October 23, 2020
2020 keeps getting wackier and wackier. Photo: Nile Fellows
Digging Deeper into How Racism Works
The Como Community Council’s Sunday Series continues this week with “Our Justice System and Race Equity.” Guest presenter is Richard McLemore II.

McLemore is a Circle Keeper with Saint Paul’s “ETHOS” diversion program, was director of Ujamaa Place (a culturally-specific organization focused on young black men in the criminal justice system), and is a board member for We Are All Criminals and the Dispute Resolution Center. Among other restorative justice activities, he leads workshops on mental and emotional healing for practitioners at state and federal prisons, juvenile facilities, and county jails across the nation. And that's not the beginning of the story.

Details: McLemore’s free online presentation is this Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1-2:30 p.m. To take part, register in advance; we’ll send you access information shortly beforehand.

Coming up: On Sunday Nov. 8, learn about the Mapping Prejudice Project in Saint Paul. Find out how white people created and promoted racial covenants to legally reserve homes and land exclusively for white people, and how these covenants continue to shape structural racism in our community today. Also, you’ll learn how you can volunteer to research where those covenants exist in our city, in our neighborhood, and in the property deed for your own home. Register in advance

Looking back: Did you play hooky during the Oct. 11 presentation by Lissa Jones-Lofgren, “Equity in Community: Getting Our Language Right”? View a recording on your own time.
Now, It’s Your Decision
Two dozen houses think they have the best Halloween decorations in the neighborhood. Who's right?

Go to our website to download the map and addresses. Check out the houses (preferably at night!), then vote for your favorite. Or, write in a different address. You can cast your ballot before the sun rises this Thursday, Oct. 29. On Halloween Eve, we'll announce the winner of the Como Community Council's Spooky Decoration Celebration. We will bestow upon them appropriately themed cookies -- and bragging rights for the next year.
Is Covid Scaring Off Your Halloween Plans?
Trying to figure out how to deal with trick-or-treating during a pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control has all kinds of advice. Some highlights:

  • The basics. Stay at least 6 feet apart. Stay outdoors. Wear masks – protective masks, not flimsy costume masks. Wash or sanitize your hands a lot, especially before and after handling treats.
  • Avoid typical Halloween activities. No door-to-door, no big parties, no trunk-or-treating, no haunted houses, no hayrides. In other words, nothing where you’re in close contact or proximity to others, especially strangers.
  • Treats. If you are handing out treats, avoid any direct contact. Line up individual goodie packs for youngsters to grab and go outdoors, such as from the end of your walkway or driveway.
  • Stick to low-risk activities. Carve pumpkins within your household, or outdoors as a block or building activity. Create your own neighborhood scavenger hunt: Walk around looking for specific Halloween themes – skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, witches, black cats, tombstones, and so on.
  • Screaming. Covid is a respiratory disease. Screaming can spread it. So be careful when watching that horror flick with others.
Help Seniors Have a Thanksgiving
The Como Community Council is working to make sure neighborhood seniors are not totally on their own this Thanksgiving. So, in partnership with the North End South Como Block Nurse Program and with TST Catering, we have a goal of providing meals for 100 seniors who are in isolation because of the pandemic. How you can help is simple:

  • Make a financial donation. Every $10 you contribute buys one Thanksgiving meal: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, vegetables, a roll and, of course, dessert.
  • Volunteer to deliver meals.

Get all the details on how to join us.
Early Voting Opportunities Multiply
Your options for voting early in the Nov. 3 state and federal elections swell this week as Ramsey County expands the hours and number of locations where you can vote in person ahead of time. Our website has all the details; here’s a quick summary:

Early voting: In-person voting remains available today, Friday Oct. 23, and this Monday, Oct. 26, at the County Elections Office on Plato Blvd.; at the County Library in Roseville; and at the New Brighton Community Center. Beginning Tuesday, you can vote early at those three locations and at four more: the Frogtown Community Center, Arlington Hills Community Center, Highland National Golf Course, and the County Library in White Bear Lake. Voting at all seven locations is available this Tuesday-next Saturday, Oct. 27-31; and on Monday Nov. 2.

Voting from home: If you’ve already requested and received an absentee ballot, you’re running out of time to mail it back your vote counts. The post office recommends mailing your absentee ballot no later than this Tuesday, Oct. 27. Track your ballot

Direct delivery: Personally return your completed absentee ballot to the county. This ain't Texas, so there are plenty of options of where to drop off your ballot early. Days and hours differ at each site.

