and if you get off track, just begin again.

Appreciation, Gratitude: Research tells us that people are happier and handle stressors better when they find things to appreciate and be grateful for everyday. My 94-year-old mother is a good example of this. If you met her, you would hear her cite things she appreciates in her life; looking out the window and watching the squirrels, sitting out in the sunshine, hearing the rain, having a visit or call from a relative or friend, eating a meal. She has stressors — chronic pain, she can no longer drive, and she has had losses like anyone else. But she chooses to find the little things she can appreciate, and this makes her happier. And a delight to be around!

Practice compassion and loving kindness toward yourself: Notice the nature of your own thoughts. It is said that we think about 50,000 of them a day. How many are self-critical, are worries, regrets, complaints or “shoulds”? What we feel is in large part due to how we think. So be intentional about releasing the negative self-talk, and instead welcome in some loving-kindness toward yourself. Using “positive self-talk” is a very powerful way to improve your mood and to reduce stress. Open your heart to yourself; you deserve it. And as you practice inside yourself, you will find your kindness and patience with others growing, as well.
Your Breath, Your Body, and the Half Smile: Can you change your brain chemistry and mood just by changing the way you breathe? By smiling? You sure can! Try it out right now: Sit in a relaxed upright posture. Inhale deeply through your nose as you lift your shoulders up toward your ears, and exhale through your nose as you settle your shoulders down. Repeat a few times until you feel your shoulders relaxing. Gently turn your head to the right as you inhale, and then all the way to the left as you exhale. Then slowly return to center as you inhale.

Notice any muscle tension you feel anywhere in your body, and let it go as you exhale. Gradually slow down and deepen your breath, breathing in an equal cycle of about 4-5 seconds with the inhale, and the same amount of time with the exhale. Slowly notice every part of your body, from the bottoms of your feet all the way to the top of your head.

Now, let your facial muscles relax, and create a little space between your upper and lower jaw. With your lips softly closed, lift up the edges of your mouth into a subtle “half smile” like the Mona Lisa. Notice how your mood bumps up a little, bringing in more of that feeling of wellbeing. Smile right into your very own heart, as though you are smiling at a beloved infant in your arms.
Practice this for a few minutes a day, maybe in the morning and again at night. Then see during the day if you can let go of muscle tension, and get that breath rhythm going again. Release with the out breath, and nourish yourself with calm as you breathe in. You’ll feel a little better every time you practice. This, too, is a great way to relax yourself to sleep. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

The Basics: Do your best to eat three healthy meals a day, and drink water. People who skip breakfast tend to have more physical, mental health and weight issues. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol and other drugs. If you smoke, consider seeing your doctor about a plan to quit. Get enough rest, but don’t languish in bed too long. Get yourself in to see your doctor if you have healthcare issues that need attention. Commit to following through.

Keep it Simple: As we head into the holidays, make a simple plan that will work for YOU. Don’t force yourself to overdo, and try not to compare your current situation with what it was in the past, or what you think it should be. Find simple ways to be playful and bring healthy fun in your life.

Feel the Love: Being of service is a great way to improve your self-esteem and take your focus off the holiday blues or commercialism. Local agencies like Dorothy Day, Salvation Army, the hospitals and others are always looking for those who can lend a hand. Connecting with others in this way helps to meet your own social needs, too.

So begin now. Create your own simple recipe for stress reduction, wellness and happiness. Let the sun shine, and make this the best winter ever.

Paula Coyne, MA, is a Registered Yoga Teacher and Psychologist at United Family Medicine. Check out her River Garden Yoga Center Donation class, Tuesdays 8:30-9:30 a.m.

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Women of Influence
Essay by Deborah McWatters Padgett

[Editor’s Note: With so much currently coming to light about feminism retreating, while it remains such an important global issue as well, Deb Padgett feels the need to speak out. We encourage comments via letters to the editor, which would be published next month.]

This morning I watched a commentator on CBS Sunday Morning make the point that it’s about time we see some women’s images on the face of United States currency. As I watched and listened, she listed maybe fifteen or twenty women she considered representative of the women we might see depicted. The story made me think about the women of influence in my own life and, further, who are the women of influence in the lives of my daughters and my daughters’ daughters.

Some of my peers have suggested that our daughters are unaware of the hard-won freedoms of their mothers and their mother’s mothers. I’ve wondered if that’s not the case even in my own family.

When I was a young woman I relied on the presence in my life of contemporary women like Germaine Greer, Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. Sesame Street and Free to Be You and Me helped me show my daughters there would be no second-class citizenship forced upon them. In our household we did not hold with gender-specific toys, colors or clothing. We often read aloud the story Baby X with the idea that boys and girls required an open door to becoming whatever and whoever they had it in them to be.

