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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Saint Paul Receives Nearly Perfect Score From Human Rights Campaign

Rainbow Flags lined the Wabasha Street Bridge on the day the
 Freedom to Marry bill was passed
The national Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently gave the city of Saint Paul a 96/100 in its Municipal Equality Index.  The HRC Municipal Equality Index examines the laws, policies and services of municipalities and rates the city based on its inclusivity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Over the past year, the Mayor’s Office and Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) have worked tirelessly to improve the city’s municipal equality index score.  The Mayor’s Office and HREEO are committed to ensuring all people are treated fairly and have equal access to the same opportunities.  

The city has taken a number of proactive steps to better support the city’s LGBT residents.  The city has sought to improve equity and benefits for its LGBT employees, appointed mayoral and police department liaisons to the LGBT community, celebrated the signing of the Freedom to Marry law, updated diversity training to include LGBT topics, allocated resources to post city job opportunities in LGBT media outlets, enhanced the city’s recruiting statement to include LGBT individuals, and amended the city’s human rights ordinance to recognize transgender individuals as a protected class.          
Having a culture that welcomes all people is what helps make Saint Paul a strong and vibrant community. Saint Paul is proud of its efforts to value all people of all ages, races, economic status, and sexual orientation, and the city’s high score on the equality index is reflective of our efforts.

For more information, please visit the city of Saint Paul’s HRC scorecard.     

Monday, November 25, 2013

Disaster Planning: Practice Makes Perfect

By: Mike Lovas, Saint Paul Emergency Management

We’ve all heard the old adage, “practice makes perfect.” We’ve all conducted some sort of planning in our lives and created plans for a multitude of things, whether it is a plan for preparing our homes for winter, a plan for picking the kids up at school, a plan for who will buy the groceries this week, we all have plans.  And when it’s time to put our plans in motion, they may go smoothly, or outside factors may prevent us from doing them, such as being held up at work in a meeting, caught in traffic, kids stayed home sick, etc.

The City of Saint Paul is no different. Throughout our city departments, we have plans for multiple things.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, later the 34th President of the United States, said, “Plans are nothing.  Planning is everything.”  What he meant was that plans never practiced, revisited or updated mean nothing, but the fact that you plan and practice so you are ready when the time comes to execute means everything towards success.

In that spirit, departments within the city have worked hard this last year to practice our plans, test our  responses, work together in new, unique ways to improve, evolve and test response capabilities, plans and techniques.  Some examples include recent training between our S.W.A.T. team and our fire department’s EMS team, working together to learn how to enter hostile environments with S.W.A.T. police protection while they treat and remove injured people from an active scene.  This is directly in response to lessons learned from the Columbine High School event and many others since then.  By learning, practicing and refining their techniques, our EMS members and S.W.A.T. team will be well-suited to perform these duties if ever called upon.  This is one example of many that our first responders and city agencies are practicing.
Another recent example is our shelter capability.  The City of Saint Paul has plans for certain buildings and community centers to be used as shelters in the event of a disaster that displaces a sizable number of residents.  In October, we got together with our city partners and tested our plan for activating and setting up a shelter, resourcing all needs to operate the shelter, and accept people into the shelter.  We made sure to test our capabilities related to sheltering pets as well as people, taking special care to review our procedures for people with functional needs.  Because we cannot truly understand the needs if we ourselves do not have certain limitations, we brought in people from the community to test what we have in place, let us know what we are doing well, and offer their recommendations for improvement to make the services we provide to the residents of Saint Paul even better. 

If that bad day ever does happen and we need to open shelters in the city, the fact that we are taking the time now to go through the planning process, to practice and test those procedures and then improve the plans will be crucial to having the best process possible to support our citizens.
For more on how to prepare for a disaster, visit:

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's cold out! Here's how to avoid and deal with frozen pipes.

Every winter, hundreds of water meters and pipes freeze in area homes. You can take easy and inexpensive steps to prevent the damage, expense, and inconvenience associated with freezing pipes and meters.

