Great River Master Plan Public Meeting February 13

The Fort Road Federation/District Council 9 encourages neighbors of West Seventh to gather for a presentation of the Parks and Recreation’s master plan for the Great River Passage. This is a city-wide plan for the development of the parks, roads and possible private redevelopment in and along our Mississippi River corridor. Right now the project is open for public comments individually or through the District Councils.

Monday, February 13 at 7 p.m. at the Federation Offices, 974 West Seventh. Call the Federation for details at 651-298-5599.
PDF documents can be downloaded for free from the web site greatriverpassage.org and click on the Updates tab. Comments on the plan can be emailed to ParksCustomerService@ci.stpaul.mn.us until the first weeks of March.

West End neighbors are also encouraged to attend the Highland District Council meeting on February 2, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hillcrest Recreation Center, 1978 Ford Parkway. Don Ganje of St. Paul Parks and Recreation will be presenting the GRP plan and taking questions from the Council and attendees.

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Neighbors Speak Out: Opportunity of a Lifetime [IMAGE]

by Kent Petterson

We need community input to develop a clear vision of Victoria Park as a new type of natural community. Underscore Community and Natural Park. A bird sanctuary and oak savanna, south of the dividing railroad tracks, that welcomes families, welcomes seniors, welcomes children, welcomes those with strollers, those in wheelchairs, those who want to view the great Mississippi River Valley, to see the birds using the Great River Park flyway undisturbed by high mast lighting, the roar of soccer tournaments, the pollution of runoff from artificial turf, and the congestion of traffic. In addition, if it is determined that putting the environmental learning center in the flood plain at Watergate Marina won’t work, a scaled-down version would work just fine on the bluff in the area south of the tracks, with guided nature trails for use by students in our schools and seniors at Sholom.

(Pictured) A graphic presentation of Victoria Park after the completion of soil remediation but without any predetermined
development concepts. To envision the best use of this parkland is a responsibility of West End and City
citizens and institutions.  Kent Petterson urges everyone to get involved.


December 15 was a wake-up call for me, as I finally got a chance to see the long awaited Great River Passage (GRP) Master Plan that had been in the works since August 2010. I have offered periodic, even-handed reports in the Community Reporter, on the progress of the planning process led by Wenk and Associates of Denver. We now have studied the plan, numbering hundreds of pages, quite carefully as it relates to the West End. I hope other neighborhoods are doing the same in their sections of the river.

I, as a member of the citizen advisory committee representing the West Seventh Enhancement Coalition, along with Tonja Nicholie-Johnson representing the Fort Road Federation, and John Yust representing Councilman Thune, with our alternates Andrew Hine, Betty Moran and John Ulven, have spent many hours and attended many meetings offering guidance from the West End perspective. We fought hard for character changes to Shepard Road and paths to the river from the neighborhood that would make it possible for the people of the West End and St. Paul generally safely to overcome barriers of railroad tracks, roadways and bluff that had caused our city over time to figuratively turn its back to the river.

The three guiding principles for the plan as highlighted by Mayor Coleman, More Natural, More Connected and More Urban, were our guide as well. The desired plan, we thought, would explore uses of the river from an ecological perspective, and from a general notion that the river as it is used should be respected and not abused. In so doing, yes, finally, the city could do an about-face and look at the Mississippi River, one of the great rivers of the world, with new eyes.

The plan has much that is good, but as has been said, the devil is in the details. My wake up call on December 15 was in seeing those details. I would urge everyone to have a look for him- or herself. The Master Plan can be seen and uploaded from greatriverpassage.org on the updates page. This is an ambitious plan; a plan for the ages or at least the next 50 years, and it has teeth. This plan is substantial, has a lot of merit and is not destined for an out-of-sight dusty shelf. Everyone who cares about the city and the river should pay very close attention.

Last June, a preliminary version of the GRP plan was presented to the city with great fanfare. It included pictorial representation of Victoria Park with a large four-field soccer complex dominating the river bluff edge of the park. Included in the artist rendition were high standard light poles. This representation and additional descriptive text was portraying a program use for the park, which was not in line with neighborhood desires that were encapsulated in an earlier Resolution of the Fort Road Federation. In addition, I thought this soccer complex use was an unfortunate contradiction to one of the plan’s guiding principles — More Natural. Where is the respect for the river when you install light-polluting high standard lighting poles right adjacent to the Mississippi River flyway and those migratory birds? Where is the respect for the river when you install artificial turf on the bluff of the river? Where is the respect for the river when four soccer fields are aligned directly across one of the few unobstructed paths to the river bottom from the city? Where is the respect for the river when hundreds of yards of additional construction debris are hauled onto the bluff to create a Patrick’s Mound memorial?

