Board Considers Expanding Election Options
The Como Community Council this week will discuss amendments to its bylaws that would allow community members additional ways to vote for board members.

Currently, bylaws require elections to take place in person during the annual meeting. They forbid absentee voting. And they require the annual meeting to take place on the third Tuesday in April; that normally would mean this Tuesday, April 21.

However, the district council board postponed the elections and annual meeting to comply with emergency health directives during the Covid-19 pandemic. Those directives, among other things, ban public gatherings. Looking ahead, the board will discuss draft proposals that would allow community members options such as voting by mail, voting absentee in advance of the annual meeting, or voting online. Or, members still could vote in person if they preferred.

Any amendments to the bylaws could not be approved until at least May 19, and different methods of voting could not take place until after that. But board members will begin discussions at this month's council meeting.

That meeting begins at 7 p.m. April 21. As always, renters, homeowners, and other community members are welcome to participate; this month, that will have to be 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 no later than 6 p.m. April 21. Staff will send access information.
  • A preliminary agenda and additional documents will be posted as soon as they are available.
  • The board will consider appointing a short-term, ad hoc committee to explore different methods of voting in district council elections and to make recommendations at the May board meeting. Any community member who wants to participate in the committee should should email the District 10 office or leave a phone message at 651-644-3889 no later than 6 p.m. April 21.
You Probably Haven't Seen This Before
The state's Covid-19 dashboard is an easy place to get reliable details, find Minnesota's latest pandemic statistics, and collect or link to other information and advice during these "stay at home" days.  Additional pandemic resource information from the past week:
  • Health insurance: This Tuesday, April 21, is the last day to take advantage of MNsure's special enrollment period. If you recently lost a job, had your work hours cut, or otherwise lost insurance because of the economic devastation the pandemic is causing, coverage can be retroactive to April 1. Online enrollment is open until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Energy assistance: Minnesota's Energy Assistance Program offers grants ranging from $200 to $1,400, based on household size, income, and fuel costs. Additional funds may be available to pay overdue bills or fix your furnace. To get started, contact the Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties online or by calling 651-645-6470.
  • Metro Transit: To promote safer physical distancing, buses are limiting the number of passengers to 10 on a standard 40-foot bus and 15 on an articulated 60-foot bus. Buses' digital route signs will display "Next Bus Please" if the bus is at capacity. Also, beginning this Saturday, April 18, light-rail trains no longer will run between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Saint Paul Public Housing: Tenants suffering a reduction in income now can get their rent reduced beginning the month immediately after they report their income loss. Tenants must file income redetermination and rent re-adjustment paperwork.
  • Nonprofits: The Otto Bremer Trust has established a $50 million emergency fund for nonprofit organizations. Short-term loans, lines of credit, and emergency grants are available. Propel Nonprofits has working capital loans available, plus links to additional financing resources.
'Bridge Fund' Deadline is Sunday
This Sunday, April 19 at 5 p.m., is the deadline for families and small businesses to apply for emergency grants through Saint Paul's Bridge Fund. Eligible applicants will be selected through a lottery. The $3.8 million in emergency money is from the city's Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the Knight Foundation, and more than a half-dozen other philanthropies and businesses. The fund provides:
  • Grants of up to $1,000 for eligible city families to make rent or mortgage payments. Requirements include having at least one minor child at home and a family income of 40 percent or less of the Twin Cities median. (That's about $32,000 for two of you, $40,000 for a family of four.)
  • Grants of up to $7,500, which small, for-profit businesses in the city can use to pay five types of immediate expenses.
Applicants can direct questions to 651-266-6565; available staff speak English, Hmong, Spanish, Somali, Oromo, and Karen. 

