This Great Horned Owl (or a cousin) has been spotted in different parts of the neighborhood -- just listen to the angry crows as a clue. Nile Fellows caught up with it near the Conservatory. 
You've Got Inspiration? We've Got a Plan
Got an artistic idea that can unite and inspire Como residents during the coronavirus pandemic? Now's your chance. 

The Como Community Council is calling local artists to submit ideas of a visual or phrase (or combination) that is uplifting, represents our community, and maybe even fun! The council will turn around, turn it into lawn signs and prints, and sell them to raise money for a local organization struggling during these days of Covid. We want to turn this around quickly so, here are the details:
  • Submit your ideas for an image or phrase by next Saturday, May 9.
  • It's got to fit on a standard lawn sign, which means 24-by-18 inches (or vice versa).
  • Email a PDF to the D10 office. It doesn't have to be a final, perfect version. But it should be close enough that we know what we're getting.
D10 board members will make their choice, then work with the artist and local businesses to get the signs into production.

For folks who aren't right-brained: We're also taking suggestions on where we should donate proceeds. You can email us your recommendation (and the reasons why), also by next Saturday, May 9.

This initiative will be one thing talked about at this week's Neighborhood Relations meeting. The meeting begins this Tuesday, May 5, at 7 p.m. To conform with public health directives restricting public gatherings, this meeting will take place remotely. All renters, homeowners, and other District 10 community members are welcome to participate via video conferencing or telephone.

Any community member who wants to participate should email the District 10 office or leave a phone message at 651-644-3889. Staff will send access information. See the preliminary agenda
A 10-by-12-foot "cougar" sign, mounted 60 feet above ground on the existing school chimney, is among sign variances Como High is seeking as part of its remodeling project.
Land Use Tackles New Topics Wednesday
An outdoor sign variance for the remodeled Como Senior High School will be among topics discussed at this week's District 10 Land Use meeting. Also on the agenda: Committee members will outline efforts to change Saint Paul's zoning code to allow the State Fair vending and parking overlay districts to activate during the annual Back to the 50s event at the Fairgrounds.

The meeting begins this Wednesday, May 6, at 7 p.m. To conform with public health directives restricting public gatherings, this meeting will take place remotely. All renters, homeowners, and other District 10 community members are welcome to participate via video conferencing or telephone.

Any community member who wants to participate should email the District 10 office or leave a phone message at 651-644-3889. Staff will send access information. See the preliminary agenda
Interest in Community Garden Overflows
Even though we expanded the Como Community Garden to 25 plots this year, we are filled up and, once again, have a waiting list for the season. If you signed up, you should hear this week whether and how soon you'll be able to start digging. Thanks to all participants.
Seed Library Finds a Work-Around
The Como Community Seed Library is not letting some bloomin' virus derail its 2020 Garden Kickoff. Instead, the library is arranging safe and socially distanced ways to exchange seeds, plant starts, divided perennials, and garden gear. Plus, there will be garden learning opportunities online throughout the day.

It's all scheduled for Saturday May 16 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Stay tuned for more details on the seed library's Facebook page.
Yes, There's Time to Run for D10 Board
While exact details of elections are being worked out, the filing period remains open for candidates interested in running for the Como Community Council board.

Nine seats are up for election this year. In most of the positions, no incumbent is running, so it's not like you would be trying to throw someone out. Learn more about the positions and how to apply. The new deadline to file: Tuesday May 19.

Meanwhile, an ad hoc committee appointed by the board expects to recommend that community members vote by mail or electronically in June. Under plans being developed, ballots will be sent to all community members who request them. Community members would have roughly a two-week window to cast their vote.

Right now, elections remain on hold because emergency restrictions ban public gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic. The district council's current bylaws permit only in-person voting at the annual meeting, which must take place at a particular time on a particular weeknight at a particular location. But the board will vote May 19 on amending the bylaws so community members could vote by mail, electronically, or through other types of absentee ballot.  (You can  read more details  and  email comments  if you'd like.)
This map shows census participation rates by county. The darker the blue, the better. Shades of yellow or brown? Not so good.
Did You Forget About the Census?
Today is May 1. A month ago -- April 1 -- was Census Day. If you didn't get around to filling out your U.S. Census form, it's not too late. You can do so online, by phone, or by mail. Here's the rundown on how to do each.