Water meters sit several inches off the floor in the basements of most homes. Particularly in Saint Paul, many basements are partially finished and not used for main living quarters, so you might not notice colder temperatures or frosted areas along walls and the floor. Circulate the air to help keep these areas warm.

In some homes, meters are in separate, unheated rooms; keep the doors to that room open.

Through remodeling, meters may have been boxed in with gypsum board. Add vents to allow warmer air to the meter. When remodeling, install vents, louvered cabinet doors or other methods of allowing air to circulate around the meter. Be sure to allow access to the meter in the event that it needs to be repaired or replaced.

If the meter is in a pit in your home, make sure that the cover fits properly and has no cracks through which cold air can enter. The pipes, valves, and water meter in the pit should not touch the concrete walls, where it is colder. In addition:

  • Keep your basement warm enough to keep the meter and pipes from freezing
  • Check along the foundation for places cold wind can waft into the basement or into crawl spaces and plug them with insulation
  • Close off crawl space vents and doors
  • Replace or repair broken or cracked basement windows
  • Install storm windows or cover basement windows with weather insulation kits
  • Make sure that basement doors and windows close tightly
  • Seal or caulk cracks in the wall
  • Insulate pipes

Make sure the valves on either side of the water meter work and can be turned off if the meter freezes or the pipe bursts.

If the pipes near the meter are frozen, use a hair dryer to slowly apply heat to the pipe.

If your water meter freezes, the bottom plate will crack. Do not try to repair the meter yourself.

If you suspect damaged or frozen water pipes or water meter, call the SPRWS 24-hour dispatch office at 651-266-6868.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Governor Dayton Recognizes City GIS Team

If you spend any time with Public Works’ Geographic Information Systems staff, you won’t be surprised to learn that they were recently recognized by their peers for their continuing work on the city’s GeoMoose-based mapping service and data management system, known affectionately as GISmo. 

“It’s very satisfying to know that our peers at the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium took notice of our work on GeoMoose these past few years,” said GeoMoose data librarian Cory Richter, noting that it was the Consortium that called the Public Works team to the Governor’s attention.

So what makes this recognition notable?  It’s notable because the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo), an international organization formed to promote the growth of open source geospatial software, has certified GeoMoose as an official foundation project.  GeoMoose is one of only 10 web mapping systems from the international community to receive this designation.

Ours is a world where accurate, comprehensive mapping data is in high demand, and it’s vital for governments and individuals to have easy, affordable access to said information.  GeoMoose offers a range of mapping tools that are transportable across web browsers, with more layers and more options.

When asked about the next step for this data discovery tool, Bob Basques, GeoMoose originator, responded, “We’ll be adding in more capabilities to GeoMoose and GISmo over the next few months.  Other users of the GeoMoose package are seeing the benefits of its use and we’re eager to stay ahead of the curve.”

For now we’ll let the GeoMoose team, which includes developers Jim Klassen and designer Dan Little, bask in the glow of a job well done.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

With an eye to the past, Dayton’s Bluff plans for the future

Preservation of Hamm's brewery has led to new
development in the area
There are many exciting things happening in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood these days—the former Hamm’s brewery is being redeveloped as a hydroponic farm, a distillery and a brewery; Metropolitan State University is planning for a new science center, student union and parking ramp; the city-owned Hospital Linen site is in process to become a new specialty market and senior apartment complex; the Saint Paul Port Authority has been redeveloping the former 3M site; the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council and the East Side Area Business Association have been actively working with small businesses to update store fronts on East 7th Street and develop a neighborhood enterprise center; plans for new transportation options including a streetcar; the Gateway Corridor, and expansion of Nice Ride bikes to the area are being developed; and houses throughout the neighborhood are being rehabilitated, bringing in new residents.
Hamm's Brewery today
With all of these new initiatives taking place, it might be easy to forget the rich history of Dayton’s Bluff.  However, it is the dynamic history of this area that has laid much of the groundwork for these leaps forward.
The Dayton’s Bluff Historic District was approved by the Saint Paul City Council in 1992 to recognize the historical and architectural significance of the neighborhood.  The creation of the historic district was considered an important tool to foster the revitalization of the area.  Guidelines were developed to encourage the retention of historic architectural buildings and features as well as to create a high standard for new design. 