In my 20s and 30s women’s support groups were available to a whole range of women in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. We met in each other’s homes. Some were Black, Asian, Hispanic, White, Lesbian, married, single, mothers, educated, employed, public-assisted, divorced, religious, atheists, anti-war, members of the military… We were a broad (Seriously, no pun intended!) and inclusive group. My association with these women led to my awareness of the women who came before me. Women like Anaïs Nin, Adrienne Rich, Virginia Woolf, Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Harriet Tubman, Zora Neale Hurston and May Sarton became my role models.

I was a single parent with a poverty level income when I started to attend the University in 1974. I received minimal child-support from my baby’s dad, and I babysat and worked part-time painting apartment interiors to support my child and myself. At that time there was a Women’s Studies option on campus as well as a Women’s Help Center. Courses taught on campus received scrutiny by those in charge to be certain the offerings were inclusive ⎯ not lauding one gender over and above the other. Through the Women’s Help Center I gained access to affordable housing, food stamps, health care, childcare and financial aid and was able to enroll in these egalitarian course offerings. My studies opened my eyes, changed my life and broadened and deepened what I am able to bring to my world.

I came of age during a time when girls were not allowed to wear shorts or even slacks to school or to work; during a time when women could be refused a job because they were married, engaged or pregnant. I came of age during a time when a woman could be hired within a given company for the exact job as a man and with the exact qualifications of a man and not receive equal pay or benefits. Women did not have equal access to jobs, education, housing or healthcare. The way up for a woman was to attach herself to a man and hope he would have the wherewithal to provide for her and the children she might desire or feel forced to produce as a validation of her worth and value to society. The church dictated women remain silent in the face of a man’s authority over home, church and community.

Though I raised my children in a home where I was head of household, primary bread-winner, a woman with a formal education and a career, I don’t know how much awareness they have of the sheer grit and stamina it took to become that woman in my generation. They are aware that they have a range of choices now but I don’t think they know how hard won were these choices. What I witnessed during the 1990s was a backlash that created a new invisibility for women. I am saddened and discouraged by the re-emergence and re-embrace of stories like “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast” and the whole range of Princess and Barbie inundation that has been the prominent environment my granddaughters have experienced.

These images of womanhood along with a media emphasis on girls and adolescents as sex kittens are designed to appeal to little girls. We tolerate and accept these portrayals of girls and women at our peril. These projected images of girls and women are not innocent. They have the potential to lull our children into being daddy’s little princess, hubby’s arm-ornament and the myth that it is a good thing to be a man’s pampered possession. A woman who cannot take care of herself independent of a man is enslaved. She is weakened by this dependence and she is in danger should that man fail or refuse to be depended upon.

If you are a woman or are raising a woman-child, I urge you to think beyond your own household to the world into which your child will grow. Are their models pop-stars, celebrities and Disney characters? Are their female models corporate executives, teachers, professors, soldiers, pilots, builders, clergy, physicians, lawyers, mechanics, diplomats and government leaders? Do your daughters aspire to lead and to set policy toward justice?

Beyond teaching our daughters and granddaughters to attract the prince who will take them to “happily ever after” let’s teach them the history of the women of the world. Let’s steer them toward the life that can be theirs through laying claim to education, independence, self-sufficiency and leadership. Let’s urge them toward fully realizing their strengths as contributors to family, society and the larger world. Who will our daughters and granddaughters say inspires them to claim their right to equality and to succeed in their potential to be second to no man?

Deborah Padgett is a writer, painter, mother and grandmother who lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Neighbors speak out

[Editor’s Note: At the October 29 meeting of the Victoria Park Advisory Committee it was expected a final plan would be presented. A “final meeting” has been announced for December 3.]


We want the multiuse playing field at Victoria Park without artificial turf. As part of the Victoria Park Advisory process, City Parks staff has proposed that the multiuse field on the north side of the park include artificial turf instead of grass. The example of the Jimmy Lee complex (Lexington at I 94) has been offered.

We want a neighborhood park with a multiuse, natural grass playing field at Victoria Park. The proposed artificial turf is not appropriate, nor is any future chain link fencing or high standard field lighting.

We believe artificial turf is inconsistent with our vision of a neighborhood park, and inconsistent with the City’s vision of more natural and more connected parkland at the river. This City vision is described in the Great River Passage Master Plan and adopted recently into the City’s comprehensive plan.

