I'm sitting at my desk watching the traffic roll by on this sunny February day with a recent conversation about traffic safety on this curve resonating in my mind. Having lived within a block of the Commonwealth & Como crosswalk for 25 years now, I have witnessed many close calls and been involved in a few myself. It has been an ongoing problem that no doubt dates back to the advent of the automobile. I know that a late 70's plan called for Commonwealth to be turned into a cul-de-sac on the east side of the intersection. That obviously was never implemented and so the problem remains.

Now neighbors of school age children are once again calling for something to be done to make it safer for their children. The initial city response is that they've looked into it and there aren't many accidents or speeding reported there, but they'll keep an eye on it to see if that changes. In spite of the surprisingly low accident rate (which, of course, can't take into account unobserved near misses) it is a dangerous intersection where even one accident would be terrible. Cars observing the 30 mph speed limit and coming from the east would be hard-pressed to stop for a slow moving pedestrian in the 30 feet left to them after they come around that blind curve. I usually look for car reflections in the windows of the 3rd Place before I cross and I still get surprised on occasion by a fast moving car. There's a safety yellow sign that warns of a crosswalk from the east approach but since you can't see the crosswalk from the sign, it's of little practical use.

So, my guess is that D12 will continue to work with the neighbors to get a safe and satisfactory result. It might make sense to put up some traffic calming structures as was done on Raymond by Ned's BP station. Honestly, even though city data doesn't seem to indicate that speeding on either end of our retail district is dangerously high, anecdotal evidence for anyone watching cars come up seminary hill or around the Como-Commonwealth corner or at Como & Scudder would indicate there's a problem that needs to be addressed by more concrete (pun...maybe?) measures.

D12 - The Creative Enterprise Zone leadership team had a good session yesterday tightening up its short- and longer- term structure, goals and objectives. The process has been greatly helped by the facilitation skills of Roger Meyer. Focus is coalescing around an event bringing neighbors together and raising profile...we're supposed to hear next week if there will be a new owner of the Mattress Factory building on Vandalia. The bank's who own it now seem to be close to a decision to unload it. I just hope whoever buys it knows exactly what they are getting into and has the wherewithal to make it viable... There's a new e-waste recycling program being offered by Ramsey County that provides free drop-off of a wide variety of electronic equipment. TV's and monitors will cost you $5 each, but laptop computers, DVDs and other peripheral devices like keyboards, fax machines, etc. will be accepted free of charge...the St. Paul District Council 2011 Annual Report is available online. It's interesting to read about the impact these important organizers and advocates have on building community throughout St. Paul and making our neighborhoods safer, better functioning and better represented on a city-wide level. 

Schools - Last week I talked about Como High School and its improved academic offerings as part of a consideration of public educational options in our newly created District Assignment Area E. I neglected to mention our local charter school choices: Avalon and the Recording Arts High schools just off University Avenue, and the Great River Montessori School for grades 7-12 on Energy Park Drive. They have all had successful programs for a number of years and while they don't offer school bus transportation, they do give their students unlimited city bus passes that can be used outside of the school day. My apologies...St. Paul's School District and the Teacher's Union have apparently agreed on a new contract. The sticking point was about class size caps and the compromise reached calls for both parties to seek additional funding beyond this year's budget to hire up to 66 teachers to bring classes closer to the 22-30 student totals sought in the new District-wide plan. No one seems to know where those additional funds will come from but at very least it's an acknowledgement by the district that class size in and of itself does matter. There is emerging research that might cause some to quibble that class size is the most important factor, but I don't think anyone would argue that it is a key piece of the puzzle...Murray's History Fair is coming up on Feb. 21 form 6-8:30pm. They always need judges which requires only an interest in history and kids. It's a fun event and the judges are always well-fed with goodies. Contact Gen Nakanishi and do yourself a favor - the students will make it very worthwhile.

listserv - the University's Raptor Center has released their 2011 report which shows 699 birds treated. They call it a fairly average year and list the largest injured group as owls (over 200 including 10 Snowies) - bald eagles and hawks followed closely. 67% of the bald eagles were suffering from the toxic effects of lead. I heard our Great Horned owl hooting up near Dudley the other night so the food supply must be holding out. Still no sighting of the wild turkeys lately, though...anyone who is enjoying "Downton Abbey" will love the March 8, 2 pm showing of "Gosford Park" at our branch library. Similar setting but a murder mystery to boot from the late, great director Robert Altman.

StAPnotes - I had a nice visit with Andy & Linda Boss last week. In spite of some difficult health issues, Andy as always, was very interested in neighborhood developments, including the new Colossal Cafe which he has not had a chance to visit. He was also very appreciative of the greetings I brought from the many residents who ask after him on a regular basis. A great guy and a great couple...there was a nice piece on the Muffuletta and its famous beer cheese soup on Kare 11 last week. Made me want to stop by immediately and grab some with their truffle-flavored popcorn...also stopped to talk to Sue Rohricht about her newest venture, Something New, in the Healy Building. She has about 50 artists from all over who are placing art and craft items in her store for sale. Clothing, paintings, jewelry, lots of lovely stuff. Stop in and check it out...still no word on the fate of the Abu Nader building. It's listed as sold but I have no idea to whom.

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