The preservation of these fine older buildings and the details they employ, as well as the protection of the beautiful natural setting of the neighborhood, remain among the reasons that new residents and businesses are drawn to the area.  As this area enjoys its renaissance, the neighborhood will continue to build upon the strong foundation of the historic district to inform and strengthen plans for the future.

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's that time again! Ski Saint Paul

Did you know you can experience the thrill of downhill skiing and the solitude of gliding through the woods on a pair of cross country skis in your own backyard?  The City of Saint Paul proudly offers a variety of high quality skiing opportunities right here inside the city, so dust off those skis, apply a fresh coat of wax and get ready to explore all the fantastic skiing opportunities Saint Paul has to offer.
Mount Como was called “a shining example of what a community tow should be” by, for good reason.  The ski area features 150 feet of vertical drop, 15 acres of skiable downhill terrain, two tow ropes to get you to the top of the hill and rental skis and snowboards to get you back down.  The Como Park Ski Chalet also offers skiers a place to warm up from the cold and a full selection of concessions are also available.

For those who have never skied or snowboarded before or for those looking for a refresher course on the finer points of the sport, a variety of lessons are available at Mount Como.  Lessons range from the very popular Kinderski for children aged 4-6, all the way up to lessons focusing on advanced ski and snowboard techniques.  Lesson information and times can be found here and rental equipment is also available at an additional charge. 
If you are a cross country skier, Saint Paul offers some of the area’s finest cross country ski trails.  There are more than 20 kilometers of regularly groomed trails for both classic and skate skiing at Como, Highland 9, and Phalen Golf Courses.  These trails cover a variety of different terrains suitable for a variety of skill levels. You can find the latest trail conditions and maps here.

Como Park Ski Center also offers a progressive classic cross country ski lesson program that accommodates all abilities from beginner to advanced.  If you are looking for instruction in the increasingly popular skate style of skiing, private lessons are also available.  Como Park Ski Center also offers classic cross country ski package rentals.   Lesson information and schedules can be found here.
  Be sure to get out this winter and explore all of the fantastic skiing opportunities that exist right here in the City of Saint Paul!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rondo Library receives new work by artist Seitu Jones, honoring librarian Alice Neve

Alice’s Storyteller Bench is the latest addition to the Saint Paul Public Library’s Rondo Community Outreach Library, 461 Dale Street N, a location known for its extensive public art. The bench was commissioned by retired librarian Alice Neve’s husband, Leon, to honor Alice’s nearly lifelong career as a Library staffer. The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library served as the fiscal agent for the fundraising campaign that resulted in the new installation.  
At the unveiling event on October 20, artist Seitu Jones talked about the bench’s carved symbols that reflect the many cultures of the neighborhood. Jones selected materials to complement another library installation he produced when the Rondo Library was built in 2006: a story tree and multicolored kites in the children’s area.

Rondo is the largest community library in SPPL’s system; it features a small business resource center, adult literacy materials and services for new Americans, a homework center for teens, community meeting rooms, and an interactive children’s area.
At the Rondo celebration, honoree Alice Neve spoke about her appreciation for a job that brought so many memories and friends, as well as her joy in connecting daily with people who share a love of reading and learning.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Saint Paul Animal Control Recognized for Outstanding Leadership

The Department of Safety and Inspections is pleased to announce that Animal Ark, a no-kill animal shelter and animal advocacy organization, is honoring the City of Saint Paul’s Animal Control Program, part of the Department of Safety and Inspections, for outstanding leadership in promoting innovative animal control techniques both in the field and in the shelter.