We offer the following supporting comments:
  1. Artificial turf on one playing field is the first step toward a soccer complex that has been strongly opposed by the neighborhood and the Victoria Park Advisory.
  2. The large dollar expense of artificial turf will inevitably lead to fences, such as the 8 to 15 foot fences at Jimmy Lee indicate, and gates to control access, and high standard lighting that is inconsistent with the needs of birds of the Mississippi Flyway and imposes light pollution for immediate neighbors.
  3. A multiuse field desired by the Advisory Committee will become a specific-use field, because artificial turf does not accommodate a variety of uses. In the case of Jimmy Lee, which is painted with field striping like a Christmas tree, the field has provided for only three soccer, two football and two softball fields with permanent striping. Supporters of the sport of hurling have already turned away from the artificial turf field and are looking at the large open areas in the south natural area, which are not intended to be playing fields. They have realized the artificial turf won’t work for them.
  4. Staff has not defined the intensity of use of the fields and related that to parking needs to protect the neighborhood from overflow parking.
  5. Near-neighbors would be adversely affected by any future field lighting that is needed to extend hours of use to justify the expense of artificial turf.
  6. The expense of artificial turf will adversely affect park implementation by diverting funds away from the basic traditional park amenities.
  7. Artificial turf is not consistent with the more natural goal set for parks connected to the river. We should not cover the land with a blanket of impervious artificial turf! We should allow rainwater to fall to the earth and naturally reach the river.
  8. Our position is supported by the West Seventh/Fort Road Federation (resolution 2012 Annual Meeting and reaffirmed by board on October 14, 2013) and the Victoria Park Neighborhood Association (resolution of October 19, 2013).
[Signatories on request.]
[Editor’s Note: What is your opinion? Write a letter to the editor!]

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Senators must pressure Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Dear Editor:

The Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants, both less than 50 miles away from the St. Paul-Minneapolis metropolitan area, are among the 46 U.S. nuclear reactors not in compliance with fire protection regulations first enacted into law in 1980.

Since 1995, more than 150 fires have occurred at nuclear power plants in the United States. In September 2011, Xcel Energy came under fire when a blockage was discovered in the fire protection sprinkler system at the Monticello plant.

Nuclear operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have had more than three decades to get it right, but instead, the NRC has continually granted time extensions without considering the great risks that noncompliance poses to public safety.
Our Senators must pressure the NRC and its recently reconfirmed chairwoman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, to enforce these vital fire safety regulations in order to ensure that the public is adequately protected from the risks that a fire at a nuclear plant poses.

Please take this opportunity to contact your senators and advocate for the enforcement of vital fire safety regulations by the NRC and nuclear plant operators near our communities.

Geoffrey Saign
Geoffrey C. Saign ( is a St. Paul author.

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Watch Out!

by Bob and Opal Kuehn

Now wait a minute before you judge us as really stupid. On May 17 a fellow came to our door and said “Our company black-topped your driveway last year, and it’s time to seal it.” (I know now that you wait two or three years.)

We did have our driveway done last year, by an A+ rated Better Business Bureau member. They did a great job.

The fellow said that his dad told him to only charge us for the sealant and not the labor. Well, I should have known that was strange.

So about three trucks were here back and forth all day, and between rain showers they did look busy. We later found out they should not have done any work in the rain.

At the end of the day the fellow came in and told us there was a hole in our foundation and they fixed that too. The total bill was $8,640. Now I had called a friend for advice. The fellow talked to my friend, who thought he was telling the truth, and then said he would reduce the price to $7,000. We still think we are dealing with an A+ company.

I wrote the check! But I had to redo it three times as I kept getting the date wrong, so the bank was closed by then, so no way for him to cash it. What luck! By now, though, I was afraid I made a huge mistake. The invoice, which I had not looked at carefully before, looked phony to me, so I called the police and told them the whole story.

On Saturday morning my bank called when the fellow appeared to cash the check. They delayed him, and then refused to cash the check, while also calling the police. While they never caught up with the fellow and his crew, we escaped by a narrow margin losing $7,000. Thank you to the St. Paul Police Department and Bank Cherokee on Randolph Avenue, and to Deborah O’Connor of the Pioneer Press Watchdog service.

You know, we have never done business with people coming to the door telling us our chimney is ready to fall; a tree should be cut down; our siding is damaged and needs repair. Why we fell for this one I’ll never know.

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The Serenity Prayer and You  [IMAGE]

by Gina L.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is the Serenity Prayer in its short form.

This beautiful prayer is believed to have been written by Reinhold Niebuhr (an American theologian and ethicist). It is prayer for everyone. It has a particular usage by Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1942, a member of AA brought this prayer to the attention of the groups. These AA members were amazed at the profound simplicity in describing the AA philosophy so succinctly. It has become a fundamental part of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step Programs and is read at most meetings.

The Serenity Prayer is available to all who are in need. I first learned this prayer ten years ago when I hit bottom and reached out to the fellowship of AA. I was introduced to this wonderfully healing prayer at my first AA meeting, and have benefited each time I have used this simple tool to get through many hard times on my road in recovery, including awaiting a court date on a DWI charge. This prayer transformed a truly terrifying episode in my life to one that was manageable, and granted me the serenity I needed to accept five days in jail.

“Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today…” is written in one of the stories many people in AA know so well. I spent most of my life trying to arrange people, places and things to make them the way I wanted them to be. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. First of all, not anyone I tried to change actually wanted to change and, second of all, I was not the best arbiter of how people and things should be! It was an immense feeling of relief to take this weight of the world off my shoulders.

“Courage to change the things I can” teaches me faith. The faith that comes from learning through hardships. Most of the time the change I can make is a change within myself, and that usually takes a ton of courage.

“And the Wisdom to know the difference” is the natural outcome of following sound principles of the AA program or simply the “Golden Rule,” doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, to the best of my ability in all my daily decisions.

The Serenity Prayer will work for anyone who is willing to follow its plan and have the faith that it will help. To me there are two parts to the Serenity Prayer. The first is having the strength to ask, and the second is having the humility to listen for the answer.
There has not been a situation in my life that has not been improved after I have asked for help with this prayer, and it can work for you as well. Please don’t think that one has to be a member of the fellowship of AA to use this prayer.

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Neighbors Speak Out: What are Specifics of this Park?

Our Park at the River: Part II [IMAGE]

Last month we wrote of an overall vision for our park (with an appropriate new name) at the river. This is informed by many discussions over time, but is my interpretation and not that of the Advisory or any other body. I am guided by the principles of the Great River Passage to which it is connected, indicating the park should be “More Natural, More Urban and More Connected” to the river through improvement of existing connections.

With two large park sections, bisected by a railroad bed, I will call the land to the northwest the northern part, a more active urban community park. The land to the southeast and toward the river will be the southern part that is a passive but still significantly used, more natural river park.

The bisecting railbed may have significant implications for the future. Short term it will see continued rail use, but if abandoned for lack of users, the future might include light rail or a connecting trail to the Ford site and that river bluff. This possibility should be factored into the park layout such that a light rail station location is available and park trails can be easily integrated.

The Great River Passage plan, if successful, will reintegrate the river into the daily life of the city after years of separation by roads, rail, and bluff. Near neighbors will have a long-needed neighborhood style park in this part of the city. As parks usually are, this one should be for the young and the active. It also should be for everyone including the very young the not so active and able. In other words, a park for all ages and stages.

Mississippi Market serving all ages and healthy life styles, Nova Classical Academy, a K-12 charter school, the Sholom East Campus with residential and health services for seniors and the neighborhood home owners and renters all represent constituencies from these ages and stages the park should serve. I would look to their interests as key factors in park program implementation.

Recent indications have strengthened my belief that the northern part of the park has the space needed to serve all the needs of a more urban neighborhood park. First, the contours of existing rain garden areas can be reconfigured into a dry creek bed or water effect leading to the new wetlands. Second, the temporary access road to the sewer manhole in the middle of the playing field area can be relocated. Third, the Nova land to the northeast of their building and playground near Adrian Street could be integrated into shared park program use on both sides of Nova Way, and, fourth, eventually some of the pollution cleanup facility could go away. All these factors increase the usable space in the northern part, which is large by comparison to most neighborhood parks in the city.

These indications and the table work at the most recent Advisory Charrette add up to my conclusion that space is available for a large multipurpose open athletic field that can accommodate the athletic needs the Advisory envisions and Nova Academy has wished for, but is not large enough for the regional soccer complex the neighborhood opposes.

The northern part could include traditional park elements for children and youth and school, including facilities for active uses such as basketball, volleyball, softball, horseshoes, sandboxes, swings, splash pool and tot activities. Structures needed would be park-type shelters, restrooms, and support/storage space, all nonhabitable as required by the settlement with Exxon Mobil. A small amphitheater could be considered for programming/gatherings adjacent to the open grassy athletic area. Areas should be landscaped with native plants and shade trees, especially at benches and trails for casual users.

GPS supported smart phone interpretive stations should be implemented. Bird watching should be supported, especially at the wetland and fringe natural areas. A boardwalk into the wetland area should be considered. All-season use should be supported with trails kept open year round.

Space for community gardening and bread ovens should be found that meets the requirements of Parks. This may be appropriate in the northern or the southern section of the park.

Parking should be provided for both the northern and southern parts to support park users, such that neighborhood streets are not expected to carry the cars of users who do not walk or bike to the park. Appropriately marked park entry points from transit, streets and trails at the northwest off Adrian and southeast off Stewart are needed.

The thread of history that winds its way along the river from Ft. Snelling through downtown to Mounds Park and the east side passes right through our park at the river. It is a history found in the events of native and immigrant lives as well as the natural history of the river valley.