We should offer a better memorial to Patrick with a designated Patrick’s Bluff, and we should not have these proposed soccer fields on the bluff of the river.

One of the opportunities offered to Advisory Committee members was to help put lots of eyes on the plans by acting as plan reviewers. We were asked to look at the plan critically and help to make it better, more consistent and even punctuated properly. I identified myself as KRP in my review comments. To my surprise those review comments have been included in the Appendix of the plan with corresponding responses by staff or consultants. Page A 105 has my question regarding what I considered a predetermined and biasing portrayal of Victoria Park (VP).

Although not intimately involved with all the past work on VP, I was reasonably certain there was no agreed upon plan and that notion was reinforced by my discussions with those involved who said there is no approved plan for Victoria Park. The consultant response totally contradicted what people were saying about the existence of a Victoria Park plan. How could this be? Because I was not a participant in the Federation Resolution, I have been checking over recent days and have again been reassured there is no plan, although there was an original plan for housing that is now superseded. I continued to be perplexed by this contradiction.

I would like to suggest the following as an explanation by first posing a question. In a two-party discussion, how does one party’s proposal become a two-party plan without agreement? Apparently it can happen when the second party also refers to that proposal as a plan. That is exactly what happened in the case of the Victoria Park’s soccer field proposal. The Federation in its objecting Resolution incorrectly referred to the soccer fields as a plan in the first line of its resolution. In turn Parks and its consultants continued to refer to the proposal as a plan.

Ultimately that semantic twist had to fall apart. When Mike Hahm of Parks attended the December meeting of the Federation and proposed establishment of an advisory committee to come up with a plan, the correct terms fell back in place. Now each side will fight for its visionary proposal. Competing visions will be hashed out until both parties agree on a plan for the highest and best programming use at Victoria Park.

An important question for the GRP plan remains: Will Parks remove any reference to a soccer field plan and take out the offending pictorial representation before the GRP plan is approved?

An even bigger challenge to the neighborhood and the Federation may exist in Implementation Chapter 7 of the GRP plan. Chapter 7 is the work of the consultants and city staff. The advisory committee did not participate in development of this implementation piece.
Our neighborhood has historically had difficulties being heard when the government has an agenda, for example 35E, Irvine Park and others I was not a part of. Soccer fields at Victoria Park are just the latest example. A significant parcel of land at the corner of Otto and Shepherd Road has been set aside for development. The Federation has already received word of a contemplated high-rise building at that location and that is the next proposal requiring neighborhood input. The GRP plan highlights significant parcels of land all along Shepard Road as examples of development land. Development for housing and business should be a good thing for the neighborhood and the city. Many of these highly desirable properties are going to come with issues that will challenge the abilities of the neighborhood to respond.

Chapter 7 Implementation includes and establishes (1) a new division of Parks and Recreation specifically for implementation of the GRP plan. It also (2) establishes that an unnamed private nonprofit partner will work with the new division. Who is this partner? It also (3) establishes a new entity called the Great River Passage Action Committee. This will be appointed by the Mayor, write its own bylaws, and is charged to work in concert with the new GRP Parks Division and the unnamed private entity to implement the GRP plan. This would be an imposing set of powerful unelected entities set against our neighborhood should the pattern of past and current disputes continue. In this case the consultants and The time-line for the GRP plan approval process is moving at warp speed and it needs to slow down. The framed response time for District Councils is 60 days from January 11. Uff da! Passing through review at District Councils, Parks, and the Planning Commission in the city, the GRP plan approval is scheduled to reach the City Council this July. Before hired consultants, city staff, unelected GRP planners, and unnamed partners impose their fifty-year vision for the city and the river, we need your input, your phone calls, letters, and e-mails to your elected officials. We need your vision of a community and natural park that meets your dreams of a gathering place bordered by a great national treasure, The Mississippi River.

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Two Different Paths: A 9/11 Memorial Sculpture [IMAGE]

by John H. Yust

I am a West Seventh anthropologist, architect, and metalwork designer and have two sculptures commemorating 9/11 on exhibit at the Minnesota State Capitol. Made of steel and stainless steel, they are on the ground floor in the north corridor, in an alcove next to where the rotunda chandelier is temporarily placed for renovation. This sculpture expresses my vision of the pathway for moving forward.

 (Pictured) John Yust and his 9/11 sculptures at the State Capitol.