Locally, we've got a long way to go. Minnesota's completion rate is only 64.9 percent. Saint Paul is about the same (64.8 percent); Ramsey County is slightly better overall (69.2 percent).  Here in Como, participation rates vary widely:
  • Census Tract 303 (which is east of Lexington and north of the railroad tracks): 81.4 percent
  • Census Tract 302.01 (which is north and west of the park): 76.9 percent
  • Census Tract 312 (which is South Como -- between Lexington, Dale, and the two railroad tracks): 66.4 percent
  • Census Tract 302.02 (which is much of Como Regional Park, Energy Park, and the apartments between Wynne and Jessamine): 59.4 percent
The U.S. Constitution requires a nationwide count of all residents every 10 years. The census provides the raw data that influences how billions of dollars in federal and private-sector funds are spent every year. It impacts where governments and businesses make investments in jobs, personal services, housing, roads, schools, medical facilities, and more. It also determines redistricting -- who gets what representation in Congress, the state legislature, etc.
Grand Round Adds Another Section
The next missing link of the Grand Round trail along Wheelock Parkway -- the stretch around "Horseshoe Hill" west of Rice Street -- is expected to be paved today, Friday May 1, weather permitting. Once it's paved (striping will come later), cyclists, runners, and others can get from the east side of Como Park all the way to Edgerton without being on the street. That's about 6 miles round trip.