This thread creates a string of pearls that should be interpreted and understood in the context of the Mississippi River, those that lived here and the Great River Passage (GRP).

The northern and southern park areas are pearls in the landscape that can be developed with the sustainable practices of SITES as outlined in the GRP. Those good design practices extend through what is a sort of portal that exists under the railbed, as the internal connecting link from the northern to the southern part of the park— a link from the urban to the natural.

The city can have a great park that serves the needs of the neighborhood and the larger vision of the Great River Passage. Next month we will look at the More Natural river bluff part of the park and how our park at the river will be More Connected to the river.

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Neighbors Speak Out
Our Park at the River: Part I

by Kent Petterson
In recent years it has been called Victoria Park. I’m not sure why except that it is at the end of Victoria Street (sort of) as you approach the river bluff. The name has never really done much for me and I would like to see it changed. Changing the name and lots of other ideas have been raised at the Victoria Park Advisory organized by Parks & Recreation (P&R). The Advisory was established to find out what the citizens and local neighbors in St. Paul would wish for this new park.

Over the last couple of years, we have been talking about opposing views of P&R’s vision of a soccer complex at the park. To stimulate more discussion, I would like to offer one person’s conception of what that park could become for the neighborhood and as an integral part of the Great River Passage (GRP). The GRP comprises the seventeen miles of the Mississippi River valley passing through St. Paul and designated as a national park from Andover to Hastings. Our park is at the bluff on the river, west of Otto Ave.

I think a new and better name for our park could help to define what the park could become. Since history is such an important part of the local community and the people, it might be appropriate to look back to the early immigrant settlement and use a version of Fort Road Park, Trail Park, or look even earlier for a Native American term. Since the park is physically connected to the river by two links under Shepard Road, perhaps a modern reference to a new Great River Passage Park or just Passage Park. Either way the idea of trail or passage will link the park to area history and/or the river. I’m sure there may be other ideas, but the important point is to describe something of the park in the name.

I would look to the river and the aspirations of the proposed GRP of “More Natural, More Urban, More Connected” for ideas that can follow through at this new park. The fact is the critical areas of the river, the valley and the bluff, which is part of a national park, must be protected as natural areas for the future. The overlook must be preserved for visual connection; the links connecting under barriers such as Shepard Road must be improved. Barriers to river connections must be mitigated or eliminated for the very young, elderly and handicapped as well as the active and athletic.

This park should be a park for all users, not a special purpose Soccer Complex, or a park dominated by athletic interests of the young. Those interests can and should be served in this park, and this service should move away from the more than 50 years of abuse of the land toward a park that connects with the river and serves all users. From the very young to the very old, local residents to visitors from near and far, active users and passive users. This should be a park that embodies the principles of GRP and is implemented in ways that are sustainable and based on good design principles.

Next month: Part II: So exactly what are the specifics of this park?

Victoria Park Advisory Delves Deeper

by Kent Petterson

For those participating and following closely in the Victoria Park (VP) Advisory it was a time for important discussions at the third public meeting on Dec. 4 at Mississippi Market. The committee spent time completing the groundwork started in the previous meeting. The Mission Statement received attention and significant time was spent revising goals and objectives and program elements for the park.

Events outside of the Advisory process proved as consequential as within.

The designated 40 acres for Victoria Park is abutted at its southeast boundary by a seven-acre bluff property at the corner of Otto Ave. and Shepard Rd. Owned by the City, the property had been designated for development for many years as a part of the Victoria Park (Housing) Master Plan. This property was approved for sale on Nov. 28 by the City Council, sitting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), to Wally Johnson and Stonebridge Development. Attached to the land sale will be a conditional easement that remains to be written, to describe interests the City has in specific uses of the land at the bluff that relate to the programming at Victoria Park.

The sale occurred after and despite the recommendation not to proceed by the Fort Road Federation Board at its meeting on Nov. 12. After hearing of the scope of the new proposed development and land sale from Martin Schieckel of HRA and Wally Johnson of Stonebridge, and from neighbors with significant concerns about a high rise on the site, about parking, and about the unfinished Victoria Park Advisory process, the Federation Board voted to remove the parcel from the Victoria Park Master Plan (last revised in 2011).

The VP Advisory members, after hearing details of the HRA land sale and after back and forth discussion about whether it was appropriate for the Advisory to weigh in on the easement, seemed to reach resolution with further clarifying comments from Martin Schieckel of HRA. Those comments echoed his explanation before the Federation indicating that the City will write the terms of the land easement, and he felt that it was within the scope of the VP Advisory to provide community input on park-related functions that might be included in the adjoining easement.

Some of the park functions mentioned for the easement area include access and signage from Otto; bluff and overlook protections; trail connections to the Sam Morgan Regional Trail; seamless connecting access of park and bluff area for park users; benches, picnic tables, bread ovens; and a funicular incline down the bluff with related support and parking needs. All of these elements could be designed in a sympathetic way with the park proper.