Such techniques include legislation passed by the Saint Paul City Council to restrict tethering for dogs on private property.  This is an important tool for preventing cruelty or neglect against Saint Paul’s canine residents.  Saint Paul Animal Control is also taking meaningful steps to increase live release of animals that come to the Animal Control Center in healthy and temperamentally sound condition. Saint Paul Animal Control leadership and staff are working toward this goal by building strong partnerships with the not-for-profit animal rescue community.  Animal Control is now working to reunite animals with their owners who bear identification without impounding them at Animal Control.  In addition, Animal Control is now utilizing skilled veterinary care and enrichment opportunities to provide a higher quality of housing for animals at the Center. Increasing the live release of animals helps build trust and confidence from the community and increases Saint Paul’s reputation as a safe and humane community for its human and animal residents.

Recipients of the Animal Ark 2013 Leadership Awards are: Mayor Christopher B. Coleman, City Council President Kathy Lantry, Ricardo Cervantes, Director of Safety and Inspections, Christine Rozek, Deputy Director of Licensing, and Molly Lunaris, Animal Control Supervisor. The award will be presented on November 9, 2013 at Animal Ark’s Holiday Auction.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Put a Freeze on Winter Fires

In the wintertime, people tend to stay warm and cozy indoors, running their boiler or furnaces, enjoying candles and their fireplaces, using space heaters, and cooking holiday meals. Unfortunately, all these things that can make winter cozy and fun also make it the most severe season of the year for fires.  In fact, cooking and heating are the two leading causes of fires in Minnesota.
Here are some important safety tips that will make your wintertime safer:
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • NEVER USE the stove or oven to heat your home.  It may produce poisonous carbon monoxide, which can harm and even kill people in the building.
  • Have your heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.  Ashes should be cool before putting them into a metal container.
  • Check out this one-minute animated video:  

  • Never leave the kitchen when you’re cooking on the stovetop.  Unattended cooking is the leading cause of building fires in Saint Paul.  If you cook, stay and look!
  • Maintain a three-foot kid-safe zone around the stove and oven.
  • If you have a fire in a pan, put a tight-fitting cover over it and turn off the burner.  Leave the cover on the pan until it is completely cool.
  • Install a pair of inexpensive StoveTop  FireStop extinguishers above the burners of your stove.  They’re available a 13 Frattallone’s Ace Hardware stores throughout the Twin Cities.
  • Consider using battery-powered, flameless candles instead of real ones.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Light candles safely.  Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down – put it out before it gets too close to the holder.
  • Extinguish candles before leaving your home or going to bed.
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage.
  • Be sure to have a working smoke alarm inside and outside of each bedroom.
  • Be sure to have a working carbon monoxide alarm within ten feet to the entrance of every bedroom in your house or apartment.
  • Test all you smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every month and change batteries once a year.  When you change your clock, change your batteries.
  • Consider buying smoke alarms with the 10-year lithium battery that won’t need changing every year.
  • Have two ways out of every room used for sleeping.
  • If you’re a Saint Paul homeowner and want to join our “Project Safe haven,” please call 651-228-6273.  You will receive a colorful self-inspection checklist for hazards in your home.  If you like, a crew of Saint Paul Firefighters can come by your house to go over your self-inspection with you, help you with your fire escape plan, install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms if you need them, and install stovetop firestop extinguishers above the burners of your stove – all FREE courtesy of a grant from FEMA.
  • ADOPT-A-HYDRANT.   If there is a fire hydrant near your home or business, ADOPT it by keeping it clear of snow for at three feet in all directions.  This will save firefighters valuable time when there’s a fire in your neighborhood.  Check out this cool video:  

If you have any questions about fire safety or injury prevention, please call our Public Education Officer, Elizabeth Larkin at 651-228-6203 and she will help you.  Fire is everybody’s fight!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Great Year for our Edible Garden

Another season in the Chipotle Edible Garden has quickly come to an end.  Gardeners completed their final harvest of the season two weeks ago. At the time, this is what the garden looked like: 


There have been a lot of changes since then. The Chipotle Edible Garden is mostly an annual garden. With the exception of one or two plants, everything is torn out at the end of each growing season. This is what the garden looks like now: 


This season flew by. It seemed like just yesterday that gardeners Angie Senn, Heather Hauschildt, and Mindy Walter planted the garden. Check out how much everything grew over the summer!