Ask a favor: Finally, after this Tuesday, Oct. 27, it is legal to have someone else return your ballot for you, if they take it directly to the Ramsey County Elections Office.
In Case You Missed It
Ramsey County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo gave the Como Community Council an extensive overview this past week of the county’s efforts to find housing for residents living on the streets. Those efforts include housing residents at Bethesda Hospital and at hotels such as the Best Western in Bandana Square. We managed to record most of it; watch her presentation.

Also, if you want to keep track of what the community council’s committees and board are doing, you can always download minutes from past meetings.
Kids, Need a Winter Coat? Now’s the Time
A couple of weeks ago, Como residents donated scores of coats and other winter gear for kids. Now the Salvation Army is distributing those donations from you and others. To request clothing for children in your circle, call 651-776-2653. Distribution will be Thursdays and Fridays from 9-11:30 a.m. by appointment only, while supplies last. Note: We ran an incorrect phone number last week; this one actually works.
Every Neighborhood Has a Story: Let’s Discover Ours Together
Are you good at sharing good stories? Can you take photos that even the people in the picture like? Do you like talking with interesting people?

Then you could be exactly who we are looking for to help unleash our new project: Know Your Como.

At the Como Community Council, we want to highlight neighbors who do things (or who bring the kinds of energy) that make this a better place. We plan to share their stories in our newsletter, on social media, and on our website. The goal of this project is to celebrate and appreciate the large and small contributions of our neighbors, and the diversity that makes Como a special place for all of us.

But first, we need the people who can collect the stories. So, if you can:
  • Interview
  • Write
  • Photograph
  • Draw
  • Bring another creative or practical skill that can bring these neighbors to light…

Email us. We’ll help you assemble a team and turn you loose.
How to Keep Your Heat On
Minnesota’s “cold weather rule” is now in effect, meaning your utility cannot shut off your main source of heat, or must reconnect your heat until April 15. To qualify, you have to set up a payment plan with your utility (in Saint Paul, that’s Xcel Energy).

In addition, Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program can help pay for home heating costs and furnace or boiler repairs. In Saint Paul, contact the Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties. Get more details online or by calling 651-645-6470.
Get Them Out of the Gutter
Leaves are litter -- at least when they are in the street. Yes, they are natural debris. But they also are a major source of runoff pollution when they sit in the gutter. That's because, when rain or snow hits leaves, they leach phosphorus -- much like a tea bag. That phosphorus flows through storm drains into the lake, river, and other waterways. And phosphorus is a nutrient that bodies of water don't need, because it feeds algae and other unwanted vegetation.

That's why the Adopt-a-Drain program has declared this official Fall Leaf Cleanup Week, from Monday, Oct. 26, through next Sunday, Nov. 2. Of course, you don't have to wait; you can rake leaves away from sewer grates now or anytime. That helps improve water quality for all of us. (Final note: If you have adopted a storm drain, don't forget to report your results.)

Industrial-strength leaf sweeping: Public Works has started leaf sweeping of residential streets, but nothing is on the schedule yet for Como. So far, everything seems south of Interstate 94.
Does Your Definition of ‘Family’ Match the City’s?
Saint Paul is looking into redefining “family” in the city’s zoning code. Three options are under consideration, with different combinations of how many legally-related adults and unrelated adults could constitute a household. The intent, in theory, is to better accommodate multi-generational families, extended families, and families sharing living space in order to afford housing.

You can get more details or express your preference and comments in advance. The Planning Commission is scheduling an official public hearing for Nov. 13.
Pedestrians and Cyclists, They Want Your Opinion
Next Friday, Oct. 30, is the deadline to comment on two sets of infrastructure plans for pedestrians and cyclists.

Ramsey County hopes to prioritize its plans for corridors, specific parts of corridors, or new corridors, based on feedback in this survey. Be prepared to share, among other things, where you travel, and what could be done to improve connections, safety, accessibility, and convenience. (They do have maps you can reference.)

Metropolitan Council has released the draft amending its 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan. The draft includes three new “search areas” for regional trails in Saint Paul: an extension of the Midtown Greenway across the river from Minneapolis; the “Ford Spur” corridor in Highland; and a trail from the Grand Round on the East Side to Lake Elmo Park Reserve. For the most part, the draft is high-level policy, so don’t expect much detail. But you can comment by leaving a voice message at 651-602-1500 or by email.
Watershed District Could Fund Your Idea
Capitol Region Watershed District is accepting applications for its 2021 Partner Grant and Stewardship Grant programs. The programs help individuals, homeowners, businesses, schools, and community organizations carry out educational initiatives, or actual projects that improve water quality or fight stormwater pollution. 