Want to contribute? The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation has established a GiveMN fund that is accepting additional donations to increase the number of families and small businesses who can receive grants through the program.
Website Builds Pandemic Resource Guide
District 10's website is compiling a guide to all kinds of pandemic resources. We can't track everything, but we can try to save you some time. Resources include: 
  • How and where to volunteer or otherwise do good deeds
  • How and where to get the food you crave or need -- 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
City Council Looks at Rental Protections
The Saint Paul City Council is accepting public comment on proposed rental protections. Ward 4 Councilmember Mitra Jalali is the lead sponsor of the ordinance. If it passes, the ordinance would take effect Jan. 1, 2021. The proposed ordinance sets standards in five areas:
  • Rights and responsibilities: Creates a packet of information outlining rights, responsibilities, and resources for tenants and landlords.
  • Security deposits: Limits security deposits to one month's rent. Also prohibits forcing tenants to pre-pay more than one month's rent.
  • Tenant screening: Creates uniform guidelines about what can and cannot be used from an applicant's rental, credit, and criminal history.
  • Just cause: Requires landlords to provide, in writing, just cause if they terminate a lease or refuse to renew a lease. There are 10 grounds for just cause, including failure to pay rent on time and "material" breaches of the lease.
  • Notice: Requires that tenants in buildings classified as "affordable housing" be notified at least 90 days in advance if their building is up for sale. It also allows tenants to stay in the building at least 90 days after the sale, and requires the new owner to provide relocation assistance to displaced tenants under certain circumstances.
Written comments can be submitted using the city's Legistar system: It's clunky, but look for the third horizontal blue bar from the top, then click the "Add New Comment" link.
Don't Let Earth Day Slip Past
This Wednesday, April 22, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. We can't gather by the millions as people did in 1970. We can't do Saint Paul's annual Citywide Spring Cleanup, which is cancelled so folks won't violate social distancing guidelines. But:
  • Here are 16 things you can do at home to carry on the legacy of Earth Day.
  • Earth Day is a great excuse to clean the leaves and other debris from the storm drains near your home -- whether you officially are part of the Adopt a Drain network or not. And if you are an active member, don't forget to track your impact.
  • If nice weather inspires you to clean winter debris from your yard, your block, or a local park or schoolyard, take care not to damage emerging plants -- or the habitat that overwintering pollinators depend on. Dave Crawford, a naturalist who lives in Como, recommends: "Avoid stepping where there are visible plant shoots or new leaves. When possible, walk on bare soil, rock, gravel, wood chips, fallen branches, or on surfaces that will spread your weight over a larger area and protect the soil and plants underneath. Mechanical grabber devices can help you reach farther without having to walk onto sensitive areas." As for bees, the University of Minnesota Extension points out that many native bees nest in plant stems and may not emerge until as late as June. They urge you not to yank old stems from your garden beds until then. Or, if you absolutely must cut down the stems, pile them out of the way so bees can still emerge on their timetable, not ours.
  • As for another favorite spring activity, you can always report potholes to the city's Public Works Department. Call 651-266-9700 or email potholes@ci.stpaul.mn.us.
Construction Isn't Quarantined
  • Como Lake Drive: The street on the north side of the lake will remain closed until at least May 4 to create more physical distancing space for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Dale Street: Traffic remains restricted to one lane in each direction between University and Carroll while Ramsey County builds a new bridge over Interstate 94. At least until fall, motorists cannot get from Dale to St. Anthony Ave. north of the freeway or to Concordia Ave. south of the freeway. Nor can they get from St. Anthony and Concordia to Dale. Stretches of St. Anthony and Concordia are converted from one-way to two-way to allow local access to homes, businesses, and schools. Central is cut off east of Dale. And there are major speed bumps to make sure you move slowly through the construction zone, or suffer the consequences. 
  • Highway 5: Eastbound Highway 5 remains shut down between Interstate 494 and Davern. Also closed are all ramps to and from Highway 5 and Highways 55/62, to and from Highway 5 and Edgecumbe Road, and the ramp from eastbound Highway 5 to Norfolk Ave. This construction is scheduled to last till mid-July; after that, westbound Highway 5 shuts down between the Mississippi River and I-494 through October. (For now, westbound Highway 5 remains open as usual.) The airport has a whole website with advice on how to get around this mess.
  • Interstate 494: Westbound 494 is reduced to two lanes between Dodd Road and Highway 55 until June 1; eastbound lanes are reconfigured to accommodate two-way traffic. As part of the project, the ramp from westbound 494 to southbound Interstate 35E is closed through May 11; and the ramp from northbound 35E to westbound 494 is closed until June 1.
Business Licenses Up for Renewal
  • Gabe's by the Park: The liquor, entertainment, and gambling licenses for this restaurant at Lexington and Energy Park Drive are up for renewal on 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.
Where to Hang Out (Online)
Ordinance Targets Converter Thefts
Saint Paul City Council has scheduled a public hearing for this Wednesday, April 22, on a proposed ordinance that would make it a crime to sell or purchase a catalytic converter that is not attached to a vehicle. The only exception would be for a properly licensed auto repair garage.

Ward 5 Councilmember Amy Brendmoen, who is chief sponsor of Ordinance 20-16, hopes the proposal will eliminate the local market for stolen catalytic converters. Converters are part of the pollution-control system on vehicles. They contain precious metals potentially worth hundreds of dollars, but can cost motorists a couple of thousands of dollars to replace.

Police say thieves can saw off the converters in 30 seconds. Reported thefts in Saint Paul skyrocketed from 45 in 2014 to 345 in 2019.

Residents and businesses can file comments on the proposal until noon this Tuesday, April 21. Comments can be left as a voice message at 651-266-6805, sent as an email, or posted online.
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.