Thanksgiving is almost upon us, so I will share a few things I am thankful for - in the community - don't worry, I won't put the laundry list of personal thanks out there, it's too long. First and foremost, I'm thankful for the people who volunteer their time to make a difference in our community near and far. The people who show up and are willing to be a part of the considerations and planning on how we can be better. They are such an important part of the rich fabric that is community and to a large extent, community as we know and love it would not function without them. I'm also thankful for the businesses, both non- and for-profit who provide us with goods and services that enrich our lives and do it with a friendly commitment to community. Finally, I'm thankful for the opportunity I have to be in the midst of all of these community members as we work together to understand needs and develop solutions. This really is a community that cares about getting it right. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Okay, now on to the textual confirmation of those lofty sentiments. 

As I mentioned in my last blog, I was a panel member for a conversation about industrial zoning. Also on the panel were a developer, real estate broker, and reps from the City and Port Authority. Audience members consisted of interested community folks and city planners. To tee it up for you, the city is seeking input into how they can promote as much industrial development as possible (which supports our tax base and creates jobs) in areas where mixed use is eating up some of the available space with development that doesn't produce the same tax revenue. The discussion is different depending on whether the space is transit-oriented or not but with light rail cutting through a large swath of industrial and mixed use, especially in our district, the proper blending of zoning and design standards is critical. The importance of a healthy mix of industrial/commercial was clearly illustrated by the recent property tax statements we got in the mail from the county. Reportedly, most Ramsey county houses will see little increase and many will see a decrease in property taxes next year as the hit is going to our commercial neighbors. In small towns without much commercial, those taxes will fall on the residents to the tune of a 30% increase in some areas. Ouch. 

St. Paul needs commercial/industrial development, we can't be all housing and small retail. The City has an important role to play working with communities to first help them understand that reality and then to 
create zoning and design standards that attract developers and businesses to bring projects that fit the community vision and will leverage light rail's huge potential. These public discussions can be helpful in identifying where the work needs to be done to get everyone on the same page. Following up to support structures and processes that further cooperation toward common goals is the challenge. Communities are being asked to play larger roles in these decisions but the template for their useful participation is still in development. It's all about transitioning to the future and defining a realistic path that doesn't drive out the very neighbors who can get us there successfullly.

D12 - The long awaited NW Quadrant Transportation Study is underway. I attended the presentation to D12 of the possible north-south and east-west routes being considered - very preliminarily - through our neighborhood. These new routes would help to take pressure off Snelling & Lexington as well as University and they would link roads like Pierce Butler to Minneapolis and 94 to Roseville. Ah yes, we're talking big thinking and a few years out (my lifetime?) And City/County/Met Council/State cooperation. Still, everything has a start and this is it. Much more to come after studies and conversation. Lots of it, I'm sure...Ramsey County Yard Waste sites close on November 30. This warm weather is giving some of us a reprieve, so go to the D12 site to find out more about this and other things.

Schools - Our board welcomed principal Ann Johnson from St.AP Elementary and Tim Williams from Murray to update us on their respective sites. It was a very informative conversation highlighting the importance of continued neighborhood support for both of these schools. Lots of things are changing as the schools prepare for the 2013 transition to K-5 and 6-8. Principal Williams sits on the District transition committee talking about how this major change gets handled. At this point it sounds like they are developing a very comprehensive and somewhat expensive plan for the change with a 1st draft presented before the end of the year. I guess it remains to be seen how that will be modified before implementation, but there is great sensitivity to gently transitioning the 6th graders into the big house that will be middle school. There is also the issue of Wolfridge Environmental Camp with both schools. 2013 will be the last year at the elementary school for both the 5th and 6th grade classes. How to handle that and the future of that experience at the elementary school is the subject of committees and discussions at both schools. The Foundation has an endowed fund for environmental education that will continue to support that however the programs evolve and there are good people at both schools working hard to figure it all out. Financially this year, Murray is doing well as the Jr. highs have received additional funding due to a change in funding formulas. The elementary schools did not get that bump so they are a little more strapped and continue to rely on neighborhood support for non-core enrichments like art, music and environmental science. Please keep that in mind as you consider your charitable contributions this year.

listserv - the City is reminding everyone to keep their sidewalks shoveled this winter so they don't pose a risk to pedestrians. Obviously, some sidewalks get iced up easier than others and some are much longer, especially those of you who have corner lots, but it's really difficult and dangerous for some neighbors to try and negotiate piles of snow near intersections. And when sidewalks aren't plowed it sends people out into the streets. Last year I remember seeing one of our rolling neighbors 
out in the street on his way downhill on Como across from the Sem. That's something we should be able to prevent. There are young people in the Park who can be hired to shovel, if you need names look at Speedy or on the kiosk or listserv. Let's make our community safe for all modes of transportation.

St.APnotes - The College Park stormwater construction project has been delayed. The Bugle reports that increased water elevations have set the project back until the City figures out why. Lots of other good info in the Bugle as usual, go to their website for more...MetroIBA hosted an event promoting small businesses at the East Hennepin Bibelot last week. Neighbor and org executive director, Mary Hamel, organized the event which honored our own Roxy Freese as a shining example of entrepreneurship and the positive impact local businesses have on their communities...Small Business Saturday is this Saturday, a national reminder to support the small businesses that have such a big impact on community life...Shop Home for the Holidays is coming up on Saturday, Dec. 3. It's our annual reminder to keep the local businesses in mind for all your holiday needs. The bank is hosting Santa and his reindeer sleigh at their Como location again and the merchants will offer various specials on that day and throughout the holidays. The artisan Village will be set up in the lower level of Milton Square for the day. We have so many great business neighbors in north and south St.AP. Remember to show them how much we appreciate them!

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