  • Partner Grants range from $1,000-$20,000; the application deadline is next Sunday, Nov. 1.
  • Stewardship Grants range from $300-$40,000; applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
The Latest Dirt
Como Ave.: As you can imagine, the snow and rain are really messing things up. One consequence: Crews implore residents not to use salt on fresh concrete. Because salt can damage the new concrete, shovel your snow (don’t melt it). A second consequence of the weather: Crews cannot pour concrete or lay asphalt in wet or freezing conditions. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess when the project will wrap up. Crews do expect to complete all the paving this fall but, given the forecast, sod and other restoration work may have to wait till spring.

Traffic-wise, the roadway near Arona and under Snelling Ave. is back to normal. Otherwise, functionally, it’s still the same. Como remains closed from Hamline west to Arona. Breda, Albany, and Almond remain barricaded at Hamline and at Arona to cut down on cut-through traffic. West of Snelling, one lane of Como is open in each direction, though construction continues to Raymond.

On the city's western border, Como remains closed at Brompton. That means detouring to Larpenteur or Energy Park Drive if you need to get to Highway 280.

Dale St.: Phase 2 is still on schedule to finish in November, but the road remains restricted to one lane in each direction between University and Carroll, as Ramsey County continues to build a new bridge over Interstate 94. Ramps to and from I-94 are closed. Access from Dale to some nearby east-west streets is cut off. There is some access to sidewalks. And don't miss the public artwork.

Energy Park Drive: They forgot to stripe parts of the crosswalk on the south side of Energy Park and Front. We’re nagging them to finish the job.
We Read the Paperwork So You Don’t Have To
Twin Cities Electric Vehicle Mobility Network: This Wednesday, Oct. 28, 5:30-7 p.m. Learn about TCEVMN's car-sharing service and proposed charging hub locations in Saint Paul. Registration is required. Get more information, then take a survey.

Online office "hour": Ward 4 Councilmember Mitra Jalali will take questions from constituents this Tuesday, Oct. 27, from 6-6:30 p.m. on her Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, there's still time to have your say on these items:
  • Speedway: The gas station and liquor licenses for this convenience store at 950 Lexington Parkway N are up for renewal on Dec. 1. Anyone with concerns should email District 10 or contact the office of Ward 1 Council Member Dai Thao. 
  • Carter’s BP: The gas station license for this convenience store at 623 Como Ave. is up for renewal on Dec. 29. Anyone with concerns should email District 10 or contact the office of Ward 5 Council Member Amy Brendmoen.
Since When Does Snow Stop Us?
  • Today, Friday Oct. 23: 100-Year Kickoff, 5-7 p.m. Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Pascal at Albany. The congregation begins celebrating its first century with a family-friendly community event including the Taqueria El Victor food truck, hot apple cider, fire pits, free t-shirts, and more.
  • Today-Sunday, Oct. 23-25: Dock & Paddle’s “Harvest by the Lake” festival. The event promises music, seasonal and festival food, unusual cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, a hay bale maze for youngsters, and a pumpkin-carving contest. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. each day. Admission is $5 for teens and adults, $3.50 for children 12 or younger (admission includes a beverage or dessert). Reservations are encouraged; you can get tickets at the restaurant or online (which adds a service fee).
  • This Saturday, Oct. 24: Free food distribution through Keystone Community Services, 10 a.m.-noon, Iglesia Luterana de Roseville, 1215 Roselawn Ave. W, Roseville.
  • This Saturday, Oct. 24: Free “truckload of food” giveaway, 11 a.m. Jehovah Lutheran Church, Snelling and Thomas.
  • This Saturday, Oct. 24: Free mask distribution, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sears parking lot, 358 Marion. Ramsey County residents only; limit 8 per household.
  • This Saturday, Oct. 24: Free Covid testing, 1-6 p.m. Aldrich Arena, 1850 White Bear Ave., Maplewood. Repeats on Oct. 31. Register
  • This Thursday-Friday, Oct. 29-30: Free Covid testing, 2-6 p.m. United Church of God in Christ, 277 N. Lafayette Frontage Road. Register
  • Next Friday, Oct. 30: Halloween Hi, 6-7 p.m. Northwest Como Rec Center, 1550 N. Hamline. A walk-by trick-or-treat opportunity (and a chance to “say hi” to rec center staff). Wear a mask, get a treat. Sign up in advance
  • Next Sunday, Nov. 1: Open enrollment begins for MNsure; however, you can compare plan options now, based on where you live.
  • Saturday Nov. 7: Cyber Seed Crawl, hosted by Como Community Seed Library. Swap seeds in a socially distanced way. Make your requests and get other details through the library’s Facebook event page.
Spread the word
You are receiving this email because you expressed interest in District 10 activities.

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 volunteer Board of Directors who are elected directly by members of the community. As a district council, we work to improve and enjoy life where we live. We provide the glue behind neighborhood action, and combine the voices of renters, homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits who want to accomplish things.