First off, I'm feeling better (24-hour stomach thing last week.) Thanks for asking! Before those unhappy few days, I did have the chance to take a little get-a-way to the southwest, so I was able to replace the visual landscapes of white around here with a panorama of brown - and green. That's a whole other story, the sustainability of pumping enough water into thousands of acres of sand to produce grass, but we have our own sustainability issues, so I'll leave that alone for the time being. It was nice to uncover previously hidden (but appropriate) areas of the body to the sun's renewing warmth, but I'm pretty sure I blinded several surprised birds with the reflections off my shiningly white winter skin.

That's another area I need not go into further, so let's get back to sustainability. Transition Towns, the movement sponsored by the D12 council to make St. Anthony Park more sustainable, is an ongoing story in our neighborhood. Groups have been formed to break down most of our energy-related needs to see if there isn't a way we could accomplish them using less energy. I can't give you a recent update on all the groups, although you can visit their D12 web page to get that info, but I can tell you a little about the solar group, of which I am a member. A subset of the larger group has formed an LLC to put solar panels on a public building, most likely the Langford Rec Center, although at this point, the final okays have not been given, so that's not a certainty. What's certain is they will find a building.

You might have seen a news item recently about a solar garden that was completely invested and is ready to start construction. As I understand it, solar gardens are a set of solar panels owned by an investor group with subscribers who reduce their energy costs by having part or all of it come from the solar garden. The Sap Solar 1 group that formed in our neighborhood is not a solar garden, instead it's a private group of investors who will share in the profits or loss from the entire operation. This was determined to be the best and fastest way to start getting solar panels on roofs in the neighborhood, but that could change depending on how successful and workable the solar panel approach proves to be.

The other TT group that has been garnering public notice is the housing folks who have been investigating the possibility of adjacent dwellings on a single lot. They had local architects work with willing property owners to see what the idea might actually look like and showed those designs at a recent public meeting. I was out of town but it sounds like there were over 60 neighbors there to look at 11 different designs. I don't know if that placated a few folks who have expressed reservations to me about what they see as negative aspects to the possibility, but it certainly gave people a chance to see what might become a viable alternative for neighbors looking to age in place.


Green Line Launch Party
For those who have been taking a longer vacation, June 14 has been set as the launch day for the Green Line to start running trains up and down the central corridor. A good group of interested neighbors met at the Dubliner to talk about what kind of party we want to throw up here to celebrate this latest addition to the future of mass transportation in the metro. There were many interesting ideas and a lot of enthusiasm. There will be some money available from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative but there will need to be some private fundraising as well depending on the scope of the festivities. That will be a fun day. I saw that light rail drivers have been training on the Hiawatha lines, actually our Green Line cars have been rotated into the Hiawatha mix to get them ready as well. So, while the line will be new, the trains and drivers will be well-broken in.

I will continue to include the full name, Creative Enterprise Zone, in my descriptions for a while, but that neighborhood and the organization supporting it have grown to the point that its name should become completely familiar before too long. With Amy Sparks, current D12 ED, beginning to make the move to head up the CEZ Action Team; wunderkind, Kyle Manulli (who seems to have his hand in a number of PR/writing pots these days - including my favorite local e-zine, the Line) providing PR expertise; and Catherine Day's energy and vision, the neighborhood has emerged.

News of the purchase of two properties in the Zone (a geographic area bounded roughly by Prior to Prospect Park) by a San Francisco company that rehabs buildings for creative enterprises provides further proof that the CEZ is getting hot. Add to that, rock star local developer, Peter Remes' ongoing re-imagining of the Mattress Factory property at 94 & Vandalia, Exeter's beautiful C&E market rate apt. make-over, Brad Johnson's shovel-ready lots south of his innovative Carleton Lofts/Lyric complex, and don't forget the craft breweries...Whew! Light rail has definitely lit the fuse on some exciting changes.

The key to this neighborhood's success is the vibe brought by the friction between industry and art. The CEZ people understand this, which is why they've focused on championing creative enterprises, job creation and live/work housing opportunities. Check out their website, sign up for their newsletter and get connected. The magnetic pull in the CEZ is bringing some very interesting people together who see incredible potential.

