Regarding (1) my position on the 1170 Selby matter, (2) the March 7 special meeting of the UPDC Board, (3) Mike Madden’s tenure on the Board, and (4) a reflection on Selby Avenue:
I have owned and inhabited a duplex at 1163 Hague Ave on the corner of Hague Avenue and Dunlap Street since 1985 and I have lived most of my life within one mile of where I live now. I have no off-street parking. In the past several years, the expansion of the St Paul Yoga Center on the Corner of Selby and Dunlap; the additions of Salon Ori at 1166 Selby and Pizza Luce at 1183 Selby; the conversion of a two-family home on my block to a ten-student dwelling; and increased ticketing of cars parked less than 20 feet from the intersection in my neighborhood have made parking near my home progressively more difficult.
One would assume that I would welcome any additional parking that might result in a shorter trip from car-to-door for me and for my tenants. Certainly, I have been disappointed that the City of St. Paul has not required parking for new businesses. I am not happy that visiting family members are ticketed when they park 15 feet from the crosswalk. I dislike carrying my groceries from the next block, so that yoga students can park close to where they go to exercise.
For these selfish reasons and because I have been out of the country and unavailable for neighborhood meetings, I have until now remained neutral regarding this matter.
First, because I have worked in the field of public health for almost 40 years, the last 15 of those years in environmental health. I cannot justify taking a position based on my reluctance to walk down the block with my groceries when the alternative poses so much potential harm to the health and welfare of my neighborhood.
Second, I assumed that this matter would receive an honest hearing and that all the concerned parties were motivated to find a place of consensus – as my neighbors indicated they were. I thought that the neighborhood and city processes in place would assure that when so many people were concerned, active and willing to give their time, that there would be negotiation, moderation, and a fair solution at the end. I attended two neighborhood meetings – one at the police department on Hamline, and the March 7 special meeting of the UPDC to observe this process.
For the record, I am no longer neutral. I stand with so many of my neighbors in the Save Our Selby (SOS) group in opposition to the dangerous and inadequate parking lot at 1170 Selby.
(2) The March 7, 2012 special meeting of the UPDC Board
The painful antics at the UPDC Board meeting on March 7 were unlike anything I have experienced in 30 years of attending and moderating community meetings.
Hague, Selby and Dayton Avenue neighbors came to Concordia on March 7th believing that the Board was meeting to reconsider a community matter that some Board members and neighbors believe was handled somewhat hastily. Instead, a few members of the Board who have not been able to resolve their personal issues and grievances in private subjected us to fits of temper and an embarrassing public display of anger.
The meeting was not about resolution of a neighborhood concern. That very special meeting was about some members’ expressed fear that the Board will lose the respect of the City Council if it revisits an issue. It was about its own internal conflict and disappointments. It was about pride. The meeting was an embarrassment for neighborhood visitors and for many members of the Board who sat silently throughout the whole debacle.
In the field of environmental health, we expect that members of a community at risk or perceived risk may express emotionality, anger and fear. This is to be expected at meetings about carcinogenic chemicals in community water supplies or excess risk of cancer due to environmental contaminants, for example.
As a moderator and risk communicator in such situations, it is my responsibility to project neutrality, calm and empathy to participants on both sides of an issue. At last night’s and previous meetings, these were presumably the responsibilities of the Board President. I was shocked and affronted by the conduct of the Board President whose contentious attitude, angry demeanor, grimacing, eye-rolling, and other unmistakable body language made speech irrelevant and her position clear.
If there was no previous failure of the process, as some Board members believe, the behavior of some members and general conduct of the Board on March 7 certainly constituted a failure on all counts.
(3) Mike Madden’s tenure on the Board
As I departed the March 7 meeting/poetry reading/therapy session, the President was informing Mike Madden - in an angry voice - that he had no place on the Board. I missed the entire diatribe but have read a brief summary of this undignified episode.
I do not know Mike Madden. I can only comment that he conducted himself calmly and with respect for all parties at the two meetings I attended, as did most members of the Board. I appreciate Mike having listened to the concerned neighbors and am grateful for the other Board members who supported the review of the SOS (Save Our Selby) position on the 1170 Selby situation.
If I or any of my colleagues at the University of Minnesota or Minnesota Department of Health had ever conducted a meeting or meetings in the unprofessional way employed recently by the Board President, we would be dismissed from our jobs. The President’s conduct was unprofessional, unethical and discomfiting. I believe it is she who should step down before any more damage is done to the Board or its reputation.
I am grateful for the quiet concern of those members who have assisted our neighborhood group, as well as those who disagree with our position but have been respectful enough to listen to what we have to say.
(4) Selby Avenue
Like many other long-time residents of the neighborhood, I have welcomed positive changes on Selby Avenue over the past 25 years. I worry sometimes that these changes come at the expense of old neighbors and for the benefit of those who drive into the neighborhood for dinner or a class or to take advantage of some other amenity the “new Selby” has to offer. (We must never forget the fate of the Rondo neighborhood.)
When Pizza Luce arrived, they spoke about a restaurant for the neighborhood. They talked about people walking to dinner from nearby homes. These were the same arguments that allowed expansion of the Yoga Center. Neither business needed what would otherwise have been considered adequate parking because they intended to serve pedestrians. That first concession to Pizza Luce put us all directly at the top of a slippery slope. Now that the story has changed, we are perilously close to the big slide.
To those who care so much for Selby Avenue: Take a drive down Selby from Dunlap to Dale and ask yourself if Selby Avenue needs another parking lot… or more businesses that serve the people who live here all the time, more green space, safer streets, real consensus, and a good deal less backroom politics.
1163 Hague Avenue