The legislature finally completed their business in last-minute fashion last week. For the most part, unbiased reviews seem to indicate they made some hard choices that should set the state closer to the right direction on several critical fronts. I’m sure some will quibble about spending limits or with some of the compromises needed to get bills passed, but after about 8 years of paralysis, there was big movement. 

Same-sex marriage was the headline story along with a big focus on education, the re-configured tax laws, and the union option for daycare workers. Failures, in my opinion, included gun control, tougher anti-bullying efforts and the minimum wage increase. In our neighborhood, the solar provisions will be appreciated (more on that below) but the Bell Museum relocation will have to wait once again, in spite of Alice Hausman’s fight to have it included in the bonding bill. I have a feeling it was the victim of Republicans feeling left out (some might argue they opted out) and exercising what little power they felt they had to defeat the additional spending. It’s a shame, but I’m not sure the U actually thought it would happen - altho Alice certainly pulled out all the stops to try to get it done. 

I think we can be proud as a community of the role our reps and senators played in this session. Alice and Erin Murphy’s leadership in the house was critical, John Marty had a big role in the energy bill, and Dick Cohen was one of the “Big Four” who helped shape the entire budget.  Make sure to thank them all for their efforts, it’s a process that requires unbelievable stamina and dedication. And don’t hesitate to respectfully share your concerns no matter how you think they did. 

The other big news locally is the coming of the St. Anthony Park Art Festival this Saturday. Last year’s array of talent was impressive and this year’s promises to be better. Take a look at their website to see some of the featured artists’ lovely works and get the skinny on maps, rosters, musical acts, etc. This is the Branch Library Association’s biggest fundraiser so come on down and support our lovely Carnegie jewel. Also, I believe the library is still looking for books to sell and volunteers to sell them – contact Susan Dean to find out. 

And, of course, a reminder that the Library will close June 3 for renovation. It won’t reopen until early August. 

You also want to make sure and prepare properly by stopping by the 4H Pie & Ice cream social Friday night 7-9pm on the Sem lawn. Good cause, great pie. 

Finally, the Saint Anthony Park Garden Club will host their annual plant sale during the Art Festival from 9am-2pm. The sale will take place in the Healy parking lot, next to Park Service. Funds raised will help support neighborhood projects including planting and tending the library window boxes and gardens. 

D12 – If I read the preliminary report correctly, the Hampden Park improvements from their master plan will be funded by the city. That’s good news for residents in the area who will enjoy the addition of trees, park benches, and a central plaza making the area safer and more useful. 

The word on development of the Water Tower/Mattress factory building on Vandalia is that it will take some time. I got a chance to talk to Peter Remes, founder of First & First, the building owner, who is still trying to sort out the many different leases to understand when and how his idea for a creative enterprise space can take shape. He has buildings around the metro he is rehabbing in interesting and useful ways, so I look forward to seeing his vision for this building come together. He understands that great development builds great communities, a view fortunately shared by other developers/property owners involved in the Creative Enterprise Zone like Update, Exeter and Wellington Management. 

The Transition Town movement has been steadily moving forward with committees growing and drilling down on actionable goals. My main connection is to the solar group and the legislation passed in the last days of this spring’s session has certainly given some lift to the development of solar energy in the state. Even though the final goal for the percentage of energy power companies need to derive from solar by 2020 was lowered to 1.5% in the final version, there were enough provisions in the bill to incentivize the industry in very positive ways. We also had a good meeting with the St. Paul School District facilities folks who were very open to the idea of investigating how we can help put solar panels on school roofs, starting with the elementary school. There’s a lot to be done on that front, but it feels like something could happen. 

SCHOOLS – Three words: END OF YEAR! Graduations, class parties, Field Day at the elementary school. Lots of excitement about summer vacations and camps and next year’s new class alignment. The 5th & 6th graders are leaving StAP Elementary together to venture over to Murray. That is a big deal. The 5th graders are up at Wolfridge this week as they would have missed out on that right of passage if parents and the school hadn’t stepped forward to make sure it happened. 

I joined the E2 crew (Wolfridge environmental class) at Murray for their last research foray at Como Park. Data was collected, photos taken, chocolates handed out. Next stop Northern Minnesota for two weeks this summer. Very exciting. There’s a great video on the Como High School website about one of their students who is truly beating the odds. It’s a great story and she is a great personality who found support and a home at Como. Expect big things in her future. 

Here’s a link for the SPPS 2013-2014 school schedule. Start your Planner engines! 

LISTSERV – Lots of chatter about youngsters soliciting bus money door to door. Neighbors concerned about the kids’ welfare and wondering about how to handle the situation…which leads to a conversation about the summer round of security issues. Amy Sparks from D12 provides this link which covers just about everything although there are always new angles - necessity is the mother of invention after all…Alice Duggan extends an invitation to join the volunteers who help keep the library looking good Tuesday and Thursday mornings for conversation and transformational gardening…want to plant a tree on your boulevard? Here’s the link to find out what the city thinks about all that and 

StAPnotes – I have been a bit remiss on throwing a shout out to neighbor Carole Mason Smith for the work she did leading the negotiating team for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. I’m pretty sure Carole did not major in labor negotiations in college, but sure got a masters course during the protracted mediation sessions. Needless to say, everyone involved in that effort gave much time and energy to get the agreement done. I’m not sure everything is champagne and roses over there yet, but hopefully a summer break will give everyone a chance to refocus on continuing that orchestra’s tradition of superb musicianship…Chanson Voice Studio at 775 Raymond Ave is having a Grand Opening celebration Sunday June 9 from 1-5pm. Music, beverages, eats, sounds like fun. RSVP here. And to help celebrate the Art Festival, the Bibelot is having a Summer Sale on May 31 and June 1, offering 25% off regular price merchandise.

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