ED Search Continues
D12 is still looking for a replacement for their ED, Amy Sparks, who will stay on until they find one. I've heard some interesting names mentioned and I would think the opportunity to work with a solid and supportive board and community would bring out some good candidates. Amy and the board have worked hard to make the council one of the most effective in St. Paul. If you know someone who wants a piece of that, tell them to contact D12.

Students On Board
The D12 Council has added 2 seats dedicated to students 16 years or older. The move is being hailed by representatives of schools around the community as a good move to include the voices of a sizable constituency in our midst.


The potential teachers strike seems to have taken a small step back. After a school board meeting last night, both sides stepped back from strike preparations and agreed to focus on mediation for now. These are incredibly important issues made all the more frustrating because both sides are pretty much in agreement about strategies for addressing the achievement problems. The conflict comes from cost and whether teachers have the right to fight for these solutions as part of contract negotiations. Hopefully, the two sides can come to an agreement on priorities and timing so they can work together and keep the kids in class. It does no one good to have anymore lost school days.

School Choice Selections due Feb. 21
The District announced they are extending the enrollment deadline to this Friday due to the severe weather of late.

Como Boys Hockey
Team parent and neighbor, Dave Lee, reports that the team, including his son, Zach, and fellow seniors Tor Will, Peter Gaertner, Connor Burke, Anders Sateren, Max Inskeep, Elliot Moorman and Rowely Crow, has improved on last year's record with a few games remaining. Several of the boys are in the academic Top Ten as well. Way to go, Pucksters!

Debate Champs from Como
Senior debaters, Yassin Ahmed and Stryker Thompson, qualified to attend the National Forensic League's championship tournament this summer in Kansas. It's the first time a team from Como has qualified. Nicely argued, gentlemen.


Attention Cooks!
There's a new kitchen supply shop in our community. Rapids Restaurant Equipment on Hunting Valley Rd. (the frontage road on the west side of 280) opened recently to the public. No membership card needed, just walk in and walk out with a bagful of nonstick frying pans.

Writing Groups?
Katherine Tondra from SAPAS (St.AP Area Seniors) is looking for a writing or poetry group in the area. She has requests from 3 interested seniors. Contact her if you know of anything.


WindSync Residency
Julie Himmelstrup from Music in the Park Series reminded me to mention that WindSync, a "revolutionary wind quintet" will be in the hood this week. Friday noon they are at Murray working with the middle schoolers. Fri. night at 5:45 & 7pm they will perform family concerts at St. Matt's (Carter & Chelmsford.) On Sunday at 4pm they will be a part of MIP's regular concert series at the UCC church (might still be tickets), then Monday they drop in on our elementary school and finally the St. AP Home. All courtesy of the Schubert Club, MiP and the Foundation. Should be fun all around. Thanks, Julie!

Mother's Day Music
Seems like an excellent time to further plug the MiP & Foundation's combined 50th celebration concerts by the New Standards at the UCC Church on Mother's Day, May 11. Two concerts at 4 & 7pm. Tickets now on sale on the Schubert Club's website. More soon!

Wine-tasting at lws
The little wine shop has their monthly wine-tasting tomorrow, Feb. 20 from 4:30-7:30pm. Get home from work, head down for some wine and let the shoveling wait till later. If we get the kind of snow they are predicting, you will need a glass of wine after your drive home. Did I mention the 10 year-old tawny port?

Hans Weyandt is officially gone from our favorite book store (hopefully not completely.) We will miss Hans, but I'm confident remaining owner, Tom Bielenberg, can pick up the slack. Stop in and say hi, buy some books or magazines and keep supporting one of the top book stores in the metro.

OVation Concert
OVation, the portable version of One Voice, Minnesota's LGBTA mixed chorus, will perform a service of song and poetry at the United Methodist Church (Como & Hillside) this Sunday, Feb. 23 at 10 am.

Bang Brewery Rebuilt on Video
If you want to see how our newest craft brewery was built, check out this video. It's entry #10 and was designed by local Wee House architect, Geoff Warner. He also designed a house over on Ludlow if you're touring.

Chili Night for Avalon
Avalon School's 13th annual Chili Night fundraiser and silent auction will be held starting at 6pm on Friday, Feb. 28. If you have anything you'd like to donate or want more info, contact Tim.

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