Also expected to be repaved today: the trail section along Lexington Parkway from Montana south to the new crosswalk. However, the trail section from there south to Schiffman Fountain ran into soil issues (imagine that -- soil issues in Como?). So that dirt will remain dug up until it dries out and workers can install a new base.  More updates:
  • Como Ave. between Hamline and the Raymond/Cleveland intersection may have temporary lane restrictions as crews take down trees in preparation for street reconstruction this year and in 2021.
  • Crews have sprayed temporary pavement markings along East Como Blvd. between Nagasaki and Maryland in preparation for lane reconfigurations. The actual restriping could take place anytime between now and June 30.
  • Como Lake Drive remains closed until at least while pandemic restrictions remain in place.
No changes on big road projects:
Tracking Official Paperwork
New this week:
  • 1015 Bandana Blvd.: The city's Planning Commission on May 1 approved rezoning the property from B3 commercial to T3 traditional to allow construction of a 152-unit apartment building atop the existing parking ramp. The commission also approved a setback variance. Both votes were 12-0.
  • The property owner at 817 W. Orange has applied for a backyard chicken permit.
  • Friday May 15 is the deadline to comment on the City of Saint Paul's Stormwater Permit Annual Report and Stormwater Management Program, 4 p.m. Email comments to Pat Murphy.
  • The Board of Zoning Appeals holds a public hearing Monday May 18 at 3 p.m. on outside sign variances being sought by Como Park Senior High School. We will share information when we receive it on how to access the remote meeting and how to comment on the variance request. (In addition, District 10's Land Use Committee will discuss the request this Wednesday, May 6, at 7 p.m. See the article above for more information.)
  • Como Park Zoo and Conservatory: The liquor and Sunday liquor licenses are up for renewal on July 23. Anyone who has concerns should contact the office of Ward 4 Councilmember Mitra Jalali.
  • D&L Food and Gas: The gas station license for this business at 626 W. Larpenteur is up for renewal on July 28. Anyone who has concerns should contact the office of Ward 5 Councilmember Amy Brendmoen.
Still in the works:
  • The Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee of Saint Paul's Planning Commission is expected to make is final recommendation this month on proposed density revisions in the city's multi-family zoning districts. The deadline to submit a comment by email is this Monday, May 4, 4:30 p.m.
  • Gabe's by the Park: The liquor, entertainment, and gambling licenses for this restaurant on Lexington and Energy Park Drive are up for renewal this Tuesday, May 5. (Liquor licenses include patio, Sunday, and 2 a.m. closing.) Anyone who has concerns should contact the office of Ward 4 Councilmember Mitra Jalali.
  • Foxtrot Burger Spot: The liquor and patio licenses for this restaurant at 1341 Pascal are up for renewal on June 1. Anyone who has concerns should contact the office of Ward 4 Councilmember Mitra Jalali.
  • Como Lakeside Pavilion: The liquor, entertainment, and patio licenses (currently being managed by Spring CafĂ©) are up for renewal on June 4. Anyone who has concerns should contact the office of Ward 5 Councilmember Amy Brendmoen.
  • Pope Automotive: The garage license for this auto repair shop at 991 Front is up for renewal on June 13. Anyone who has concerns should contact the office of Ward 5 Councilmember Amy Brendmoen.
Scammers Test our Gullibility
Scammers never miss an opportunity, and the current pandemic provides them plenty of new ruses to gain access to your personal and health insurance information. Be suspicious of anyone you do not know who calls you, emails you, texts you, or even knocks on your door saying they need information such as your date of birth, Social Security number, bank account, or health insurance. The Federal Bureau of Investigation warns us to watch out for these kinds of suspicious activities:
  • The scam: Fake home test kits. Why it's a scam: Legitimate Covid-19 testing is free and is done by medical professionals.
  • The scam: Someone from the "CDC" or "VA" or "WHO" sends you an email, or even knocks on your door and says they need to test you. Why it's a scam: A) These agencies never do visits like that. B) A physician or other health-care provider must assess your condition first; then they might request follow-up testing for Covid-19.
  • The scam: Cures, treatments, or vaccines for Covid-19. Why it's a scam: A) Scientifically proven cures, treatments, or vaccines don't exist. B) When an approved treatment or cure becomes available, an email, telephone call, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch from a stranger will not be the first way you hear about it.
Pandemic Rundown
Coronavirus-related updates in the neighborhood, city, and beyond:
Trying to Turn the Corner
  • Gov. Tim Walz is extending the state's stay at home order for two more weeks; it now runs through May 17.
  • But the governor is allowing more businesses to (carefully) get back to business. As the state partners with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to expand testing capability, the state also has teamed with Target and the Minnesota Safety Council to create another piece of the recovery puzzle -- what they call Symptom Screener. The web-based tool allows businesses to create an account, then anonymously screen the health of workers and visitors.
  • If you run a business or organization, the state wants to know what kind of "social distancing" norms make sense to you and are doable over the next three to six months. Take their survey
  • As always, the state's Covid-19 dashboard is an easy place to get big picture and up-to-date details, find Minnesota's latest pandemic statistics, and collect or link to oodles of other information and advice during these "stay at home" days.
Photo: National Public Radio
More Meals for Families
Saint Paul and Youthprise are distributing 40,000 meal packs a week at seven recreation centers. Families with a minor child can pick up one meal pack per child per week. Each pack contains seven dinners and seven snacks. The closest to the Como neighborhood are Rice Recreation Center, 1021 Marion St., and Dunning Recreation Center, 1221 Marshall Ave. Both distribute meals Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-4 p.m. Other distribution times and locations:
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1-4 p.m.: Conway Recreation Center, 2090 Conway St.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2-4 p.m.: El Rio Vista Community Center, 179 Robie St. E; McDonough Recreation Center, 1544 Timberlake Road; Palace Recreation Center, 781 Palace Ave.
  • Wednesdays and Fridays, 2-4 p.m.: Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Ave.
Old cars will have to find a different way to show off this summer.
More Things Won't Happen 
  • Back to the 50s: Minnesota Street Rod Association has cancelled this year's event, originally scheduled for June 19-21 at the State Fairgrounds.
  • Hmong International Freedom Festival: United Hmong Family Inc. has cancelled what would have been the 40th anniversary festival, originally scheduled for July 4-5 in Como Regional Park.
  • Two more ComoFest events have cancelled for 2020: The ComoFest Art Fair, originally scheduled for July 18, and Lyngblomsten's MidSummer Festival, originally scheduled for July 31. (The Como Community Council previously cancelled its Ice Cream Social, scheduled for July 10.)
Mayor Gives Us a Break on Fees
Mayor Melvin Carter is giving residents and businesses some breathing room on fees and fines. Among his actions:
  • Multiyear street assessments due in 2020 now will not be due until 2021.
  • Towing and impound charges will be waived for motorists if they claim their vehicles from the Cathlin St. lot by this Wednesday, May 6, or from the Barge Channel Road lot before next Friday, May 8.
  • Businesses that are shut down by the State of Minnesota receive a 25 percent reduction in their city license fees; if their license is up for renewal before Aug. 1, they can delay renewing for up to 90 days without penalty.
  • Overdue accounts will not be sent to collections until after June 30.
The mayor also extended a number of earlier emergency provisions for 40 more days.
Photo: Mayo Clinic
Coronavirus Test Sites Expand
As Minnesota scales up the availability of Covid-19 testing, nearby sites include:
  • Allina Health, 4194 Lexington Ave. N, Shoreview (by appointment only): weekdays 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 651-483-5461
  • HealthPartners, 205 S. Wabasha (by appointment only): weekdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; weekends 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 952-967-5584
  • Minnesota Community Care, 424 Dorothy Day Place, weekdays 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. 651-793-2219
  • Minnesota Community Care, 895 E. 7th St. (by appointment only): Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, noon-4 p.m.; Wednesdays-Thursdays, noon-8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon. 651-602-7500
  • Open Cities Health Center, 916 Rice: Mondays and Wednesdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 651-290-9200
  • Open Cities Health Center, 409 N. Dunlap: weekdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 651-290-9200
Website Builds Pandemic Resource Guide
District 10's website continues to compile a guide to all kinds of local pandemic resources. We can't list everything, but we can try to save you time. Resources include: 
  • How and where to volunteer or otherwise do good deeds
  • How and where to get food you need (or crave) -- whether it's groceries, a carry-out meal, food for children, or supplies from a food shelf
  • Where to track down unemployment benefits, cash assistance, emergency child care, mental health resources, state and federal business loan programs, rental advice, and more
  • How to tap into the online resources of local libraries, the Zoo and Conservatory, and other public institutions
Spread the Word
District 10 is one of Saint Paul's 17 citizen participation districts. The District 10 Como Community Council is a nonprofit organization, governed by a Board of Directors who are elected by members of the community. The Council's mission is to inform, educate, and connect the neighborhood to increase community pride and confidence. 
You are receiving this email because you expressed interest in District 10 activities.