Elizabeth McMann, Advisory member representing Mississippi Market, suggested the Victoria Park design follow as closely as possible the sustainable landscape recommendations contained in SITES, The Sustainable Sites Initiative.

McMann commented that SITES are principles of land design similar to LEED principles for sustainable building design that were incorporated in the Co-op building on West Seventh. (SITES are benchmarks for sustainable landscape design proposed as nationwide standards in 2009 by the American Society of Landscape Architects and are contained in the proposed Master Plan for the Great River Passage.) It is believed that SITES sustainable design principles could enhance chances for future funding.

Local historian Gary Brueggemann offered a presentation on the historical significance of the Victoria Park site, including comments that the original Fort Road from Fort Snelling to Pigs Eye Parrant’s Fountain Cave and on to the Upper Landing downtown, passed through the site; early pioneers J. D. and Mary Williams farmed and offered boat ferry service across to what is now the Lilydale area (circa 1850-1866); Martin Delaney had a stockyard (1880s); The Jacob Lauer limestone quarry existed on the site (1890s-1916); all prior to the site becoming the large fuel tank site that was strategic for World War II security.

Don Ganje, Parks Landscape Architect, noted that the City’s 2013 Legislative Agenda for Capitol Improvements included a request to fund a regional soccer complex in St. Paul. He noted the request did not have a site location included, and that the Victoria Park site was not anticipated to be a possible site for the soccer complex should funds be obtained. Some Advisory members are skeptical since another viable site has not been identified.

Alice Messer, Parks Landscape Architect and their lead on the Advisory, guided the group through several items of site analysis including historical aerial photos, roadway, bicycle and pedestrian movement around the park, land use/zoning, critical area regulations, the Exxon Mobil Oil site agreement, views into and out of the park, and migratory flyway of birds along the river.
On that last point, John Yust offered that it was important to include the guidance of the Dark Skies Initiative and glass in buildings that does not confuse migrating birds.

All meetings of the Advisory are open to the public. Input is requested, especially from concerned neighbors who are not on the advisory panel. The next meeting of the Advisory will be January 22, 2013, 6-8 p.m. Location is not certain, but most likely at Nova Academy. That meeting will attempt to fit onto site plans all of the programming options under consideration for the park. Current information and meeting information can be found at the city website for the Victoria Park Advisory

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Pleasant Place Sign Design, Construction [IMAGE]

The West 7th Business Association is once again beginning the Winter Clothing Drive for Joseph’s Coat. Requested donations include new or handmade or gently used items for adults and children, including winter jackets, hats, mittens, gloves and scarves. The campaign will run until the end of January.

Donation Sites
• Shamrocks Irish Nook: 995 West Seventh
• Coopers Foods: 2481 West Seventh
• Fresh Grounds: 1362 West Seventh
• Bank Cherokee: 675 West Seventh
• Drake Bank: 60 East Plato Blvd.

Joseph’s Coat is located at 1107 West Seventh. It provides essential goods and services free of charge to those in need in the St. Paul Community.

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Letters to Editor

National Night Out

I was wondering why the West 7th Community Center or the Community Reporter did not notify the community they were not having an event for National Night Out.

If there was some notice and support I am that sure plenty of neighbors/blocks might have considered hosting their own. I believe that is really what it should be but the Community Center has done it for years and it is more than a little surprising that some sort of notification was not done. Out in the suburbs of Ramsey County the Sheriff’s Dept. is really involved and the various block clubs notify the Sheriff and a squad/deputy will visit the party. They also collect school supplies. I am aware that the National Organization charges some ridiculous fee to use the name and that is why it is call Nite to Unite out in the burbs so they can skip the fee. I am not really sorry the circus was canceled as I live within throwing distance of the Community Center but I cannot understand why they or this paper did not notify the rest of us and suggest the blocks do potlucks, etc. This would have surely qualified as community news would it not? I think one idea might be for every two blocks or so do potlucks next year and then we can really get to know those around us.
Deb O’Neill

Nova Classical Academy
I had an uncomfortable feeling as I read the article on the new Nova Classical Academy. I am one of many who believe that this is a great school and am happy to welcome it to our neighborhood. However, it is a great injustice to all that more “neighborhood” children are not able to attend. I for one was quite surprised when I saw that capacity for the school is 914 and it now has 840 students. I also know that there is a waiting list. It is understandable that they planned on a building that could accommodate growth, but at what cost to the kids who need it now?

