Spring is finally here - WAIT A MINUTE, 40 degrees and rain on December 14? We are officially changing our name to Portland. My daughter is coming home for the holidays from there and she's looking forward to the white stuff - sorry, honey, don't forget your umbrella.

Just came from my last STAR board meeting of the year. We were asked to rank 3 requests, two for security cameras for Como Park and Arlington Rec Center and one to assist in the new indoor, mostly privately funded, home for the Bonzai collection at the Como Conservatory. Not exactly what the fund is meant for, but the money comes from outgoing councilmember, Lee Helgen's piece of the STAR pie and they are needed as crime deterrents and helpful in investigations according to the police rep who was there, so...at least they came up with some matching funds. Always interesting to see how budgeting works at a city level. It has been a good experience so far and a great group of people. It would be nice to have some of the councilmembers pay more attention to the process and treat it less like a slush fund, however important or interesting their project proposals. 

Also got a personal report from Helgen on the recent dust-up over the "found" STAR money that hasn't been spent. It really isn't news, the council has had reports on it over the past years, so for some members to act as if this was a surprise is a little disingenuous. It's simply money granted to orgs that never spent it for one reason or another. Apparently, there isn't any specific language saying what's supposed to be done with that money or how long it's supposed to sit waiting for action. Councilmembers are hesitant to cross off any project with any potential, so the money sat unspent for 11-12 years. Until this year's report made headlines. Now there's talk about a 3-year deadline for use of the funds before review. Makes sense. It was nice of Councilmember Helgen to come to our meeting to say thanks and goodbye. Amy Brendmoen will be taking his place starting in 2012.  I've had the chance to get to know her in her role as communications director for Children's Home Society, she will have a different style but I'm confident she'll do a great job of representing her ward.

There's renewed interest in the Vandalia building as the banks' appraiser is about to report in. The current asking price is $4.5M so it will be interesting to see how it's appraised. One might think the banks who ate the mortgages would be willing to settle for less to get the building off their books. We'll see.

D12 - There's a retreat coming up this week for the leadership of the CEZ group. We'll try to figure out the best way to run the org, structurally and financially. I really think this new entity that emerges from this process will play a large role in the development of the University & Raymond neighborhood pre and post light rail...there's a new way for businesses to attract customers to the light rail corridor. It's a Discover Central Corridor coupon book and it will be printed in January of 2012 then made available to the public free of charge at events and various locations. They discovered in a previous incarnation that the deals have to be at least "buy one/get one free" or better to get used, so that will be the minimum requirement for inclusion in the coupon book...Sherm Eagles gave a presentation to the council chronicling the history of the community gardens on Robbins Street. The council bought the land from the RR so it wouldn't be developed for other uses considered "incompatible" to the community. The money came from local businesses, residents and a STAR grant. There are 95 plots ($30/yr) and over 200 people involved in the site which continues to thrive thanks to a self-governing group that figures it all out. It would be nice to identify more sites for gardens like this one - the prototype for development already exists...

Schools - Not much to report as the kids and teachers blast through the final tests and scurry off to that favorite holiday break.

listserv - the Raptor Center now offers their Duke Lecture series online so more can enjoy the experts and their interesting presentations. The current one is about Galapagos hawks. They also have lost complete contact with a transmitter attached to Harley, a bald eagle they rehabbed and released over a year ago. Before losing the signal, they had followed Harley from Minnesota to Arkansas last winter to Wisconsin and Canada. The birds do move apparently. Hope Harley is allright wherever he roams...the St.AP Energy Resilience Group is meeting tomorrow night for discussion around a film entitled, "People in My Neighborhood - Toronto 2030." For more info email erg@sapcc.org.

StAPnotes - Nice article in MinnPost about neighbor Mike Christenson as he transitions from head of Planning & Deveopment for Mpls to run a newly expanding education program, Minneapolis Promise. Mike has been instrumental in many important initiatives and developments over the years, including the Midtown Global Market and revitalization efforts in both the Phillips and Northside Neighborhoods. He will be missed but really has a passion for helping students achieve success in school and beyond...another neighbor, Charlie Nauen, was named one of 25 Attorneys of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer. Mazel tov!...Rumors are there may be a soft opening of the Colossal Cafe soon. New owners John, Carrie and Elizabeth Tinucci caught my wife and me window peeking last Sunday and invited us in for a tour. What a lovely, cozy place. Everything is done beautifully and I can't wait to enjoy a meal in the colorful surroundings. The Cafe will be a great addition to our dining options in north and south StAP. Barring any unforeseen surprises, it will definitely be open next week, so stop in and welcome them all to the neighborhood.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor. I'll be taking a couple weeks off, so unless there's something I just have to tell you about, I'll check back in January 4. I'll also be away from the office during that time, but not away from year end duties. Have a lovely holiday.