For those of you who didn’t have a chance to visit the garden this year, the Chipotle Edible garden is just what it sounds like – a garden you can eat. At least one part of each plant in the garden can be eaten.  There were 120 varieties of plants in the garden during the 2013 season. As in previous years, the produce harvested was put to good use. A portion of the produce went directly to the animals in Como Zoo.  These gorillas enjoyed munching on Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale. 


The remaining produce went to the City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Center to be used in a variety of programs educating residents about the benefits of eating fresh produce and how to cook each item.  Here are members of the “Tween Club” and “Summer Blast” programs showing off their produce.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is happy to see the produce from the Chipotle Edible Garden being put to such great use and excited to continue this tradition for years to come.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A more livable Snelling Avenue and managing change

Submitted by Councilmember Russ Stark, Ward 4

With light rail service set to begin by mid-2014 and the development of jobs and housing along University Avenue well underway, more and more community conversations in Ward 4 are beginning to be focused on the future of Snelling Avenue.  In 2012, the city and community members partnered with MnDOT to create a plan for making Snelling between Selby Avenue and the northern city limits a more multi-modal street, to provide better facilities for transit riders, pedestrians, and (in some areas) bicyclists, and to be able to share the avenue more safely and efficiently with cars and trucks.  The Metropolitan Council plans to introduce a new type of bus service on Snelling in the next few years (sometimes referred to as Rapid Bus or Arterial Bus Rapid Transit), with the goal of providing a faster, higher-amenity service on an already well-used transit route.  Within the next several years, MnDOT also plans to rebuild the aging Snelling Avenue bridge deck over I-94.

Seattle's Rapid Ride, an example of the type of bus service coming to Snelling Avenue

Snelling Avenue not only carries more traffic than any other street in the City of Saint Paul (with the highest traffic between Selby and University), but also doubles as a center of retail and commercial activity for the neighborhoods that it bisects.  Because Snelling serves these two primary functions, managing change will continue to be a balancing act. We need to assure that people have the ability to move efficiently around our community through many modes of travel, and also maximize opportunities to create great places to live, work, and cross the street safely.

The proposed Vintage development at the northeast corner of Snelling and Selby
In Union Park, the proposed Vintage on Selby development (Whole Foods with 200 units of market-rate apartments) has been well-received by the community and has also raised important questions around traffic flow, parking, and access to the site, as well as re-igniting conversations about how the city can best use Ayd Mill Road.

At the former "bus barn" site on the northeast corner of Snelling and I-94 -- which was formerly the streetcar barns -- the city and the Metropolitan Council are working together to solicit development concepts for one of the key "gateway" develop-able sites in our community.  Further north in Hamline Midway, retail vacancies and a tired-looking streetscape along Snelling are leading to community conversation about the need for revitalization.  Further north still, the former Sholom Home site at Snelling and Midway Parkway remains vacant and the re-purposing of the site is a top priority of the Como Community Council.
Streetcar barns at Snelling and University, 1926. Courtesy of the MN Historical Society
I attended the recent annual meeting of the Union Park District Council and was part of a panel talking about "Managing Change" in our community.  One of the topics of discussion was the appropriate density of development in our community.  I believe that as a community, in many ways we are of two minds about density.  On the one hand, Saint Paulites in general do not want to see taller buildings built anywhere near their houses; on the other hand, many of us live in the city in part because of its walkability and our proximity to businesses and services.  I believe we need to accommodate growth and greater density of development along our commercial corridors, including Snelling, in order to create more options of stores, housing, and jobs than exist today.  But our approach to this development must be thoughtful, and must complement the great stock of single-family homes in our neighborhoods without detracting from our quality of life.  The denser the development, the more thoughtful we must be about how to handle parking, traffic, and a safe environment for walking and bicycling.

Change is already coming to some parts of Snelling, and now is a great time to be thinking about how we want to continue to shape change to ensure that our Ward 4 neighborhoods become even better places to live, work, and play.