I have always been a huge advocate of education in this area, but it is getting harder and harder to get a good education here. At this time St Francis/St James is slowly losing enrollment due to no transportation (which makes attending almost a daily impossibility and hardship) and rising costs, and Monroe could not possibly fill the needs for all the students in the area. Many families are going out of the area to look for a better education for their kids, and I witness this first hand. How is this area going to sustain a good foundation when their neighborhood is not the focus of their lives. We are giving a great education to children who are taking it back to their homes and we need to do the same for here.

The West End has produced many, many great leaders in the past, but now many seem to have just come into the area for business purposes and are not really raising their families here. What does that say about growth? Nova says it plans to offer community activities and make the community a major focus. Is that what we really need? This area actually has so much to offer now with the community center, playgrounds, library, cultural arts, community ed programs and much more. Do we need to be appeased with a “variety of activities” or do we need more children educated?
Name withheld

Information from Nova Executive Director, Brian Bloomfield

I’m happy to clarify the process. Charter schools enroll students by Minnesota Statute; there is no flexibility to the process. We set an enrollment deadline and all on-time, complete applications for a grade are collected. If there are more spots than applications, all students are enrolled; if there are more applications than spots, a lottery is held. Nova creates randomized lottery numbers by computer generation. Charter schools are permitted to give preferential admission status to two types of children: children of enrolled siblings and children of staff of the school. Those pools are kept separate and given their own lottery. So the order of offers goes as follows: (1) all siblings of enrolled students (in lotteried order), then (2) all children of current staff (in lotteried order), then (3) all on time applicants (in lotteried order), then (4) any late applicants (in the order they were received after the enrollment deadline).

Charter schools are legally not permitted to give preferential status based on geography (such as West Seventh). I have expressed to the Fort Road Federation my willingness to sit with Senator Pappas and discuss possible changes to the Minnesota statute, which would allow that to change, but for now it would be illegal to do so.

I understand your reader’s frustration. I empathize. Any resident of Minnesota can put in a free application to get into Nova’s enrollment pool.

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EDITORIAL: Great River Passage Master Plan Presented

by Jerry Rothstein

St. Paul Parks and Recreation staff have received and analyzed community responses to the Great River Passage (GRP) Master Plan, and have prepared a ten-page summary of how they are addressing issues and specific or general answers to public comments (Appendix A), but we have not seen the actual final text or any of the revised drawings. The release of the revised plan is said to be around the end of July.

Nevertheless, a specific proposal was made to the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Commission at its June 20 meeting to approve the existing version and to request that the Planning Commission and City Council adopt the entire Great River Passage Master Plan as official City policy to guide public and private investment within the Great River Passage, and plan implementation and administration of the program.

The Commission voted unanimously to approve the proposal. This action was taken in spite of considerable difficulty expressed in the public comments with Chapter Seven — Implementation, now renamed “Delivering the Vision.”

In previous Community Reporter coverage, Kent Petterson, a member of the GRP Advisory Committee, has raised a number of significant questions about the intentions behind and the specific details of this chapter. With the current summary in hand, we can make some further comments about this central chapter.

In general, Chapter Seven offers guidance to the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department in its role as manager of the GRP. This includes a summary of possible acquisitions (by purchase, intergovernmental agreement, public-public and public-private partnerships and others) that could help bring about expansion of the GRP to support its long-term goals.

In even more detail, the chapter addresses the management and funding requirements required to “deliver the vision.” The three pillars of implementation are identified as (1) establishing consolidated operating budgets; (2) shaping necessary organizational resources; and (3) developing a leadership mechanism for capital and legislative delivery of the plan.

The authors see the St. Paul riverfront as our “next frontier.” The plan will take decades to complete in full, and “these systems establish the working framework for shepherding the plan through multiple budgetary cycles, administrations, and changes in leadership.”

Unfortunately, the section on budgeting (p. 176) fails to clarify the different categories of parkland and projected financial requirements clearly, so it is impossible to know how the figure of $9 million per year is derived.

In another part of the budgeting discussion, a very compressed description of possible real estate developments, and discussion of monetizing aspects of the GRP, makes it hard to see the wisdom of adopting Chapter Seven as City policy without a significant amount of further study, reasoning and exploring the implications of such proposals for the City as a whole. The goal of “Maximizing the potential of the park for earned income” — through programming and concessions (for example, “Leveraging Harriet Island as a destination event venue; developing Watergate Marina; establishing a more robust program for private event permits; developing a paid parking system for larger events”) may be necessary, but should not be approved in isolation from a broader look at Parks and Recreation and other City departments’ needs and plans.

The most difficult aspect of Chapter Seven is its call for an organizational model built around “One person, overseeing an organizational structure, who can be accountable for the entire Great River Passage system, including stewardship of lands owned by the City, and the coordination of comparable stewardship for lands owned by third parties.”

