I spent this lovely morning touring St. Paul looking at project sites seeking STAR funding. As those who read this blog regularly may remember, I am a member of the STAR board which grants money - garnered from a city tax - for capital improvements in St. Paul. The board consists of appointed representatives from all the wards who meet a half dozen times a year to decide on annual and year-long grants. The final decision is always made by the City Council but we rate the requests based on how closely they fit into the original purpose of the fund. 

We have around $7M in requests which is probably 3-4 times more money than what's available. The fund was intended to be used primarily for loans which would help grow the fund, but I would say 80% or more of the requests are for outright gifts.  Some are big asks ($1.5M for a regional ballpark in Lowertown) some are small ($10,000 to repair windows and weatherize a montessori school.) Some are interesting (urban fish farm at Hamm's brewery) and some are desperate (if a business can't get a new HVAC system they will be forced to move out of a neighborhood that really needs them,) and some are unique dreams (simulated gold medals from the 1980's Olympics set into sidewalks on Payne Avenue for local members of the Miracle on Ice hockey team.) I'll let you know how it all turns out in a month or so.

There are no requests from our neighborhood after having 3 of 4 turned down last year (the Colossal Cafe got some help.) There isn't really much in the way of marketing to the public, most applicants are steered STAR way by their city council members or the local district council. I'm going to recommend that they circulate more info to give more people the opportunity, but also get the word out on my own. If you're curious or know someone, send them my way.

I also attended an event last night at the Wilder Foundation for leadership training graduates, which was incredibly inspirational. I am proud to say my daughter was among the grads and the sense of camaraderie among the incredibly diverse group was a joy to witness. New leaders of all ages, cultures and races excited to take their knowledge and passion back to their communities to lead St. Paul forward into the future. There was an Aztec dance troupe, singing, a keynote speech from State Representative Rena Moran, a former grad of the program, who told of her journey from homeless mother of seven 10 years ago to the State Capitol (that will make most of us rethink our minor complaints about our lot in life.) Then there were the testimonials of the students who were given a new appreciation or their power to change communities and lives. Wow. I can't wait to see what they will do. I am confident they will make their communities better. Thanks to Wilder and our new leaders for a memorable evening. By the way, neighbor and Energy Reliance Group leader, Tim Wulling, was a graduate as well, so we should be benefitting even more from his leadership abilities.

D12 - There have been ongoing conversations about prospective tenants for the Vandalia Mattress Factory (Water Tower Place?) building. Final remodeling plans and site prep will no doubt take the better part of this year, but there is a buzz and some interesting ideas are being floated, like the vertical farm idea I mentioned before. The Corridor, in general, is beginning to take shape with parking, walking & bike options, and bus routes all being considered...it's finally here, the Kasota Pond clean-up this Saturday from 9-noon. Meet just over the RR tracks by the pond, you will see a tent and people munching donuts and/or bagels. They will be friendly, interesting and good company as you scour the wilderness looking for trash...Next Monday you can find out how places get zoned industrially and what that means for our community from 6:30 - 8pm at the Carpenter's Union office, 710 Olive Street...

Schools - Had a nice conversation with Ann Johnson, principal at the StAP Elementary School and SAPSA (parent/teacher group) reps Jill Driscoll and Amy Swenson. We talked about the support the Foundation gives to the school and the ongoing challenges of supplementing the school's budget to ensure continued vibrance and viability. And, that school is definitely vibrant, with flourishing arts, music, science and academic programs that are unique and popular with students and parents. The relationship between a community and its school is critical, with transparency key to a healthy partnership. We are lucky to have a strong principal and thoughtful, energetic parents committed to making it work, first and foremost, for the benefit of the kids. That's why they are sending both the 5th and 6th graders to Wolfridge Environmental Camp next year (usually, it's just the 6th grade.) Because of the transition from K-6 to K-5, they didn't want the 5th graders to miss out on that special opportunity, so they are raising funds to make sure both classes can go. You can send donations to the Foundation if you like, it's a great program and deserves community support...this Friday, the Como High Booster Club is having its annual spring spaghetti dinner from 5-7:30pm at the Como Park Lutheran Church. Tickets are only $7 and it goes to support arts, athletics and clubs. There will be drawings for prizes as well.

listserv - Mystery box identified, Ellen Longfellow asked a man who was using it - turns out it's for communication by workers fixing the storm sewer from Langford to Eustis. Ask and ye shall be informed, but there are still those who are holding out for the alien surveillance device explanation...June 5th, 6:30 - 7:30 pm is the date for the annual 4th of July mailing "stuffing party" at Langford Rec Center. The more the merrier and the less the time. Just put it on the calendar and bring your friends. You will feel fulfilled...The Como-Scudder intersection is being cited as a concern for pedestrians, especially the kids. It's really part of a length between Raymond and Carter that regularly sees speeds over the limit and makes everyone nervous. The city is looking into the whole stretch and will no doubt do something with signage at the very least. Please watch your speed in everyone's neighborhood.

StAPnotes - Music in the Park Series final concert of the season is one you don't want to miss, the Escher String Quartet and Jason Vieaux, guitarist, will be playing Friday, April 27, 6:15 and 7:30 performances at Family Concerts with a main concert at SAPUCC on Sunday, 4:00 p.m. (pre-concert discussion 3 P.M.) They are also visiting the StAP elementary school to play for the students (Ad from your sponsor: the Foundation helps to support that.) It's been a great season for MiP, they bring so much wonderful music to our corner of the world. We are very fortunate to have them here and look forward to working with them and the Schubert Club on some exciting musical adventures in the coming years...Avalon School needs 7 copies of The Stranger by Albert Camus. If you have one or two, let Kevin know before 5/7...got a favorite pothole? Report it to the City...last week when I was mentioning the City Pages "Best of" for our neighborhood, I forgot to list Chocolat Celeste as best metro chocolatier. Delicious and just over on Cleveland near the train depot. Go there, it's good for your heart.

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