Looks like winter has finally arrived – wait a sec…it’s April. Had a little seasonal confusion there. But this weather will pass – say what? Another couple weeks?!  Okay, let’s hunker down and get through this… 

There’s a big Transition Towns informational event Saturday, April 20 at the StAP Lutheran Church from 1-4pm. Games, music and each of the groups tackling a different category of fossil fuel impact will be presenting their progress and ideas. It will be a really good way to see this important and interesting process for yourselves. The key word buzzing around all of these groups is “action.” Their ideas do not concern theoretical “what ifs” or “a few years down the road” approaches. They want to identify ways we can start lowering our carbon footprint yesterday. I think that’s what has driven the healthy participation in our neighborhood. C’mon down, it’s free.   

I am serving on the Solar group and we have met with several people who have expertise in the area of community solar -a community organizer and a lawyer who as worked extensively with both wind and solar community start-ups. We are all very excited about the potential but there’s much to do. I’ll keep you informed. If you want to know more about all the groups, here’s a link.    

My STAR board meeting this morning featured Cecile Bedor, the head of St. Paul PED. We had a good conversation about coordinating both resources and vision to leverage light rail’s potential to spur development and prosperity. Toward that end, she reported that they are considering the creation of a new position that would facilitate Transit Oriented Development in the city. That sounds like a great idea, especially if that person could coordinate the strategies of the city and its agencies to make an easier handshake for businesses with an interest in locating or expanding along the corridor. Here’s hoping they find the money and get someone good on board quick. Times a’wastin’.                                           

I had a nice conversation with Bill Frame, the interim COO of Luther Seminary.  Rick Beeson from Sunrise Banks was on hand as well. The Seminary is definitely going through a difficult passage right now as they try to get their financial house in order. Bill led Augsburg College from 1997-2006, building very successfully on his predecessor (and StAP neighbor) Charles Anderson’s vision for a diverse “college of the city.” He has also been a banker and COO at Pacific Lutheran and Tonka Toys, so he brings an impressive resume to the task. As the Sem rethinks its strategy for a sustainable future, they are very mindful of their important place in our community and are committed to seeking feedback for their thoughts and plans. That engagement with our community is a wonderful legacy from former president, Rick Bliese and his COO, Don Lewis. There will certainly be more changes on the way, but it’s reassuring to hear that the community’s interests are a top priority in their planning.  

D12 – Streetcars on Raymond Avenue? The city is conducting a feasibility study to see if St. Paul and light rail would benefit from streetcars on some north-south streets and Raymond Ave is one of the key corridors they’re thinking about. Find out more at the Transportation Committee meeting next Monday, April 15 from 6:30pm - 8:00pm at the SSA Rec Center…found a couple other interesting developments at the Land Use meeting last week. Another brewery, Urban Growler, is set to sign a lease on a space right next to the new Bang Brewery (which should be serving soon) just south of the RR tracks in SSA. They are planning an 80 seat tap room and beer garden and plan to start serving this fall…the vacant lot next to the Dunn Bros on University Avenue might see a 6 story apt. complex in the future. Plans were presented for mostly market rate with some affordable apts to be built in the next year…The lot next to the Hampden Co-op has sold and will become the new offices of neighbor Marty Ruddy’s Terra Firma construction company. Don’t know when the construction will begin, but there’s an old saying, “the shoemaker’s children are the last to be shod.” As you can imagine, with my name, I heard that a lot growing up. We always had shoes, but my Dad was a pastor. Hopefully, Marty can take a break from his home remodeling projects to get it done. By the way, one of Marty’s carpenters, Andrew Bussey, has been a big help on the Transition Town Solar group. He presented our group’s progress to the D12 Land Use committee last week…the Creative Enterprise Zone continues to percolate with event planning and community building. The amendment to the District 12 Plan incorporating language recognizing the Creative Enterprise Zone passed through the Planning Commission and is going next for approval to City Council. Yay! Visit their website to find out more. 

SCHOOLS – StAP Elementary will be getting some new trees soon to replace the ash trees recently cut down due to the increasing ash borer infestation. A group of neighbors stepped forward with the money to cover the cost of the trees. The city doesn’t have the dough to replace all the ash trees in the city as they come down, so they are looking to local groups to help with financing. We're getting an inventory of our park ashes and will need to do some additional fundraising to replace them all. Stay tuned. Thanks to school parents, Anne Aarness and Beth Commers for organizing the effort...Beth is also looking for volunteers to help with the school’s spring festival on May 3. Always a fun event, call Beth at 651-247-7009 to help…I’m looking forward to accompanying Murray’s environmental class as they do some research in Como Park next week. There’s a parent meeting for this innovative class this Saturday where we’ll get a chance to know each other a little better. I’m told it’s a great group…here’s a forward thinking program, Como High School offers an Academy of Finance which connects students with the world of financial services, offering a curriculum that covers Principles of Finance, Banking and Credit, Accounting, Global Business, and Entrepreneurship. They also work closely with the Cougar Branch of the Saint Paul Federal Credit Union. Students in the Academy, share 3 courses together including one of the above business courses and 2 core content courses required for graduation. In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in work experiences, internships in Fortune 500 Companies, as well as receive college credit for taking CIS and AP courses at Como Park Senior High School. Sounds great.  

LISTSERV – an interesting conversation about making light rail free during off hours got some input over the past few days. Costs of policing vs benefits of use came up and, of course, other concerns/ideas were voiced about impact on the other line and the fact that the U is never off peak, etc. What do you think?...Sat. April 23, 2,000 bales of straw will be for sale at the north parking lot of the fairgrounds. Apparently, straw bale gardening is the new thing. Google it and see. 

StAPnotes – Music in the Park Series family concerts (supported by the Foundation) are happening this Friday at 6:15 & 7:30 at St. Matthew's. It's the Lau Hawaiian Collective, titled "Water Music", with songs, stories, the hula, all on the theme of fresh water for all ages. More info here.  Limited availability at 6:15, tickets still available for 7:30 P.M. Speaking of the Schubert Club, they are celebrating their 130 anniversary with a concert by international vocal giant, Jessye Norman on April 30 at 7:30 pm at the Ordway. You can get $5 off with this promo code “5jessye” She really is an incredible artist, so go if you can. 

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