An effort is made to draw an analogy to the present way that Parks and Recreation operates Como Park, as a separate division with specifically dedicated staff, separately tracked budgets, and additional revenue sources “Developed and maintained within the park, including revenues related to Como’s attractions and philanthropy developed through conservancy structure.”

It is interesting to realize that Como Regional Park benefits from the work of the Como Regional Park Advisory Committee, whose role is to advise the Parks and Recreation Commission by facilitating community input regarding issues affecting the park, and forwarding recommendations regarding the park to the Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration.

Another entity, the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy, enhances and expands parks and recreation opportunities throughout St. Paul. It is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization that supports St. Paul Parks and Recreation goals of promoting active life styles, vibrant places, and a vital environment. Working in partnership with other community organizations, the Conservancy secures private financial support for projects throughout the community.

These are two examples of supportive structures working within the general context of Parks and Recreation’s mission, vision and strategic plan.

The GRP Master Plan calls for the Mayor to convene a Great River Passage Action Committee, “A body charged with coordinating the implementation of this Plan in collaboration with the Great River Passage Division of the Parks and Recreation Department, with representation from all affected government agencies, as well as the preferred not-for-profit partner of Great River Passage, and major St. Paul corporate citizens and philanthropic interests.”

This description, combined with the notion of a major Division of Parks and Recreation that begins to sound as if the tail may end up wagging the dog, is enhanced further with the final idea: “The Great River Passage Action Committee will be convened by the Mayor, with its inaugural members establishing bylaws that insure it can function effectively for decades to come.”

In the context of a summary that has moved from the original visionary intentions of the GRP work, which emerged through a serious public consultation process and has the chance to attract massive support and advocacy, to what looks like a direct action plan for St. Paul’s share of the Mississippi River, Chapter Seven sits as a major overreaching at this stage of the process.
City Council needs to rein this in as soon as the Master Plan comes before it. It is our elected officials who must determine lines of authority and responsibility for staff. Not the other way around.

Please take the time to examine the Master Plan at and send your comments to

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United Family Medicine to Expand Access to Community Health Services [IMAGE]

United Family Medicine has been named one of three new health care access points for patients in Minnesota under the Affordable Care Act, through the awarding of $650,000 federal grant that will allow it to expand primary care access for individuals in the community.

United Family Medicine was among 219 new grantees from the $128 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“This grant will not only allow us to expand access to uninsured, underinsured, and underserved children, families, adults, and elders in our community, it will provide the needed support to begin much needed dental services on site,” said Jeanne Bailey, PhD, chief executive officer of United Family Medicine.

In 2011, United Family Medicine served 14,552 unique patients with more than 50,000 visits. An independent, 501(c) (3) nonprofit, the full service health clinic treats patients and families ranging from the east side of St. Paul to south of the Mississippi River in the west side and immediate suburbs. United Family Medicine operates two sites in the West End of St. Paul, including the Peter J. King Family Health Center at 1026 West Seventh and a satellite clinic located at Sibley Plaza, 2423 West Seventh.
The federal award marks another significant milestone for the clinic, which has seen its services and physical presence grow significantly in the past ten years. In 2004, with now Mayor Chris Coleman as its first board chair, United Family Medicine — then known as United Family Practice Health Center — became an independent, federally qualified health center look-alike (FQHC-LA) community clinic, which opened the clinic to new opportunities and growth. In 2006, the clinic embarked on a capital campaign that resulted in the new Peter J. King Family Health Center, which opened in 2009 on the corner of Randolph Avenue and West Seventh, part of a renaissance in the neighborhood that also includes new housing and shopping and the new St. Paul Fire Department headquarters.

The new health center was a giant step for the clinic whose roots go back more than 75 years to the Wilder Dispensary and the Miller Hospital free clinic, the site of the current Minnesota History Center.

Since 1993, United Family Medicine has also served as the primary ambulatory training site for the United Family Medicine Residency Program. Sponsored by United Hospital, the community-oriented primary care focus of the program offers medical residents quality experiences and provides much needed primary care physicians who go on to serve in the broader community and across Minnesota.

“Our mission is to serve and to teach. Every day we have the privilege to improve the health of community residents who experience significant barriers to accessing health care. Having a health care home that provides access to care no matter what your life circumstance is what health care should be about,” said Dr. Tim Rumsey, MD, provider physician and faculty for the residency program.

As an FQHC, United Family Medicine’s mission will remain to enhance the primary care services in underserved urban communities and reduce the patient load on area hospital emergency rooms. Once it launches its dental practice, United Family Medicine will improve primary care for patients by mitigating health issues that can begin with poor oral health.
United Family Medicine has also served the community for decades through its willingness to be involved in many programs, activities, committees and processes organized by the community with the goal of development and improvement of local resources.

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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

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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, 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 To make a contribution visit the following link:

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, 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, 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

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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