The Transition Towns initiative to lower our neighborhood’s carbon footprint is gaining steam. After two well-attended large group meetings, smaller action groups have been meeting around specific areas of energy conservation such as transportation, alternative energy, housing, etc. I am part of both the transportation (meeting this week) and alternative energy conversations, with solar options emerging as our primary focus in the latter. 

Our process coincides with the St. Paul Million Dollar Challenge, which is a competition to identify great ideas to improve our city. There was an informational/brainstorming meeting held at our library last Monday and there were at least two ideas submitted from Transition Town committees. One of the ideas grew out of the solar group and that was to find a community space for a solar array and a way to set up a private entity to manage the harvesting and/or work with existing entities. An early location suggested was our elementary school. 

While the solar group is still hammering out a mission statement, the school idea would accomplish some of the proposed goals such as replication (could be used across the district,) inclusivity (neighbors could invest in a panel,) education (science classes could be tied in,) and viability (the larger site could generate significant savings for the school or income through a lease.) It’s a start, and it’s the kind of proposal that could become actionable sooner rather than later, which is one of the larger group goals. Stay tuned. 

D12 – aside from sponsoring the Transition Towns process and hosting the Creative Enterprise Zone mixer tonight at 5:30 at the Triangle building on University Ave just off 280, the council continues to be involved in the sidewalk plan for the CEZ area, trying to find a new space for the Gremlin Theater and dealing with issues related to property acquisition in advance of light rail. Some of the buildings in the CEZ are being quietly or publicly bought up with an eye toward the future. For the most part these properties are controlled by neighbors within the zone who are active participants in the conversation on shared vision. Others, not so much, so it’s difficult to tell exactly how their interests will play out.  In the world of development, transparency is not always seen as a positive and there are some understandable reasons for that. There is a difference, however, between being in the game and holding your cards close to your vest, and not even taking a seat at the table.  We’ll see how it all turns out, but the D12 Council and the Foundation are doing our best to stay connected to all players so there are fewer surprises…Speaking of players, Amy Sparks, Lauren Fulner-Erickson and I met with Amy McBeth from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Foundation this week. They recently donated $10,000 to help rebuild the Monkey Island playground on Branston. It was a very helpful conversation giving all of us a chance to share perspectives and activity updates. Ms. McBeth was particularly interested in fostering closer relations with our neighborhood through better communication, and encouraged us to reach out early and often when questions or potential conflicts arise. The RR is a huge player in the D12 area and will continue to be, as more and more freight and people are moved on our rail lines. 

SCHOOLS – great story in MinnPost about St. Paul’s successful efforts to find common ground between the school district and the teacher’s unions to improve teaching situations. Perhaps they have provided a template for other districts to follow. Ultimately, it’s about what’s best for the kids. We need to find ways to train & support great teachers and then let them teach. 

LISTSERV – On March 12, 7-8:30pm at the SAP United Methodist Church, the Green on the Screen film series is featuring Climate Refugees. Here’s the blurb, “The collision of over-consumption, over-population, lack of resources, and climate disruption are causing migrations due to climate.” Sponsored by the Energy Resilience Group…over in Prospect Park, the Gray Panthers and Pratt Community Education are offering an interactive workshop about the challenges of aging and ageism in health care on Monday, March 18th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Pratt School (66 Malcolm Ave.). To register call 612-668-1100 or email jan.thurn@mpls.k12.mn.us. This event is free…the Western District Police Station is holding its monthly community meeting next Tuesday March 19 at 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the station 389 N. Hamline Ave. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s the place to be heard…The Saint Anthony Park United Methodist Church Community Nursery School is fundraising by becoming a drop-off site for pretty much all old electronics and some jewelry. Bring your collected items to the big purple collection bin near the Church office doors at 2200 Hillside
Avenue…the Raptor center has a reminder that this is the time of year when baby birds fall out of nests. If you find a baby raptor beneath a tree, don’t move it, contact the Raptor center 612-624-4745 or email raptor@umn.edu. 

STAPnotes – I attended MetroIBA’s annual meeting last night at the Intelligent Nutrients building on East Hennepin and I35. This local org of independent businesses is growing fast under the able leadership of Mary Hamel, a former neighbor and Foundation board member. The keynote speaker was Horst Rechelbacher, who owns the building and the business. He built Aveda organic products into a multi-million dollar empire before selling the company and is continuing to research plant science for the benefit of healthy living and the planet. I shared a moving herbal oxygenation moment with local web entrepreneur, Josh Becerra and I believe we are both the better for it…Bang Brewery is getting closer to offering their first craft beer from their SSA location by the RR tracks. Just jumping through some final hoops, but we should be able to quaff a lovely ale very soon. 

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