Okay, the changing leaf progression is really interesting this fall. Beautiful, but seemingly so random. You've got similar trees in wildly varying stages of color. Green maples one block and red the next or no leaves at all. I'm sure the drought has something to do with it and the late autumnal weather. Keep watering those young trees and shrubs.

I went to a charrette last week in an empty storefront on University Avenue. For those who haven't heard the term or heard it but never really known what it means (like me) it's basically bringing a group of people (or designers) together to come up with solutions to a design problem. The group was filled with design students from the U of M and a few community members who were organized by a group including Ben Shardlow, who spent his early years on Commonwealth with his parents, Marilyn & John. Their "problem" is how to fill the empty storefronts to offer temporary (monthly leases) promotion to small businesses/creative enterprises, and rent to the building owners while they wait for more permanent tenants to arrive. An added bonus is bringing vitality to the street and helping the existing businesses. So, win-win-win if done correctly. After a brief walking tour of the area (the construction workers were very cordial,) we broke into smaller groups to discuss three topics: Identity, Creative models and Storefront/streetscape, basically, who goes there, how do you promote it and how does it work. It was a quick-paced approach with one evening devoted to the first whack and plans for a few more before the launch. Beverages, potluck, short social time and then, down to it. Very impressed with the enthusiasm and input...it will be interesting to see how it develops.

D12 - I attended a D12 meeting of proponents of the traffic calming plan for Raymond Avenue on Monday. Brief recap for those who are new to the issue. The city has been working on a proposal to add bike lanes/bump outs when they tear up the streets. This summer they unveiled those plans with the added components of less parking and assessments set against a 2011-12 time line. Unhappiness all around - "They're doing what?! How much?! On the heals of light rail construction?! Are they nuts!?" - followed by negotiations - not until 2013, put back half the parking, less assessment dough - until we have a package that is nearly acceptable to all parties aside from one somewhat significant fly in the ointment which is this. If the city and community hasn't come up with a longterm solution to the parking problem in the corridor area, why give up 40 or so parking spaces 2-3 blocks away? Increased businesses coming into the area require more parking for employees, customers, etc. And while there is a fair amount of surface parking sitting there right now, will it still be there 2 years from now? If not, where do the cars go? All valid concerns but balanced by the necessity of making Raymond a safer thoroughfare in preparation for increasing bike/pedestrian/mass transit/auto/transport traffic. I wonder if a compromise might work where the parking stays until a final parking solution is agreed to for the area. That puts pressure on everyone to work together to come up with a solution sooner rather than the much hazier, "down the road" approach that sometimes never happens. Encourages community building, allows for cooling off period. My two cents.

Schools - St.AP Elementary school is looking forward to welcoming back its principal, Ann Johnson, in the next few weeks. In her absence, interim principal, Jim Eaton, has held down the fort. Coincidentally, Jim is Ann's brother. We will all be happy to see Ann again, she is doing a great job leading the school...The Environmental week at Wolfridge was a big success. Nice weather, great attitudes and a good group of teachers/parents to assist in the learning experience. There was a bit of wind which always makes the ropes course nearest the Superior overlook a longjohns required zone. Been there, done that...Their annual Fall Festival Fun-draiser is coming up this FridayOct. 28 from 5:30 - 8pm. If you have kids or not, you should definitely make it over to the school for a good cause and a great night...Wolfridge week is also coming up for 72 Murray Jr. High kids and 16 adults, one of them yours truly. Hope the weather holds out a little longer or it will be longjohns 24/7. I will be riding up with Principal Williams so I will have a lot to report upon my return.

listserv - unlocked vehicles being ransacked should come as no surprise to anyone who lives in the metro. By now, we should all be aware of the steps we can take to protect ourselves from "crimes of opportunity." Lock up, look out and report thefts. Not exactly catchy, but pretty acurate. I'll have to work on that one...there was apparently a test of a new emergency system - tones and voice commands - on the U campus last Monday and will be another one in early November. New fed regs. I didn't notice but may have heard it and just thought a TCF football game was going on...more road closings due to construction around the light rail. It's getting near impossible to cross University and will be for the next week, but please don't let that stop you from frequenting the businesses there. You can get there and back from the north and there is parking. They need you. Here's the link for road info...JOTP is offering their winter soccer training classes as well as other soccer related events. Click here for more info...this Saturday, Oct. 29 from 10-2 pm you can dispose of unneeded or outdated prescription drugs at the fairgrounds. Sponsored by the DEA. Please don't flush them down the toilet, it makes the rats crazy.

St.APnotes - Julie Himmelstrup of Music in the Park Series took the St. Lawrence String Quartet over to the Elementary school for some performance and conversation. The students reportedly had a lot of fun with the musicians who visited the senior home later. It is a great service Julie provides for our schools and seniors supplying world class talent to very small and appreciative audiences...I talked with St. Anthony Park Area Seniors board member, Don Henry about ideas for the formerly named Block Nurse Program. They are adding people and programs to their outreach offerings and the Foundation is trying to help them plan for that continued success. Mary Hayes does a super job of recruiting volunteers and coordinating services. Check out their new web page and see how you can help...Finally, the Foundation's annual open house is next Thursday, Nov. 3 from 5-7pm at the Park Midway Bank on Como. It will be fun so join your neighbors!

Halloween is coming up Monday night, so please be careful driving and watch out for kids young and old who are out visiting.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.