It is my hope that the sculpture will provoke all of us to think about truth, reconciliation, and dialogue. In a time where gridlock seems to prevail, the opening in the center of the sculptures connotes a ray of hope for our future.

They were first on display January 12 to 26, and will return from April 9 to 22, 2012.

The works are symmetric sculptures of two vertical and two horizontal elements that are symbolic of our divided economic and political systems. However, the vertical and horizontal elements are interconnected; the vertical truth from bedrock to the heavens, and the horizontal reconciliation. Light, as it encounters the metal facets, creates different levels of reflectance and shadows that are indicative of the interplay of perceptions we each hold. In its entirety, the sculpture is about choosing a path — staying on a path of stagnation, anger, sorrow and resentment, or collectively moving forward on a path to new knowledge and respect.

I conceived of this sculpture after 9/11. I visited New York City in the spring of 2001 and again in the fall and was struck by the impact of this event on our society within that short time span. Now, ten years later, we are still at a spiritual ground zero; we need to reach a new level of understanding. I believe this can only be accomplished if we all choose a new pathway through new mutual respect, a new commitment to learning, a new appreciation of our limited natural resources, and abundant work opportunities for our citizens.

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West End Community Celebrates C.S.P.S. Hall’s 125th Anniversary

by Joe Landsberger
[IMAGE]
This year marks a significant event in the life of West Seventh Street — the C.S.P.S. Hall building’s 125th anniversary (1887-2012). The first special event to commemorate this anniversary is an exceptional event — a New Orleans-style Tea Dance (Thé Dansant)/Masquerade Ball featuring Butch Thompson’s Hiawatha Jazz Band — on Sunday, February 19, from 1 to 6 p.m. in the C.S.P.S. Hall, 383 Michigan at West Seventh and Western.

(Pictured) C.S.P.S. Hall, 1900. Below: Butch Thompson

[IMAGE]Butch Thompson, noted jazz musician of the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band and Prairie Home Companion Band fame, has formed a band to celebrate Mardi Gras in the West End. Butch and the band will play from 2 to 5 p.m. selecting from traditional New Orleans classics — “If Ever I Cease to Love” is customary at Mardi Gras — and will also conduct a mock New Orleans funeral parade. Undoubtedly the crowd will be moved to dance to this inspiring music. The celebration will be enhanced with traditional Cajun-style food ((jambalaya and jalapeno corn bread) and drink, and other surprises.

This West End community production with Czech Slovak Sokol Minnesota benefits C.S.P.S. Hall restorations and renovations. Planners encourage you to order your tickets early by calling 651-297-9000, as they anticipate a full house: $20 each in advance; more at the door if available.

The sweetness and buoyant rhythm of New Orleans music took hold of Butch Thompson’s life at an early age and hasn’t let go. “The city was full of music,” as one musician put it, and since his earliest visits there Butch has been captivated by grand musical tradition that is the backbone of that culture. Butch’s musical roots are deep, and he has played his personal style of traditional jazz and ragtime from Kansas City to Cairo. Or as many musicians’ business cards put it, “Music for All Occasions.” Welcome to the party!
This is a unique event in the life of our cultural corridor. Laisser les bons temps rouler! — Let the good times roll!

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Upper Midwest Pension Rights Project

by Jeannie Farrell

Starting this January, the West 7th Community Center is offering Pension Rights Counseling on the third Tuesday of the month from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. The Upper Midwest Pension Rights Project (UMPRP) is a no-cost program designed to assist workers, retirees, beneficiaries, and their families in understanding and enforcing their pension benefit rights. The Project is funded by a grant from the federal Administration on Aging. The UMPRP delivers legal counseling to those seeking assistance with a pension claim. The Project evaluates and determines claim viability, and assists individuals in making claims and filing appeals, as well as obtaining pension plan documents and assistance in determining correct benefit calculations. The UMPRP assists with all types of retirement plans: traditional defined benefits plans, defined contributions plans, 401(k) and profit sharing plans.

The UMPRP also assists with surviving spouse benefits, benefit miscalculations, and recoupment actions. The Project obtains pension plan documents to review the individual’s rights under the plan, as well as to monitor compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Project also handles issues involving pension plan terminations and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) matters, pension plan freezes or conversions, postretirement suspension-of-benefits issues, and matters involving spousal rights and Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs). The UMPRP assists individuals in locating lost pension plans, administrators and former employers.

To sign up for a twenty-minute consultation at the West 7th Community Center, call 651-298-5493 or call Upper Midwest Pension Rights Project at 1-866-783-5021 or 651-251-5765, or visit the website at midwestpensions.org.

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